Whiteness and the Knicks Beat

A funny thing happened just now. I was holding a piece of writing I did this morning to avoid stepping on Mike Kurylo’s excellent post about the Liberty and Isiah Thomas, and I stumbled across a great interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Chris Herring. During the interview, Herring was asked about diversity in sports writing, and had this to say:

There aren’t nearly enough women covering the NBA; especially if you look past the ones who serve as sideline reporters. It feels like there are more people of color who write about the NBA than in other sports, and perhaps that’s because it’s overwhelmingly black compared to the other leagues.

I don’t know how much it impacts the way the league itself is covered. What I’m more curious about, sometimes, is how, if at all, it impacts the way players communicate with reporters. I’ll never forget interviewing Jim Brown and seeing him do a double-take when I told him what outlet I was representing, and that I wanted to ask him a few questions for my story. He later told me he was proud to see a young, black man in my position, because it was something he rarely, if ever, saw — especially when he actually played the sport.

It’s obviously not nearly that rare now, but I do think being in my 20s and black has helped me relate with some of the players. One time in the locker room, Iman Shumpert was looking at each of the reporters, playfully ribbing us one-by-one for the way we were dressed. He got to me, and decided to make fun of my sweater. Carmelo stepped in before Shump could really say anything, telling him, “Nah, Chris is cool — he’s with us.”

In light of this excellent interview, I decided to throw my post up. Make sure you read Mike’s Liberty post as well. Here goes….

The Knicks beat is one of the most high profile arenas in sports journalism. The people who cover the Knicks for the major media outlets often appear on national broadcasts and find their work cited in newspapers and on websites around the country. If you frequent the social media neighborhood of the New York Knicks, you might come across a rather passionate collection of opinions about the quality of the work produced in this exclusive little circle. To be sure, people have their favorites. Some writers are known for their accuracy and reliability. Some are known for their temperaments. Others are seen, alternatively, as trolls or shills. I’ve certainly been a critic of the general climate surrounding the Knicks beat. When I sat down to wrap my head around the field of writers and pundits covering the Knicks, I discovered a curious thing. It’s a thing that shouldn’t be surprising to anyone, and your reaction will likely be….”Mmm hmmmm. That’s true. Shrug.” Still, it merits some consideration in “print.”

The Knicks are covered almost exclusively by white men.

I told you that you wouldn’t be surprised. To see it spelled out is an interesting exercise, so let’s take a stroll through the Knicks beat, shall we? Before I do this, I’d like to note that I’m dealing with the primary characters assigned to covering the Knicks. When I show you the names, most of them will be the top names in Knicks coverage, some might be part-time on the Knicks beat, and I may be leaving out other minor players to be sure. We’re dealing in broad strokes at the top level.

New York Daily News – Frank Isola, Steven Bondy, Mike Lupica, Mitch Lawrence

New York Post – Marc Berman, Mike Vaccaro

New York Times – Harvey Araton, Scott Cacciola, Filip Bondy

New York Newsday – Al Iannazzone

Wall Street Journal – Chris Herring

CBS Sports – Ken Berger, John Schmeelk

ESPN New York – Ian Begley

There are probably a few other outlets worth collecting, and there are probably writers who belong on the list, while others may not. This is a snapshot, and Knicks fans will recognize most or all of those names. With the exception of Chris Herring at the Wall Street Journal, every other person on the list is white and male. In my very quick search, I discovered that Brian Lewis, who is African-American, covers the Nets for the Post. Laura Albanese, a white woman, covers the Nets for Newsday. At the New York Post, George Willis occasionally dabbles in basketball, but is mainly a fights columnist. Branching out beyond the Knicks, and beyond the NBA, the field becomes more diverse, if only barely.

