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Headlines 1/8/2013

After a day’s vacation, I come back to you knowing that you were all withheld from critical information regarding the sporting universe.   So here I am back to give you the news with my opinion as only I can.  Saturday opened with the news that renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews never cleared Robert Griffin the third to come back into the game in which he originally injured his LCL despite the opposite coming from Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan.  Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports wrote that he did himself and his team a disservice by keeping RGIII in that game.  Les Carpenter of Yahoo Sports writes that maybe Mike Shanahan needs a no man.  Jarrett Bell of USAToday wrote that perhaps this is what life with RGIII will always be like: Risk vs. reward.

I will write more about this subject later on today, but the fact is, most people agree that RGIII should’ve been taken out at some point in the game, long before he was ever actually scraped off the field.  When we finally saw his knee buckle and RGIII lying motionless on the ground it only served to confirm everything the viewing public had seen.  He wasn’t right at any point of that game and he was becoming a liability.  On the other hand, this is the playoffs and suddenly being down 21-14 probably called upon your best player to rise to the occasion which he really tried to do.  What most people won’t understand is Shanahan’s motivation for keeping him in the game.  During the game, I tweeted at 14-13 that if Seattle scores, maybe it should turn to Kirk Cousins because after the first two series, the Redskins just were never the same and the momentum had squarely fell on the Seahawks who had got back to playing sound defensively.  

Much of yesterday was spent breaking down what role Mike Shanahan played in RGIII’s knee being destroyed.  Today will be spent in analyzing the results of RGIII’s MRI which Dr. Andrews will take a look at.  Dr Andrews not wanting RGIII back in that game speaks volumes about how injured RGIII was and how Shanahan is either lying to himself to keep RGIII out there or he just doesn’t care how he wins or what it costs.  Either way, Shanahan will get ripped apart in the greater DC area.  Not only did they lose, they may have lost their franchise for a good portion of the 2013 season.  One important thing to remember is that they have a capable QB in Kirk Cousins who is more than capable of coming in and winning a few games.  He may not offer the team the chance that RGIII would on a game by game basis, but he isn’t a terrible option and unlike the Eagles who had three healthy QB’s in McNabb, Vick and Kevin Kolb and decided to ship the other two out and throw all their chips on Vick.  This may have been the best thing that happens to the Redskins.  If Cousins does perform very well, he may be able to build up value and the Skins would, in theory, be able to recoup some of the lost draft picks they sent to the Rams in order to draft RGIII.  

 

Carmelo Anthony lost his cool and the Knicks lost the game.  Tell me if you’ve heard that script before.  The Knicks have and did.  Nate Taylor of the New York Times writes that Garnett and the Celtics showed they can rattle Melo and beat the Knicks.  George Willis of the New York Post writes that if the Knicks aren’t careful they can begin to pick up a reputation of being easily thrown off their game.  Dave D’Alessandro of the Star Ledger writes that Doc Rivers and the Celtics pride themselves on championships not on small goals like winning the division.

Last night’s game was awesome from the perspective of the atmosphere in the Garden (the fans were terrific), and atmosphere.  New York is a city full of transplants and there are plenty of shamrock-rocking folk in this town to know that a full home crowd is NOT to be expected but the fact that they were so into this game, it probably ratcheted up the intensity ten fold and probably added to Carmelo’s frustrating evening.  His shots weren’t going in, but KG’s mouth was running and Melo unable to hurt him where it counts decided that the only way to get the last word was to chase KG down in the visitor’s locker room after the game, a place he purposefully he went to without even hesitating for a moment following the final horn.  

I wrote this after the game, but the book on the Knicks is out there.  Rattle the superstar.  Get them complaining to the refs and they will be mentally distracted enough that they won’t be able to recover.  Play them physically and force them to return the aggression, because they can’t do it with control, and they will be completely duped.  The Knicks are becoming that team with a very quick temper and unable to control themselves in situations.  Those that cry that Melo doesn’t get the superstar calls, that’s why.  He spends so much time complaining to refs that most of them don’t ever want to satisfy Melo because nothing is ever enough.  Yes, does Melo get fouled a ton?  Sure.  But basketball is physical when you enter that five feet area between player and basket.  That’s where grinders and maulers have to be bigger than the foe in front of them and impose their will.  Melo has the body, but he does not have the temperment to spend too much time boxing out and setting up shop.  I’m not implying that Melo is weak or soft underneath the basket, but he has to stop being so angry everytime a whistle isn’t blown.  The refs can call that foul every single time but when he doesn’t you keep working.  

Melo plays the kind of physical basketball that you want to see but is so difficult to officiate.  Its not in the same league as Shaq who walked a fine line everytime he swung that arm around and the elbow almost always seemed to miss the defenders face by a whisker.  Its tough to match him physically down there but when a team can, its time for Melo to do other things.  His 18 foot jumper is almost always a good decision.  His turnaround jumper is getting better.  Getting the bigger defender away and driving past them is a skillset he is putting more to use this year.  These are the kind of decisions that you want to see Melo make.  Decisions based on who’s guarding him.  Every team throws multiple defenders on him.  Last night, the Celtics put Bradley on him at times, Paul Pierce, Jeff Green.  Mixing and matching big with small.  It can’t be easy for Melo but he has to understand that his best skill is to draw multiple defenders away from their man so his teammates can get a better shot.  By the time that Kevin Garnett had taken him completely out of that game, he was jacking up threes with 18 left on the shot clock and doing things that old Melo used to do.  Anthony just can’t play mad and its becoming a liability when he gets into those modes where he’s playing out of pure spite for the guy in front of him.  He forgets teammates and the game plan and Woodson needs to have a sit down with him.  

There’s no doubt that Melo is the MVP and nothing about yesterday’s game is going to disprove that, but last night’s game is a continuing novel being written by perennial playoff contenders, teams who have played in the games that the Knicks are making a strong case they will play this year, that if you want to get to that level you must play physical and if you aren’t willing to match the physicality and you are more willing to swing than actually play ball then you don’t belong in the discussion and you probably aren’t ready for the primetime that teams like the Bulls, the Grizzlies and most importantly the Celtics have been to.  

