Call it ping-pong ball madness, blatant tanking, or simply disrespecting the game—at 7:30pm this evening in New York, two teams will take the floor that share one unified mission for these last 12 games: to lose as many of them as possible.
Unfortunately, one of them has to walk away a winner, ergh, loser, so there promises to be plenty of drama during these 48 minutes of precision basketball before either team can slink off the court and back into the dark basement of this NBA season. Tickets are predictably scarce.
In this corner, the New York Knicks, who at 19-51 are now in the midst of their sixth losing streak of at least five consecutive games. Big changes are on the horizon (when aren’t they?), with reports that former Indiana Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh will soon sign a three-year deal to join The Greatest Circus on Earth, though in what exact capacity we do not yet know. Clearly, Isiah Thomas’ power as general manager and head coach figures to be significantly weakened… but that’s all down the road in what will surely be a promising new day for this once-great franchise. For now, we’re more concerned with the Knicks as presently constituted.
Quentin Richardson and Jamal Crawford Photo Credit: Icon SMI
Your friends at Empty the Bench have had the distinct pleasure of attending about 10 games at the Garden this season. Would you believe the most entertaining one was last week’s hotly contested battle with the Memphis Grizzlies? The Knicks successfully lost 120-116, a “victory” clearly aided by Zeke’s inexplicable benching of his best (only?) low-post scorer in Zach Randolph. He claims the move was made so he could further scout his young, talented big man Randolph Morris, whose nickname was given as “The Steal” during the starting introductions. He was awesome: 1-8 FG, 4 points, 3 boards, and 4 fouls in 26 minutes. In that same game, one of the few Knicks who’s not phoning it in every night, Nate Robinson, played 37 minutes… and has now fallen victim to a mysterious sprained knee that’s kept him out of the last two games.
Oh, Isiah—you really should at least try to do a better job of disguising what’s going on here.
The riveting conclusion to this story of NBA greatness after the break…
As for the Heat, they somehow beat the visiting Milwaukee Bucks Monday night despite inserting one D-Leaguer into the starting lineup—PG Chris Quinn—and playing just four guys off the bench… all of whom also came to Miami via the D-League. Now, that’s no criticism of these youngsters: they’re scrapping for a roster spot in the big leagues and doing whatever they can to make a positive impression around the Association. Good for them, they deserve their respective shots. But Pat Riley should be ashamed of himself. I understand that injuries have absolutely ravaged this team, one that came into the season realistically aiming to make a run in the Eastern playoffs. Still—at 13-57 they have four less wins than the Seattle SuperSonics, and if Shawn Marion doesn’t resign this summer their lone building block of consequence moving forward is Dwyane Wade, whose ability to stay healthy is a serious question mark.
And worst of all, their ineptitude is making the Knicks jealous. Here’s New York’s Finest doing everything under the sun in the name of just losing, baby… and still, they’re six games up in the win column on the Heat. Round 1 of this intense 2007-08 rivalry was claimed by New York on November 11 when Miami won a 75-72 thriller; Round 2 went to the Heat after the Knicks eeked out the victory in a 88-84 barnburner. Who’ll out-tank who on Wednesday? The anticipation is absolutely killing us.