Why is this significant? There are any number of reasons, but the most significant from my point of view is that in 2015 76.7% of NBA players were people of color. Only one of the people on the above list is a person of color. If you’re not sold on the whiteness of the Knicks beat….or the maleness….let’s expand this treatment to the talk radio circuit. The two main sports talk stations in the New York City area are WFAN and ESPN Radio. Here’s their work day roster:

WFAN – Boomer Esiason, Craig Carton, Evan Roberts, Joe Beningo, Mike Francesa

ESPN – Mike Golic, Mike Greenberg, Dan LeBatard, Alan Hahn, Rick DiPietro, Michael Kay, Don LaGreca

Of course, these people don’t limit themselves to Knicks talk, but sports talk radio is the most concentrated form of sustained, local sports coverage available. Social media are driven by the sports writers and their peers on the radio. The papers set up the narrative, the radio broadcasts it constantly to an enormous audience, and the general public negotiates it all online. All of these characters, again, are white men. Dan LeBatard is a New Jersey born Cuban-American based in Miami, and his show is syndicated in the morning. He’s not so much an ESPN NY guy as a nationally syndicated radio personality for ESPN. The heart of the NY sports media, particularly covering the Knicks is painfully uniform in its white-maleness.

74.4% of NBA players identify as African-American. The sport’s culture is rich with an incredibly diverse range of African-American experiences, but the media covering it are all outsiders. The story being told to the public about the NBA comes from a small circle of people who have not lived any version of the African-American experience. It doesn’t mean they aren’t doing a good job, in many cases. It doesn’t mean that the story of the NBA is only an African-American story, or that one must be African-American to cover the game. It does mean that three quarters of the voices in the sport are filtered through a small, white minority.

To be fair, the same issue persists in the blogging community. It’s important for us to be self-aware when we’re turning this lens outward. White men also dominate the many excellent Knicks blogs you may read. It’s an issue.

The reason I decided to bring this up today is that pesky little story about social media I brought up at the start. You may get the sense that people aren’t in love with the coverage they receive from the Knicks beat. It’s a story that probably repeats itself across the country, to be honest. For a very long time, mass media sources were the only sources of information about the world of sports. Love them or hate them, the characters bringing you the latest in the world of sports were the only characters in the game, and fans didn’t have access to them. Today, information comes from many places. The quality of the information hasn’t caught up to the quantity of information, and it never will, but a funny thing has happened along the way. Some new characters have walked on stage from outside the mass media arena. Small pockets of talented people have begun to participate in the arena in an increasingly high profile way. Most of these people don’t have the same level of access to the teams, players, and agents as the mass media professionals, but they bring a much needed ingredient to the mix – perspective.

The longer you run in the same circles, the more a dominant logic begins to invisibly take hold. This is true in any close community of people. That dominant logic begins to weave itself into the DNA of the community and give shape to everything that goes on within its boundaries. This is true of organizations. It’s true of writing fraternities of the sort we see in this example. Outsiders bring new perspectives, which challenge the established order. Some of the media establishment look down their noses at amateur outsiders, treating the entire population with the same derisive brush. There are a wide range of outside perspectives, from the rowdy loud mouths on Twitter to the thoughtful “fan bloggers” who build reputations among the greater fan base. This is all a very good thing, from my point of view. A diverse range of voices and perspectives is a positive thing. It’s the American way, frankly. When I speak of challenging the narratives in the mass media coverage of sports, I’m only scratching the surface. It’s one (important) thing to open discourse about the meaning of sporting events and the day-to-day operation of sports organizations. It’s another thing to challenge those narratives by taking a critical approach to the voices of the people providing the challenge.

Basketball, as a part of American culture, is infused with the lived experiences of the Black men and women playing the sport. Leaving out Black voices in the high profile coverage of the game is a sin in a long line of American sins related to race. The mass media institutions have done a much better job in recent years of including former players as their high profile voices on the air. Inside the NBA is one of the most interesting and joyful media experiences in the basketball business precisely because Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal and others take the lead in the discourse about the game. They’re not always right and they often say silly, off-the-cuff things, but their voices carry something of the game’s meaning from the people who actually embody “Ball is Life.” New York City is one of our nation’s foremost centers of African-American cultural history. Basketball has lived and breathed at the center of that culture for generations and generations, and yet the beat is snow white. I’m not certain exactly how change will shake out, but this piece is a simple plea for awareness and an open consideration of the subject. We all need a little more Clyde Frazier in our lives.

