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P&T October Mailsack, pt. 2: Regarding Hornacek, handchecking & Justin Holiday

More mailbag!

NBA: New York Knicks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

In part one of this mailbag, we pondered potential frontcourt running mates for Kristaps Porzingis. Today it’s round two, beginning with a question that either takes on more or less urgency the longer the Knicks are winless.

  • Going, going...gone? Melo’s Bucket Hat Collection writes:

What does the P&T contributor's board think of Jeff Hornacek's merits as a coach, in terms of in-game adjustments and planning? Will he play out his contract? [D]o you see a scenario in which he’s extended? Can he keep the locker room in line during what is bound to be a very rough season? Is there anything substantial in the Steve Mills/David Blatt connection?

Here’s all you need to know about what P&T’s writers think of Jeff Hornacek: I posed MBHC’s question to the entire crew. These sickos spend much of their 24/7 fixated on all things Knicks. You know how many responsed? One. Jonathan Schulman wrote, ”Hornacek is a true-blue size medium. You have to just hope he was handcuffed to last year's radiator.”

Remember the 2016 preseason? After the Knicks gave up 130 to the Rockets, Hornacek said: “We usually get to the scouting reports, maybe the last three exhibition games. We have our basic principles and that was what was probably disappointing was that our principles that we talked about … we didn’t do those.”

The Knicks were too busy doing other things to have worked on defense even after the preseason had begun! When they finally did focus on D, the players raised a (valid) objection to not getting any work against pick-and-rolls, something the entire league runs most of the time now, because the Knick offense was always running the Triangle. Even Brandon Jennings — not exactly Patrick Beverly on that side of the ball — was sounding the alarms: “We definitely didn’t talk [or] communicate … We weren’t really ready, honestly.”

We weren’t really ready.

Later that same season, after giving up 69 points in the first half to Houston and then 67 in the first half in their next game against The Showtime Lakers The Seven Seconds or Less Suns the Steph Curry/KD Warriors perennial lottery-losers Orlando, Hornacek said “Maybe we’re just not capable” of stopping teams.

This year’s cringeworthy claim?

I offer Jeff the same advice we give our five-year-old when she pouts: “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Once, at work, I had my lesson plan for an 80-minute class all nice and tidy and ready to go, only there was this loud, grating, gnashing, incessant noise coming from pipes in the ceiling, like Jacob Marley was wrestling the Iron Giant. My students and I literally couldn’t hear each other speak. I had to find the building maintenance guy, then I had to find someone with a key who could let us into a new classroom, then I had to get my students to gather all their stuff and move somewhere new. When we arrived in the new room and settled in, there was a little under an hour of class time left. Know what I did? I adjusted the lesson plan. Know what I didn’t do? Act shocked when the class didn’t learn everything I’d hoped they would in 80 minutes. Because there was no 80 minutes.

I’m not as Xs-and-Os hip as Schulman or Dillon Dente, a.k.a NewYorkBasketballObserver. Based off the Detroit game last week, I don’t view Hornacek as an adjustments savant. I think this season is an unusually difficult balancing act for an organization that needs to appease Kristaps Porzingis so he doesn’t jump ship, yet also needs to lose enough to take advantage of what could/hopefully will be their last high-lottery trip for the foreseeable future. The only head coach who’s ever lasted more than two years under James Dolan was Mike D’Antoni, who was given two years to lose while the team cleared the books to make a run at a guy with knees so bad no one would offer him an uninsured max deal LeBron James. So while from 1991 to 2017 I have never advocated for any Knick coach to be fired besides Grievous Wormtongue (for the culture) and Mike Woodson (for plagiarizing the season D’Antoni should’ve had here), I’d say there’s a better chance of Carmelo Anthony being here next year than Hornacek; since players can smell blood before the rest of us, I doubt he has meaningful authority in the locker room. And yes, I have a feeling David Blatt will be the next Knick coach to ignore Frank Isola at his introductory press conference.

With all these injuries happening to players, do you think there’s anything to the idea that the injuries are worse now that there’s no hand checking? Like the game was more physical back in the day and so there [was] better [defense], less scoring…now these dudes fly around more and have these injuries more often? I don’t know. I might be crazy.

Read some Erich Fromm before you self-diagnose as crazy, my friend. Odds are it’s the society we live in that’s off the rails, not you.

