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Daily Rounds 12/8/2011

The annual war of words between the Giants and Cowboys have begun.  CP3 talks have slowed to a crawl.  The Marlins continue to shop and continue to shop in the expensive stores.  Some scheduling news and why the best owner for the Dodgers could be….oh you’ll have to wait for it. Finally a crazy wrestling link and more in today’s edition.

Rights Reserved to the New York Daily News

Justin Tuck does not like the Cowboys and it appears the feeling is mutual.  DeMarcus Ware fired back which is unusual for him since he doesn’t usually entertain such back and forth usually but perhaps the tone is changing given how important this set of games are for both teams as they are the only ones left in the race for the division.  Ebenezer Samuel of the Daily News has more on that.  

The Cowboys and Giants don’t need any added fuel to the fire but that’s what we got and from a very unlikely source.  The Giants on Sunday played valiantly and more importantly had a fire that they lacked for two weeks prior to that when they basically pulled a no-show against Philly and New Orleans.  Philly they could’ve beaten while New Orleans just absolutely decimated them.  Now comes the real challenge thanks to Sunday’s gaffe by the Cowboys.  If you’re not familiar, here is a short summary of events.  With the score tied at 13, the Cowboys were driving to set up for a field goal attempt.  When Dan Bailey went for the attempt at a 48 yard field goal, Jason Garrett decided to call a timeout effectively icing his own kicker.  The kick went up and it was good.  The explanation Garret gave was that the play clock was running down and he couldn’t risk them not getting it off which is a viable excuse and if he had been called for the delay of game penalty the level of difficulty would’ve been raised and in a game the Cowboys HAD to win to give them separation from the Giants, they had to ensure the shortest field goal attempt they could.  They kicked it a second time and wouldn’t you know it?  No good.  You know how the story goes from here, they go into overtime.  The home team gets the ball and they score on a short bubble screen that goes for 52 yards.  The Giants who had lost four in a row now effectively control their own fate.  Win out, and the Giants are in.  Win 3 out of 4 and the Giants probably need some help.  But thanks to the Cowboys mishap, the Giants are masters of their own destiny which is where you want to be as a football team regardless of what anyone says.

As for wanting to be a Cowboy?  Let’s be real Ware.  The Cowboys have been colossaly overrated for years now and every single season they seem to have a stretch where they invite fans to hope and dream again before they make one bone headed play after another.  The Cowboys could’ve opened the season 6-0 and there’s a fair argument to be made there but the coaching up and down of Tony Romo due to his rib injury earlier in the season and the constant miscues continue to haunt the Boys as they look to get to their first Super Bowl since 1995.  In fact, the Cowboys would like to win a playoff game, which would be their first since 1996.  Meanwhile Tuck’s New York Giants annual December slide notwithstanding, he has a Super Bowl to his credit.  One that came on the back of a victory over the Cowboys when the Boys were the number two seed in the NFC and the Giants were a measly six seed.  Sunday’s game is must win for both so the SNF game should be entertaining and hard hitting and could get chippy.

While the Mets and Yankees were rather quiet on the trade/acquisition front another rivalry was beginning to fizzle.  Bobby Valentine fired the first salvo which should make Yankee-Red Sox games even MORE fun given the new manager’s experience against the Yankees as Mets manager.  Ken Davidoff says he’s just having fun.  Meanwhile the Jose Reyes press conference introducing him as a Marlins player happened yesterday and it was painful for any Met fan to watch as Jose Reyes said what every Met fan probably thought: they never made a real offer.  They didn’t want me here.  Sandy Alderson also had something to say about that.  Ken Davidoff says the Mets were in a no-win position during the Reyes derby.  John Harper of the Daily News says the hurt kid in Reyes came out during the press conference.  

Yesterday’s press conference was admittedly tough to watch but even tougher when Reyes said what was virtually on every single Met fan’s mind.  He felt the Mets never went out to retain him like the Marlins did and that’s the plain old facts no matter what great line that Sandy Alderson had in response to Reyes’ sad story about the Mets (lack of) pursuit of him this winter.  And trust me it was a good one.  But like Sandy said, his gift bag of flowers and chocolates would not have cost $106 million and that signals a significant rift between what Reyes felt his value was and what the Mets determined it to be.  Remember, the Met front office now are inundated with stat geeks who make personnel decisions based on projection models and come up with contract figures they feel comfortable in giving and their admitted comfort in handing a long term contract in the range of six years and north of $100 million was a problem.

Here’s the problem: I don’t think the Mets WANTED to go for six years and I don’t think the Mets COULD go over $100 million.  Two of Reyes’ major qualifications for resigning him.  Meanwhile the full court press was on Reyes by Jeffrey Loria who came into his meeting with Reyes wearing a Jose Reyes Miami Marlin uniform underneath a trench coat which sounds about as odd and weird and endearing as he could make it sound.  The Mets were in kind of a pickle and despite all the referendum about Reyes’ legs being a concern given his style of play, he was a home grown player and a New York team should be able to resign that home grown player if not for anything other than the fact than as a good faith effort to their fan base which is who is really being affected in all of this.  A fan base who’s heard rumors abound that every player NOT named David Wright is being put on the block.  In fact, the Mets were listening in on offers on Jon Niese who got several nibbles and Ike Davis, surprisingly, who got several nibbles notably from the Pirates who came away disappointed in how high the price tag was.

The Mets are asking for a lot for many of their players as they should.  They are giving  up salary controlled players years before arbitration in hopes they get strong positional talent of which they have very little of in the minor leagues.  The Mets have future aces in Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Jenry Mejia, and Zach Wheeler but very little in terms of positional talent which is what they are seeking.  The Mets are right to be shopping everyone BUT Wright and I believe they should trade Wright but they are correct in not dealing him now while his value is low.  Let him get some hacks at the shortened fences in Citi and hopefully it will help.

Meanwhile, Davidoff is right, for all the love and angst over Reyes leaving this is a guy that in 9 years has led the Mets to one postseason appearance.  Let’s not make him out to be this all time great.  Of course I’m in the bandwagon that the Mets should’ve made some sort of pursuit during the beginning hours and perhaps he would not have felt like they had no intent on signing him but it is what it is and we can move on.  Either way Reyes was going to take the money, money the Mets did NOT have.

By the way, in other Winter meeting news, the Marlins struck out on Albert Pujols who was thought to be re-signing with the Cardinals until a mystery team entered the fray and now that team is known NOT to be the Angels because they are no longer a mystery team.  They are the second team in pursuit of Pujols while there are sources who indicate that the mystery team are the Cubs who just want to drive the price up.  Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports finds a report indicating the Angels only having a certain amount of money to spend laughable considering their true intentions on signing both CJ Wilson AND Albert Pujols.  Meanwhile, the Prince Fielder market won’t shape up until Pujols is signed and don’t be surprised if you see the Marlins go hard after Prince who is after all 4 years younger than Pujols’ given age and is a rock though not as defensively inclined given his body can’t cline as much as Pujols if you know what I mean.  The Gio Gonzalez trade market is all but done as no team is willing to give up the Ubaldo Jiminez package for him as A’s GM Billy Beane had been hoping.  