Escape from the Rituals of Cynicism

For many who know me, the subject of New York Daily News writer Frank Isola is a touchy one. I’m a fairly vocal critic of his work on the Knicks beat. It’s not so much that Isola is alone in his pathology. A lot of the long term guys on the Knicks beat have become invested in their own narrative brands. Isola is iconic in his disdainful tone, while Marc Berman at the New York Post is his sometimes sycophantic alter-ego. There’s a Knicks beat writer for whatever your mood.

In my day job, I teach various ideas related to media and communication. Those ideas sometimes involve journalism, and other times sports communication. In the bigger picture, my work orbits around cultural studies giant James W. Carey and his “ritual view” of communication. From Wikipedia:

The ritual view of communication is a communications theory proposed by James W. Carey, wherein communication–the construction of a symbolic reality–represents, maintains, adapts, and shares the beliefs of a society in time. In short, the ritual view conceives communication as a process that enables and enacts societal transformation.

Carey defines the ritual view particularly in terms of sharing, participation, association, and fellowship. In addition, Carey acknowledges that, commonness, communion, and community, naturally correspond with the ritual view. In a similar way, the term “ritual” holds religious connotations. For Carey, this connection to religion helps to emphasize the concept of shared beliefs and ceremony that are fundamental to the ritual view.

When it comes to journalism, this view emphasizes the power of public discourse to give shape to community. The production of common symbols and understandings offers the public a frame in which to negotiate shared meaning. Journalists and news organizations propose particular “truths,” based on their observations and understandings, and the public chooses to accept or reject those truths in figuring out who “they” are as a group. Carey notes, “We first produce the world by symbolic work and then take up residence in the world we have produced. Alas, there is magic in our self deceptions.” Our self deceptions are found in the faith we put in those “truths” as essential qualities of “reality.” Realities built in flawed human perception, translated into imperfect language, are hardly real at all. We’re talking about the inherent subjectivity of human cultural work.

This comes into play with our sports journalists as they observe a limited range of circumstances around teams and players, construct narratives about those observations, and promote them as “Truth.” There’s a clear danger in promoting your work at Truth, when the best you can hope for is truth in a matrix of possible truths. To be overly self-righteous about one’s position as a journalist is to ignore the limitations of your perspective in favor of your byline. Journalists of all stripes can fall prey to this sort of things, not to mention academics.

My running complaint about Frank Isola has been his tone. There is absolutely no disputing that the Knicks have been a dysfunctional organization from top to bottom. Perhaps, the Knicks continue to be dysfunctional to this very day. Al Bianchi was dysfunctional before Dolan ever arrived. Beyond Dolan, you can point your finger at Scott Layden, Isiah Thomas, Stephon Marbury, Larry Brown, and a host of other characters who’ve passed through MSG’s doors. You can put Phil Jackson in there as well if you wish. I won’t begrudge anyone that point of view, although I don’t share it 100%.

Those facts are not in dispute. However, why do we engage with sports, generally, and why the Knicks, specifically? What is this ritual act of communication for in the end? Fandom is a ritual of belonging. It’s a cultural act that distinguishes an “us” from the wide world of “thems.” Beyond simple boundary setting, this sort of cultural act is related to meaning. We build this house in sports communication and take up residence in it. The tone we take in performing this sort of work tells a lot about the type of community we create. Even in the midst of great dysfunction, the right tone can result in a critical but positive cultural climate. There’s a place for “truth-telling,” when it comes to persistent problems and dysfunction, but more than the factual content of that communication, the tone determines the direction and character of the culture.

