So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is here 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.
Ride the Carmelocoaster
In roughly only a year and a half with the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony has vacillated between two polar roles — franchise-morphing savior and cancerous villain — with the abruptness of a character on prospective TBS program The Adventures of LaLa, International Spy Hunter.
Here's a quick recap of the various roles Melo has played since becoming a Knick.
Imagine if every year, your workplace went through layoffs and employee reviews the week before and after Christmas. That light at the end of the tunnel is in touching distance, it's all gift wrap and roasting chestnuts and holiday parties, and then, all of a sudden, your job is thrown into chaos because everyone is watching their backs and wondering what the future holds.
This pretty much describes the NBA right before the All-Star break. And this season's compressed schedule and back-to-back-to-back games have already taken a mental toll on the players. Now, right when most of them are supposed to get a few days off, here come the whispers.
And I love it. I love the NBA rumor culture. On the surface, it's just a fantastically entertaining component of the league. It fuels endless second-guessing and speculation and hope and terror. Then, beneath it all, for league obsessives, there's the whole shadow economy of the rumor industry: The "sources" giving anonymous quotes, the strongly slanted pieces outing players as locker-room pariahs or ball hogs to lower their value.
With all the enjoyment you can take from this game within a game, it's sometimes hard to think about any of it ever having consequences. Today, we learn that it does.
Here's the scenario: A team's MVP-caliber player goes down, leaving room in the spotlight for one of his teammates to finally shine. Nobody believed in him before, but, game by game, he's changing our minds.
Obviously, the MVP-caliber player I'm talking about is Carmelo Anthony and the ascendant teammate is Jeremy Lin, right? Obviously not! No, for today's lesson, class, we're talking about the reigning MVP, Derrick Rose, his spasming lower back, and the Eve Harrington to his Margo Channing, none other than Luol Deng.
I, for one, can think of nothing more romantic to do this Valentine's Day evening than watch the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors. Valentine's Day is about love, and love is about communication, and the New York Knicks, for the first time this season, are running an offense in which the players are really, truly speaking to one another with their play.
During the opening few weeks of the season, the Knicks played offense like a bunch of Quaalude addicts looking for an emergency exit in a dark movie theater. They just sort of bumped into each other and knocked over people's popcorn.
If you fire up the highlights of Thursday night's Lakers-Celtics overtime clash, you will hear the words, "Mickael Pietrus going to work for the Celtics," over video of the aforementioned Pietrus attempting what would have been a game-winning 3 and hitting someone eating beer nuts at a bar in Lynnfield. That sort of sums up what we're dealing with here; not exactly classic material.
The Lakers wound up beating Boston in overtime, 88-87. The most entertaining passage of play was probably when Kevin Garnett long-snapped the ball between his legs to Rajon Rondo, who then hiked it through his own legs to himself. That was the opening tip-off.
LeBron James is not the Incredible Hulk or Tupac. He does not thrive on hate. He is not fueled by rage. I don't think he's fueled by love, either. He plays basketball like an Apache helicopter and bites his nails. We're not going to know what basketball means to this guy until the (still inevitable, I think) day he wins a ring. Maybe he'll have a Jordan-crying/KG-screaming moment. Maybe he will just clap baby powder in our faces. Maybe he'll just bite his nails some more.
You could say cheering for the Washington Wizards requires a sense of humor this season. If this is true, it means Grantland contributor, semiregular B.S. Report guest, and longtime/long-suffering Wizards fan Joe House is basically the basketball fan version of the second season of Chappelle's Show.
At this point in my life, I am honestly more into Kobe Bryant as an interview subject than as a basketball player. I appreciate how we're back into Kobe-as-performance-artist territory. I'm sure they are studying his newest piece, If I Don't Get to Play With Chris Paul I Am Going to Attempt Field Goals Until I Blow Out My Rotator Cuff, at the Tate Modern right now. It's stirring stuff. But for me, the more entertaining character comes out when Kobe is off the court, answering questions in front of a camera.