Game Preview: Knicks at Raptors-01/22/23

On Sunday, the New York Knicks (25-22) head to Scotiabank Arena for a rematch with the Toronto Raptors (20-26). The Knicks would love to avenge their Martin Luther King Jr. Day overtime loss to the Raptors. Life without Mitchell Robinson is tough, though, as the Knicks learned in their Friday loss to Atlanta. At least the Raptors are playing the second of a back-to-back, lost yesterday, and, according to the injury report, will be without OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet.

Currently sitting eleventh in the Eastern Conference, the Raptors have had three of their last four games decided by two points, including that B.S. 123-121 win at MSG. The Canadian Club leads the season series 2-1 and won the last matchup. Both teams have lost consecutive games, with the Knicks dropping three and Raptors two.

Maybe we’ll see some small ball? Eh? Tip-off’s at 6 p.m., EST, Spielbergians.

PROJECTED STARTERS

With VanVleet out, Toronto spreads the ballhandling duties around. They were lively passers against the Celtics yesterday, and head coach Nick Nurse rolled out Gary Trent Jr.Scottie Barnes, and Anunoby in the starting five. Without Anunoby tonight, who’s next? Maybe Malachi Flynn? Whoever starts will face a trio of Jalen Brunson, Quentin Grimesand RJ Barrett

In the frontcourt for Toronto, Precious Achiuwa  (6’8”, 225 lb.) and Pascal Siakam (6’9”, 230 lb.) will clash with New York’s Julius Randle and Jericho Sims, presumably. Siakam, particularly, is a pest and has averaged 30 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in three games against the Knicks this season.

PREDICTION

The Knicks haven’t matched up well against Toronto in the previous three games. One wonders if Cam Reddish might be helpful against these rangy Raptors, but it’s verboten to suggest that he play because the front office doesn’t want their top trade chip damaged. Such is business.

Toronto makes me nervous. Even without VanVleet, and missing O.G. for part of the game, the Raptors hung with Boston until the end. Still, Jalen and the Knicks are hungry for a win, it’s the weekend, and I’m trying to be more positive in 2023. Knicks by deuce (but not by McBride.)

Toronto, Canuckland. 6:00 p.m., EST. Go Knicks, eh!

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Young actors astonish in EPAC’s Waiting for Godot

Street parking came shamefully easily on Friday night in downtown Endicott. It was a shame because Washington Avenue and EPAC’s Robert Eckert Theater should have been overfull with people coming to this season’s thrilling production of Waiting for Godot.

Samuel Beckett’s absurdist allegory, written in 1949, is alive and well under the care of director Patrick Foti and some tremendously talented young actors. Tickets remain available for Saturday’s show and Sunday’s matinee

The play tells the story of two hobos waiting in a desolate spot (not unlike purgatory) for a God(ot) who never comes. They could pass their time creatively, or philosophically—or romantically, one supposes—but in typical Beckett fashion, they mostly natter about the mundane or body aches while they “pass the time.” Occasionally they consider hanging themselves from the scenery’s solitary tree, but even that task is too daunting for this pair.

The slightly smarter of the slow-witted duo is Vladimir, portrayed by Matt Gaska. The actor avails himself wonderfully in the role, as does Dustin Hirthler, who plays Estragon his trusty dusty sidekick. Both young men are thrilling talents and destined to go far beyond the streets of Endicott.

These thespians modulate their voices with masterful appropriateness and comport their bodies with precision. Like me, you may be surprised to find that WFG is a much more physical play than you remember, with dashes of almost Marx-bros-level shtick and some wince-inducing tumbles. These fine actors, especially Hirthler, who is a pliable noodle, can do whatever the stage requires of them.

The quiet touches, though, are where Gaska and Hirthler truly shine. The former uses subtle movement—the fingertip twirling, the bit of pigeon toe—to imbue his role with vibrant life. Both he and Hirthler have excellent voice and face control, and there are moments when the desolation demonstrated by the latter’s frown moved an emotion in this reviewer’s heart that is too often obscured by a crusty boulder. Well done, lads.

Eventually in the play, someone else does arrive, a Falstaffian figure named Pozzo (POZZO!) who keeps another, exhausted human as a slave, leashed by a rope around his neck. Here Beckett hits his point squarely on the nose by naming the latter character Lucky. Interpret that as you will.

More amusing nonsensical dialogue ensues, while our initial hobos struggle to make sense of and converse with the blustery master who mistreats his ward. Eventually, they persuade Pozzo to allow Lucky to “think”, which unleashes a tour de force torrent of uninterrupted, bombastic speech that lasts for minutes while the hobos roll around in apparent discomfort. First, be careful what you wish for, bums. Second: How remarkable it is that the oppressed man had so much to say, but sadly, when finally given the chance, he says it all at once and it comes out as blithering nonsense.

Here, one must stand and applaud the talent of newcomer Nicholas Dabbracci.

As Lucky, Dabbracci spends much of his stage time bent-backed, breathlessly obeying his master’s commands, lugging bags, and near death, mostly. His two big moments in the play come when he is permitted to dance and then think. The dancing is a histrionic performance of explosive spastic movements that, as Beckett intended, startles the audience after so much aimless dialogue.

When Lucky is ordered to think, boy does he have stuff on his mind. Unfortunately, given the chance to finally express himself, all he can do is spitfire, micro-machine-announcer style, a diarrhea dialogue that prattles on forever, signifying nothing. While Dabbracci is mid-rant, after what already feels like minutes, one asks oneself, “How is he doing that?” And by the rap’s conclusion, when his counterparts and his audience feel obliterated by words, there comes an audible sigh of relief from the crowd and an urge to give Dabbracci a standing ovation. It’s a stunning stage debut.

The play continues. Pozzo exits, intending to sell Lucky at the market. A child messenger (played by the winsome Ciaran Kane, who does his damndest to keep a straight face, God bless him) arrives to relay the news that Godot, while not busy, will not be visiting today. Please try back tomorrow. 

And so the hobos do, and once again wait. Pozzo and Lucky return, the same but different, what with the master being afflicted by sudden blindness and therefore even more dependent upon his servant.

Brett Alan Dewing plays the part of Pozzo and was more settled into the role in the Second Act. Physically he is perfectly matched, but he lacks the vocal command of his play partners. His yelling at Lucky in the First Act is too loud, as though he’d been directed to go to the top of his register, a Spinal Tap 11, when a nine or even eight would suffice. Still, he fits the Pozzo costume perfectly, and it can be hard to find nuance when playing smarm, which he lays on thick. He’s a one-man marching band, blaring through a dust bowl and a perfect foil to the faded Vladimir and Estragon.

Finally, Pozzo and Lucky depart again. The messenger boy returns to announce: sorry, no Godot today, but try again tomorrow. The play ends with our hobo heroes exactly where we found them, still waiting for Godot.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see these excellent performers delivering the goods in a great play at EPAC this weekend. To do so would be not so lucky.

Blur > Oasis

Most popular songs follow a I-IV-V or I-V-IV chord progression. An example of the first is “Blowin’ in the Wind”, and the second is “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”. Or, see anything by The Ramones. The chords in these progressions cooperate so harmoniously and resolve so pleasingly back to the root that they can easily become earworms.

From my limited understanding, Oasis wrote those kinds of songs. My understanding is limited because I’ve only ever heard the hits, and my one or two dives into this or that album were aborted due to boredom. Still, I’ve endured the same handful of Oasis songs so many times—in stores, passenger seats, sporting events—that like you perhaps, I can recite their lyrics from memory. That means I’m no expert in their catalog, but I do hold opinions about their most popular half-dozen.

On the planet of Gallagher, they just want to fly, they don’t want to die. They walk down halls, faster than cannonballs. The girls are named Sally. Usually, Oasis would prefer that you stop doing something, whether that be looking back in anger or crying your heart out. It’s totally fine that they love to rhyme and whine all the time!

As for the music, their backing tracks are the kind of polished, sweet lozenges that Jeff Lynne might manufacture just for fun on a lazy Sunday and file away in his vault for posterity. Maybe that sounds harsh, so let me clarify: 1) Jeff Lynne is a master, and 2) Oasis creates very palatable soundscapes that are just a little too unadventuresome for my taste.