I suspect injuries seem more commonplace because players are more assertive regarding their health and careers, and because teams are starting to pay salaries that go as high as $40M per season, and so they camouflage profiteering beneath a thin veneer of humanity and are more proactive regarding rest and recovery. You know what Michael Jordan made over his career?

Apparently Jordan was an unpaid intern in 1986-87, but you get the drift. Russell Westbrook will make more in 2.25 seasons under his next contract than MJ did in SIXTEEN YEARS — and that’s with Jordan making two-thirds of his entire career earnings just between 1996 and 1998. You know that as the league’s centerpiece attraction every night from his rookie year through 1998, with many of those years featuring MJ getting tough love from the PIstons and Knicks, with every opponent he lined up against looking to make a name for themselves, Jordan took shots. Repeatedly. Did the organization cut him some slack to maximize his effectiveness? Or did they throw him out there every night and make him earn every below-market penny? Check out Jordan’s games played and minutes per as a Bull.

Other than an injured foot that cost him most of his sophomore season and an abbreviated “I’m back” post-Birmingham Barons 1995, Jordan played pretty much all night, every night. His last year in the league, as a 40-year-old Wizard, he averaged 37 minutes a game! In the last 10 years, only four Knicks ever averaged 37+ minutes per, and all were on the right side of 30 and did so only once: Carmelo Anthony (29), Raymond Felton (26), David Lee (26) and Jamal Crawford (27).

Players aren’t getting injured anymore now than they used to. But the rich (players) and the wealthy (owners) don’t get rich and wealthy from being flip with their revenues. The rich and the wealthy horde that shit by any means necessary, whether it’s resting people, exploiting people, or killing people. Behind every great fortune is a great crime.

  • I’d go further back in time and re-sign Jeremy Lin. Care of Ricardo Albuquerque, via Twitter:

You mean would the Knicks ever find themselves a two-guard who can actually shoot, have him on a cheap deal, then say sayonara, only for him to establish himself with some other Eastern Conference team, then re-sign him down the road for considerably more money? Again? Anything is possible, Ricardo!

You've been kidnapped and strapped to a chair in a dank basement. You have no idea where you are, only that it’s dark and moist and unpleasant. Your captor lifts your blindfold, hands you a burner phone with every present-day Knicks’ phone number in it, and tells you that you can only call one of them. If the Knick can get there in the next 12 hours, you live. If not, he feeds you to the giant rabid capybara chained up in the corner of the room. Which Knick do you call?

Frank Ntilikina. I wanna disappear from that hellhole, and in this early hellhole of a season Frank’s the disappearingest Knick of them all.

  • Et tu, Chiniqua?

Let me answer with a short short story:

Late September. Bases loaded. Bottom of the ninth. Three balls and two strikes. Two outs. Over and over the pitcher throws his hardest fastball; over and over, the batter fouls them all off. After the eighth foul, the crowd cheers both men’s refusal to yield. After the sixteenth, fans turn in their seats, marveling in joy and wonder with complete strangers -- who’da thunk it?! After the nineteenth, a cloud in the shape of the future floats by, unnoticed; by morning it resembles a love song. After the thirtieth, an uneasy hush falls over all but the very young and very old, the former still teething on the lie that nothing need ever end, the latter too dreaming to care. After the forty-fourth, the home plate ump thinks of his ex-wife, unaware she’s there, in the stands, wondering how to tell him something she spent years mouthing, then resenting, and only now accepting. After the sixty-seventh, the on-deck batter remembers the time he was seven years old and his father announced plans to skip church and take the family to a ballgame, arguing if God is love and God is everywhere, Oughtn’t He oughta be there alongside us?, his mother hotly hissing There’s no home runs in Hell. Today the son suspects his old man was onto something -- some dramas are unending for good reason. After the seventy-eighth foul, the manager figures it’s time for a pitching change. As he rises from the bench a siren sounds, its song looping up and down and criss-cross, like a sideways eight. He sits. A hawk swoops toward a vole who will reincarnate as a war criminal. A single drop of rain falls from the sky, cursing its comrades for their diffidence. Nine days later, it will forgive them. It always does. The dying light of a long-dead star says its peace, then vanishes within the false dawn of the outfield floodlights. The pitcher gets the signal from the catcher, shakes him off once, twice. The hitter asks for time. An aspiring meteorite considers stopping by unannounced, then remembers she already has other plans.

That’s it for this edition of the P&T Mailsack. Sleep well. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Never stand too close to the subway tracks.