Brooklyn Nets 97 – New York Knicks 110 – Game Rec… who am I kidding

On Sunday, February 8, 1998 my mother’s only brother got killed in a car accident (he was waiting for his turn to enter a roundabout when a drunk driver lost control and slammed violently against his car). He was just 52 years old.

It was the first time that I had to deal with the concept of abrupt death in my personal life. Sure, I had already lost three grandparents – to be fair, I never even met two of them, my mother’s parents – and had seen my fair share of old people succumb to multiple health problems, but I never had to witness what such an event brings into your inner personal nucleus.

Frankly, it was devastating. It wasn’t exactly devastating for me: somehow I always had this attitude towards tragedy where I’m apparently unflappable because in the end I’m a fucking pussy who’s so afraid to feel pain that tries his best (worst?) to feel nothing at all. But when it comes to tragedy for the few people who’re close to me, I don’t know how to deal with it. It’s like I have this switch that clicks inside of me: I can comfort people as well as anyone but then everything inside of me resonate with sadness because I physically see the angst and sorrow of the people I let into my life so sooner or later I burst into tears and become as vulnerable as can be.

While my uncle died around 10:00 PM of February 8th, the news of his death didn’t get to my mom until the next day. On Sunday night we were at my father’s mom place to eat a pizza after the basketball team I played for lost badly in the afternoon (as we always did. We fought, we scrapped, we lost by twenty. I still remember I scored 11 in that game hitting 2/2 from three) and, given that at the time cellphones weren’t a thing, we just got a message left to the answering machine where my uncle’s wife asked to be called the next day.

The day after, the 9th (which coincidentally was also my mom’s 50th birthday) I went to school completely oblivious ot the fact. I discovered what happened just as I came home and I knew it even before anyone said anything. It was self-evident just by looking at my mom. My uncle was the last close relative she had left.

My mom is from Sicily. In the 1950s the Sicilian hinterland was a very poor area, and people were leaving left and right to search for more favorable economic opportunities elsewhere; my mom’s father left his family when she was 3 to find his luck in Argentina. Nobody ever knew anything about him after that. When she was 19, my mom, her brother and her mother left her Sicilian hometown to come to Bologna where an uncle of hers made a not so small fortune selling military spare parts. Sadly my grandmother got sick and by the time my mom was 21 she was gone too. My mom were left to tend to her brother until he finally met his eventual wife a few years later. Still, my uncle was everything that was left of my mom’s roots.

My mother is the portrait of selfless sacrifice. She’s not very attached to her regional roots, and if I have to be honest she doesn’t even self-identify as Sicilian; nevertheless, family roots are an entirely different thing. Her brother’s death was the definitive blow about that: she was left alone. Not in the sense that she didn’t have anyone else: of course she got my father, she got me, she got friends and a job and everything else; but she didn’t have anything that could have worked as a geographic origin compass.

So, looking at my mom, going to comfort her, everything broke inside me. I remember everything very vividly. I remember exactly what I was eating while we were in the very early stage of coping with the tragedy (a surpirisingly tasty maccheroni with ricotta, parmesan and black pepper; even in utter despair, my mom couldn’t bear the idea that me and my father would eat less than perfect food); I remember watching how the neighbour was parking his car in the backyard (badly, and slightly grazing the tree that was in the middle of the parking area); I remember the fact that my mom asked us not to say anything at all, since even a single word would have been too much (and this is one of the things that I have more trouble at doing: I need to rationalize things, and I’m unable to do that if I can’t talk to people).

I also remember that Italia1, a national TV channel, would have broadcasted the 1998 NBA All-Star Game starting at 2 PM. So after we ate in total silence, shedding countless tears, I retreated into my room to… I don’t know. To try to feel better and to get emotionally stronger.

You probably remember how All-Star Games used to be. They never were deeply competitive, but they weren’t also the ridiculously showboaty thing that they are today. You could see that the players were actually giving a damn. It was still basketball, played by the best players in the world.

In the second half of that game, there was something that was immediately able to soothe a bit the numb, deaf grief that was pervading me. A 19 year old Kobe, at his first ASG, went streaking down the right lane, ball in his care, while Dikembe Mutombo was backpedaling, ready to protect the rim. This was peak Mutombo, mind you. Kobe just dribbled the ball behind his back, throwing Deke off just a bit, and went on to score on a weirdly gracious sideways baby-hook.

It was a thing of beauty.

It was something that calmed me a bit. The inherent poetry you find in many aspects of life. The song you listened when you finally got over the fact that your first girlfriend dumped you. The wine you drank after those lab tests came back and were positive. The movie you went to watch and laughed at even if you had been fired from your job just three hours earlier.

I always thought of Kobe everytime I thought about that day. It was the first ray of light after the deepest sadness I had known till then.

***

I wasn’t a Kobe fan for much more. It was just two-four years after that game that teen Kobe made way for arrogant if ubertalented, young brash threepeater Kobe; six years after that game there was the Colorado thing (it’s ok if you want to overlook it today, but it never faded away, and I can’t condone it – I have to say, though, that he handled things as admirably as possible after it got settled out of court); then Kobe went on to fully embrace the MJ myth by essentially marketing himself as a basketball perfectionist psycho maniac, alienating a lot of people in the process. There was the second half of game 7 against the Suns where he took only three shots in evident spite of his teammates (it was the Smush Parker years in Lakerland). There was his second stint as NBA champion, where he was clearly the main man out there for the Lakers but sometimes it looked like the team was playing better when he wasn’t doing too much. There was his career twilight, dictated both by father time in general and an Achilles’ injury in particular. Through it all, I found it hard to root for him. I’m not at ease rooting for guys who aren’t team players, and I’m even more put off by guys who are heralded by mainstream media. I simply loved seeing the 2004 Lakers losing against the team-driven Pistons.

I wasn’t a Kobe fan, but he would always have been the guy who reignited my heart on that fateful day.

***

Oh, we won the game. Mike Miller kept on being a disappointment (even if I keep on saying that’s a disappointment by proxy, ultimately it’s Pills’ fault) and played the vets a lot and the youngsters a lot less. Who cares anyway. This was a tragic day, and the only thing we can do when tragedy strikes is to hold our dears close and don’t let go, like I did with my mom when my heart started beating again after a young man performed a wondrous athletic feat on a stupid basketball court.

Los Angeles Lakers 100 – New York Knicks 92 – Game Recap

Not every 45th game in a 12-32 season is the same. Most of them are useless affairs that deserve to be watched in bits between Jeopardy! reruns and local TV news reportages, win or lose. And then there are the games that bring with them some added gravitas, sometimes because of the opposing team, sometimes because of an opposing player, sometimes both.