Amazing that the Marlins are continuing to spend that kind of money though the no, no-trade clause in contracts should scare any free agent given the Marlins history of winning a title and then throwing away expensive parts as far away as possible for cheaper ones.  Its a business model that works for them so the promise of winning a title may be enough to lure these guys and then they can worry about the other stuff later but I’d be kind of worried also given their SEC case pending.  As for the Gio Gonzalez trade market, I think that was kind of a tester to feel out what teams were inclined to give and who would give up more or stay firm.  Billy Beane is smarter than you or me and it would appear he’s setting up the pieces to score big on Gio Gonzalez as it is a buyer’s market on pitchers with no free agent pitcher looking like a safe bet.  Would YOU give CJ Wilson a 6 year contract?   Sure he doesn’t have the wear and tear on his arm that Mark Buerlhe does but Buerlhe isn’t a hard thrower.  I like the Buerhle signing for one reason: he gives you stability.  With the condition of Josh Johnson’s arm you never know how long you will have him in any given season and Buerhle is an innings eater and a consistent presence on the mound.  Not great performance but good and he gives you plenty of starts.  Meanwhile, I expect Prince to get his 8 year $200 million contract especially if the Angels are going to be spenders and especially if the Marlins are uber aggressive and then you add the Cubs and perhaps a late push by Mark Attanasio and the Brewers.  There could be even more hype and hysteria behind Prince once this Pujols to St Louis thing gets sorted out because let’s face it, nobody believes that Pujols is leaving St Louis.

The NBA season is soon to begin and by that I mean the trades, signings and all that will turn from rumor and innuendo to fact and misery for teams who will eventually sign one player to a long term extension that their fan base will immediately be pissed off about.  Happens every year, and no new CBA will change that.  Speaking of CBA, more facts keep coming out about the CBA every day like a clause that gives teams up to $500,000 to spend on freeing up players from their contracts overseas which is important for those trying to free up the JR Smiths and Wilson Chandler’s of the world and Howard Beck of the New York Times looks back fondly on his days spent in hotels and 4Am Press conferences.  Meanwhile, with NHL announcing realignment, JA Adande wonders openly about what the NBA would look like under that same process.  Sam Amick of SI.com AND Bill Simmons look at the leaders in the CP3 sweepstakes (hint: they’re all from California) which went quiet yesterday but are soon to pick up as most insiders believe a deal will be announced in 48 hours.  His label mate Zack Lowe (who writes one of the more underrated sports blogs in Point Forward) writes about how the new schedule with its back to back to backs may be….fair?  Marc Berman says the Knicks have officially bowed out of the CP3 trade-a-thon believing they will get their guy in free agency.  

The Dwight Howard trade talks are just plain weird.  But the CP3 sweepstakes should be interesting given that CP3 will most certainly welcome a change but won’t commit and will definitely opt out at the end of the season.  It looks as though the Knicks won’t have the ability to trade for him so that means he won’t be able to get his max contract there unless something crazy happens in the next 48 hours.  Simmons is right, Hornets GM Dell Demps is playing this right.  Since he took the job he’s been preparing for this moment and the time has come and he’s moving swiftly and decisively.  Unfortunately the Clippers wont give up Eric Gordon (understandably), the Warriors won’t give up Stephan Curry (curiously) and the Lakers want Dwight (I get that) more than CP3.

I’ve said I could live with Deron Williams if they don’t get CP3 and that looks realistic.  CP3 will have to make a huge pay concession to play in New York and I hope he’s willing to do that as a Knick fan, if not I go back to that Melo trade as to why we didn’t get CP3.  Remember that trade.

Finally Chris Erskine says the best owner for the Dodgers would be….the fans.  While I found an awesome link about the greatest feuds in Wrestling history.  

Although I’m sure they wouldn’t want those crazy Dodger fans who attacked Brian Stowe.  I’m sure those guys watched a ton of wrestling growing up…and now.

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Daily Rounds 12/07/2011

A day after losing their franchise player the Mets went on the offensive and you may or may not like the moves.  The Chris Paul sweepstakes got sweeter and the Dwight Howard sweepstakes got even weirder.  Then there are those pesky Marlins who are making news during baseball’s winter meetings.  Plus more in today’s links links links links!

The Mets decided to be aggressive on the trade and free agent front and made a few moves a day after officially losing Jose Reyes to the Miami Marlins.  According to multiple reports, the Mets traded Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez and signed Jon Rauch to a one year deal and Frank Francisco to a two year deal.  

Ok, these aren’t earth shattering deals meant to make everyone forget that one of their franchise cornerstones just left for one of their division rivals.  But the thinking, I believe, is to spread the money they would’ve allocated to Reyes on several parts which they need.  The Mets don’t have depth on the major league level and in a move to address that they traded and got a two for one.  They got pretty much the same player in Andres Torres for Angel Pagan.  Torres can hit for more power and is more patient and will take walks and is a nice prototypical leadoff man while Ramon Ramirez is a hard throwing righty who instantly upgrades their bullpen.  All three players in the deal are up for arbitration but the 31 year old Torres is under team control for another year beyond this one.  The Mets meanwhile addressed the closer situation somewhat by adding two candidates who will evidently compete for the job.  Jon Rauch is the former Washington National so Met fans will be familiar with him.  Frank Francisco is the former Texas Ranger closer who famously threw a chair into the stands and went and attacked a fan.

Pagan was regressing last year after a breakout 2010 campaign which gave Met fans hope for a future that never was.  Hear that Sandy?  Hope that never was.  But he is a very able lead off man but he doesn’t draw walks, isn’t patient at the plate and is very wild in his approach.  Sometimes he takes weird angles at the baseball and its difficult to make a case that they absolutely had to keep him.  Now, could the Mets have gotten a better offer during the year?  Possibly.  But you don’t bet on someone like Pagan to get better.  I thought the front office did a great job here by getting a power relief arm and a comparable Center field option who most scouts believe is a better defensive solution there than Pagan with a bit more pop.

Look, it is what it is.  The Mets are operating under a small market philosophy and business wise I get what Sandy is saying.  If the Mets win and attract gate receipts the ability to expand payroll will come but they have to get out of the negative first and that’s a legitemate concern for an ownership group that is obviously bleeding money and need to save wherever they can.  Of course the Mets have no wiggle room this season if indeed they hope to compete seeing what the Marlins are doing and what the Phillies are already doing and what the Nationals have in store for the future and beyond.  The Mets are in trouble and had better fix this thing going forward.

As always for more analysis, you can go to Metsblog.com and read up on all the latest Met news as it relates to the Winter meetings.

Get ready for what I’m about to tell you.  The Miami Marlins have made a legit 10 year offer to Albert Pujols which is rumored to be more than $200 million which he is mulling over as we speak.  Joel Sherman of the New York Post says the Marlins have hijacked the Winter Meetings with their spending spree, but Ken Davidoff of Newsday is highly doubtful that the Marlins can sustain this model.  Brian Burwell of the St Louis Post Dispatch says that the Cardinals are playing a dangerous game with the face of their franchise and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald says that this offer to Pujols needs some perspective.  

Most people were pretty curious as to whether the Marlins were for real after talking about making a splash this winter and boy have they been.  After getting their closer Heath Bell signed to a 3 year/$27 million deal, they went and stole former New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes for 6 years/$106 million.  The news making its rounds yesterday was that the Marlins had made a 10 year offer to Albert Pujols and had even went to the Commissioner’s Office to submit their proposal and perhaps run it by them to see if it worked under the parameters of the new CBA.  The buzz was that Albert would decide last night but as of 7:30 AM EST, he had not decided on either club.  This obviously forced the Cards to up their former 9 year offer to 10 and over the $200 million mark that they had not budged on prior to the Marlins major sales push.  Also adding to the intrigue is that the Cubs have made a mystery offer which most folks speculate is not nearly as long as either the Marlins or Cardinals offer but offers more per year than both deals while a mystery team has also put in a deal north of $200 million which seems to be the market for the best slugger not linked to steroids of this generation.

Look, in the end I think he resigns with the Cardinals because he understands that his legacy would take a hit by leaving St Louis and doing it for the money.  The Marlins and Cardinals share the same spring training facility which would make things pretty dicey and interesting come February if he were to switch teams.  I think the Marlins have to outbid the Cards by atleast $20-30 million for Pujols to ever realistically consider their offer which is what most think he’s doing.  I think the Cardinals offer isn’t that much better and may be feeling a bit peeved that he’s even in this position.  He’s helped this team win two World Series, 3 MVP trophies and had a better first ten years to his career than any player in baseball history.  Are we all surprised that he even made free agency?  Yes.  But the fact that he was looking at Alex Rodriguez’s 10 year/$275 million contract for comparison may have scared off the Cardinals who probably could play within that framework but don’t want to.  And if its a will issue then the representatives for Pujols, Dan Lazano may tell Pujols that maybe his services would be better appreciated in a warmer climate with a much bigger Latin fan base and a team that is clearly making an all out push.

Here’s the thing that will ultimately hurt the Marlins.  They did not offer Pujols a no-trade and as per company policy will NOT do so for any player.  Even Albert Pujols.  Which given their history should be troubling to any free agent.  There is no certainty that they will be able to draw in that market and so the possibility that they will have to sell off parts is very high considering that this is a franchise known for doing so.  They did it in 1997 after winning a World Series and did it in 2003 after using those parts received in 1997 to win.  But again, they wound up winning the World Series so there is SOME good news if you are a Marlins fan.  You can expect a World Series, pending all these acquisitions, in about two years max.  But I think Pujols won’t go, and I think he stays in St Louis but begrudgingly.

The Cubs are there to drive the price up obviously as I believe their main focus is Prince Fielder who has a history with their new manager Dave Sveum and is atleast four years younger than Albert Pujols and is very sturdy.  Sources however indicate that the Mariners may be in the lead to acquire Prince.  Their GM Jack Zrudineck drafted Prince originally in the Milwaukee system.  The mystery team in the Pujols sweepstakes is rumored to be the Angels who have denied that they are despite reports indicating the opposite.  Meanwhile within Joel Sherman’s news and notes he indicates that the Yankees are unlikely to move one of their major prospect pieces for either John Danks (whom officials close to trade negotiations with the White Sox believe are asking for a Ubaldo Jiminez like package) or Gio Gonzalez who suddenly have new suitors in the…you ready for this?  The Phillies.

Day two of coverage of the Winter Meetings can be followed on the usual websites or MLBTradeRumors.com

The NBA schedule for all 30 franchises was released and obviously the Knicks are a front burner team who will appear nationally 27 times.  Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com lays out the entire schedule while Howard Beck of the New York Times dissects the schedule for the Knicks.  

The Knicks will open the season of course on Christmas as part of the NBA’s national opener with the Celtics at noon.  They go out west and play teams with losing records from last year 7 out of the next 8 including Los Angeles after Boston.  The Knicks one back to back to back features a meet with the Chicago Bulls on February 2nd, a trip to Boston on the 3rd, and back home against the Nets (who may have Dwight Howard alongside Deron Williams at that point).  The Knicks play four games in five nights four times and appear nationally a healthy 27 out of 66 times which should feed the consensus that the league is very top heavy and friendly towards the big markets.

There are ways to go about this free agent process if you are the Hornets or Magic.  One way is to explore all trade options and according to Adrian Woj of Yahoo Sports the CP3 trade talks are heating up with Stephan Curry’s name, Eric Gordon’s name and Rajon Rondo’s name being thrown as possible chips being dangled.  Another is to have your now former CEO drunk dial your superstar center in the hopes of convincing him to stay.  

Rights Reserved Orlando Sentinel

Ok what?  As deals are pretty much finalizing before making them official on Friday, teams with superstars are holding on to them for dear life.  The rumor mill is buzzing that the Lakers make a play at both CP3 and Dwight Howard.  My thinking is that they get Dwight Howard after offering Odom and Bynum and a number one pick which I think the Magic would take.  The CP3 sweepstakes is a bit tougher to understand because now stories are coming up that he will think about signing an extension if a team that acquires him signs Tyson Chandler.  That would take a long term commitment which I’m not sure any team would be willing to do.  Don’t get me wrong Chandler is a great defensive presence to have and obviously he and CP3 are close from their New Orleans days but how can any team go in blindly on Chandler without securing the services off CP3 who is destined to explore the free agent market and sign with a team of his choice.  No matter what, I don’t believe his lust to go to New York has died down, but if its true that Eric Gordon is off the table for the Clips and the Warriors are not willing to trade Stephan Curry those teams don’t stand a chance and it may come down to taking an offer from New York which would be considerably worse than an offer from Los Angeles who could give them Pau Gasol.  Here’s why I believe the Lakers have a small chance at landing both.  The Lakers are motivated to make a move and I think if Magic GM is realistic, he will see that he has less than a 5% chance to keep his star center so he had better get another one now.  Don’t let them lose Dwight for nothing like they did with Shaq a generation ago.

Didn’t get time to put up all the links so get ready for part two later on today.

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Sports round up 12/1/2011

So we’re gonna try this daily newsfeed thing again for however long I can convince myself that this is a good idea.  I figured why not have a re-release date of December 1 and try to keep it up for as long as I could.  So here goes nothing.  Basically I check out noteworthy sports stories (hey that rhymed) and give you my take on them.  I can’t get every story I know but I will try to be as national as I can but I’m not going to lie, my East Coast bias will be very difficult to mask in light of the fact that New York makes enough stories.

Bobby Valentine has his fair share of enemies.  But as Bob Hohler writes he has his fair share of supporters as well.  His charitable works are well known around his hometown of Stamford, Connecticut and he’s a well traveled man as we know.  He now takes over a Boston Red Sox team who frankly aren’t too thrilled with the idea of Bobby V in their clubhouse, but as ESPN Boston’s Joe McDonald writes, the Red Sox players who may have problems with it have only themselves to blame.  Joel Sherman of the New York Post believes that Bobby V’s hire makes the AL East the new Big East, you know since we won’t have a Big East after next year.  

Look, I’m not gonna lie.  I’m very jealous of Boston right now as a Met fan because I was always a huge Bobby V. fan.  In 2007 when the Mets collapsed I said this would’ve never happened under his watch.  Even in 2008.  2009 I said even through injuries Bobby would’ve found a way and in 2010 the same.  That’s because the structure in the clubhouse was never there that was so crucial to the Mets.  They had the talent and the skill players from 2006-2008 to compete for a title, but never had the right man leading them.  Here’s what we know.  He’s well prepared, analytical, a thinking man’s man and a person who will not stand for the kind of stuff that reportedly went down in that clubhouse at the end of last year while the Red Sox were collapsing.  He’s a disciplinarian and frankly I think Red Sox players look at this as management’s way of punishing them which if that’s the case means there’s a LOT more work to do in that clubhouse.  Veteran or not, the Red Sox needed a shake up and more than that, a guy who would not be afraid of managing in Boston under the limelight and the pressure.  That’s Bobby V.  Plenty will be waiting for the first sign of trouble to begin playing the old “He’s wearing out his welcome” card but I predict this move will either be a tremendous success OR colossal failure.  Either way, it will be how the players respond to him that will ultimately decide that.

The Collegian’s Courtney Pruitt sat in on the Town Hall forum held on the Penn State campus which had many of the University’s power structure on hand to take student questions.  Many wanted answers to questions they had but more so this was an attempt at setting minds at ease and promising that the university will be held to a much higher standard from here on.  Don’t look now, according to Kevin Johnson of USA Today, there’s a new accuser who has filed suit.  Speaking of well renown coaches who may soon be taken down by disgusting long time assistant coaches, Aman Ali of Reuters wire services reports that Bernie Fine, former assistant head coach of Syracuse, had a visit from the feds and his house was searched by them.  Meanwhile Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports says that Jim Boeheim’s comedy routine during his first press conference after his long time assistant coach’s firing was in poor taste.

