D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards vs Knicks, Game 23
What better way to shake off three close losses than to lose by 16 points? The “but injuries,” “but first half,” and “but bench” crowds all looked around at each other, not knowing what to blame or even what had happened. See, what had happened was a conflation of every problem that has plagued the Wizards this season, mixed together with a superior opponent, and topped off with one of Chris Paul’s best (and it was nearly flawless) performances of the season. After all the excuse-detritus was cleared, the Wizards were left to reach the inevitable conclusion, voiced by Marcin Gortat:
“I think that was the first game where—truly, first game—where we had no chance to win the game,” said Gortat. “They were just way better.”
The Knicks, who some might call the “laughingstock” of the NBA, are up next. Yet despite the disparity between New York’s pre-season expectations and their in-season reality, they have only won two (2) fewer games, and have somehow suffered through even more unluckiness in the way of gut-punch injuries (read: Tyson Chandler) than the Wizards have thus far. Rest assured: the Knicks see the Wizards with much the same relief as the Wizards see the Knicks.
Joining me today is Robert Silverman (@BobSaietta), a co-author of We’ll Always Have Linsanity: Strange Takes on the Strangest Season in Knicks History, contributor to ESPN Truehoop’s Knicks blog, Knickerblogger, and wordsmith found within many other internet/terrestrial biomes. Let’s get it.
Teams: Wizards vs. Knicks
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, New York
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Knicks favored by 2 points.
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: “Take that, Masai Ujiri!” Each keystroke, and each Bargnani jumper, shook the earth with increasing Richter-measured magnitude, but the man Marc Berman could not be silenced.
Since I agree completely that 2016 is too far in the future to even contemplate, I’ve pledged most of my vital organs to black market operatives in exchange for three years’ supply of mint yerba mate. What will you not need in 2016?
@BobSaietta: That was hilarious. Then again, perhaps one should take a look at my answer to the final question to see it as the sage-like ruminations of a truly enlightened, liberated mind. In 2016, I won’t need my MetroCard, because we’re finally going to get those jet packs that I was promised during the voluminous hours of Saturday morning animated programming I consumed in the late 20th Century. And if we don’t, I’ve got a team of high-powered, highly-compensated attorneys ready to sue the living bejeezus out of Hanna-Barbara Productions, Inc.
Regarding Bargs trade, Novak has fallen off map, 2nd-rounders meaningless & 2016 first-rounder is too far in future. Dolan wants to win now.
— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) December 14, 2013
Q #2: On Friday night, the Wizards and Knicks both came out of the gate looking as if they’d not yet woken from a dream, a dream where they were basketball teams that won more than they lost, perhaps.
With a chance to win the game in regulation against the Hawks, the Wizards ran an increasingly frequent Mike Woodson special, the John Wall shimmy isolation jumper. Results were predictably of the “nowhere close” variety. The Knicks, a “disturbingly twisted, badly-rendered cubist portrait of the Yankees,” seemed the beneficiaries of the vagaries of the basketball gods (who abandoned this pale orange dot long ago, it turns out) in taking an 11-point lead. Surely the Knicks don’t go their least efficient (28.5% score rate & .56 points per play) play, the one-on-one? What keeps them coming back? Asking for a friend that is a local basketball team.
@BobSaietta: Conventional Wisdom. Look, even with the cavalcade of fancy, shiny new data that’s pouring into front offices everywhere, how do you tell a star (A STAR, I SAID) like Carmelo Anthony that the ball shouldn’t be on his hands with the game on line. He’s a STAR. A BRIGHT SHINING STAR. And for some reason, you and your phalanx of pocket-protector wielding NERDS want to take that away because you have goddamn Texas Instruments pocket thingamawoojit that says otherwise. Numbers are not basketball, Conor. Do you even watch the games? Have you ever played organized hoops? Or was your asthma so bad that Dr. Jankowicz advised against it?
