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?