I lump the two together not because I believe that the two are linked somehow but that’s how it will be viewed nationally.  That’s how people will see it while it plays out because these are both assistant head coaches who served on the staff of two iconic head coaches in the college ranks and if Joe Pa was the head cheese in Penn State and didn’t do the right thing here by those children, and got fired for it, then don’t we need to hold Jim Boeheim to the same standard?  Won’t they deserve the same penalty in the end?  And if Boeheim is pretty much done at Syracuse, where he is an institution, should the Big East really care that they are losing these programs when they still have UConn to represent them nationally?

It is however comical that Boeheim who as soon as Fine’s allegations emerged came to his defense so vigorously and made such a passionate statement against the alleged victims that it seemed as though he were somehow pleading for his own innocence and let’s be honest, with just cause.  Because as soon as Jerry Sandusky’s violations became public, the attention turned to Joe Paterno and how much he knew and when the charges came out that Paterno was notified years earlier and did virtually nothing the cavalry came and escorted Paterno out of his throne.  The biggest difference here is that the investigators are only putting together charges now while the Penn State charges from Pennsylvania’s DA came like a thief in the night and shocked just about everybody.  Pat Forde was not impressed by Boeheim’s answers but not for the reasons you think.  He was more let down that Boeheim was Boeheim in the midst of this investigation because this case will now be followed nationally by scribes and types that don’t know his personality and will view his attitude and overall demeanor as insulting while a pedophilia case, a charge that will never have a grey area to it, is going on especially when the nation just went through what it went through with Penn State.

My only thing is, where’s the NCAA in all of this?

Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press was his namesake in this column as he was unimpressed by Commissioner Goodell’s soft sentence of 2 games for stomping on a Packers offensive lineman’s exposed arm.  Ndamukong Suh is appealing the suspension and a hearing will take place today.

Ndamukong Suh is one of my favorite players and Drew Sharp brought up some really good points that need to be brought up.  The fact is, Jim Schwartz came to change the culture of losing in Detroit by building a tough, hard nosed defense.  We know this because that’s what he did.  He has given the Lions relevancy but he’s enabled guys like Suh who’s crossed the line a few times with his actions and was in need of a tougher, stiffer penalty.  Instead, he is now facing a two game stint which may not affect his availability for Sunday’s game against the Saints because of his appeal.  I have a problem with this for two reasons, one because Roger Goodell advised that Suh appeal the suspension knowing that it would allow him to play Sunday and two because Goodell knew that it would be the flexed Sunday night game on NBC, a nationally televised game in which he needs Detroit to have compelling figures in it as well aside from Calvin Johnson the too good(y, goody) receiver and Matthew Stafford to oppose Drew Brees and Sean Payton and the super nova Saints coming off their 49-24 waxing of the Giants on Monday night.  It seems Goodell is playing both sides of the fence: wanting compelling action for his national television partners while doing a disservice to his position as authoritarian of the NFL by giving Suh a free pass.  Its a double standard which I don’t like.  Don’t EVEN get me started on the ridiculous $10,000 fine on Stevie Johnson for his TD celebration mocking Plaxico Burress.  Give me a break Commissioner.

Before we get into NBA trade rumors let’s get into one interesting one in baseball which came up: Are the Cubs REALLY interested in Albert Pujols?  Like fo real?  Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports thinks that it could bring collateral benefits for MLB not just the Cubs, but Bernie Miklasz of St Louis Post-Dispatch says don’t believe the hype, this is Pujols’ agent trying to drum up interest in his client.

I’m more Bernie than Jeff on this one.  Everyone loves to think about the possibility of Albert Pujols pulling a Lebron and leaving behind his old team, a team he led to two world series titles (unlike Lebron), to go and get the riches of a big market (like Lebron).  But this is all a mirage.  This is an agent trying to get somebody to bite on his client and who can blame him?  No one sees Pujols leaving the Cardinals and all the big market teams like the Yankees, and Red Sox have their first basemen tied up in long term contracts.  Meanwhile the two that don’t, the Mets and Dodgers, are so broke that Pujols would probably be asked to help out with payments.  I’ve always seen the Angels as a possibility but Arte Moreno talks a big game but never pulls out his wallet when its right to.  The Cubs though are a possibility but Theo knows he will need more than a star 1st baseman to resurrect this moribound franchise from its doldrums.  He’s trying to build from within and so putting a $25 million per year contract for Pujols probably doesn’t make all the sense in the world when you see his priority list.  It will be interesting to see where the Cards and Pujols draw a fine line and compromise to bring him back. The timing couldn’t have been better for the defending world champions given the financial shape of all the other teams that would’ve made the list had they not had their own issues/players locked in to deal with.  Score one for the small market guys.

– Ok NBA fans, want your trade rumor fix?  Here it is:
Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated lists the Pacers, Warriors, Hornets and Wizards as possible destinations for two time All Star David West.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports lists The Nuggets, New Jersey NetsGolden State WarriorsHouston RocketsIndiana PacersLos Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers as possible destinations for Nene. He also delivers on news for Nick Young, who Mike Wilbon of ESPN Chicago agrees would be a perfect fit for the Chicago Bulls who may need to get creative to fill the slasher/scorer need they clearly have.
Finally, Darren Arnovitz of ESPN’s TrueHoop blog poses the real question that needs to be asked for all the Dwight Howard rumors: would a Lebron for D-Howard deal make sense?

I purposefully left out the two bigger rumor mill deals being floated.  The Celtics front office is having serious discussions about trading Rajon Rondo in a deal that would ultimately net them CP3.  They have the financial room considering that other than Paul Pierce they won’t have anyone else making any big dollars as Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen will come off the books for 2012-2013 season and they could make a run at two of the top 3 free agents.  Only problem is sources are saying that this deal is contingent on Paul signing a long term extension which would be 3 years for traded players and he’s not going to do that which rules any trade out unless he changes his mind.  The most obvious rumor is that he wants to come play for the Knicks which it looks like given their lack of prospects would have to come after this season doesn’t hurt Paul in any way other than the fact that he won’t make as much money as he could in the previous CBA which we all know.  The next two years will be cap friendly for the Knicks as the stiffer luxury tax penalties won’t come until year 3 of the CBA so the Knicks can take on payroll for this year and the next.  

The Dwight Howard rumor mill begins and ends with the Nets who have been trying to pair Deron Williams with a superstar to convince him to stay.  IF the Nets get Dwight Howard over here in a trade and ESPN’s Marc Stein is supremely confident that the Magic WILL trade their superstar Center before December 9th, then there’s a good chance that next year the Nets will have their superstars in place to make a strong run and Howard will be able to play in the big market which he’s always dreamed about and hinted at.  Of course rumors are circulating that he will ONLY look at the Knicks and Lakers who I think will make a strong run at acquiring Dwight Howard so they won’t see Kobe’s last run at a championship go unfulfilled with lackluster role players.  Most disconcerting has to be Pau Gasol’s disappearance at the end of last season.

One interesting trade rumor I’ve heard is the Lakers making a run at CP3 AND Dwight Howard where the Lakers would give up Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and 1st round draft picks in two separate packages for the aforementioned superstars so they can pair them with Kobe.  The Lakers just signed a mega TV deal with Time Warner which gives them $150 million EVERY YEAR for the life of the agreement.  That’s before a single ticket is sold so just imagine the benefits of that?  By comparison the Knicks make $64 million and that’s because Cablevision owns the Knicks.  So they could afford the luxury tax hit and go all Yankees on us.  BUT, the problem is CP3 seems more comfortable in taking the Knicks offer which would be equivalent to anything the Lakers can give him.  So how about the Lakers, instead of trying to get CP3, make a run at Russell Westbrook and bring back the former UCLA star to his old digs?  Kobe could rein in Westbrook and supervise his development and give them the slasher/disher/scorer and have the young PG that they so crave and the Thunder could firmly give the team over to Kevin Durant.  News leaked that there may be a power struggle in the works between Westbrook and Durant and let’s face it, the only person who can’t see that this is Durant’s team is Westbrook and the only guy who can put him in his rightful place on the totem pole may be Kobe.  Now obviously people would look at this as the OKC giving up their star player to the Lakers for an aging Gasol OR an injury prone Bynum but Bynum is a young guy who’s health can improve given the right medical treatment and Gasol can be a number 2 as he’s displayed during his time in Los Angeles playing back up singer to Kobe Bryant.  This trade works out on all fronts because the Lakers can get the star PG and pay him and OKC can afford to trade Westbrook because they have James Harden who they believe will emerge this year as a true number 2 scoring option behind Durant.  Don’t be surprised if this deal happens.  Sam Presti, OKC’s general manager is known to be creative and will do what’s best for the team in the long run.  They can’t afford to pay Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka etc and so I believe the best thing to do is trade Westbrook to the Lakers and get back what you can, including a few first round draft picks, something he loves to get and knows what to do with.  

 

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Monday Morning Something or the Other

Happy Monday beautiful people (and the rest of you).  I meant to have the article up by this time  (8:30 as I’m writing this) but unfortunately my computer crapped out therefore I have reverted to my Mac to re-write the entire thing and put in the finishing touches.

Today we’re going to take a look at All Star Game festivities.  Since everyone else is doing it, we’re going to hand out half time grades.   The Naismith Hall of Fame released their list of finalists for induction and with any Hall of Fame selection, there’s some debate as to the process and also the people who didn’t get in and we’ll talk about that.

Albert Pujols’ situation bears watching but I will tell you why he’s coming to neither New York team when his contract is up and who I think he’ll eventually end up on.  We will also also debut a new weekly column which I hope will pique one’s interest and of course your host of links and other goodies.

Sit back, and ignore the pleas from your parents to shovel snow or go outside and let’s begin shall we?

MELO-DRAMA is almost nearing a close

“Again, Isiah doesn’t need a title to be involved. He’s Dolan’s friend, adviser & he’s running the Knicks while soaking up the sun in Miami”

“And through it all, Donnie Walsh continues to do his work, conduct himself with class, act like a gentlemen and bring class to the Knicks”

@FisolaNYDN Frank Isola

 

I put in two quotes from Daily News beat man Frank Isola who’s been on top of this ever-changing script of Carmelo this whole entire weekend.  But the main story is what role Isiah has been playing in all of this.  He’s been a shadowy presence behind the scenes that Donnie Walsh has had to unfairly watch for as he did his job in trying to surrender as little as he could to bring Carmelo to the Knicks.

I wrote a column on Saturday basically voicing my displeasure at all the back and forth involved within the media.  This is like Lebron-athon with how media members have tried to be first over trying to be right and basically reported everything that their sources have told them.  Its that type of reporting that gave Lebron a big enough ego to even think that his “Decision” program on ESPN was even a decent idea.

Right now as it stands this is what we know.  The Knicks offer according to the most people quoting sources is as follows:

DEN gets:
PG Raymond Felton
F Wilson Chandler
F Danilo Gallinari OR F Landry Fields
and #1 draft pick via Minnesota*

NYK gets:
F Carmelo Anthony
PG Chauncey Billups
F Ronnie Brewer (from Minnesota

*= the Timberwolves would give up Ronnie Brewer, a number one pick to the Knicks for F Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry’s expiring contract which they would buy out and then send his fat ass to Siberia and locked away in a storage container to never be heard from again.**
**= that’s according to sources.

Yesterday news came out that the Knicks had drawn a line in the sand and it was up to the Nuggets to accept and that they would no longer up their offer.  The Nuggets then insisted that Timofey Mozgov be involved in any trade which was then shot down by other reports saying that Denver made no such ultimatum.

The Nets and Knicks had their reported meetings with Anthony over the weekend and most insiders suggested that Melo remained non-comittal to the Nets and that the Knicks were still the apple of Melo’s eye which has been the same since day one.  So what are we to believe?

Here’s what I know.  Carmelo Anthony could have shelved all these Nets talks but he’s holding the Knicks hostage by continuing to take these meetings with Nets officials.  Its a ploy to get New York to surrender whatever they need to in order for the Nuggets to ok a trade.  The Nuggets and Melo are not working for each other but in some weird way they are.  Its clear that the Knicks original plan was to wait Melo out till free agency and sign him then but Melo has made it abundantly clear that he wants that extension no matter what.

That isn’t even the most distressing part of all this.  Adrian Wojnarowski, basketball writer for Yahoo sports and probably the best basketball writer in the game today, wrote a doomsday piece on the state of the New York Knicks and who actually is running things.  If you’re a Knick fan like myself its pretty depressing stuff.

Like Frank Isola wrote, Dolan has always respected Thomas’ opinion and tried on many occasions to bring in Thomas through back doors which the NBA and even Walsh tried to block.*  Woj believes that a power struggle is coming between Worldwide Wes and Thomas, both of whom offer the same thing: their ability to lure major stars to the Knicks.  That’s what Dolan has wanted and what Thomas has somehow convinced Dolan he can do and Walsh can’t.  Worldwide Wes is an agent for CAA and reps both Anthony and Chris Paul, one of the trio of superstars who will become a free agent after 2012.

*= Last time Isiah was being brought back in as a consultant to the Knicks Walsh reportedly threatened to resign and Dolan was talked out of it by other Knick officials.

According to Woj:

“It’s against NBA rules to rep players and coaches, but commissioner David Stern picks and chooses the rules he enforces. He lets Worldwide Wes travel with his Olympic teams, gain access to stars, steal them away and broker them to the commissioner’s market franchises.”

But Isiah Thomas’ pull on Dolan is very strong and like Isola said, Thomas doesn’t need a title.  He will be happy to put in a puppet regime in place once Donnie Walsh is out.  Many of Isiah’s people remain firmly entrenched within the Knick organization.  Isiah Thomas in fact may not even be interested in coming back in some official capacity and may be happy in having Dolan hire his hand picked guys who will do his bidding.

This is straight out of the “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me” files.  It makes me so unbelievably mad that this kind of amateur bullshit could be going on in a professional organization.  Knick fans have been treated to brutal basketball for the better part of a decade while still filling in the seats at a respectable rate while ownership and co ran the product into the ground.  Its now becoming clear that the man who restored credibility and basketball pride in the city is being pushed aside after cleaning up the mess left by previous regimes to bring those old regimes back.

Its sad and pathetic that Walsh, a New York kid who saw this as his dream job, has had to go through this.  From day one I’ve insisted that the Knicks call Anthony’s bluff.  If he wants to come to the Knicks so bad then let him come.  The lesson learned from the Lebron fiasco was this: these guys are making informed decisions.  They will make their own minds up and are much smarter business men who have a much greater sense of their brand and net worth than previous generations.  They aren’t stupid and are as interested in maximizing their revenue earning potential.  They know they are good.  They know that superstars are what this league is built around and so they know they have the cache to ask for and receive what they want.  They have advisors but what I’ve noticed is that these guys are making their own decisions.

Case in point: Lebron was told by his friends to come to New York.  He took his talents to South Beach.

So neither Isiah OR Worldwide Wes can deliver on their promises.  They hold no weight in what they can promise.  They can’t make Chris Paul sign anywhere as much as you or I can.  They have the ears of their circles thanks to their connections but in the end the decisions come from the players themselves.  Melo is running this negotiations.  Will he sign with NJ if the Knicks don’t make a deal prior to the deadline?  If he does then let him go to Newark.  Let him toil there beside Brook Lopez.  They aren’t making the playoffs this year and they will be a fringe team next year.  Even in the East which isn’t saying much.

I don’t think Melo will go to Jersey.  He knows what he will give up.  Even if he loses $30 million in possible contractual earnings the New York market will, over the life of the contract, open up more possibilities for him.  I believe in that despite what most reporters will say that it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter if you’re Lebron but for Melo it WILL.  Something that not even Brooklyn can bring him.  I say call Melo out on his bluff.  I think the Knicks should take out Felton.  Give up Gallo and Chandler (i’m fine with that) and a number one pick and get back Melo and Brewer in the deal.  If the Nuggets say no then let them figure out how to convince Melo to sign with New Jersey or risk letting Melo go into free agency.  And if Melo doesn’t sign with the Knicks in free agency due to some spite then so be it.  It won’t be the end of the world.

Why is anyone convinced that once we get Melo that he’s the missing link and will push the Knicks into title contention?  He wont.  We still need size.  We need a deeper bench and we need to convince D’Antoni that a defensive strategy is kind of necessary.

Most important, we need to convince Dolan that Isiah Thomas can’t bring in Paul or Deron Williams or Dwight Howard.  He has the respect of these young guys thanks to his contributions on the court but nothing more.

ALL STAR GAME

“Blake Griffin Fever: NBA All-Star Saturday Night averaged 8.1M viewers on TNT, most in event’s 26-year history. Way up from 5.4M last year.”

@sportswatch Neil Best


 

The NBA’s annual beauty pageant occured over the weekend in downtown Los Angeles at the Staples center.  For the first time in a long time there was actual clamor and build up for such an event.  The weekend did bring the goods.  I do have two gripes to point out about the weekend.

We all know that we were walking into the official Blake Griffin “if ya wanna crown him then crown his ass weekend”.  Even prior to the slam dunk competition it was curtains for the competition and they would just provide a back drop and filler entertainment before we gave Blake his first half slam dunk championship trophy.

Somebody forgot to tell JaVale McGee, and DeMarr Derozan.  Both of those guys came with fantastic dunks that went unnoticed and under appreciated and trust me when all is said done and we look back on this dunk contest someone, somewhere will cry foul.  Let me be the first one to say that JaVale Mcgee got robbed.  He was clearly the best dunker of the night.  He used his 7 foot frame in ways that big men should not be able to and provided us with creativity and flair all while giving us reason to refocus our lens on someone other than Blake.  I would argue that his two basketballs in two hoops dunk was better than all but one of Blake Superior’s dunks.  That wasn’t even the best dunk.  I think DeMarr Derozan’s dunk titled “the showstopper” was the “you got your money’s worth” dunk of the night.  Creativity, degree of difficulty, and how easy he made it look were all factors in my decision to give Mr. DeRozan my dunker of the night award which I’m sure means something.

Unfortunately this slam dunk contest has outperformed the All Star Game’s festivities over the years and even this year they held serve in that department with these mix of dunks.

Needless to say Blake had to do something so over the top to make it seem reasonable for him to get the award and he did it. But even Sir Charles admitted what I thought: that wasn’t the best dunk of the night.  That was the most dressed up dunk of the night with the car, Blake’s presence and the choir but not the best dunk.  I felt bad for McGee and DeRozan who did their level best to try and make it somewhat of a race and in any other dunk contest, not held in L.A. those guys would have had more of a shot but not this night.  I’m glad the dunk contest is back but not really.

As for the rest of the weekend, the rookies and sophmores game was good albeit it was another chance for the crowd to see Blake Griffin.  I think the NBA is trying to make up for not putting the Clippers on primetime this season.  But John Wall easily made it his night and provided glimpses of his talent that will most certainly elevate him into the point guard discussion soon.  He’s not there yet folks, but he will be there soon.

The three point contest had easily the best headline after the action when one was quoted as saying “the Heat finally beat the Celtics- in the 3 point contest” after James Jones beat both Paul Pierce* and Ray Allen.

*= Pierce’s booing in his home town brought me back to the All Star Game held in Philly where Sixer fans booed Kobe like he had something to do with being drafted by the Lakers.  But Pierce’s booing was justified in the fact that he’s a Celtic now and an over the top douche.

The All Star Game was pretty entertaining.  It had its usual flash of dunks and “look at me” play (attention Kobe) but the final few minutes was pretty good stuff.  For those of you who follow me on twitter or Facebook this may be torturously repetitive but I really don’t care.  Here are some of the best moments from last night’s game:

– In a pre-game interview Craig Sager, who’s awful interview night we will get into, chatted with Kobe Bryant and let something slip.  He told Kobe that if he were to win the All Star Game MVP that he would tie a record with Bob Petit for All Star Game MVP’s with 4.  You didn’t need to give Kobe any more reason to go out there and put on a show but that was the final straw.  Guys like him don’t let young’ns like Blake Griffin steal the spotlight.  L.A. is still his town and he isn’t giving up his corner for anybody.

Later in a tweet @RicBucher said this:

Told Blake Kobe nearing Wilt. Blake: Should I tell him? Me: You think he doesn’t know? B: Probably right. He checked record book on way in.

Need we say more?

– Craig Sager was 0 for 2 in interviews last night.  His interview with Carmelo in which he went all Jim Gray on us and pressed Carmelo on where he would end up when all was said and done was interrupted by Kobe, who was apparently his spokesperson.  But his interview with Justin Bieber was really bad.  Here’s on painful exchange:

Craig Sager:”last week performing at the grammys, this week at NBA All Star game, dont you have school?
Justin Bieber: well, its the weekend.

The silence following that was painful because you knew how uncomfortable it was.  Bieber basically gave Sager the “whats your name again?” treatment, looking uninterested in anything Sager had to ask.

– Lebron messed around and got a triple double in the All Star Game and if the East would’ve pulled off the win he most certainly would’ve won the MVP.  But his best play was his ability to raise his teammates level of intensity as the game wore on.  He clearly took ownership of that squad and almost brought the team all the way back but the West had built up too much of a lead.

– Interesting and subtle message was sent by Doc Rivers as he came through on his promise to send out all 4 of his Celtics into the game at the same time and he did so with his very first set of substitutions.

– The Eastern Conference playoffs promises to be a bloodbath.  Amazing amount of tension there with the Heatles and Big 4 of the C’s not liking each other.  Dwight Howard’s disdain for the Big 4.  The Hawks representatives not Amare’s biggest fan.  Amar’e spending a better portion of the game guarding who could be his teammate in a week.  Then there’s the undoubted first half MVP, Derrick Rose who is hated by all because well, he’s the MVP and at the core basketball is still a game that appeals at the pride and ego of every player.

– Which brings us to my final point on the All Star Game.  The NBA has the best All Star Game because, you don’t have to forcibly convince players that the game means anything.  Basketball is still a very individualistic sport driven by sports stars who know fans look at each match up as a measure of each player’s ability.  So if Kobe drives by Lebron, fans wont say that the Lakers are better than the Heat, they will chalk that up to Kobe being better than Lebron which you can’t say about any other sport.  Pride and ego carry this sport more than anything and even in meaningless All Star Games, those things can be huge motivational tools.

So you would be correct in assuming that Kobe wants to win the MVP to show up Blake Griffin.  That Lebron wants to get the MVP in Kobe’s backyard as they battle for the crown of best player in the league.  That Kevin Durant wanted to show off his wares in front of his peers.  Every guy had a chip on his shoulder last night.  Believe it.  That’s why you can’t top the NBA All Star Game.

