Game Notes: Spurs at Knicks
The Knicks take the Spurs for a ride on Pace Mountain; AppleSon Returns.
Walking back into Madison Square Garden for the first time in about four months—and the first time in the 2011—can leave even one of the most jaded and cynical young sports writers jittery. Eating an apple (an oople) and banana (a ba noo noo) and listening to Nas’ “One Mic” on the walk over the World’s Most Famous Arena probably didn’t help settle any nerves, either.
This is my first visit of 2011 too, mainly because I didn’t want to start off the year by seeing the Pacers. I’m not one for superstition, but I’d rather kick off the new decade with Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich than Mike Dunleavy Jr and Jim “Paulie Walnuts” O’Brien. Maybe that’s just me, though.
Looking to calm down after checking into the building, stark juxtaposition awaits during pre-game warm-ups.
Which is like “Starks Juxtaposition,” only completely different.
On one side of the court, we have a living legend and surefire Hall of Famer—still straddling the edges of many all-time top-10 lists—Tim Duncan. Duncan works robotically on one dribble pull-ups from around the top of the key and his shots splash through the net as if he’s the living embodiment of Aquaman.
(Entourage creator Doug Ellin would do the “Live from Boost Mobile Celebrity Row” interview at halftime, and we’d like to take the time to remind you that, if memory serves, SLAM was down with Boost Mobile well before the Knicks.)
On the other end—struggling through a routine rebounding drill with an assistant and an offensive post up session with former Indiana Pacer, Herb Williams—we find Timofey Mozgov; Russia’s East Timo.
The sight is kind of like a Kevin Spacey prequel called “Virgin Island Russian Beauty,” featuring the paper bags that Knick fans should’ve donned during this past dysfunctional decade.
Perhaps Mozgov’s struggles should not be a surprise–after all, Gregg Popovich still has Russian connections dating back to when it was still part of the Soviet Union, thus, if Mozgov were a player, he would probably be in the silver and black. If nothing else, Pop can make fun of him in his mother tongue.
Duncan is joined in this workout by DeJuan Blair a.k.a. DeJuan Bear. Bear’s pre-game prep would preview much of the chiseled-dude-on-imaginary-skates handiwork that was to come. This handiwork would include excellent, fundamental use of the backboard. How seamlessly Bear fits in with the Spurs is rather awe-inspiring. If Duncan is the robot, Bear is Jason Statham or Ben Foster in The Mechanic. Whichever one of them is the mechanic. It’s 3:38 a.m. IMDB.com is currently illegal.
Bears on skates are also currently illegal, to the best of my knowledge.
Bears wearing Jordans aren’t, however, and he comes off the pre-game court in a pair of black and white Air Jordan IIs. There’s another, identical pair at his feet, presumably for in-game use, unless he actually IS a quadruped. Instead, he dons a pair of black and silver Kobe Vs for the game, leaving the second pair of Jordans a mystery. No hightops, no ACLs, no problem.
In other 2011-related news, the Knickerbocker whiteboard is vastly improved, even though the offensive instructions might as well read: “Go have fun, bomb away, and let the crowd do its thing.”
Defensive instructions abound about how to contain the Spurs, who have five marksmen converting on over 37 percent from downtown. This includes Richard Jefferson, whose 43 percent on long range bombs has been straight 2Pacalypitic. But he’s RJ and he’s adjusted to the Spurs, so it’s not about how we want it, it’s about how he wants it. Related, Tribeca can be beautiful at any time of year.
Also related: RJ not only doesn’t hide out in the back before games, he actually talks to people, which put him in the decided minority amongst eight-figure players. The fact that he’s talking about video games–Note: someone send him a copy of NBA Jam, stat–doesn’t really enter into it.
The main reason I go to Spurs games–besides the long-range marksmanship of Matt “Sammiches” Bonner–is the pre- and post-game pressers with Pop. They’re usually like a graduate-level basketball course crossed with Don Rickles performance, and everybody loves his caustic answers to poorly phrased questions unless, of course, they asked them. Some highlights of the pre-game show:
Asked about the Spurs having the best record: “You know it’s… I don’t know is the best, most honest answer. Somebody’s gotta have the best record so we happen to have it now. It’s early in the year. Things will probably come back to center. We’re not gonna keep up this pace, that’s for sure. It’s not gonna happen. But for now, we’ve been a healthy team. A lot of teams have been banged up. The bench has played well. Richard Jefferson is a different player from last year. The young kids are doing well. And, uh, that’s all I know.”
Asked about whether there’s a time to start looking for younger stars: “Well, there is no point at which you do that. It’s a process. You’re always doing that. If you wait to add people all of a sudden, they’re gonna fall down older than dirt and you’re gonna be hurting. It’s a process. You do that as you move along. There’s no sudden point at which that happens.”
Asked about his philosophy. “Oh, come on. I’m not Plato, you now. We got Tim Duncan. Then Parker came. Ginobili came. As I’ve said a thousand times, we didn’t screw it up. But we thought of nothing new, we did nothing amazing, we didn’t create the lightbulb, we didn’t do anything.”