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Headlines 1/3/2012

Yesterday’s biggest news story was the return of Amar’e Stoudemire.  But the story turned familiar.  The Knicks came out ice cold and couldn’t buy a lay up, while the other team was hitting every open shot they were given.  At one point the Knicks went down 19 and once again climbed to within one shot of tying, but could never find the defensive stop they needed.

“You can’t keep spotting teams 20-plus leads and think you’re going to win,” Mike Woodson said. “The last few games have been a disaster in terms of how we’re starting games.”

Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News writes that Amar’e Stoudemire is in direct competition with Carmelo Anthony to get touches and therein lies the rub and the greater storyline as it relates to the rest of the 2012-2013 season.  In a more optimistic story, the New York Post’s Kevin Kiernan writes that if Carmelo and Amar’e learn how to work together, and the fans are patient, a bigger reward awaits the Knicks. Zach Schonbrun of the New York Times writes that Amar’e Stoudemire’s standing ovation was ripe with optimism but filled with caution.

Yesterday’s game was a pretty familiar storyline.  Fall down early, make a great comeback but ultimately fall short.  The added storyline of Amar’es return and Carmelo’s return from a two game sit out due to a hyper extended knee made this a must watch game.  Nothing about this game was pretty, despite 45 from Carmelo Anthony.  The Knicks continue to live and die by the three and yesterday they were slaughtered.  The Knicks were 10-37 from beyond the arc while the Blazers shot 11-33.  It seemed that every shot that Nicholas Batum took either went in or airballed and he didn’t airball much.  He was the high man, and also the one given the responsibility of trying to guard Carmelo.  When one on one defense didn’t work, the Blazers began double teaming Melo.  Credit Melo with finding his open teammates, but nobody ever found a rhythm that would make the Blazers go away from the strategy of doubling Melo.  

JR Smith continues to be a real Six Man of the Year candidate playing an all around game that everyone thought he could play but never lived up to, either due to immaturity or indifference.  Either way, the idea I would think, is to have Amar’e and JR come in to give the team an offensive lift when they can’t seem to score points.  At some point Steve Novak will start hitting the close to 50% that he can, and the Knicks will have a formidable 9 man rotation.  Of course, the odd man out in this rotation will be Ronnie Brewer who is known for his defense and is a starter by name only, but plays very few minutes thanks to his inability to hit the wide open corner three, once Iman Shumpert returns.  That return is still being speculated about, but expect in the next two weeks to hear an announcement from the usually tightlipped MSG office.  I found the rotations a bit weird, as this was kind of a throwaway game for the Knicks.  They were working with several line ups, but having a very quick hook with any line up that had Carmelo and Amar’e in it which was odd to me.  Its a chemistry issue they want to avoid for now until Amar’e gets fully healthy, or its something they have decided upon for the betterment of the team.  Stoudemire’s minutes were limited to 20 yesterday but while he only played 17, he seemed tentative and hesitant.  Too amped up on his first few attempts before settling down on his old familiar: the pick and roll drive to the hoop dunk.  Once he got that lead pass from Pablo Prigioni, and he dunked, there was that familiar spark in his eyes.  

On the other side, I was extremely impressed with Damian Lilliard.  I had heard he was a legit rookie of the year candidate (the lead dog IMO), but to see him in person was impressive.  He’s got that quickness and body control that makes him a poor man’s Derrick Rose.  That step back three was the kind of shot that you only see from more poised veteran guards and it tells you how much more mature beyond his years this kid really is.  A four year starter from Weber State, Lilliard is proving to be the team’s best draft selection since LaMarcus Aldridge.  Also, how in the hell does JJ Hickson dominate us EVERY FREAKING TIME?  He’s in the ALL-“ROLE PLAYERS WHO HAVE CAREER GAMES AGAINST THE KNICKS ALL THE TIME” Team.  

The Jets offseason unofficially started the day they couldn’t beat the Tennessee Titans, but their official offseason started Monday when they fired the GM, Mike Tannenbaum.  Many wrote about how Rex should have been given a pink slip with the GM.  Rich Cimini of ESPNNY writes why this plan of action, hiring a GM while keeping the incumbent coach, could be a death penalty for Rex. Ben Shpigel of the New York Times writes “No doubt the Jets’ position is appealing; only 32 of these jobs exist, after all. But whoever takes over for Tannenbaum will inherit a mess at quarterback, several bloated contracts and a roster in dire need of an overhaul, not to mention a coach he did not choose in Ryan, whose return in 2013 Johnson guaranteed.”  Mark Cannizaro of the Post writes that a curious decision was to let Tony Sparano hang on to his job as offensive coordinator, though he admits that the Jets lead the league in curious decision making.  Steve Serby of the Post writes that Rex needs to come out and talk about it.  His press conference was canceled by the team on the day that Mike Tannenbaum was let go.  The owner Woody Johnson had a five paragraph statement read.  In fact, the only member of the Jet hierarchy that did any talking, was the guy they let go: GM Mike Tannenbaum.  Finally, Manish Mehta of the Daily News, and Rex Ryan’s favorite scribe writes, “Rex Ryan, the king of transparency and accountability, isn’t talking.”

You can understand the frustration from the beat writing community as it relates to the Jets.  The team had a frustrating and disappointing season.  They aren’t in the mood to answer some difficult questions.  But the bigger dilemma becomes that the Jets organization wanted to dump everything on the lap of the GM while saving the coach who’s been at the head of much of this mess.  What I don’t know and what will apparently never be clear, is who was responsible for the Tim Tebow signing?  That was a decision made by an influential voice within the organization.  Was it Rex Ryan?  It didn’t look like it from the amount of playing time he got and the constant refusal to name him the starting QB especially in the meaningless week 17 contest against Buffalo.  Was it Mike Tannenbaum?  Maybe.  He did make the, now idiotic, decision to resign Mark Sanchez and guarantee him $20 million basically bolting him down to the Jets roster for the 2013 season.  But then why would he turn around the next day and go after Tim Tebow?  His decision to give Sanchez that contract extension was definitely influenced by the fact that he openly went after Peyton Manning and Mark found out and was upset by it, and yeah, this whole thing sounds soap opera-ish.  My guess is that it was owner Woody Johnson who has never really made a good decision since he’s taken over the team’s ownership.  

