1. Stephen Jackson Shoots Down Gun Talk
NEW YORK -- Stephen Jackson didn't want to hear any questions about guns, much less provide any insight into the indefinite suspension of Gilbert Arenas or the new allegations surrounding Javaris Crittenton's role in the Washington Wizards' gun scandal.
Jackson made this clear with a curt "that's got nothing to do with me," then took a couple of basketball questions and called it a night after the Charlotte Bobcats had their three-game winning streak snapped by the New York Knicks, 97-93, in the only game on the NBA schedule Thursday night.
It's not that Jackson doesn't have gun stories, because some of Jackson's stories are the stuff of legend (and we'll share one of those lower in this piece) and one of them -- the time he squeezed off several rounds in the parking lot of an Indianapolis strip club during a violent dispute also involving then-teammate Jamaal Tinsley -- led to his eventual departure from the Indiana Pacers.
"The Indiana people didn't react to shooting the gun," Knicks president Donnie Walsh recalled in a pregame conversation with reporters, making the point of how attitudes toward handguns can vary widely depending on what region of the country you're speaking about. "It was more being in a strip joint after practice."
But with Arenas having drawn an indefinite suspension in large part for his flippancy toward the incident in the days after his gunplay confrontation with Crittenton at Wizards practice, discussion of firearms was openly discouraged by Jackson himself and by the Bobcats PR staff, which has instructed the players to steer clear of addressing a topic that has grown a little too hot in the past few days for many people to handle in a level-headed manner.
But Jackson was willing to speak on the reasons behind his team's downfall after the Bobcats took 11 of their 24 fourth-quarter field goal attempts from behind the arc (plus another shot on which the tip of Jackson's toe was barely touching the 3-point line) and were outscored 36-22 in the final 14 minutes.
"'They were packing the paint; they couldn't guard us man-to-man, so they were helping a lot, and they got into that zone. So we took the shots we were given, we just didn't knock 'em down," Jackson said. "It's a game we should have won, it's just one game. It doesn't determine whether we make the playoffs or not."
With the win, the Knicks (15-20) tied Charlotte's 15 victories (against 19 losses) and moved within .009 percentage points of the Milwaukee Bucks for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Their 1-9 start long behind them, both mentally and on the calendar, the Knicks are now squarely in the hunt for a postseason spot with two of their key players, David Lee and Nate Robinson, trying to earn hefty bonus clauses by helping the Knicks reach the postseason for the first time since 2004. Lee helped the cause by scoring 22 points with seven rebounds, and Robinson led the third-quarter surge that spurred the Knicks' comeback before becoming a human turnover machine in the final 9 minutes, committing four of his seven miscues.
But when Boris Diaw missed a 3 from the right corner with 10.9 seconds left, the Bobcats gave up and did not even foul to stop the clock.
After that came the stonewalling of gun questions in the Charlotte locker room, and there's not much else to tell -- except for that Jackson gun story we referenced earlier and promised to get to.
Well, long before Jackson had become a heavily tenured NBA player, back when he was still trying to make a name for himself with the 2000-01 San Antonio Spurs, Jackson was one of the more accessible and conversational players you would find anywhere.
And in discussing the long road he had taken to the NBA, playing in the minor leagues in the United States as well as professional leagues in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, he once told a heck of a story about gun culture and how it impacted his daily life.
According to Jackson, guns were so prevalent in the Dominican that at one of his favorite restaurants, patrons were required to check their bullets -- they could keep their guns, but not the ammo -- at the door.
"They had bullet checks like we have coat checks," Jackson said at the time.
Sadly, the time for telling tales like that one has passed, too. In the locker Thursday night sitting next to Jackson was Gerald Wallace, who was about to answer a question about handguns -- before a PR staffer leaned in and told him he didn't have to.
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider
2. The D'Antoni Rules In New York
The rotation is short
This is a well-known characteristic of Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni. The Knicks employed 11 players in a blowout win against Indiana, which is rare for him. The last time D'Antoni went into double digits was Dec. 2 in Orlando. In between those two games, D'Antoni used eight players every game (including 11 straight) except for two contests in which nine players saw the floor. Factor in that the No. 8 guy usually doesn't see a lot of minutes, and it's essentially a seven-man rotation. For instance, Eddy Curry saw "action" in three of those games, but he didn't play more than seven minutes. D'Antoni's rotation is much like what you'd expect from a playoff team. The best guys (according to him) get the lion's share of the minutes; a few other guys come in for breathers; and everyone else has front-row seats to an NBA game.
You're either in or you're out
There doesn't seem to be much of a middle ground with D'Antoni. The Knicks' coach has stated that he doesn't like to put veterans in for spot minutes, preferring to keep them on the bench instead of bringing them in cold. He has repeated this frequently, especially when asked about bringing in a non-rotation player for offensive or defensive purposes in a single critical possession. Chances are, if a player is seeing minutes, he'll continue to get court time. And the converse is true, as well.
Injuries don't constitute succession
This was apparent last season when the Knicks were short on guards after the Jamal Crawford trade, Cuttino Mobley injury and Stephon Marbury refusal. Instead of going to the next guy on the bench like most coaches would, D'Antoni ignored Anthony Roberson. New York rode Chris Duhon into the hardwood and even went guard-less at times rather than turn to someone on the end of the pine. So if a player thinks an injury means Coach D will be forced to insert him into the game, he's misguided.
• Read the rest of Kurylo's post at KnickerBlogger.net, part of the TrueHoop Network
3. Howard Looked A Step Slow
John Hollinger: Let me put something out there -- was it me or did Dwight Howard look a half-step slow out there? The turnovers, the inability to dominate Andrea Bargnani, a couple slow rotations -- most notably when Marco Belinelli drove in from the 3-pt line for a layup and a relatively nearby Howard couldn't react in time to get the block. He's still better than 90% of the league, but I don't think he's playing at last year's level.
• Read the rest of Hollinger's chat click here
4. Extreme Behavior
Wilson Chandler, Knicks: Scores a season-high 27 points, adding seven rebounds and six assists in the win over the Bobcats. Chandler has scored 23 or more points in the Knicks' past three games, all wins.
No. 1 draft picks' PT: Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson, the 12th pick in the draft, got his fifth straight DNP. Knicks forward Jordan Hill, the No. 8 pick, drew his 15th DNP in his past 16 games.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"I don't like us shooting 3s, to be honest."
-- Bobcats coach Larry Brown, whose team made 12 of 26 3-pointers (46.2 percent) in the loss to New York. Brown said he wants opposing defenses challenged more by ball movement.
5. Up And Good For Gallinari
Danilo Gallinari roared his way to 17 points, sinking 5 of 11 beyond the arc. For the season, the 21-year-old Italian leads the NBA in total 3-pointers made (96-234, 41 percent).
6. NBA Video Channel
7. Wallace For Defensive POY?
I'm not going to sit here and say with 100 percent certainty, "Gerald Wallace is a robot sent from the future to save mankind from opposing teams' offenses." I'm just saying I would be very interested to see the results of an X-ray. I'm beginning to think his missing time for a collapsed lung was just factory maintenance.
8. What's The Hurry?
The Hornets defeated the Thunder on Wednesday without scoring any points on fast breaks. It was the second game this season in which New Orleans failed to register a fast-break point (the other was a loss in New York on Nov. 2). Only one other NBA team has played a game without posting a fast-break point this season. The Spurs did it in a victory at Washington on Saturday.