The Pastoral Joy of Preseason

Hello all! I had the privilege of being one of just 25 people in attendance at the Knicks-Wizards game last night, and hoo boy do I love preseason - the loose play, guys just out there having fun, scrubs playing alongside hall-of-famers, etc. It lacks the adrenaline and glory of the playoffs, but it's just so much more relaxed and fun. Seth has some notes up, but here are some additions:

Preseason joy #1: Empty Arenas

The attendance was significantly less than the 9000 reported. There were a number of people up in the nosebleeds for the $4 tickets, but down in my section (low and in the corner behind the Wizards bench - aka the $10 tickets), there was only a handful. And it was quiet. On the Knicks' first defensive play, Kurt Thomas bowled over some unfortunate Wizard, and I yelled, "Lay 'em out, Kurt!" I feel like half the arena turned and looked directly at me, agog at the god-like man whose unamplified voice carried across the whole building. I kept my yelling to an appropriate library level for the rest of the night.

Things did pick up later in the 2nd quarter, but by the time the third rolled around, a lot of the people who had shown up for the first half had left already. I can't blame them - that 2nd quarter was ugly. But it was still quiet. When the action switched around to the other side and I was near the Knicks' offense, I could hear every time someone slammed into Melo's massive man-chest (Trevor Ariza was a frequent offender). It was just bizarre.

I bet you wanna know who gives the loudest high-fives on the team. It's Kurt Thomas by a long shot.

Preseason Joy #2: Rock Bottom Expectations

Last night's big no-one-cares-if-we-win-or-lose experiement for Woodson was Henry Sims. There were two guys in the next section over who went to high school with him, or something like that, and they just groaned with every misstep. When Sims checked into the game, Kidd went to him on the first two consecutive plays, and Sims turned it over both times. I suppose Kidd knew Sims was on the bubble, so time and time again Jason fed him the ball, and he was very rarely even able to get a shot up. He bobbled rebounds, and was just about the most visibly uncomfortable Knick I've seen since Anthony Randolph.

Shurna played a little bit better; he added some decent defense, which for him means he kinda sticks both arms up in the air and sticks his chest out - it's just as idiosyncratic as his jump shot but weirdly effective, as indicated by Kevin Seraphim air-balling a hook in the paint. He bobbled some rebounds (the theme of the night), and his shots looked good but they just didn't go. Same with Mychel Thompson, although his shots were much further off; 3 of them didn't even hit the rim (although one was a bail-out at the end of the shot clock). Sims made all of them look decent in comparison. Somebody needs to buy that man a beer.

But that's part of the joy of the preseason - no one cares (except these guys, and I guess their moms and friends). And where else do you get to see a bunch of regular dudes playing with the Hall of Fame roster that is the Knicks? (Seriously, the Knicks have 3 decent HOF candidates on the team, provided Melo can ever get deep into the playoffs on a consistent basis).

And speaking of rock bottom expectations, I did not have high hopes for the point guard rotation either, but they all contributed at a fair level. I've been waiting to see Felton in action, and he's lost his baby-that-ate-another-fat-baby fat. He was quick and active, but wasn't particularly creative with distributing the ball. Essentially, he hasn't gotten any better than he was in 2010, but he's no worse either. Not bad for half of what the Knicks paid him that year.

Kidd and Prigioni (Prishioni? Pridjioni? Prejeebeejee? The stadium announcer was just fucking with us) both looked good, which is nice, since they're both older than Mike Bibby. Kidd especially - if he's lost a step, he makes up for it by not wasting a single movement. I want to hate him so bad, but it's going to be hard. Both of them know exactly when to slap at the ball, not to get a steal, but to let the ball-handler know that a vicious slap is coming if he tries to drive. Veteran savvy.

Preseason Joy #3: Awkward

Late in the 2nd, Felton and Thompson both went up to close out on a Bradley Beal three. They collided on the ground, and Thompson was so pumped he kinda gave Felton a shove into the Wizards bench. What the fuck, Thompson? SAME TEAM. Felton kinda shrugged his shoulders and went down the court and got an and-1 on the other side.

Chandler didn't seem to go back to the locker room at halftime; instead, he stayed on the court and put up a couple shots, and posed for some fans on the sideline. Then he walked around in a circle, vigorously rubbing his chest under his warmups, asking a ballboy for the ball - no wait, he's rubbing his chest again. No, now he wants the bal-- wait, he's back to rubbing his chest. At one point he licked his hands and rubbed his chest some more. I don't know what was going on. Anyway, if Chandler is a secret mid-range jumper savant as some people here surmise, I didn't see it last night. He shot with no defender from a variety of spots, and only made a couple. Then he tried some drives to the post. His dribbling and movement looked surprisingly great (seriously, he looked as agile as Eddy Curry, which is a complement), but he wasn't able to finish off any of those moves. Like every one bounced out. It was bad.

And no recap of awkwardness would be complete without mentioning Earl Smith. At one point, he doinked a behind the back pass to Novak in the corner, and they both rushed to take credit for the mishap. There was an immediate "oops sorry" from both of them, then a high-five at mid-court, then another lo-five on the other end. I guess what you can take away from all this is that they're still best friends both on and off the court. They will make a police comedy movie together, only instead of playing good cop/bad cop, they'll play good cop/goofy cop. They'll take turns being the goofy one.

But in general, Smith was all over the place. If Kidd never wastes a single movement, Smith is like an overactive gnat. This was my first time seeing him play in person, and I'm in love. The man is just so athletic and good with the ball, but he's like a puppy that wags his tail so hard to it kinda freaks him out and he has to go check that out, but wait there's still that other thing he's excited about. If Earl wasn't my co-favorite Knick with Chandler before this game, he is now.

Despite playing OK, Jan Vesely for the Wizards looked miserable in the game as well. He scowled the whole time, and the only time he smiled was after he gave Chandler a flagrant. Which is kinda badass.

Preseason Joy #4: I know so much more than that idiot coach

I mean, obviously I don't, but preseason is the time of year when expectations run high, and the second any of your hopes are dashed, you look to the problem. Hell, there was a minute where Sims was out there where I seriously wondered how I would play in this game. I would have less than 30 turnovers, that's for sure.

But anyway, I was hoping for a flurry of coordination among the frontcourt. I wanted to see Melo drawing two defenders, bouncing it to STAT on the opposite shoulder, who would then float a perfect oop to Chandler. Well obviously Amar'e was out, but none of those things really happened. Chandler and Melo both saw limited minutes, and when Melo went through screens down low, he mostly flashed out to the 3-point line. I'd like to see more curls and double screens where Melo ends up unguarded on the shoulder. But baby steps - the ISO-Melo we saw last year only popped up once or twice, and in general the ball movement was good, but Melo still wasn't letting his teammates make his job any easier.

There were two plays I saw where Melo and Chandler coordinated on offense inside, one where Chandler set up Melo, and one the other way around. Both of them led to open shots under the basket, and the Wizards were forced to foul.

One last bit on this: I know Woody is trying to get Smith to play off the bench, but seriously - if Shumpert and Brewer aren't back by opening day, I really hope he gets the start.

Well, that's my recap of a thoroughly enjoyable who-gives-a-shit game of preseason Knicks basketball. I've got more - for example, the Wizards Girls dance team was bizarrely dressed like Mrs. Claus - but I'll just leave you all by saying that I love the preseason. I hope you enjoyed.

Note: Washington DC Irving also has a very cool recap as well. We ALL want to know what kind of gum it is:

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