These are the times that try the soul of an NBA fan. The FIBA World Cup -- that wonderful summer tease -- is over, and our appetite for basketball remains as voracious as ever. The preseason will be here soon...but not soon enough!
It is during these early autumn days when the mind can start to play tricks on you. The memories of last season are faded, unreliable. That junky itch -- that jonesing for basketball of any type -- starts to overwhelm your common sense.
With that in mind, let me just say that I genuinely miss watching Andrea Bargnani play basketball. Hang with me for a moment...I swear I'm not crazy. The Knicks were clearly better with him off the floor last season, both in terms of in-game plus/minus and the vastly improved win-loss record after his season ended due to injury. He sucks, and I know it.
Still, I miss the big guy.
It dawned on me just how much I miss him last week when I watched this viral video of two MMA fighters kick each other in the balls at the exact same moment during a fight:
Is this not the perfect microcosm of the Andrea Bargnani experience? It inspires the same type of existential questions -- Should I feel bad for enjoying this? Should this even be considered "sports" -- and yet it is impossible to stop watching.
Enjoying a vintage Bargs performance isn't as simple as watching a NASCAR race just for the crashes -- crashes happen all the time, it is to be expected. You can walk into a Bargs game and know what's going to happen, only that whatever happens is going to be truly fucking absurd.
On any given night, Bargs might invent the dumbest shot in the history of mankind. He might embarrass Dwight Howard...with his defense. He might injure himself by trying to dunk from Dr. J distance (He injured himself doing the same thing when he played in Toronto, by the way).
He might do this:
I must have watched this Vine 1,000 times. Have you ever noticed how he briefly shows the ball to Bismack Biyombo right before he goes up for the lay-in? That's cold, Bargs...colder than the water of Lake Como in January.
Can I be real for a second? I mean, can I be really real? I know we New York fans like to obsess over the concept of what makes a true Knick. That being the case, Bargnani had a stronger case for true Knickitude than any other player last year.
Here is my criteria for a true Knick, in order:
- Get ejected for shit-talking Kevin Garnett.
Just watch the following video and try not to smile:
Watching Bargnani ball can be equally as fascinating as watching Kevin Durant. With Durant, we can exhilarate in seeing a nearly superhuman level of athletic grace for a man of his height. Bargs provides viewers with the opposite experience: The chance to observe a 7-foot human who moves like his brain was placed into his body 15 minutes before the opening tip.
The rational part of my brain knows all too well that Bargnani should not see the floor next year. I break out into a cold sweat when I hear Phil Jackson make statements like this regarding the big Italian:
"He's overlooked. We think he's going to really do well in the system we have," Jackson said of Bargnani on MSG Network during the second quarter of the Knicks' 95-72 Summer League victory over Charlotte. "We have a couple of guards he likes to play with, Jose (Calderon) and Pablo (Prigioni), and I think he's going to be a surprise and a pleasant one for our fans."
...if i may quote my friend:
Dude hasn't been an above-average three-point shooter since 2009-10. Opponents blatantly sagged off him last year, daring him to shoot...which was a serious problem for a player whose sole value is supposed to come from stretching the floor. It was no coincidence that the Knicks ranked 19th in efficiency during the first 42 games of the 2013-14 season (with Bargs), and ranked fourth in final 40 games (after Bargs).
Certainly a man as well-read as Phil Jackson is familiar with the concept of hubris. You may be the Zen Master, but you're not a friggin' warlock.
Look, Andrea Bargnani is going to play more than he should next season, as he has for the past five years. It is his curse. He didn't ask to be the No. 1 overall pick. He will play too many minutes, miss too many shots, blow too many defensive assignments. Our only hope is that the new regime recognizes this quickly...like, say, by the end of the preseason.
Before Jackson and Derek Fisher wise up and stick him on the bench, however, we can hope for at least one more beautiful Bargs moment.