In all seriousness, back in ’06, a bunch of researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people (they were looking mainly at political partisans, but I think basketball ideologues/old school coaches works just as nicely) were shown facts in news stories that contradicted their personally held beliefs, they rarely changed their minds. In fact (see what I did there), they often became even more convinced that their beliefs/opinions were the truth. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger. I certainly think that’s what happened to Lionel Hollins in Memphis and were you to show your pretty, pretty integers to Mike Woodson, I doubt that would make him stop ISO’ing Melo with the game on the line.
Q #3: So, I’ve spent the majority of this week mentally pairing Solange songs with Wizard and ex-Wizard player highlight reels alike.
You know, for example, a Jordan Crawford mixtape with “Losing You” sonically (and maybe visually, but thinking I could accomplish such a feat makes the process too reflective and I start to realize there is a life to live out there and it all just kinda dies in my hand like an ideafish held too long in the palm of realization and out of the nebula of unmade thought) superimposed on J-Craw balling, hunched over and ever-excellent. And then Beyonce came out with a videobuzz album, validating EVERYTHING. So I’m giving you “Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work” by the less famous Knowles. Who gets the R&B-fueled-mixtape treatment for the Knicks?
@BobSaietta: I know as much about R&B as I do animal husbandry, so I’m just going to put Tom Waits’ Bone Machine on the ol’ hi-fi for Melo. Despite this team’s atrocious start, he’s playing some boffo basketball–cleaning the glass, exerting a passable effort on defense, kicking the rock out to shooters when appropriate and bloodying people down low. I just hope he doesn’t take “Going Out West” too literally.
Over/unders! with @BobSaietta:
Over/under 40.5 wins for the New York Knicks this season?
Under. Gah. Why don’t you ask me how many dribbles of paint it took Jackson Pollock to create “Full Fathom Five”?
My heart says take the over, but my head says… Scratch that, both my cerebellum and my pulmonary artery are screaming “under.” To beat .500, this year’s model of the ‘Bockers would have to go 35-24 the rest of the way, or .595 winning percentage. Basically, they’d have to be the 49-ish win team that most folks thought before things went completely Chinua Achebe. It’s doable, but not the kind of thing where I’m comfortable risking my meager gambling budget,
Over/under 6.5 “pipe” direct messages sent out in search of easy confidence after each humbling J.R. Smith performance?
Over (as in “Game over, man. Game over.” — Bill Paxton. Now that you can DM photos, the world really is JR’s oyster. Then again, have you felt the soul-infusing, milky warm glow of Pablo Prigioni’s consoling? I swear, that man could make Joan Baez’s stone-faced glare stretch into a rictus of a beatific grin.
Under. No matter how badly the rest of the year goes for the Knickerbockers, I guarantee that he’ll be wearing those same ghastly orange alts this time next year. Oh, we’ll be subject to more than the above digit in articles speculating about his departure, but I think we’ll see a plague of airborne, aeronautical sows circling the Empire State Building before Melo’s No. 7 ends up in the bargain bin at Modell’s.
Philosophical Question! with @BobSaietta:
Is despair a merit or a defect?
@BobSaietta: Both? It’s something I spend a lot of time thinking about (considering the team I like, quelle goshdarn surprise). My instinct is to say that it’s a good thing, insomuch as it’s a rational assessment of reality. If you’re a Knicks fan, and you’re not in the throes of a Proustian sense of despair, I’m going to assume that you’ve got a slew of highly qualified medical/psychoanalytic professionals in your employ and they’ve got you on a slew of the finest Monoamine oxidase Inhibitors or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (or you share DNA with a certain family of Cable honchos).
Sadly, the more I watch this team, the more I’m forced to conclude that that the unexamined life is not only worth living, but might be preferable. Back when I was getting my grad degree (in clowning, natch) I was struggling with a particular part of the curriculum and I was kvetching a blue streak. My teacher listened, nodding sagely at the appropriate moments, but basically let me rant and rant until I ran out of rage-steam. When my little fit of pique (wholly justified pique, mind you) was over he said (and this all sounded a lot prettier/more poetic in the original French): “You done?”