Yet, some days, I just want a bland, melodic song to fill in the background while working, and, sure, Oasis can provide that—not that I ever think to listen to them in those instances, but, in theory, they could. And truly, some Oasis songs are bangers despite their insipid, inane, idiot, stupid, maddening words. 

OK, here is an ad hominem objection, separate from the quality and competency of their product: I might like Oasis more if Liam Gallagher had stage dived to his death during their first tour. I must admit that his well-documented shitty personality does factor into my assessment of his band—which is a bummer because I probably could appreciate his mastermind brother’s songcraft if I gave it an unbiased chance. But there are still a million bands I haven’t heard yet, and so many other listening experiences to be had, that when I see the Oasis sign on the side of the road, I get a mental flash of that dickhead Liam and drive right past it to the Love Shack, baby!

And, another admission, I haven’t tried N.G.’s High Flying Birds because I’m disinterested in Noel’s vox, which can be fairly described as adequate. Let’s say, less bono than Bono.

If the boys in Blur aced their SATs, those Oasis lads would cheat off your paper. Noel Gallagher writes (still does, I assume) catchy chants that are perfectly suited for a daisy-chained crowd of drunken football fans. Maybe that’s why I’ve always considered them a quintessentially British band, whereas while Damon Albarn’s crew possess some of that same Brit-snottiness, I would expect them to be delighted to travel by bus to Wall Drug, where they could amuse themselves by deriding Americana tchotchkes.

Blur tested the limits of traditional song forms and eventually attempted to eschew them completely. Like The Beatles, they had the chops and the looks to be an enormously successful band, and asked, “But why?” Their first album Leisure predated Oasis’s Definitely Maybe by three years, but its lead track, “She’s So High” sounds not dissimilar to a Noel Gallagher ditty. By Leisure’s second song and subsequent songs, Blur had already grown bored and begun exploring, bravely throwing in the odd flat note for tension’s sake, or playing with speed. Comparatively, I can’t imagine Gallagher ever deviating from key or allowing his drums to sound like anything other than a metronomically precise machine.

Like the Beatles, Blur would jump all over the musical timeline, leaping from a throbbing discotheque to an old ragtime hall, with a melancholy hike along the White Cliffs of Dover in between. With each successive album, they progressively deconstructed their music—and, in the case of startlingly handsome Albarn, themselves. (Seriously, I always thought Damon could have a profitable career as an actor playing whatever parts Jude Law declined.) 

Per Wikipedia, sometime around 1996-97, “Under the suggestion of the band’s guitarist, Graham Coxon, the band underwent a stylistic change, becoming influenced by American indie rock bands such as Pavement.” I can see that. I listened to Blur in real time, buying every album upon release and listening all the way through that day, and upon finishing 1999’s 13, I was convinced that a) Damon needed a script for Zoloft, and b) this band gave zero shits about their bank accounts.

And yet, amidst their experimentation, Blur would occasionally toss off a rocker like “Song 2” to remind you what they COULD do but chose not to. That’s a perfect example, actually: “Song 2” may have the most intentionally dumb lyrics of any anthem played at modern sports arenas. American sports arenas. Their hit “Girls & Boys” is still played at dance clubs, and it’s another instance of them taking the piss out of a conventional form.

Truth: If I were in a band, I’d want it to be Blur-like, but with Oasis money.

Another truth: I dislike Liam & Damon almost equally. Arrogant shits, both. The difference is that Albarn has genuine talent to back it up, whereas Gallagher can merely sing a small range of notes in key and is stranded without his brother (or another songwriter) to hand him a lyric sheet and a bottle of claret.

A decade on, you’ll still hear “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and “Wonderwaaaaall” sung by the inebriated rabble around a soccer pitch, which is a testament to Noel Gallagher’s particular genius. Maybe you’ll still hear “Song 2” during time-outs at Lakers games, too. Between these bands, though, Blur will be the one respected by listeners who appreciate traditional pop/rock groups that attempt to test the limit of their art—and try to make art—and, most days, I am such a listener. Hence, for me, Blur is >.

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Unpopular Opinion: Glass Onion, not so shiny.