Last night game was a clear example of this: the Lakers are to be inherently disliked, and as much as you might acknowledge the self-apparent grandiosity of LeBron it’s hard not to feel contempt for the way he carries himself on the court when he steps onto the MSG hardwood. This time there were also bonus hate points added thanks to that Kuzma punk that made a habit of standing up from the bench in the first quarter to swag-walk along the baseline every time the Lakers looked like they were on the verge of doing something on offense. I, personally, found it very hard not to actively root for the Knicks to win the game, mercs shaming and youth development be damned for once.

In this sense, the game was kinda fun. The Knicks fought quite valiantly, especially in the first half, which ended on a perfect tie at 48 apiece after the teams traded a few blows  (for the Lakers most of the production unsurprisingly came from LeBron and Davis; for the Knicks there was a bit more of a team effort plus the commendable long range efforts of Damyean Dotson and the continuation of the recent hot streak from Taj. The fact that Mook was able to dress for the game bolstered in a good way the rotation). We still got a few minutes of the insane Portis-Randle combo at 4-5, but it looked like we were fine. The Lakers gave the impression to have taken the foot of the pedal a bit after a super pumped up first five minutes, and it was common expectation that once they would have gone for the kill we would have fallen behind by 20 very easily.

The third quarter looked like that at a certain point (it certainly didn’t help that the Knicks were turning the ball like crazy in the period), with the Lakers going to take a double digit lead at 75-65 with 1:09 to play, but the Knicks were able to hang tight and close the quarter with a mini 5-1 run to keep the game at hand. In the fourth, maybe not so coincidentally in simultaneity with Dennis Smith getting back to play after who knows how many games, the Lakers went up by 13 after a mini 6-0 run of their own. From there the Knicks tried to get back into the game but it was too little too late; the last minute was an encore of the recent Fizdalian streak that’s possessing Mike Miller. Let me take you through what happened there: With 1:34 remanining, a Mook three cut the lead to seven at 94-87. James went for the Doncic stepback three from 32 feet, missed badly and Morris got the board. On the other side, with just 59 seconds to play, Dotson got to shoot a semi-contested three that clanked off the rim; the ball was still in our Bockers’ hand because the Lakers couldn’t keep the rebound in play. Alex Caruso foolishly commited a foul before the ball was inbounded, so the Knicks had one shot and the ball. Mook hit the freebie. So far, so good.

Then: the ball got inbounded to the left corner where Julius Randle (rolling eyes emoji galore) proceeded to shot a turnaround three that he had no business making – and true to form he put up an ugly airball. Seriously? Randle shooting a turnaround three on a night when he was struggling badly with his shot (6-16 for the game, 0-4 for three)? Anyway, the ball was still in Knicks’ hand because the Lakers couldn’t cleanly corral the board. The ball got again in Randle’s hands, who went on to turn it over again with his patented “spin into two defenders like an inebriated tango dancer who mistook the queue to go up the Statue of Liberty for an open dancefloor”. The Lakers stormed towards an easy transition basket with 42 seconds to go (not really so easy; Kuzma missed the layup, even though maybe he was fouled, but AD was there for the tip in). The game was over thanks to a double Randle blunder, but at least pride was safe thanks to the all around effort for the night.

A few thoughts:

– We lost by 8. Dennis Smith Jr got back to where he was posting a -9 plus/minus in 4:36. Hmmm. The kid is done in NY. Trade him away for his (and ours) own sake.

– Mitch played pretty well last night (12 boards, 1 block, some spurts of legitimately good defense, not in foul trouble) and still notched just 25 minutes against arguably the second biggest team in the League. I just can’t. Also: last night the “opposing team game planning for Mitch” thing was real on a few possessions, but still – three shots in 25 minutes? Our point guards sucks badly at getting the right players in the right spots.

– About sucking point guards: Frank’s in the middle of a horrible shooting slump (2-for-16 for the last two games, 0-8 this time). He had a very anemic stats line: 2 boards, 1 assist, and nothing else. Still: him and Mitch were the only Knicks with a positive plus/minus. You don’t need to remind me raw, single game plus/minus is a resoundingly bad way to measure a performance, but when it becomes a constant… I don’t know what else to say. Is there some reason why we don’t trot out an Elfrid-Frank-Bullock/Dot-Mook-Mitch lineup out there with RJ out? Apart from Pills’ likely meddling? Frank is posting a +5.1 On/Off rating, third best in the team.

– Dotson looked like he couldn’t miss tonight, but then I took a look at the boxscore and: 17 points on 6-for-14 from the field (but a sound 5-11 from three). Even on hot nights, Dot shoots at best at just a slightly above-average clip. For the season he barely breaks 40% from the field and is at 32.5% from three. He’s a 3-and-D template with no actual evidence of functionality at both, the umpteenth Knicks conundrum.

– Oh and you know our other 3-and-D guy? That BulLOCK guy? He’s shooting 41% from the field and 31% from three. At least we’re consistent.

– I mean, Bobby Portis sucks and all, but he’s the only Knick apart from Morris to shoot at least at league average from three. Talk about roster construction.

– In unrelated news, have you seen that Zion guy? He won’t ever shoot 4-4 from three again, but boy was so Knicksian to draft at 3rd last June.

– In more unrelated news, take a look at this Ringer article about KP. You can feel the writer trying ultra hard to find good things to say about him. Even national media is catching up to what we already knew.

– And now, in incredibly more unrelated news and an unabashed feat of self-promotion, I hereby submit to you the lyric video to one of those three songs I talked about a couple weeks ago. Feel free to skip it entirely, or don’t and tell how cool it is that I’m doing trite 80s-inspired music (but seriously, I’m quite happy about the final result and I’m glad to share it with you).

See you soon!

New York Knicks 106 – Cleveland Cavaliers 86 – Game Recap

“It’s like raaaaaaaiiin on a wedding day
It’s a freeeee riiiide that you just didn’t pay
It’s Dolan’s Raaaaazor with no beard to shave
It’s a 20 point win when no one cares”

Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you. Stomach ailments, also. I was thinking about this while watching this awful bore of a blowout trying to keep my breakfast into my bowels (yup, food poisoning – there you go, ptmilo – isn’t this easy to shake off, especially while working a lot and often eating when and where you get the chance). It’s 2020. It means we’re 12 years past the last legitimately good draft pick made by the Knicks, which is Danilo Gallinari. Of course Gallo didn’t really pan out in NY (even if he was starting to blossom before the Melodrama, but that’s an old story, ain’t it?), but it’s hard to argue that from the list of Knicks draftees since 2008 he’s not the mostly accomplished, and by a wide margin.

In 2008 I was a wide eyed, stupid NBA fan with no real team affiliation (I liked the SSOL Suns, mostly because I had a soft spot for the Suns since the Sir Charles days, and followed closely the Raptors because of Bargnani, go figure) and no idea about advanced stats, efficiency and the whole “don’t just look at the box score” thing. To be fair, advanced stats did exist but weren’t all that available; NBA League Pass didn’t exist so in Europe you had to rely to a few select games being shown on pay-per-view channels and NBA.com recaps; player reputations count more than actual player contributions; Bill Simmons was thought of as a good basketball mind.

Why am I telling you this? Well it’s easy: at that time, if a team I was rooting for would have won a game by twenty, any game, I would have been ecstatic and if would have made half of my day (the other half would revolve around the chance that the sexy receptionist or shop clerk du jour would accept my invitation to go drink a glass of wine together – both things didn’t happen very often). As they say, ignorance is bliss, and so is youth. Somehow you’re 24, think you have all your life in front of you and so what’s the matter in trying to correctly weigh basketball results and processes alike? Now, it’s not like being 36 is the end of the world, and neither is being 71 like my mom or 74 like Clyde – wish I could get to 74 in Clyde’s shape – but life bashes on you and at the very least it teaches you the real value of time. Well guess what: a win like this one – for fuck’s sake, a season like this one – is just a complete waste of time.

The game went like this: the two teams kept close to each other for the entire first half, which ended 50-49 for Cleveland just right after Larry Nance Jr. hit a corner three with 00.2 to play in the second quarter (now that’s a definite 2020-like sentence). Then in the third Cleveland decided to suck even more that it already was doing and the Knicks instead followed on their normal brand of suckitude, which opened the gap to 15 at the end of the quarter (79-65 – yeah, the Cavs scored just 14 points on us in that period). From there on, it was just a lazy walk towards an almost meaningless win while playing all the wrong guys – but here’s the catch: pretty much everyone is the wrong guy on this roster! But more on that in a few seconds: let’s focus about the almost that was in the previous sentence. When I say “almost” meaningless is because there’s a chance this win will come and bite us back in the ass in perfect Knicks fashion: with our win the Cavs tied us for the third-worst record in the League. Losing is terrible, but winning is even worse when done against the wrong teams.

As for the Knicks performances:

– The good news is that no Knick played more than 29:59 minutes (Reggie “the fake French pronounciation” Bullock). The bad news is that the young guys played just 83 of the 240 available minutes. Some might correctly point out that the main young minute-soaker was out to an ankle injury, and he wouldn’t be wrong, but: what’s the point in playing Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson 20 minutes each and leave Trier and Iggy, suck as they may, glued to the bench in a game that’s been long decided? Why Mitch can’t break the 30 minutes threshold even when he blocks 4 shots and fouls just once? And most important of all: how is it even possible that Mitch gets only a single shot in 27 minutes of play? This is close to a fireable offense, but we’ve always had our share of bench turmoil this season.

– Needless to say, though, I’m growing more and more disappointed in Mike Miller. I understand his likely motives and I definitely can’t condemn them, so I probably should be disappointed in Pills, but since my Skyrim Pills disappointment bar has long reached 100 I have to focus elsewhere. Miller started pretty well, but then he kinda forgot a lot of the things that worked fine in the first 12 games and reverted to a mixed Fizdale (non) offense, hoping that the vets will bring him to 20 wins while playing unwatchable offense.

– Seriously, you know how Harden gets blamed everywhere for being such a pain in the ass to watch (and that’s even on his efficient nights, not only when he goes 1-for-17 from three like yesterday)? Well, Julius Randle is a weird crossbreed between Harden general tendencies and Z-Bo physical attributes. 19 and 9 – exactly his averages – for the night, but I had to resist the urge to gouge my eyes out every time he started to dribble. I’m literally sick of Randle isos. Also, I’m still waiting for him to perfectly recreate the famous Z-Bo fumble/airball from three combo that happened almost 11 years ago.

– Now that I think about it, it could make for a quick TV format: go around Penn Station and show that lo-res clip and ask people who’s the guy who’s shooting. I think at least 30% would answer “Randle”:

– Kudos to Taj for posting another good game. 10 points, 5 boards, +20 +/-. But why are we playing him? Who needs his mentorship on this team? Mitch? Doesn’t seem like the two of them like each other that much.

– For a moment the real worst case scenario materialized last night: Mook went up to shoot (and score) from three, and Kevin Love got his feet under Mook’s, causing him to apparenly injure himself. Luckily Morris brushed it off, but that’s what might happen when you don’t trade guys at the right time. It’s like waiting for the perfect Black Friday offer only to discover that the TV you always wanted just got sold out at 100$ more than you thought you’d been able to pay (but still with a discount of 220$).

– Another TV format that might work: Marc Berman going around your neighbourhood telling everyone that in the end you never wanted to buy another TV because the one you already have does wonders keeping family issues in check.

– One thing I’m liking a lot: Frank’s drives. They’re still kinda bush league ones, but at the very least he’s really attacking the basket nowadays. Maybe by year 5 he’ll have turned into a decent NBA player. We’ll have paid him 20 million dollars by then and signed him to another multi-year extension, but who cares, he’s still so young!

– You know who’s not really that young anymore? Damyean Dotson. Good game for him (12/5/4, +12 +/-) but maybe we should try to see if someone’s interested in netting him for a second round pick? He’s already 25 and never progressed that much.

– One last thing I started noticing in the Philly game (between dry heaves on my sofa): Miller’s looking like he’s half lost the team. After many a timeout huddle, his outstretched hand wasn’t met by all players, especially Payton. Mitch didn’t look him in the eyes once everytime he got subbed out. It’s possible they’re small, irrelevant things, but I have a very keen eye on those things and… hmmm. Looks like something’s not right.

Let’s get ready to get our asses handed to us by the Bronners on Wednesday, but for those of you who can, enjoy the win!

 

Phoenix Suns 121 – New York Knicks 98 – Game Recap

I wish I possessed the (basic) Photoshop skills to make a montage of the Scooby Doo meme – you know the one – where Shaggy goes to unmask Mike Miller and finds that, behind the polite middle manager mask, it was David Fizdale all along. That’s how depressing this game was,

Seriously, if I showed you the whole footage of the game, only removing date and sideline shots, you all would think Fiz was coaching this team. The team was disjointed, the play was lackluster, iso-time abounded, three point shots were conceded and some rotations didn’t make sense. It was all extremely disappointing.

Honestly I don’t even know what to say about the game apart from a few thoughts, but I’ll make amend with a section dedicated to numbers and half-season grades of our crucial (?) players.

– First things first: everything – everything – goes to shit if Payton doesn’t give a damn on defense. Guess what? It’s several games that Elfrid just looks totally uninterested on that side of the ball. Now, I guess being a new dad sucks a lot of energy out of you, but why does that energy be only on the not fun side of the court? Or can it be that Payton has always been a very overrated defender and these days it’s just more apparent than before (the latter without a doubt)? Anyway, when your primary point of attack defender just becomes a turnstile everything else becomes useless. I don’t really know what can be done about it (Frank, while being a much more enthusiastic defender, ended up committing five fouls in 25 minutes, which is definitely not ideal), but if Payton can’t be counted on being held accountable, I guess that should be bench or buyout time after the deadline.

– Mook’s back! Yay! (Said nobody). I’m frankly appalled at every notion that Mook shouldn’t be traded to ensure continuity. So far he’s been regarded as a valuable mentor for a team that currently sits at 11-31 and for a young point guard (?) who’s maybe improving but stands at .028 WS/48 and .494 TS%. That’s lazy thinking, not love for continuity. There’s nothing to be salvaged here in that sense, honestly. I get holding onto him until the deadline and/or until a good offer comes around, but for god’s sake, get him out of here. When the offense doesn’t click, he only jams it further, and he can’t cover for glaring defensive issues from other players. Coincidentally, he had the lowest plus/minus of every player in the game at a very round -20.

– Hey, good news! Mitch finally played more than 30 minutes. 30 minutes and 7 seconds, to be precise. And he didn’t even get into foul trouble (only two for the night). That said, while the numbers were kinda good (12 points, 8 boards, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 5/7 from the field – two missed dunks! – and 2/3 from the line) Mitch is looking very uninspired and unfocused. It’s hard to understand if this should fall on Miller’s shoulders, because it looked like he found a way to untap his potential after all, but it’s a worrying trend. I’m more than willing to write it up to the Drummond trade rumors, but then again being a professional in the NBA means also not getting swayed by whatever it is that floats around your name. Maybe it’s a big deal to ask from a 21 year old, but that’s the harsh destiny of the closest thing to a budding superstar this team had since big ol’ Pat.

– Miller’s record for his first 20 games is 7-13, “good” for a .350 winning percentage that would put the Knicks at 29-53 over the course of a full season, which is exactly what you should try to avoid with a team full of mercs. I think Miller should be given the chance to work with a better roster, because honestly some of his choices stink of Pills orders to make them look good (lineups with Randle at the 5 and Portis at the 4 are an insult to creation itself), but it has to come on the heels of a new FO; if a new FO comes around, though, it’s unlikely Miller will stick around. Take your time to bid farewell to Miller, you have three months to do that.

And now your 2019/20 Knicks half-season report! (PPG/RPG/APG; TS%, WS/48; other notable stats if any)

– Julius Randle (19/9.1/3.3;   .532, .051;  .294 3P%): after an abysmal start for the season, Julius’ numbers and impact all went through a heavy detox program courtesy of Mike Miller. The result is that now his numbers look a bit better, but considering we needed him to be a viable three point shooter to unlock some interesting feature in our offense (mainly his fit with Mitch) and that his defense is exactly how advertised, which means Amar’e bad, the Randle experiment for now goes down as a failure. Grade: C-. In a nutshell: Fumblebee.

– Marcus Morris (19/5.5/1.5;  .584, .105;  .467 3P%): as Brain would say, how ironic that the best free agent acquisition of the offseason was the mulligan given to us after Bullock failed his medical? Honestly there’s not much to dislike about Mook’s production this season; the same can’t be said about his proclivity to halt the ball-sharing activities, but I guess he’s been given the green light to hoist it up. Enough said about the need to trade him. Grade: B-. In a nutshell: (Hope he’s) gone with the wind.

– RJ Barrett (14.1/5.2/2.5; .470, -0.026; 0.6 DWS, 93 ORtg): rough first season for the rookie, who also rolled his ankle badly tonight and will probably be out for a while. His demeanor, rebounding numbers and NBA-ready body are source for hope, as is his trending up FT% (still at 60% for the season); everything else, especially offense-related, is a mess. My 5 dollars are on RJ becoming a good not great player, which isn’t that bad after all. Grade: C+ (for a rookie). In a nutshell: The one who stayed while Ja got away.

– Mitchell Robinson (9.9/6.6/0.5; .710, .212; 1.7 BPG, 139 ORtg, 3.4 FPG): not quite the leap we expected, but still a blessing for aching souls and desperate eyes alike everytime he’s on the court. Still averaging a shame-worthy 22.6 MPG because everyone involved in his management on this team is a fucking moron, he should be the undisputed building block of this franchise but no, let’s see in how many more ways Portis can suck at this thing called basuketuboru. League-best in TS% and ORtg. Pass him the ball under or over the rim and let him go to work! Grade: B+. In a nutshell: Teenage wasteland.

– Frank Ntilikina (6.1/2.2/3.2; .494, .028; 2.4 STL%, 1.6 BLK%): sporting for the first time a positive WS/48 and improved in both steals and blocks percentage, still light years away from being good. Two dunks in traffic and an attempted posterization of KP though already render this season a roaring success. He’s also dispatched every DSJ attempt at usurping his place, but that’s because DSJ sucks badly. Grade: C——– verging on D–. In a nutshell: French milquetoast.

– Kevin Knox (7.6/3.2/1.1; .492, .023; .336 3P%): I don’t know what’s there to say about Knox that could even pass for a backhanded compliment. Oh okay, let’s try with this: he’s playing out of position. I would like to see him man the PF spot for 15 MPG consistently as to really evalue what we have in him. If we keep on playing him at SF we’ll never develop the few things he could potentially do well while exposing him to all sorts of embarrassment on defense. I see no reason in that. This is what happens when you sign 4 PFs in the offseason. Grade: D+. In a nutshell: youth is wasted on the young.

– Everyone else: they’re all Afflalo to me.

The real good news, though, is that I’m almost over with the horrible food intoxication I got between Tuesday and Wednesday (I got to eat a whole sandwich today!), so if my stomach can do it, then we all can do it!

See you after the Sixers game.

 

New Orleans Pelicans 123 – New York Knicks 111 – Game Recap

This might be remembered as the point where Mike Miller’s shine (?) wore off for good.