ROBERT: (still pouting, his reddened face still clenched into a tiny fist of self-righteous indignation): Yeah.
LE PROFESSEUR: (draws slowly on his hand-rolled cigarette) Good. (A pause, he exhales) Here’s the thing. In life, in most situations that are difficult or confusing or enraging or all of them, you have two and only two choices: You can be happy or you can be right. Very, very, very rarely do you ever get both at the same time. This is frustrating, but the good news is, you can choose. So which do you want? Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right?
With basketball, I’ve always chosen the latter. But maybe it’s time to go the other way. Be happy! The Knicks are going to go on a colossal winning streak. Tyson Chandler’s going to return to his menacing, T-1000 form! Pablo Prigioni will be cloned! And if not (deluded optimism), why not be happy that you get to watch a team filled with a lot of players that you like. They may win, they may lose, but take pleasure in the moment(s), and don’t rely on this enforced Manichean/winner-take-all worldview to determine my/your well being. Maybe that doesn’t mean you’re a deluded homer, but actually a helluva lot wiser than the people (like me) raging against the dying of the 2013-14 season light.
That sounds eminently logical, right? Not sure if I can actually pull it off.
Okay, now all I can think about is singing along with all of Tom Waits’ gravel-voiced back catalogue. Enjoy the game!
Q #4: How full is your sail?
@ConorDDirks: Boreas, Notus, Eurus, Zephyrus. The four wind gods, or Anemoi, were capable (in the imagination of ancient Greek folk) of effecting sea change, shifting season, fructifying magnificence, and delivering bitter, unlucky cold with their minds, man. Which way will the winds blow for the Wizards tonight? All four have different agendas.
- Boreas, the cold north wind, harbinger of winter, who chills Nene’s achilles against the Brazilian’s will (Nene prefers heat, only heat), snaps the brittle bones of Bradley Beal, subjugates Martell Webster’s 3-point shooting under a sheet of ice, and puts the “chill” in Trevor Chillriza, more gamble than steal, more ash than hookah smoke.
- Notus, the crop-reaper. Can this too-hot wind be tamed, bottled, unleashed in a flurry of overwrought corner 3-point shooting? The Wizards had an identity, once, as a team built around this one efficient shot, the corner 3-pointer. Whether it is due to slump or scouting, the shot has not been there, and defenders have been closing out quickly enough that Trevor Ariza has been pump-faking, taking three dribbles in, and then wishing he could be back in the corner, where dry Arizona wind loves to facilitate passage for the shot which, if e’er made again, will get him paid.
- Eurus, gust of unluck. Perhaps the most #SoWizards of winds, the Pero Antic pass (to Al Horford while Horford is guarded by career-night Trevor Booker who is just one inch too short) wind. Against the Knicks, Eurus looks to eschew pre-existing foibles and to create something entirely new but immediately recognizable as categorically #SoWizards, and let Washington muddle through it, fighting for a win. My guess? Gortat gets ejected when he close-fist punches Kenyon Martin after Martin says something horrific in Gortat’s ear that is unintelligible to replay officials.
- Zephyrus, the kind wind, the compassionate breeze, the wind buffer underneath Bradley Beal’s feet (he is a game-time decision tonight!), bracing each fibula-rattling impact and generating lift when he wonders whether he is still in game shape. This is the wind that blows the ball towards Marcin Gortat down low, not an emasculating eighteen feet away from the basket, a spot that Gortat has disparaged in recent days. Zephyrus is John Wall’s friend, his second gear, his everything-goes-right jump shot.
So, how full is the sail? And perhaps more importantly, which wind fills it? The Wizards have blustered between the four this season, which started 0-3, became 2-7, then switched directions in a glorious about-face, swelling towards 9-9 before Washington lost four straight games and more or less shipwrecked on a rocky outcropping in the dead of winter against the Clippers on Saturday night, where they never had much chance of survival. The next three games (against the Knicks, Nets, and Celtics) are so important, because winnable games should be won, and beating struggling teams is the only way forward for the battered Wizards, who need all the Eastern Conference help they can get.