Woody has always been about the bottom line and winning the back page war with the Giants who never have had any desire to partake in that kind of thing.  This move was meant to distract everyone from the poor season they had.  Add to that, the whole building up a wall and the almost CIA Top Secret Tebow playbook and you had the makings of a ridiculous campaign that became bizarre.  Needless to say the Tebow situation was NOT the only reason the GM got fired, but the quarterbacking position was a major influence.  Add the contract, and the overall lack of depth to the roster and very few draft picks with which to fix the roster, Mike Tannenbaum leaves his successor very few avenues to go through in order to cure what ails this team.  

I know Jet fans won’t want to hear this and obviously they won’t consider this move, but the best way to get all of your draft picks back is to trade one of your best players.  Yes, if the Jets pay most of Mark Sanchez’s salary they may get a sixth round pick, but why do that deal in the first place?  My guess would be to bring in a strong QB’s coach to work with Mark.  The Jets should invest in a running game.  Steven Jackson will be a free agent soon, and he would like another chance at winning.  His price range may be too high for the Jets but they should consider knocking on that door.  They still have stars.  Maybe if they trade a guy like Muhammad Wilkerson OR Darelle Revis, they will get a bunch of draft picks back- maybe even a number one.  Remember, the Rams still have picks from their RGIII trade with Washington, and they are trying to find building blocks and Wilkerson would definitely be looked at as something they would want.  Would that be worth it? 

As it relates to media relations, this won’t get better unless the team gets better.  But even then, there are some feelings that need to be mended.  Its clear that several in the media are feeling ignored and not being given a story and don’t expect for them to continue to speculate, thereby giving the reader and the fanbase something to worry about.   Lately, the boastful and talkative Jets have gone into bunker mode.  What is the deal there?  The Jets will certainly have many questions to answer.  Once they find a new GM perhaps some of those answers will be given by an actual member of the Jets hierarchy.

While the Jets are majoring in confusion and outright non-commital, the Giants are in a different state of mind.  They were left with no answers as to why they no-showed their week 15 and week 16 contests against two playoff teams while demolishing the pathetic Eagles (there was no homer-ism in that description of the Eagles, just outright contempt.  Please note the difference).  Changes are coming for the Giants and one change that seemed imminent is now as close to official as can be: Osi Umeniyora announced on the Michael Kay show that he probably won’t be returning to the Giants and he will test the open market.  Ralph Vacchiano of the Daily News writes that panic isn’t setting in on the Giants, a team who came within one game of making the playoffs.  Paul Schwartz of the Post writes that it won’t be easy identifying what exactly happened in those week 15 and week 16 games, but it won’t be tough to know what needs to be done.  Zach Shonbrun of the New York Times writes that remorse is the word around Giants camp.  Remorse that a quality team didn’t get to defend its Super Bowl title.  Finally Ohm Yungmisuk of ESPNNY writes the same thing only with hilarious quotes from Martellus Bennett.

I’m not going to try and figure out weeks 15 and 16.  The usual flat performance that we’ve come to expect was the immediate answer following each loss, but it never seemed to accurately describe what happened.  Losing 34-0 to a Falcons team that shouldn’t have soundly beat the Giants?  Losing 33-14 to a team and a QB who had issues galore?  It just didn’t seem right.  If it was lack of focus and intensity then doesn’t some of that fall on the coaching staff?  Just trusting that a team that has done it before will pick it up automatically won’t be an easy sell to a fanbase that went into the season and especially after blowout wins against the 49ers and the Packers.  Clearly the talent is there to compete and a returning core will be a good start, but with almost two dozen players becoming either restricted or unrestricted free agents (here is a list) there will certainly be a good amount of change at the Timex center come next season.  

IF I had to guess who is definitely coming back from that list, I would say that Stevie Brown, Victor Cruz, Andre Brown (all restricted free agents), Lawrence Tynes, Kevin Boothe, Will Beatty, Sean Locklear,  Bear Pascoe, Adrian Tracy aka YOsi (young Osi), and Domenik Hixon.  Guys I would like to be re-signed but are iffy because of either price or shaky health are, Kenny Phillips, Martellus Bennett, Rocky Bernard, Ramses Barden, Chase Blackburn, and Keith Rivers.  Every other guy on that list is a goner in my eyes.  The Giants had another good to great year on the offensive line but saw too much of their health depleted.  

If I were in charge of the draft, I would try to find an offensive lineman (you draft tackles because they are usually the best athletes), before they find a pass rusher.  I think the Giants just had a off season in terms of pass rushing and Perry Fewell made the mistake of trusting that his line would apply pressure without any stunts or blitzes.  That last game against the Eagles, the Giants used a lot of stunts and linebacker blitzes and created a ton of turnovers.  That may be a blueprint for how Fewell designs pressure in the upcoming season.  The Giants line were not winning their one on ones which they were used to winning, so perhaps mixing in some pressure from the LB’s and corners along with winning some one on one match ups will help but the team needs to begin to play with more fire.  Maybe next year they won’t enter week 16 and 17 having to win games just to make it into the playoffs.  This is still a team capable of winning a Super Bowl and the window is right now open. As Martellus Bennett hilariously put it, 

“It is a big a– window, we are not talking about apartment windows on the side. We are talking like mansions.  Like [Evander] Holyfield’s house in Atlanta where he had people working the grounds for you,” the tight end continued. “I don’t think the window is closing. I think there are other guys coming in to open up another window.”

That remains to be seen.

 

What do you guys think?

 

 

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Daily Rounds 12/26/2011 Part 1

So there’s plenty to get to.  Giants.  Jets.  Knicks.  Opening night of the NBA.  Christmas.  Plenty.  And we’ll get to them all.  This is Part 1.  Part two will be up later tonight as I break down the Giants/Jets game and where I feel like both teams are going from here.

