Game 4 vs. Washington
Riding high off the big blow out against the Pistons I was pumped for this game. Was curious to see how well the Knicks would come out, and also to see how Caron Butler played. When the Knicks were being introduced Balkman (see below) decided to go and sit courtside and chill with some fans. More on this to come in the wrap up. During the game Marbury (in street clothes on the bench) was shown on the big screen and immediately the Garden filled with boos. Several NY Giants were in attendance and each received a standing ovation and plenty of time on the big screen. We got up early on the Wizards and Isiah was going through the bench a lot this game. Nate threw another lob to Balkman for a nasty dunk that sent us NY fans into a frenzy.
At times Jamal Crawford is a killer for the Knicks with his shot selection, but a lot of the time he is a killer of the opposition. Tonight he went 6 of 7 from 3 and dropped 29pts. Was also nice to see Q come out on target, he hit his first 5 shots. This guy has been terrible this season, not even super fan Erik could be that interested in him anymore, so it was a special moment. For the Wiz Butler was certainly the man, and had a big game, but seemed pretty passive. He didn’t leave NY without throwing down one of the best dunks I saw in all 5 games. Two in a row baby, oh yeah. Now I was really excited. Looking at my notes (I got in geek mode and made a few short hand notes after each game) I listed Nate as MVP again. I always loved Nate, but came to NY eager to see Curry, Balkman and David Lee. After the Houston game, my focus was on Nate. He just brings it like no other. Against the Wizards he was efficient, 14pts, 8asts, 1to and flat out hustle.
Game 5 vs. New Jersey
By far this was my favourite game and probably my greatest experience in the US (seeing Denzel Washington live at the Dave Letterman show a close second). We had to catch a bus from Port Authority to cross over to New Jersey to get to the I-Zod centre. For this game I lashed out a bit and got us tickets right behind the Knicks bench, in row 1. Needless to say we had a different experience from the other games. Being on the road, and just behind the bench gave us a feeling of almost being a part of the team. We really noticed a lot during this game. We got to the game pretty early, and due to our seating I had the chance to meet a few Knicks. Shook hands with Balkman (Balkman: “Sappenin’ baby?”), gave Freddie Jones a high five, and met Jerome James who was in a massive pimp suit. Some young fans kept calling out to Fred Jones for signitures. When he was shooting during warm ups, they called out to him, he turned, awkwardly smiled and waved then went and did his lay up. A minute later he was about to do another lay up when they got his attention again. They both held up pens and a magazine, hoping for another signature. This time Fred gave a priceless, WTF-kinda face that I will never forget. He looked at them, then held up the ball to show them like “you gotta be kidding, I’m warming up for an NBA game”, and continued his drill.
Assist of the night goes to Roger Hinds, head athletic trainer for the Knicks. As he strolled out of the rooms, he went to the big Juicy Fruit box next to the Knicks bench, grabbed 5 packs of chewy and came and handed them to me, Sal and the guys next to us. Props Big R. We were down early, mainly due to Sean Williams who I was keen to see. He had 10pts in the first 6 minutes, and we looked tired. But things came together as Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry played big in the middle. Then Crawford got hot, and dropped 35pts on the Nets (he is averaging 32ppg against the Nets this season and we are 3-0 against them, which is big as they have dominated us since 2001). In the 2nd or 3rd Jeffries injured his ankle diving into the Nets bench trying to save the ball. He came off and was leaving for the rooms. Clearly in pain, clearly not in a good mood he headed away from the bench towards the rooms. Then, the two ‘Fred Fans’ see Jeffries walking near seats, so they sprint down and yell out for him and hold up their pens and magazines. Simply amazing. He ignored them, and made it back into the game in the 4th.
Nate hit a few big threes in the 3rd and 4th. I noticed David Lee, Eddy Curry and Nate Robinson groan at a few plays Isiah called, not convinced they were the right thing to do. But they did them regardless. I really lost respect for Malik Rose this game. Late in the 1st quarter when the Knicks were struggling Isiah called a play which seemed to be a clearout for Nate. He drove, shot the ball and missed. NJ called a timeout and Isiah yelled out “that’s it Nate, keep doing it”. Suggesting the play went as planned. Well Malik Rose came over to the bench bitching and moaning. Pacing up and down, throwing his head in his hands, sitting down, getting up, pacing. Trying to get anyone’s attention, “Nate had the whole team on him and he won’t pass” blah blah blah. No one bit the bait, and no one listened. Infact basically everyone else was in the huddle listening to Zeke.
