Rounds one and two of TMKME*T voting were mostly blowouts, but bracket three brought our first few humdingers. Today features the final first-round matchups. After considering joy, misery, dunks, violence and J.R. Smith, we close with unforgettable Knick injuries as well as moments of pure WTF/LOL.
- PATRICK EWING 1998 VS. PATRICK EWING 1999
The P.J. Brown fiasco in the ‘97 playoffs didn’t just cost the Knicks a shot at Chicago in the ECF. It ended up being the last time the Knicks would feature a prime-ish Patrick Ewing. The following season, the Knicks were on a 50-win pace and the Big Fella was playing his most efficient ball in years while averaging the second-fewest minutes of his career. Then, with 24 seconds left in the first half of a game at Milwaukee, it all came crashing down. Literally.
I can never find clear video of this injury. For that I am grateful. This was such a sad moment. Over the prior 10 seasons Ewing played between 76-82 games. Just like that, poof: he’s gone. To downshift from that extended run of excellence to Chris Dudley and Buck Williams and Terry Cummings...it was like driving an Escalade for a decade, totaling it and your insurance company setting you up with a beat-up minivan; three beat-up minivans, really. Not to mention this was the Bulls’ last dance and the Knicks never got a last shot at their decade-long rivals.
Four and a half months later Ewing returned for Game 2 of the Knicks’ second-round series with Indiana. That Pacers team had won 58 games and led New York 1-0 when #33 entered the fray. The Knicks lost Game 2 but won Game 3 led by Ewing’s 19 points, then took Game 4 to overtime before losing and dropping the series in five games. In 1997 the Knicks won 57 games. In 1999 they reached the NBA Finals. In 2000 they nearly got there again. What did we lose out on by losing Ewing in the lost season of 1998?
Fast forward a year and the Knicks, along with a hobbled Ewing, once again faced the Pacers in the playoffs, this time the ECF. The eighth-seeded Knicks entered the series on a five-game winning streak and pushed it to six after taking Game 1 behind 16 and 10 from their big man. A second-half comeback in Game 2 fell short, barely. Down two in the dying seconds, Ewing caught a 70-foot inbounds and was improbably wide open, but couldn’t connect. After the game, the penny dropped: he would miss the rest of the playoffs with an Achilles injury.
The Knicks would win three of the next four to advance to the Finals. But Ewing, like Moses, would not see the promised land. San Antonio’s size overwhelmed the shorthanded Knick frontcourt, and though New York reached the ECF again the next year, Ewing’s last, his days as a sweet-shooting shot-blocking franchise force were gone for good.
One injury ended a decade of brilliance. The other ended the last best chance at a title.
Which injury was more devastating, and therefore more Knicks?
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Patrick Ewing’s wrist in 1998
Patrick Ewing’s Achilles in 1999
- AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE & BACK SPASMS VS. AMAR’E & THE FIRE EXTINGUISHER
In 2011 the Knicks qualified for their first postseason in seven years. Even though they were seeded seventh and facing the defending conference champs in Boston, there were reasons for hope. The team had acquired Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups late in the season, and the summer prior the rebuild began with the signing of Amar’e Stoudemire. “The Knicks are back,” STAT declared. Easy to say. But Stoudemire walked the walk that whole season, and in Game 1 put up 28 on 12-of-18 from the field. And these were not run-of-the-mill makes or first-quarter casual buckets. In the fourth the Knicks lost Billups for the rest of the series to a knee injury. STAT raised his game even higher.
New York would lose late thanks to some truly awful defending on an inbounds, some dubious officiating and a Ray Allen game-winning trey. But with Stoudemire looking unstoppable and Anthony unlikely to shoot 5-of-18 again, hopes were high. Then, warming up for Game 2, Amar’e suffered back spasms. He tried to play through them, but robbed of his explosiveness Stoudemire shot just 9-of-37 the rest of the series as the hated Celtics swept the Knicks.
The following season they were back in the playoffs, this time against Miami. As was the case the year before, there were casualties.
The Knicks got blown out 100-67 in Game 1, then lost Game 2 by 10. Maybe STAT was used to more success while in Phoenix, so losing his first six playoff games in New York got to him. Maybe Melo attempting 41 shots the first two games versus STAT’s 16 got to him (even J.R. Smith got way more looks — 28). Maybe someone slipped some brown acid in Stoudemire’s red wine and the fire extinguisher said something unforgivable. All we know is that after Game 2, Amar’e had had it up to here with something and punched the glass casing around a fire extinguisher and tore his hand up.
Stoudemire was unable to suit up for Game 3. The Knicks replaced him in the starting lineup with Steve Novak, who went scoreless in 22 minutes. STAT returned for the last two games, both losses, where he took 20 shots versus Melo’s 60. Hope someone removed all the glass casings in the arena afterwards. Even without them, Knicks kept going down.