You know I loudly advocated for Fizdale to be fired and Miller to be promoted, and of course it was the right move to make. There’s no denying that the team is playing better, that we’ve seen a more coherent and entertaining product on the court, and that Miller is having his share of injury/absence problems (Mook’s neck, Randle dealing with a death in the family, DSJ’s strained oblique – yeah well, the last one not so much of a problem).

That said, we’re 17 games into the Mike Miller experience and there’s a good chance he’ll earn the Mediocre Mike moniker by the end of the season if things keep on going this way.

It looks like the League has taken notice of the not so small but very basic changes Miller implemented in the offense and in the defense and has adjusted accordingly. This is of course ok and to be expected – after all this is the best league in the world – but makes space for a few roster management bad thoughts, mainly:

– Our defense is sucking again (ok we played mostly good teams in the last 4 games; that doesn’t mean though that they can get any shot they want just because they’re better than us). Why don’t we try to play more defense-oriented (and hopefully defense-capable) guys together as soon as it becomes evident that we need a shock? For one, Elfrid Payton has regressed so much in that area that if I was an attacking player and Elf was tasked with guarding me I’d suspect there’s a pyramidal scheme involved in getting to the rim for how easy it would be. We have too many weak links that lead to scrambled rotations that ultimately lead to corner threes or people alone in the paint. Why doesn’t Miller roll out a Frank-Dot/Bullock-RJ-Mook (if healthy)-Mitch lineup more often?

– Speaking of Mitch: while his offensive numbers are steady and very likable (your mileage may vary about his defense, which is really inconsistent), why doesn’t he get more minutes? 17 games in he can’t seem to crack the 30 minutes threshold. It appears Miller doesn’t fully trust him in games. That’s a shame, because this season should be only about player development. Instead we’re rolling Taj Gibson out there for 27 minutes.

– While I don’t think that offensive mistakes should be punished with a short leash, defensive one should do. If you need to install a culture and a mindset, defense should always be the stepping stone (Fizdale said as much. Take that for data!). We’re treated to too many minutes of Kevin Knox just letting his guy blow past him as if defense was as unconcerning to him as world peace is to those fucking guys who don’t realize how fucked we’re sure to be if we don’t turn a lot of things around, starting from war declarations and climate change and going up (down?) from there. I usually don’t want to talk about politics, at least not here, but newsfeeds can’t be ignored forever, can they? It’s bad out there, guys. And getting back to the point, it’s bad that Knox, Payton and Randle (wishing him well on the personal side) don’t get called out for their lackluster effort on the defensive end.

– What’s the matter with Mitch not starting even with Mook and Randle out? I know they don’t play the same position, but what the hell are we trying to do by starting Portis instead of Mitch? And what are we waiting for to call up Wooten as to implant him as Mitch’s backup? If I was Miller, I’d probably roll with this rotation now that the wheels have fallen off in his coaching stint too: Frank-Bullock-RJ-Mook-Mitch with Payton-Trier-Dot-Randle-Wooten and sprinkle some Taj and Knox here and there. As soon as you trade Mook, put Knox on the starting lineup and keep Randle on the bench to feast on opposing backups. But no, let’s play the awful vets more minutes. Damn them all, they’re all Afflalo to me.

As for the game: even as the Knicks and Pels traded blows during the first two quarters (before New Orleans went on to build a lead that would prove to be insurmountable) there was an aura of losing around this game. Between all the threes that were conceded (and subsequently hit) by the Pellies and the general devil-may-care attitude on defense, to me it was pretty evident that the Pelicans would have all the gears needed to destroy us. And this was while Gibson and Mitch ended up the night with a combined 14-for-15 from the field! Sadly, more than a few other Knicks were pretty inefficient (the usual suspects: RJ shot 5/15, Frank 2/7, Dot 3/8, Knox 2/8 – and then there’s the Gehenna of inefficiency, reserved to Trier going 0/2 and Ellington 0/4) and the team as a whole finished with 46% shooting from the field and 18.5% (not a typo: 5 for 27) from three. But don’t let the score fool you, as in “we only needed to hit 33.3% from three to tie the game – 9 for 27 would have sufficed!”; remember the thing about New Orleans having all the gears needed? They would have pulled it off anyway. We plainly sucked. As we’re wont to do these days, er months, errrr years.

A few more thoughts:

– Brandon Ingram looks like the poster child of “wait for young guys to develop”. I totally thought he would have ended up being a bust when all was said and done. Lo and behold, he’s looking like a real star in the making: 25/7/4 on .600 TS% and .141 WS/48. You can kick me in the ass everytime I suggest we throw a second year guy under the bus for a bad game. Apart from Knox. Knox sucks.

– Yeah, let’s talk about Knox. When a second year guy regresses as he’s doing, you’re left feeling pretty hopeless about his future, especially considering that at the start of the season he looked to have turned a corner. His WS/48, BPM and VORP are all better than they were last year, but this is due to three things: he’s got a lower usage, he’s way better at blocking shots (a useless thing for him) and he turns the ball over less because he mostly plays as a spot up guy. Sadly, sucking a bit less won’t cut it, if you start from atrocious levels of basketball ugliness. Also, if anything Mike Miller looks to have exacerbated Knox’s problems. That said, Frank looked to have hit a very rough patch just as Miller took the helm, so maybe we should still wait a bit. Who knows.

– When you think about Pills’ resume, remember we’re paying 8 million dollars to a guy who played until now 312 minutes, shoots .320 from the field and .313 from three and doesn’t do anything else. Wayne Ellington is the new member of the renowned group of people that come to the Knicks to have their careers die in front of our eyes, just like old whales do on the beach.

– What’s with the insane Drummond trade talks? Drummond is good, but plays the same position of our best player. Are these guys really that stupid?

– I’m sorry that I can’t recap every single game this season. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t have with the losing record and mind-boggling roster at all. But that’s just a 10% of the reason. The amount of work doubled this year (don’t exactly know why), plus my work with a couple of associations and putting the finishing touches on my music related side project (next week three songs of mine will be at last distributed on Spotify and iTunes) just vacuumed a lot of energies. I hope to be more present from now until April. A few good trades would be a nice jolt for sure!

I’ll try to squeeze a recap Monday before going three days on family related matters in Sardinia. In the meantime, let’s give birth to a few more side-tangents threads in the comment section (and cross our fingers that we don’t really trade for Drummond).

New York Knicks 132 – Los Angeles Clippers 135 – Game Recap

Sometimes, a loss is a loss is a loss. Sometimes, a loss is a great loss.

