Real Life Rock Top 10: Rebounds, Time Outs, and the Carters at the Louvre

1. Eleanor Friedberger, Rebound (Frenchkiss)

From a singer who in Fiery Furnaces could come across as someone backing you into a corner and talking a mile a minute while giving you the unsettling feeling she’s thinking over every word as she says it, music that, with no sense of hurry, wraps each song around the next. Angelo Badalamenti synths from old Julee Cruise records carry the tunes as if teaching them how to swim. It’s a report from a certain state of mind, one that’s saying, Time out. And as one number fades into another, a bigger question: And what if I said time out and froze everyone in the world in place and walked away? What would that sound like?

2. The Carters, “Apes**t” (YouTube/Tidal)  

First impressions:

There’s a lot of nice art in the Louvre.

The smugness of the poses doesn’t erase the thrill of the faster-than-sound words coming out of Beyoncé’s mouth.

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3. Neil Young, Roxy — Tonight’s the Night Live (Reprise)

His death record, and if on the original album the chant of the title song seemed almost too much to take, here the killers — and they can make you skip a breath — are “Roll Another Number” and the oh-so-casual fatal dope deal of “Tired Eyes.” There’s a lot of stage talk, particularly about the stripper Candy Barr. “We’re doing OK in the Seventies,” Young says near the end of a show recorded in late September 1973. “We really are. History’s coming back” — there’s that displacement of someone historicizing a moment as it takes place — “everything’s OK.  Spiro says it’s all right.” The vice president resigned on October 10.

4. Dana Milbank, “Finally, a president with the guts to stand up to Canada,” Washington Post (June 11)

“They inflicted Nickelback on us. We did nothing. They sent us Justin Bieber. We turned the other cheek. They were responsible for one abomination after another: Poutine. Dipthong vowels. Hawaiian pizza. Instant mashed potatoes. Ted Cruz. Still, we did not retaliate — until now.”

5. Overheard, Minneapolis (June 8)

Two young children idly singing “Nation-wide…” and you realized that this lilting, wistful insurance commercial, bathing the airwaves with Brad Paisley and Leslie Odom Jr. and Tori Kelly offering the tune as if it held more truth, more revelation, more of themselves than anything they ever recorded before, had already colonized the minds and corrupted the aesthetic sensibilities of the nation’s youth, until the kids finished the line: “…is suicide.”

6. A reader who goes by Uhuru Comix writes in (June 14)

“Tonight, there was a surreal moment on Jeopardy. The category was Combat Rock, and the $800 clue was ‘Pere Ubu: 30 Seconds Over ________.’ None of the contestants knew the answer, of course, and Trebek had to say (in a tone that made it sound as though he thought the answer was obvious), ‘What is Tokyo.’ I think there must be an Ubu fan lurking among their writers. Either that, or the apocalypse is upon us.”

7. Daniel Zakroczemski, illustration for Marc Stein, “Warriors and Cavs Star in N.B.A.’s Version of Groundhog Day,” New York Times (May 31)

“How can you root against LeBron?” a friend asked. “Because I’ve been a Warriors fan for more than forty years and I live in Oakland?” I said. “But it’s like rooting against John Henry!” he said — and the next day, taking up more than half a page, was a blazing, Cubist-like painting by an artist whose work usually appears in the Buffalo News showing just that: an embattled but indomitable giant stopping the balls of four other muscled men as if they were just so many steam drills. And then LeBron broke his hand.

