Knicks: Into the Black

Hockey’s plus/minus statistic can be more revealing than a Jennifer Lopez evening gown, and for that reason it’s long been a Jockbeat favorite. The stat measures a team’s (even-strength) goal output against its deficit when a particular player is on the ice (goals-for when a particular player is on the ice, minus goals-against when that player is on the ice, equals the player’s plus/minus ratio). Until 1963, hockey honchos kept this stat confidential.

These days, NBA teams also keep track of plus/minus in order to determine who is earning his millions and who’s nothing more than deadwood on the hardwood. But in a throwback to hockey’s Original Six days—and especially in the paranoid NBA world of Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, and Jeff Van Gundy—such information isn’t provided to the media. So, we decided to figure it out for ourselves—at least in part. We crunched the numbers from the Knicks’ recent five-game Garden party, their longest homestand of the season (and it wasn’t easy; in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a lot more scoring in basketball than hockey). Check out the results—they show just how well the ‘Bockers played during that stretch (their lone loss, to Houston, came by one point and was sandwiched between thumpings of patsies Orlando and Washington and blowouts of powerhouses Portland and San Antonio).

  games Average Minutes Scoring Average Points For Points Against +/-
Kurt Thomas 5 27.4 11.4 292 217 +75
Charlie Ward 4 24.5 8.0 200 151 +49
Marcus Camby 5 34.2 14.6 339 291 +48
Latrell Sprewell 5 39.0 13.4 376 329 +47
Allan Houston 5 37.2 19.8 349 320 +29
Glen Rice 2 22.5 15.5 87 72 +15
Erick Strickland 4 15.5 5.0 117 103 +14
Larry Johnson 5 34.2 12.2 295 291 +4
Rick Brunson 1 6.0 0.0 11 11 0
Chris Childs 5 26.2 4.8 241 242 -1
Travis Knight 2 3.0 1.0 7 8 -1
Lavor Postell 2 2.0 0.0 5 8 -3
Luc Longley 2 6.5 1.0 21 32 -11

And you wondered if Thomas was worth that new contract, didn’t you? And how about the difference between point guards? Anyway, we’ll crunch the numbers again at some point, perhaps after the Knicks’ five-game West Coast swing from March 26 to April 1, when the numbers will probably be slightly less flattering.

Super Bowl Street Smarts

“If there’s an art to my business,” says “Blinky,” a veteran street peddler, “it’s being at the bottom of a ramp when the ‘marks’ come running out after the game screaming, ‘We’re number 1!’ and you have the item that says they are—or maybe 1A, in this case.”

It was with just such risk-reward prescience that Blinky and a colleague (“Puerto Rican Freddie“) found themselves at Giants Stadium for the conference title blowout against Minny last week, holding a fresh supply of bootleg Giants/NFC Champs/Super Bowl 2001 sweatshirts—must-haves for the homebound faithfuls. “Freddie hedged by selling a few dozen on the ‘go-in’ (pregame) at $10 each, but on the ‘blow-off’ (fan exiting, in peddler parlance) we rocked at $20 to $30 per. What a country.”

Blinky prefers cheaper bootleg goods to official NFL merchandise, which he claims are inferior quality. In a product comparison, Jockbeat found the hawker’s “Ravens versus Giants” cap ($3.50 wholesale) a virtual tossup with the supposedly legit, NFL-hologrammed “ny NFC 2000 Champions” number ($12). The latter seemed sturdier, if somewhat graphically cluttered compared to the simpler message on the former. That said, the bootleg’s Raven stitching is so crudely distant from the official bird-beaked Baltimore logo as to make any charges of copyright infringement positively moot.

“We expect the counterfeiters will be out in full force, but so will we,” NFL Properties lawyer Paul Gibault told the Post last week, a pronouncement Blinky calls “nothing more than woofin’.” He says he got chased by Garden cops at a Rangers game, but still moved a couple hundred Supe hats over a few hour’s work at ensuing St. John’s and Knicks’ blow-offs. Anyway, Blinky says, sales have slowed, and nobody’s scoring anywhere near the way they did a few months back: “For us, the Subway Series was better than sex.”

Scribes to City: Drop Dead Presidents

Rudy Giuliani, the stadium-builders’ best friend, is on his last licks, his final State of the City address providing only a whimper of self-congratulation over the city’s two new minor-league parks (total cost: $120 million) and a rehash of last year’s Jets-to-the-West-Side proposal. But fortunately for the ball barons, the cheering section in the press box is still loud and strong.

The drumbeat began back in December, when the Post‘s Richard Wilner penned a panicky essay charging that “New York City is facing a $3 billion sports stadium crisis” and “facing the possibility of having to build five sports palaces in the next five years.” (That’s new parks for the Yankees, Mets, Jets, Rangers/Knicks, and MetroStars, if you’re scoring at home.) “Will fans ever get to experience a home game at a state-of-the-art stadium?” cried Wilner, ever-sympathetic to the plight of fans thus far denied the chance to spend $45 for seats located in the lower troposphere.

Wilner’s screed vanished without a ripple. But his place on the battle lines was taken last Wednesday by Richard Sandomir of the Times, who bemoaned “New York’s plight” as the national stadium boom has passed it by.

Sandomir’s article was a classic of roadblock journalism, in which criticism is seen as a mere obstacle to an inevitable goal: other cities’ multimillion-dollar tax drains are here described as “sports Xanadus” that have been mysteriously “stalled by indecision and a lack of political consensus.” (In fact, polls have shown a startling political consensus against funding new stadiums with tax dollars.) And like most Times stories, it’s best read upside-down: the hand-waving lead paragraphs bury the real story until way down in paragraph No. 24, where urban development guru Mitchell Moss finally notes, “Maybe it’s not a sign of dysfunction, but a sign of savvy that nothing’s gotten built here.”

The Daily News and Newsday have so far proven resistant to the edifice complex. But as the mayoral race heats up and a baseball lockout looms ever nearer, we can expect more shots across the bow in the city stadium wars.

Contributors: Jeff Ryan, John Stravinsky, Neil Demause Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman