It was 34 degrees in New York City yesterday, but my son Sam and I decided to spend 45 minutes in the cold walking home up 9th Avenue instead of sitting in Madison Square Garden watching the second half of the Knicks/Celtics game.
I can’t offer Zach Lowe–like analysis of the statistical inequities between the teams. But I can try to bring you inside what it feels like to still care about a team that so obviously doesn’t care about us.
The Nets came into last night’s Toilet Bowl having allowed 107.5 points per 100 possessions, the very worst mark in the league. They outdid themselves against the struggling Knicks, allowing the equivalent of 130 points per 100 possessions in a game that began as something of a snark spectacle and gradually became a serious embarrassment for a team with absolutely no clue right now on either end of the floor.
The Knicks did nothing special, though they did come out in the second half clearly committed to running more motion-based plays and generally playing the kind of offense an NBA team should play. They ran a few Carmelo Anthony–Andrea Bargnani pick-and-pops, and they thrived whenever they posted Anthony up against the game but overmatched Alan Anderson. Anthony loves to catch the ball, face up in one-on-one situations, and take midrange jumpers off the bounce. That is glamorous, highlight stuff.
The Knicks have lost nine games in a row. In the last couple of days, Iman Shumpert lit up Carmelo Anthony in a huddle, reportedly for playing poor defense during New York's loss to New Orleans. Shumpert spent the rest of the game on the bench. Since then, it's been reported that Kenyon Martin and Metta World Peace got into a heated argument, and Mike Woodson has called the perception that he does not like Shumpert "bullshit." We asked our two biggest Knicks fans, Jared Dubin and netw3rk, to take stock and try not to ingest any hemlock in the process.
netw3rk: Dearest Jared,
I have spent the last week with a fever, violently evacuating effluvium from my various orifices. So now that I’m semi-back on my feet, let’s talk Knicks. Excuse me. [Disappears into the bathroom for 30 minutes.] OK, the New York Knicks are 10 games under .500 after losing to the partially Unibrow-less Pelicans. They managed this feat with the help of well-timed turnovers and the Memento-like way in which they approached defending Ryan Anderson (7-of-11 from three, 31 points). They also managed to waste a six-block, seven-rebound performance from Andrea Bargnani, who continues to play kinda well while seemingly floating in a vacuum of total despair.
“Play better lineups” is an idea that feels pretty obvious, especially as J.R. Smith continues his Jackie Chan-like assault on basketball decorum, but is it really that simple?
Jared Dubin: Yes. But also, no.
That's the thing about this Knicks season. Everyone keeps trying to boil it down to one thing or another, but it's not nearly that simple.
When you were growing up, did your parents ever make your whole family go around the Thanksgiving dinner table and say what you're thankful for? Mine did, every single year. And that's what we're doing with sports today. For two reasons.
First, because Thanksgiving is the greatest holiday of the year. It's the one day we all get to live like Rick Ross. Eat five times too much, sit back and rub your stomach proudly like a king, and then go take a long nap. Plus you get to have a vacation, leftovers, and four or five full days of outrageous laziness. In exchange, the only real responsibility is to take some unspecified amount of time to be grateful for what we have in life.
This stupid sports column can be that gratitude.
Second, and more importantly, we need this. I need this. Somewhere in the middle of Monday Night Football, sports just got too depressing. Derrick Rose going out for the year, watching RG3 go from the most exciting rookie we'd ever seen to the most depressing player in football, and then Bradley Beal — I'm still not ready to talk about how badly I jinxed Beal last week. But yes. There has been a lot of sports news lately that will bum you out. The most depressing sports news makes it twice as important to remember everything that makes sports awesome. And it's the season to rejoice and give thanks, so why not?
Here are 10 reasons all sports fans should be grateful this year.
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is back to help you keep track of it all. You'll find takes on moments you might've missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
This Garden Belongs to Paul George
Chris Ryan: Is Paul George the third-best player in the NBA right now? Did Paul George walk into Madison Square Garden and guard the Knicks' best player (both on the perimeter and in the post)? Did he match Carmelo's 30-point night with a 35-point turn of his own? Did he go into the visitors' locker room, see a glass case marked "Break in Case of Fourth-Quarter Emergency," think about the people who had came before him who had broken things at Madison Square Garden, laugh, shatter it, and score 12 in the final period of regulation and 13 of the Pacers' final 18, including three free throws to send the game into overtime? Did he punch Shump's layup off the backboard? Did he walk off the court like the legend in the making that he is and get dap from celebrities in the making like A$AP Rocky?
When the Knicks didn't match Houston’s offer sheet for Jeremy Lin in the summer of 2012, it struck me as cruel. Knicks fans had struggled through any number of confounding contracts, bizarre trades, brooding malcontents, and embarrassing scandals, yet had stuck by the team. It hurt to see Lin, who had saved their season and single-handedly generated a buzz that a decade's worth of big-name free agents and trade acquisitions never came close to generating, walk away for nothing. It was like catching lightning in a bottle and turning in the bottle for the nickel recycling fee. Writing as an Asian American and a Knicks fan, it was a truly brutal blow.
