D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards vs Knicks, Game 13
Here, then, come the Knickerbockers. Somehow, this group has been more disappointing than the Wizards. But that’s like saying they jumped from the higher window.
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
Thanks, Alexander Pope. Here I am, predicting a 43-win season for the Washington Wizards. That was just over a month ago, when Emeka Okafor was still a Wizard, Otto Porter was still a Wizard (what’s that? he still is?!), and #NoMoreExcuses still meant no excuses at all instead of just no new excuses.
Teams: Wizards vs. Knicks
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, DC
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Wizards favored by 2 points.
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: JR Smith, according to himself, is “panicking.”
There’s a quote from an Ishiguro novel called Never Let Me Go about panic that reminds me of the Knicks after the Bargnani trade: “It was like when you make a move in chess and just as you take your finger off the piece, you see the mistake you’ve made, and there’s this panic because you don’t know yet the scale of disaster you’ve left yourself open to.” What is the scale of the disaster? What is the proper level of panic?
@BobSaietta: I think that wholly depends on where you are on Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ “Five stages of grief for a crappy basketball team.” It’s a lesser-known chapter of On Death and Dying that was cut because a particularly persnickety editor discovered that the author was having a furtive, scandalous, tempestuous love affair with then Knicks reserve PG Howie Komives, rightly assuming that it would tarnish the validity/objectivity of the rest of her treatise.
Denial — “The Knicks are going to be okay”; “This can’t be happening, not to a 54-win team.” “It’s still only X games into the season’
Denial is usually only a temporary defense for say, a Knicks or Wizards fan. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of sloppy turnovers and tepid rotations on defense. Denial can be conscious or unconscious refusal to accept that trading (yet another) slew of picks for the likes of or Andrea Bargnani is/was a terrible long-term strategy. Denial is a defense mechanism and some people can become semi-permanently locked in this stage. Kübler-Ross recommends that fans and health professionals not prolong denial by distorting the truth about the team’s record and chances of making the playoffs. In doing so, they prevent the dying fan from adjusting to a season-long malaise and hinder necessary arrangements, for social supports, for bringing closure, and for making decisions about finally quitting this preternaturally dumb, thankless, useless franchise for one that might actually bring fleeting moments of pleasure, if not a measure of actual, true, long-lasting happiness. (Note: I am not actually advocating that New Yorkers ‘Go To Brooklyn™’—there are plenty of lovable NBA teams further out west that one might give one’s heart to, unbound by the happenstance of geography.
Anger — “Why the Knicks? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to us?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”
Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial of the Knicks crap-itude cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage at Tyson Chandlers’ injury, Amar’e Stoudemire’s slow, painful descent into a 20-million dollar albatross, and envy of those blasted Pacers, imagining that Donnie Walsh spends his afternoon giggling with Chris Copeland as the two micturate on a cartoon likeness of James Dolan that the latter had sketched in Times Square. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with themselves, or with an owner particularly lacking in self-awareness, and especially those who remain optimistic, still in the unyielding grip of denial.
Bargaining — “I’ll do anything if they can just get under the cap in 2015 and sign Kevin Love.”; “I will give my knees to Amar’e if…”
The third stage involves the hope that the team can somehow postpone or delay an execrable season. Usually, the negotiation for an extended playoff run is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, “I understand the Knicks blow chunks, but if I could just do something to buy a few more wins…” Bargaining rarely provides a sustainable solution, especially if it’s a matter of the life or death of a team, because any prolonged Knick fandom tends to disabuse one of the notion that a higher power actually exists (or at least that said deity is a particularly cold, unfeeling, or at least absent omniscient entity). And, let’s get real, Madison Square Garden will still sell out no matter how putrid the product on the court. Matthew Modine needs something to do on a Saturday night, after all.
Depression — “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “The Knicks are the equivalent of something I dug out of the grooves of my Converse high-tops that was so wedged in and sticky for reasons I’d rather not contemplate so I like had to use a shrimp fork that I’ll never place anywhere near actual alimentation again after that cleaning procedure so what’s the point?”; “Why go on?”