By Russell Richardson

As busy parents, my wife and I rarely have time for a movie night. When Christmas Eve presented such an opportunity, we chose Glass Onion, Rian Johnson’s sequel to his enjoyable Knives Out, which promised to be an equally light-yet-twisty, Agatha Christie-esque ensemble piece without any excessive grimness, explicitness, or violence that would have been too heavy on Christmas Eve, especially with Santa’s cookies waiting to be eaten on the table before us.

We should have picked the Weird Al bio-pic.

In G.O., a group of five unlikable, Colorform characters—all close friends, we’re meant to believe—is summoned to the island of billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) for a murder-mystery weekend. Among the guests is a governor (Kathryn Hahn), a Twitch-streamer (Dave Bautista), a former model (Kate Hudson), a brilliant programmer (Leslie Odom, Jr.), and Hercule Poirot—nay Benoit Blanc, the world’s preeminent detective, although who exactly invited Daniel Craig’s cunning cornpone is unclear. You’ll remember him from Knives.

The fifth “friend” invited is Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe), the co-founder of Bron’s Google/Facebook/Tesla-type company and who was recently betrayed by Miles in court. Tension looms as we learn that all the friends are all unhappily beholden to Bron, and when one guest dies, Blanc sets out to figure out whodunit and why.

The film begins with each of the five friends receiving and trying to solve a puzzle box sent by Bron. The puzzle box is a fun conceit and as the friends video conference, working together to find a solution, their personalities are revealed by dialogue, actions, and locations. The bit runs long, however, and by the time they’ve opened their boxes and extracted invitations to Bron’s island, I found myself already tired of their company.

Meanwhile, we find Blanc feeling bored and trapped indoors by COVID-19. In fact, we’re led to assume that the pandemic will feature prominently in the film, but no. Neither the virus crisis nor Blanc’s boredom has fuckall to do with him going to the island (as we eventually learn). We encounter no masks for the first ten minutes of the movie—no one wears them at Birdie Jay’s party, not even the sensible-seeming, cameoing Yo-Yo Ma.

When the cast assembles on a dock and waits to board the island-bound boat, they’re inoculated by a mysterious spray—administered by guest star Ethan Hawke—that absolves them of any coronavirus concern for the movie’s remainder.

So, why acknowledge the COVID crisis at all? The vaccination rounds might serve to further characterize the characters, but these are cardboard cut-outs already. We can guess that the Twitch streamer will be corona-skeptical and that the flaky model would wear a mesh facemask. The whole dock sequence felt like a waste of time, and the pandemic is just another story block that connects with nothing else down the line. But shhh—your enjoyment of the film requires you not to question it.

Everyone arrives at the island. Everyone sucks. We follow them around and learn all the ways Miles Bron holds power over their lives. He is so rich, he has the actual Mona Lisa at his compound because the Louvre needed money during the pandemic. Your response might differ, but I thought, “That’s stupid.”

But that’s not the stupidest thing about this movie.

We spend an hour with Benoit Blanc as our eye into this world, our POV character, only to learn that we’ve been misled by him. After a dramatic murder, Johnson Scooby-Doo’s us back to the week preceding the start of the movie. We find out that Andy has evidently committed suicide but has an identical twin who brings Bron’s puzzle box to Blanc. Sister wants his help to prove that she was murdered. Together they will go to the island and find the evidence they need. She’ll cut her hair to look like Andy! She’ll study Andy’s copious journals to get into character!

My complaint: the twin-sibling-stand-in is a groan-worthy trope. If I was surprised by the “twist” at all, it was that after an hour of build-up, I didn’t expect Johnson to reveal such a hackneyed gimmick.

The intention is clear. Knives Out had an endearing protagonist, and Johnson wanted the twin sister to connect with the audience, especially since all the other characters suck suck suck. Yet, the sister arrives too late, and we’re given little reason to care about her, except that she wants justice and has an adorable accent.

Your response might differ, but I thought, “This is stupid.”

But that’s not the stupidest thing about this movie.