Another portion of All Star Weekend that I didn’t agree with was the announcement of finalists for the Naismith Hall of Fame.  Cheryl Miller’s little brother Reggie* did not make the cut in his first year of eligibility for induction in the Hall of Fame.  Many people would argue that its not that big of a deal but this is coming purely from a romanticized opinion and nothing stat related, in my mind he is a first ballot hall of famer.

I grew up watching the Knicks during the 90’s.  It was the NBA on NBC era where everything the NBA did was golden.  One thing forgotten amidst the number of parades the Yankees had in the late 90’s and the explosion of football during the last 15 years, New York is still a basketball town.  The inner cities are filled with kids who dream big of making it in the NBA and ballers from New York City carry an extra weight of expectations unfairly put there by the history of those who came before.  During the 90’s New York was firmly fixated on the Knicks.

The Knicks were perennial contenders and seemingly had one nemesis after another.  Early 90’s were filled battling and losing to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.  Just when I thought the Knicks had rid themselves of that challenge with MJ’s retirement, along came Reggie Miller who did things to the Knicks and its fans I thought God had ONLY put Michael Jordan on earth to do.  We had more success against the Pacers but it was never easy and Miller showed up every time.

He had some memorable moments like when he scored 8 points in less than 10 seconds and when he and Spike Lee waged their war on the courts of MSG.  The era was filled with bloodbaths and real life “I hate you” tension that you just don’t see anymore.*  I always believe that only the great ones play great on grand stages like the Garden and Miller always raised his game.  Miller’s teams were never the most talented but they always managed to get him the ball and he always managed to hit the big shot which made him the league’s record holder for 3 point field goals made.

*= Until now.  I hope.

I dont have any big statistical chart to show you.  Its just one man’s disagreement filled with bias based on what he saw growing up.  It may not mean much to you but I remember how much I respected Reggie Miller and in my mind, players like him were meant for big moments.  He made his team a contender and always put the fear of God in me as a Knick fan like only Michael could do.  For me, that’s enough to warrant his first ballot induction.

But that’s just me.

MID POINT AWARDS

“If I had to vote, [Rose is] the MVP of the league,” Rivers said.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/02/21/2077246/celtics-doc-rivers-derrick-rose.html#ixzz1EbyovKd7

Continuing the trend set by peers within the industry I thought I’d try something new and give out my mid season awards.

MVP: I would have to agree with head coach Doc Rivers who gave his vote to Derrick Rose.  No need to go into stats mode but he’s top 10 in Scoring, Assists, and minutes played.  The only reason he’s playing so many minutes is because of all the injuries his team has suffered.  He’s the clear number one option on his team and he’s become more of a leader in just his third season and carried them to a three seed.  Need we say more?  Okay fine.  Stories are out there about how unwilling he was to try and recruit Lebron James when he was making his tours to NBA cities in his solo “look at me” campaign.  He failed to kiss the King’s ring and everybody loves a good rebel.

Most Important Player: This award goes to the one guy most responsible for his team’s record.  That guy would be none other than Amar’e Stoudemire.  Amar’e’s impact isn’t just felt on the court.  Take a trip to NYC.  The city is buzzing again.  MSG is rocking and not because of the visitors.  He’s singlehandedly restored Knick pride and his emergence has made it a necessity for Knicks executives to surround him with other superstars like Carmelo Anthony.  His play alone has made that possible.  Did I make this award up just to give recognition to my team’s best player?  Sure I did.  Screw you if you think he doesn’t deserve some props.

BEST TEAM: Records don’t mean anything here.  San Antonio may have 46 wins but nobody is afraid of them come May and June.  The best team by far are the Celtics who learned last year that if you don’t have enough big bodies banging in the post area and getting rebounds you will lose.  They addressed it by literally signing every single big man over 6’11 to their roster.  Rondo’s only getting better, KG’s legs have about two more decent seasons before he falls off a cliff skills wise and they have two of the best clutch shooters in the league in Paul Pierce and Ray “He got Game” Allen.

What bears watching is how teams react once the Melo-drama ends.  Sources insist that deals are being held up thanks to the Nuggets and they themselves may not be done dealing away parts.  Nene will be another player the Nuggets will want to deal as well.  The Rockets and Blazers are seen as suitors.  Let’s see what the playoff teams do to acquire complementary pieces.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Here’s another opportunity for me to give an award to a Knick but those tricky dicks at the NBA offices have this rule that makes Blake Griffin, in officially his second season, eligible for the Rookie of the Year despite missing his entire red shirt season after breaking his knee.  Landry Fields has been the best first year player.  I dont want to hear about John Wall who’s emerging and who by the end of the season may have a better case,  but Fields being a second round pick vaults himself into this discussion.  He leads all guards with 7.1 rebounds.  He’s a starter on a Knicks squad who surprised every prognosticator with their current record.
That being said, Blake Griffin is second in double doubles and is a freak of nature.  His in game dunks are the kind of stuff that make you stop and watch.  He’s singlehandedly made the Clippers a watchable product despite a less than stellar record.  Of course being owned by Donald Sterling doesn’t bode well for his future endeavors but let’s just soak in his rookie* season.
*= FTW.

BEST PLAYERS AT EACH POSITION:

C- Dwight Howard- By far the easiest position to fill.  Rumors are already beginning about where he will end up after 2012 and word is spreading that he will join the long list of dominating centers who end up on the Lakers for the prime of their careers.  That would absolutely be insane but let’s see how everything shakes out.  Right now, there isn’t a better post presence or intimidating big man in the game.
Honorable Mention: Al Horford, Hawks-  Check the stats.  He isn’t that far behind even if he doesn’t wanna see Amar’e Stoudemire.

Power Forward- Amar’e Stoudemire No bias here folks.  The stats bear it all for STAT.  He leads all PF’s in points, blocks, and is top 10 in steals, rebounds and assists at the position.  Add in his overall impact to the team and city and he is most certainly deserving of the title.
Honorable Mention- Kevin Love- the guy is a double double machine in the make of a Moses Malone.  That’s big.

Small Forward- Lebron James- I hate to do this, trust me, but he’s undeniably the best player in the game today.  His stats bear it out and his ability to take ownership on a team full of All Stars and play through all of the negativity that he brought on himself, has been incredible.  I wont let my own biases get in the way of this guy’s obvious greatness.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Durant- This is just a matter of preference and trust me you won’t get a fierce argument from me if you put him over Lebron on this list.  But Durant is stuck in that “he’s just a scorer” phase of his career that haunted MJ during the 80’s as he waited for Magic and Bird to get old and stale before he made his move.

Shooting Guard- Kobe Bryant- Even Laker fans have to admit that his drop in minutes is due to the wear and tear that 3 consecutive NBA Finals trips mixed in with basically no down time with Olympic responsibilities but let’s not argue this point after what we saw last night.  When the lights are on and the best are on the court Kobe can bring it.  Case made.
Honorable Mention: Dwayne Wade- They still can’t beat the Celtics even with having Bron and Bosh, but he can still bring it.  You can see how not having to carry his team during a full NBA season has been good to Wade’s body and may give him a few extra years of elite service time.