Asked whether he worries about the Spurs attracting star players once Duncan retires: “No, I don’t worry about it. If we’re doing things the right way, we should be able–I don’t think people really go to a place just because they might get more endorsements. They go—you know, if we have horrible players and we suck, then maybe nobody’s gonna want to go, but they’re not gonna say, ‘Oooh, I don’t want to eat tacos in San Antonio. I’m not going there. I could go to this city and have this.’ I don’t think they do that. I think they want to go where they have a chance to win. So if we don’t have very good players then maybe they won’t want to come. If we do have, then we’ll have a good a chance as anybody.”
Basketball icon—yeah…I said it—Felipe Lopez makes his way into the locker rooms. This is a big deal to me because St. John’s is the only college team I’ve ever consistently rooted for, and apparently they are back. “He’s always here,” Russ notes, suspending my disbelief but allowing my enjoyment of the moment to sustain.
Felipe works for the NBA in some capacity, and while it’s strange to see him in locker rooms as something other than a player, it’s great to see him still connected with the game. Also in attendance tonight: Malik Rose (as a Spurs commentator), Allan Houston (Knicks front office) and David Falk (attempting to get Allan Houston another max contract just for the hell of it).
Clyde Frazier’s jacket is worth 45,084,085,773,914,632 words. I have none.
Dinner conversation with Russ and Lang revolves around Mythbusters and the blue Powerade that looks like antifreeze. I’m pretty sure the last time the three of us were in the same arena the Bulls were reportedly close to acquiring Kobe Bryant.
The Bulls were never close to acquiring Kobe Bryant. And no, I’m not still bitter, why do you ask? Jerk.
Ronny Turiaf and Tony Parker hold a meeting of the French minds as they loiter inside and around the doorway of the hallway’s laundry room. On one particular second-half possession, their heads would rest close to one another, having both hit the deck. No idea if this was planned in said laundry room.
Said laundry room is also completely dark, and while people walking down the hall can maybe see Parker (who’s leaning on the door frame), Turiaf is hidden. I briefly (and cruellly) fantasize about him leaping out and scaring the hell out of three little girls who are entering the arena via the same hallway.
Eminem’s “Not Afraid” plays over the loudspeakers as the clock winds down from under a minute. This is where I mention the story AppleSon wrote about Amar’e Stoudemire.
(I would play the SLAM card in the locker room after the game, which resulted in STAT just saying “What?” a lot before delivering a light dap shiver to the area of my chest right of my heart; a simple reminder that playing the SLAM card isn’t always the best thing to do.)
Incidentally, the SLAM card is the jack of diamonds. Surprised me, too.
String Fever — which somewhat surprisingly isn’t a miming of D’Angelo Barksdale’s baby momma Donette having her jacket unzipped — played a fine rendition of the national anthem. That said, Jimi Hendrix isn’t walking through that tunnel.
Biggest sign that MSG as a stage is back: The number of digital cameras held up during the national anthem and introductions, like lighters at a concert.
Also, Spike Lee — who tonight is dressed like the world’s oldest (if not largest) 5-year-old boy — is here on a regular basis again. Guess he’s not filming as much this year (exaggerated wink).
Landry Fields has his own personal run (a score, a steal and a dish to Turiaf for two). Watching Fields be a do-everything utility man reminds me that the Mets could really use Jeff Keppinger right about now.
The game’s knotted at 10-10, with a little over three minutes elapsed. The first quarter is basically on pace for a celebration at the 40/40 club.
Kind of surprised Pop doesn’t call time out in the game’s opening minutes (or minute) here. Not like he hasn’t done it before.
STAT’s jumper looks good early. There’s something positively Cyclops about Amar’e, with his futuristic goggles and raw aggressiveness.
New York Times beatwriter Howard Beck and I try and explain to Jake that Amar’e is more of a biclops — it’s not like he has one huge eye or anything — to no avail. This leads to speculation of how he should wear a scuba mask during a game, then maybe switch to Kurt Rambis hornrims for another. Basically be the Gilbert Arenas of glasses.
I’d say more about the 1800 Tequila Shootout, but it’s 2011.
“My tequila just poured me a shot. And man, I need it since The Sopranos is over and I don’t seem to have a career anymore. Maybe I can get Steve Schirripa to take me to a Knicks game sometime — that guy ALWAYS gets tickets.”
With 2:50 remaining in the first quarter, the Knicks are shooting a hellishly hot 75 percent, while the Spurs are hovering somewhere near Belize at 63 percent.
One has to wonder whether the “DEE-FENSE” chant — which continues throughout the game as a reminder that perhaps someone should consider playing some — is, in fact, just a derisive jeer.
Knicks PA announcer Mike Walczewski’s pronunciation of Wilson Chand-lah and Bill Walk-ah is pretty confounding. Speaking of Chandler, he reminds us of a vampire’s chandelier, the opposite of Twilight—Flylight?… Kenny Skylight?
With his increasingly scruffy look, headband, and propensity to drift to the three-point line, Billy Walker has somehow morphed into late-period Rasheed Wallace. In Walker’s defense, he does play better defense, but all in all it’s a questionable career move for someone not yet 25.