I know nothing about basketball.
Sure, I like to think I know a thing or two. I'm a man of reasonable intelligence and fancy book-learnin'. I type and speak many sentences filled with grammar and syntax and multisyllabic words...words about a sport which I assumed to be basketball.
I held certain Knicks truths to be self-evident. Patrick Ewing = good. Mardy Collins = bad. The small-ball lineups have worked fairly consistently over the past three seasons. Clyde wears cool suits.
But I have found a new truth, my friends. Derek Fisher has shown it to me. I do not understand any of it...only that it is true. And maybe the truest truths are the ones that seem like nonsense.
Say what you will about Fisher's predecessor, but Mike Woodson's lineups and tactics at least followed a pattern -- Melo should be iso'ed, screens should be switched, East should be big, CAA clients should get to do whatever they want. Say what you want about the tenants of Woodsonism, dude...at least it's an ethos.
But the Fisher method? Is there even a method there? Players go in and out of the rotation seemingly at random. They go big, then small, then big again. Shooters get hot, then they are benched for 20 minutes. I've never seen anything quite like it in all my life.
Just look at the lineups Fisher has used to close out the last four games -- all four very winnable, all four ultimately lost:
- 12/02, vs. Brooklyn: Jose Calderon, Iman Shumpert/Shane Larkin, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Cole Aldrich. (Note: Aldrich would go on to play 3:39 total over the next three games.)
- 12/04 vs. Cleveland: Calderon, Shumpert, Larkin, Melo, Amar'e.
- 12/05 vs. Charlotte: Pablo Prigioni, J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., Melo, Amar'e.
- 12/07 vs. Portland: Pablo, J.R., Melo, Jason Smith, Amar'e. (Note: Aldrich and Larkin -- two players given critical crunch-time minutes five days earlier -- both wound up with the dreaded DNP-CD.)
Lineups upon lineups upon lineups flashing before my eyes! Which are right? Which are wrong? What do I believe anymore? Big lineups against Brooklyn -- so the East is big? Small lineups against Cleveland and Charlotte -- so the East isn't big? Leaving in the Hardaway/Melo/Stoudemire defensive troika for defensive purposes on Friday night against Charlotte means we're trying to tank, correct? And what of Jason Smith?
What. Of. Jason. Smith????
The poor schmuck was abused down low by LaMarcus Aldridge, so he switched defensive assignments with Amar'e...but stayed in the game. For what? For why? It was all but inevitable that Robin Lopez would clown Smith for the game-clinching offensive rebound.
Here's what Fisher had to say after the game:
Fisher: "Our guards can help our bigs in some of those offensive rebounding situations."— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) December 8, 2014
You know who is a guard? Iman Shumpert. He grabs a higher percentage of defensive rebounds than Jason Smith. You know who else is a guard? Jose Calderon...who also grabs a higher percentage of defensive rebounds than Jason Smith.
JOSE FREAKIN' CALDERON IS A BETTER REBOUNDER THAN THIS CLOWN WHY IS HE IN THE GAME AHHHH AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
Suddenly, the room is quiet. It all seems so clear now. Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher aren't merely tanking; they are breaking down the very foundations of our basketball understanding -- fans, the players, and media alike -- and reshaping it. This season sure as hell isn't winning -- because they sure as hell aren't doing that. And it isn't about developing players for next season, either -- otherwise the likes of Larkin, Hardaway and maybe even Aldrich would be getting consistent minutes. No, this season is about mental reconditioning.
Think of it as the reconditioning from A Clockwork Orange, only with ultra-violence replaced by really crappy basketball.
Does this quote from early October...
Derek Fisher says he hopes to settle on a consistent starting five rather than shifting lineups based on matchups. #Knicks— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) October 2, 2014
...contradict this quote from early December?
Fisher states that ideally he'd like to have a consistent starting lineup "but you need to be flexible and adaptable in this league."— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) December 2, 2014
Only if you try to look at and comprehend the meaning of those words by mentally interpreting the characters or symbols of which they are composed. You need to forget about words like "comprehend" and "meaning." Instead, let the deluge of seemingly random lineups wash over you like a warm Caribbean rain shower. Trust that the Triangle will turn the five fingers of Jason Smith's hand into a fist of pure starlight, breaking through the ceiling of selfishness and intolerance until the Knicks have climbed the mountain of teamwork and trust. Losses are wins. Wins are bourgeois. THE KNICKS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AT WAR WITH EASTASIA.
I feel now a sense of peace and contentment for the first time in my life. I no longer worry about running more pick-and-roll or mid-range jumpers or Jason Smith.
Won't you come and join us, brothers and sisters? Cast aside your tired notions of what basketball should be, and embrace the warmth of Fisher-thought.