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The New York Knicks tried something new on Sunday. Well, something old, really.
For the first half of Sunday’s matinee meeting with the NBA-leading Golden State Warriors, the Knicks’ in-game operations quirks — all the audiovisual non-basketball entertainment that has become so all-encompassing at arenas the world over as a game wends its way toward completion — just kind of … stopped operating.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) March 5, 2017
No music to accompany player introductions. No video packages to exhort fans to get out of their seats and scream. No bells or whistles save for those blown by the refs. Just the game “in its purest form,” for reasons that remain unclear. (“An N.B.A. spokesman said it was the Knicks’ decision, and a Knicks spokesman declined to explain further,” according to Mike Vorkunov of the New York Times.)
This is how timeouts should sound pic.twitter.com/AsJ3TTgmhH
— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) March 5, 2017
“In the quietest moments, all you could hear were the squeaks of player sneakers, the ball bouncing on the floorboards, and the regretful angst of tormented Knicks president Phil Jackson,” wrote Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal.
And man, did Draymond Green haaaaaaaaaate it:
Draymond just destroyed the idea of playing no music during the game, calling it "disrespectful" and "trash." pic.twitter.com/Zes1cCwvsK
— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) March 6, 2017
It’s pretty perfectly on-brand for the famously bombastic Warriors forward to strongly oppose that which strips sound and fury from a basketball game. Sure enough, after the Warriors shook off a sluggish first half to take a 112-105 win that snapped a rare two-game losing skid, Green made it very clear that he did not much care for Madison Square Garden’s whisper-quiet brand of experimentation. From Anthony Slater of the Bay Area News Group:
“That was pathetic,” Green said. “It was ridiculous. It changed the flow of the game. It changed everything. You get so used to playing the game a certain way and to completely change that? To me, I thought it was completely disrespectful to [NBA senior vice president of entertainment and player marketing] Michael Levine and [Warriors president and chief operating officer] Rick Welts [who formerly served as the NBA’s chief marketing officer] and all these guys who have done these things to change the game from an entertainment perspective and give the game a great vibe.”
To hear Green tell it, the absence of the sorts of noise, pomp and circumstance that have become so deeply ingrained in NBA game presentation — about which he said he only found out just before tipoff — contributed to a first half that saw the Warriors shoot just 17-for-47 from the field (36.2 percent), the Knicks make just 18 of their 41 field goals (43.9 percent), the two teams combine for 13 turnovers and New York head into halftime with a 50-49 lead.
The lone saving grace, according to Green, who’d finish with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in 40 minutes of work — the Knicks seemed wrong-footed by the whole thing, too. More from Slater:
“No, I don’t think they were trying to change us,” Green said. “Because I think it changed their players, too. Did you see that first half? It was just bad, sloppy, all over the place. There was no rhythm to the game. All of that stuff makes a difference, believe it or not. You get rhythm. That’s why when guys go in and work out at night, you turn on music. It helps you get into a certain area, a certain place. I don’t think they were trying to do it to throw us off, but it definitely threw the entire game off.” […]
“Complete disrespect,” Green said. “You advance things in the world to make it better. You don’t go back to what was bad. It’s like computers can do anything for us and then you go back to paper. Why would you do that? It was ridiculous…They need to trash that because that’s exactly what that was.”
Green’s fellow Warriors weren’t quite as vociferous — then again, few players anywhere ever match Draymond on that particular scale — in their disapproval, but they seemed to share the sentiment. From Roger Rubin of Newsday:
“It was really weird. You sort of take it for granted: Every NBA game you have this stuff going on — music in the background — and you don’t even think about it until it’s not there,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “It felt like church. It was very quiet. […]
Steph Curry said the arena had the feel of a high school game, then stopped himself.
“We even had music in high school,’’ he said. “It was like a middle school warm-up game where it’s just you, your teammates [and] no music, no entertainment whatsoever.”
Similar grumbling emanated from the Knicks’ locker room after the game, according to Daniel Popper of the New York Daily News:
Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 15 points on 6 of 12 shooting and was benched for close to 10 minutes in the second quarter, was asked three times about the absence of music in the first half. He would only say: “It was different.”
Courtney Lee struggled to understand the logic behind the decision. “It was kind of weird because that’s home court advantage, having the crowd involved, having the music going, having that energy behind you,” he said. “So it was different.”
Kristaps Porzingis didn’t approve, either. “I didn’t like it,” said the 7-3 Latvian, who poured in 24 points on 9 of 21 shooting while facing off against Green for much of the afternoon and evening. “It was weird for me.”
When the Knicks and Warriors came out of the locker rooms after intermission, things went back to normal. The music blasted, the videos blared, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson made shots, and Golden State regained the upper hand on a Knicks team that now sits 5 1/2 games out of the East’s eighth and final playoff spot with 19 games remaining in the season.
“I kind of liked it better in the second half,” Kerr told reporters after the game. “It felt more normal with the music.”
Clearly, his power forward agreed.
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