We learn that Andy once wrote a master business plan on a cocktail napkin while with friends at their favorite dive bar. She shared the plan with Miles and together they formed Google, Twitter, or whatever. Later, due to irreconcilable differences, Bron squeezed her out of the company and claimed to have drawn up the napkin. Their friends, by now all subordinates to Miles, lied in court to corroborate his story.

The whole movie hinges on this napkin. Here’s the problem: if Andy was such a meticulous, daily diarist that her twin sister could learn everything about her life—and after only a brief period of study!—then the napkin is meaningless. Andy’s attorney would need only to submit into evidence those journals in which she would have fleshed out her business blueprints.

Also: Why again does Miles often carry a blow-torch device? He doesn’t smoke, right? It’s just a Chekhov’s Gun, intended to set the napkin on fire in the final act, right?

Alas, what a disappointing installment in an otherwise promising franchise. The broken chronology of the film does it no favors, none of its characters are likable, and the red herring napkin that serves as the movie’s fulcrum is pointless. And for all this they destroyed the Mona Lisa?

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New Coloring Book! “Super Cooper and Mrs. Cook: Friends Forever!”

Hey friends! I’m thrilled to present the latest publication. Written by Tara Busch, “Super Cooper and Mrs. Cook: Friends Forever!” is a coloring book illustrated by yours truly. It tells about Cooper’s relationship with Mrs. Cook, and how she upholds his legacy in her classroom. All proceeds go to the Super Cooper Saves the Day foundation. Order yours today from Amazon and get coloring! Buy your copy here!

Not interested in a coloring book? Why not visit our friends at Best Buy instead?

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Cavaliers 121, Knicks 108: “Damn DM with the smackdown!”

Donovan Mitchell rubs a 38-point game in New York’s face and the Cavs win with 23 made threes.

Cavalier fans filled the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse to capacity for Sunday evening’s match-up with the New York Knicks (3-3). According to the MSG broadcasting duo Walt Frazier and Mike Breen, the venue had a “playoff-like atmosphere,” due in no small part to the presence of Donovan Mitchell, who proved his value tonight, smacking down the Knicks 121-108.

The Knicks had pursued the three-time All-Star heavily in the off-season, and this was their first chance to see him in the wine and gold. The Mitchell-led Cavs (5-1) have gotten off to a ferocious start. They last played on Friday, in an overtime victory that saw him and fellow guard Caris LeVert each drop 41 points on the Celtics. Not only is Donovan a star, but his surrounding cast ain’t shabby either.

Before tonight’s game, the Cavs were second in the league with a net-rating of 11.5—but New York wasn’t far behind in fifth with a 4.7 rating. This game had all the makings of an exciting contest, with two top-ten defenses, the Mitchell storyline, Jalen Brunson blossoming as lead Knick, and New York tied for third-most points scored per game (119.8). Add the fact that the Cavs are short-handed at the guard position, with Darius Garland and Ricky Rubio sidelined by injuries, and the Knicks had a fighting chance in this one.

The Knicks started slowly yet again, going 0-for-5 before Julius Randle scored their first points. Donovan Mitchell drew first blood with a 29’ three-point jumper. He went 3-for-4 from downtown early, to help goose the Cavs to a 16-11 lead by Tiibodeau’s first time out at the 6:27 mark.

Clearly, Mitchell brought emotion into this tilt, scoring 15 points in the first 11 minutes and finishing the game with 38 points and 12 assists while shooting 12-for-20 and 8-for-13 from deep. If he held a grudge about not ending up on the team of his youth, then point taken, Spida. 

RJ Barrett had probably his best shooting half of the season, going 4-for-7 from the floor, and 3-for-3 from deep. This season, RJ had shot 4-for-28 (14%) from three, so this was a welcome sign of life from the Maple Mamba. His efficiency helped to keep the Knicks competitive in the first half.

The Cavs shot 9-for-16 (56%) from deep in the first frame, with two from Dean Wade (2) and five from Mitchell. The Knicks, however, had gone 5-for-8 (63%) from beyond the arc, and thanks to their accurate shooting, they were only down 35-30 at the end of Q1. 

Kevin Love (aka Dorian Gray) continues to provide a spark off the Cavaliers bench. The 15-year vet chipped in 10 points in nine first half minutes and finished the game with 29 points in 22 minutes. For the Knicks, Obi Toppin stood out in the second quarter, with alley-oops and crafty moves, like so:

And this: 

Neither team could maintain the blistering shooting accuracy, of course. The Cavs gave the Knicks opportunities—a transition take foul, a foul behind the arc—but New York left the gift points on the board and, thus, struggled to close the gap. 

By halftime, New York trailed 62-59. They had shot 6-for-10 from the charity stripe and 47% from both the field and three. There were encouraging signs for the second half, though. New York had won the battle for points in the paint 28-16 and fast break points 14-11, and committed only five turnovers.

Randle and Brunson came out like gangbusters after intermission, combining for six quick points and sharp passing that powered New York to a 67-65 lead and forcing J. B. Bickerstaff to call a quick timeout. That breather couldn’t slow the Brunson and Randle train, though, and they opened up an eight-point lead.

By the end of the third frame, the Knicks had spread the margin to nine, up 93-84. They outscored the Cavs 34-22 with an electrifying 19-point turnaround. (h/t/Mike Breen)

Mitchell Robinson got into foul trouble early again, with four fouls in 13 minutes. Once more, Isaiah Hartenstein filled in with extensive minutes. Despite a few defensive lapses, he played well overall and finished the game with 12 points and nine rebounds, shooting 6-for-10.

For a while tonight, Randle looked like the player we cherished two seasons ago. Crisp passing. Bully ball in the paint. Also deserving of credit was another vet, Evan Fournier, who shot 6-for-9 FG and 3-for-4 from deep, including this beauty: 

Early in the fourth, a Donovan Mitchell spin-jam chipped at the Knicks’ lead and was particularly stinging. Sure, I would have loved to see him do that nightly for the Knicks. I know: spilled milk, no crying, yadda yadda. I won’t bring it up any more. . . . With a four-point play shortly after the dunk, Mitchell nullified the Knicks advantage and tied the game with about seven minutes remaining.

Soon after, the Knicks gave up a second four-point play, this time to Love. Poor New York defense devoured their thrilling lead and left them first in a five-point hole with four minutes left, then an eleven-point trench with three to go.  

Anchored by center Jarrett Allen and Power forward Evan “Albatross Arms” MobleyCleveland’s defense was just too strong down the stretch. The Knicks were depleted after expending all that third-quarter energy. They managed only 15 fourth-quarter points. Randle reverted to last year’s version, Brunson was stymied by Cleveland’s D, Fournier’s three-pointers lost their lift, etc. Down by nine with a minute and a half to go, the Knicks threw in the towel, and even Mike Breen declared, “This one is over.”

Your final 121-108, Cavs.

NOTES

  • If other metrics besides total points decided a game’s outcome, New York would have been victorious. They won on fast break points (28-14), rebounds (45-43), steals (9-3), and points in the paint (64-32). They tied the Cavs with 14 turnovers and 18 points off turnovers.
  • Things got chippy between Raul Neto and Immanuel Quickley in the second quarter, with Neto committing two consecutive B.S. fouls on IQ. I struggle to recall anyone else Quickley has beefed with. Nobody, right? Correct me in the comments if I’m forgetting someone.
  • This year’s Knicks aren’t greyhounds, but their pace has improved to dead-middle of the league (15th) at game-time. The Cavs, on the other hand, are slowpokes without Garland, and their pace ranked 27th.
  • Awful, awful Reddish game. I think Thibs wanted him in the game to combat the length of the Cavalier frontcourt, but he was a total liability tonight. Quentin Grimes, we need you.

Quoth Kaisersoser37: “Damn DM with the smackdown!” Of course. Did we expect any less? The Knicks are 0-3 on the road, but fortunately, they return home to battle the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. Better results next time, I bet. Peace til then.

The Cloudmaker’s Recipe Book: A Christmas Tale

I love working on fun projects for little readers. (I have one at home, after all.) And boy am I crazy about making books. Hence, I am overjoyed to present “The Cloudmaker’s Recipe Book: A Christmas Tale” by my brother-from-another Brent Beckley.

This story of Jonathan Jeremiah Johnson will be a nifty stocking stuffer or a fun read any time of year. Illustrations by yours truly, of course. Order yours exclusively from Amazon, or contact us for potential discounts, bulk options, signed copies, etc.

Here’s what it’s about: Santa has many friends you know, like Jack Frost, Mother Nature, and even the Easter Bunny. But you’ve probably never heard of one of his oldest friends, Jonathan Jeremiah Johnson, the Cloudmaker. When he was a young man, Jonathan invented a machine he called the Terribly Terrific Tubthumper and began to make clouds in his home. When the neighbors complained about the noise, he wrote a letter to Santa for help, which is exactly what he got. Armed with his unique recipe book filled with special ingredients, his marvelous invention, and with a lot of help from Santas’ elves, Jonathan makes and sends magical clouds all around the world. This is the story of how a young inventor became one of Santa’s oldest friends.

If you get a copy, send a picture!

Order Here from Amazon.

The Knicks sign DaQuan Jeffries to a training camp contract. 

Meet Rudy Gobert’s worst nightmare

By Russell Richardson

On Wednesday, Shams Charania of the Athletic reported that the New York Knicks are signing DaQuan Jeffries to a training camp deal.

Mark your calendar: Training camp opens September 27.

Since joining the league in 2019, the undrafted Jeffries has played with the Sacramento Kings (21 games), the Houston Rockets (13 games), and the Memphis Grizzlies (three games). Over 47 NBA contests, the 6’5”, 230 lb. forward averaged 3.8 points and 1.9 rebounds. He’s also had brief stints with the San Antonio Spurs and the Atlanta Hawks.

Although slow of foot and not super athletic, the 25-year old has been praised for his shooting form, his 6’11.25” wingspan, huge hands, and brick-house physique. He should provide great competition in training camp scrimmages and could earn a spot on the G-League roster. 

DaQuan also did this to Rudy Gobert:

Before joining the NBA, Jeffries spent one season at Oral Roberts and two at Tulsa. He steadily improved over his collegiate career. In his senior year as a Tulsa Golden Hurricane, he averaged 13 points, 5.6 boards, and 1.2 blocks in 28.1 minutes, started 31 games, and shot 37% from deep on four attempts per contest.

That season, Jeffries won the State Farm College Slam Dunk Contest at the Final Four and was selected for the Third-team All-American Athletic Conference in 2018-2019. New York loves dunkers!

In 2021-22, he played 16 games with the College Park Skyhawks of the G League. He averaged 14.3 points on 48% shooting from the floor and produced this 35-point explosion against the Wisconsin Herd.

The Oklahoman is represented by Erik Kabe and Bill Duffy of BDA Sports Management / WME Sports, not CAA (in case you were speculating). Welcome to the Knicks, Daquan! Enjoy the lobs.

2022 FIBA EuroBasket Update: France and Lithuania advance to the next round.

Evan and Rokas fight on in the 41st edition of the international classic.

By Russell Richardson

After the FIBA World Cup and the Olympics, FIBA EuroBasket is the top international basketball event, and at this year’s EuroBasket, two representatives of the New York Knicks are battling in the Group of Death.

Knicks fans are keeping an eye on Group B, which includes France, with New York’s shooting guard Evan Fournier, and Lithuania, with draft-and-stash prize Rokas Jokubaitis. Both teams have qualified for the round of 16 in their quest for Euro gold.

As of this writing, Lithuania stands at 2-3, with victories against Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and losses to Slovenia, France, and Germany.

France has fared better with a 3-2 record. After a surprising tournament-opening loss to Germany, Les Bleus proceeded to defeat Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Lithuania. 

 Against Lithuania, Fournier sizzled with 27 points in 27 minutes for France. His most important shot of the night was a three-pointer that broke a 64-64 tie and ignited a 7-0 run down the stretch that sealed the victory. 

“I thought I was a little bit more involved offensively tonight and that helped me find my groove, find my rhythm,” Fournier said.

The match was also noteworthy because it was the second of a back-to-back, which rankled the Knicks’ swingman, the Pride of Saint-Maurice. Fournier had made news by publicly petitioning FIBA to stop scheduling these back-to-back games in the tournament.