That 2012 season was the last year featuring Stoudemire as a major factor. In 2013 he was inactive the first 30 games and the last 23, and played just 32 minutes over four playoff games. His minutes and shot attempts fell to career lows, and soon he was a bench player. Stoudemire did help bring the Knicks back to the playoffs. Sadly, he wasn’t really ever around to do anything once they got there.
Which Stoudemire injury was more significant?
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The back spasms vs. Boston
The sliced hand vs. Miami
- KP’S ACL VS. ANTONIO MCDYESS’ KNEECAP
Remember this? Were we ever so young?
The momentousness of Kristaps Porziņģis’ torn ACL two years ago is a story that’s still developing. The immediate impact is obvious: that’s the last time Porziņģis suited up for the Knicks; it was the last straw in a string of endless injuries during his tenure in New York; after a 16-13 start in their first post-Carmelo campaign, the Knicks stumbled through a 7-18 stretch leading up to the injury and closed the year 6-22.
The torn ACL wasn’t the death of the hope Porziņģis inspired ever since the team drafted him in 2015, but it was the beginning of the bleed. The true cost of his injury won’t come due until we see what the Knicks make of Dennis Smith Jr., the draft compensation Dallas traded for KP and whether New York is able to take advantage of the cap flexibility they created in the deal.
15 years earlier, another freakishly athletic power forward was lauded as the Next Big Thing at MSG before a knee injury killed the dream. The Knicks missed playoffs in 2001-02, their first postseason absence since 1987. Wanting to fast track their return to relevance, they traded Marcus Camby, Mark Jackson and the lottery pick that could have been Stoudemire but instead became Nenê to the Denver Nuggets for Antonio McDyess. McDyess had played just 10 games the year prior due to a Patellar tendon rupture, so there was always the chance of another serious injury. But while the risk was significant, so was the reward. A healthy McDyess could do things.
After participating in every practice for a month and starting the first three preseason games, McDyess had already played 38 minutes when an exhibition against the Suns reached the last two minutes. Don Chaney kept him on the floor because of course he did. Howard Eisley missed a shot, McDyess dunked the putback, landed awkwardly and broke his kneecap.
That was the third time in 19 months that he’d injure the patella. The following winter he was part of the package that brought Stephon Marbury home. 18 games and a couple of double-doubles: that’s the extent of McDyess’ on-court contributions in New York. It’d be nearly seven years before the Knicks, via Stoudemire, finally landed their first star big man after Ewing.
More damaging injury to the franchise?
This poll is closed
- KP’S ANEMIA VS. KP’S EVERYTHING
This is really a philosophical exercise, like one of those BuzzFeed personality tests. Which form of torture seems more classically Knicks to you? The chronic but non-threatening condition that didn’t result in DNPs but did impact Porziņģis’ performance year after year, or the series of theoretically avoidable maladies that kept coming one after the other and kept him out of the lineup so often? It’s, like, which seems more like a description of being a Knicks fan: Chinese water torture or one thing after another going wrong, without end?
Which drag feels more like your type?
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KP’s everything but the kitchen sink
- ANDREA BARGNANI DUNK ATTEMPT VS. ANDREA BARGNANI FOOLISH THREE-POINTER
The dunk miscarriage speaks for itself. The second clip does, too, though I will add this: I don’t think in 30 years of listening to Walt Frazier call games that I have ever heard him as demonstrably distressed as he was after Bargnani put up that shot against the Bucks.
This poll is closed
Bargnani’s failed dunk
Bargnani’s ill-advised 3
- ANTONIO DAVIS GOES INTO THE CROWD VS. MIKE WOODSON’S “BLAME BENO”
Antonio Davis had a more-than-solid NBA career. Over 13 years he made an All-Star team and was an integral piece of strong teams in Indiana and Toronto, including playoff battles with each against the Knicks. In his final season, Davis played 36 games with New York; his best effort was likely his second-to-last, an overtime loss in Chicago. But it’s not his 16 points anyone remembers from that game. It’s this.
This was about two years after the Malice in the Palace, the night the NBA caught a glimpse of what horrors are unleashed when the invisible line between the players and the fans disappears. Davis went into the crowd calmly to defend his wife against possible assault, which as I type it sounds nothing like “Ron Artest flew into the crowd wildly to attack someone he guessed threw a beer bottle at him.” A physical player, Davis was not prone to violent outbursts. The only time I remember him fighting was when the other guy started it.
Whiteys gonna white, though, so the NBA suspended Davis for five games. After that he played some garbage time in a blowout loss to the Lakers and that was it for AD in NY. Fun fact: the Knicks parlayed the washed Davis into the slightly-less-washed Jalen Rose and a future first-round pick that became this dude.
The other nominee reminds us that J.R. Smith really could have an entire 64-moment bracket unto himself. Remember when he pulled a Bargnani in Houston? The Knicks were 10-21 and desperately trying to get their season on-track. In the last 30 seconds of a tie game, Melo missed a baseline jumper, but Tyson Chandler grabbed the rebound and threw it out to Beno Udrih. Then: this.