8. Allen Ruppersberg, “Intellectual Property: 1968–2018,” Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (through July 28)

Born in Cleveland in 1944, working out of Los Angeles, Ruppersberg practices ideas in action, and despite the time covered in this vast but uncrowded retrospective the feeling was that anything that might catch your eye could have been made either fifty years ago or the day before yesterday. Among dozens of other works that could as easily be called phenomena as constructions, with a revisit to the 1969 Al’s Café (where among the all-non-food items on the menu the cheapest was a diner plate with a 45 of the Kingsmen’s version of “Louie Louie”) and a room devoted to blowups with cutouts of Uncle Scrooge’s battle with the Maharajah of Howduyustan over who can build the biggest statue of himself, my favorite was the 1996 installation Good Dreams, Bad Dreams — What Was Sub-Literature, with a announcement for “Lecture today at 4 PM,” which unfortunately was idea, not action, because the piece really made you want to know. There were real books in a vitrine, and rows of titles on the wall behind it: Was an 1891 cheap paper Oliver Twist sub-lit because of its format, or its writing?  What about a gorgeous edition of Evangeline? Classics Illustrated versions of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Typee? You could probably put money on Jack Hanley’s Let’s Make Mary as sub-literature, but what about Mickey Spillane’s Kiss Me Deadly, which may have been a lousy book, but was made into a great movie? The titles were a riot of pure id and the actual books were the mental attic of a whole country.

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9. Here to Be Heard — The Story of the Slits, directed by William E. Badgley (Head Gear Films/Moviehouse Entertainment)

A documentary about the punk band that began in London in 1976, dissolved in 1982, put part of itself back together in 2005, and ended when singer Ari Up died in 2010 at 48. It’s workmanlike, and because of the story as it was captured then and the present-day testimony of bassist Tessa Pollitt, drummer Palmolive, and guitarist Viv Albertine, stirring. There are bits of revelation that capture the essence of both the band’s mission to confront, attack, and destroy the marginalization of women in culture and of rock ’n’ roll as such, as when Palmolive describes the Slits on the Clash’s White Riot UK tour in 1977: “Sometimes we were playing different songs. And we couldn’t even tell! Sometimes we could tell”. There is the absolute primacy given to the clothes the Slits wore, as public action, free speech, political demonstration, and pleasure (Albertine, on “feeling like myself for the first time in my life”: “They couldn’t tell if we were male or female, or even human”), and the way the end of the band felt like a death sentence. “I fell into the terrible bath of heroin,” Pollitt says; Albertine, who as a Slit was all screaming blond hair and frilly white slips, “started dressing in brown clothes. I let my hair go back to brown.”

10. Nathan Lane, acceptance speech for Best Featured Actor in a Play, 72nd Annual Tony Awards (CBS, June 10).

For his role as the tribune of McCarthyism, mob fixer, and AIDS death Roy Cohn in Angels in America — a role that took on far more resonance in this year’s revival than it could have had when the play premiered in 1993, since in the 1970s Cohn was also a mentor to Donald Trump — Lane produced a real thrill in the way that, in under two minutes, he thanked twenty-two individuals and groups, often in detail, with nuance, without a crib sheet, without pauses or hesitations, until the end, when he thanked his husband. It felt like a kind of rounded farewell, not that he doesn’t still have work to do. “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” Donald Trump said in a moment of frustration not long ago, and you can just imagine what Lane would make of the chance to materialize in his face.

Thanks to Steve Perry and Bill Brown.


Hoop Dreams, Deflated: Lenny Cooke Is Another Heartbreaker of a Basketball Doc

Ordinary life comes to look like a humiliation in the late reels of Lenny Cooke, yet another heartbreaker of a doc in which a compelling basketball story powers a discomfiting examination of a crisis facing young American men, so many of whom are encouraged to develop skills and interests having little to do with those rewarded by this country’s economy.

Such is the case with Lenny Cooke, a top high-school basketball player who chose to skip college ball and leap directly into the NBA draft. Problem is, Cooke attempted this the year after a clutch of highly touted high-schoolers went bust after going pro. Worse, at least one kid better than him was attempting the same leap: LeBron James.

The year before, Cooke and James competed in a to-the-buzzer tournament game captured in the film. We don’t see footage of the time LeBron bests Cooke for good — when, as the ’02 draft wound down, Cooke realized he wasn’t going to be picked at all.