Point Guard- Derrick Rose- My first half MVP and unquestionable leader among the pack of elite point guards who’s rank you can certainly debate and you wouldn’t be wrong.  Right now the battle for the crown goes 4 deep with Rose.  If you subbed in Rondo, Westbrook, or Paul I wouldn’t be mad atcha.  But for me, right now, Rose does everything you want from a PG and gives you that added element of scoring that is a bonus.  If i had to do a ranking it would go Rose, Westbrook, Rondo and Paul and the only reason Paul isn’t ahead is because of that injury to his leg that has him wearing that God-awfully-big brace which scares the crap out of me.  Of course it didn’t stop me from tweeting this.
Honorable Mention-  Thought I’d take this space to talk about why I left of Deron Williams off this list.  That Jerry Sloan episode left a bad taste in my mouth.  You don’t just remove the longest tenured head coach in basketball and think you will walk away from this thing with your name still in tact.  Imagine the hell that will be raised when D-Will walks out of Utah.  Plus, last night CP3’s performance was a reminder to those who made the similar mistake I made when I put D-Will ahead of him.

As I step away from NBA Talk for a moment to bring you this public service announcement:

ALBERT (don’t ) PUJOLS your breath.

 

“Sources: Pujols contract talks are over. Deadline will pass without a deal. Have not been proposals swapped in last 100 hours or so.  There remains an enormous between cards and pujols not on years, but on per-year salary.”
@Buster_ESPN Buster Olney
Despite the Pujols designated deadline of February 16th coming and going, there remains a very slim possibility that the Cardinals don’t bestow upon Pujols a contract he will sign to.  Pujols reported to camp with the statement that he would like to be a Cardinal forever.  While all that’s good and well to hear for Cards fans, it was a definitive message sent to Cardinals ownership.
I want to be here, but if you dont give me a contract offer I like, trust me I will leave.  The Cards will still have an exclusive negotiating window to hammer out a deal with Pujols but if rumors of what the Cards were initially offering are true, then they have a long ways to go.  Maybe Pujols goes off and has another historic season and the Cardinals have no choice BUT to make a deal that blows the A-Rod deal out the water which is precisely what the Pujols camp is looking to do, however the Cardinals tactics speak to one very major truth: they financially wont be able to offer Pujols the length of deal he desires and are currently unwilling to go dollars either.  We’re talking a $30 million a year contract and most sportswriters are Pujols friendly when writing that he deserves such a contract especially after the club friendly deal he signed in 2004.  No more home-town discounts for Pujols and if there’s one player who deserves a ludicrous amount of money its him.
This isn’t about money for Pujols as most people are writing and I tend to believe people who’ve been around him more than you or I.  It isn’t greed.  Frankly If you or I were as good as Pujols was at what we do, I’m sure we wouldn’t below market deals when the reality that everything is a business remains.  The Cardinals will have to get creative but if they don’t there’s two teams who stick out as possible landing spots for Pujols.
1. The Cubs- Michael Wilbon, who now writes for ESPN Chicago wrote a piece illustrating why its important for the Cubs to sign Pujols.  You don’t need to waste time reading it to know that Pujols would be a fit anywhere but especially here.  If Pujols were hurt in anyway shape or form by the Cards offer it would make sense for him to take the money and go to Chicago where he would be openly embraced by a Cub faithful who have longed for a superstar of Pujols’ ilk to come along.
2. The Angels- This past winter the Angels had to make do with just signing Hisanori Takahashi and trading for Vernon Wells God-awful contract.  But one more bad season and  Arte Moreno, the owner of the Angels, may have to open the checkbook and finally cash the check he’s been writing about…well…opening the checkbook and writing checks.
For you local yuks wondering about the Yankees and Mets I won’t say never but remember that A-Rod is locked in for another 7 years and Mark Texieira who could possibly be traded to St Louis in a blockbuster deal nixed all that kind of speculation by saying he would exercise his no-trade clause.  Forget about plugging him in at DH since A-Rod will be occupying that space in a few years and you have lack of flexibility.  Add on to the fact that the Red Sox just signed their own young 1b to a long term deal and there’s very little pressure on the Yankees to make such a move but never say never with those pinstripe-rs.  There may be a few hundred million lying somewhere should they allow CC Sabathia to walk after this year but again it all depends on how quickly their young pitching develops.
Meanwhile the Mets have no money so we can end that discussion right there.
Pujols said he would operate his no-trade clause and nix any potential deal the Cards draw up if they are convinced they can’t sign him but if he were open to be traded throw the Detroit Tigers as a possible landing spot.  They have a young 1b who is in a very manageable contract for them and the Tigers may be evaluating whether to keep him or not with his recent arrest on drunken driving where he even took a swig of whiskey in front of a patrolmen.  Cabrera’s drinking problem may cause him to miss games and perhaps the Cards may look to get him and convince themselves they have the proper environment to nurture him and keep him from falling off the wagon.
Speaking of baseball related news.  With the Mets recent financial problems I thought it would be fun and necessary to begin looking at alternative solutions for Mets ownership.  Yup you guessed it, we finally have our very first weekly column and here it is:

YOUR NEW MET OWNER IS…..

With our initial offering I had to pull a name out of the hat that would reinvigorate the fan base and show that I meant business with this and so with my very first inaugural pick, my very first candidate to be the new Mets owner is:

VINCENT KENNEDY MCMAHON

The owner of the World Wrestling Entertainment franchise, he’s worth a reported $1.2 billion which would require Mr. McMahon to get some other investors involved but he would be the face of ownership and really would you have it any other way?  The Mets need a person who has that Steinbrenner-ian attitude of “I’ll do whatever it takes to win” that’s necessary in New York.  He’s always been a fan of New York city and he’s based out of Stamford Connecticut where a certain former manager trolls around.

Its literally too good to be true but hey, there’s always hope.  Imagine the cross-promotional opportunities that he could pull off?  WWE wrestlers escorting players off the field who’ve been thrown out.  Who would brawl with the Mets if they knew that they’d have to answer to huge wrestling guys?

Why can’t this work?  I’m throwing it out there Met fans.  Ya gotta believe.

 

THE LINKS AND THINGS YOU SING ABOUT BRING EM OUT…

Buzz Bissinger in an op-ed details why the NBA has a race problem that makes it a problem for white America to fully accept.  This is right down Jason Whitlock’s alley but Bissinger makes a good point while writing about a problem that most are unwilling to sit and write thoughtfully bout without the constant threat of being labeled a racist.

Ken Berger of CBSSports remains one of my favorite NBA writers and his article on the class of 96’s impact is a must read for any NBA loyalist who stood by the league even through its rather dull years from 2001-2005.  It talks about the 10 year anniversary of Allen Iverson and revisiting a former warrior’s shining moment on a big stage and what it meant for that class, Kobe included, to be the transition away from the MJ era.  The most misguided notion was that Jordan could be replaced and we spend the next 10 years looking for his replacement.  Even when he came back to the Wizards in 2001, the league was looking for someone to come along and replace him.  Iverson was never a celebrated athlete and historically he may be looked at as mercurial but for those of us who watched the NBA passionately remember a little guy who played the game fearlessly.  He may not have played the right way all the time but his style of play was something worth the price of admission.

Remember that NFL labor negotiations that we were all stressing?  Well there seemingly is no end in sight but news was made last week when a very impatient owner talked back to the prince of all QB’s Peyton Manning and made him the face of villainry in these proceedings.  Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports writes that maybe its time to bench this guy for good if the league wants to make it work.

Finally, we end with yet another column regular Ive decided in the last 10 minutes to introduce:

THE RON ARTEST TWEET OF THE WEEK

@RONARTESTCOM RON ARTEST

 

“two weeks ago i was driving on rodeo drive and farted in a restaurant i was stunned and told the whole restaurant sorry . i gave em all hugs”

 

 

PREVIEW FOR WEEK:

– Report coming from Port St Lucie and Tampa on Mets and Yankees camps as Spring training gets underway.

– Trade deadline column perhaps if something unexpected happens.

– Perhaps the inaugural podcast.

Have a great week folks.

 

 

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