KNICKS WIN! KNICKS WIN!

New Orleans Pelicans 92 Final
Recap | Box Score
99 New York Knicks

When I was in grad school, as part of the coursework, in groups of about five to seven, each week we’d have to collaboratively create a short, 10-15 minute play that was in some way related to whatever it was we were studying.

There was no director and no script, which certainly made for some interesting and heated, artistic squabbles, especially when there were varying degrees of ability to speak French, but on Friday, come hell or high water, you’d present it in front of all the other students and our professors, and then receive feedback, notes, etc.

The really brutal aspect to this was that a singular principle of the pedagogy was that if a piece wasn’t working in the first minute, there was no way to get the audience back. So if the playlet stumbled out of the gate, they’d stop it, the head of the program raising his hand and issuing a curt, oh-so Gallic, sotto voce “bon.”

For eight grueling weeks in a row, the group I was in got stopped. The mini-plays deserved to be strangled in their crib, don’t get me wrong, but after an exhausting five days of rehearsal, fighting and frustration, all I wanted was to just show the whole damn thing, even if I knew it wasn’t very good.

As the theatrical losses mounted, the more I started to resent having to work with Actor X, and seethed at the way Actor Y, as good as he/she was, was cleverly sabotaging the proceedings to make him/herself look good in the midst of a shitstorm. I stomped my feet in rehearsal, or rolled my eyes, and spent many a night in the local café, pounding wine and unleashing buckets of bile.

The absolute nadir came in week eight. We’d made some dumb, twee scene that took place in a park, replete with shitty, stereotypical characters: a homeless person (or, as the French called them, “Un Sans Domicile Fixe” which translates to “Without Fixed Domicile.” Cute, right?), an old man feeding pigeons, a pair of love-struck youths, and so on.

They stopped us about thirty seconds in. I glared, and trudged to the lip of the stage to be told how and why we’d fucked up (again). The head of the program began recounting our litany of failures, when he turned to me and said, “And Robert, what were you doing back there? It was like a bad Charlie Chaplin imitation, but without the talent.”

I stood there, my jaw on the floor, frozen in stunned, abject humiliation. The professor stared right through me, with that particularly French combination of… not anger or disapproval; more boredom and weary resignation that he actually had to suffer through my so-called performance. After what seemed like an eternity, it dawned on me that the above line wasn’t just a particularly cutting rhetorical question; he actually wanted an answer.

So he turned to my colleagues and said, “You saw what Robert was doing. Why didn’t you stop him?”

At that moment, I would have given a limb if a massive chasm had opened up under my feet. I wanted nothing more than to have the world swallow me whole.

Which brings us to the Knicks, and the conclusion of a franchise-record sixteen game losing streak. I’ve never been on a pro team, to be sure, but I do know something about a soul crushing, enervating, godawful string of failure.

You may have noticed, but I haven’t written a recap in a while. It’s more that I’m occupied with other work than a conscious decision, but I’m sure, were the ‘Bockers even halfway decent or even interestingly terrible, like last season, I’d carve out the time to rage, rage against the dying of New York’s light.

This? No, not this. Why relive this? They’ve just been so, so sad. Anything I might write about the game would be redundant. There are no solutions to be had, even if we all know that losing is a good thing, what with bringing dreamy dreams of Okafors and Towns’s. Of course, things that are necessary and good for you are often not at all fun, and can feel like abject torture, especially for the cats that are wearing our fave laundry, many of who won’t be around to enjoy the (hopefully) bounteous end product of all this dumping of manure/purgative fire.

A few weeks ago, I was at the Tarrytown practice facility to write something about Giannis Antetokounmpo. I was listening to Fisher as he took questions from a smallish huddle of the press, and he’s saying all the right things, but it all rings so hollow. If you’ve watched him respond to the same bleak questions in the pre- and post-game show, you know that if nothing else, Fisher has already mastered the coaching art of saying absolutely nothing, and stringing together aphorisms and truisms that, yes, are correct, but bear little resemblance to the reality at hand.

