Welcome to the first P&T mailbag! Thanks to everyone who wrote in; if you have a question or idea you’d like to see picked up, share it in the comments or hit me up on Twitter or email. Some questions will be answered today (in part 1), others tomorrow (in part 2), still others next week, some someday and some not at all. Such is life. Here we go with part 1..
- From the “Could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that he himself could not eat it?” department of brain teasers, Adampresent writes:
What do you think would be considered a "successful season" for the Knicks this year?
Ask not for why you root for your team, adampresent, but rather for when. If you’re rooting in the present, a successful season means:
- Kristaps Porzingis committing fewer, better fouls while establishing himself as a #1 option of offense and a better defender (more on that below),
- Frank Ntilikina contributing 20+ legit minutes a night,
- Tim Hardaway Jr. becoming the Knicks’ best starting two-guard since Allan Houston,
- Willy Hernangomez maintaining his production while upping his minutes from 18 per game to somewhere near 30,
- The offense upping both its pace and efficiency while embracing transition and three-point baskets,
- The defense improving from “flaming bag of feces defiling our eyes on a nightly basis” to “rabbit poop’s not that bad, as far as poop goes,” and
- Winning 37-40 games.
Vegas would bet against it, especially without knowing whether Carmelo Anthony is still a Knick come opening night, come 2018, come post-trade deadline, etc., and what mindset he’ll be in if he’s still a Knick. Kevin Pelton predicts 32 wins for New York. If Melo’s dumped for cap room and/or draft picks, it’d seem the Knicks would regress from last year’s 31 wins.
I don’t think we should discount just how miserable and dysfunctional things grew in Phil Jackson’s final season in power. The coach and the players felt handcuffed by Big Chief Golden Parachute’s Triangle worship; it stands to reason Jeff Hornacek will be a better coach when he’s doing Jeff Hornacek things instead of things he never did as a player or head coach. I’m also willing to bet the combination of the holdovers feeling liberated and the new additions being free of the stank of Obsession By Phil will create a team that, however limited, at least shows some joy for life. Joy begets liveliness; liveliness begets energy; energy begets Ws.
Porzingis exists, and from all accounts in increasing buffness. Hardaway earned 4.8 win shares last year and his numbers are on the ascent, whereas Courtney Lee was 4.2 and has been dropping steadily for years. If Anthony is still on the team, he still has the ability to get 20 points in his sleep, only now everyone from the front office to his teammates knows the clock is ticking on his run, so it should be easier for the action to start swinging more toward the young guys; conversely, not structuring everything around Melo could increase his efficiency. This year’s two top rookies, Ntilikina and Damyean Dotson, should? could? combine to contribute more than last year’s class of five (Hernangomez, Ron Baker, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Marshall Plumlee, Chasson Randle). By present-day standards, anything over 36 wins is a success.
If you’re all about the future, you root for the San Diego Tank Dude to drive cross-country, scoop up every Knick besides KP and Ntilikina and keep them all locked away until New York lands a top pick in next year’s draft lottery.
Forget top-8 in the East. The Knicks are pretty much a lock to finish fourth in the division: Boston’s a possible conference favorite, Toronto’s heir to the 1980’s Milwaukee Bucks/1990’s Cleveland Cavaliers/21st-century Atlanta Hawks as the East’s new “Jan Brady,” and Philadelphia’s Neo raising hopes he’ll land the first jump. Personally, I’m already pumped for next year to be a win-win. Every win is literally a win, and every loss is a little bit more luck come lottery time. Your 2017-18 New York Knicks: Playoff Empty, But The Glass Is Half-Full!
- Not actually a question, but a mention of the 1990s Knicks leads to one. Real Clydes Wear Plaid writes:
Speaking of the 90s Knicks...[c]onsider the correlation between the NBA rule changes (hand-checking in particular) and the ability of NBA offensive systems to exploit it, to the point that...the perfect storm of talent and system have given birth to a Goliath that can’t be beat, and has every franchise in the association operating to create one other team that could possibly beat said Goliath...effectively bringing an end to the sudden uptick in popularity that the league is enjoying. Or simply consider that banning hand-checking is ostensibly the CTE of the NBA.
I wonder what rule change today could impact the game the way killing the hand check did? If you’re unclear on this subject, let Hubie Brown be the Calgon that takes you away.
Hand-checking was abolished to correct a perceived imbalance, namely that defenses enjoyed too much of an advantage against offenses. For, like, ten years, I enjoyed seeing the scoring renaissance, but there were times last year I felt the pendulum has swung too far back toward the offense. The free-flowing children of the old revolutionaries — Doug Moe; Don Nelson; Pringles D’Antoni? They won the war. Their rule is now law. Last season was the first time I ever felt bored at times watching pace-and-space and teams launching 80 threes between them while only connecting on 28% of those shots. Everybody doesn’t play exactly the same way, but enough teams are drinking the Sloan (Conference, not Jerry) Kool-Aid to where what once was cutting edge is def new normal.
When one or two teams have a guard drive to the hoop and pass up a floater in the paint to kick back to a seven-footer who shoots a three, it tickles the brain, sparks the senses; even if it offends, it’s rare enough to be special enough to mean something. Being offended by weirdness means the world is bigger than you ever imagined; being offended by commonality means the world is shrinking. There was once audacity in pulling up from three on a two-on-one. Only the baddest dudes dared try. The world moves on. I know. I’ll still shed a tear for what’s passed. This is why fairy tales end at “they lived happily ever after.” Because everything we love rots and dies.
- Ontological conundrum says “Huh?” A question that arose in a comment section:
Should “Fuck Paul Pierce” be retired?
We’re breaking the fourth wall just by having this conversation. Quirk becomes kitsch becomes tradition, but tradition ain’t anaerobic. It needs oxygen to live. If we’re too self-aware of what we’re doing with FPP, it dies.
People seem to feel strongly about it from both ends, though, a fascinating clash between the endless looping & iterations of comment board culture versus the sudden, insistent absurdity of a would-be meme. It’s like a kaleidoscope fighting a firework. We’re all winners just for being alive to see it, whether it fades or endures.
Until tomorrow, friends.