Monday, December 17, 2012
We're now two months into the NBA season and it's been...how can I put this delicately? Not so fantastic. Yeah, if you live in New York it's been pretty cool so far. The Knicks are off to their best start since Biggie was still alive, and Brooklyn's new team has proven to be a solid (albeit boring) squad, and have already done their best to create a heated rivalry with both the Knicks and Celtics. But the cold, vast League Pass landscape is littered with nearly unwatchable teams stocked with players that only Rick Kamla has heard of or cares to know about. These teams range from merely dull to suicide inducing. Take it from gamblers such as me and Hater J. I've spent more time the past 4 weeks watching the Wizards and Blazers than any man should, just so I can keep an eye on my under. They should use footage of Lamarcus Aldridge flat footed "jump" shots in Gamblers Anonymous meetings. People wouldn't even buy scratch off tickets after a couple hours of that. But anyway, now that we've got a large enough sample size to pretty much see who's going to be a winner this year and who's going to be catching up on The Walking Dead reruns in May. What have been the biggest surprises thus far?
It's a shame that GSW has been so bad for so long. Miserable Knicks fans like to lament our patheticness to whoever has the misfortune of sitting next to us at the bar but the Knicks are the UCLA Bruins compared to the Warriors. This century the Warriors have exactly one playoff appearance (the miracle BELIEVE team of Baron Davis) and no all stars. They've been such a terrible franchise that the RUN TMC days of Mullin, Richmond and Hardaway are looked at as some kind of a dynasty when that team never made a conference finals. This is especially sad since the Warriors have maybe the best fanbase in all of sports. Knicks fans are often credited with being the most knowledgeable fan base in hoops, but Warriors fans might be the most blindingly loyal. Despite the years of losing, you will never once hear Warriors fans booing their home team. On the contrary, the Oracle is packed with rabid fans every game, it's more like a college atmosphere than anything else. Even after some bone headed moves in recent years (such as trading fan favorite Monta Ellis for, gulp, Andrew Bogut) Warriors home games remain the most exciting league pass watch. So, I'm happy that they're leading the division for the first time since...ever? I can't remember them ever being good enough to do that this deep into the season. Of course, the reason that they're near the top of the division is due in large part to the awful start by....
That's right. The team that was supposed to storm through the regular season, breaking records and leaving battered opponents in their wake. The team that had some NBA fans ready to quit the sport since another super team had bought their way to a ring, the Lakers winning again. That team is under .500 and looks completely lost. Yes, we can look towards the 2010-11 Heat who started off around .500 before eventually righting the ship, making the Finals and then winning a title the next year. And Steve Nash has only played a game and a half so far (When Chris Duhon is logging big minutes for you, you're screwed), but even with that factored in, the Lakers should have at least 18 or 19 wins at this point. They were gifted a ridiculously easy schedule by David Stern and his schedule making "computer" (haha) but have done nothing but fall all over each other and mope around as they trudge through disheartening losses to the Pacers, Kings, Blazers, Cavs and (maybe worst of all) Dwight's old mates from Orlando. After an overreaction to a 1-4 start, the Lakers are now left with Mike "Aw Shucks those other guys are pretty good" D'Antoni and his moustache and Kobe screaming at officials and rolling his eyes at Jordan Hill. Top this all off with Pau Gasol looking like he's 102 years old and it's legitimately panic time in Hollywood. I'm sure they'll get it together somewhat by the end of the season and finish somewhere towards the top of the Western Conference, but right now it's downright ugly.
