I scored free tickets to the Celtics-Knicks game at MSG Tuesday night. Here are some observations from a night at the World’s Most Depressing Arena:
• Here’s all you need to know about the 2009-10 Knicks: When I went to buy a round of beers, the two ladies staffing the beer stand were talking about how large the crowd was for a pre-season game.
Lady #1: “There must be a lot of Celtics fans here.”
Lady #2: “Why?”
Lady #1: “Because these people aren’t here to see this sorry team.”
Knicks basketball: Catch the fever.
• Actually, here’s all you need to know about the Knicks: Late in the 2nd quarter, Paul Pierce blew by a hapless Danillo Gallinari for a lay-in along the left baseline. Gallinari simply turned his body to face the baseline as Pierce drove past him. The Knicks public address people followed this up by playing the “Olé, Olé, Olé!” song as the Knicks were bringing the ball up.
This had to be an intentional shot at Gallinari’s olé-style defense. If it wasn’t, it was a hilarious screw-up everyone in my section noticed.
• It’s hard to overstate how bad an offensive player Jared Jeffries is. I went to the game with a friend who is a Knicks fan but not a die hard. He was continually stunned by how often the Celtics would literally leave Jeffries unguarded on the perimeter—to the point that Jeffries could basically take set shots from three-point range instead of jumpers. And still he still missed—including an air ball from the corner toward the end of the 1st half.
The highlight was undoubtedly when Eddie House was called for a flagrant on Jeffries, and Jared missed both free throws. The two Knicks fans in front of us broke out laughing while most of the crowd booed.
My friend just couldn’t over Jeffries’ offensive incompetence. “This is the story of the game!” he kept saying.
• How did I get these free tickets? Someone handed them to my boss when he got off an airplane on Tuesday morning. I’m not kidding. Delta apparently has some sort of partnership with the Knicks/MSG, and some poor soul was at one of the NYC airports greeting Delta passengers and giving out free tickets. My boss kindly passed them onto me, knowing my love for the C’s. The section and seat numbers on the tickets indicated the seats were in the first tier at center court. Awesome, right?
Sure, except for that pesky “subject to availability” disclaimer printed on the tickets in large letters. What really happens is this: You arrive and show the tickets at the box office. At this point, a Knicks employee standing at a computer begins a furious sequence of keystrokes and mouse clicks, the end result of which is that you’ve exchanged your awesome center court tickets for seats in the 300 section behind one of the baskets.
Predictable turn of events? Sure. Will I complain about the switcheroo on my free seats? Hell and yes.
• Here’s why you shouldn’t read too much into pre-season games: Ray Allen put on a dunk show (or tried to, anyway) in warm-ups. At one point, he cradled the ball and sprinted from near half court for a long-distance dunk (he missed). Then he bounced the ball high off the floor, leaped in the air, caught the ball and tried to slam it. (Another miss).
Somehow, I don’t think Ray Allen will be doing this in the season opener next week.
• J.R. Giddens, on the other hand, dunks like Vince Carter during warm-ups. And that is the only thing he has in common with Vince Carter.
• You don’t even really have to watch the Knicks much to understand their identity as a team—they live up to most of the stereotypes about them. They play laughably small line-ups that aren’t really credible in the NBA but are wacky enough to cause problems for teams accustomed to playing normal NBA defense. Hey, Rasheed Wallace is guarding Al Harrington because Harrington is the biggest Knick on the floor! That’s crazy!
Mike D’Antoni, a genius coach, can’t really do anything else—this is the personnel he has been given, and he’s doing his best to make a palatable sandwich out of poop and some stale bread. The Knicks will cause people problems when they have the ball, but they just cannot guard anybody.
And Gallinari, bless his soul, is the worst offender. Everyone he guarded just destroyed him—Pierce, Daniels, even Rondo. At one point in the 2nd quarter, Rondo got the ball in transition at halfcourt with his man (Duhon, I think) on his hip and Gallinari blocking his path to the hoop. Normally, the presence of Duhon and a 6’10” Italian guy would make a 6’1” guy like Rondo think about maybe turning the ball out and setting up the offense. But Rondo, streaking down the left side of the court, seemed to say to himself, “Oh, wait, that’s Danillo Gallinari. I’ll just keep dribbling straight toward the rim and assume he’ll get out of my way.”
And that’s exactly what happened! Rondo didn’t even make a move, at least none I could notice. He simply dribbled straight toward the hoop and laid the ball in off the glass as Gallo sort of jumped backward and out of the way.
• Perk is so much thinner in person it’s almost jarring. He was dribbling and juking a lot during warm-ups, and I kept thinking, “Man, he looks like a guard right now.” Perk is going to have a good season.
• Daniels showed off his versatility tonight. The Celtics went to Marquis in the post about a half-dozen times in the first half when he had match-up advantages against Gallo and Nate Robinson (the latter being a seriously comical mismatch). During those possessions, House took over nominal point guard duties. Eddie also handled the ball a bit in the 2nd quarter when the Knicks pressed Daniels. The pressure seemed to unnerve Marquis a bit, but not much.
In any case, the sequence illustrated that these two guys will likely split the back-up PG burden depending on match-ups and other circumstances. It won’t fall solely to Daniels.
• KG looked strong. Is he “back”? I don’t know. But he looked explosive when he wanted to be. He smothered a Harrington shot on the baseline and converted a nice drop step spin move in the post for an And-One around Harrington.
• Speaking of KG, I was curious to see how the C’s would defend Al Harrington, since he’s a slightly quicker version of the Rashard Lewis-type—likely a bit too quick for KG but too big for Pierce. The C’s mostly kept Garnett away from Harrington, perhaps in part because they like having KG around the paint (instead of tracking Harrington above the three-point line). Pierce and Wallace spent most of the time guarding Harrington.
• Rondo went over almost every screen he faced tonight. That is clearly a point of emphasis going into the season, as Rondo told the Herald over the weekend.
• Rajon’s jumper still isn’t falling.
• Doc continued to experiment with Scal guarding quicker players, including Wilson Chandler. As I speculated Tuesday, Doc inserted Scal in an all-bench line-up with Daniels-House-Baby-Sheed, a group in which Scal will have to guard the opposing small forward. I’m not convinced Scal can manage that defensive assignment.
That’s it from MSG. One week till the season starts…