During the fourth stage, the grieving person begins to understand the certainty of yet another, dull, lifeless 33-49 campaign—one that’ll be eerily reminiscent of the vast bulk of the slogs during the Bush administration. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse to renew his League Pass subscription and spend much of the time crying and/or furiously pleasuring himself into an old, worn Jeremy Lin jersey. This process allows the dying person to disconnect from the NBA at large and affection for what’s shaping up to be a really fun season for those outside of the Metropolitan area. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage by talking about Wiggins/Randle/et al or Anthony Davis’ explosion or the Golden State Warriors’ thrilling offense or any number of basketball-related pleasures one might experience.
It is an important time for grieving that must be processed. Depression could be referred to as the dress rehearsal for the ‘aftermath’. It’s natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty when watching yet another brackish-ly stagnant Isolation set for Melo or any point guard that moves faster than a laden swallow knife through the Knickerbockers’ so-called perimeter defense.
Acceptance — “The Knicks suck donkey reproductive organs.”
See Lurie, John, noted musician and actor:
@BobSaietta rose out, knicks suck, nets suck, grim
— John Lurie (@lurie_john) November 23, 2013
In all seriousness, while it might be fun to ascribe the Knicks’ struggles to injuries and/or integrating a slew of new players into a muddled rotation, there are some serious concerns that can’t be rationalized away. Panicking never solved anything—and often leads to terrible, ill-considered trades (see Shumpert, Iman)—but it’s refreshing to hear an actual, honest answer to that question from JR.
Q #2: So, you were in good spirits before the Knicks lost to the Pacers in overtime, right? I mean, I noticed that you were quoting Ezekiel 39 (“IT.IS.COMING.”), which people only do during good times.
Both the Wizards and the Knicks came into the season with the expectation that they would be playoff teams. Mike Woodson is attributing failure to snake bites. Wittman famously attributed Washington’s bad start to a lack of “commitment to fucking defense.” There’s a phaser (set to kill) to your head and the alien pointing it at you wants you to tell Mike Woodson how to fix his biggest problem. Also, the alien is Mike Woodson in a mask.
@BobSaietta: Years ago, a friend of mine posed this question: “If the FBI walked up to your door one day and said, ‘One of your close friends is an alien. There’s no need to fret. He/she isn’t evil or plotting to conquer the planet, he’s/she’s just fascinated by humanity and wants to learn more about us,’ whom would you pick? It was a funny bit because we did share a mutual friend who didn’t seem so much human himself, but rather was doing a very precise imitation of what he thought was normal human behavior. Yet, behind those eyes of his, it felt like there was an extra-terrestrial presence.
I mention this, because were this posed to me again, I’d definitely say the answer’s Mike Woodson. (No, not JR Smith. For one, that MiB joke doesn’t fly anymore. and two, JR is many things but he’s definitely a Homosapien, for better or for worse [often worse])
Anyhoo, I don’t need any Mexican standoff in your fictional scenario. The long-suffering scribes at KnickerBlogger have been beseeching, nay stapling our protests to the Castle Church door since the opening day of camp, when the Goatee’d One started babbling his ill-considered gibberish about needing to “Go Big” in order to compete with the likes of the Nets, Pacers and Bulls. The Knicks need to return to the lineup that torched the league in the beginning and at the end of last season – two PG’s, Iman Shumpert at SF, Melo at PF, and either Chandler or Kenyon Martin at center. Spread the floor, get good strong to weak-side ball movement, limit turnovers, and hunt threes. Yes, it’s going to take a bit of a trip to Lourdes to reassemble this creaky Voltron, but it’s still there. Give Bargs 15 minutes or so a game as an Italianate Chris Copeland-ish stretch five, and sadly, no more STAT. He’s just not a useful player at this point. :(
Q #3: The Knicks had a players-only meeting. In fact, they may have invented it. Now it’s the cool thing to do, and since the Wizards are cool, they did it. What is your completely hypothetical take on what was actually said in that Knicks meeting?
@BobSaietta: Times like these I wish I had access to Calvin’s Transmogrification Device and turn myself into a fly on the wall for those meetings, but here’s what I think happened:
MELO: What the eff, you guys?
MELO: No, seriously, what the eff? I can’t effing do all this effing ish, when are you effing sons-of-effs gonna step the eff up.
