When you’re in a rut, there’s a lot of things people will advise you to do. Spend more time with family and friends instead of being alone. Take up a new hobby, something to keep you busy and active. Exercise. Get out there, meet some new people, maybe at a spin class or a book club or just a good-old-fashioned bar (preferably a dive bar owned by a guy who drinks up whatever small profit he might manage to make while he serves you). Most of the advice comes down to one central concept: change your habits. To get out of one of the many funks life invariably will throw your way as a thinking, feeling human being, a person usually needs to shake up at least some aspect of their life to feel reinvigorated. But it’s not easy to do. A person becomes ingrained in their habits, in their usual way of living and responding to the world, and even though this may be the root cause of unhappiness or limited success or failed relationships, the person will continue to exhibit the same behaviors until, under great strain and effort, the person changes something, either about themselves or about their surroundings.
All this pscyho babble bullshit is to say, the Knicks have become ingrained in some bad habits, and sure there are ways to fix them, but right now they don’t have the coaching or players to do so. Since January 20th, the season has sputtered into a comedy of errors and can basically be summarized as thus:
Yes, Carmelo “ask Dolan for your money back” Anthony got up and laughed at himself. How could you not? When you’re so thoroughly embarrassed as that, basically the tripping-in-the-lunchroom-and-spilling-your-tray-all-over-you-in-high-school level of social terror, you can either join in the joke or be eviscerated. Losing their 15th game out of the last 18 has stomped out any rational hope for a playoff spot, which basically guarantees Kurt “Fuckin’ Magnets?” Rambis will inform the media of the Knicks’ impending playoff push.
The Blazers are no joke, and losing to them is pretty common these days. They have won 18 of their last 22, and are the last team to beat the Warriors, which they did convincingly right after the All-Star Break. Damian Lillard was left off the All-Star roster, and it seems to be exactly the right-sized chip for his shoulder. The Blazers were 15-24 and scratched out of the playoff picture, and now stand 3 1/2 games out of the 5 seed in the West. That’s a hell of a run. To put things in perspective for the Knicks, if they went on a similar run of 16-4 to close the season, they would be at .500 and likely still miss the playoffs.
Still think we’re going to the postseason, Phil? Mr. Rambis? (pictured below, asking the age-old question)
I forgot about the roster crossover between these two teams until I watched the game. Not sure how I missed that RoLo and Afflalo started for Portland in the playoffs last year, so perhaps they had something to prove to their “little brothers” in Portland. RoLo was 4/5 from the floor, but as is the way with Mr. Rambis (I hereafter will not use the term “coach” until he, ya know, coaches), his minutes were limited in the typical erratic game-to-game fashion that makes everyone wonder what the hell is going on. Taps was limited to 25 minutes too, but at least his foul trouble was a deciding reason for it. Afflalo was 6/9 for 13 points, checking off his once-in-four-games efficient shooting performance with his excruciating salvo of pump funks and turnaround jump shots. The joy in the air at the reunion of these former teammates was palpable.
But they certainly did not match the Swish Siblings (Trademarked and Copyrighted), who collectively went 18/37 from the field for 55 points. They combined to go 6/12 from 3, 13/13 from the line, had 8 assists and 3 turnovers. As Rambis so eloquently explained it after the game,
“We had troule containing their guards most of the night.”
No shit, man. That’s so weird, since your strategy was to go under screens and let two elite shooters get free for open shot after open shot all game long. I realize you can’t “coach” Jose Calderon to suddenly run faster than your average fourth grader at an elementary school field day, but maybe you could play Jerian Grant more than 8 minutes seeing as the season is over anyways? When is Phil going to shut this shit down and tell Rambis to just play Grant and Galloway (who had an awful game, but still, might as well play him) and give Porzingis more run at the 5 to see how the spacing works? There’s a lot of little experiments we could be doing these last 20 games, but Rambis simply refuses to take part in it. I knew we were going to get massacred at guard, I’ve seen these punks do it before to my beloved but perenially guard-challenged Dallas Mavericks.
Poor Dirk. I remember laughing at that when it happened, but it was still cruel. As we’ve discussed at length in comment threads across this season, the guards are a disaster on this team. They can’t defend anybody, their shooting is at best inconsistent, and nobody knows how to run the offense except for Athlete Impersonator Jose Calderon. That’s the first thing that needs to be addressed in free agency, but with Calderon due another $8 million next year and Afflalo at about the same number, it will be tough to upgrade the position with that money tied up. Maybe there is a draft night dump-off deal that can be made, or a sign-and-trade in free agency, to wiggle out of one or both of those contracts. But bringing them both back as prospective starters is a gloomy idea indeed. We don’t need the Splash Brothers or the Swish Siblings, but we need a competent backcourt that won’t be a nightly liability.
“Damian Lillard whispers sweet nothings in CJ McCollum’s ear”
Man, it would be nice to have those guys, though. I want to make one more point about last night, and that is the value of having a competent bench. Our bench has deteriorated this year and become mostly a liability. Galloway and O’Quinn haven’t developed as hoped (mostly, I think, due to coaching inconsistencies and issues with playing time jumping around more than an unchaperoned toddler at Wal-Mart with a baby bottle full of Mountain Dew), Seraphin and Vujacic are jokes, D-Will comes and goes like a stray cat and Grant doesn’t ever get run. Lance Thomas has been a welcome surprise, but will cost the Knicks substantially more than his current salary if they want to retain him next year.
Portland’s bench has the improving and intriguing Plumlee Stunt Double Meyers Leonard, Ed Davis, a resurgent Gerald Henderson, Allen Crabbe (a free agent next season the Knicks should look at) and Mo Harkless. That is a SOLID bench, all on good contracts and all young and hungry. Sure, Portland doesn’t really have a veteran presence, but Lillard has taken on the leadership role for them and by all accounts he excels at it. I may not enjoy that terrible baby rap from that weird State Farm ad campaign, but man, do I enjoy watching that man play basketball.
Portland is led by him, but their team has a lot of contributors, and their bench is a big reason for their recent surge into the playoff picture. They collectively were 14/30 for 37 points against the Knicks last night, an efficient performance and the hidden reason Portland won. Sure, the Swish Siblings had 55, but the other three starters for Portland combined to go 4/19 for 10 points. You don’t win that game without your bench. The Knick bench (excluding the last three minutes of garbage time when benches were emptied), by comparison, was 7/34 for 21 points. That is a terrible performance by any measure, and nobody was innocent. Even Lance Thomas went 2/10 on an uncharacteristically off night.
At this point in the year, we know what we’re watching. We have no draft picks, we have no playoff hopes, we have a roster of players no one is sure will be here in two years with Porzingis and a lame duck coach who we will have to watch juggle rotations for the next 6 weeks with the coordination of a blind cow and the uncertainty of a teenage girl shopping for a prom dress. But remember Knicks fans, whenever you get down watching this team as we wrap up the season, take a few deep breaths and repeat to yourself: