Game Notes: Magic at Knicks
Dry-Erase Boards, Mr. Anderson, And Clyde Is Fly: An Appleson Production
By Jake Appleman (@JakeAppleman) and Russ Bengtson (@russbengtson)
We’ll start with a hypothetical which is neither hypo nor thetical. Let’s imagine for a minute that you’re Knick lottery pick Jordan Hill. Your playing time has been sporadic, your role limited to keeping Darko company and listening to your own hair grow. Presumably you’ve been given some clue on how you can expand your role—after all, the Knicks did use a rare top-10 pick on you, and they’d probably like to see you succeed. Do you a) show up so early that the Garden isn’t even open yet, and spend as much time as possible working on your low-post moves, or b) do you show up an hour and a half before gametime, when David Lee, Nate Robinson and Marcus freaking Landry are already on the court? Go ahead, take a guess.
Stan Van Gundy is the best. First of all, he’s only got an outside voice, which is terrific when the crowd pushes you down the narrow hallway, past the visitor’s locker room door and 15 feet from microphone range. Secondly, he’s honest. Or I’d like to think he’s honest. Safe from Pat Riley’s itchy trigger finger and with the best record in the East, he can feel free to expound on any topic. Like the firing of Nets coach Lawrence Frank, which took place mere hours before. “Gotta shake my head,” Van Gundy says. “Did they think they were losing because of coaching up there?” And later. “That’s probably as little talent as I’ve seen anyone put out on the floor at the same time.” And again. “There’s guys who didn’t play at all last year playing big minutes and even starting. You can’t win like that.” One suspects that, in Frank, Van Gundy sees something of a kindred spirit—an X’s and O’s guy who made up for lack of actual basketball talent with hours upon hours of study. This becomes readily apparent upon entering the visitor’s locker room…
where Russ and I, along with friendly and funny Polish neophyte journalist Agata Dec, marvel at the thorough complexity of Stan Van Gundy’s dry-erase board. No detail is left out. You can just imagine the dry-erase board competitions that go on during Van Gundy family reunions, like a combination of basketball Scattergories and Pictionary.
The board’s instructions display just how many options a team has doing the important things. Sure you can go under or over the top on the pick-and-roll, but defense is so much more than that. Does the help shrink and collapse on the ball handler, or stay at home? How about specific instructions for the 2 man who’s shading farther off to the other side of the court in such a situation? It’s pretty much all there, and in the words of Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, we’re not worthy.
I’d seen the beauty and complexity of the Van Gundy dry-erase board before—in fact, the last time I saw it I believe it was still being written—but never before had I taken such a close look. Three colors—black, blue and red—and two sections atop one another—offense and defense—surrounded by carefully diagrammed plays. Taking in the thoroughness of it all, I can’t help but think Van Gundy would notice at a glance if a single word, maybe even a single letter, was changed. The temptation is almost too much. Instead, I simply revel in the context-free phraseology: “Lock & Trail on Singles & Staggers,” “Play Dribble H.O.’s the Same,” “Expect The Slip,” “Late Show & Get Back” and wonder aloud whether erasing random words and phrases would produce a kind of Naismithian poetry.
In non-board news, Dwight Howard sits on the bench in front of his “locker” lacing up his shoes. This is normal enough. What isn’t is that all he has on other than his shoes and socks is a do-rag of some sort and a pair of adidas compression shorts. He looks like a giant Ja Rule.
After Russ bounces off to the home side, gentleman and scholar Adonal Foyle sees Agata and I still marveling and joins the party. (This after I interject, “Colgate, English Lit, right?” He studied that, but he was a history major. Duh. Should’ve asked him about his thesis. Oh well.)
I pepper Foyle with curious questions about the magnificence of SVG’s mark[er]smanship, and our conversation leads to a few interesting thoughts/quasi-revelations:
1) The details change but the topic headers stay mostly the same. This is good for drilling the information into the players. A lot the more obvious things serve as constant reminders of things you’re supposed to do and the players can learn by visual osmosis.
2) Stan may harp on a lot of the opponent-specific details that appear below the sub-headers on the board, but it’s not like the players are memorizing all of this, especially in the midst of four games in five days on the road.
I conclude that it’s stuff that SVG can mention, write and then bring up during to the game to make sure that a) he hasn’t forgotten anything and b) his team has heard the stuff as much as possible, so if something goes wrong it’s not for a lack of preparation.
3) SVG’s handwriting is impeccable. Foyle notes that his own handwriting would slant all over the board. Foyle says he teases SVG about his penmanship and Jeff of Inside Hoops asserts that the man needs his own font. So I come up with Comic Stans, which I think would look something like this. Or this. (I feel like I just opened the Pandora’s box of fonts. )
The dry erase board conversation continues in the Knicks’ locker room, in part because their board is comparatively dumbed down. If SVG is running an AP Class, Mike D’Antoni is Danny Devito in Renaissance Man, which I guess makes David Lee Mark Wahlberg and Wilson Chandler Stacy Dash.
The other thing that makes the Knicks’ dry-erase board comic fodder is that so much of it leads to easy sex puns, and let’s be honest, anyone that covers a game predicated on hard penetration (pause) is well aware of the numerous sex puns at one’s disposal. Thankfully, the only Knicks in the locker room are Darko and Danilo, and we’re pretty sure they don’t understand or care. Oh yeah, and Larry Hughes was there. If we offended your eardrums, Larry Hughes, we apologize.
The most amazing thing is that Nate Robinson hasn’t picked up a marker (like the Magic, the Knicks use black, red and blue) and scrawled “PAUSE!” after every sexually ambiguous line. In other words, all of them. The two most forceful declarations (you can tell they’re forceful because they each come with three red exclamation points) are “Out Work Them!!!” and “Bring More Energy!!!” It’s perhaps worth noting that “outwork” is, in fact, one word. And we won’t even get into the play diagrams that lack a three-point line. Maybe this is why they can’t defend it.
Sneaker note: Nate Robinson, a Nike guy, has a rather remarkable selection of shoes going. He’s wearing blue and orange LeBron IVs, has a pair of black and pink Yeezys in front of his locker (which he presumably wore to the game), and pairs of Jordan VIIIs and Kobe IVs on top of his locker. Four pairs of shoes, Nike’s four primary endorsers. Not bad.
Out at center court, Patrick Ewing, Herb Williams and John Starks reminisce, one can assume, about when hand checking was legal, and compare its prohibition to today’s marijuana laws.
In the Magic layup line, JJ Redick attempts a dunk with two hands off the bounce and is snuffed by the rim. It really wouldn’t have been difficult to predict that outcome.
The Knicks City Kids dance to Biggie’s “Hypnotize” proving that both irony (the song is older than the kids) and child labor are thriving.
The National Anthem is performed by emaciated longhair guitarist Steve Vai, who stretches both it and the crowd’s patience to their respective limits. An extended remix of sorts. Perhaps they should retire all guitar national anthems out of respect for Jimi Hendrix. Neither Jake nor Agata has any idea who Steve Vai is, which makes me feel quite ancient.
Vince Carter opens the scoring with one of those Jay-Z shots—a 22′ 2—and you have to wonder whether this is a good or bad thing for Stan Van’s gameplan. I mean, sure, you want VC to be hitting from deep, but you’d also like him (and the other perimeter types) to occasionally consider looking inside for their All-Star center. Who, incidentally, picks up his first foul 30 seconds in.
The Knicks hurt the Magic twice in early pick-and-roll situations. Both times Chris Duhon is handling the ball, and you’d think given his recent struggles—Russ recently tweeted that he’s “a shadow of his former shadow”—the Magic would sag off him. Not so. The results are two “too easy” buckets for David Lee. After the game, SVG would talk about the Magic improving their p/r defense in the second half.
Wilson Chandler lets Rashard Lewis sneak backdoor for an easy deuce. I’m not sure how you let Rashard Lewis sneak backdoor for two. If he’s out on the arc, he’s most likely spotting up, so the only door he’s leaving out of is the back one, right?
Maybe because he’s going up against other old legs, Chris Duhon is doing a great job of controlling tempo. The Knick offense is flowing because he’s dictating like he did two years ago. And he’s even hitting shots, too!
The Magic shoot 4/12 on threes for a true shooting of 50 percent. For all you non-stat heads out there that don’t believe in such things, just know that, from long range, the Magic were early 90′s Fred Roberts in the quarter.
One of those misses is a ridiculous and entirely indefensible Carter shot from 28 feet. When he sees it’s not going to fall, he does this bizarre hop-skip in frustration. At least I think it’s frustration. Then again, half the time Dwight just drifts out of the paint, not even looking to post up or call for the ball. Of course, as soon as I write this, Dwight calls for the ball, catches the entry pass from Rashard, and gets the hoop and the harm. Not that he hits the freebie, but still.
Maybe it’s the memory of the SLAM Rookie of the Year covers, but a Jason Williams alley-oop to Vince Carter just brings a smile to an old Ed.’s face.
The Knicks are really starting to get with this seven seconds or less thing—it kept them in the game in Denver—but consecutive airballs here from Wilson Chandler and Larry Hughes don’t help the score or the general mood.
After spending most of the quarter looking up at the Knicks, Jason Williams drains a 30-something-foot three at the buzzer to give the Magic the 31-29 lead. Speaking of Whit Eboy and his legendary swag, after the game somebody said, “yo black” and Williams turned around. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but I feel like these are things you need to know.
The Magic trot out Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick, J-Will, Marcin Gortat and Matt Barnes together. I’m half expecting Jaime Kennedy to show up courtside to promote Malibu’s Most Wanted 2, soundtrack (better than the movie) by Kool Bob Barnes.
JJ Redick, after a pull-up, has all four of his points off of dribble penetration. Maybe Liberace wasn’t gay…
David Lee embarks on one of those classic drives into traffic where you lose the ball and throw up your hands fully expecting the whistle…and doesn’t get it. The ball goes out of bounds and back to the Knicks, but on the replay you can clearly lipread a perplexed Lee saying “There’s no way…”
There’s a promotion on the scoreboard called “Who Are You?” where different Knicks take turns identifying various fictional persona. There’s Ricky Bobby (Nate has no problem with that one), Prince Akeem (no, the other one), and Shenehneh. If they really wanted to stump the guys, they would have thrown Darko up there.
“Cough up a lung, where I’m from, Marc-in, son…Poland?”
Patrick Ewing, currently an Orlando assistant, is introduced to a standing O as “ONCE A KNICK, ALWAYS A KNICK!” Right. Unless you want to be on the coaching staff, in which case we’ll see ya when we see ya.
The Knicks appear to go to a 1-3-1 zone as a change of pace. Now, there’s nothing I understand less than how to react in a 1-3-1 zone–ask anyone that played with me in high school or fleetingly in college. Thing is, apparently the Knicks are the same way because they leave giant open spaces of floor that the Magic bask in spatially. There’s also the off chance that the Knicks didn’t go to a 1-3-1 zone and their man-to-man defense was just so atrocious that it just ended up looking an amorphous version of said zone.
Anthony Johnson—”Dad” to you—delivers a two-handed driving dunk in traffic that even has the press box buzzing. I’m not sure why, as the ageless AJ seems to still catch a dunk at least every other game. OK, maybe every fourth game. Someone says something to him in the post-game locker room about his being old, and he gleefully responds “If they’re payin’, I’m stayin’!”
The Knicks have added a new bit of fluff to their in-arena annoyance this season: “WHEN I SAY D, YOU SAY FENCE!,” which is patently absurd given their complete lack of anything resembling defense. As if to punctuate it, Carter hits an uncontested free-throw line jumper. Magic lead 54-52 at the half.
Early on the teams are trading threes. Obligatory pop culture reference: threeve.
Meanwhile, in transition, Larry Hughes uses a quick crossover to set up a three of his own. You don’t need me to tell you how that turns out.
Duhon implodes briefly and helps the Magic re-establish their bulge thanks to a bricked pull-up three that spurs a sequence yielding positives only for the road team. It makes you wonder how D’Antoni has been able to justify giving Duhon so much freezer burn during this horrid stretch.
And why Toney Douglas, who’s been effective, hasn’t seen daylight. Nor has Jordan Hill, or (of course) Darko.
And another dagger. Mickael Pietrus hits a baseline floater as the clock expires, and the Magic lead 82-73 headed to the fourth.
There’s something called “Mackerel Jordan” on the court, an ambiguous inflatable mascot with flapping tongue that “eats” a hapless ballboy to the tunes of Weird Al’s “Eat It.” Lord, do I wish I were kidding. This can’t be life. Or New York, for that matter.
Sign you’re in hell: Anthony Anderson just started the wave and it caught on.
Nate Robinson is in the midst of a fourth quarter fire frenzy, the man is literally unconcious. Too bad the Knicks can’t get stops.
Sometime in the midst of Nate’s run the scoreboard goes on the blink, which means we don’t get to see how many points (or fouls) anyone has while the game continues. Nate starts the quarter with two points, and finishes the game with 24—you do the math. He also picks up Carter full-court with less than a minute left and the Knicks trailing by 14, then lays him out like the cornerback he used to be. Nope, we don’t understand it either. Your final is Magic 114, Knicks 102.
Stan Van Gundy doesn’t need your questions. He begins unsolicited: “That’s a first for me—that’s the first time I’ve gotten two wins within 23 and a half hours. The real winner was the Waldorf-Astoria, we stayed there about 10 hours.”
Also: “I told Dwight we wanted to give him some rest, so we took hm out with 55 seconds left. That should help him on Wednesday.” He took nine shots all night, hitting eight. That equals 24 points and 16 boards in 41 minutes of work.
I have a long conversation with Ryan Anderson about how Russ and I were thinking about the “Mr. Anderson” exchanges in The Matrix whenever he did something. Ryan says his dad gets the Mr. Anderson thing a lot more than he does. I assert that the Magic should use that in their jumbotron packages and Mr. Anderson doesn’t disagree.
Dwight Howard is the Magic’s KG, the guy who doesn’t talk to the media until everything’s right, and that takes a while. (He actually goes down a line of teammates looking for body wash—guys need to step their Kiehl’s game up.) Everyone else is done before he’s anywhere near ready to begin, and he looks up to see Carter headed out the door. “You want your walker?” he yells. Vince gives it right back: “You want your bib?” Ah, to be the best in the East. This locker room’s so loose it needs a torque wrench.
On the elevator out of the Garden, the doors open on the fourth floor and a throng enters, Clyde Frazier amongst them.
“It’s going down. This is unprecedented!” Clyde exclaims. It’s at this point that a funny journalist (or fan) starts to needle him.
“You used to play basketball?”
“How tall are you?
The guy, who’s about 5″6, responds: “I used to be 6″5…before the accident.”
We get out of the elevator and I tell Clyde that we heard about his “Man from Guadalupe to the hoop” rhyme for Pietrus and he chuckles. (Really, though, who cares that it shouldn’t rhyme. It’s Clyde. Cart blanche.)
Last scene. Anthony Anderson, already carting Nate’s signed Jordans, hangs in the back of the Magic locker room waiting to scoop Dwight’s adidas. He gets his shoes, but needs to give Dwight something in return. Apparently he threw down some postgame pushups on the sideline (not many, mind you) and has to let Howard know: “I want my wife to look at me like she looks at you when you’re on TV!”
Sometimes it doesn’t matter that the home team stinks. There’s always entertainment to be found at the World’s Most Famous.