Still battling flu-like symptoms, so bear with me.
After that, there was all sorts of crazy talk going on, like Fields being a "much better guard" than Derrick Rose (according to advanced metrics) and therefore more deserving of an All-Star nod. STAT for MVP stories were all the rage and Stoudemire was even hearing "M-V-P!" chants at MSG. For the first time in more than a decade, New York fans were enjoying some actual positive mojo about their basketball team. Finally, it looked like the horror of the Isiah Thomas era was behind them.
Then enter...Isiah Thomas.
As much as the Knicks had improved, there was still a sense that they needed to add another superstar to compete with the Celtics, Heat and Lakers. Some early talk about a trade for Carmelo Anthony was seemingly quashed because Donnie Walsh and D'Antoni liked the roster and STAT was happy, maybe for the first time in his career, because he was finally The Man. But then rumor had it Isiah was pushing for a 'Melo trade behind the scenes. The Knicks denied it and we may never know the full extent of Isiah's possible involvement (or, as it may be, his non-involvement). All we know for sure is that Carmelo became a Knick...
...and things have gone to hell. Relatively speaking.
Let's return to March 23, 2011. After a 111-99 home loss in which they were outscored 32-21 in the fourth quarter -- and yes, there were boos -- the Knicks fell to three games below .500 since the 'Melo trade (7-10) and one game below .500 on the season (35.36). Anthony played reasonably well (24 points, 6-for-12, 9 assists), but Stoudemire had one of his worst games of the season (13 points, 6-for-20, 1-for-3 from the line). New York shot 40 percent, got outrebounded 49-35 and had only 8 fast break points.
It's safe to say things are not going according to plan.
Said Carmelanoma (nickname by stephanie g): "We just need to relax. I think it's, we put too much pressure on ourselves. We're losing games that we know we should be winning and we're just putting a lot of pressure on ourselves. I think we're playing too tense out there on the court, everybody just needs to relax. Just have fun."
As for STAT, he's just, you know, tired.
Said D'Antoni: "Amar'e's tired. We've worn him down a little bit and it showed tonight."
Funny. He didn't look all that tired before the 'Melo came to town. Wasn't the presence of another big-time scorer supposed to take the pressure off him?
Said Stoudemire: "I think we're all somewhat getting the fatigue factor setting in. It's been a crazy, crazy month for us so far, a lot of games in few nights. And so we played great in the first half, we applied so much energy, in the second half we just kind of run out a little bit there. But we'll be OK."
Yeah, but, Amar''''''e, you scored only 4 points on 2-for-8 shooting in the first half. You didn't play the day before. Are you saying you started the game tired?
The reality is: It ain't working. None of it. The pairing. The offense. The chemistry. The Knicks weren't great before the trade. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But they were better than this.
Is there a fix? I guess we'll find out.
The Boston Celtics: Remember: The Celtics are supposedly competing with the Bulls for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. To do that, they really need to come through in the "should win" games, like last night's home matchup with the Grizzlies. Memphis, as you may already know, just found out that Rudy Gay is out for the season. You'd think the Celts could have used that downer to their advantage.
But they did not.
Boston never could put the hammer down. The game was close all night, with Memphis playing ahead for much of the fourth quarter. Bottom line is: The C's couldn't score buckets when they needed them, with both Kevin Garnett (3-for-9) and Ray Allen (4-for-10) feeling frigid. But nobody on the team was colder than...
Rajon Rondo: He had 11 rebounds, 11 assists and 7 steals...good numbers. Damn good numbers. But he shot 2-for-12. And his last miss was his worst: With the Celtics trailing 88-87, Rondo rebounded Zach Randolph's miss, took it the length of the court and chucked up a one-handed floater that obviously didn't go in.
It's worth noting that Rondo is known for his decision-making and passing...not his clutch shooting. That's Paul Pierce's job. And, to that point, Pierce had 22 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field, 2-for-3 from downtown and 8-for-8 from the line. Boston coach Doc Rivers didn't call timeout, trusting his point guard to know what was what, with "what" being "run a play that will get the ball in Pierce's hands."
Instead, Rondo clunked it and the Celtics lost.
Said Doc: "It's so easy to second-guess it now. I just think your best offensive player should always touch the ball on the last possession."
Pierce did get a chance to tie the game. But with only four seconds left and the aggressive defense of former Celtic Tony Allen, his three-point attempt was pretty far off the mark. Probably shouldn't have come to that, tho'.
At any rate, you don't want Rondo shooting in clutch situations. In fact, you don't really want him shooting at all these days. Ball don't lie. Splits don't, either. In the month of March, Rajon has converted 40 field goal attempts while missing 77. That gives him a 34.2 percent "success" rate on shot. In that stretch, he's attempted only 17 free throws and missed eight of 'em (52.9 percent). Not good.