“It’s the EuroBasket and we have back-to-backs. Back-to-backs are very hard. And back-to-backs in the NBA and back-to-back in the EuroBasket is two different things,” Fournier told Eurohoops. 

A captain of the French National team, the 29-year-old Fournier argued that players need time between games to recover and the current schedule sometimes leaves them with less than 24 hours to do so. “Every game is more important. From the very first minute until the last one you play very hard. Physically, it’s a big challenge. We are about to have our second back-to-back. So four games in five nights? It’s tough.”

Despite the tough slate, Evan is conducting himself admirably at the Euro. After a lackluster opening against Germany, he has increased his averages to 15 points and three assists in 29 minutes per game.

In the France v. Lithuania contest, Evan’s fellow Knickerbocker but Euro adversary, Rokas Jokubaitis, scored 14 points on 6-for-13 shooting in 28 minutes.

The Knicks acquired the 21-year-old Jokubaitis in the 2021 NBA Draft. This year, he won the prestigious EuroLeague Rising Star Award and played well in a reserve role for FC Barcelona, the 2022 Copa del Rey champions.

In 30 games for Barca, the 6’4”, 194 lb Rokas averaged 7.8 points and three assists in 17.8 minutes. The lefty (yes, another one!) hit 57% of his threes on 1.2 attempts per game.

After his encouraging performance with Barcelona, in a competitive ACB Liga, many Knicks fans were eager to see how the young guard would perform against NBA competition. We may need to temper our expectations and practice patience with this prospect, however.

Jokubaitis appears to be struggling somewhat at the Euro tourney. He has averaged 8.4 points and 3.8 assists in 25.5 minutes per game and connected on only 31% from downtown (4-of-13). He has gone 8-for-10 from the charity stripe, at least.

On the Lithuanian squad, Rokas is competing alongside such NBA players as Jonas Valanciunas (New Orleans Pelicans) and Domantas Sabonis (Sacramento Kings). 

We’ll have to wait at least another year before we’ll see the play-making Lithuanian at Madison Square Garden. In May, Marc Berman reported in the New York Post: “Despite his progress, The Post has learned the Knicks are heavily leaning toward letting him stay in Spain for next season. That would give the 21-year-old Lithuanian another year to polish his game and get stronger.”

Knicks fans, try to catch Rokas in action on your TVs while you can. On Saturday, Lithuania will play Spain and France faces Turkey. Good luck in the rest of the tourney, fellas.

The Five Stages of Expectation

By Russell Richardson 

In the tradition of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, I have found that an expectation has five stages. Field research over a combined 18 years of matrimony has supported my hypothesis. That spans two marriages, for those keeping score.

The five stages of an expectation are as follows.

One: Somebody—e.g., your wife—wants a task done. In a domestic setting, that might be washing dishes, folding laundry, or scraping and painting the entire exterior of your house. As in any combat scenario, never underestimate your adversary’s imagination.

Two: She wants you to do the chore. Men and women may be equals in contemporary America, but when a job involves power tools or acquiring a hernia, the male usually gets the assignment. Yay us. What’s more, an especially creative foe can devise approximately 800,000 ways to torture you. Anticipate the worst when you want to watch sports.

Three: The expectation is unspoken because your wife knows that ordering you around is an unflattering look. Other times, she is, in fact, testing you. Considering that the woman has seen you leave the house in slippers while wearing your shirt inside-out, one wonders why she gives your squirrel-sized brain so much credit. That brings us to…

Four: She wants you to read her mind. Not all the time, of course, because who wants to hang out in that nightmare thicket? Yikes. But when an expectation is afoot, she assumes that you are as telepathic as The Amazing Kreskin. (Google him, youngsters.) And yet, you’re not a wizard, Harry. Thus, inevitably….

Five: She’s disappointed because you failed to meet her expectations, which she should have expected. A fight may ensue. You’ll lose. Take heart, you will have plenty more chances to screw up over the remainder of the marriage. Sadly, there are no points awarded for consistency.

One day your wife will realize that you are not clairvoyant. She will flag the moment with a long, surrendering sigh, followed by visits to the websites of divorce attorneys. After that, my friend, you can expect the worst.