And still, no one goes to their games.

Knicks-Grizz, And A Look Ahead


No two teams show the difference between hope and expectation quite like the Knicks and Heat.  The possible first-round playoff opponents both emptied the cupboard to acquire multiple franchise players, and each faces questions of how those stars will mesh.  The Heat immediately became the NBA’s public enemy number one, and the Knicks, should they win a playoff series this spring, wouldn’t be far behind.  We forget this as Knicks fans because of how bad the team has been, but it won’t take America long to take the Knicks from “upstart comeback story” to “Evil Empire.”  The more they win, the shorter our honeymoon as NBA darlings.

The difference, of course, is that Heat fans expected an easy ride to the ‘ship from the second LeBron Decided.  We’ve been so downtrodden, so geared to expect the worst that it’s unnatural for us to expect anything at all.  And of course there’s a tactical difference as well: our two superstars’ skills don’t overlap as much, and the third of our Big Three doesn’t need to be told it’s more of a Big Two.

So far the Knicks, like the Heat back in October, are saying all the right things about ball distribution, not caring who takes the final shot, etc.  I sense that Knicks fans as a whole – myself included – don’t expect any chemistry issues to crop up with this team.  We’re not necessarily expecting a title in the short term.  We’re soaking up the good vibes right now, and deservedly so – we’ve suffered long enough.  But don’t let the vibes fool you – we may not be under the weight of expectation right now, but we are not as different from Miami as we’d like to think.  America loves nothing more than a great comeback, but a close second is the David and Goliath tale; the Knicks are David in round one, Goliath ever after.

Like the rest of America, I laughed a hearty, guttural bellow of a laugh when I saw this story in ESPN’s Heat Index this morning.  Maybe one day we’ll all read this same story about our Knicks.  We won’t read it this year, though, and that’s the advantage we have over Miami – that’s why, before America turns us into the Heatles 2.0, I want them now.

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Oh right, they’re playing Memphis tonight.  I should probably get to that.  Tonight’s game is live on NBA TV if you’re not local.

Projected Starters:

PG – Mike Conley: 30 for his last 62 3PT.

SG – Tony Allen: Has been playing out of his gourd lately.  Making a bid to become the first ever underrated former Celtic.

SF – Sam Young: Could be a tough check on Carmelo; Young will burn most of his calories at the defensive end.  A fantastically poor ball-handler, but hard-nosed at both ends.  Not a deep threat but shoots a good percentage for a nominal two-guard.

PF – Zach Randolph: Has 13 steals in his last four games.  I’m going to assume this is a coincidence, based on past experience with the man.

C – Marc Gasol: Wait, we have to box out both of them?

Your Chauncey Billups and Co. Update: Mark Hale reports this morning that Bull Walker and Ronny Turiaf are likely to play tonight, but Chauncey will miss his fifth straight game with a contused thigh.

A Few Good Sentences about: Allow me to piggyback on Mike’s post last night regarding our apparent starting center of the future, Jared Jeffries.  Like Mike, I think this is absolutely the right move for this team, if only by default of other options.  Turiaf can’t be counted on for starter’s minutes, and Shawne Williams gets himself to the right spots but can’t help out once he’s there.  J-Double, more than his overall defensive skills, makes sure the team as a whole doesn’t take those eight-minutes defensive sabbaticals that have defined this group.  He keeps the energy up and never stops contesting.

Plus, his entertainment value on offense has to be worth something. Team morale, and such.

Grizz Rotation: Rudy Gay will not feature in tonight’s game or next week’s tilt at the Garden as he recovers from a partially dislocated left shoulder.  Memphis is 5-3 in his absence, with a road win in Dallas and home triumphs over San Antonio and Oklahoma City.  Allen has started in his place and moved Young to the three.  Leon Powe was active Monday and could make his Memphis debut tonight; he signed as a free agent on Saturday after being waived by Cleveland, and has been recovering from a knee injury that’s plagued him for over a year now.

Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo might be angry about coming off the bench, or it could just be the steroids.  Shane Battier has also come off the bench, and it will be interesting to see whose time gets cut once Gay returns.  Ish Smith and Jason Williams make the coolest backup point guard tandem in the league, and one of the least effective.  Greivis Vasquez was just as bad, and has lost his opportunity for the moment.  Darrell Arthur is your backup big, and I have nothing interesting to say about him.  Which is his fault, I think.

76ers West: Much like our enemies in Philadelphia, Memphis is riding a (semi-) new coach that emphasizes defense, and is about average in just about every category other than defensive efficiency, in which they’re tenth.  Also like Philly, none of their young talent really made an immediate impact but all have become established contributors, and they’ve supplemented their young guards and wings with a veteran reclamation project at power forward.  And, also like Philly, it’s working: Memphis is eighth in the West, leading ninth-place Phoenix by 1.5 games.  That would match them up for a first-round matchup against the Spurs, whom they defeated a week ago.  The way this season has gone, I wouldn’t count out any of these Western Conference teams.

Two Good Notes: Tonight the Knicks play a team for the first time…for the last time.  Just three of the Knicks’ 20 remaining games are inter-conference matchups; the Knicks will finish their Western Conference schedule one week from tomorrow at home against Memphis.

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Memphis looks like it’s gotten its act together, going 9-3 over their last 12.  Like Monday’s Utah game, this is another Knicks frontcourt diagnostic: a chance to see if they can hang with two intimidating post presences at once.  Although they depantsed the Jazz, Al Jefferson did have 36 and 12 on 17-26 shooting, and Utah had 22 offensive rebounds.  There’s still plenty of work to be done in the trenches; we’ll see another chapter tonight.