Later, we hear him tell a reporter about breaking down, and his fiancée, Anita, sighs about how hard it is to go from great expectations to having to scratch out a living.

Shooting over a decade, the filmmakers introduce us to both the cocksure wunderkind and the man with his promise behind him. Both Lennys reveal themselves in well-observed moments: the kid signing autographs at 18 or joking with the cops who turn up to investigate a family party on his grandma’s lawn; the adult who cooks a mean hard-boiled egg, sings Mario’s “Let Me Love You” to Anita, and harangues his ballplayer buddies for not keeping in touch.


Note to Mike Woodson — Don’t blow it

“This series is not over,” said Amar’e Stoudemire after Saturday’s 100-67 slaughter of the Knicks at the hands of the Miami Heat. “We’ve got to learn from our mistakes today and get ready for the next one.”

Coincidentally, this is exactly how General; Custer’s last dispatch from the Little Big Horn read. Perhaps the biggest mistake the Knicks made was in going out with a game plan based on beating the Heat through physical intimidation.

The Knicks committed 21 fouls in the first half alone, giving Miami a 28-5 free throw advantage. The most spectacular foul, of course, was the hit Tyson Chandler put on LeBron James with 1:36 left in the half. Incredibly, coach Mike Woodson, Chandler, and the rest of the Knicks are still insisting that it was not a flagrant foul. Take a look from several angles:


Not a flagrant? Seriously? If Darrelle Revis hits receivers over the
middle like that during the season, the Jets will go to the Super Bowl.

This didn’t come out of the blue, either. A few minutes earlier,
both Stoudemire and Udonis Haslem got double technicals after jawing
back and forth with about four minutes to play in the opening quarter.
About two minutes later, Shane Battier got a good smash on Carmelo
Anthony, which could easily have been called flagrant; anyway, Baron
Davis then ran about 60 feet out of his way to give Battier a shove.
After that, in Woodson’s phrase, “All hell broke loose.”

Look, Mike, hell didn’t break loose — your team did. It was one of
the worst epidemics of stupid fouls ever seen in a Knicks game, and
that’s saying something. The roughhousing did nothing to upset Miami’s
rhythm – not only did they bury the Knicks with a blizzard of free
throws but LeBron came alive and humiliated them in the final minute.
Please, put a cap on this juvenile schoolyard crap before It degenerates
into another embarrassing debacle.

Mike, we like you. The Knicks were 18-6 with you and would have done
even better with Jeremy Lin in the game at point guard. Losing to Miami
won’t cost you your job, but losing to Miami again — the way you lost
Saturday — will.


Basketball Doc More Than a Game as Processed as Space Jams

More Than a Game follows Akron’s Fab Four (later Five) kids on the basketball court, from their “Shooting Stars” traveling youth team into high school and a run of championships. The reason this documentary tells their story—instead of that of the team that miraculously upsets the by-then-nationally-recognized starters in junior-year playoffs—is because one of the Fab was LeBron James. Ignored in the film’s discussion of James’s transition to premature fame is his attempt to swing early NBA eligibility after the loss, which wouldn’t jive with the “All for one” ethic, among the film’s many pep talk lessons. The ostensible director here is Kristopher Belman, an Akronite who played court videographer to King James’s St. Vincent–St. Mary team, but final cut belongs to LeBron, Inc. The recent PR flub of Nike henchmen confiscating footage of James getting gently dunked on in a pickup game testifies to the powerful trust authoring his legacy. The film could be a tie-in to the recent ghostwrite autobiography, Shooting Stars. Most obtrusive, though, is the contribution of Harvey Mason Jr., producing and soundtracking, who sets Game adrift on an endless sea of crashing crescendos. Good game footage, a few clear looks at the kids behind it, but mostly as processed as Space Jam.


