For the past three years, summer + P&T = the Punchies, an award show based on the classic 1980’s NES game Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! devoted to the Knicks, the numbers, the nuts who follow the team and the narratives swirling around both. This year we’re unearthing a new format based on another classic 1980s NES game, Castlevania; specifically, the current-day Netflix series, which is soooo so good. Below you’ll find a series of quotes from the show, each connecting in some way to something Knick-related.
If we were doing this with the Lakers, it’d look like this:
“It will take me one year to summon an army from the depths of Hell itself.” — Dracula
Think this premise is a reach? Not the late-July deep dive into Trey Burke’s numbers defending corner threes in the final four seconds of the shot clock during odd-numbered quarters of road games on the second night of back-to-backs you were hoping for? Wake up, friend. The undead are all around us. Closer than you think.
Let’s do it to it.
“He’s the one we’ve been waiting for.” — Sypha
“No. He’s not.” — Trevor
The Chicken Littles would apply this exchange to Frank Ntilikina after last year’s mixed performance, but the villain in Castlevania, Dracula, isn’t content sucking the occasional dowager’s neck. This is Old Testament Dracula, out to kill every person on the planet. Gotta think bigger. This exchange goes out to Kristaps Porzingis.
Not because I don’t think Porzingis has what it takes to be a cornerstone of New York’s future. But because cornerstones, variable as they are, share one essential quality: they’re there. KP has missed 60 games over his three-year career and could miss 60 more next year recovering from his torn ACL. When he returns doesn’t matter; the Knicks are fine developing the youngsters and gaining ping pong balls for what’s hopefully their last lottery for a while. What matters is that whenever Porzingis returns, he finishes strong.
“For evil bastards to win power, all ordinary people have to do is stand aside and keep quiet. There’s always a choice.” — Trevor
The Atlantic Division is a beast. A Toronto team that won 59 games upgraded from DeMar DeRozan to Kawhi Leonard (if healthy, natch). Philadelphia is a jambalaya of youth and talent seasoned with some playoff success. Boston is better than both, more seasoned (only Golden State and Cleveland won more playoff series the last two years), and has the pieces to be front-runners in any trade talks.
Rarely do the Knicks appear to be planning or functioning at a competent level, much less both, so (knocks on wood/crosses myself/wears boxers made of rabbits’ feet) it’s worth commending the current powers-that-be for what appears to be a wise approach to sustaining success. Under Phil Jackson the organization finally stopped pissing away draft picks in short-sighted stabs at long shots.
If this year’s team was your typical Knicks, they’d be over the cap, missing next year’s first-round pick, at best a dark horse for the 8th seed, at worst just good enough to not be bad enough to get a high enough draft pick to make them gooder faster. Instead, there’s cap space. Next year could/should be their third year in a row drafting in the top-10.
The last time the Knicks did that was 1977-79. Two of those draft picks, Bill Cartwright and Ray Williams, played supporting roles in the Bernard King-led team five years later that pushed the Celtics to seven games; a third, Micheal Ray Richardson, was an All-Star three of his first four years in New York, before personal demons took his career elsewhere.
These Knicks are not a threat to anybody anytime soon. But instead of fronting, they’re building for the future. Yes, they’re standing aside — but with purpose. Hello? Knicks marketing department? Have I got a slogan for you!
“One cannot live without God. Quite literally, in these days.” — The Bishop of Gresit
If it’s better to be lucky than good, it’s best to enjoy divine intervention. A lot of breaks fell the Knicks’ way to end up with Porzingis in 2015 and not Jahlil Okafor or Willie Cauley-Stein or Emmanuel Mudiay. Ntilikina tantalized on one end of the floor already, which is one more end than Malik Monk has so far. If summer league is worth a damn, Kevin Knox could turn out to be another June blessing.
The Knicks will most assuredly be in the lottery next summer. Couple a successful selection then with a healthy KP, a gaggle of upside-having cap-friendly young talents plus enough cap space to sign a difference-maker, and the long-promised Promised Land may finally be within reach.
“The bishop will sort things out. The city has — not to put too fine a point on it — gone to Hell.” — Gresit resident
I remember the summer between high school and college as one of the best times of my life. One major life constraint was behind me, and the unknown next chapter was still a few months off. That whole summer was just endless ease. I imagine that’s how David Fizdale’s summer has been.
He’s out there doing this thing, sharing glimpses of the good life on social media. Looks like fun. He lost his last job and didn’t know if he’d ever get another chance. He has. He should enjoy it. Because the honeymoon is going to end, sooner than later and rougher than anyone expects.
That’s always the case here. From 1991-2001, minus a few months of Don Nelson, the Knicks were led by two men who took the team to the Finals. Since then, the only coach to win a playoff series is Mike Woodson. Fans are used to Knick coaches disappointing, and not just CV-less nobodies like Derek Fisher and Jeff Hornacek. Don Chaney was a one-time Coach of the Year. Lenny Wilkens and Larry Brown are Hall of Fame coaches; like it or not, Mike D’Antoni will be one day, too. All came with various hype. All left having failed.
Fizdale is enjoying the backup quarterback glow these days. He wasn’t the problem last year, and that’s enough for people to feel better. I hope for his sake the team gets off to a good start. If not, and they’re something like 12-28 halfway through the season, David Fizdale becomes a guy with a losing career record whose only success was winning 43 games one time and whose legendary people skills plus a dollar will buy him a copy of the newly emaciated Daily News the day he’s fired.
If the Knicks struggle under Fizdale, troglodytes will subject Natasha Sen to the Anna Benson treatment. Sort shit out, Fiz. Sooner the better.
“I refuse, however, to toil so hard for the soul of the city with an ex-communicant heretic within its walls.” — The Bishop of Gresit
Someone say “ex-communicant heretic”?
Looking guapo, Willy!
“I don’t care.” — Trevor
Trevor Belmont, the hero in Castlevania, says this more than once; apathy is a long-running theme with Trevor. Apathy would be a good long-running mindset to apply to the 2018-19 Knicks. At least as far as any destination, and to some extent even the journey itself, it’s best to keep the big picture in mind. Don’t get too focused now, and don’t get delusional later.
This is not a playoff team. If they start out 14-10, or 16-13, or 22-22 or any pleasantly surprising number......don’t believe the hype. There will be wins, probably a few dozen, and these should be cherished as one does sunny days in winter. But there will be many, many losses, each a seed planted that will hopefully grow into the four-digit combination that nets a top-three pick in next year’s draft.
Frank Ntilikina will score 20 points one night, then zero the next. Kevin Knox will look like Rashard Lewis one quarter, then Richard Lewis the next. Porzingis will return, play surprisingly well, then look terrible. Ron Baker will play. This, too, shall pass. Try not to care. It’s as true in Wallachia as it is here in the real world: sometimes the fastest way to get where you want is falling.
“This is an empty box.” — Blue Fangs
This quote goes out to Madison Square Garden. They should stop calling it the “Mecca,” because Mecca is the last city on Earth that would let itself be defiled by outsiders the way the Knicks are at MSG. New York has a losing record at home the past five years and 10 of the past 13. I say it every year after the first big home win, and I don’t expect this team to do much besides learning and lumping, but I really believe it: you’ll know the Knicks are back when the Knicks owning their home floor is back.
“I give you one year, Wallachians. One year.” — Dracula
Dracula gives the people of Wallachia one year’s notice before he pledges to kill them all for burning his scientist wife at the stake after she’s falsely accused of witchcraft. With the Knicks, it’s Scott Perry and Steve Mills being granted a year-long reprieve before judgment cometh. Their stakes don’t involve stakes, thankfully. But the winds of change blow cold and quick at 33rd and 8th.
So far, Perry and Mills haven’t done anything stupid. That’s good! Evolving from habitual failure to functional normality means cutting down the dumb. They’ve done that. The next step in the good ship Knicks’ voyage to success is the tricky one: converting all them hopes into concrete reality, whether via a bona fide star a la Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, a bona fide prospect a la Zion Williamson or R.J. Barrett, or both. Both would be fine.
The last time the Knicks went big-game hunting, dreams of a New York LeBronaissance yielded four months of Amar’e Stoudemire. Perry and Mills haven’t struck out, but they haven’t taken too many swings yet. A year from now what will the story be?
“God shits in my dinner once again.” — Trevor
There’s going to be a game next season where this is the perfect game thread quote for the recap. Remember it. Make it happen, people.