by Lang Whitaker and Russ Bengtson
Lang and I did not cross paths, as he was just there for pregame, and I didn’t arrive until five minutes before tip. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have been in such a hurry.
I got there right at 6:00, just as the locker rooms opened, and I went into the Knicks locker room and found…nobody. No players, which isn’t that odd, but also no media, which is really strange. I briefly wondered if perhaps James Dolan had ordered them all capped, but then I remembered who was in the other locker room, and I don’t mean Kevin Durant.
In the Sonics side, I found all the Knicks beat writers surrounding Kurt Thomas, former Knick and favorite of the writers because he was actually sane and talkative. Afte Kurt finished talking to someone on his iPhone—”Are you sure you’re in the right place?”—he turned and was surrounded by the Knicks media. “So,” he said, “you guys are having a fun year?”
“Someone get him the Observer article,” a voice said from the back.
I ended up in the corner chopping it up with Linkstigator Nick Collison, who admitted that he’s finally over “The Hills.” I told him I’ve got it DVR’d and will be holding a marathon. Until then, I do not judge. I also told Nick that he needs to get on “Kid Nation.” He said he might get the DVDs to watch on a long road trip. I told him to be careful who he’s watching it around, though, because…you know, you don’t want someone catching you on the plane watching 9-year-olds washing dishes.
I also saw Nick’s facemask in his locker. He wears it to protect a bone near his nose, which he originally broke a few years ago and then reinjured a few weeks ago. Nick asked me if I wanted to try it on, but I declined, because that thing looked pretty damn nasty.
As for that Durant guy, he was sitting alone, sorting through a stack of tickets. After he complimented me on the way my Air Delta Forces matched my hoodie, I admitted that everything I know about fashion came from our senior editor Khalid Salaam, who would rather go barefoot than wear shoes that don’t match his shirt.
Kevin was using his Sidekick to instant message his people. He said he had an iPhone, but he dropped it and broke it. I offered to give him $10 so he could buy one of those rubberized cases to protect it, but he said he was good.
I asked him about his NBA commercial, where he’s yanking jerseys off over and over. I figured there had to be some special effects involved, but no, he really did have on all those jerseys, which he said “they glued down” so that he didn’t pull off more than one at a time.
As I was about to leave, Kevin looked next to him, where Johan Petro was chatting in French with mon ami Pascal Giberne. KD shot them a quizzical look, as if there were photos coming from their mouths rather than French words. I offered to translate, and Kevin admitted he was curious about what they were talking about.
“Petro is saying, That Durant,” I invented, “is overrated and will never live up to the hype surrounding him.”
And then someone passed gas and I ran out of the locker room. I bet it was Wally Sexyback.
Isiah’s booed, the arena’s half-empty at the tip, and Eddy Curry misses his first shot by a full three feet. I wish I was exaggerating. The Knicks are wearing their 1972-73 jerseys, which is probably as close as this bunch will ever come to a championship.
Watching Damien Wilkins makes me feel very old. When I first started going to the Garden in 1988, Gerald Wilkins—Damien’s Pops—was still in his prime and throwing down for the Knicks.
This is the first time I’ve seen Kevin Durant play up close, and he doesn’t fail to impress. With his extra-long, lean frame, propensity to play the passing lanes, and range out to the three-point line and beyond, he’s like some kind of a cross between Reggie Miller and Tracy McGrady. Only taller. The only Knick that can remotely match up with him is Jared Jeffries, and JJ just isn’t that good.
The Sonics drop into a zone, Kurt Thomas winds up guarding Nate Robinson in the corner, and—of course—Nate jacks up a three. Good times.
Zach Randolph (27 and 16) and Jamal Crawford (29 and six assists) are excellent for the Knicks, but Nate Robinson gets three-happy (and shoots one of eight from beyond the arc) and Kurt Thomas (nine points, eight boards) and Kevin Durant (30, five and four) take over down the stretch. At one point, Thomas hits a jumper to push the Sonic lead to seven with 1:20 remaining, pumps his fist, then pops his jersey towards the announcers and such. Crawford comes back with a three-point play, temporarily quieting the “FIRE ISIAH” chant, but Durant scores on a driving two-handed dunk around Lee that more or less puts the game away.
Final score, 117-110, Sonics. And this from a 5-17 team on the second night of a road back-to-back, including a 4 a.m. arrival time in New York. The Sonics are outrebounded by 11, the Knicks take 14 more shots, but the Sonics shoot a season-high 58 percent and get 53 points from their bench (17 from fellow rookie Jeff Green). There are still no answers.
One scene: a crestfallen David Lee stopped by the media horde just outside the doorway to the Knicks locker room: “The frustration just builds…It’s just a matter of executing, it’s a matter of making plays. I’m still young, I wish I understood more about the game.”
“When you’re losing, it seems like every break goes against you…I wish I had the answers to get this thing turned around.”