It wasn’t all dog shit, right? Right? C’mon!
The P&T staff got together, licked some poisonous toads, and retreated back into our own memory banks to pull out our favorite moments of the 2016-17 Knicks season. It got a little weird.
This season wasn't really shitty enough to be dog shit. It was a slightly less disgusting kind of shit, a more palatable variety of excrement. Not exactly horseshit, which is really just grodified grass, and not bullshit, which is loose and revolting. More like civet shit—crappy, sure, but containing little coffee beans of excellence that could brew up into something special. Whew. Sprained a finger on that metaphor. OK. The high points of the season for me were the flashes of greatness from the young players, and the intense crowd devotion they inspired. The early season emergence of Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Willy Hernangomez as a double-double machine, Rooooonnnnn. These are the things that kept the season alive for me.
Don't ask me about individual games, though. I can't remember any.
My top moment of the season was the Jan. 18 win at Boston. First, screw Boston. Second, this game happened just before fans were forced to fully embrace the tank, so this felt important at the time. Courtney Lee came off the bench for (I think) only the second time this season, and he led the bench bros masterfully. I'm kind of hoping that's the role he takes next season. This was also Willy Hernangomez's true breakout game. Big Willy came off the bench (Kristaps and Noah were hurt, Kyle O'Quinn started) and slapped around those tiny green boogers to the tune of 17 points and 11 rebounds. This was the moment when even the skeptics had to acknowledge the big Spaniard could make an immediate impact in the NBA.
I was super young the first time I saw Carrie. My grandmother was cooking and wanted me distracted; flipping through the channels, she came across this film and told me it was a beautiful movie, one I'd enjoy. Looking back, it's clear she had no idea what the movie was. She must've seen Sissy Spacek in an early scene, when everything hasn't gone to hell yet, and assumed it was a sweet story. I still remember how I felt the first time I saw Carrie's arm come out of the grave. It felt like a heart attack, partly because it isn't remotely violent. There's no struggle. It's such a casual gesture. That's where it's power lies. That and the fact that a corpse is grabbing someone it hates.
My favorite moment this year was not Carmelo Anthony's dignified handling of a very public tar-and-feathering. Nor was it Kristaps Porzingis avoiding a sophomore slump. My favorite moment this season came way back in mid-November. Jackie MacMullan interviewed Phil Jackson, which was newsworthy because ever since becoming James Dolan's trophy wife, Phil doesn't do interviews.
If you followed him during his coaching days, you're probably as surprised and disappointed in this as I am. Jackson as interviewee was pointed; manipulative; provocateur. The "Zen Master" nickname didn't come about because of his X's and O's; it came from all the Jedi mind tricks he'd use the media to send to players, coaches, the fans, the commissioner, and the media. He wasn't just successful. He was entertaining. Hella so.
So when Jackson finally opened up again, taking shots among others at old enemies (Pat Riley, Gregg Popovich), old employers (Chicago), current players (LeBron James; Mike Conley), and the modern NBA game itself, it filled the darker elements of my soul with joyful hate. We should have known Phil running the Knicks was never going to end sweetly. He's doing a job he's never done before and being paid like he's already a success at it. He often seems like a jerk, which works because the guy who signs his checks is an even bigger jerk. This was always destined to go to hell.
Phil rekindling old feuds with what may be his final breath as a relevant NBA figure gave us a glimpse of the Phil we thought we were getting three years ago: the iconoclast. The needler. The winner who'd say the things those of us without 13 championship rings wanted to, only no one would hear us because we had no platform. Instead, Jackson doesn't seem to have a plan for the Knicks. He only matters because he mattered, but the aura of invincibility is dead and buried. The living legend is now a relic from a bygone age. But to see that corpse so effortlessly reach out and grab at those it hates? That was fun.
While we sit patiently behind the Rose-hued misadventures and wait for the Kristaps Porzingis-infused total takeover. Those dumbfounding spectacles of tunnel vision can mellow and wash out to sea. Of course, I think it's fair to assume a "healthy" helping of Derrick will run up to our banks very shortly and the beautiful pink flamingos will become drenched in oil, collapsing under a gelatinous ooze that is gritting it's way toward a faded finish line. Just remember that even though his development was stymied, this majestic beast can inhale a dimwitted shrimp. This will never get old, and the replay justly shows every possible angle several times.
My favorite moment of the season was probably the first win over the Bulls, in a homecoming for Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
November 4, 2016 was one of the very few nights on which the Knicks seemed to be firing on all cylinders. None of the starters had a +/- of less than +12 for the game and each contributed in exactly the way we dreamed of back when we thought this team might be something other than the pile of crap it was. Kristaps Porzingis scored a very efficient 27 points, Carmelo Anthony contributed a 25/7/4 line, Rose scored 15 points and dished 11 assists, Noah actually made some shots (7/11 FG and no misses at the FT line!), Courtney Lee did what he does, and even Brandon Jennings played a controlled game off the bench. Everything beautiful is fleeting, and so was this. Especially considering it doomed the Knicks to continue beating Chicago all season, thus robbing New York of some very precious ping-pong balls.