Tag Archives: Isiah Thomas

Daily Rounds 12/21/2011

The Knicks play their second and final preseason game, both against the New Jersey Nets soon to be of Brooklyn (yes that’s what I’m calling them), and will make their professional debut in the new revamped Madison Square Garden.  Marc Berman goes over some of the structural changes of the new Garden including, the infamous Willis Reed Tunnel being gone and being replaced by a corner entrance.  The biggest story to watch tonight will be in the backcourt.  The Broadway Bigs as they are being called are set in stone in the line up and have their names written in ink while the back court has their names written in pencil.  Marc Berman, Alan Hahn , and Howard Beck of the New York Times  weighs in the tenuous nature of the back court of the Knicks.  Also, contained within those reports is this little nugget:  Steve Novak of the San Antonio Spurs will be claimed by the Knicks IF no one else does after he was waived by the Spurs yesterday.  The 28 year old 6’10 big is more known as a three point specialist, and yesterday tweeted (before being deleted) “Next stop, NY”.  Mike D’Antoni also revealed that they would NOT be pursuing James Posey which means Posey decided to sign elsewhere and he’ll make that known soon.  The K nicks retain that $2.5 million room exception to use on some other player since Novak will only be paid the league minimum.

It was all good just a year ago.  Last year with limited expectations, Landry Fields burrowed his way into the starting line up and began earning rave reviews for his rebounding prowess (led the league in rebounding for guards) and ability to mesh in the system and hit the occasional three point shot.  After the Carmelo trade, he hit the rookie ceiling and noticeably struggled.  Worse, he struggled mightily in the playoffs looking overmatched and gun shy and confused amidst the glare of the playoff atmosphere.  Douglas meanwhile was a reserve the entire year, first behind Raymond Felton and second behind Chauncey Billups but he looked good coming off the bench.  What I like most about Douglas is that the moment doesn’t scare him or make him play the game differently.  He plays good defense and almost every advanced defensive metric showed that he was the best defender the Knicks had.  While that may not be saying much, that defense coming off the bench is key and vital.  He will now be starting at point guard for the Knicks and with that brings certain responsibilities that Mike D’Antoni still doesn’t feel Douglas is prepared to handle.

Take for instance his announcement that he’d like the offense to run through Carmelo Anthony much like Larry Bird did with the Celtics.  Great offensive players, both passing and scoring, can make teams better with the different facets of their game.  In the first preseason game, we saw Melo do some nice pick and roll with he and Amar’e and then he and Chandler.  This of course leaves you wondering whether Mike D’Antoni really feels confident giving the keys to the team over to the young point guard.  Of course, Douglas will be tested early.  IF the Knicks don’t play well out of the gate and struggle mightily, the back court will be blamed almost immediately and maybe without just cause.  The front court has two very good scorers and another guy who gets his buckets via the alley oop OR put backs.  The pressure is on the front court to succeed.  Think about the players the Knicks picked up: Mike Bibby, Baron Davis.  The player they were rumored to be in on, Chris Paul.  What do they all have in common?  They all play the point guard position so Douglas knows that the pressure is on to make Knick fans forget that Chris Paul is no longer an option and that they shouldn’t be putting a countdown for the Baron to emerge on Broadway’s biggest stage in anything but a tailored suit.

Other than Landry and Douglas a few other things to watch for in tonight’s final dress rehearsal before the Christmas day game against the Celtics:

1. How good is the Knicks defense?  We’ve all heard about how Tyson Chandler will shore up the defense for the starting five.  That’s a lot of pressure for one man to do.  Minus Tyson the Knicks will revert back to a defenseless group if you believe the experts.  I’m going to watch the entire starting five’s defense.  How well do they play in Mike Woodson’s system?  Woodson, despite D’Antoni’s insistence that he wasn’t brought in to coach up the defensive side of the ball, is THE GUY who will draw up that side of the ball and it will be interesting to see the on the ball defense that Anthony and Amar’e play.  Everyone keeps telling me that now that Amar’e can play the power forward that he’ll be better on the offensive end.  Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett plays PF, David West will play PF, Chris Bosh pla….wait, that was a joke.  Point being there are plenty of REALLY GOOD power forwards.  How exactly are the Knicks protecting Amare?  Offensively he will be game against all of those guys without a doubt.  Defensively is where I worry.  I’ve seen Melo play D, and I don’t mean the matador D he usually plays.  HE CAN play when he exerts himself at that end.  Remember the Celtics comparison from a few weeks back?  When the Celtics brought in Tom Thibodeau, and KG to shore up that end of the ball suddenly Paul Pierce played defense like never before.  HOPEFULLY, Tyson Chandler can have a KG like effect on Melo.  We all know what Melo can do on the offensive end, its up to the defensive end.  Finally, Landry Fields I’m praying for you man.  NO ONE ELSE is hoping you succeed more than me.  BUT, he’s a liability on the defensive end.  He doesn’t switch well and he has very limited lateral range and can’t trail really quick shooting guards in the league.  He’ll get beaten on one on ones which means the Knicks may have to commit another guy to him and then may have to sit him in crunch time.  He can’t be slow if he’s guarding the likes of D-Wade and co. and he HAS to learn to body up and play one on one defense if he wants to stay in the starting line up because….