In their regular season opener, the New York Knicks defeated the Paul Pierce less Celtics 106-104 at the Garden.  Marc Berman writes that Carmelo Anthony saved Christmas for the Knicks.  “I made a game-plan mistake,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “We didn’t go get the ball out of Carmelo’s hands and I thought we probably should have.”  That was an excerpt from Frank Isola’s piece in the Daily News this morning including more in depth analysis of Carmelo’s amazing 4th quarter.  Jonathan Lehman of the Post wrote about Tyson Chandler and the Knicks defensive effort in the fourth quarter limiting the Celtics to 7-20 shooting including two critical stops in the final minute.  Mike Vaccaro writes that despite all the things that went wrong for this team yesterday, they responded.  Howard Beck of the New York Times writes that for one game, the Knicks were better.  

Ok, let’s put everything into perspective here.  The Knicks won.  A “w” is a “W”.  Can’t complain about who was and who wasn’t there.  BUT, there were several things that need to be pointed out about this game that should temper expectations about this Knick team.  Yesterday, if there EVER was a reason when the Knicks needed some semblance of a reasonable point guard effort it was yesterday.  Toney Douglas was ineffective and Iman Shumpert has a green light to shoot it seems everytime he touches the ball.  Then there’s Mike Bibby who was out with a back spasm but was available to play but wasn’t available if you catch my drift.  Then there’s Baron Davis who won’t be eligible to play until a month from now.  The Knicks didn’t have ANY answer for Rajon Rondo.

Part of the problem was their transition defense.  NOBODY leaked out once the rebound was snared, and we’ll get to the rebounding as well.  NOBODY rotated to Rondo who went uncontested atleast 5 times on the other end for easy layups.  Rondo had 30 points and for the first time I kept thinking to myself, WOW, the Knicks need a good point guard.  Who i STILL think could be Iman Shumpert but he needs to look for others more than his own.  Yesterday, if Rondo had a competent jump shot (Which he did shoot 11-19) he would’ve been unstoppable.  He was a one man wrecking crew with a little bit of help from Brandon Bass who has historically given Amar’e Stoudemire fits because of his size and thickness down low.

I was a bit disappointed in Stat who scored a very quiet 21 points.  He was comfortable in playing the one on one isolation game a little too much and never tried to get involved in the flow of the offense.  He was the definition of a ball stopper and that HAS to stop.  For the Knicks to be successful both Melo AND Amar’e have to carry the team and do it in tandem.  Bass outplayed Stat in many ways and looked like the tougher player.  HOWEVER, I did like Stat’s determination on defense.

Look, I liked the Knicks opening statement on defense.  Yes there were spurts where it looked like nobody knew where to rotate at all and there were times where this team played excellently.  They showed emotion and communicated well.  They had an idea on who was guarding who and where they should leave spacing.  They had an identity and a game plan.  The Knicks have the ability to have a few one on one defenders and its clear that teams on the pick and roll will try to switch up and get Amar’e.  That’s the match up that teams will play and try and until Amar’e gets comfortable D’ing up then teams will continue to force the issue.  What I feel comfortable in knowing is that guys who are crazy athletic like Amar’e and who are naturally gifted in basketball like Carmelo (also the two guys who get the most blame for their deficiencies on d) can learn on the fly and rely on their natural abilities to make offenses pay.  They can learn how to do that.  As opposed to guys who don’t have that kind of natural ability like say a Jared Jeffries who looked as if he had suffered that injury during warm ups.

Eventually the Knicks will put together more than just sporadic 15 minute shifts on defense and will put in a total 48 like the Celtics do.  I think that the shorter regular season puts them in the fire more and because they have guys like Carmelo and Amar’e who can score whenever they want, they WILL win games on the strength of that, but they can also get better on defense much quicker thanks to the grueling schedule.  The thing is, the Knicks don’t have depth and we saw that yesterday.  Iman Shumpert is out 2-4 weeks and thankfully not longer.  I thought that was an ACL tear and from reports that are coming out, its just an MCL sprain which is a much lighter injury.  I think during rehab, the Knicks can focus Iman on becoming a better ball distributor.  What my fear is that he comes back and Baron and Mike Bibby are in, where does he go from there BUT become a combo guard in the mold of an OJ Mayo.  While I would be fine with having an OJ Mayo on my team, I think his athleticism suits us best if he were becoming a pass first point guard.  He has the ability to cut into the paint area and his vision has to improve.  From everything I’ve read about the kid he is a willing student and loves getting advice.  I’ve seen Baron Davis give him advice as well and he’s always willing to listen.  I hope he uses that and becomes better at his court vision.  IF he becomes a better ball handler, he’ll have much more wide open looks because teams will have to close out passing lanes leaving the middle of the paint wide open.

I have this crazy belief that Iman Shumpert CAN be that great point guard we need.  Ok, maybe saying great is getting ahead of myself.  I’m just saying that the Knicks need a guy who has athleticism, can push the ball and can get inside the paint area and allow guys on the Knicks to cut.  Douglas doesn’t have that yet and his first instinct is to shoot it.  Maybe that’s part of the D’Antoni offense.  Maybe that’s his own decision making which again would be an area where he would have to improve.  Douglas needs to be pass first but I feel like his ceiling is as an on the ball defender.  That’s where he’s best.  He disrupts passing lanes.  He is active on the defensive end and that’s what I love.  He needs to work on his corner three.  If he can develop those strengths I think he’d be a better fit.  That’s a more realistic ceiling in my opinion of Toney Douglas.

Did anyone see Landry Fields?  I mean I could’ve swore he was introduced last night.  I could’ve swore I saw him on the court last night.  Man, his sophmore swoon started after the Melo trade and its continued.  He couldn’t fit through screens, he was taking the wrong route and he was lucky that Ray Allen was having an off night shooting.  He just looks lost and its unfortunate.  I dont want to see anyone succeed more than Landry.  At this point he’s in the starting line up as a default, just like Keith Bogans was in the line up for the Bulls, just like Mario Chalmers was in there for the Heat, just like Derek Fisher for the Lakers.  These are guys that are occupying roster spots because they HAVE to not because its a decision that the team feels they are fit to be starters.  If they could find better players they would.  That being said, I’d take any of those guys over Fields right now.  His mind just isn’t there and he isn’t enjoying himself.  He’s overwhelmed by the moment.  Its one thing to play for a team with no realistic expectations but its another to play AT the Garden, for a team that’s expected to contend.  The fact is, Landry needs to see the Wizard of Oz or just man up and play like he did the first half of last season.  I mean Spike Lee is still rocking your jersey, at some point he may switch to Iman who has gotten the rookie confidence meter on high.