While the eternal child that resides in me always (always) hopes for a fat W when the Knicks play, there’s something to be said about my adult, cynical, bashed-by-life-where-shit-happens self not wanting the Knicks to win this one even when the game was close in the last moments. You see, winning is never inherently good. You have to factor in a lot of parameters in the equation, like: what’s there to gain with a win here? What are the chances we get to the playoffs if we beat the Clippers on their home turf? (0.00000002%). What are the chances that Morris never gets traded if he goes off for 40 and we defeat a possible/likely NBA finalist? (12%). Wait, did you consider that Pills are still our FO? (Oh, that’s right. Bump it up to 75%). And Dolan being the owner? (Oh shit. This is looking like the Stonks! meme. Turn this up to eleven and let’s say 101%). And what if BoPo chimes in from the bench with another double figures game? (Oh god. We’re gonna keep all those mercs around, aren’t we?).

I think you get my point, mostly because my point is also your point. Team realist has spread like a benign virus in the last three years of Knickerblogging, and while we’re not the happier for this, we’re certainly the saner. Or are we? After all we still follow closely the fate of an intrinsically doomed franchise, submitting ourselves to Wally’s homer droning in the process at least a half-dozen times a year.

The game was fun, mind you. Fun and kinda pointless, if you think that defense should be half of the endeavor. These days a lot of pundit fall head over heels after a first glance at the box scores. Hey, teams now routinely score 120+ points in regulation time! Call this a big win for Adam Silver’s NBA!

Let’s pump the brakes a bit, K? I don’t know if I really like this product. I mean, it’s not rocket science to acknowledge that more points = a better chance to bake that highlight reel cake in a way that looks really good. But you know what also looks really good? Every single fast food burger out there, in the ads. Marvelous, bursting at the buns, colorful and making you strive for odorama. Than you go to McDonald’s, order your Big Mac, and you find it’s soggy, lukewarm and sometimes even gloomy, as if your tax return has suddenly come to life in hamburger form (going by this metaphor, the All-Star Game is the actual bun they use for the photoshoot: fake, inedible, unhealthy and misleading).

Games like this give me exactly that feeling, and not because of the loss – I think I felt the same way after the 143 points outburst against the Hawks. Do a Mitch thunderous alley oop make any noise in the forest of double digit leads in the fourth?

I want to see defense. I want to see players put up 30+ points against hard competition. I want to see meaningful basketball juice, not this sort of homeopathic ball where they dilute and dilute and dilute the meaning of competent defensive possession hoping that your basketball hunger will be satiated by the water memory of an Anthony Mason defensive stance in December 1993.

Anyway, on to the game.

Early on, and I mean in the whole first quarter, it looked like the Clippers were in a sort of Groundhog Day routine. After conceding 40 points in the first quarter of their recent Memphis game, they went on and let the Knicks amass 45 points in the first stanza (to their 29). Everything was falling for the Bockers. RJ was scoring at will, Portis was raining threes, Morris was kinda hot, even Frank (who got the nod because Elfrid’s with his newborn baby and DSJ has a strained oblique – funny how these new generations come up with rebranding even for pouting and sucking) made his voice felt with a confident three from the dribble. Meanwhile Paul George at the 2 spot was fumbling the ball, Patrick Patterson was disappearing from the court, and Ivica Zubac was busy scoring high at Scrabble with his name.

Well, it was too good to be true (and it was easy to see it was a fluke. You usually can’t win a game against a top-3 team when they score 29 on you at their worst). In the second quarter, the wheels fell off and the Clips reciprocated with a 47-24 quarter of their own. It’s a good sign that the Knicks didn’t just roll over and die there; after all, the game was still close. It’s not a good sign that the gate were kicked open by the most likely suspects from the bench: Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Harrell in particular made a point of straightly abusing Mitch down low. It got so bad that I actively hoped that Mike Miller would put Taj Gibson back in the game because Mitch was looking like Bambi’s mother out there. It wasn’t pretty (Taj did zilch to stop Montrezl, but he’s expendable. I don’t want Mitch to look this bad out there, even if he deserved the humiliation, it’s probably needed to make him evolve. He has so much room to grow before becoming a cornerstone – but he’s hands down my favorite Knick ever since I got to watch NBA basketball in 1994, with honorable mentions for David Lee, Gallo, half a season of Landry Fields and two months of Jeremy Lin. I feel about him just as I felt gazing upon Manu Ginobili dressing up for my beloved Virtus Bologna. Don’t mess with my Mitch).

In the third it got worse. The offense looked like it stopped working (not true, they still put up 31 points, but in this context it looked like that) and the Clippers kept on piling point after point on us. The quarter ended up 38-31 for them, but it felt like 50-15. We looked hopeless out there while George, Williams and Harrell were cooking.

The fourth quarter saw an unlikely but inspired comeback on the heels of a monstre offensive performance from Mook; ultimately, we lost because they’re better than us at basketball and because even with their top two guns out of the game (Leonard due to load management – LeBron triggered – PG due to having fouled out) they still had the two best players on the floor in Williams and Harrell. The quarter ended 32-21 for us, but it wasn’t enough. And I felt happy that we lost.

The good:

– Imagine if Marcus Morris (38 pts, 5 rebs, 1 ast, +2 +/-) was playing this sort of basketball in a meaningful year. He’d be inducted into the Knicks hall of fame midseason. Frankly, I never expected that he could have this sort of impact on a game on the offensive end. Scoring 38 points on 19 shots isn’t an easy feat even for the top players out there. It’s a shame that Mook’s timeline doesn’t match with the Knicks one, or I could have easily fallen in love with his production (this is your daily reminder that we signed him only because Bullock failed his medical. Don’t give Pills too much credit for Morris, ever). Right now, I feel like a farmer in the sixteenth century that had a beautiful daughter and was smart enough to know that the best scenario for him was to have her marry a noble suitor. Sometimes love has to take a step back and yield to the cruel reality. That said, was there a better opponent for Mook to showcase his talent against? I’m sure Jerry West doesn’t get easily swayed by a single game, but just imagine what happens if all the Clippers have to do to bolster their production is to send us Harkless and their 2020 first. They suddenly can field this lineup in the playoffs: Beverley-Shamet/Robinson-George-Leonard-Token buyout center with Williams-Robinson/Shamet-Morris-Green/Patterson-Harrell. Crunch time lineup: Williams/Beverley-George-Leonard-Morris-Harrell. How can you stop them? Trade. Mook. Now.