In case you were rocking a CFL jersey in court, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts once again used their comeback magic to eke out a 30-27 win over the Tennessee Titans. "Wow, we were pretty fortunate to get that win," Luck said after the game. When asked by reporters to phrase his comments another way, Luck replied, "It was a hell of a fortuitous outcome, that's for sure. Chance favored us, as we were blessed with kismet." When asked again to phrase what he was saying in perhaps a simpler and more headline-friendly way, Luck said, "Oh, I see. Well, I would say we struck gold with this team. I would say the win was in the cards. Some may say we caught the breaks, that our run has been a fluke, that the gods were smiling upon us, that victory and my team were joined by serendipity. I mean, we got horseshoes on our helmets and clovers in our pockets, so what would you expect?" Luck then glared at the assembled media and added, "Suck it, for me."
Andre Iguodala's buzzer-beater was the difference as the Golden State Warriors beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 116-115, in a riveting Western Conference battle. "Another tough loss, but we're so close," an optimistic Kevin Durant said at the postgame press conference. "I mean, we're just one player away from being really good. And it's no one's fault that we don't have that guy. This front office and ownership group has only made smart decisions." Durant then went to take a sip of water, when things went horribly awry. Durant started shooting sparks out of his mouth, and saying in a horrific robotic voice, "FAILURE, ROBOTIC FAILURE, MUST POWER DOWN, WHY WOULD YOU PROGRAM ME TO FEEL PAIN?" before collapsing to the ground and bursting into flames. Suddenly, a human Durant burst into the room yelling, "They drugged me! They didn't want me to talk," before looking at his robotic double dying on the ground at his feet. "You tried to play God, you monsters!" Durant yelled, as he held his robot double's head in his hands. "All to save a couple million bucks on the Harden deal. This robot must have cost that much. Curse you, Clay Bennett! Curse you!"
Here is a timeline of things the Knicks have done, and things that have happened to them, over the past four years
• New York stripped its roster and dealt away future assets in a naked and rational attempt to sign LeBron James during the summer of 2010.
• LeBron James signed with Miami. The Knicks responded by acquiring Amar'e Stoudemire in a sign-and-trade, agreeing to pay him the league's maximum salary over five seasons, fully guaranteed.
• The Stoudemire-centric Knicks got off to a solid and exciting start, though certainly not a spectacular one. James Dolan, the team's owner, wanted a second star. New York then engaged in prolonged trade talks with Denver revolving around Carmelo Anthony, an impending free agent who wished to be a Knick. New York consummated the trade, sending Denver two quality players on rookie contracts, a bevy of first- and second-round picks (one of which may now go to Orlando via the Dwight Howard mega-trade), and other goodies.
The New York Knicks operate like a submarine plumbing the ocean depths — its movements invisible from the surface, its pilots cut off from outside influence, navigating by echolocation and breathing each other’s recycled farts. We can really only guess at the reasons why the Knicks do the things they do.
Carmelo Anthony is a human with a cell phone so I sent him some text messages.
Me: Yo, yo, Melo. Carmelo: hey Me: so you're gonna be a free agent then, huh? Carmelo: ha. Yeah. Me: yeah. I saw that news clip. That's … that's something. Carmelo: ??? Me: well, I mean, because why are you doing it? Carmelo: just to Me: oh Carmelo: I want that experience Me: what experience? Carmelo: … um, I don't know. Me: I think you just like saying experience Me: do you want to leave new york? Carmelo: I love new york
To the NBA junkie, almost every team inspires some mix of excitement and curiosity as a new season approaches. One team executive recently compared the first wave of regular-season games to unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning: How will the coach fit New Player X into his team's rotation? How will Player Y and Player Z mesh on the floor? Even the bad teams are exciting: How experimental will Brett Brown be in Philly after years of stodgy Doug Collins offensive philosophy? Who will win the race to lead the league in turnovers between Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke? (Advantage MCW after Burke broke his finger over the weekend.)
But the Knicks, the wackiest bunch of wackadoos in the league, are starting to conjure an unnerving anxiety. That's a strange thing to say about a 54-win team coming off its best season in years, having puked up draft picks for a starry name in Andrea Bargnani and shrewdly inked bargain deals for Beno Udrih and Metta World Peace.
What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NBA season? Well, you're in luck! The Triangle is counting down the days for all of us.
One reason to be excited for the return of pro basketball? NBA fashion. It's the gift that never, ever stops giving. Now, finally, after decades of Internet, we have a website worthy of documenting it all.
With a dazzling array of spins, fakes, and graceful footwork, Hakeem Olajuwon was as unique as any player in league history. Though we still see bits and pieces of his game today — Kobe Bryant’s footwork and fadeaways, Rajon Rondo’s ball fakes — no one has ever come close to completely replicating Olajuwon’s shot-making genius. The former Houston great has leveraged his one-of-a-kind talent into a second-act career as a post-play guru. More and more often, NBA stars — from Bryant to the Lopez twins to Rudy Gay two weeks ago — are taking time out of their summers to make a pilgrimage to Houston to learn from the Dream (who isn’t bashful about what his influence could do for other stars).
The message from Olajuwon, the coach, seems pretty straightforward for every one of his pupils: These are my moves — take them, use them, and (hopefully) experience the success that I had. As great as this sounds in theory, the reality of the situation is that this may not be the right approach for every player who travels to Olajuwon’s ranch looking to expand his game.
J.R. Smith is a human with a cell phone so I sent him some text messages.
Me: Hello? Yo. J.R. It’s Shea. J.R.: What’s up? Me: Hey, man. Saw that Jason Terry thing? J.R.: ?? what thing? His head? Yeah, I’ve seen it. You should see it in person. It’s amazing. Me: no, fool. The championship thing. J.R.: nah Me: OK, so remember when you accidentally said the knicks were gonna win the title this year? J.R.: NOT AN ACCIDENT