Maria When She Loses

That Championship Mailbag

Bill Simmons/Grantland

Welcome to the Retro Photo Diary

Taking in Knicks-Celtics with a few words and a bunch of pictures

I have very few rules in life, but here’s one of them: Anytime a Knicks-Celtics grudge match causes Carmelo Anthony to hire a bodyguard, Boston fans to wave Honey Nut Cheerios boxes, the NBA to assign Dick Bavetta AND Joey Crawford, and my dad to say the words, “I feel like the entire season is on the line tonight,” I have to create a totally new gimmick for a column. Introducing the Retro-Photo Diary! Let’s get it on.

Knicks-Celtics
If you missed what happened last time these two teams played, here’s a quick recap …

“Did you just tell me that my wife tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios?”

“I did.”

“THAT MAKES ME VERY ANGRY! I’M VERY ANGRY RIGHT NOW!”

“I don’t care.”

“I WILL SEE YOU AFTER THE GAME, MISTER! AND WE WON’T BE EXCHANGING CHRISTMAS GIFTS, I CAN TELL YOU THAT MUCH!”

“Fine with me.”

“BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!!!!”

Knicks-Celtics
Right when KG and Carmelo approached each other last night for their inevitably awkward fist-bump, TNT’s director inexplicably switched to a close-up of KG and blew the fist-bump. (You can only see Carmelo’s hand right there.) I can’t wait to see where this ranks in Bleacher Report’s “The 25 Biggest Blown Fist-Pump Shots” feature this weekend.

Knicks-Celtics
As the numbers show, the Knicks need Raymond Felton more than you’d think. For whatever reason, he showed up for tonight’s game dressed like an usher at Magic Johnson Theaters.

Knicks-Celtics
You know within about five minutes which Rajon Rondo showed up: Either it’s Local Cable Rondo (the guy who settles for jump shots, refuses to drive to the basket and only cares about padding his assist count), or National TV Rondo (the guy who attacks the basket, plays aggressively, flirts with a triple-double and generally makes you feel like he gives a shit). Last night’s game was on TNT, so … I mean …

Knicks-Celtics
Iman Shumpert and Norris Cole are embroiled in a fierce battle to bring back the early ’90s. There’s only one way it can be settled: We need to find out who’s more down with OPP.

Knicks-Celtics
I get more e-mails about the DirecTV Genie girl than anyone basically ever. My readers are super-horny. And yes, I know she has a history with Derek Jeter. You don’t have to keep telling me.

Knicks-Celtics
TNT responds to intense Twitter pressure and retroactively shows the fist-bump, but only after digitally adding the ghostly visage of Joey Crawford in the background.

Knicks-Celtics
It’s one of my favorite winter traditions, right up there with Christmas and the NFL playoffs … that’s right, it’s Danny Ainge’s annual “I swear, we’re not trying to blow this team up!” denial. It always seems to come right as he’s juggling about 244 possible deals with 17 different teams. Playing for the Celtics in January and February is like being on The Bachelor — it’s just a good idea to pack your suitcase before every Rose Ceremony no matter how safe you’re feeling.

Knicks-Celtics
The Knicks threw out a zone defense in the second quarter. You do these things when Steve Novak, Pablo Prigioni and Amar’e Stoudemire are coming off your bench. (PS: It actually kinda sorta worked!) It’s hard to overstate Amar’e’s X-factor potential as a bench scorer (assuming he buys in for the rest of the year), if only because he’s so overqualified for that role. He’d finish this Celtics game with 15 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes. Those are “Bob McAdoo in 1982″ numbers.

Knicks-Celtics
“I should have retired. I could be living on the beach in Malibu right now. It was probably like 80 degrees there today … “

Knicks-Celtics
Spike Lee needs to make a movie about two die-hard Knicks fans who get so tired of Spike Lee that they kidnap him during the 2013 playoffs. That would be the best Spike Lee Joint since Inside Man.

Sylvester Stallone
“This sucks. I hate the way this game is going. And by the way … my wife does NOT taste like Honey Nut Cheerios. OK?”

Knicks-Celtics
Wait, is Bullet to the Head Sly Stallone’s new movie or the upcoming 30 for 30 about the 2012-13 Lakers? I can’t remember.