– RJ Barrett (24 pts, 6 rebs, 1 stl, +4 +/-) delivered a great, great performance last night. It was needed, honesly. 24 points on 11 shots is manna from heaven for him, especially considering that he found the time (and the way) to go to the line eleven times and sank nine freebies. A statistical aberration if I have ever seen one for this season, but at the same time it could be good foreboding. I still find his assist numbers (or lack thereof) very worrisome, but I can’t pin it on him. Miller’s no-nonsense attitude made it so that Barrett’s playmaking just can’t get exploited with him in the starting five. I’d like to see him and Mitch command the bench mob, but I don’t know if that’s ever gonna happen. For now let’s revel in his few efficient performances, and circle the dates when the Knicks play against teams that don’t have interior protection. That’s the only flaw in the Clippers’ roster construction, and it’s the only flaw that RJ knows how to exploit for now. It’s still not bad for a 19-year old, you know? For what it’s worth (nothing) RJ’s the third youngest player ever to put a 24/6 on 11 shots or less in NBA history, the other two before him being Dwight Howard and JJJ. Rounding up the top-10 of youngest players to post such a feat are the late Eddie Griffin, Chris Bosh, Andre Drummond, Marquese Chriss (what), Tyler Herro, DeAndre Ayton and Tyrus Thomas. A bit hit-or-miss, but again, let’s just take the good omens out of this.

The bad:

– I don’t have a single Knick having played significant minutes here (Kevin Knox would be the choice, but he played only 6 minutes – while posting a DSJ-like -11 +/-), so I’ll give this spot to the Knicks defense and free throw shooting *ahem* prowess. We lost a game by three and missed 13 free throws. Oh, and we found a way to lose a game where we scored 132 points on a blistering 57% from the field and 52% from three. I’m glad we lost for the aforementioned reasons, but we should still be ashamed we couldn’t snatch a win out of those numbers. Miller didn’t do a great job here, even if he was two PGs short and made the best of what he had.

– Or did he? For a couple minutes out there we witnessed the return of the 4 power forwards hydra. Frank-Knox-Morris-Randle-Gibson. Stop this madness. Paul George can play the two. Kevin Knox has trouble playing the three. Shame on you, Mike Miller.

Fun-sized bits:

– Mitch got his ass handed to him by Harrell (who scored a career high 34 points on 21 shots) but in the end he wasn’t that horrible. His plus/minus (-3) compared to Taj’s (-10) would suggest we would have been better playing him more minutes and giving the Harrell assignment to someone else. Maybe Randle would have been good, since Harrell just exploited Mitch’s pogo stick tendencies and Randle just doesn’t jump on defense at all. That said, two boards in 22 minutes are a disgrace. Mitch, you have to do better. Also: I get that the Clippers have good, switchable defenders on the perimeter, but how come we’re not running at least 15 PnRs with Mitch per game? He doesn’t even have to be the finisher. His sheer threat opens up the lane. Kadeem Allen had the easiest layup in “traffic” of his life just running a simple two-man game with Robinson. Miller, this is your wake up call. I like the job you’re doing, now it’s time to pump it up though.

– I don’t know if it’s a fluke – it probably is – but Frank’s penetrating a bit more. On a scale from 1 to 10 I’d peg him at 3, so wildly insufficient, but he’s made progress. Again, good omens?

– In the first quarter the Clips were whistled for a three seconds violation on defense. We had Frank and Morris on the court but nope, Randle decided he had to shoot the free throw to get himself going (Frank tried to dissuade him but to no avail). Sheed’s right: ball don’t lie. The free throw was deservedly weak and short. Blame’s on the coach, but Julius, being a primadonna’s not your style. Cut that crap and go back at punishing mismatches.

– Wally is really the worst. He has a worse reaction delay than Knox on defense and still finds a way to say the most uninspired, self-evident things about the action that just unfolded, often making things up on the go (“I like Frank’s aggressiveness” after Frank drained a long two in the third – by that time Frank hadn’t even tried a single drive in the game and had already played 15+ minutes). He seems a good guy, but I’d prefer anyone, anything else as our color analyst. Even Dolan himself.

And so, as predicted, we’re 0-2 on the road trip with another two hard games to come. It’s ok to lose them all, anyway. We need a bad record to convince Pills to listen to trade offers. It’s the nearest goal we have. Let’s fulfill it.

Portland Trail Blazers 93 – New York Knicks 117 – Game Recap

Tell me if you’ve heard this before: Carmelo Anthony ends up as the leading scorer of a whole game, on a fairly efficient night (26 points on 17 shots) but the team he’s playing for loses the game badly; then you go and check the boxscore a bit more and notice that Melo has zero assists for the night, and you think back at the game and realize that Melo was pretty much a lone gunner that never helped set the tone on offense and got roasted more than a couple times on defense.

Well, for once we know how that feels from the other side. While I harbor no ill will toward Melo – we’re long past that, right now it’s like bumping into an ex three-four years after you went separate ways and politely say hello and wishing him/her all the best but ultimately not caring that much – I’ve always taken solace in schadenfreuding other teams that had the best player/scorer but ultimately couldn’t snatch the prize (I’m still overjoyed at the thought of the Mavs winning the title in 2011 after the villain-y LeBron decision to cornily bring his talents to South Beach, not to talk about the utter delight in seeing Bron’s stint in Miami end in shambles in 2014 against the joga bonito Spurs). Now, sure, Melo wasn’t even remotely the best player on the floor last night, but that would not stop me from living vicariously the experience of a fan who got his team pitted against the Knicks from 2014 to 2017. It drew a wide, if bitter, smile on my mouth.

But what about the game? Was this game a New Year’s proposition thing? Was it a sign of things to come? Or was it just a lucky game against an injury-plagued opponent with a discombobulated superstar?

If I had to guess, I’d say the latter. We’ve gotten better but there’s no way we’re already at the point where we comfortably hold opponents at arm’s length just because we’re good like that.

That said, all throughout the second half I never felt half an ounce of fear that we would relinquish the lead: things looked too smooth, too easy, too “right” in a certain way. Shots were falling because they were good shots; the ball moved (29 assists!) in a very concerted team effort; the defense kind of held its own – and was helped by one of the worst shooting games Lillard ever played. It was the show of a team asserting its superiority against an outmatched one, even if for one night (although this makes it two in the last seven, given the beating we reserved to Atlanta).

From a tactical standpoint, this game was another mild reassurance that Miller actually puts some thought into games: the insertion of Bullock into the rotation gave way to the spotty resurgence of the double handoff, but this time (instead of the half-assed version that was an absurd staple of Fiz’s offense) it happened occasionally and with full purpose, with the evident aim to give the ball handler an advantage at the top of the key and to free up shooters just above the break. It worked a bit. It was good to see a new basic wrinkle that was obviously not randomly thrown to the wall.

