With All-Star Weekend now in the rear view mirror, NBA teams fall for the most part into two categories: those making a run at a playoff spot and those casting their eyes toward the Lottery. Though they played well above pre-season expectations through the first three months of the season, the New York Knicks fall squarely into the latter group.
They’re 10 games under .500 and 3.5 games out of the 8th seed, trailing Milwaukee, New Jersey and Chicago, just ahead of Indiana and Toronto. While that’s far from an insurmountable deficit, they’re simply playing bad ball, losing six straight to head into the break on a slide fueled by mental lapses, an utter inability to defend elite wings (or anyone, really), and the re-stocking of Al Harrington at the jerkstore.
On top of that, they come back from the All-Star break with an MSG visit from San Antonio tomorrow night, leading into a home-and-home with a Raptors team that could get a boost from the import of Shawn Marion. Then, Dominant Team Pringles play host to the Pacers (who beat N.Y. at the Garden on Jan. 2), the Magic (who are significantly better than the Knicks by any objective measure, and whose center will have a mighty, Paul Bunyan-esque axe to grind) and the 76ers (who have already beaten the Knicks three times this season) before closing out the month out on the road in Miami, a superior team that should by that point have started to figure out how to integrate Jermaine O’Neal.
Mike D’Antoni’s already thin rotation may also be stretched even thinner in the days to come, as Chris Duhon (ankle sprain), Quentin Richardson (bruised ribs) and Tim Thomas (groin injury) all went into All-Star Weekend banged up. (Yeah, Eddy Curry’s supposed to start practicing with the team this week as he targets a second-half comeback, but given the shitcloud that’s been following Eddy around for the past year and a half, do you have any doubt that he’ll sever the myelin sheaths of every neuron in his brain during shootaround?)
And it’s unlikely the Knicks would be able to add any helpful pieces via trade — they don’t seem eager to move David Lee, easily their most valuable player; KryptoNate might bring back a draft pick, but nothing of value this season; and their only two expiring deals are Starbury’s $20.8 million, which they haven’t exactly bent over backward to ship out, and Malik Rose’s $7.65 million, which likely wouldn’t return much worth having, because Malik Rose is 74 and stinks.
So while the great Studs Terkel teaches us that hope dies last, the odds don’t look good for the boys in orange and blue to make a postseason run; in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Knicks failed to notch a W in February and completely disappeared from the playoff hunt by March 1.
What do you do in times like these? Start exercising the 2009 NBA Lottery Mock Draft machine, that’s what. There’s always next year, and this summer’s draft pick could have you playing for a playoff spot next season.
Except that the Knicks don’t exactly have a great history in the draft; check out this list of first-rounders. Since taking Patrick Ewing with the first overall pick in 1985, the best picks are probably Mark Jackson (1987) and Lee (2005), and there’s a whole lot of inexorable sadness in between. And while 2007 first-rounder Wilson Chandler has shown a lot of improvement this year, it’s fair to say there’s some skepticism about how good 2008 pick Danilo Gallinari can be.
So since Knicks fans tend to be disappointed by the team’s draft picks (often with good reason), it seems prudent to start preparing a list of reasons to disapprove of whomever the Knicks select this season. As I have watched virtually no college basketball this season, my analysis will be based purely on surface appearances, flimsy analogy, woeful misinformation, the occasional anecdote and a plethora of ill will.
Let’s start with Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin, who most project to go #1 overall.
It has been suggested that you are an athletic marvel, a tall man that can run and rebound, a surefire prospect and the draft’s most gifted player, which would be cool for you. It has also been suggested that you are secretly Kris Humphries, which is lame and deserving of mad scorn. Based on how surprised you appear in this photograph and on no other research, I believe you will become a disappointing mashup of Tim Thomas, Austin Croshere and Rupert Grint.
What about the player whose name is connected with the Knicks most frequently in the lottery machine, Davidson guard Stephen Curry?
It is my understanding that you shoot the ball very well, that you have great parentage (coming from the Basketball Currys), that you have the height, quickness and handle to play the point at the next level, and that you can score on pretty much anyone. But you apparently didn’t have the foresight to purchase ankle insurance, nor did you have the foresight to dissuade your talented brother Seth from attending a university that was founded by Jerry Falwell. All of this suggests a lack of crunch-time leadership that indicates you will not be anywhere near the floor general that Chris Duhon is. Boo.
And what of the draft’s most exotic import, Spanish teen point guard sensation Ricky Rubio?
You are mad cute, and I keep thinking you’re small, but you’re not really small at all. You look like Harry Potter, but way cuter. During the gold medal game against the U.S. last summer, you didn’t look out of place on the court against the best American point guards, which was remarkable. Internet basketball luminaries like goathair and Tom Ziller and Bill Simmons love you lots, and you seem like a perfect fit for a coach that knows how to get the most out of smart, multitalented point guards, and you’d probably be brilliant triggering an SSOL attack for the next decade.
But you also look like a mustache-less Gael Garcia Bernal in Amores Perros, before he gets super into the world of dogfighting and all of his dreams come crashing down, and that makes me preemptively sad and apprehensive in assessing your chances of success in the world of NBA basketball (a.k.a. “the world of dogfighting”).
I think New York City will eat you alive, literally, which at first sounds like it would make a great horror movie concept, but then when you think about it is actually pretty dumb and would probably need to be like a Troma Films production or something, and then it’s just relegated to the “cult classics” section at Borders and no one ever even watches it seriously, which pisses off the director because hey, we spent a lot of time working on this project, you know? And now here you people all are, trying to option cartoon rights and get Joe Bob Briggs to do his hillbilly huckster thing on a DVD and make this whole thing into a joke, but we set out to make a legitimate genre-redefining horror movie, one that infused elements of subtle, encroaching fear inspired by sources as varied as Kafka and Henson and Craven and Danzig, and to be honest, I think we did, and that’s the way I view the whole “Big City of Screams” project, if you want to know how I really feel about it.
So maybe you should just go to Washington or the Clippers, Ricky, for all of our sakes.
Other inevitable disappointments:
- Greg Monroe, Georgetown. Mike Sweetney was a gifted Georgetown big, too. Remember him? So do I, and so does every permutation of “Famous,” “Original” and “Ray’s” in the New York metropolitan area. We won’t get fooled again, Hoyas.
- James Harden, Arizona State. You may say you’re 19, but you look like you’re 60, dog. I don’t believe you; you need more people.
- Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut. Sure, you put up 25/20/9 in a win that brought your #1 ranked team to a 24-1 mark, the best 25-game record in UConn history. But you remind me of the Bug that wore the Edgar Suit from Men in Black, and while that’s good for post defense, that’s too scary for kids to watch night-in and night-out, and the Knicks are for the children.
- Jeff Teague, Wake Forest. You are a Wake Forest guard who is not Chris Paul. :(
- B.J. Mullens, Ohio State, and Cole Aldrich, Kansas. The Knicks have already gotten lucky with one white big man this decade; to try for another would probably be pushing it.
- Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest. You look really sleepy in a lot of your photos, and sometimes sad, too. They said the same thing about Tracy McGrady, and look what a total loser he turned out to be. No thanks.
Who do you think will be a disappointing draft pick, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Enjoy the second half of the season, guys! Can’t wait until the draft!
Image via FFFFOUND!