46-37, 54-56, and 41-31, the opponent’s rebounding total is the first number and the Knicks rebounding total is the second.  So far they have been outrebounded 141-124 and its pretty disappointing.  This is not on Tyson Chandler, but this is an indictment on the Knicks overall ability to rebound.  They seem more intent on getting back on defense rather than contesting a rebound.  The Knicks need to do a better job rebounding.  I cant begin to explain how important it is to give Amar’e and Melo more opportunities to score.  If they get in a rhythm and knock down shots, trust me there will be few teams that can compete with the Knicks.

Melo, there really isn’t a word anymore to describe him.  Talent personified.  He’s on the verge of having such a stranglehold on this city.  Lord help him if he hits a game winning shot during a huge playoff series or leads his team through a series.  This city will go goo goo over him.  They already are.

If only the Knicks had a competent backcourt player who could distribute the ball.  Having Melo as the point forward while it being an awesome position would wear him down as the season progresses.  That’s a lot of pressure.  Melo needs to get his offense in different ways.  Melo can and Melo must.  I’d rather have Melo play point forward during stretches rather than the whole game.

Boston fans can only wonder what Rondo COULD BE if he had a jumpshot.

By the way, in case you were wondering: Boston wins by 8 if Paul Pierce is in this game.  He plays his best at MSG and with that Rondo run where everything came so easy for him, Boston would’ve erased that 17 point lead and would’ve been up 15 themselves.  They just didn’t have enough offense from Jesus Shuttlesworth and KG to sustain them.

At some point KG is going to realize that NOBODY buys his tough guy act.  He’s a great player without all his bullshit.  Please stop.  Nobody is afraid of you.  He’s a skinny tall guy.  If he werent black, we’ be making Shawn Bradley jokes about him.  True story.  But he’s a good player with some athleticism.  Hence he’s black and he is a good player.  That wasn’t racist enough for you was it?

I dont know how pissed Rondo IS at Celtic management.  All I can say is, for that contract, he’s the guy you rebuild around.  The guy has a motor.  He’s aggressive and he’s tough.  He’s Tyronn Lue back in that Laker/Sixer series, only with ACTUAL talent.  He’s the agitator but with real skill.  Real potential.  I can’t begin to explain how badly I want to see Rondo injured because of how good he plays.  He seems to come up with huge plays in almost every game and I think everyone is realizing that without his maturity and growth the Celtics DONT win that championship in 08 and his development doesn’t go ten notches faster without KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce there to guide him.  They have needed him just as much as he’s needed them.  If the Celtics are going to rebuild after this year, I wonder what that does for Rondo.  That’s why I felt the Celtics handled this poorly.  Now the Celtics HAVE to rebuild with a guy that they openly left out to be traded.  I get that the guy they wanted was a better player in CP3, but they need to smooth over that situation if they ever want Rondo to sign another extension.  Rondo is the key for their future and the guy they will build around but let’s see how much of a willing participant he will be.  His contract expires after the 2014-2015 season.  By then he’ll be the last of the big four left.  Hmmmm

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Monday Morning something or the other…

Happy Monday morning.  Ok forget it, I tried you lazy bums.  Here’s the racket this morning:  Huge win for the Knicks last night over the Heatles.  I will talk about the trade deadline.  No links this week but I will come back strong next week.  The Melo trade was indeed a victory but Prokho scored a major coup but I will tell you why it won’t all be vodka and salad dressing for the Russian.

Also some on Kevin Costner, Keannu Reeves, Adam Sandler and Spring Training.  Let’s warm up shall we?

FUSSING OVER TRADE DEADLINE

I weighed in on Carmelo already so no need to rehash that.

But anyone who thinks this Carmelo deal was exclusive to itself is beyond nuts.  This deal had 60% to do with Carmelo and 40% to do with the free agent class of 2012.

By now you know that Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams* all have the option to be free agents during the summer of 2012.  They will all go to where they feel give them the best chance to win.
*= D-Will has a player option for next year which could make him a 2011 free agent.

Melo’s deal wasn’t just supposed to make the Knicks a better team in the short term but also as a call to those guys that the Knicks need an extra playmaker who can come in and make them a whole helluva lot better.

The talked about lament of small market teams was firmly waved aside by Bill Simmons and other like minded people who agree that a hierarchy of teams in the league make for “must see television” which the NBA can properly plug in to prime time slots as they see fit.  It will also elevate the product come playoff time when the best teams are supposed to be playing against each other.

The NBA for far too long has tried to tell everyone that the league needs balance.  That led to the crappy decade we are only coming out of.  Look at the last decade of winners and tell me one team other than the ’04 Pistons who won without two or three guys that were top 5 at their particular position.  The NBA has and always will be a star led league.  Stars dictate where this league is going and like it or not, guys like Lebron, and Carmelo will always have the power.

At its core the NBA comes down to one on one matchups.  Those stats that seem too hard to calculate like clutch ability in other sports is a much simpler debate to have in the NBA.  Every team has one or two guys we label as finishers.  How can the league or its fans deny the power the players have?

This may be big market thinking but here’s one other point some people so easily forget.  Lebron played in Cleveland for 7 years and won 0 NBA titles.  Carmelo played in Denver for 7 and a half seasons and won 0 NBA titles.  KG played in Minnesota for 12 years and won 0 NBA titles.  Ray Allen played the same time and won 0 NBA titles.  Its not like these guys played out their rookie contracts and left the first chance they got.  They signed one and even two extensions before forcing their way to better situations.  Meanwhile Tim Duncan has been in San Antonio for 13 seasons and won 4 NBA titles.  Your team either does everything they can to surround you with complementary pieces or they don’t.  Name me one player that Lebron played with that you thought when they acquired him the Cavs would win a title.  I bet you had that convo when he, Wade and Bosh came together in Miami.  Those same conversations were had in New York this week.

This is a league of few stars and many complementary pieces.  When I was researching this whole NBA labor issue and saw the reason for a soft cap it made my mind up.  Soft caps allow teams to go over the set salary limit in order to add pieces and surround good talent.  Its meant to keep stars that were drafted by teams in their original uniforms.