Knicks fans are masters of gallows humor by now. We’ve been conditioned to accept dysfunction and we’ve developed elaborate memes to digest it in small doses. The cultural production of catharsis is a grassroots phenomenon, and is most prominent in online communication via social media and in the many excellent blogs that follow the team….including this one. There is a dramatic difference between gallows humor as catharsis and deeply entrenched cynicism. Humor is a coping mechanism. It helps to preserve the positive spirit of a culture, even through the darkest nights. This is where the Daily News and Frank Isola come in…

Some time ago, I tweeted some criticism of Isola. It probably wasn’t the first time, and it certainly wasn’t the last. I never expected to be DMed by the man himself, but it happened. Mr. Isola began serial tweeting me in private, attacking my character, intelligence and so on. I couldn’t reply privately to him, as he wasn’t following me on Twitter, so I was forced to reply publicly. This went on for some time until I realized my own feed looked insane and he wasn’t going to become any more reasonable in private the longer it went on. Much more recently, I openly criticized Isola and Mike Lupica for their coverage of the Knicks, tweeting something about the joyless coverage of sports in their paper. I meant it then, and I mean it today. There is a very deeply ingrained cynicism at the Daily News, which is their editorial prerogative. Soon after my tweet, Mr. Isola searched the Internet for my private e-mail and “inboxed” some spiteful business in my direction. I was taken aback that he’d go to such lengths to contact me privately, but it didn’t seem completely out of character based on my past experience. In fact, I’ve found a number of online accounts of this kind of behavior, including this bit from five years ago. It’s a remarkably similar tale of social media stalking that mirrors my own interaction with Isola.

I’ve often thought about writing something about my experience, as it figures prominently in the personality of our highest profile Knicks journalism. I held back because it seemed to be more personal than newsworthy. I knew Isola had gone after other critics in this way, but that’s just social media, right? Well, perhaps by now you’ve read some stories about the Isola/McLovin Twitter feud that took place recently. If not, give this a read. It’s pretty funny. I suddenly felt that my own experience with Isola, an experience shared by other of his critics, was relevant.

Mind you, I’m not arguing in favor of being a Garden apologist, or for avoiding the hard “truth” about the Knicks’ many problems. That’s what Marc Berman is for. Instead, I’m taking the point of view espoused by James W. Carey and suggesting that journalistic narratives play a very important role in channeling the culture of the community. Healthy criticism and deeply entrenched cynicism are not the same thing. The magic of sports is their capacity to unite a community around the joys and sorrows of a team. They have a civic purpose that informs the tone of a community’s culture. They give shape to the experience of life. Cynicism robs sports of their capacity to bring joy. People like Isola will tell you that their job is to tell the hard “Truth.” The “facts” surrounding the franchise are dismal and therefore the “Truth” is dismal. He’s just telling it like it “is.” It’s an overly simplistic view of truth that denies his own personal biases and vendettas. The same story can be told 100 different ways. He chooses to inject his work with dripping sarcasm and disdain, subjective qualities that obscure “Truth,” if there is such a thing, in favor of his own private “truth.” Editorially, the Daily News has made this brand of “truth” their calling card when it comes to the Knicks, which, again, is their prerogative. I feel perfectly secure in my right to critique them for that brand, as a fan, a cultural scholar, and a writer.

I’m certain I’ll hear from Isola again about this piece. I’m okay with that. My interest is not to impugn his work or to attack him personally, however he goes about his business through social media. My bigger interest is in promoting less cynical communication around the Knicks, in particular. That has to start from the highest profile sources of Knicks information, as the gatekeepers of public sentiment. Consider this a general appeal, rather than a specific attack….although I recognize that past interactions have colored my perspective on a prominent character in question.

The views expressed in this piece are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinion of Knickerblogger or any of its writers and members. 