“Our record is not where we’d like it to be for sure. But we’re in the process of restructuring and rebuilding the New York Knicks. We’re going to play a new brand of basketball and we’re going to represent this organization and this city in a different way,” he says with a charismatic but earnest and purposeful seriousness. “So we’ve had to remain diligent about their daily habits and more focusing on the process as opposed to the results. And if you focus on the process and the habits, the results will take care of themselves, and we believe we’re going to get there. We just have to keep working.”

You want to believe him, if only because he doesn’t have a choice. He’s already slung variations on the same theme hundreds of times already this season. There isn’t any time and space for doubt here, if he is ever going to succeed. You can see the pain and the frustration right behind his eyes, but Fisher is going to continue repeating these hoops mantras. To put it bluntly, he’s got to fake it before he and the Knickerbockers have a glimmer of hope of making it.

I’m sure the Knicks are tired of hearing all this right-minded talk as well. Even if they know that the dude holding the clipboard and stoically grinding his teeth down to the nubbin(s) is right, and believe what he’s saying, the interminable string of losses sit there, like an ugly, mocking, foul-smelling elephant in the middle of the court.

While listening to Fisher talk the talk, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own grim, seemingly never ending slog in clown school, and how badly I needed a break, and was praying to all kinds of Gods and supernatural powers to please, by all that is holy and good, please just let this be the end. Today’s win was not particularly good for the tank, and the thought that they’re going to give gobs of playing time to Lance Thomas and Lou Admundson because they bring “energy” instead of letting Early, Wear, Acy and even Aldrich grow, is disheartening at best.

But for fuck’s sake, these guys needed this. I don’t know about you, but I was howling at the screen again as a double-digit lead began to wither like an over-cooked Shrinky Dink, with Galloway throwing up ill-considered heaves as the shot clock ran down, Melo ISO’d to his ISO-tastic heart’s content. Breen, who might as well have been a French Clowning Professor, excoriated Jason Smith for sagging off Ryan Anderson as the latter drained a three to cut it to 84-78, proffering the not-at-all-rhetorical question, “WHY IS HE SO FAR OFF HIM?”

When Melo finally plucked a wide-open Calderon in the corner for what proved to be the game-clinching shot, I gave this bungled and botched group of ‘Bockers a silent, Michael Jordan-ian fist pump.

And I scoured the interwebs for all the joyous, improbable little things—the moments that inevitably would be missed or washed away amidst the despair at yet another dull, rote defeat, like Galloway’s Shannon Brown-y put back dunk.

I hope the Knicks take a moment to breathe and smile and laugh. I hope Langston Galloway has the boxscore of career-best game laminated and mounted on his wall. I hope Melo’s heart burns with pride at playing The Right Way in the final minute. I hope Amar’e runs a replay of the ferocious pick and roll dunk he ran with Larkin over and over again. I hope Tim Hardaway grins at his moments of more-than-solid defense and deft passing. I hope Derek Fisher pats everyone on the back.

Good job, guys. Now get back to tanking and lose like the Dickens to Philly.

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Robert Silverman

Hey, did you know that in addition to banging the keys here and occasionally for the NY Times and at ESPN, Robert is a playwright, an actor and a wand'ring mendicant/gadfly? He also once wrestled a bear...and lost.

12 thoughts to “KNICKS WIN! KNICKS WIN!”

  1. Well Holy shit, we got a win. Nice little surprise during my lunch break. Will definitely have to watch the replay when I get home.

    Good write up too. Nice to have the recap back. Really great finish to it as well. As much as most are all about the tank to get that pick, we often overlook how shitty it must be for the players (even though it largely their fault ha ha) to go through stretches like that. I really hope they enjoy the win.

  2. I’m really happy about the win. I want the tank to keep on going, but I want to finish the season at 13-69. I think Philly and Minny will finish around 15-67, so that should secure us more ping pong ballz anyway.