Marc Gasol: With his team leading by three points with four seconds left, The Other Gasol Brother had the chance to ice the game at the free throw line. All he had to do was hit one of two. Just one of two. The results: Brick. Brick.
But I hear he makes 'em in practice.
Troy Murphy: Remember how excited the Celtics were about signing Murphy? Not only did they add a key frontcourt piece, they kept the Heat from getting their grubby paws on him. Win-win, right?! Wrong. Last night, Murphy would have ended up with a four trillion if not for his two turnovers. Meanwhile, former Celtic Leon Powe -- whom Danny Ainge could have picked up off waivers instead of signing Troy -- exploded off the Memphis bench, shooting 5-for-6 and scoring 13 points in 17 minutes. He also had a game-high plus-minus score of +12.
Said Doc Rivers: "Leon Powe was the baddest man on the planet tonight."
I guess that makes Murphy the bawfulest man on the planet.
Tony Allen, quote machine: On former teammate Paul Pierce: "He is one of those prolific-type dudes."
The Atlanta Hawks: The Dirty Birds had a solid chance to redeem themselves for a humiliating home loss to the Bulls the night before. And, for most of the game, it looked like they were gonna do it. Atlanta went up by six at the half and led by as many as 11 points in the third quarter. But, you know, they were playing the second night of back-to-back games on the road. So it's not all that surprising the Hawks were outscored 31-20 in the fourth and lost 105-100.
Said Josh Smith: "They went on a run just like that. I don't know if we relaxed or what."
Atlanta coach Larry Drew -- who actually told the press his team was "a little fragile right now" before the game -- said: "I felt for three quarters, we played how we wanted to play on the road. They got on the run and we just didn't recover."
The Hawks have now lost 14 of their last 21 games. And they're only 2.5 games ahead of Philly for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Larry Drew, coach of the year candidate: On the second night of back-to-backs, Drew played only two guys off the bench (Jamal Crawford and Zaza Pachulia) and forced a lot of minutes onto starters Joe Johnson (44), Smith (42), Kirk Hinrich (38) and Al Horford (37). And his team ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. Hmm...
Joe Johnson: In 44 minutes, the 119 Million Dollar Man managed only 13 points on 5-for-14 shooting (1-for-5 from downtown) and had more turnovers (4) and personal fouls (5) than rebounds (2) and assists (4). Remember: The Hawks will be paying him almost $25 million in 2015-16.
Nyets versus Cadavers: Both teams shot in the 30s and neither of them reached 100 points even though the game went to overtime. Bawful Game of the Night? Bawful Game of the Night. Moving on.
The Charlotte Bobcraps: Whoa. Pacers coach Frank Vogel nearly got an early induction in the Basketbawful Hall of Shame for calling last night's matchup in Charlotte an "elimination game" for the Bobcats in the one-legged potato sack race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. That's some serious bulletin board material right there.
The 'Craps were so inspired they went out and lost 111-88...wasting a 16-point, 9-rebound night from Kwame Brown.
Said Roy Hibbert: "We just wanted to put the nail in the coffin and move up in the race for the eighth spot. I think we did a good job. I look forward to representing the Pacers in a first round elimination."
Okay, I might've tweaked that quote a little.
Boris Diaw: Check out this snippet from the AP recap:
Diaw, Charlotte's third-leading scorer, was yanked in the third quarter after passing up a shot in the lane for a behind-the-head pass that was intercepted and led to Kareem Rush's 3-pointer at the other end.That is pretty strange.
Diaw never returned, playing 24 minutes and not attempting a shot.
"I just told him in all my 40 years in the NBA, I've never seen anyone do that -- not take one shot in 24 minutes," Silas said. "That's something that I've never, ever seen."
Paul Silas, coach of the year candidate: But seriously, Paul, benching your third-leading scorer in a critical game?
The Detroit Pistons: The cHeat trailed by as many as 10 points and entered the final 12 minutes down 81-75. I can only assume that, during the stoppage of play between the third and fourth quarters, Erik Spoelstra walked into the team huddle and said something like, "Ahem, guys. We're playing the Pistons. Go out and, you know, do what you do."
Detroit didn't score for the first 5:40 of the final quarter. In those final 12 minutes, they managed only 13 points on 4-for-19 shooting. Miami, on the other hand, scored 25 points and won 100-94.
Said Pistons coach John Kuester: "We went through that spurt where all of a sudden we get nothing in the post when we were posting the ball. We weren't getting anything out of our set plays where we were getting guys coming off of screens."
If only someone was coaching this team...hey wait...
LeBron James, quote machine: "There's drama here, too. There's drama at every road game I play."
The Milwaukee Bucks: Two nights after losing by 40 points in Chicago, the Kings beat the Bucks in Milwaukee. This has officially gotten so sad I can't even bring myself to make a "Fear the Deer" joke.
Said John Salmons: "It's a shame. That's all I'll say, it's a shame."
I haven't even mentioned yet how critical this game was for the Bucks. This loss, coupled with Indy's win, puts the Bucks a full three games behind the Pacers for the East's final playoff spot with only 12 games left to play.
Said Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles: "We just didn't have the type of intensity and focus you'd like to see and understanding the enormity of the game, we were kind of passive. It hurts for sure."
It's worth mentioning that these Bucks -- whom many predicted would win the Central Division outright -- were built around Brandon Jennings (2-for-7) and John Salmons (3-for-14), and their key offseason acquisitions included Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden...both of whom didn't even play.
The Utah Jazz: Last night's loss to the Thunder in Oklahoma City dropped them to .500 and, even worse, a full four games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the West. Not that anybody wants to see this Jazz squad make the playoffs. That would just be kind of sad. So, you know, bright side and all that.
By the way, Devin "Playoffs, baby" Harris missed the game with a strained hammy.
The Gol_en State Warriors: The Curse of the Career Highs continues for the Warriors, as Chuck "Wagon" Hayes had his first-ever career triple-double (14 rebounds, 13 points, 11 assists) and the Rockets won 131-112.
But Dorell Wright had a career-high 34 points!
Said Gol_en State's soon-to-be-fired coach Keith Smart: "This is a painful time we are in. Houston is fighting for a playoff spot. We're obviously not going to any dance this season. A young team has to learn to step up as a team, not an individual."
Oh. Okay, scratch that "Dorell Wright" part.
The Toronto Craptors: There, quite literally, could have been no better time for the Craptosaurs to play the Suns in Phoenix. After all, the game took place only 20 hours and 21 minutes after the end of the Suns' brutal triple-overtime loss to the Lakers in L.A. And Phoenix lost Grant Hill to flu-like symptoms and Mickael Pietrus to a sprained right knee during the first quarter. So this shoulda been a win for Toro...
...nto. Oh, hell, never mind.
Jay Triano, coach of the year candidate: "We shoot a better percentage than them, we out-rebound them and they made 3-point shots, and that's what this team does."
Washington now has only seven chances left to avoid tying the worst road record in NBA history (1-40), set by the 1990-91 Sacramento Kings. And the Clippers are, well, the Clippers.
The San Antonio Spurs: This was a rough, aggressive game with lots of physical play, charges, flops, hacks and holds. It was two teams going all out to win. No Tim Duncan. Two unpredictable leading scorers -- Al Harrington (27) and Gary Neal (25) -- and late-game heroics from Wilson Chandler (who hit the go-ahead trey with less than 30 seconds left).
But bawful aside, it's hard not to point out that the Nuggets just beat the Spurs and are now 11-4 since shipping 'Melo to the Big Apple. Amazing.
Chris's Uncanny Lacktion Ledger:
Nyets-Sad Cadavers: Sundiata Gaines shined down the south shore of Lake Erie with a turnover and brick in 4:46 for a +2.
Grizzlies-Celtics: Nenad Krstic was perfect from the stripe in 21:22 as starting center and added two field goals and two boards...only to lose the rock four times and nearly foul out for a 9:8 Voskuhl. Troy Murphy made two giveaways in 3:41 for a +2 and a 2:0 Voskuhl; Avery Bradley rolled the dice on Nintendo DS Yahtzee in just 2 seconds for a Super Mario, and Sasha Pavlovic gathered up a 2.45 trillion (2:28).
Heat-Pissedons: Joel Anthony fouled twice and turned over the ball once in 6:31 for a +3 and a 3:0 Voskuhl.
Jazz-Thunder: Francisco Elson found a copy of The Legend of Zelda after 17 seconds of searching for a Mario, while Kyrylo Fesenko fetched 1.4 trillion (1:24).
Warriors-Rockets: Jeff Adrien added another controller to his Famicom in 54 seconds for a garden-variety Mario, while Houston's Demarre Carroll celebrated with a gift of 3.05 trillion (3:03).
Generals-Clippers: In Yet Another Staples Center Overtime (Watched By 1% Of Those Watching Last Night's)...
Washington's Kevin Seraphin somehow made two boards and a field goal in 8:12, only to lose the rock once and take five fouls for a 6:4 Voskuhl. Fellow professional opponent Hamady N'Diaye had himself a 2.65 trillion (2:40).
For the Team That Always Remains Who We Thought They Were, Ike Diogu fouled a Goomba in 47 seconds for a +1 and a Mario!