Princeton

Anyone who’s discussed the Knickerbockers with me, either in person or online, understands that I’m a big believer in Phil Jackson. I recognize that there’s a pretty stark division in the ranks of Knickerbockerdom between supporters of Phil and detractors. Put simply, there’s a camp who believe Phil Jackson is ill-suited to his current role, despite his success as a coach. These folks point to his various lukewarm personnel decisions, and his adherence to the Triangle offense, as symbols of his inflexibility and mediocrity as team president. The other camp is generally characterized by the sense that Jackson is moving deliberately, running the team like a normal NBA franchise, avoiding the home run swing for a bunch of singles and the occasional double, Porzingis notwithstanding. His insistence on system basketball (the Triangle) is a minor feature of his tenure as team president, and it will ultimately be the personnel and culture end of the franchise evolution that will tell the story of his success or failure.

As with most things, the truth lies somewhere in between. I tend towards the rosier view of Phil Jackson’s impact on the franchise as a person who bought into a long term view of his approach from the start. In fact, I hardly expect anything monumental to occur with the Knicks during Melo’s remaining years, which would make me want out instantly if I were #7. As a non-Melo human being, I think he has tremendous value in the many evolutionary steps that will transpire between now and peak Porzingis, even if the best we can hope for is a playoff series win or two by the end of Melo Time. As a person who takes that view, I pay strict attention to Phil Jackson’s early pronouncements about molding the franchise in a way that outlasts his time in the hot seat. Phil is limited to five years with the Knicks, and we’re already halfway home. It’s next to impossible to believe that he has the resources or charisma to pull off a superteam in the next 2-3 years, and there’s still a league full of elite teams between us and anything close to a championship.

With that in mind, our coaching hire is possibly the single biggest decision Phil Jackson will make beyond the drafting of Kristaps. If he does anything to top Porzingis, the Knicks are going to be set up for a very long time. The coaching hire only has to be the 2nd best thing he does to make a long term impact. This is where my second love comes into play. I’d like the Knicks to hire David Blatt and give him the freedom to work with the Princeton offense, however he integrates the Triangle into what he does with the offensive scheme.

For a long time, I’ve been a big believe in the Princeton offense. Like the Triangle, the Princeton offense is a read and react offense that relies on fluidity, intelligence, and the seamless interaction of each player on the court. Every player has to be smart, creative, and selfless. That’s the epitome of system basketball, the thing Jackson purports to love so much. The only reason Kurt Rambis would ever be hired as the next Knicks coach is a stubborn insistence on Triangular orthodoxy. Rambis certainly knows the Triangle, and how to teach it, but he’s never shown himself to be particularly improvisational about how that offense might adapt to personnel or contemporary styles of play. If orthodoxy is the prescription, Rambis is your man. If Rambis is our man, the problems are bigger than the coach.

Blatt is far from a perfect coach, but to his credit he’s managed to stay true to the principles of system basketball, including most of the key tenants of the Princeton offense. (Watch him run an hour long clinic in the Princeton offense if you’re a super basketball nerd like me.) He’s been able to adapt and adjust to various leagues and various collections of players within the principles of his philosophy, which is precisely the approach any new Knicks coach will need under Phil Jackson. It’s up to Phil now to let go of his grip, if only a little, to include some breathing room for his coach. The benefits are very clear, whoever reaps the benefits of this freedom, but it particularly applies to Blatt, to me, because I love the Princeton offense so much. In my opinion, Princeton is superior to Triangle in any number of ways. (I’m fine with the Triangle, and consider it a feature rather than a bug, whatever others think.) Watch Eddie Jordan talk about the Princeton Offense and its origins in the 60s Celtics and 70s Knicks…another reason for us to love it.