Cred Sheet

Poor Graphic Design
The New Pornographers’ titanic struggle to come up with a halfway-decent album cover.
At least this one isn’t bright green and yellow.

This song will change your life
The New Pornographers’ “Myriad Harbour.”
Garish visuals aside, behold this slightly-less-cryptic-than-usual anthem from the wacky/beautiful Dan Bejar.

Sporting Trifles
Cleveland Cavaliers not named Lebron James.
Straight-up, fuck you guys.

Transcendent Concert Experience
John Doe at the Living Room Thursday night.
Splendid, but he really oughta give some thought to whipping up a solo acoustic version of “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline.”

Coif Medicine
The similarity between Rihanna’s hairdo while singing “Umbrella” on The Tonight Show and that picture of a pissed-off cat involuntarily wearing a cut-up lime as a helmet.
Enough with the bangs.

Wistful Reminisces
Revisiting Peppers and Eggs, the two-disc comp of music from The Sopranos, while in mourning.
Alas, no Defiler.

Great Moments in Fake Bands
Funniest fake band in history, Spinal Tap excepted.


Chubby Joggers of the World Unite

LCD Soundsystem’s 45:33, 45 continuous minutes of original music commissioned by Nike to accompany exercise, may be the best thing the corporation has ever done. Better than wildly inventive labor schemata, better than its tenure as whipping boy at college sociology departments nationwide. The pairing—wry, indie disco saviors and joggers—is weirder than Nike’s new surrealistic Lebron James ads. And sonically it stands up with anything LCD head James Murphy has released previously, proving that a paycheck can be as much of a motor as precious inspiration when it comes to making a good record.

The track itself is a pocket history, a mid-tempo disco-by-numbers exercise that follows the rises and falls of a workout routine. Murphy huffs about love for a few minutes, gets swallowed by a funky Wurlitzer passage, and, as the natural cannabinoids hit, starts crying about space travel while cloaked in a vocoder. Shit invariably gets more spacey as the fabled
zone hits; the tempo is upped from Italo to something more like Chicago, with a few kind words about alien technology thrown in over a heavily echoed bassline, before the whole track dissipates into beatless synth twinkles—cool down, stretch time, etc.

Of course, there are ethical acrobatics—concessions, at least—waiting to be made. Nike is still very much The Man, eternally liable in the eyes of culturally conscious consumers. But really, each routinized gripe deserves a brief acknowledgement that, yeah, a massive company is rewarding a good band with work. What’s even more interesting is that Nike—American economic ingenuity and the marketable spirit of individualism incarnate—has made something as dispassionate and universally functional as science or Soviet art. THIS IS RUNNING MUSIC. THIS IS MUSIC FOR RUNNING. It’s sentiment to echo “mood” records, institutional soundtracks, pill bottles. The single’s “cover”—it’s currently only being sold on iTunes—even has a line graph diagramming the track’s rises and falls. Straight from the lab to you. Furthermore, Murphy, the goon with the beakers, though a professed lover of jujitsu, is generally pictured looking unshaven and slightly chubby.

The various disconnects here are fascinating and, frankly, kinda sexy. The old Macintosh ad that had all the pacified automata being disrupted by the one hammer-wielding iconoclast—a runner, ironically—gets a makeover. Instead of marching, they’re all jogging together listening to disco, and nobody comes to break anything. Suddenly, fears about losing our itty-bitty customizable slot in the Matrix turn to comforts as you stare from your treadmill with an eerie solace in the hope—the knowledge, even—that the person next to you is on the same prescription.


The LeBron Road Show

“I never complained about the media. You all got me famous, but I made myself famous, I think,” said LeBron James in response to yet another analyze-the-hype question in his post-game press conference after his high school tourney game in Trenton, New Jersey, last Saturday. And just as neatly as he sliced up the Los Angeles Westchester defense—James threw down a career-high 52, and at the end of three quarters had personally outscored the nation’s number seven team 47 to 39—he cut to the root of LeBron Mania. “I worked hard,” he said. “I put in every hour to make myself better. Jesus Christ made me famous. None of you all made me famous.”