You know what else worked? The effing PnR with Mitch! Now, I wouldn’t advise to get too excited about it because it happened against Whiteside, one of the worst (at least to the eye test – but I have no doubt that Synergy numbers or Cleaning the Glass could confirm what I’m only inferring) PnR defending centers in the league, a possibly hungover Lillard and the worst rotation “wing” defender this side of Knox (yup, still Melo), but yet. You have a dominant offensive weapon, you ought to use it. Even better: you’re morally bound to use it. Pick and rolls featuring Mitch and an average passer/ball handler won’t always (ever?) result again in a perfect shooting night for Robinson, but if you can make teams fear a particular play that means they have to adjust, and with Morris and Bullock on the wings and the reborn Randle looking capable to hit the three at a decent clip, spacing could be wondrous out there. Now imagine if you also mix and match that with a few PnRs with Randle, who’s a good-to-great passer on the short roll, and voilà! It’s suddenly a modern offense inhabiting the neglected spoils of this franchise. Amazing, ain’t it?

On to single player analysis!

The good:

– Oh well, this one is super easy. Mitch Robinson (22 pts, 8 rebs, 1 blk, +22 +/-) just took the game and made it his bitch. It’s not about the simple fact that he tied the Knicks record for most field goals made without missing a shot or that he was amazing on defense, demonstrating for the umpteenth time that block numbers don’t always correlate with good defensive results (his BLK% this year is 8.0, still good for second in the whole League, to last year’s 10.0, but there’s no comparison between the overall great defender Mitch has been in the last few games and the Melbourne Shuffle dancing octopus that he was last year). It’s that he looked downright Dr. Manhattan in Vietnam, especially on the alley-oop connection with Randle in the first quarter. Randle threw a pass that was a foot too high and half a foot too wide, only for Mitch to catch it and throw it down like it was no thing, only with his back partially to the basket and momentum carrying him out of the court. That was a superhuman thing. But what I’m happiest about Mitch is that he’s definitely not plateaued. He’s still improving as a player, and that was the most important thing for the 2019-20 season. If the only thing Miller ever did with this team was to teach Mitch how to defend well 80% of the time, it would still be a gigantic win. As long as Pills recognize at last the immense value Mitch has. Oh, and after last night (only the 48th time in NBA’s history that someone’s hit at least 11 shots without missing one) Mitch’s sporting the best Offensive Rating in the whole League. Last 10 games for Robinson: 12.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 74.7 FG% in 25 MPG. And “only” 3.7 fouls per game. That’s elite production, guys.

– Julius Randle (22 pts, 13 rebs, 3 ast, +11 +/-) is looking like the guy we thought we signed for. Miller’s Sound if Basic Elixir’s doing its job, huh? Under Miller, Randle’s posting these numbers: 22.6 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.9 APG (to 2.2 TPG) on 48.3/37.7/77.4 splits. Is it sustainable? It certainly looks like it is (save for the three point shooting, which is bound to come down). At the very least, this kind of production will up Randle’s trade value. Given Randle’s weird fit with Mitch, trading him might still be the best case long term scenario; still, if it doesn’t happen you can already see some shades of Randle doing his best Draymond impression on offense to make space for Robinson’s preternatural diving talent.

– Honorable mention for Frank Ntilikina (9 pts, 3 rebs, 10 ast, +23 +/-) who quite improbably was at the helm during the decisive stretch between the third and fourth quarter. While a few of his assists came on bush-league six-foot passes to a shooter on the perimeter, his PnRs with Mitch were the apple of my eye. Frank’s very deliberate (or you can say slow) in his pick and roll enterprises, but it’s the play where his passing acumen shines through. And no turnovers for the game! His defense was nothing special, at least for his standards, but his team command was borderline impressive this time. I won’t say anything too positive about Frank until he proves he can string together three such performances in a row, but I can’t help feeling the warmth in my heart watching those outing by my beautiful French prince. Also, what a nasty dunk in the second half. The game was already half-baked, but we need more of that Frank. Sitting “comfortably” at .043 WP/48 and 0.0 VORP for the season.

The bad:

– Nah.

– Oh come on, it’s the first day of the year!

– Ok. Well, RJ Barrett (7 pts, 4 rebs, 25% FG, -6 +/-) is due for a rest. I’m starting to worry a bit about him. Let’s see what happens when we look at him through Miller’s special glasses (that is, the .500 stint of the last 12 games): 12 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.7 APG (to 1.7 TPG, ouch), 0.4 SPG on shooting splits of 36.4/33.3/60 and 30.5 MPG. The assists and steals numbers are very worrisome. They scream “useless player”. The eye test is even worse. That said, I say: give the kid the full road trip off. Let Bullock, Trier and Dotson get his minutes for that time. Let’s ease him back into the rotation from the bench waiting for Morris to get traded. Keeping him on the court as the third/fourth wheel on offense makes no sense to me.

Fun-sized bits:

– Great debut by Reggie Bullock. 15 minutes, 11 points on 9 shots (3/5 from three), good effort and positioning on defense. As soon as he gets his legs under him, give him the starting nod over RJ or Dotson. If someone enquiries about him, trade him. See? It’s easy.

– A propos of Morris, he was nowhere to be found in the first half (2 points, 0/8 from the field). Then he erupted in the third and ended the game with 18/7/3. He’s trending down, but he’s still quite good. Taking a bit of a backseat to Randle these days.

– Payton shot like shit (2/9) but still grabbed 4 boards, dished 8 assists and blocked two shots. I feel quite safe in his hands.

– Then again, he’s the fourth player I’ve invested with the “passable floor general” title in the last three years. I’m like those people who just can’t wait to fall in love and design the next person who shows a bit of interest in them as “the right one”. Save me from my PG hunger.

– Clyde was strangely snarky talking about Melo’s days with the Knicks and his egotistical ways. A bit bitter, even. It hurts my feeling to hear angry Clyde. Even when he’s totally right. Give Clyde access to a ruruland news feed.

– As a last note, David Stern passed away last night. On multiple accounts, he was a prick and there were a few instances of weird underhanded race things here and there during his reign (dress code anyone?). At the same time, there’s no NBA without him. I wouldn’t have grown as a die-hard NBA fan in Italy. I wouldn’t be writing here. I mean, without David Stern I wouldn’t be what I am (yeah, I consider the passion for the NBA an integral part of me). So, I salute you, Emeritus Commissioner, Architect of the global NBA.

Ready for a likely 0-4 Western road trip? It’s very easy to fall back on earth before January, 15th.

For now, let my eyes get dreamy!