Phil’s Bulls and Lakers ran the Triangle and made it beautiful. No question. It was a much more open and enjoyable offense to watch than the 90s Knicks, despite my rooting interest. As beautiful as those offenses were, it’s another club from that era that calls to me from the grave. The early-2000s Sacramento Kings, with Rick Adelman playing Phil Jackson and Pete Carril playing Tex Winters, who really capture my basketball imagination. Those teams never made the NBA Finals, but they were close a number of times and won more games for Sacramento than any other collection in franchise history. This little video, although imperfect, illustrates in sentiment, if not Xs and Os, what those teams were all about.

The clip features a few Princeton-esque sets, although it’s really more of a razzle dazzle highlight reel for Jason Williams and Chris Webber. The quotes that periodically appear between segments tell a particular sort of story that I think is worth considering.

“The Kings are a reminder of better days in the NBA. Someone should send their game tapes where are the life and fun have been strangled out of the game.” – Bob Ryan, Boston Globe, December 31, 2001

If there’s a place in the NBA that’s seen the fun strangled out of it, it’s Madison Square Garden. This is true of the play on court, the atmosphere of the locker room,the fandom, and the media environment. I’m certain Phil Jackson sees the Triangle, in its most beautiful execution, as a fun style of play, and a great spectacle for the fans. That may yet be true, but I doubt anything about Kurt Rambis is going to bring out that sense of fun anytime soon. I don’t see it, however well he can teach the system.

“Sacramento presents a perfect opportunity for the NBA to celebrate a style of play…The only thing better than watching the Kings run would be seeing the rest of the league catch up.” -Phil Taylor, Sports Illustrated, February 19, 2001

In fact, in the interim, the league has caught up. The Kings open, unselfish style of play is a clear influence on the way the league has evolved. The three pointer is probably the biggest symbol of the league’s evolution, and the Kings were not a high volume three point team. Like the Triangle, the Princeton offense was never a big three point system. Both systems remain “quality shot” offenses, which traditionally emphasize some sort of post play, but in both cases we’ve seen the Triangle and Princeton integrate wise use of the three pointer to outstanding effect. Ball movement is the trademark of the read and react philosophy shared by both, and we’ve seen some very attractive, non-isolation offenses take the league by storm, including our Jason Kidd-led Knicks of a few seasons back.

“The first impression one gets from watching the Sacramento Kings play basketball is the right impression…This razzle-dazzle bunch enjoys the game and each other and it shows.” -David DuPree, USA Today, April 3, 2001

This, to me, is the key ingredient. Phil Jackson has spoken at length about culture because it’s the key to arriving at joy. The game is meant to be about joy for the players and fans alike. Achieving this kind of joy, from Jackson’s point of view (and mine), comes from horizontal relationships on and off the court. There are going to be star players, but those star players must understand how to recede into the team, and then to emerge in key moments. If Michael Jordan grew in any significant way under Phil Jackson it was in this sense. Jordan was famous for getting his teammates involved during first quarters before sensing the moment to take over. He also knew when to start hot and then back off. His instinct for this became uncanny, actually, and I’m sure this sort of things fosters a sense of great camaraderie and fun. Lord knows, the Knicks haven’t given Melo much choice in recent years but to take over at the beginning, middle, and end of games. He’s carried to heavy a load because the Knicks have failed to surround him with smart, creative, capable teammates for the most part. There is evidence that Melo bought into the philosophy, in good times and in bad this season, as he posted a career high in assists.

That group in Sacramento is an interesting model for the Knicks because unlike Phil Jackson’s championship clubs, the Kings never had the All-World talent on their roster. They had smart, unselfish, creative players who enjoyed being on the court together. Think about the players they put on the floor. Jason Williams and Mike Bibby. Doug Christie and Bobby Jackson. Peja Stojakovic and Hedo Turkoglu. Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, and Brad Miller. None of those players approaches the level of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, or Shaquille O’Neal. The guard play is solid, at best. The common characteristic among those players is a willingness to pass the basketball. A look at the 2001-02 Kings, a team that won 61 games before losing in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals (to Phil’s Triangular Lakers), is a study in passing. Webber averaged 4.8 assists. Divac averaged 3.7 assists. Christie averaged 4.2 assists. Bibby averaged 5.0 and even Peja managed 2.5 per game. For all the “razzle-dazzle” the team finished 3rd in ORtg and 6th in DRtg. They were just a good, smart team that played seamlessly together on both ends.