James is the high school hoops phenom from St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio, who is a virtual lock to be the first player chosen in the June NBA draft. And indeed, teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Denver Nuggets have gutted their rosters largely in the hopes of securing his draft rights.

Still, when basketball’s It Boy made his New York-area appearance at the Prime Time Shootout in Trenton, the hype seemed to take everyone by surprise—from the tournament promoters who ran out of media credentials to the fans who tried in vain to schmooze, sneak, or scalp their way into the sold-out arena—except of course the 6-foot-8 prodigy at the center of this hurricane.

“I just feel like LeBron James has a big bull’s-eye,” he said with a tinge of sadness. “I can’t do kid things. I’ve got to stay focused and do the right thing.”

All season long, James has been the living, breathing, walking symbol of all that is wrong with American sports. He’s been branded a sell-out for cruising around in a PlayStation-equipped Hummer. (But what bank wouldn’t make a $50,000 loan to the mother of a young man who’s only months away from becoming a multimillionaire?) He was branded a cheat—and briefly suspended—for accepting some overpriced NFL throwback jerseys. (But a student-athlete with a 3.5 average should understand that a store doesn’t give out $845 worth of merchandise to each person on the honor roll.) He’s been branded a prima donna for back-channeling his disapproval of the Cavs’ firing of coach John Lucas. (But who wouldn’t feel loyal to a pro coach who got slapped with a suspension and $150,000 fine just for letting him practice with his players?)

What’s conveniently overshadowed in all this is that James is a one-man economic engine. Riding on his back, St. Vincent-St. Mary commands $15,000 appearance fees for some games, an estimated $400,000 annual revenue stream that not only boosted the athletic budget but may have saved the entire school. Indeed, the school’s games have been broadcast on ESPN, YES Network, and even on pay-per-view in his native Ohio at $7.50 a pop.

“I don’t know if I’d want to go through it again, but I’m happy I went through it,” James said, busting yet another verbal spin move. “Going to see different spots—Philadelphia, California, North Carolina—I think it’s great. I might see them places again, but my teammates might never see that again, and I’m glad I can provide that for them.”

Rewind 90 minutes to when James took the court, and you could hear the buzz that has become his background music.

“They might be Reeboks,” whispers one daily newspaper reporter to his colleague.

Indeed, what James is wearing has become almost as compelling as how he’s playing. When he does turn pro, the shoe deal that he signs with Nike, Adidas, or Reebok will dwarf his rookie-scale salary, so he’s careful to alternate shoes from game to game so as to keep potential sponsors guessing. On his arms he sports bandages and adhesive patches to cover his tattoos, as per school policy. Also missing are the multi-carat diamond studs that James usually wears in each ear—”cubic zirconium,” he winks. His white headband sports the neutral NBA logo, another nod to the shoe wars, as well as a subtle tweak at the media—James is quick to remind pushy reporters that he’s never actually said that he’ll skip college and head straight to the pros.

As he begins his pre-game warm-ups, James is nothing but sinewy energy. He’s bouncing on his ‘boks, pumping his fists, pounding his chest. Sure, it’s done with one eye on appearance—do most 18-year-olds do anything that isn’t?—but the enthusiasm is also genuine.

As the game starts, James seems to be thinking a little too much. Eager to prove he can defend, he overplays his man, and Westchester’s Trevor Ariza (bound for UCLA next fall) fakes James off his still-uncommitted feet, and flies to the hoop for the game’s first dunk. Given the opportunity to counterslam, James declines. The first time he gets out on the break, he pulls up for an oh-so-stylish finger roll, and the crowd erupts in boos.

