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Pistons 115, Knicks 89: “The end is here”

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The season is over. The tanking, too?

NBA: Detroit Pistons at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Notes:

  • No Blake Griffin for Detroit with everything on the line. No problem. Andre Drummond stepped up for 20 points and 15 rebounds.

21 and 7 dimes for Reggie Jackson, plus one criminal crossover of Henry Ellenson.

27 points on just 14 shots for Luke Kennard.

Entering the final quarter that trio had outscored the Knicks by themselves. At times the Knicks’ best defense was when no Knick was around to defend.

  • No blocks for Mitchell Robinson. The streak is over. The Pistons are a modern-day Al Smith.
  • Mario Hezonja with the goose egg tonight. I wouldn’t mind him coming back on a reasonable contract, but spiritually speaking I can’t think of a better way to remember his run in New York than following three straight career-best efforts with a zero-point, six-turnover bag of flaming poo.
  • What may have been John Jenkins’ final performance as a Knick was undoubtedly his finest. A season-high 16 points, his highest output since 2016, on 6-of-9 shooting.

Even threw in a couple sweet dimes and a nice lefty bank shot and-one.

  • A: The Knicks were missing allll their shots.

Q: Which Knicks?

  • If I’d told you back in October only two Knicks would finish the final game with a positive plus/minus and you guessed Ellenson and Billy Garrett Jr. I’d’ve told you you’re Jesus H. Christ incarnate and you got some work to do on the earthly plane.
  • On one sequence Isaiah Hicks started dribbling from the arc to the hoop and tried to blow past Drummond but could only manage to dribble into and then bounce off Drummond, badly missing a runner. Hardest I’ve laughed all year. I needed that.
  • Drummond is only 25. You could have told me 30 and I would’ve believed you.
  • Kevin Knox played his 75th game of the year. The next time Kristaps Porzingis does that will be the first.
  • No matter how hard I try, I cannot imagine what Knox’s next haircut will look like. It is one of the great unfathomable mysteries in my life.
  • Frank Ntilikina is the hottest knick I ever seen. Like, holy God. Last night he was rocking the blinging earrings on top of his usual sartorial suaveness. That man makes me get all Uma Thurman in the Jack Rabbit Slims bathroom from Pulp Fiction:
  • Hazing the rooks?

I know this isn’t the same as forcing alcohol poisoning on undergrads, or code reds on Marines at Guantanamo Bay, or blindfolding fraternity pledges and spray painting their skulls and pouring water over them so the paint gets in their eyes and blinds them for 72 hours (shout out to my sophomore year roommate). But what the hell is this stupid shit supposed to accomplish? Hazing supposedly keeps rookies in line so they “know their place” and didn’t get too big for their britches too early. Look at the whips them cats is driving! Ntilikina is closer to a bust than a starter even on a lousy team, and if I paid zero income tax I’d have to work over 200 years to make what he’ll gross on his rookie deal — and that’s if his employer doesn’t pick up his option for 2021. I’ll stand a little taller and prouder for our species the day this shit is a relic of our past.

Quoth arckillious: “The end is here.” It is, and in some ways none too soon. Remember when we did our 2018-19 Knick Watchability power rankings? That was less than three months ago. Since that piece came out, here’s what became of the top-10 reasons to watch this team this year:

- Traded
- Inactive since mid-March
- Traded
- Luke Kornet
- Inactive almost half of the season’s second half
- Mitchell Robinson
- Inactive 32 of the last 34 games
- Released
- Kevin Knox
- Lost to Michigan State

A meaningful percentage of fans — shoot, pro’ly players, coaches and management, too — have been ready for this season to end since the Kristaps Porzingis trade, if not since the season began. There’s never been a time like this for this organization. I’ve only seen two prior instances of entering the offseason with any hope for meaningful transformation.

In the summer of 1996, after what passed for tanking in the ‘90s (the Knicks cleared cap space in anticipation of summer spending, winning “just” 47 games and advancing to the second round), there were mild rumors about Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller coming to New York. Instead the Knicks traded for Larry Johnson and signed Allan Houston and Chris Childs and used three 1st-round picks (all between 18 and 21) to draft John Wallace, Walter McCarty and Dontae’ Jones.

