I’m here to tell you about today’s Knicks game. Yes, you know the Knicks won but please, don’t leave yet. Not until this article is through. Because, you see, there were a lot of firsts going on. And everyone loves/hates firsts (!!).
Knicks 107, Jazz 99. In simplest terms, this was how the upset ended, but a lot happened on the court before the final score—Jamal Crawford dropped a game-high 32, Zach Randolph made only a handful of errors (instead of 15), and everyone on Mike D’Antoni’s short list of trusted players had a decent game.
Yet, in the end, the story of the Knicks and the Jazz on Nov. 9 2008, was a summed up by a little kid—the toddler who sat beside me.
I mentioned there would be firsts in these Game Notes, and firsts I will produce. I still qualify as a rookie NBA reporter. And with being a rook comes confusion, a lot of personal trailblazing, oh, and strange stares from veteran NBA reporters. (It’s their duty to make you uncomfortable. It happened to them back in the day too!)
Let’s start with the day’s first first: My first time inside Madison Square Garden.
Reporter Rule No 1: Be on time.
Which I was, but it took me so damn long to find the media entrance and get situated that the locker rooms were only open for five more minutes when I arrived.
I didn’t get any interviews early on because I had no idea how to get to the locker room. I had, however, made it to the media room, and I knew what to do there—bust out the computer, start typing, look at stat pamphlets and watch other reporters eat their late lunch.
Reporter Rule No. 2: Get to know other reporters.
There were many reporters who were eating lunch. Mike Breen was one of them, and the only words he spoke to me where ‘30-0, Jets?!’ I nodded. He sat back down to his $8 chicken sandwich and fried cheese.
I took a break from the writing for a moment to look for Russ (who happened to be sick in bed. Get well, bro!). When I returned, I found a very tall Italian reporter sitting as close to my chair as humanly possible while technically still sitting on a chair of his own. His pants stood out the most—they were the color of tongue turned bright pink, after eating an entire swirl of cotton candy. Thankfully, he showed much better taste in conversation (and good food, I might add) than he did in pants.
Reporter Rule No. 3: Don’t act nervous.
Actually, I’ll make an addendum to that rule right away: don’t act nervous to the point where others notice you’re completely lost and you don’t have an acquaintance in the entire arena. The good thing about journalists is they talk a lot and make friends easily. I continued to talk with the Italian reporter who sipped the last of his Coke and continued to showcase those candy colored pants.
The Jets were still on (40-0 just moments later), and I found myself in the precarious position of trying to explain American football. He was here to write about Danilo Gallinari for an Italian newspaper. The Rooster wouldn’t play a minute against the Jazz (and saw only 10 minutes all season), but this journalist seemed certain Gallinari would contribute in a big way at some point. I’ll support Danilo so my friend can spend many years in New York watching his countryman produce in the world’s finest league.
A Japanese reporter came by with a plate full of food, and we continued to chum it up. All it took was a mention of SLAM, the sharing of a cheese stick, and we were good. They pointed me to where I would sit during the game. I was golden.
Over the past hour, I noticed my voice was a couple octaves higher and my head was spinning like a gyroscope, but those products of confusion and apprehension went away with the familiar sounds of sneakers on hardwood and the thumping of pigskin.
Sitting in the Garden Press Box 63 was another pleasant first.
I had a great view. They jammed me up next to the wall, so close to the crowd that the little boy sitting across the concrete partition could read everything on my MacBook (if he were old enough to read). I was essentially part of the crowd but still a detached media member. Still, I thought I had the best seat in the house: close to the action and beside my subjects—the fans.
Here’s some of my (abbreviated) ‘game notes’:
— I like the Knicks’ starting lineup more than I have in a while. Nate Robinson looks primed to have a big game.
— This is Jamal Crawford’s game…at least in the early going. He has eight of the Knicks’ 13 points.
— Wow. The Knicks are reigning threes for some reason. I’m not quite sure how long this hot streak is going to last, but I doubt it will continue much longer.
— You can tell Nate Robinson will have a nice year. He’s become the team’s emotional leader. Let’s hope he can pass on at least a bit of that energy to his teammates.
— Unless the Knicks can find a way to stop the Jazz, there’s no way this game will be anything but a rout. It’s almost depressing because the Knicks seem to be playing hard.
— The Knicks are seriously lacking a big on the inside…so do the Jazz for that matter, but I think the Knicks lack one more.
— The Knicks are fully healthy (Marbury and Curry don’t count), and the Jazz are missing their top player, yet this isn’t a game. The Jazz will go 6-0 despite missing their leader.
— The crowd showed up today. They needed time to warm-up to the game, as if waiting to see if the Knicks were worth cheering for.
— Notably, there were 10 lead changes in the first quarter, yet it seemed more like the Knicks were losing the entire game thus far.
— A quick survey around the stadium, and there are about three Knicks jerseys…in total.
— I don’t think Eddy Curry is even in the building. Marbury’s at the end of the bench, though. He, Malik Rose and Jerome James are having a good time (or something like that).
— If there were three Knicks jerseys, there are about five Knicks hats, and other memorabilia.
— The Garden is noticeably different than the United Center in Chicago. I’m somewhat enchanted by the old-school feel. Electronics don’t spread all around the stadium—in every nook and cranny—and you don’t feel inundated with ads. That said, Madison Square Garden isn’t the life-changing experience it’s sometimes touted to be. Maybe the Playoffs need to come, and then we’ll be talking…
— Chris Duhon isn’t the answer at point guard, and I say this now because he completely air-balled a free throw.
— Mind you, I’m sitting really close to the court, but the people next to me brought binoculars. Not sure what sort of detail they’re trying to get, but I sure wouldn’t like it.
— Three Knicks jerseys, one John Stockton jersey. I like the ratio we have here.
— Howard Stern’s at the game. He gets a louder applause than the Knicks have gotten all night.
— Honestly, if you don’t pay attention to the lopsided score in the Jazz’s favor, you might think the Knicks are in the game.
— The crowd comes alive toward the end of the quarter when the Knicks put on a little run. Still, the quarter ends with the Jazz leading by five.
— Apparently, sushi is now served at the Garden. I’m down with eating raw fish, but there’s no way I’m going near that stuff here.
— I’m glad the press box isn’t full right now because every chair is literally pressing against each other.
— Nate Robinson stands out the most in warm-ups because he’s wearing a bright orange t-shirt. The rest of the club is wearing the normal blue and black t-shirts. Being different defines Nate Robinson’s career.
— Some fans defend Zach Randoph because he’s not ‘as bad as’ Eddy Curry. Well, he’s not making a good name for himself this afternoon, either. He (as always) can’t seem to complete a pass, and today, he can’t make a layup. It could be one of those games, but he’s air-balling everything.
— I’ve decided the best part about Madison Square Garden is the sound system. Yes, the sound system.
— Could I have jinxed the Jazz? The Knicks have taken the lead in the middle of the third quarter after a Jamal Crawford four-point play.
— …annnddd the Jazz score in bunches again.
— The Jazz are as good as they want to be right now. The Knicks won’ be playing defense all year. And the Knicks aren’t playing D’Antoni ball tonight.
— I think the unofficial tally of Knicks dunks and Knicks four-points plays are about equal.
— Black, alternate Michael Jordan jerseys, throwback John Stockton jerseys and current Knick jerseys are in a ratio of 1:1:1. Let’s see how many unis other than the Knicks we can find around here…
— I’m unsure why I took David Lee in the fifth round of my 16-team fantasy draft. Dude is making some decent plays, but he’s really got nothing today other than hustle, which is nice, but not for fantasy.
— The Knicks came with a strong third quarter. They’ve boosted their lead to seven, and the momentum is all theirs.
I’m briefly cutting away here because there was this little boy, probably no older than two, sitting next to me the entire game. I continued to survey the crowd (which seemed pretty damn near close to capacity; impressive given it was the Knicks and the middle of a Sunday afternoon), but my attention kept coming back to his little guy.
Maybe it was because he drew the attention of everyone around him. Who knows. But he and his father came back after the third quarter sporting fresh, brand new David Lee jerseys to cheer on their team.
And they weren’t the only ones.
The jumbotron camera panned through the crowd, and there was blue and orange everywhere. The previous three quarters, I had trouble finding a total of three Knicks jerseys. Now, they seemed to be everywhere.
The Knicks were on their way to a 4-2 start and a nice win over one of the two remaining undefeated teams. Fans bought jerseys during the game. Knicks pride has been scarse for the longest time. People are genuinely starting to believe the Knicks are getting back on track.
The Knicks only had to close out the final quarter on their home court. And with the crowd fully on its side, that’s exactly what the Knicks did.
The two-year-old hadn’t shown any interest in the game up to this point. Now, in his new David Lee jersey, he watched intently through the entire fourth quarter.
— The Jazz really don’t have much of a comeback to make, they’re now down by three points with 11 minutes remaining.
— The crowd has gotten very quiet after consecutive missed layups by Wilson Chandler.
— All I know is Deron Williams would take matters in his own hands at this point. If only he was healthy for New York to witness his composure.
— Gasp! Dare I say the Jazz are losing their composure and the Knicks are handing it to them?
— Carlos Boozer is doing nothing this game, and the Jazz have completely combusted. But he’s a complete predator out there–everything from the way he looks to the way he moves. Intimidating.
— The Knicks are making their shots and keeping a healthy lead. With just a half a quarter to go and nothing resembling an offensive flow for either team, it looks as though the Knicks might have their fourth win of the year.
— Brevin Knight is missing every jumper he takes. He most definitely is not the point guard you want running the show in the crunch like this. Then again, neither is Chris Duhon.
— The Knicks have the game and the crowd is as excited as ever. All four (or so) active players on the Knicks’ bench are up on their feet.
I did not expect the Jazz to lose. I did not expect the Knicks to give New York something to show pride about.
I watched the game and took my notes, but I knew there was still something missing—a trip to the locker room. I walked around during the game’s perfunctory final two minutes, scanning for people wearing media badges. I went in the media room. The two journalists I met before were nowhere to be found. The Garden has an odd set up: The media and fans intermingle before and after the game. I eventually found two random reporters coming out of the media room and hit the caboose all the way to the locker room.
I stood there, trying to fit in as best I could. I took another stat sheet and began to mindlessly peruse it, knowing that’s what you do when trying to follow Rule No. 3. The throng eventually spawned up to Jerry Sloan. I stuck the recorder in his face, pressed record. Coach, did you miss Deron Williams today?
“We can’t worry about that. No one wants to hear about that. I don’t want to hear it either. Deron Williams is a wonderful player. We would have loved to have him back two weeks ago. He’s not here. That doesn’t mean you can go out there and throw the ball away.”
Sloan knew the Jazz’s problem was ‘accountability’ and wanting the win more than the opponent. A game like this could have gone either way, and the Knicks took it soundly for a reason. Sloan sensed Knicks’ hunger, which—coming from a guy with 1,000 wins and 20 years NBA coaching experience—must be a good sign for the Knicks and their fans.
Anyway, I’m hanging up that reporter hat for the moment. I have to get back to that online editor thing.