Indeed, during the first half, James seems to be playing to the latest round of nitpicking among NBA scouts—the trajectory on his jumper is too flat, and he won’t be able to get it off against pro-level defenders. So he comes out and starts bombing from downtown like a prep Paul Pierce, swishing rainbow after rainbow, including a 42-foot bank shot as the first quarter runs out.

The joke, of course, is that James has transcended scouting. There isn’t a GM in the NBA who would risk passing on a guy who’s constantly being compared to Magic, Michael, and Kobe. Skipping school is the NBA’s newest fashion statement. (You could make a plausible All-NBA Team—Yao Ming, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzski, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant—of guys who never set foot on a college campus.) And with Darko Milicic, an 18-year-old 7-footer who is Serbia’s answer to LeBron James, winning his draft eligibility this weekend, the road to the NBA has veered a little farther away from Duke, North Carolina, and Georgetown.

Even amid the LeBron backlash, the young star has his supporters. At halftime, Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer bends over backwards to sing the young man’s praises. “He still maintains his dignity,” says Palmer. “He’s a great ball-player. His teammates love him. He’s a great human being.”

In the third quarter, his points made, his dues paid, James gives the crowd what they came for. It’s Showtime. He starts hawking the passing lanes, forgetting about the jumper, and looking to get out on the break.

Within the span of about a minute, he throws down an alley-oop and rocks the rim with two breakaway dunks, each more emphatic than the previous. And just when the Westchester defenders think they’ve seen it all, James shows what makes him special. On the break yet again, he eschews the baseline reverse slam in favor of a Magic-to-Worthy semi-no-look to skying teammate Romeo Travis.

When his team calls time out after James’s little highlight reel—as much to give James and the crowd a blow as talk X’s and O’s—the man-child hovers above his teammates, literally and figuratively. James is trying to listen, but his attention wanders. He may be on his way to the NBA and beyond, but for the moment, he still has enough kid in him that he can’t help but sneak a peek at the Jumbotron and smile in wonder at his own instant replay.


Hoop Dreams

Consider it a crucible. The Nets got swept in the NBA Finals. And so did Shaq’s Orlando Magic. So did Magic Johnson’s Lakers—twice. And for that matter, does going out in four really hurt more in the championship round than in the conference? Remember that the Kings and the Spurs got broomed by the Lakers last year.

No, going down in four doesn’t tarnish a season in which the Nets played tough and inspired basketball. Any more than stealing a game would have changed the big picture. Actually their date with Shaq and Kobe in the Finals should help the team in the long run. If they were under any illusions about their place in the pecking order, their finals run should put that into perspective. Good team. Pathetic conference. Lots of work to be done.

The Nets have some of the pieces in place: A GM who seems to have a vision and the guts to pull the trigger. A coach who has a system and the ability to implement it. And one truly great player in the person of Jason Kidd. This being the Nets, of course, there are storm clouds. Much has been made of Kidd’s impending free agency and of the fact that Byron Scott seems like a natural heir to Phil Jackson in Los Angeles, but these situations may actually be a blessing. The message to Rod Thorn is simple: Want to keep those guys around? Just win, baby.

You don’t have to look too far into the past to realize that in the post-Mike era, the slot as the East rep in the Finals has largely been a booby prize. The Pacers and Knicks both slipped into Lotteryland almost immediately, and the Sixers seem on the verge of imploding. To avoid that fate, the Nets can’t worry about keeping what they’ve got, but instead focus on making the next great leap forward.

