RJ's First Game

Spencer Pearlman breaks it down. Plus, ESPN makes a choice

Once upon a time, before JB turned Knicks Film School into perhaps the NBA’s leading team-centric social media aggregator, he made his bones by breaking down the team we all love, usually in easy-to-consume, highly relatable snack-sized clips.

Now, as JB moves into his role as President Emeritus of KFS, Spencer Pearlman will be picking up where he left off. About once a week, we’ll be including Spencer’s film work (you can and should follow him on Twitter if you don’t already - he’s @SKPearlman) here in the newsletter. As someone who spent the summer working for an NBA team and helping them with their draft prep, we feel really lucky to have Spencer as a member of the faculty, and the perfect person to help us get back to our roots.

First up: a breakdown of RJ’s first game, on both offense…

…and defense:

Lots of interesting stuff to consider here, and plenty of encouraging signs (particularly Barrett’s off-ball defense and pick & roll navigation, two main areas of concern I had after Summer League), but most interesting to me was his off-ball movement.

All summer long, I’ve been on the “RJ should come off the bench” bandwagon (plenty of good seats still available!) and the reason is simple: I don’t think he’s going to get the ball enough in a starting five featuring Julius Randle and, in all likelihood, Marcus Morris and Dennis Smith Jr.

On that front, his off-ball movement in the first preseason game was encouraging. If he can keep this up (and it’s a big “if”), maybe staying in the starting lineup will actually be the best thing for him, as it would further develop a necessary part of his game that might be ignored if he was the de facto point guard of the second unit.

Definitely something to keep an eye on.

Tweet of the Day

I usually couldn’t care less about what ESPN decides to put on its airwaves, simply because we’ve run so far afoul of that outlet being what it once was as to render the current iteration unrecognizable. Do they still feature damn good reporters doing damn good reporting? Absolutely. Does that pay the bills? Not in your wildest dreams.

Ignoring them isn’t really the answer either, because as long as we live in an era where narrative replaces truth and bombast replaces nuance, their voice still caries a great deal of weight, whether we like it or not. As Mike Vorkunov pointed out in his column today, the NBA is Mean Girls, and I’d add that ESPN is Regina George.

Still, I rarely comment. I - as I would hope we all do - have better things to do with my time. This, though, crossed a line, even for them.

Zoom out for a second. As Andrew alludes to, Deadspin reported on Tuesday that ESPN sent a memo to it’s employees not to get into the politics of the China/NBA story. While this is completely unsurprising, one of the ramifications is that there was no discussion or analysis of the statement that Nets owner Joseph Tsai sent out regarding Daryl Morey’s initial Tweet, in which he denounces Morey and defends China with a history lesson, noting that “the Chinese psyche has heavy baggage.”

It’s been a while since I practiced law, but I vaguely recall “mommy and daddy issues” not being a defense to murder. In the same way, Tsai’s revisionist walk down memory lane is no defense for the actions of an authoritarian government, but then again, we shouldn’t be surprised to hear such rhetoric from someone with such close ties to China.

Here’s the kicker though: if you think those close ties have nothing to do with the reason both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signed with the Nets, I have a bridge in Tsai’s adopted borough to sell you. They stand to make who knows how much money through extra endorsement dollars over the coming years. A billion and a half people is, after all, nothing to shake a stick at.

Unless, that is, things continue to blow up with this China thing.

But the talking heads weren’t touching that issue. No, it was far more relevant to spend a segment watching sad clown Stephen A. Smith, whose last vestiges of pride are heard only through the sore throat he attained by swallowing what remained of his dignity years ago. This segment came in response to the words of a certain NBA athlete saying the Knicks weren’t cool, and as usual, came at the expense of one James Dolan.

If you’re expecting me to now go into a defense of Dolan, sorry to disappoint. That would make me as apocryphal as ESPN. No, Dolan’s buffoonishness stands on its own merits. Still, it’s interesting to note that his atrocities are largely targeted at the very folks who decide what is and isn’t worthy of filling our airwaves, columns and bandwidth: the media.

So yeah…it kind of bothered me that instead of diving head first into perhaps the most important sports-related topic of the 20th century, ESPN instead went with their usually Abbot and Costello routine. But hey, maybe the fact that I just spent 500 words on it means they get the last laugh. After all, respectability has long since been replaced by watchability on ESPN’s list of priorities.

On that front, mission accomplished.

Knicks History:

Vivek writes about when Dikembe Mutombo became a Knick.

Let’s Move On:

Kristaps Porzingis played a game last night. He went for 18 & 7 on 7-for-18 shooting.

Some will analyze every game he plays and use it to relitigate a trade that was far more complicated than we’ll probably ever know. Let’s…not do that, shall we?