Punk!! http://t.co/fwK9Pp22JA— sinbad (@sinbadbad) July 11, 2013
Santa Barbara, California
Associate Editor at Pacific Standard
— From Michael Farber’s August ‘05 Sports Illustrated cover story
I don’t know what is was, exactly.
Part of what makes the NBA great—and maybe even what does it—is how the personalities of everyone involved are so on-display. Basketball’s a pretty bare sport, five guys not in much clothing, bumping into each other, sweating a lot, and trying to put a ball into a metal ring with their hands. And with that there’s this living—or dying, if you’re the Bobcats—vibe that every team uniquely gives off. A bunch of pulsing, very organic and real things, made up of a bunch of other real and organic, um, people. You know, generally, what the Bulls are and you know, generally, what the Nuggets are. Every team’s formed by both immediate and faraway things—a decision made three years ago leads to a team trading for someone whose career seemed to be winding down, but he gets invigorated, and makes that new rookie teammate play better and earn a bigger paycheck, and so on. The Spurs are the Spurs: a roster created with a microscope, a lawn cut with a pair of scissors. And the Heat are that ever-growing, all-consuming flash that sucks in pieces that you’d never expect (Ray Allen) or shouldn’t work (Birdman) and converts them into efficient energy.
The Knicks, though. I don’t know.
It’s the weirdest, not-depressing Knicks roster I can think of. And I’m not sure why. The playoffs, if anything, showed that the Knicks were sort of an accident. A fuck-the-paradigm offense built around a star player whose center never quite stayed put. Two point guards on the floor at their best—and one of them always old. Plus Tyson Chandler, setting picks, looming for alley oops, and being the team’s defense. Everyone else spread out, ready to shoot as soon as the ball touched his hands—or ready to pass the ball on to the next guy ready to shoot as soon as the ball came his way. All from the mind of a defense-first, traditionalist with the most frightening piece of facial hair on Planet Earth.
It seemed a kind of accidental success—the three highest paid guys on the roster don’t shoot threes, and two point guards?—and it probably was. Woodson shied away from those more-open, avant-garde set-ups when he had more at his disposal or when it seemed like he needed to do what he knew. (Also known as: the 2013 NBA Playoffs.) Chris Copeland—an offense-first wizard, but a guy whose height was more by chance, rather than a specific boon to his game—bested Roy Hibbert when the Knicks and Pacers met late in the season, but that matchup never appeared in the playoffs because it didn’t have to. Whether or not he really wanted to and whether or not he had too much say in it, Woodson, though, was the coach—the man who let it happen.
“Fun” is maybe the last word you’d use to describe the New York Knicks since the late 70’s. Other than Linsanity and the unexpected ’99 playoff run and a few other blips, it’s all been pretty bleak. But that’s the thing. The Knicks have one of the worst owners—he’s actually a better musician than owner, and he is only vaguely worthy of the title “musician”—in sports and the management he’s delegated to has often been clueless. Manifestations of what James Dolan thinks a Basketball Man should be, and almost always not what anyone else does. And still, for a full season, the Knicks were what they were.
They shot more threes than anyone else in league history. Their best player won the scoring title and finally seemed a guy worthy of building a team around. They had two rookies over 27, and one of them was 36, while the other one wore pink backpacks on road trips. Rasheed Wallace was on the team even when he wasn’t. Jason Kidd was, at times, a dead-eye three-point shooter. Steve Novak’s belt was less on display, but still definitely there. Tyson Chandler had his beard, and did the Behemoth Tyson thing to good—if not great—effect. JR Smith found the system that seemed to fit his drunken-freelancing style and vice versa. And: Iman Shumpert is the coolest man on the planet.
Despite their better (or worse, definitely worse) nature, the Knicks were able to have the season they had in 2012-2013. Despite all the reasons they shouldn’t have been able to—I mean, LOOK AT THE ROSTER—they still did. Basketball births things that’ll make you smile, even if it’s not supposed to.
And that’s what 2012-2013 Knicks were. If nothing else—shit—dudes were fun.
BACK IN MY DAY I DID THINGS LIKE THIS.
I went to Honduras (San Pedro Sula to be exact and The World’s Most Violent City to be more exact) to cover the U.S. Men’s National Team’s opening World Cup qualifier. They lost, but the wasn’t really the point. Dispatches: one, two, and three.
— This position: head football coach at Wisconsin.
A man awakens in a bed. It’s a large bed for a man who does not necessarily look large on television but is actually very large in comparison to the average human being. It’s a round bed because if you can have a gigantic-ass round bed then you’re gonna damn well have a friggin’ huge round bed.
After rolling over a few times—remember: big bed—he’s out of bed, and he walks over to his desk, pulls out the chair from under it, and flips open the top of his laptop rather easily and more easily than anyone ever should be able to open a laptop. On the screen, it’s already loaded. That video, that one that shouldn’t matter anymore but that he still watches every morning: he’s got it on his phone and his iPad, just in case.
The video: a tall man with a boring name walks onto a stage and puts on a red-and-gold hat. He shakes the hand of an older man—a man probably more than twice his age—then they look forward, still holding hands, presumably posing for a photo because of the shadow-and-flash that flickers all over the screen. Then, it’s over.
Tears slide down his cheeks as he goes to click refresh with his right hand, until his left hand grabs his other wrist as if they’re controlled by two different people—but nothing is further from the truth; he is complete control. And he’s crying all the while, but he’s also smiling so wide that he’s clearly not happy, no one’s ever that happy. He is going to do something strange or something un-understandable because you don’t just smile like that and then be a normal person.
The tears—only one on each side, from each eye—fall into a funnel sitting on a mason jar on the desk. These last two tears filled the jar, so he lifts off the funnel and places it on the desk. He picks up the open mason jar, and doesn’t look away from his screen, now showing “Up Next: Mike Singletary on Coaching Ray Lewis by killamicrophonebooksare4nerdz67.” Then: his right arm quickly snaps to the side, and as if propelled by something as simple someone snapping his thumbs (but something actually way more complex), the mason jar zips across the bedroom—it is a big bedroom because it must fit a big bed— and into a dark closet, the door of which is only open by about seven inches. The jar, which should be broken and should be empty, lands on a shelf, unbroken and full. It sits next to and along with 50 or so—probably more, but only he knows the exact number—other topless mason jars filled with that same cloudy liquid.
He doesn’t look in because he knows what happened and he knows it every time. Instead, he walks toward the bedroom door and takes a robe from off the door hook. A robe made of every edition of the American flag sewn together. He slides his arms into both sides, raises the yellow hood, revealing the brown snake you can only see when the hood is up, and opens the door. He feigns four separate punches and jabs, ducks his head once, and sprints down the stairs and toward the day’s new light.