Rose was subbed off and did not come back in. I know he is our only player with a ring, but seriously, he took this too far. He was steaming for the whole 2nd quarter and did not properly join the team huddle until the Knicks were winning in the 4th. Late in the 4th Zach got his 5th foul and when Isiah subbed in Lee for him Zach was not keen to come out. Some fan yelled out “hey Zach, you ain’t the coach buddy!” This game I got to notice how much of a loyal guy Fred Jones seems to be. At every free throw during the game when he was on, Fred would run over to Zeke to get guidance/advice. He would chat, always nodding, then run back to position. You see many coaches talk to players, and the players just turn as if they haven’t been involved in a conversation (like the U14 girls I coach!), but Fred was taking in Isiah’s every word. I really liked seeing this. This game was close in the final minutes, tied at 102 until Crawford hit a huge 3 with 60 seconds or so to play. As Nets fans began leaving the crowd was chanting ‘New York Knicks, New York Knicks!’ It was great being in their house, taking the dub, and rubbing it in. We went home and I turned to channel 17 and watched the replay and we saw ourselves behind the bench too. A great night for our last night in the US. MVP of this game – JC dominated, 35pts 8asts and a huge finish. He also took Kidd behind the back on a fastbreak for an and1 play. 3 straight, a dream come true for a longtime Knick fan from Australia.
- Q Rich is a real team player, and consistently followed the game play of curling to the wings and then feeding the post. He never seemed to care about this and did it every game.
- Balkman seems like he has ADD or something. All pre-game he would stroll around looking for people to talk to, players from the opposition, security guards, fans, refs, he would be seen all over the place chatting away. He hit up the front row for a seat one game, was amped in all warm ups, gets off the bench every score. A great source of energy for the team.
- Nate is similar and really works the room pre game, he could be seen chatting to many guys, especially other teams players. Seems to really enjoy being an NBA player which is good to see. You know when you used to play domestic ball down at your local, and you know all the players and have friends scattered on every team. It’s still like that for Nate.
- David Lee, Jamal Crawford & Nate Robinson got the most time of any players in all games, and played in the most important stretches of games. Zach got a lot of burn in the 3 game win streak as did Fred Jones.
- ‘Fire Isiah’ chants were loud and common the first 2 games
- At the NY Rangers Hockey game a ‘Fire Isiah’ chant went off in the 2nd period for a few minutes
- The Garden allows good access to players and Walt Frazier, but at the New Jersey games the security turned everyone away unless they had good seating near the players. I like how the Garden operates in this scenario.
- Jared Jeffries has not earnt his contract, but what I saw of him made his contract irralevent. He was a real glue player, he would have fun with Eddy Curry pre game as they would joke and try and block each other, he was dancing on the bench with Q Rich one game, he was one of the only people I saw actually hold a conversation with rookie Wilson Chandler, he kept tapping Crawford on the shoulder then looking away at the NJ game, I really liked seeing his personality. Isiah always said he was a guy to bring the team together and everyone assumed that was code for “I shouldn’t have signed him I admit it” but I now value Jeffries more than ever.
- MVP of the 5 games – clearly Nate. I anticipated his insertion to every game more than anyone. He seems really under control these days, while still bringing energy to the floor. His shot was silky smooth, his floor game was extremely efficient, he really thrived with the extra court time minus Starbury. He had 19 assists to 4 turnovers while I was there. And the game before I arrived he has 10 assists/1 turnover and the game after we left he had 9 assists/2 turnovers. I have left NY with Nate as my favourite player, which I always thought was so cringy as he was more of a kiddies/groupie player to idolise, now I am just in awe.
Overall I am so glad I got the opportunity to see the Knicks, especially the guys I have been following so closely like Marbury, Crawford, Curry, Lee, Balkman, Robinson and Z-Bo to an extent. I hope other fans get a chance to see the NBA one day too.
Thanks for reading for those who did,