Let’s inventory their assets. In Kenyon Martin, the Nets have a No. 1 draft pick who should learn to keep his mouth shut (even if he is right) and could become a fine third banana—think Horace Grant. In Richard Jefferson, they’ve got a guy who might blossom into, say, Shawn Marion. The rest of the team is made up of role players, some pretty good (Jason Collins, Aaron Williams, and Lucious Harris) and some pretty shaky (Kerry Kittles). The stepping-stone to the next level must be the concave chest of Keith Van Horn. He is their one semi-leverageable asset—a maxed-out white guy, good citizen, with a little bit of game. Getting, say, free-agent-to-be Antonio McDyess from Denver might appease Jason Kidd, but remember that Dice and Kidd were together in Phoenix and never got past the second round. Let’s think bigger. Master-plan big, rule-the-world big. Trade Van Horn and Kittles and whatever else it takes to Utah for Karl Malone. Sure, we know that Malone and Byron Scott get along like Piazza and Clemens, but remind the coach that it’s only temporary. For a year, Malone and Kidd could run the pick and roll, and maybe Kenyon Martin could learn to deliver elbows without getting whistled for a flagrant.

And the real kicker would come in 2003, when Malone’s $14 million comes off the salary cap. The Nets could take that max money and go after the big tamale: Tim Duncan. Yes, Tim Duncan. He’s already made a few recruiting calls to Kidd, suggesting that he might like it in Texas. Is New Jersey really that much worse than San Antonio? Jimmy Hoffa vs. the Alamo. The Nets have a new arena, a few good young players, a guy who can get Duncan the ball, access to the New York media market. Also, a slot in the least-competitive division in basketball, where an aging Dikembe Mutumbo and an Alonzo Mourning with one kidney are the most dangerous big men. Armed with Kidd and Duncan, or perhaps Kevin Garnett, the Nets could really take their revenge on Shaq and Co.

While we’re gazing at the crystal ball, let’s talk Knicks. This is a team that’s capped out, crapped out, lacking even one big piece of the jigsaw. Latrell Sprewell will be 32 by the time the season starts, and Allan Houston is nothing more than a Byron Scott-type player with a $100 million contract. Overall, this is the grimmest prognosis for the ‘Bocks since Mondale was running for president.

The first move has to come at the top. GM Scott Layden, the guy who helped dig a salary-cap hole deeper than the East River by giddily taking on overpriced role players like Mark Jackson, Howard Eisley, and Shandon Anderson, isn’t the solution; he’s the problem. The Knicks need a new boss, and that’s one place where they can spend with impunity. They let Jerry West get away, but how about John Gabriel of the Magic, Donnie Walsh of the Pacers, Geoff Petrie of the Kings, or even, as Dave D’Allesandro of the Star-Ledger suggested, Larry Bird?

As the Knicks approach their first significant draft pick since Kenny “Sky” Walker, let’s hope that Layden can at least keep the seat warm for his successor. When the Knicks are on the clock in the No. 7 spot, there’ll be some big gambles on the board: Maybyner “Nene” Hilario, the Brazilian power forward who has a wingspan larger than Yao Ming’s. Nickoloz Tskitishvili, the Georgian four who’s been compared to Dirk Nowitski. Qyntel Woods, the juco star who’s been compared to Tracy McGrady. Maybe Caron Butler will still be available. Will Layden have the courage to roll the dice on potential? Or will he draft Stanford center Curtis “Great White Stiff” Borchardt or even worse, swing a trade for Ming, the Far East’s answer to Shawn Bradley?

And before you ask, drafting a project wouldn’t slow down the rebuilding process. Given their salary cap woes, the Knicks have to think about rebuilding through the draft. So in an irony that Kurt Vonnegut would eat whole, the more the Knicks suck next year, the rosier their future looks. The big prize in next year’s lottery is Ohio schoolboy LeBron James, a Kobe Bryant clone who would have been the No. 1 pick in this draft—as a junior—if he had been eligible this year. James combines Jordan-esque hops with a pass-first Magic Johnson mentality. (Last week he broke his wrist in an AAU game on a play in which he jumped so high he hit his defender in the head with his knee.) Would James look good in white and orange? Does David Stern wear a Knick jersey under that suit? Will next year’s NBA draft lottery be run like a Florida presidential election?

Repeat after me, hoops fans: “Victory through defeat.” Imagine Duncan in the Swamps and LeBron in the Garden. The future’s so bright we’ve got to wear shades.