Metta World Peace glowers in the corner, says nothing. Tyson Chandler joins his glowering. They face one another, the ambient energy of their forced silence/mounting rage attracting the other non-speaking ‘Bockers. Kenyon Martin feels a burning sensation in his chest, melting his official Addidas warm ups. Beno Udrih melts a la Raiders of the Lost Ark, as does Raymond Felton, leaving a penguin-shaped puddle of lipids on the floor.
Tim Hardaway Jr., Toure’ Murry, Cole Aldrich, Iman Shumpert and Andrea Bargnani are drawn into the center of this collapsing sun, unable to resist the gravitational pull formed by the mounting ambient energy. JR and Chris Smith skipped the meeting entirely and wonder why no one’s responding to their tweets. They become one, until the heat and pressure becomes too great, and there’s a massive explosion, shattering every window in the labyrinthine secret sub-chambers of MSG. Only Pablo Prigioni remains.
PABLO: What is ‘eff?’ Guys? Hello? I am of talking.
Over/unders! with @BobSaietta:
Over/under 40.5 wins for the New York Knicks this season?
Over. As a preface, let me just say that I’m an absolutely terrible, atrocious, no-good gambler. Once actual money is involved, I become more conservative than Ted Cruz. So even though we’re not placing any actual wagers (Wait. Conor, are these real bets? I’m boned.), please take any and all prediction I might make in a very, very low-sodium manner. That said, I think the Knicks will exceed .500, barely. The entire Eastern Conference has been such a blasted, desolate, dystopic, post-apocalyptic scarred terrain, that you have to assume that the ‘Bockers (and the Nyets) will eventually claw back to the form that most predicted. And if that means that incur the wrath of the now-sentient AI, SCHOENE, so be it.
Over/under 7.5 text messages per day from James Dolan to Steve Mills?
Over. But none of them are about basketball. They’re just links to Huffington Post sideboob articles with winking emoticons and/or youtube videos of bootlegged Eagles concerts.
Over/under 18.5 tears originating from a New York player’s eyes wiped away by Pablo Prigioni?
Over. I assume you’re referring to this Vine. If the Knicks (stupidly) are going to limit their best +/- player to 15 MPG, they should at least make use of his other talents and send him to personally console each and every long-suffering Knick fan, let alone the other players on the roster.
Over/under 0.5 hardware upgrades to Amare “DATA” Stoudemire (emotion chips don’t count)?
Over. BECAUSE EMOTION CHIPS DO COUNT. I wrote about this a few weeks ago at The Classical. I hate watching Amar’e’s painful “Ode to an Athlete Dying Young” descent into obsolescence.
“There’s a certain pathos in just watching Stoudemire fold a Michelangelo-sculpted body into a tiny and painfully prosaic folding chair, definitively of a kind not designed for a gentleman standing at 6’11. “Hold on a second, ” he said. “Let me get these legs straightened out, brother. Jeez, Louise. Tight squeeze up here.”
It was like watching a much older man negotiating massive arthritis, not a player we’ve grown accustomed to seeing flying around the court and above the rim. Stoudemire started out optimistically enough, but after several questions that hammered him on the lack of disclosure about an offseason knee injury—“Was it a debridement? How serious was the procedure? When do you think you’ll return? How do you think you’ll play when you return?”— Stoudemire’s spirit seemed as beaten up as his body. And for a player who uses the word ‘phenomenal’ in every third to fourth sentence, who does think—or did think, and was not quite crazy to think— that he was the equal of LeBron et al, the physical handicapping seemed less poignant than these sudden and unavoidable reminders of his limitations and new mortality.
“Right now, unfortunately my career has been somewhat tainted by injuries during the last few years,” he said. “So it’s a matter now of trying to maintain strength and health to have some solid and very productive years.”
And: “The whole goal is to get a strong recovery so hopefully by the time training camp’s over I should be ready to go. If not, we’ll see. We’re still taking precautionary measures, we’ll see how it plays out.”
And: “My career isn’t over yet…I think miracles can happen any time of the day. My goal is to stay faithful and understand anything can happen and continue to work as hard as I can as I always do. Bounce back and try to be the player that I know I am.”