Talent is clearly an ingredient to the success of those Kings, as it was with the Phil Jackson champions. The Knicks aren’t going to approach any semblance of the Kings’ success unless they improve the overall talent of the club, in qualitative ways as much as quantitative. The type of player who will succeed in the Triangle is not unlike the type of player who will succeed in the Princeton offense, or some variation thereof. Talent may take time, however, while coaching is an immediate concern. I’m a big believer in Frank Vogel, and I’m as shocked as anyone that the Pacers may let him walk. Frankly, no pun intended, the Knicks ought to run, not walk, to interview him. If Blatt isn’t your guy, Vogel is clearly your only other option.

I suspect that Phil detractors will prefer Vogel, given his defensive chops, and I can’t say I blame them. Should the Knicks turn into a top defensive team, I think the fans and media would be more than joyful. I would be, for sure. As a believer in the beautiful game, and the Princeton offense, I prefer Blatt. As a believer in Phil Jackson’s vision for the franchise and the sport, I prefer Blatt. If Steve Mills is to be the face of the Knicks leadership beyond Phil Jackson, the Princeton connection is essential to continuity, both in Phil Jackson’s vision for the sport and for the “simpatico” he desires between the brass and the bench. This is not about Phil Jackson. It’s not about the Triangle. It’s certainly not about Kurt Rambis. It’s about culture. It’s about system. It’s about style of play. It’s about joy between the players and joy amongst the fans. (Maybe it could be joy within the media……NAAAAAAAAH.) It’s about simpatico between the owner, the management, the coaching, and the players. David Blatt is an important bridge between Phil Jackson’s vision and Steve Mills continued steering of the USS Knickerbocker. He’s good for the current players, the future players, and most importantly he seems an ideal fit with Kristaps Porzingis, which is the most important thing of all.

Edit – If you want a 2014 look at what people were saying about Blatt as he entered the league, take a look at this article in Grantland that mentions Rambis and the Triangle in contrast to Blatt’s style, and a bunch of other things that seem oddly tailor-made for our current state of affairs.

Porzingods and Men

By now, perhaps you’ve seen the short film “Porzingod,” which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival recently. It’s a 3+ minute prayer to the gods of the New York Knickerbockers, conducted by John Leguizamo and Adam Mucci. The film was written and directed by Conor Byrne, and produced by Tyler Byrne for Brudder Films.

You’ve been there. I’ve been there. It’s part of who we are. Enjoy and give praise to the most high….Kristaps Porzingod.

2015-16 Game Thread: Knicks vs. Pacers

The season is mercifully coming to an end tonight, at least for the dreary Knicks. The contest between the Knicks and Pacers is only really meaningful for the Indiana side. The Pacers have two games remaining, including tonight, and sit in a tie with the Pistons in the standings. The Pacers own the tie-breaker with Detroit, so they occupy the 7th seed, but there’s still room for things to fall apart. Obviously, the 7th seed is the more attractive position because it results in a date with the Raptors versus the 8th seed’s inevitable meeting with Lebron’s Cavaliers. The Pacers play the Knicks and Milwaukee, while the Pistons play Miami and the Cavs, although the Cavs have announced that they’ll be resting all their key players in the season’s final game. You have to wonder if they’ll actually do that if the 7th and 8th seeds are still up in the air after tonight. You’d like to think they’d honor the 82 games by playing their regulars part of the time, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case. Anyway, the Pacers ought to be able to sweep the remaining two games, which is where the sad Knickerbockers come into play.