The owners arguments have been faulty at best.  To ask players to give back almost $800 million in salaries because the NBA tried to be balanced is ridiculous.  Made more ridiculous by the fact that these owners signed off on these crippling deals.  Hey dumbass owner: if you didn’t wanna pay, say for arguments sake, a lazy, fat, unenthused center with a heart condition a huge contract then guess what?  DON’T.  To blame Eddy Curry for cashing those checks is ridiculous because we all would have done the same.*
*= I realize with that logic that all of us would be Eddy Curry’s but its the truth.  In some bizarro universe, we are Eddy Curry.

I think the league is about to go into a great upswing where its popularity is about to explode.  The stars aligning and allying with another isn’t a bad thing for the sport but the best thing for this sport.  Figuring out a way to share revenues seems to be the only problem that needs mediation.  The players are setting the trend.  To restrict movement and keep players in situations that are not conducive to their own happiness isn’t just unproductive, but also very stupid.

At the end of the day if teams surrounded their talent with equal talent then perhaps Lebron would still be in Cleveland getting set to win another championship.  Melo would be in Denver realistically challenging Kobe in LA.  Mark Cuban has held on to Dirk Nowitzki.  Tim Duncan has won titles in San Antonio and remains there and won’t leave.

Want a sad tale?  Steve Nash, the great white hope, won’t be traded by Robert Sarver because he refuses to let go of the one guy that keeps paying customers coming back.  Nash’s best years are gone, undoubtedly, and as long as he remains in Phoenix, he will never sniff an NBA title.  They have continuously shed draft picks and superstars like they were going out of style and they did so to reduce their salary demands.

You think if Steve Nash were younger he wouldn’t want to leave?  That he wouldnt grow tired of the same old crap?

The NBA is becoming a hierarchical society and the owners had better figure out how to deal with it.  That’s their best bet.  That’s their only play here.  Anything else would be evidence of the truth that owners of unsuccessful franchises have long tried to hide from its fans: they don’t care.

REAL LIFE RIVALRY

Nationally, the story of the real budding rivalry has gotten minuscule attention and rightfully so.  Its a non-story at this point.  The Knicks are the main event and the Nets are the hopeful under card.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that the upstart doesn’t have to give in to that logic.

Right as the Knicks were paving the streets with roses and carnations in anticipation of Carmelo Anthony’s debut at MSG, the Nets went out and hijacked Deron Williams from the Nets for a smaller version of the Carmelo offer.  Two first round draft picks, Devin Harris, and Derrick Favors.   The consensus around the league was that of shock and awe that the Russian Mad Scientist could pull off such a deal without the wherewithal of the NBA scribes who were sniffing around every corner.

The story was that this deal was consummated in 24 hours, shortly after Denver signed off on the Knicks package.  Prokho wanted a replacement superstar pronto and that he got.  Many instantly assessed Deron as the better player with the better upside.  Though there are several flaws in that logic.

Not to say that Deron Williams isn’t as good a player as Melo, or even better, I think that opinion came from the mouths of those that were still reeling from the shock of the Jazz, a very smart and steady organization, going through major renovations of its product after 20 something years with the same old script.  First Jerry Sloan and now Deron Williams?  With nary a hint that something like this was in the works?

But such is the trend and the two sided nature of the debate that small market execs are going to have to have in the coming months.  Keep our budding superstar or try to get as many building block assets before he jumps ship to more lucrative waters.  Melo’s reasoning was sound.  He’s a Brooklyn boy and wanted to come to play on the team that his childhood idol played on: Bernard King.  Deron Williams, as far as we know, did no such clamoring to get out.  Some would say that he got what he wanted when Sloan threw in his towel after twenty plus years on the bench with the scowl.

The Deron Williams trade and Melo trade have one very unique attribute in common.  Its not just done to make the team immediately better, but more so to attract potential superstars to Jersey/Brooklyn.  Williams’ value is much higher for Prokho than Melo’s is to James Dolan who is still trying to craft the next memo, in unison with Isiah Thomas, that he is in no way shape or form still associated with the Hall of Fame Point Guard.  Williams’ name represents star value and a billboard that Prokho can put up across the street from 34th and 8th in full view of Mr. Dolan who must look at the Nets as that fly that he just can’t seem to swat.

That fly of course is growing bigger and by 2012 will be gigantic when they move to Brooklyn and open up the Barclay Center.  The question now becomes will Deron Williams be there?  Unreported are two clauses in both contracts that Deron Williams and Carmelo signed.  Melo has an out clause after 2013 which means that he will give this homecoming a joyride before deciding if he really wants to commit which means there’s still another big pay day coming.  Deron Williams has a player option for next season.  Not a team option a player option.  Which means he decides that over the next 23 games that Brook Lopez is the real deal and if the Nets aren’t just a perennial contender for the 8th seed.  Like I said previously (scroll up slackers), this generation of players are much more in tune with what they want.  They are not willing to go along with organizational philosophy unless its in tune with that of their own.  They have dreams and aspirations that go far beyond the basketball court and the best and brightest of the bunch have a brand to protect.

The good thing about them is that they understand that a championship exponentially increases the value of that brand.  With no title gets no pub.  No pub means no love.  And no love on the streets means credibility is shot and if the credibility is shot amongst the basketball watching community, then its shot among execs who see them as cash cows.  Williams never committed to the Nets during his press conference only issuing the usual credo of “let’s wait and see.”

Which means that Prokho hasn’t done anything but upstage the Knicks in the back pages which is precisely what his intent is.  There’s no doubt in my mind that Prokho will be content in winning that war because that’s what counts in this city.  Perception is often a much more willing participant than reality.  It knows only the truth which you enter.

George Steinbrenner knows this and so does Mikhail Prokhorov.  The Big Russian must be looking and laughing at James Dolan as he pulled off this heist thinking that all the basketball community could talk about, on the day of Melo’s much ballyhooed debut, was the deal that brought Deron Williams to Jersey.  Prokho’s people have not made any overtures to sign him to an extension although I’m sure they will try as heck.  They will offer him a boat load of money and his chance at being the man in Brook-Land.  The major play was the back page victory.  Whatever comes next for Jersey will be gravy or gory.  If Prokho doesn’t get Deron to commit to his vision of the Nets it may be the biggest chance he ever took but he knew that it was his only play.  For that I will give the big Russian credit.  He played his hand and played it very well.  He won in every aspect of what he wanted to do.