Well, isn't this a pleasant surprise though? As I touched on earlier, we Knicks fans love to bellyache. And it's mostly justified. Our team has outright sucked for the better part of the past, oh, 40 years. This is despite the fact that the Knicks have more disposable income than this guy. We all know the horror that has been the Knicks decade of failure, so we won't dwell on that here. The good news is the Knicks are actually good this year. Really, not even like over reacting New york fans good (you know the people who thought Joba Chamberlain and Landry Fields would be perennial all stars.). They are an honest to goodness playoff team. In the east they're without a doubt a top 4 seed if not higher. That means they could be beginning the playoffs at MSG for the first time since they had guys on the team like Sprewell, Houston, Camby and Thomas but when Camby and Thomas were still solid NBA players. Knicks fans have, admittedly, gone a little nuts, but forgive us for being a little giddy. No one except for M@d $cientist saw this coming (he's actually disappointed that they didn't meet his pre season prediction of 12-3 through the first 15). I would've been happy with a 9-6 record and ecstatic with a 10-5 tally. So for the team to start out 11-4 (and then 12-4), well I'm as happy as Eddy Curry with a bag of donuts. Being a fan of an orange and blue team from New York, I'm conditioned to expect the worst. Beaten down Knicks fans feel like Wile E. Coyote right now, so close to catching that elusive road runner that is a successful team yet knowing that anvil is about to drop on our heads at any moment. In the meantime, though, please bear with us as we collectively lose our shit after every face meltingly awesome game. It's not just that the Knicks are winning games that they would have lost in previous years, but seemingly every week brings another win that is "the best Knicks win in years". The 20 point blow out against Miami (derided by some as a Sandy hangover game for, uh, the team who plays in Miami) was great, but the comeback in San Antonio was even more awesome. If that weren't enough, how about back to back buzzer beater win and 20 point blow out in Miami without Carmelo? It's enough to make even the most pessimistic of orange and blue diehards start clearing their schedules for June. Of course, as Linsanity has illustrated, even the most exciting stretches of basketball are temporary, and we might soon be complaining about the return of Amar'e messing up chemistry, and wistfully looking back on this first 6 weeks of the season similarly to how we look at that 6 weeks in February and March. But, for now, the Knickerbockers are absolutely killing it, and it feels good for a change to be a Knicks fan. Check back at the second quarter mark to see if it still feels so good.
Posted by Johnny Bagels at 11:35 AM
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Kobe Bryant achieved another milestone in his long, illustrious career last night, entering the 30,000 club, an exclusive group of one name guys like Michael, Wilt, Kareem and, uh, Karl (Mailman sounds better). Besides proving that guys whose names start with K are really good at scoring (watch out for Kris Humphries), the other bond that most of this group shares is Lakers purple and gold. 4 out of the top 5 scorers in NBA history at some point wore purple and gold (Malone had his one forgettable year chasing a ring but it still counts). This fact inevitably brings up the top 5 all time Laker discussions. Trying to pick a top 5 for a franchise that has arguably had more talent in their uniforms than Hooters is tough goings though. And since we love to argue almost as much as we love top 5 lists here at PTU, this is a prime opportunity for an argument about top 5 lists. Both franchises are literally embarrassments of riches. Both have dominated their respective leagues for decades, and both attract both front running fans and ardent haters in equal amounts. But what exactly makes a player a "great Yankee" or a "great Laker"? Can we call someone a "great blank" if they only played a few years for that team, or if they arrived as a player for hire out to get a ring? I say "yes" to both of those questions.
First off, let's get to the top 5s. For the Lakers, my top 5 in no particular order is Kobe, Magic, Kareem, Shaq and Jerry West. Getting narrowly edged out is Wilt, Elgin Baylor and George Mikan (sorry, guys). My Yankee top 5 would be Mantle, Gehrig, Ruth, Dimaggio and Jeter. My apologies to Whitey Ford, Yogi, Scooter, Mariano, and Reggie Jackson. I didn't include Mr. October but our own Hater J left him off his list due to the fact that he doesn't consider him a "true Yankee". But what makes one player a "true Yankee" or Laker and one not? The way I see it, if a player had his best years wearing your jersey, he can be classified as a great for your organization regardless if he forced a trade to somewhere else or arrived via free agency. Most Los Angelinos won't remember Shaq rapping about how his ass tastes (thankfully), or an aging Shaq struggling to dunk in Boston or Cleveland. They'll remember him catching the lob from Kobe in game 7 against Portland, or scoring 60 on his birthday against the Clippers, or absolutely dominating three straight Finals from 00-02. You can't leave Shaq off the list of top Lakers just because it's impossible to name 5 guys who had as dominant a 5 year span in purple and gold as he did. Unlike say Kevin Garnett, who came to the Celtics after his prime, or A-Rod who has won MVP's in pinstripes but has mostly been hated by Yankee fans, Shaq played his prime years for the Lakers and won three titles (winning MVP each year). He is as much a true Laker as there ever will be.