It is finally (almost) here.
The one nationally televised game (okay, second to the OKC showdown on Jan. 21) that we all marveled at when the league first released its full schedule way back in August is a few hours away. The Washington Wizards may not be headlining the league's busiest day of the regular season, but they're kicking it off — under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden no less. There's no a better way for John Wall to stake his claim as the Eastern Conference's All Star starter this year than in this game.
Where and when? 12 p.m. at Madison Square Garden in New York City. This will be televised on ESPN and CSN, and you can hear it on 99.1 FM.
Who's out? Martell Webster was originally slated to be back by Thursday's game, but he won't be available, according to CSN Washington.
For the Knicks, J.R. Smith (foot) and Cleanthony Early (knee) could return after missing some time over the past month. They won't have Andrea Bargnani or Iman Shumpert, a shame since we won't get to truly appreciate him and his new hair style. It's likely that Amare Stoudemire plays — as he's "feeling good like a hebrew should." This Knicks team is the best.
Are they good?
Ok... why are they so bad? Better question! I'll leave it to Paul Flannery, who wrote a brilliant feature on their general dysfunction earlier this month:
The first step toward rebuilding in the NBA is acceptance. The promise of hope can sustain at the beginning, but in order to be good one has to realize that first, there must be struggle. There must be an understanding that there will be long days ahead filled with false hopes, mixed results and countless frustrations.
The Knicks never seem to understand that. For whatever reason, they've never been able to accept that being bad is a means to an end. There have been quick-fixes, flashy trades and a parade of saviors who would somehow circumvent the time-honored process of rebuilding by producing quick results without the pain.
So basically, they're the NBA's equivalent of the Washington football team... and now I'm sad.
To summarize: they're 5-25 right now with a rookie head coach attempting to install a brand new offensive system that hasn't been relevant in over a decade. The roster is comprised of spare parts and overpaid veterans whose games have clearly not aged well with time, and their best player has admittedly contemplated shutting down his season as he continues to deal with problems in his knee and back.
But it's their defense that probably takes the cake. It's currently 27th in efficiency, hemorrhaging a league-high 38.9-percent shooting from three, which should come to no surprise seeing as they have maybe one or two plus defenders on the entire roster. Excessive switching was the problem with this unit last year — which was one of the many reasons Mike Woodson got the axe — and while Derek Fisher has toned it down considerably, it's done very little in averting those very same breakdowns with their rotations.
Who wins? Unless the Wizards decide to bring back last year's tradition of playing down to their opponents, there's no way I'm picking against them. Merry Christmas!