He brought an equally talented superstar to his digs without surrendering his entire starting 5 which really wouldn’t have said a lot.  The newest trick for Prokho will be to ink Deron and ink Dwight Howard who will also become a free agent in 2012.  If he does that then he won’t have to pull any stunts to get everyone’s attention the basketball team will do all the talking for him.

 

THE BIG COUP

Finally, those of you clamoring for the reunion of the real big 3 of Melo, Stat and CP3 allow me to add some perspective.  The Knicks don’t require a point guard of the highest degree like many would like them to get.  What they require is precisely what they were missing against Cleveland.  A big man.  A gigantic big man.  The kind of big man who would make people think twice and thrice of coming into the paint.  The kind of big man that comes along as often as Haley’s Comet.  Dwight Howard should be the Knicks big signing in 2012 not CP3 or D-Will.  Sorry guys.

If the Knicks are serious about winning defensively the Knicks must up the ante and must do what they can.  I would say that in two years they can try and re-sign Felton and carry on but that bridge may have been burned.  The Knicks major deficiency is on the defensive end (last night’s final 3 minutes of the game not withstanding) and God-Willing the Knicks can convince Superman to join the Avengers and bring a title to Broadway.  Rumor has it that its between them and the Lakers meaning Dwight sees himself as a superstar (Which he should) and wants more than what Orlando can offer him and will take his time thinking things through.  The next two seasons can be exceptional auditioning tape.  What Dwight can see is a team and a system that provides numbers offensively and also a team that has two superstars in place at the prime of their careers and ready to take the next step.  On the left coast, Kobe’s aging and the team is dedicated to the development of Andrew Bynum.

Of course things can change next season.  If Kupchak gets word that the Magic want to deal away their superstar center before him wanting to leave becomes a big deal then yes, I’d say that the Lakers would ship Bynum and whomever to Orlando and export the big kahuna to help Kobe win ring number 6 (if he hasn’t already claimed it by the end of the season) or seven.  Kobe cares about his legacy and about winning more than anything and knows he’s entering that territory where it will atleast become a debate as to who is the greatest player ever: he or Jordan.

For people of my generation it will always be Jordan.  End of discussion but like I said perception is always a far greater tool than reality.  Kobe’s comeuppance has been greatly chronicled beyond words.  He won 3 titles with Shaq then exiled him to travel the great plains searching for titles and revenge.  He’s won two with a new big man who’s content to rebound, take charges and score the minimum amount of points to count as a superstar.  He’s got the complementary pieces to win with and he’s taking all the credit along with Phil who once again is along for the ride.

But even Kobe understands how many years Howard’s arrival would add, not only to his legs but also to his championship counter.  Dwight’s recent offensive output means that he’s finally harnessing his massive potential and teams are now beginning to finally see a finished product.  At age 25 he’s playing ball like even most of his biggest fans couldn’t have seen coming and that’s with Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson who love to call their own numbers as often as they can.  To be sure his offensive game is improving but his defense is still his major calling card.  Size, rebounding and defensive girth is what he provides and since its in limited supply in this league (see uproar of Kendrick Perkins to OKC) his move would create a seismic shift more so than the ones that CP3 or D-Will will create.

Whatever his decision is, I’m sure whomever Knick management will be at the time will be wise to remind Dwight that he can enjoy the summer of his playing days as a card carrying member of a superstar trio of 20 year olds to battle that knucklehead crew in Miami.  That team of Stat, Melo and Dwight would instantly be the best team in the NBA.  Hands down.  That would be the most dominant front court and with Landry Fields playing the 2, it really doesn’t matter who they get to play the one.

Although getting Dwight Hardy from St Johns couldn’t hurt.  Right?

Spring Training update

Far be it from me to ignore the masses clamoring for a spring training update from both teams.  First we’ll start off with the Yankees who debuted their new cast of characters and there are actual jobs to be won in Tampa this year.  The biggest question mark for the Yankees this spring is their pitching which will be a “we’ll play it by ear” kind of strategy.  Unless the idea of Bartolo Colon as a starter impresses you.  Of course this isn’t 2005 or 2003, so I’m sure any sane, rational Yankee fan (I’ve met a few though I can’t say there are that many in the wild) knows that whatever Colon gives them will be gravy.  But the one major player not really mentioned is Ivan Nova who’s up and down campaign last season had more positives than negatives.  Internally the Yankees are praying that they can put Colon back into the storage compartment and ship him to the Dairy Farm factory for restocking as soon as possible.  Nova’s performance yesterday did much to calm the nerves of Brian Cashman and company who would love to see Nova wrestle the job away from Colon so they can tell Colon “no mas.”

Meanwhile, remember those kids I mentioned who would be instrumental this year in how the Yankees play the C.C. Sabathia card this year?  Well Dellin Betances came in and struck out the side against the Phillies which included Dominic Brown, Wilson Alvarez and Ben Francisco which isn’t murderer’s row I know, but still good for a first crack at impressing the bosses.  Cashman’s stubbornness has kept him from offering these two gems in any trade, as he should.  The scouting scribes are all hot and bothered with the “Killer B’s” Betances and Manny Banuelos.  If they continue to impress during Spring Training those threats of new contracts may go on deaf ears so that Cashman can fall back on his “we don’t discuss extensions until the contract runs out” philosophy.

Curtis Granderson hit a 2 run home run which propelled the Yankees to a victory over the Phillies everyone’s favorite.  Granderson must have a big year for the Bombers and if the final month of the season is any indication, he may be on the rise.  Remember how everyone in the fantasy camps assured you that Grandy would be handily hitting 30+ homeruns with that inviting right field porch?  Well consider that prognostication fit for 2011 as he’s showing signs that he has worked through his hiccups and found a steady stroke that will propel him to that season we had hoped for last year.  You know, as fantasy campers.