That was when I nearly lost it. It was certainly when I ditched any notion of ‘covering’ this event under the holy rubric of objective journalism. I was a fan, suddenly, and one that wanted to run up and hug him or shake him and tell him not to let the haterz get him down. That he was STAT for Pete’s sake.
Although of course he’s not quite STAT at this point. This was like watching a patient that you know is critical and beyond a doctor’s help, with only so many days or weeks or months to go, putting on a brave face for your benefit as much as his/her own. The alternative is confronting something not readily confronted, and the two of you bawling like scared children, which isn’t going to change the situation or make it any less unbearable. So: smile, and try to forget, and talk about something, anything but the maw that has opened up under your feet, the rows of razor-sharp sharks’ teeth that the two of you will traverse eventually, like it or not.”
Philosophical Question! with @BobSaietta
If a person watches a basketball team, knowing full well the unjust punishment he wreaks upon his own consciousness, can the act of watching and the injustice he causes himself be considered immoral?
Q #4: Who wants to play 50 minutes tonight?
@ConorDDirks: Against the Raptors, without Trevor Ariza or Al Harrington, the Wizards were less dogs backed into a corner and more caribou calves trying to outmaneuver a wolf pack. The starting unit can cover ground, can sprint to a lead, but without any help from the bench, it’s a gory ending. The margin for error is so trivial that even with Wall and Beal playing league-high minutes and Nene playing far more minutes than (you know) he’d like to, the most paltry burn from Eric Maynor and Kevin Seraphin can be devastating. If Al Harrington and Trevor Ariza are ever released from the steel trap that is Washington’s MRI dream-machine, the extra offense, and extra legs, could make a difference. Washington’s starting unit, even on an off-night for Bradley Beal (7-for-21 from the field), Nene (5-for-14, missing a big shot in the last minutes), and Marching GorTAT (3-for-10), hung with the Raptors. With the exception of Bradley Beal, every Wizards starter was in the positive end of the plus/minus spectrum (John Wall was plus-7, with a season-high 37 points), rare for a team that lost by eight points.
There are no moral victories, but there are pyrrhic victories, and the cost of each game is on the rise.
EVEN MOAR: Email exchange! with @BobSaietta
Knicks and Wizards fans (and bloggers) are going to resemble Soviet soldiers during the siege of Stalingrad by the time this used baby diaper of a season is over. Yep. I’m in. – R. Silverman
I’ll hit you tomorrow after we witness more Rattenkrieg in tonight’s Wiz-Cavs/Knicks-Pacers sadness generators. – C. Dirks
Deal. PS: I’m sorry my franchise legitimized the notion that Ernie Grunfeld is a competent GM – R. Silverman
THEORY: While Ted Leonsis was in talks to buy the team, Grunfeld abandoned his basketball duties, hired a PI, and dug up Ted’s (redacted). Thusly, he will be the team president for life. – C. Dirks
I think Ernie Grunfeld already has the look/vibe of a shitty low-rent- PI. No need to farm out the gig. – R. Silverman
Ernie Grunfeld = Dixon Hill = a human among holograms = Leonsis’ phaser is jammed, won’t fire. – C. Dirks
Considering I suggested that Amar’e’s defensive buffoonery last night was due to him being programmed a la Cmdr. Data for 15 minutes of action and 15 mins only, this is all coming full circle. – R. Silverman
I love these questions more than life itself. – R. Silverman
I am glad. What I’m not glad about is that I now have Will Smith’s “Just the Two of Us” stuck in my head, so THANKS. – C. Dirks
You should try Elvis Costello’s “Hand in Hand.” It’s a better song, and COSTELLO IS KING. In a related story, I’m old. PS: DOLAN AND THE EAGLES ROOL. – R. Silverman
No one was TRYING to get the horrific “Just the 2 of Us” stuck in their head. It’s a woeful state that no amount of work has been able to dislodge. As such, I’ve resigned myself to my fate. I see the future, and the future is me, with a badass cybernetic arm and “Just the 2 of Us” playing on loop in my brainboard. PS I THINK YOU MEAN DROOL. PPS Looking forward to it. PPPS Costello > – C. Dirks
PPPPS: I think we should somehow include this email chain in the article. It’s GOLD, Jerry. GOLD. – R. Silverman