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Blogcat's Take, 12/24

On Friday night—ahh, at last—the Knicks came to town!  I could practically see MJ standing by the Knicks’ team bus as it pulled up, shaking their hands with each player as he stepped off.  "Welcome, Zeke, always great to have you; and who’s this little man brought with you—Z-Bo?  Great, great trade, by the way."  We have to be nice to these guys, because let’s face it: now that Atlanta’s gotten all respectable and whatnot, and Sacramento’s buffoonish Maloof brothers have either died or are holed up in a hotel casino, snorting coke and lighting firecrackers, I feel like the Knicks are the only ones preventing us from becoming the #1 league-wide joke.
On the other hand, what a safety net!  The Knicks continue to be a sad burlesque of a franchise, the type of disaster that when Quentin Richardson and Isiah Thomas get into a heated and very public exchange (as they did tonight), it’s considered to be progress.  Although New York didn’t have Starbury suiting up, he still managed to come through with his own wonderful magic.  Just before tip-off, the latest issue of Dime magazine found its way to my mailbox, and it contains a gem of an interview with Steph.  Here’s the best part:
Dime: People were emailing links to the videos of your interviews, especially the Bruce Beck appearance.
Marbury: And saying that I’m on coke?  That I’m on crack, right?
Dime: You guys have known each other for a while, right?
Marbury: Yeah…now here I am having fun, bugging out, tripping out…and so now I’m crazy?  So now I’m on crack?
Dime: The word “crazy” has been attached to you a lot lately when people are talking about you.
Marbury: Yeah, that and I’m on crack.
Oh, Steph, promise me you’ll never change; you’re a candle in the wind.  Anyway, after a frighteningly competitive first few minutes, we went on a 23-7 run to take control of the game, en route to 67 first-half points.  We could have actually gone scoreless for the first eight minutes of the second quarter and still just been tied—so ineffective was New York.  With guys like Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph, it’s always to tough to figure out whether they’re just not trying hard, or they’re simply too overweight to move very fast; I guess it’s two sides of the same coin.  
And for all the talk you always hear about how Zeke needs to play David Lee more, yowsers, he was really bad.  He shot just 5-13 from the field—and these weren’t exactly half-court attempts, if you catch my drift—plus he made just 1-of-6 free throws and had four turnovers, each of which was spectacularly awful.  Meanwhile, our own big guys came to play.  Our savior (Nazr) Mohammed had 20 points, 14 boards, and 4 blocks, while Okafor had 17 and 8.  In fact, every starter scored into double-digits, led by Gerald Wallace with 27. 
In the 3rd quarter, when we pushed the lead out to 29, Thomas began benching his players.  But after the jawing session with Richardson, I was halfway expecting him to do something completely radical, like reassign positions at random—maybe put in Nate Robinson at center with Curry running the point.  Instead, the Knicks buckled down a bit and made things a little more interesting at the end.  But with Lee clanking foul shots and a slew of missed put-backs by the Knicks, plus our 50% shooting, things were never really in doubt.  I just hope Jordan left them some nice mints in their lockers; they’re welcome them back anytime.           
Sadly, the good times didn’t continue the next night in Milwaukee.  Things started with a calamitous road trip, featuring inclement weather, delayed flights, bus trips, and pretty much everything but John Candy trying to sell Sam Vincent some shower curtain rings.  The team arrived only a few minutes before tip off, and the Bucks had target-lock on the hoop.  And though we fought hard to come back out of double-digit wilderness by shooting over 50% for the second straight night, it’s like saying Sal Maglie pitched a great game against Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series, because the Bucks were just about perfect.  By my count, Milwaukee scored on 12 of their first 14 possessions to start the 3rd quarter, stretching an 11-point halftime lead out to 22. 
The chief perfectionist was Yi Jianlian, who hit his first 12 from the field and finished 14-17.  These weren’t point-blank makes either; most of them were long-range baseline 2’s.  In my opinion, this will go down as one of the more unheralded-but-extraordinary performances of the season.  Mo Williams was the runner-up MVP, hitting 9-of-20 for 22 points, penetrating often, and assisting more than public housing.  Oddly, Michael Redd was the weak link for the Bucks tonight, missing a ton of open shots (10-of-27).
All in all though, things still seem to be looking up slightly as we cruise into the holiday break.  I’ve been downplaying the now-famous Jordan-run practice a few days ago, because I didn’t think it would amount to anything.  Because the Observer’s Scott Fowler basically described it as a repeated succession of Jordan shooting and scoring on our guys, my thought at the time was, did he teach us anything other than getting schooled?  I mean, don’t we already have that part down?  But who knows, maybe he’s injected some guts and leadership into our guys.  Oh yeah, there’s also that little Primoz-for-Nazr deal, which has been an upgrade worthy of a show called “Pimp My Center.”


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