As for the Mets, listen, if you’re going to make smart ass comments about the $25 million loan, then sorry you won’t get a chuckle out of me.  Not because it isn’t funny, but its sad.  The Wilpons’ house of cards are slowly crumbling and even they are too dumb to issue the requisite statement of “we have a problem.”  The Mets are worth around a Billion dollars roughly with the stadium and SNY.  No way someone comes in from the wood works and pumps $150 million into the revenue stream so they can help pay the Madoff money they’re accused of making off with.  Unless they build in an exclusive window to buy out the team should it ever go on sale.  Other than those assurances I can’t see any businessman with any gravitas ponying up the pesos to do that exchange.

In actual baseball news Luis Castillo played and well, he played.  1 for 2 with a single and a defensive play.  He was still hitting like he’s helping the other team do fielding drills but its a step up for the guy who’s been blasted and called every name under the sun by Met fans.  He’s lost weight and has impressed his owners.  Maybe long enough to get some trade value built up.  Meanwhile in other not so surprising news Ollie Perez couldn’t quite get a handle on the strike zone and issued 3 walks and let 4 runs cross the plate.  Of course the guy couldn’t hit the strike zone with consistency from 6 feet so forget 60 feet and 6 inches.  There is no sad news to report there.  All in all positive news.  Both players will likely get dumped.  One in the garbage and the other on another team.  Only time will tell which will be.

Meanwhile Chris Capuano and Chris Young pitched impressively enough to earn wins in their Met debuts.  Young pitched two perfect innings while Capuano struck out 4 in two innings of work and allowing one run.  Young’s job is assured but Capuano’s isn’t which means his starts will be much more noticed if he flops.  Young and Cap aren’t going to make your ears pop hearing their fastball but both are effective in the upper 80’s which many Met fans can attest are good enough sometimes.

Loving R.A. Dickey’s emergence in the clubhouse as both sage and leader.  His innings will be dictate how well the Mets do this season.  The more he pitches the better chance the Mets have at winning.

THE NEW OWNER OF THE METS IS….

 

Source: Bobby V interested in buying piece of #Metshttp://es.pn/ibggsm #espnst
-@AdamRubinESPN Adam Rubin
Here I was ready to write an entertaining piece about my second hopeful owner of the Mets and Adam Rubin is reporting that Bobby Valentine is perhaps interested in owning a piece of the Mets.  Listen, I dont get cheesy over many things but this brought a great big piece of provolone to my grill this morning.
Valentine’s place in Met lore is well talked about.  He’s an icon to scores of Met fans and the name they were hollering from roof tops when the job of manager was initially up for grabs.  The problem with that was his salary demands may have been something that they couldn’t afford though now that all this information is coming out, not too much could be afforded.  This is just the initial phase but yes, there is plenty to be smiling about.  But like I said earlier, if the Mets dont write assurances that the group who purchases the minority stake won’t have exclusive bidding rights to buy out the rest of the team then there won’t be too many.
I love Bobby V’s flair to come in on a white horse and save the day for the Mets.  Even if he doesn’t, the fact that he is actively trying to get back into Flushing tells you what he means to this fan base and how much he adores us back.  Thanks Bobby V.
Okay the fan-dling of Bobby V can stop.  On to more sarcastic news.

Closing Thoughts:

Thought I’d close with these last few gems.

– Chauncy Billups, is no throw in to any deal.  What a performance by Big Shot with that three pointer late in the game that made me go from “no, why would you take that shot you…GREAT DECISION!” valleys to peaks so quick.  I’m afraid my heart won’t be able to take too many of these Knick performances.

– Melo’s defense is in his body.  Lebron’s build is one of a kind and for many an impossibility to guard but Melo brings his own unique build to defend Lebron and he did a fine job.  I love the fact that he demanded to guard Lebron late in the game.  Sounds like the guy can handle the big time.

– Big win for the Knicks  but they need size. I wonder what Troy Murphy was thinking.  Murphy is reportedly deciding on whether to join the Knicks or Heat and this game may have swayed him to Broadway.

– Alex Rodriguez dropped ten pounds entering camp.  He must have been one of those guys building mansions that Hank Steinbrenner was referring to.  So worry not Jeter.

– Speaking of which, maybe it was his popcorn diet courtesy of Cameron Diaz?  Who knows what diets these celebs are on these days?

– Big win for the Storm of St Johns.  Dwight Hardy continues to play beyond his years.  That kid’s draft stock has to be going up, no?

– Had a conversation this weekend about Adam Sandler’s career and more importantly how underrated he is.  Yes, underrated.  I’ve never been a huge fan of his work but needless to say his post SNL career has been ten times better than most and that’s saying something.  Or maybe its not saying much at all but Sandler’s work deserves much applause.  He does serious work as well.  His acting in Spanglish was pretty damn good for a guy who many peg as a slapstick artist.

– Kevin Costner meanwhile is last generation’s Keaunu Reeves.  I realize that won’t make much sense but work with me here.  Has any two men been given more lucrative roles than those two aforementioned?  Luck of the draw?  More like horsehoe up the butthole.  Or maybe their agents are just smarter than the average bear.  Whatever the source of their good fortune is, re-watch their movies and tell me one role where you could see no one other than those two in those roles and I promise you i’ll get you a roll.  With butter on it too.  I promise.

– Speaking of crazy.  No.  Actually he isn’t even crazy.  He’s beyond that and there’s a reason I’m putting him before the Ron Artest tweet of the week.  Charlie Sheen’s rant on the “Alex Jones show” was one for the ages.  This guy is beyond crazy, he’s in another planet.  Bill Simmons labeled that the Tyson zone.  But even that’s unfair to describe the mind numbing all over the place-ness of this doozy of a rant which will go down as one of the most puzzling, frightening, terrifyingly funny rants ever.  If you’re Jewish, or Catholic you may not appreciate the following but its all in good fun.  Right?  Ok fine.  Its not but take a gander at this:

http://www.aolnews.com/2011/02/25/charlie-sheen-rant-listen-here/

– Finally the Ron Artest tweet to make all of you happy:

 

LA vs LA tonight… I think LA gonna win
@RONARTESTCOM RON ARTEST
I will have more on Melo and Amare during the week.  More on Spring Training.  More stuff coming.  Enjoy the week folks

 

 

 

 

 

 

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