Knicks-Celtics
“Coach, I know Bernie Mac isn’t with us anymore, but do you still keep in touch with Cedric the Entertainer and D.L. Hughley?”

Knicks-Celtics
Get that shit out of my Cheerios bowl! Serious question: Why didn’t Honey Nut Cheerios offer $3 million apiece to KG and Melo to film a surprise commercial that could have debuted during this game? How great would that have been? There’s still time, Honey Nut Cheerios! Do it for All-Star Weekend! As Rasheed Wallace would say, CUT THE CHECK! CTC! CTC!

Knicks-Celtics
Check out Dick Bavetta making a traveling call in front of a totally horrified Doc Rivers. For the record, Dick Bavetta is three years older than David Stern, five years younger than Bud Selig and 101 years younger than John Wilkes Booth.

Knicks-Celtics
Hold on, I’m not done wiping the tears of joy from my eyes.

Knicks-Celtics
Maybe it wasn’t a travesty along the lines of Art Carney winning the 1974 Best Actor Oscar over Pacino in The Godfather: Part II and Nicholson in Chinatown, but Chris Bosh making the All-Star team over Brook Lopez was pretty reprehensible. The Nets are 24-11 when Lopez plays. He’s their go-to guy down the stretch. He gets routinely double-teamed. He’s turned himself into this generation’s Rik Smits. Meanwhile, Chris Bosh made the New Year’s resolution, “I’m gonna stop rebounding in 2013 and see what happens.” Ridiculous. And yes, Pierce should have made it over Garnett. In case you were wondering.

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Knicks-Celtics
Relevant first-half info: Carmelo missed nine of 13 shots; Amar’e looked good off the bench; J.R. Smith couldn’t hit the side of a barn; Pierce scored 19 and kept his Knick-Killer reputation going; National TV Rondo showed up; and Boston’s crowd was surprisingly cordial to Carmelo. I thought they’d be chanting “Honey Nut” and prancing around dressed in giant Cheerios boxes. Nope. It’s hard to overstate how bummed out everyone is about last Sunday’s Ravens game, as well as the real possibility that Bernard Karmell Pollard is the Boston Sports Antichrist.

Knicks-Celtics
Check it out — if Carmelo goes two for his next eight, he’s going to win tonight’s MVP award.

Knicks-Celtics
(Shameless promo alert!!!)

Knicks-Celtics
How often do you think Jason Kidd high-fives himself for fleeing Dallas at the absolute perfect time? Once a day? Five times a day? Once an hour? I’m beginning to think he can keep going until he’s 50. Jason Kidd has reinvented himself as The Old Guy In The Pickup Hoops Game Who Might Be Washed-up But It Doesn’t Totally Matter Because He Still Knows What He’s Doing. Doesn’t everyone love playing with that guy?

Knicks-Celtics
Did Rondo stupidly pass the ball here over just taking the easy layup and/or getting fouled and going to the line? Of course he did. Did it lead to a turnover and a basket on the other end? Of course it did. There’s like a 21 percent chance he’s trying to murder Tommy Heinsohn every time he does this.

Knicks-Celtics
Just a classic Jeff Green sequence here. First, he gets abused off the dribble by Carmelo for an easy bucket …

Knicks-Celtics
Then, he immediately throws the inbounds pass to Jason Kidd for a Knicks layup. You spend a lot of time yelling “NO!!!!!!” or “WAKE UP!!!” when Jeff Green is on your team. Classy guy, good teammate, survived a life-threatening surgery, occasionally looks like a poor man’s James Worthy … and yet, he’s badly overpaid (four years, $36 million), he’s untradable, he’s one of the most frustrating Celtics ever, and he’s a big reason why the Celtics have been underachieving this season.

(Hold this thought.)

Knicks-Celtics
Did Jeff Green nail this wide-open 3 and get the crowd fired up? You betcha! You really run the gamut of emotions from game to game with Jeff Green. His nickname should be “The Gamut.”

Knicks-Celtics
It’s probably a bad sign when The Gamut and Jared Sullinger are botching their defense of the Carmelo/Chandler high screens so egregiously that Doc Rivers has to run a mini-coaching clinic for them during a timeout. (By the way, I love Sullinger. Wish he played more.)

