Game Notes: Bulls at Knicks
An Appleson Production. All rights reserved.
by Russ Bengtson and Jake Appleman
This time, there will be no gimmickry. No Facebook updates, no Twitter feed, no haikus, no commercial jingles, no semaphore, no freestyle raps, no screenplays, no knock-knock jokes. As it is, Jake happened to send me his half of the notes before I got mine in order, so I’m simply going to add my thoughts as I go. Annotating, if you will (or even if you won’t).
With the nation on the brink of change, the obvious historical implications of the national holiday, and the team from Chicago in town, hitting up the Bulls-Knicks matinee at MSG only seemed right. The good vibes were tempered immediately by the combination of an early tip time and a burritos and Belgian beer mini-hangover that was worth every second of its intake. And, this may sound like a broken record, but there’s something eerie all these years later about watching the team in the red and the black play the team in white, orange and blue without witnessing incredible defense and/or a basketball God. Alas, beggars can’t be choosers, especially during these tough times.
Ain’t gonna lie. Missed all the pre-game locker room time ’cause I wasn’t about to catch a 9:40 a.m. train from the ‘burbs and get to the Garden a half-hour early. Especially not in the snow. Caught a brief glimpse of Vinny Del Blagojevich (thank you, Machine) in the tunnel, but that was about it.
Thankfully, as we sat, comatose, over some eggs, salad and bacon, Russ Bengtson got down with his bad self and joked about a Knicks fan that should have to attend all Knicks home games. “They should have a new show and call it man vs. Knicks,” he muses.
The Knicks would win. Breakfast was horrible in a delightful way. As it usually is.
(An aside before we continue: I’d like to just take a moment to say that while it’s wonderful that we celebrate Dr. King’s memory, legacy and all of the change that he helped bring about, it would only be historically on point to recognize a few of the countless others that get lost in the historical shuffle that occurs when society shines its limelight so brightly on a single man. Much respect to Bayard Rustin, Whitney Young, Stanley Levinson, A. Phillip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, John Lewis, James L. Farmer Jr., and everyone else from that generation that helped make today possible. Having written that, I’m suddenly nostalgic for my Civil Rights seminar in college and 700-page Taylor Branch tomes. Also, read this.
Also, we should remember Marcus Camby accidentally headbutting Jeff Van Gundy in the face on MLK Day in 2001. One of my fondest Garden memories
The first stanza brings us the always interesting “Adventures with Tyrus Thomas.” Easy buckets generated by raw athleticism are counterbalanced by a sloppy pass and multiple goal-tending violations.
My thought, as a Bulls fan, is this: Is it possible to have played 184 regular-season NBA games and still be a rookie?
Joakim Noah misses a layup and Yannick Noah puts his hands on his head.
In what is presumably some sort of acknowledgment to MLK, both the Knicks and the Bulls are wearing black shoes and socks. Either that, or the playoffs have started really early and the qualifications to get in have been eliminated entirely. (A side note—Q’s shoes look as if they’ve been messily markered black. I ask him afterward, and he looks at me strangely. “Nah, they ain’t markered. Go look.” I don’t take them down from the top of his locker—figure that’s crossing a line—but I do note they’re simply covered in that Jordan laser pattern, just in black. They look a lot better up close.)
Midway through the period, there’s a nice sequence from Derrick Rose. Pushing the ball, Pooh slows up just enough to feed a trailing Luol Deng for a bucket. Next time down, he penetrates and hits a pretty short shot, off glass, in the lane.
David Lee has been looking for his jumper a lot more this year, and he seems to be gaining more and more confidence in it. Which is really going to be a big help when he’s playing for the Spurs next year.
Danilo Gallinari finds Tim Thomas underneath with a sweet pass airball.
Nate Robinson and Al Harrington check in at the same time, which means you can count on a three-pointer going up within 10 seconds. Yep.
Al Harrington gets his mini spurt on after a scoreless first frame. An and-one and a layup to push the lead to 42-34.
This is more or less a bad college game. Rushed threes, charges, palming violations, airballs, goaltends, you name it.
We’re 21 minutes into the game and Chris Duhon doesn’t have an assist, yet the Knicks are still up and functioning well. Go figure.
My esteemed colleague is not giving the Bulls enough credit for being terrible. Also, his definition of “functioning well” and mine differ somewhat.
If you had Luol Deng with more rebounds than points late in the first half, go claim your prize. Oh, wow, there are a lot more of you than anticipated.
Luol still doesn’t appear to be showing that certain je ne sais quoi, by which I mean I’m not sure whether he’s worth $70 million.
If growing up, I had known that Wilson Chandler would rock Ponys; I would have worn mine with more pride.
If the worst shot is the one you don’t take, the second-worst is the 23-foot 2. Thank you, Chris Duhon. At least he hits it.
Take a ride on the momentum swing: Derrick Rose wets a jumper and then ignites a fast break on the next trip, feeding an open Deng for two. 55-49 turns into 55-53.
In between Roselights, Jared Jeffries is blocked by Joakim Noah. He (wrongly, IMO) takes offense at the lack of whistle. Last play of the half, he hits a layup, gets the whistle, and yells at the ref on the baseline. T. The Bulls convert the tech, and Jeffries misses the freebie. Only JJ could manage to turn a made layup into a one-point play.
There’s an interesting battle brewing between former Florida Gators, David Lee and Joakim Noah. Noah seems to be frustrating Lee with some shady tactics, but Lee gets the best of it by slipping backdoor to put the Knicks up 63-60.
Wilson Chandler is not having a very good night, but the man can sure hit some contested jumpers. Must be the Ponys.
The peanut gallery would like to take a moment and praise the defense (help and regular) of Jared Jeffries.
Double J is actually matched up with Derrick Rose quite often, and while Rose occasionally turns on the jets and blows right by, he is doing an exceptional job. As for the other Double J (Jerome James, remember him?), he’s a DND—ruptured Achilles. I don’t even want to know.
“Mo Money, Mo Problems” blares over the jumbotron. I rap along to Mase in my head. What a poignant song, ten years later.
Thank you, Jake, for rapping along only in your head. On the Jumbotron, Allan Houston reveals his favorite MLK moment to be the “I Have A Dream” speech, when he spoke to a crowd of “hundreds and hundreds of people.” Which is kind of like saying Allan’s last long-term Knicks contract was for “thousands and thousands of dollars.”
Take a ride on the momentum swing: Nate Robinson misses a ridiculous putback attempt. This leads to a Ben Gordon layup, plus one (he misses the free throw) to make it 81-78.
Andres Nocioni does one of those “offensive foul out of a time out” things that makes you wonder whether there are any competent coaches available in the Windy. Not that those two things are necessarily related, but that’s just how I roll.
Let’s enter what we like to call “Being Danilo Gallinari.” It’s kind of like “Being John Malkovich.” So you’re a tall, stringy guy with lots of upside and a bad back. Early in the fourth quarter of your understated *coming out party*, you make the most ferocious dunk of your young career. The crowd at the World’s Most Famous Arena goes nuts. Next, you drill a corner three-ball, causing said crowd to explode yet again. The PA guy is overly-enunciating your last name, but everybody loves it. More importantly, everybody loves you. You’re really happy, so you clap your hands like you’re Q-Tip circa 1993 while simultaneously trying to focus on defense. Daft Punk’s “Around the World” is blaring inside of your head. After Yannick Noah’s son commits a loose ball foul, you watch the other team insert some fresh legs. Some more ugliness ensues, before you find yourself at the rim with the potential rookie of the year in the air. So you tell him to get that shit out of here (presumably in Italian), and throw the ball ahead to Nate Robinson, who finishes the layup. The crowd explodes again. Eventually, you’ll lose the ball and have to come out of the game and go back to the locker room. But, all in all, you had a good time. And you recognize that you may be a man of the people and that the fans probably missed you a little bit over the past three-plus months. Fun, right?
Uh, yeah. Totally.
The Jared Jeffries head of the praying mantis point guard defense doesn’t work quite as well on Derrick Rose as it did on Rajon Rondo, as Rose blows by him for a nifty reverse layup. Still, the peanut gallery does not retract its previous statement about Jared Jeffries’s defense.
The Bulls pull even at 91 with 4:41 to go, and one wonders whether the vaunted Uptempo Collapse can compete with the Bulls’s equally powerful General Malaise. It can’t.
Quentin Richardson wets a three. It’s like Notorious said, “here’s another one…and another one…” Seriously, this is my fourth matinee at the Garden this year and I’m pretty sure, on Sunday afternoons, Quentin Richardson owns Noah’s arc. Zing. Maybe.
That ties it again at 97, if we’re talking about the same three. Ben Gordon has a chance to re-tie it at 101, but airballs a three with 10.5 left. It’s that kind of afternoon. Final score, Knicks 102, Bulls 98. Early in the first quarter I had e-mailed a friend—a Knicks fan—and jokingly said the over/under should be 200. Maybe I should move to Vegas.
I’m gonna go out of turn here just to say I’m scared to get too close to Vinny Del Negro during his postgame press conference because I’m not sure whether I could control myself. When he makes the brilliant observation that “to not get loose balls and not convert around the basket is costly,” I know I made the right decision.
Having written two stories about him, I finally get to meet Derrick Rose, the freshest of them all. Hoping not to disturb a nearby Ben Gordon group interview, I manage to out-whisper a guy known for being shy. “What? I couldn’t hear you.” he says.
Me? I’m listening to said Ben Gordon group interview. He’s quiet. Somber. “It’s frustrating.” Not a happy locker room. In fact, the first thing I see when I walk in are Tyrus Thomas’s Hyperdunks in the garbage. Symbolic? Perhaps. Also, Joakim Noah is dressed like a Sherpa. Down the hall, the Knicks are damn near jubilant. David Lee comes in from the shower, sees the media clustered on the other side of the room, and lustily sings out “Da-ni-lo Galllllinari!” When the tide shifts, he turns around, still in his towel, a big smile on his face. “I’ll do it topless tonight.” Ah, winning.
The Bulls and Knicks may be mediocre, but the winter wonderland and the all-around feel of things lead this scribe to believe that the world is changing.
The world might be changing, but the Bulls don’t appear to be. This scribe is realistic.