There’s not much to say about tonight’s contest. The young guys will see more time and hopefully we’ll be treated to the emergence of Jerian Grant as a viable lead guard. That’s a nice story. Derrick Williams has been carrying water for the depleted Knicks for some weeks now, and that’s been fun. Carmelo Anthony, amidst persistent speculation about his presence in New York beyond tonight, is questionable to finish out the string. No matter how many times Melo has said he’s committed to New York, the idea that he may ask for a trade will not die. It’s understandable, but it has colored the season in a particularly cynical way throughout.

A lot of stories are dragging along behind the Knicks as the season comes to an end, like so many tin cans on the fender of an old car. Will Phil wiggle out of his contract to go to LA? Will Melo demand a trade? Will the Knicks do anything worthwhile in free agency? And, my personal favorite, will Kurt Rambis be the head coach, or will Phil Jackson look outside the Triangle community for a new leader.

I expect Phil Jackson to be here next year. I expect Carmelo Anthony to be here next year. I expect the Knicks will make solid, but unspectacular moves in free agency to shore up the guard position. I expect Kurt Rambis will be on the coaching staff, but the big question remains….will the Knicks look to a coach with a better profile to lead the way? I’m much in favor of Tom Thibodeau as a coach. I haven’t always felt that way, but I think the Knicks are in need of some toughness. None of the players on the current roster bring a level of toughness required to compete at a high level every night. There are no powerful leaders on the floor. Melo isn’t that sort of guy. Porzingis could be, but he’s still a kid. RoLo has some intensity, but lacks the profile to really be taken seriously in that regard. The Knicks may or may not be able to add a player with that level of toughness in the offseason, but they can add the toughest coach in the business. Thibodeau is sure to bring a very hard edge with him, which New York loves and desperately wants. The “zen” in Phil Jackson’s system requires controlled aggression and a simmering intensity that bridges “being in the flow” and “dominating an opponent.” The team personality must be tough and unified.

I don’t know any more than anyone else what’s going to happen. If anyone tells you they know what the Knicks are going to do, they’re hustling you. There’s going to be a lot of cynical speculation because that’s what the Knicks mediasphere is fueled by, but there’s just as much room for optimism as there is cynicism. Some things went very right this season. I won’t recount them here, but the Knicks made real progress in a number of areas, despite the disappointing collapse and odd firing of Derek Fisher.

For tonight, anyway, the way to watch the Knicks is to cheer on the potential to be Pacer spoilers. Watching some of the less publicized members of the team get some spin is fun, but beating the Pacers and thrusting them into a matchup with Cleveland would be sweet….as unlikely as it is.

Quick Recap: Knicks vs. Bulls

Wow. That was really a beating.

The Knicks administered a beating. Our Knicks. Take that in for a second. I wrote in the game thread that the two teams facing off tonight lost their tough somewhere along the way. The Knicks lost it a long time ago and the Bulls are in the process of coping with their loss just now. I think they may be in the denial stage.

Kristaps Porzingis was an ace tonight with his first double double of the Rambis era. He looked sharp and engaged and while he made some silly late game mistakes, he was the answer for the Knicks all night long. He can do it all. Someone else who did it all tonight was Arron Afflalo. I’ve been very hard on Afflalo for most of the year, but he came through with 12, 8, and 7 in a big win. If he gets the ire after losses, he deserves praise when he contributes across the board.

Nikola Mirotic. I mean….are you serious. I like his game for the most part, although he’s been a bit of a disappointment this season, but he was hitting silly threes all game long. If he misses just a couple of those the game is even more ludicrously lopsided. Both teams shot far too well for a quality NBA contest with the Knicks at almost 52% from the field and 56% from three, and the Bulls around 46% from both. That’s not good basketball so much as it’s two teams that didn’t care enough about defending. I’ll take it. The two teams face off in less than 24 hours at MSG and we’ll all be there.

Revel in the glory of victory Knickerbuddies! You deserve it.