Game Notes: Nets at Knicks
What does a police duck say to a suicidal bear?
by Matt Lawyue / @mlawyue
It was a year ago I took in my very first game as credentialed media. The same pieces as last night’s matchup: preseason Knicks vs. Nets at MSG in October, with the Yankees playing in the ALCS. Aside from the Bombers getting a whooping in their own backyard this time, here’s one differential that stuck out:
October 17, 2009
Nets — Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez
Knicks — Chris Duhon, Nate Robinson, Jared Jeffries, Wilson Chandler, David Lee
October 19, 2010
Nets — Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw, Joe Smith, Brook Lopez
Knicks — Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Amar’e Stoudemire, Timofey Mozgov
Indeed, much has changed in tri-state hoops over the past year. But I’ll get there. First, it’s story time.
Because I’m guilty of over symbolizing events in my life and linking them with the current state of my sports teams, I look at my recent switch to black coffee as a step forward in my gradual progression of figuring out this world, much like the Knicks forward-thinking movements in the off-season. Namely: exploding the 2009 starting unit, getting under the cap, signing a marquee player and starting anew.
What can I say, the Knicks and I are just on the same page. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. But for more background, as of three days ago I started drinking my coffee black. Normally a milk and two sugars coffee taker, I have no idea what compelled the switch. Curiosity? A thirst for something different? Complacency? A metaphor for my current thoughts on life? You tell me.
Between the five minutes from the credits of Boardwalk Empire to the intro of Bored to Death, I chatted with friends about the unraveling insanity in the lives of Mr. Nucky Thompson and the rest of the alcoholic swindlers parading Atlantic City (really, it’s getting good). With a minute until Bored to Death, I literally sprinted towards the coffee pot and poured whatever remained into my Scooby Doo mug.
There was no time for sugar. Or milk. Not that I noticed. I plopped myself back onto the couch and watched Jonathan, Ray and George once again make New York City their playground. Thirty minutes later, with a bitter aftertaste settling on my tongue, I had been inadvertently drinking it black the entire time. We could credit this to the above average episode of Bored to Death negating any of my senses except for sight and hearing, or, as I prefer to see it, another step in growing up.
The Knicks took this step over the summer. Simply getting under the cap opened doors the franchise hadn’t seen in far too long. Bloated contracts dating back to Allan Houston crippled any development. But see what happens when competent management and an actual game plan will do for you? Just look at the starters last night for New York. In every possible way, this is a better starting five than ’09.
We’re no longer bemoaning the fact David Lee is playing out of position because now there’s a legitimate pivot manning the paint in Timofey Mozgov, no matter how raw he is. He could have helped my point tonight if he didn’t throw up a rookie 1-5 in 19 minutes of play. Nobody has to cringe anymore because Jared Jeffries is attempting a jump-shot or handling the ball or running the fast break or doing whatever it is that Jared Jeffries does. And picking the flaws of a Chris Duhon/Nate Robinson backcourt is too easy, I won’t even begin.
Instead, we were treated to the new look Knicks. There’s a dominant presence in Amar’e. Yes, it’s expected he should obliterate weaker teams. Does 39 points (11-24 fg, 16-19 ft), 11 rebounds and two blocks qualify as obliterating? Ray Felton and Toney Douglas, the devilishly enticing backcourt, which D’Antoni should certainly throw out from time to time, was in full speed. Felton finished with 13 points and 11 dimes, while Douglas continued his stellar preseason with 24 points and 6 steals. Between them they turned the ball over a feeble six times, in 66 minutes of burn. Efficient. Both were feisty on defense, like gnats storming the neck of a fisherman on a muggy summer’s eve.
Yet—and there’s always a yet with the Knicks—it’s disconcerting the lackluster performances by the Knicks selling points this summer, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari. Both were invisible much of the night and couldn’t make themselves useful without the ball in their hands. If the Knicks have any plans on surprising folks this year, these two must be productive every night. Amar’e can’t do it himself. He needs any semblance of sidekicks. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s a good problem to have. Well, a problem I’d prefer over figuring out if Jeffries is better at the four or five spot.
If history teaches us anything, it’s to appreciate progress. To value where you are, you have to understand your past. And Knicks fans know more than well, things could infinitely be worse. The Garden is growing up. This franchise, from management on down, is taking its first steps toward respectability and their ultimate end game: a championship. Slow and steady. It took me 22 years to appreciate black coffee. I’ll for sure as hell wait another 22 for a Knicks championship, to appreciate it all the better.
And the Knicks won 117-111 last night, if anybody cares.