In 2010 the Good Place was landing LeBron James; the Bad Place was settling for Carlos Boozer and Joe Johnson. New York ended up in the In-Between Place, signing Amar’e Stoudemire. Their only draft picks that year were consecutive slots in the second round, where they took Andy Rautins and Landry Fields.

The summer of ‘96 was about rebuilding a contender on the fly, and was fairly successful. The summer of ‘10 was about rising after years of slights to the heights, and it was not. This time around, literally everything is in play. The Knicks could draft Zion Williamson, sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving a week later, and add a few solid ring-chasing vets on the cheap, and now we’re talking Canyon of Heroes.

Or they could sign Kemba Walker and no one else, keep their cap space dry for the next big name to become available, draft R.J. Barrett and count on their young talent evolving to make a push for a low-level playoff seed. Or they could miss out on all the big names and again focus on developing the youth while they wait for their ship to come in. The future, at least for a little while longer, will arrive and unfold as it must, no matter our stakes in or feelings about it.

A last note on this past season. First, a Taoist story for you:

An old farmer had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

I covered 62 games this year, a year the Knicks tied their worst record ever. Rough, huh? Maybe. I covered 14 of their 17 wins. Lucky me? Maybe.

Last summer I left a stable but imperfect job to move 400 miles with my family to somewhere smaller and colder, for a less stable and deplorably dehumanizing new job. For the first time in a long time, the future arriving and unfolding as it must is unsettling, since I don’t know where I’ll find myself after it does what it do, and for the first time in my life my kismet doesn’t just affect me, but the two people in the world I love and value the most. Sports has often been an escape, but when you’re covering games because you have to rather than watching when you want to — or tuning out when you don’t — it’s not the same. And when you’re covering a team that’s losing 80% of its games...yeesh.

But while my escape doesn’t hit like it used to, I found some peace through the sense of belonging and purpose that come with the community that exists here at P&T. The other writers here are alternatively hilarious, supportive, distracting and encouraging. Joe Flynn continues in the tradition of The Great And Powerful Seth in supporting virtually every idea we want to try out here. Alex Wolfe is constantly friendly and helpful and manages to toe the line between fun and credible and make it seem natural when it so often is not.

Stingy is the rare two-way talent as a sportswriter: his Xs-and-Os acumen and his wordsmithery are both top-level; to be able to analyze and entertain the way he does makes him what Hubie Brown would call “special, OK?” China Parmalee is in that camp as well. I wish she could write more here than she does, because the more she writes the more lucky I feel to read her stuff.

James Marceda makes me laugh literally all the time. Don’t tell him that because his ego needs zero boosting, but it’s true. Ashwin Ramnath has more voice and edge while asleep than most people do stuck in rush hour. Drew Steele, Benny Buckets, Arden Franklyn, Zach Diluzio, and others I admire but am forgetting because it’s 1:00 a.m. and I’m sleep-deprived and migraine-y and have six essays to grade before I go to work tomorrow morning...this year I’ve really come to appreciate what it means to feel valued and connected with your co-workers. If P&T weren’t what it is, I honestly don’t know how I would have come out of the past 8-9 months.

Same goes for you, person reading this. A handful of you are incorrigible trolls who keep getting banned for basic inhumane shit and somehow have so little shame or pride you just keep recycling rather than going on hiatus and doing some much-needed work on yourself, but the rest of you are really rather lovely. I’ve been writing here for five years and I still get the same rush whenever a piece drops of seeing the comments. Y’all crack me up; y’all make me think; y’all bring perspicacity to our discussions.

This team this century has generally not been fun or interesting. I mean, I’m forever interested and entertained, but you can smoke PCP every day and find shit interesting and entertaining; that doesn’t mean you’re doing yourself any good. You all are forever interesting, and entertaining, and meaningful to me. The best part of this season has been connecting with all of you here. Gracias.

Next game is sometime in October. There are mailbags and Know The Prospects and lottery- and draft-night diaries coming, plus some new ideas for this offseason we haven’t tried before. See you, fam.