Knicks-Celtics
“Hey, Jason — I totally forgot this game was on TNT tonight. Why didn’t you tell me? I would have worn a suit instead of this jacket from my uncle’s store. You don’t think they’re showing me on the bench, do you?”

Knicks-Celtics
Uh-oh … Melo is heating up. Just made four of his last six. There are seven “Uh-oh, he’s heating up” scorers in the NBA right now: Durant, LeBron, Kobe, Melo, Harden, Kyrie Irving and Jamal Crawford. This is why some people (stupidly) believed that Jamal should have made the All-Star team — that list speaks for itself.

Knicks-Celtics
If you look closely, you can see the salad fork sticking out of Jason Terry’s back. He finished 1-for-6 in this game. His January numbers: 22.0 MPG, 5.9 PPG, 39% FG, 28% 3FG, 57 derisive comments from my dad along the lines of, “It’s just too bad Jason Terry isn’t still alive.” Meanwhile, here are Courtney Lee’s December-January numbers: 48% FG, 39.6% 3FG. Oh, and he’s an above-average defensive player … and Jason Terry’s defense is so atrocious, it’s hard to believe the Lakers haven’t traded for him yet. How is Terry still getting more minutes than Lee? Unless the answer is, “Shut up, dummy, we’re trying to make the lottery.” Fine, I’ll shut up.

“Doc, how f—ed are you guys this season on a scale of 1 to 10?”

You know when guys get snubbed from the All-Star team and go nuts in their next game? J.R. Smith got “snubbed” — even though he really didn’t when you consider he shot 34 percent in December and January combined (28 percent from 3) — then got his revenge by going 3-for-16 in Boston. This was a sneaky-big play — Smith bricked this 3, but Prigioni grabbed the rebound and found Carmelo for a 3, followed by every Boston fan saying, “Who the hell is Pablo Prigioni? Wasn’t he one of the bad guys in Man on Fire?”

The last time the Knicks beat the Celtics in Boston, this guy was involved …

And so was this guy!

I’m both ashamed and delighted to announce that Pablo Prigioni and I have the exact same jump shot.

“Hey, guys, we’re up 10 … just keep jacking up 3s, and then, if that doesn’t work, maybe you could jack up some 3s. And when all else fails, go back to the basics and fire up some 3s. I’m gonna keep holding this clipboard and shouting out fake plays to throw them off. Cool?”

Here’s a rare moment for the 2012-13 Celtics: a fast-break layup. So that’s what that looks like!

“I mean, Danny spends just over $35 million combined on Bass and Terry, then he spends another $36 million on Jeff Green. How can you splurge on three untradable guys in the same summer? Even Prokhorov won’t take those guys in a trade! We couldn’t be more screwed. I told Danny, ‘I don’t care how badly my son is playing in New Orleans — if you don’t trade for him within the next six weeks, I’m quitting after the season and doing TV.’ Every night, I go home and cry. I’m not kidding. I take my suit off, I run a bath, I climb in, and I just start sobbing.”

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Carmelo’s best talent other than challenging opponents to fights near the team bus as long as 10 people are standing between them: He goes from “holding the ball innocently 20 feet from the hoop” to “suddenly being in the middle of a jump shot” faster than any player in basketball. Even Durant. Look at Jeff Green — he hasn’t even started jumping to contest the shot yet. Carmelo Anthony is incredible. I don’t think the Knicks can make the Finals (it’s just too easy for good defensive teams to lock them down, and they’re not good enough on the other end), but could they make some 3s for two weeks and ride a red-hot Carmelo past anyone in the NBA except for Oklahoma City? Absolutely.

KG and NTVR (National TV Rondo) pull off a pretty pseudo-high screen that starts like this …

And ends with NTVR taking it hard to the hoop and getting a bucket. I love National TV Rondo.

