I’m not in a grading frame of mind tonight, so we’re going to kick it old school. One man, in a world…with a keyboard and a bucketful of #feels—none of them particularly pleasing or fun—about the Knicks, rantin’ and hootin’ and hollerin’ to all his virtual pals.
So yes, a loss, which is pretty much par for the course, The bulk of the chatter around the Knicksian water cooler tomorrow will be about the last play, and whether J.R. was even paying attention to the best-laid plans of Fish and men, or perhaps was scoping out one of the lovely celebrities that were dotting the pricey seats.
It’s certainly worth dissecting, and while there’s very little doubt that a contested thirty-foot heave was not ideal, Fisher was nice enough not to fling anyone under public transportation afterwards, saying, “Once the ball came to J. R., he trusted himself,” he said. “I have no problem with a guy believing in himself.”
The MSG broadcast might have cranked Fisher’s mic to 11, or maybe this bro’s back, but you could hear a lot of what way being said in the ‘Bockers huddle right before Earl went all heroball, and I think I could hear him say something to the effect of, “if not, then get it to…” It’s nice to know that, even though there were a mere 3.3 ticks left on the clock, coach was cobbling together an a mulit-pronged attack. Yay? Yay. (If you haven’t guessed, it’s gonna be a slog to find silver linings in this one.)
Hey Melo, how did you feel about getting frozen out on the last shot?
That’s about right.
I can’t figure out why, aside from, you know, being mired in an icky six-game losing streak, but watching this team right now is just grimly depressing. Maybe it’s the constantly spinning wheel of starting lineups, or the dunderheaded, positively Woodson-ian pre-game babble. You know, like this:
We’ve spent a good chunk of e-real estate talking about how freeing rooting for this year’s ‘Bocker model might be, what with the complete and total lack of expectations. Right now, though, everything feels horribly set in stone. Maybe it’s just me, but feel like I know what we’re going to get out of everyone on the roster on a nightly basis. And staring out over the vast expanse that is the next 73 games just makes me go “Ugh.This won’t be fun.”
Seriously, look at the roster. Who are you excited to see hit the court? Hell, tonight’s game made a celebrity want to ditch basketball altogether.
Shump? Okay, yes. But no matter how many times he drains a sweet pull up jumper or hounds a ballhandler, there aren’t many scenarios on the board in which he’s still a Knick after this season. And for a guy that’s supposed to be a lockdown defender, there was a ton of reverting to old, bad habits tonight. He got charbroiled by a dude that looks like he makes a killing selling ditch weed to high schoolers, but insists that you listen to him explain the freaking Fountainhead when you go by his place and says you just have to read it because now he’s, “really going to get his shit together, man.” Fournier also owns a samurai sword. I’d be willing to bet arable land and a freaking grain silo on that one. But even if Shump was going full Bruce Bowen, it doesn’t matter because of all the dumb reach in fouls that are seriously limiting his playing time, often at crucial points in the game.
Shane Larkin? Sure, I guess. But his upside’s “The next sub six-foot guard that Thibs miraculously converts into a potent bench weapon a la Aaron Brooks, Nate Robinson, John Lucas III, and D.J. Augustin.”
Timmy Jr.? Fine, but if he remains an absolute blight on defense, it doesn’t matter how well he shoots from distance or gets Vine-able dunks.
The rest is a bleak assemblage of known quantities and dudes that’ll be gone soon enough. How do you form any kind of attachment to or affection for that?
Then there’s the head coach himself. Yes, young and learning on the job, but what in the name of all that is holy and good was he doing tonight? Travis Freakin’ Wear getting minutes ahead of both Early and THJ, the latter sitting the entire first half, then starting the second in a PG-less lineup. And the explanation, once again, sounds like he’s channeling Son of Wood:
So, the Orlando Magic just ran a totally different team out for the second half, then. Makes perfect sense. The kind of sense like ditching smallball entirely even though, prior to tonight’s tilt, for the scant few lineup combinations that were a net positive, most of them featured (Strike up the band, kids. Bob’s going to belt out his favorite tune) Melo at the Four.
Your eyes ain’t lying, they’re actually winning with Stoudemire at center as long as they spread the floor. There’s really no point in giving extended minutes to either Quincy Acy or Jason Smith. The former did a better job than I thought closing out on Frye and snaggled a few nice offensive rebounds, but then he too disappeared in the second half. Just gone. Vanished like Pinochet’s goons dragged him off to some subterranean gulag. As for the latter, playing Jason Smith is like trying to use a can opener to unscrew a lightbulb. He does one thing and one thing only: open a freaking can of soup when you’re too lazy or despondent to actually prepare a half decent meal for yourself.
Instead you’re sitting alone in a shoddy, ill-lit kitchen eating preservative- nitrate- and sodium-laden sustenance, and you’re kicking your own ass for not dragging said bedraggled ass to the store to make something, anything other than this tepid bowl of over-salted nothing. Peak Fisher tonight? Putting Campbell’s Creamy 15-20 Foot Jumpshot With Noodles in the game to sub for Melo after picking up a fifth foul midway through the fourth quarter.
Anyone who’s watched this Island of Misfit Toys of a roster could rattle off the bulk of the evening’s events even if he or she had smartly done something other than watch basketball tonight. There was the usual terrible perimeter defense, which begat wide-open threes and dump off passes for dunks. They’d shoot a bewildering number of long twos, and hack like fiends until their opponent built up an insurmountable advantage at the charity stripe which begat a furious but ultimately futile comeback. Vucevic would generally have his way with any supposed “big” that was assigned to guard him, whether it was by out-quicking Sam Dalembert or plowing through Amar’e, and some Magic Kingdom’er would get the full FARTDOG treatment. While we’re here, there’s nothing sadder that watching Sam creakily try to pick up a loose ball. It’s like the orange grove scene in The Godfather right before Brando collapses.
Yes, you can read all the wise words from the Zen Daddy about process and development, or even believe it when he says, “I see growth in this team, and I’m optimistic. It’s not always the final score; it’s sometimes how you play.”
This is all good and true, but the dirty little remora clinging to the big ol’ shark of wisdom is that doing that work and learning those habits is a goddamn grind. You know, I was in an AA meeting earlier today, and it was making me grind my teeth down to the nubbin, just because it was a meeting filled with heartwarming stories of redemption and personal growth, and I was feeling shitty and didn’t want to hear about anyone else’s happiness and/or personal enlightenment. So I said as much, “Fuck you. I resent your joy. It’s like you’re all holding massive candles to my face, just so my darkness looks even more pitch-black in comparison.”
And of course they all smiled and laughed, and clapped, because, well, people in meetings do that, because they’ve all been in a ditch of despair and anger and resentment and frustration at one point or another.
I mention all this because, yes, there will be a time when watching the Knicks is a pleasant experience again. In fact, this misery is a necessary step if they are ever going to get to a better place. But it doesn’t change the fact that it sucks right now, and if you want to glower at people that root for a winning team, go right ahead. They’ve been here too.
A few fun things, before we pack up our troubles in a bindle and go freighthopping with the other NBA hoboes.
That’s not much fun, is it? Sorry about that. It was that kind of game. The Mormon Improvisers are up next on Friday, along with Robert Randoph, the Angel of Death. Like Beckett said, “The end is in the beginning, and yet you go on.” Go Knicks. Go on, Knicks.