The Knicks lost. After the game the reporters, as is customary, asked Coach Mike Woodson about Smith’s obvious brain fart. In a stunning display of “The fuck did he just say?”, Woody resorted to the old “whoever dealt it dealt it” defense, turning the blame on Udrih.
On the end of the Houston game, Woodson said J.R. Smith "went blank," but unsolicited said "Did Beno have to throw him the ball?"— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) January 5, 2014
Four years later in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Smith would go blank at an even more critical junction. I don’t remember Tyronn Lue asking “Did George Hill have to miss the free throw?” I do remember Beno’s all-too-human response to Woodson’s misdirection.
Beno doesn't sound thrilled with absorbing blame from Woodson: "Don't just be a coach, be a person."— Steve Popper (@StevePopper) December 25, 2013
EVEN A COACH SHOULD KNOW HOW MESSED UP THIS WAS!!
Which WTF was the most WTF?!
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Antonio Davis into the crowd
- MICHAEL BEASLEY 11% VS. MICHAEL JORDAN’S DOUBLE-NICKEL
I am a sucker for palindromes. It’s their shape. They remind me of infinity. Speaking of infinite range, two examples. First, Michael Beasley and the infinite range of the human intellect.
You know, I never thought I’d say this to anybody, ever, but regarding Michael and Beasley:
The most interesting part of Beasley’s hypothesis — by which I mean the only interesting part of it — has nothing to do with the content and everything to do with the delivery.
Beasley has been a basketball god for much of his life. He’s earned $40M in the NBA. If Michael Beasley, multi-multi-multimillionaire NBA player, is in the club styled up and spitting this kind of nonsense, people are listening. Someone is even thinking “Not for nothing, but Beasley’s deeper than people think.” If Michael Beasley were a cashier at Popeye’s or stocked shelves at Costco or taught middle school gym class, Taylor Rooks would have maced him and split by now.
But we’re not in that reality. We’re in this one. I don’t understand Beasley. Not as a thinker nor as a baller. It’s rare to see a player as gifted as he is at scoring, period; it’s rarer still to see one that gifted not even start half his career games, or average 20-25 points per 36 minutes the past four seasons yet be out of the league. C’est la Beas.
Our other palindrome was another example of the infinite range of human creativity. Michael Jordan returned to the Bulls in late March 1995. His first few games were stellar for your average outfielder-turned-shooting-guard, but nothing about MJ was ever average. Everyone knew he would still be successful. But would he still be transcendent? In his fourth game back, he had an answer.
In his next game, he shouted that answer from the rooftop. Chicago traveled to New York to face a Knick team that would win 55 games as the league’s top defensive outfit. It had looked like Indiana or Orlando would be their biggest obstacle in returning to the Finals, but if they could win the division those two would have to fight it out in the second round, and the Knicks would get, like, Charlotte or the Jordan-less Bulls. Once MJ returned, the whole Eastern landscape got rougher.
Jordan’s first game at MSG after returning was a national broadcast, one of those electric affairs we don’t see anymore. There were 48 hours of build-up. Jordan could have scored 30 in a loss and it would have been impressive. Could’ve scored 40 in a loss and he’d have heard nothing but praise. As was often the case, Jordan took our expectations and used them as a stepping stool.
Jordan had 20 after the first quarter and 35 at the half. If you saw this game it was like watching Thanos assemble the Infinity Gauntlet. Jordan was the master of the universe. Reality was whatever he wished it to be. He could have beaten the Knicks in any one of a number of ways. The outcome and the entire night was pulled toward his will as if by a whirlpool. And at the bottom of the ocean, we’d find...Bill Freaking Wennington?
Of all the Jordan/Knicks games ever, this may be the Jordan-Knicksiest.
More Knicksy palindrome?
This poll is closed
Michael Beasley’s 11%
Michael Jordan’s 55
- ALEXEY SHVED’S GOD ONLY KNOWS VS. RON BAKER’S FACE GOES BOOM
In its purest form, a WTF and an LOL are indistinguishable. Two sides of one outrageous coin. I can think of no better examples of this unity than Alexey Shved and Ron Baker’s lowest moments as Knicks.
You’d be forgiven for wondering what Shved or Baker were doing in these clips. Not just as far as “What the hell are they doing?!”, but in the larger sense what business they had playing period. Shved was out of the league for good after his brief stint as a Knick, and Baker’s NBA career lasted only three seasons and besides Anthony Davis exorcising his face was most remarkable for somehow extracting a two-year, $9M contract from Phil Jackson that included a player option for the second season. Shved and Baker are both playing in Russia’s VTB United League, Alexey for Khimki and Ron for CSKA Moscow. Both players might be forgotten forever among the Knick faithful if not for two bizarre moments in time.
Which play is more LOL/WTF?
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Alexey Shved’s whatever that was
Ron Baker’s mauled mug
That’s the end of the first round. Final votes are being tallied and we’ll move on to the round of 32 next week. See y’all then.