Ronnnnnnnnnnn-do!!!!!!!!!!!!! (This went in!) The monkey wrench to remember about any possible Rondo trade: What if he reinvents his game halfway through his career and develops 3-point range like Jason Kidd did? Remember when we were calling Kidd “Ason” because he didn’t have a “J”? He willed himself into becoming a long-distance shooter. What if Rondo does that? That’s one of my four biggest fears of any Rondo trade, right up there with, “What if he’s pissed off and unleashes a slew of Eff You seasons in revenge?,” “When has trading the best player in a blockbuster ever really worked out for the team that traded him?,” and “NBA history says you should trade FOR a guy like Rondo, not trade a guy like Rondo.”

Backbreaking tip-in by Amar’e Stoudemire here. At this specific point of the game, the Knicks had an 18-0 advantage in second-chance points. I’ll say it again: Amar’e looked good coming off the bench. Thought he was effective. If he breaks down again later this season, don’t forget to blame Mike D’Antoni for running him into the ground during the first two months of that 2010-11 season. He hasn’t been the same since.

(Cut to the Knicks fans screaming, “TRADE HIM! TRADE HIM FOR GASOL RIGHT NOW! TELL OUR BUMBLING LEGACY-KID OWNER TO CALL THEIR BUMBLING LEGACY-KID OWNER AND GET THIS DONE!”)

Rondo! I’ve written this before, but having Rondo on your favorite team is like having a cat: He’s moody, he’s unfriendly, he disappears, you can’t count on him, you can’t figure him out … and then, out of nowhere, he’ll jump on your lap or start playing with a ball of string. And you’re like, “I love having a cat! This is great!” That’s the Rondo Experience.

Right now he’s playing with a ball of string and heading for a triple-double (final numbers: 23-11-10). I wouldn’t trade him for, say, a Ty Lawson–Kenneth Faried package. I’d need a blue-chipper back plus one or two other players. An offer like “DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmer Fredette and Chuck Hayes” would get my attention. That’s about it. I’d miss seeing him play with that ball of string. Tomorrow? I might feel differently.

Avery Bradley misses the biggest shot of the game: a wide-open 3 that would have given Boston the lead. Love his potential, love his hustle, love his defense … but it’s hard to understand why Doc isn’t playing Courtney Lee in this spot. At least until Bradley starts banging home this specific shot again. This fourth quarter was really the 2013 Celtics in a nutshell: no second-chance points, no easy baskets, missed 3s, mediocre defense, crucial offensive rebounds allowed at the worst possible times, and if Pierce isn’t making shots, then it’s up to Rondo to create every single basket or we’re screwed. There’s a reason this team fell under .500, with a first-round massacre against Miami looming. I’m depressed. I might pour myself a stiff cocktail before we finish this column.

Garnett (8 points, 12 rebounds, 0 derisive comments that may or may not have been spouse-related) misses the second-biggest shot of the game: a wide-open 16-footer that was set up beautifully by Rondo’s slash-and-kick. That was one of those “Uh-oh, we’re gonna lose” misses. I hate those.

J.R. Smith missed 13 of his 16 shots in Boston. This wasn’t one of them. I really think they should give out the Irrational Confidence Guy award every season, like how they give out Most Improved and Sixth Man. Why not?

The Celtics call this crunch-time play “Two Old Guys Collide and Inadvertently Knock the Ball Out of Bounds.” Total points for Paul Pierce in the second half: three. He’s the same age as Tom Brady … and I don’t know who should be more bummed out about that, Pierce or Brady. Actually, I know the answer: I’m the most bummed out.

Even though he’s 50 years old, every big Jason Kidd shot in Boston still gives me the shakes after the way he eviscerated us in the 2002 and 2003 playoffs. Thought this one was going in. It didn’t go in. One more chance. Down by three, 13 seconds to play.

“OK, let’s run the play where Ray comes off the double screen and … wait a second, where the hell is Ray???”

So much for the “Paul Pierce Owns the Knicks” era. I might start crying.

That face is telling me, “Hey, Simmons, you should go on draftexpress.com and start familiarizing yourself with the 2013 lottery picks.”

Your final score for Honey Nut Bowl II: Celtics 86, Knicks 89.

“Good job, buddy. You handled all the Cheerios jokes from the fans really well. I’m proud of you. Now smell my armpit.”

Don’t worry, we can still turn this season around.

Filed Under: Series, Sports, The Sports Guy

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Bill Simmons is the editor-in-chief of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

Archive @ BillSimmons

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