    Now, let’s cut at least Bargs (but waiving Jah as well would be good), trade Pablo (for his own good… I don’t want to see him go but I feel bad for him here), and bring some youth aboard. I don’t know why we resigned Amundson and Thomas, but I have to say that I like high-motor guys. Amundson can’t really play basketball, but his effort has to mean something.

    On a side note: can we agree that Fisher is a supremely obtuse (if not inept, the jury is still out and will be for at least another year) coach? Starting Jah and then inserting him back for the last 2:44? Is he the only one who doesn’t see how bad Smith is?

  3. Scary when Lou Amundsen is so obviously your best overall defensive big.

    Nice to see Timmy play well again. When his shot is falling he’s a completely different player. He even had 3 rebounds and 2 assists (one of them a beauty to STAT off the drive).

    Really great to see Melo share the ball there at the end of the game, then have that decision validated by Calderon’s big 3.

    Yes we should be tanking but like Brian said, we don’t want to break everyone doing it.

  4. I want to know how Robert’s story ends. What was it like when they finally didn’t stop a play? Or did you finish 0-82?

    Also, exact same headline as the NYT, i hope they are paying you royalties….

    Great writeup….

  5. On a side note: can we agree that Fisher is a supremely obtuse (if not inept, the jury is still out and will be for at least another year) coach? Starting Jah and then inserting him back for the last 2:44? Is he the only one who doesn’t see how bad Smith is?

    Look I fucking hate Jason Smith as much as anybody but he guarded Ryan Anderson for most of the game and the guy shot 4-14 from the field. Smith also led the team with 6 assists yesterday and shot 6/9 from the field. All things considered playing him at the end of the game yesterday actually kind of made sense.

    Also Fisher drew up an excellent play at the end of the game that led to Calderon’s 3.

  6. Look I fucking hate Jason Smith as much as anybody but he guarded Ryan Anderson for most of the game and the guy shot 4-14 from the field.

    Smith left Anderson open for what seemed like 10 open 3’s. Smith played pretty well but if Anderson shoots his normal percentage on wide-open 3’s, I’m pretty sure we’re at 17 straight losses.

  7. I wouldn’t give Smith any merit about guarding Anderson… He missed a bunch of open shots.

    And, yeah, nice play for Calderon. But, as they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  8. I wouldn’t give Smith any merit about guarding Anderson… He missed a bunch of open shots.

    And, yeah, nice play for Calderon. But, as they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    No idea how you can judge Fisher’s coaching ability with this roster and with the various injuries such a talent deprived roster has endured. The fact that you haven’t heard guys bitching to the press about their minutes and role and that the guy you made your franchise player defended him to the media means more to me than whatever it is people expect him to do when his bigs consist of Aldrich, Acy, Jason Smith, STAT (when he’s healthy) and Bargs (lolz).

    Pop could coach this team and maybe we’d have 12 wins instead of 6. Would anybody be happy with that? If we’re going to tank well I’d rather have Fisher learn in this context while hopefully developing 2-3 rotation pieces. That’s still very possible.

    Smith left Anderson open for what seemed like 10 open 3’s. Smith played pretty well but if Anderson shoots his normal percentage on wide-open 3’s, I’m pretty sure we’re at 17 straight losses.

    Yes and I’m sure if Calderon shot his normal percentage on wide open 3’s we’d have won the game anyways. We can’t judge on what we think would have happened, just on what did happen and I only counted 3 uncontested 3’s Anderson got in the game on which he went 1/3. Like I said I hate Jah but considering his responsibility was to help out on the driver and then run back to contest Anderson from outside the arc I thought he did well enough.

  9. “Smith left Anderson open for what seemed like 10 open 3’s”
    I just watched the 4th quarter (the replay was on at my gym). I thought that Smith played about as well defensively in the 4th as he is capable of playing.
    On another note, does Cauley-Stein remind anyone else of Tyson Chandler?

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