Lots of local reporters are standing around because of a rumor that Stephon Marbury will be attending the game and answering questions. He never shows up, and it’s questionable why anyone cares to begin with. It’s highly unlikely that Marbury will ever wear a Knicks uniform again, and the more stories that are written about the ongoing “feud” between Marbury and Isiah Thomas, the less attention that’s paid to the real problem—the team that takes the floor every night.
Here’s a sign that the current Knicks are irrelevant: It’s Clyde Frazier jersey night.
The visitor’s locker room, which is tough enough to navigate on a good night, is made more treacherous by a pair of what appear to be yoga mats and various stretching implements. Also, Stephen A. Smith.
Maybe it’s an illusion, but Tyson Chandler appears to wear the same size jersey as Chris Paul.
Rookie hazing is so predictable these days. There’s a Disney “Princess” backpack in front of Julian Wright’s locker. Other teams make rookies carry these sort of things as well. There must be more original methods of torture.
Chris Paul is the second-to-last Hornet introduced, and he’s cheered like a conquering hero. Or at the very least, an All-Star. Remember when the Knicks used to have those? Yeah, me neither. Too bad Paul isn’t introduced last—Morris Peterson, who is, is greeted by silence.
Isiah Thomas and Eddy Curry receive their daily allowance of boos. Zach Randolph, missing his second straight game with a bruised foot, is not in the building. Starting in his place, Malik Rose.
The Knicks start hot. Nate Robinson hits a pair of buckets, Curry gets two straight inside, they lead early 10-7.
Until a 9-1 Hornets run capped by a Mo Pete trey from the corner. It’s amazing how often the Knicks fail to rotate to three-point shooters in the corners.
Knicks respond with a two, then Malik Rose just stands there as David West buries a 17-footer from straight away. Um, he was an All-Star, you know.
Peja misfires on a wide-open corner three, and Eddy Curry nearly tips over backwards reaching for the rebound. I assume if he fell onto his back, he’d be helpless until he was flipped back over. Like a Galapagos tortoise. Nate Robinson winds up with the ball, charges upcourt, hits a jumper.
The first two players off the bench for the Hornets are Jannero Pargo and Melvin Ely. This team has 39 wins? Says an awful lot about the abilities of Chris Paul.
Enter David Lee and Wilson Chandler at 2:50.
The Hornets go flat, Crawford hits a three, the Hornets counter with Rasual Butler. Wilson Chandler scores over Rasual, the Knicks lead 31-27 after 1, and they’re shooting 58 percent. Eddy “The Obsolete” Curry has 11 points.
Both teams open with absolutely horrible lineups. I feel like we’re in Roanoke. The Knicks come with David Lee, Mardy Collins, Jared Jeffries, Wilson Chandler and Fred Jones, while the Hornets counter with Melvin Ely, Ryan Bowen, Rasual Butler, Jannero Pargo and Mike James. Yuck.
Pargo scores over Lee, Bowen strips Jeffries, gets it ahead to Pargo who drops it off to Rasual, who’s fouled. No one should have to watch this.
Nothing good is happening. Mike James is jacking shots like mad, and finally, mercifully, there’s an official’s time out with 8:32 in the quarter. Hopefully the officials are going to talk some sense into the coaches before there’s a full-scale fan mutiny. Even Knicks fans don’t deserve this.
Thankfully Tyson Chandler and Nate Robinson re-enter the game.
The Hornets are on the second night of a back-to-back, which doesn’t quite explain how listless they seem. Nate Robinson hits a three to run his total to 17, Jared Jeffries dunks at the last instant, and it’s 49-all at the half.
Chris Paul hits an open three, Nate Robinson picks up two quick fouls on Tyson Chandler and gets the hook, Peja hits another three, and it’s 55-51, Hornets. Which starts a flurry of threes. Two by Quentin Richardson, another by Paul, one by Crawford. Add it up yourself.
The Hornets who should be doing their jobs are. Paul’s got 18, Chandler’s got a double-double with a pair of 10s. David West is having a so-so night. It’s also strange that a guy can be an All-Star when his biggest strength is hitting spot-up 18 footers. He’s pretty good on the offensive glass, too. In one sequence he misses, gets his own, misses again, gives up on it to Lee—who tips it in. Whoops.
Paul burns upcourt, drops a change of pace and drives by Fred Jones, who just reaches out and grabs him. That would be a foul. After a time out, the in-arena announcer says that Peja is shooting two. No, Tyson. No, Chris Paul. These are dark days.
Chris Paul drives hard to the rim
Absorbs the contact
Muscles up and in, and one
Maybe it’s because of Frank Isola’s Daily News story from earlier in the day (not that Isiah would ever be that reactionary, oh no), but Randolph Morris is dusted off and inserted with 1:17 to go in the third.
Hornets lead 75-73 at the end of three.
Hornets with an odd lineup once again: Bowen, Pargo, Ely, West and James. Do they even care about this game? They should.
The fourth quarter is terrible. And I quote from my notes: “8:10 — I QUIT.”
The Hornets turn it on just enough at the end to win. Trailing by two with just under two minutes to go, Isiah inexplicably pulls Nate Robinson for Wilson Chandler. The immediate reaction is disbelief. Robinson stalks to his seat, the boos and “FIRE ISIAH!” chants rain down. And the decision is immediately proven wrong.
First, Chris Paul uses a change-of-pace dribble to drive the lane and float a high one off the glass over Curry.
Next, Paul lofts a lob to Tyson Chandler that he crushes on top of Wiilson Chandler and Curry.
Then, another Paul drive, absorbs the hit from Lee, converts the layup for the and one. Stands on the baseline, pounds his chest.
And the coup de grace—Mo Pete, another three. The Knicks don’t score in the final three minutes, the Hornets turn a lethargic evening into a 12-point win. And the boos rain down. Final score, 100-88.
Some numbers. Chandler finishes with 15 and 18, West with 19, 8 and four blocks, and Paul with an efficient 27 (on 11-17 from the floor), 8 assists, five boards and three steals.
Tyson Chandler sits on the bench in the visitor’s locker room, still in uniform, feet buried in a cooler full of ice and water. Just as he starts to speak—quietly—a Hornets TV reporter standing right next to him LOUDLY begins his stand-alone before interviewing Melvin Ely. The assembled media is not happy.
Tyson on Paul: “We’ve got one of the best in the game right now. He understands it.”
Byron Scott speaks after the locker room opens, a rarity in the NBA. He’s in a grey sweatsuit and an all-white 49ers baseball cap. Odd. “I thought we did a pretty good job defensively, challenging shots, keeping them off the glass.”
Chris Paul gets dressed in the corner. While the media waits, he’s bum-rushed by longtime Knicks photographer George Kalinsky and announcer Gus Johnson. That’s OK guys, we’ll wait.
Gold links with a diamond-studded Jesus piece. CP3 is classic in all senses of the word.
“Coach usually sits me for about six minutes in the fourth quarter. I was sitting there telling him ‘put me back in!’”
His best quote, referring to Tyson Chandler: “Nate was talkin’ to me on the court, tellin’ me ‘I wish I had a big guy that could get up to the rim like that.’” Sure, Nate, and the Knicks wish they had a point guard who actually thought pass first. Can’t have everything now, huh?
Long after the game has ended, Paul crosses the court to feverish applause. The seats opposite the tunnel are filled with Wake Forest students and alum—there have to be 100 of them—there to greet their favorite son. He’s still speaking as I leave.