2.  IMAM SHUMPERT is finally in the house-  The heralded rookie is making his MSG debut and if its anything like last week the Knicks will have a really good problem on their hands.  Shump seems to take a liking to the defensive side of the court which is good for that second team which is a huge question mark.  He and Mike Bibby play in that second unit and are first in line to get the starting gig if Landry and Toney struggle.  I need to see more of Shump, and so tonight will be huge for me.  Tonight will be bigger for me than Sunday because I will understand if Shump isn’t ready for opening day.  He’s not used to NBA competition on a nightly basis and frankly many won’t be ready for the shortened season.  Maybe he can show us a thing or two.

3. How does Tyson Chandler fit into the offense?  We know where he stands defensively.  Offensively I want to see some pick and rolls and see him cutting to the rim.  One of the biggest things I saw from the first preseason game was: Renaldo Balkman always cut to the rim when the defense converged on Melo or Amare.  Its up to those guys to look for the open man and its also up to the guys on the court to converge to the basket and try and get easy buckets.  Layups and dunks will be available and that is Tyson’s specialty.  It isn’t inconcievable that Chandler will average 12 pts and 12 rebounds this year.  Throw in 2 blocks a game and play solid can’t-see-it-in-a-stat-line-defense and you have the makings of a super signing.  Hopefully a ton of free easy baskets and a few plays designed to get Chandler those buckets instead of him having to get those buckets on his own.

4. How do Amar’e and Carmelo co-exist on offense?  Look, I get that last season was a trial run and there was very little time to mesh but this past offseason troubled me for two reasons:  Melo hung out with his boy Chris Paul because they probably assumed he would wind up in a Knick jersey while Melo wasn’t recruiting him.  Secondly, he and Amar’e didn’t even come together for the opening of training camp because Amar’e preferred to work out on his own down in Florida.  You know, with the name that shall not be mentioned around Madison Square.  I get that they run in different circles, but as a Knick fan I’d like for them to be closer.  I’d like for them to want the other to score 30 points every game and I’d like for the both of them to look for the other on offense.  THEY will have to carry this team together.  Last season the Knicks had their most success when they did a rotation of Melo playing with one unit and then Amar’e playing with another unit and then both playing crunch time minutes.  As good as that success was, it did nothing for the ultimate goal which is to have BOTH comfortable playing with each other.  What’s the point of having two superstars if they can’t play on the same court at the same time?  Everyone will compare this to the Miami Heat situation where three superstars are looking at the prospect of sharing ONE basketball after being THE GUY on their own teams.  I’d like to think that half a season and a small mini-training camp have worked out those issues for the Knicks but they haven’t and I don’t expect them to.  This first month of basketball will really try my patience and I’m prepared for that.  I just would like to see my team’s two superstars which the Knicks haven’t had since the days of Earl the Pearl and Walt Clyde Frazier (by the way 70’s basketball player nicknames>Today’s players nicknames) be a more cohesive unit.  YES, that’s what I’d like Santa!

5. How bad is the Knicks bench?  We’ll know.  Steve Novak impending arrival notwtihstanding.  The Knicks have Jared Jeffries (D’Antoni favorite for who knows why) and Bill Walker (both are inactive tonight due to injuries) and are mostly unreliable options.  Novak, Bibby, and Shump are really your only other options.  Novak is a specialist so you can’t count on him on a nightly basis to provide you with scoring off the bench.  He’s either on or he’s not and D’Antoni isn’t a proponent of too many bench players.  He likes a steady 8 man rotation and rarely ever veers from that.  I’m really hoping that D’Antoni has a reason to shed that plan and go with a steady 11 man group because he HAS to know that keeping his guys fresh over the haul of this season will be important.

6. Who’s the third option on offense?  We know who one and two is and you can debate as to the positioning.  But that third option is key.  The Heat have a steady three and so do the Celtics, the teams the Knicks are chasing.  Depending on Melo and Amar’e every night to lead the way is reasonable but not something you want to base your game on everynight if you truly think this team is ready to be title contenders.  They need someone to step up.  I like how confident Shump is on the offensive front but he was known as a bit of a ball hog in college, I hope he knows that he’s at best the third option on this team for a while.  Unless Shump is the second coming of D-Wade or Lebron I need him to pick and choose the timing of his shot and drive more and kick out to the open guys.  Antoni’s system is about spacing and having good shooters and from what I see currently the Knicks have three guys currently on the roster that shot over 40% from the field.  The Knicks will have to get higher percentage shots and need guys cutting like Balkman did all night.  In fact I’d like to see Balkman get some playing time today and see if that one game wasn’t a fluke.  I mean I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that question but I still want to reserve judgement.

Ok, so who’s ready for some Knick basketball?

Janis Carr of the Orange County Register is reporting that Mike Brown used his big boy voice and said some things about the Lakers lack of defense during their preseason loss to the Clippers and Kobe was ok with it.  You know, for now.  

I can’t help but editorialize on this one.  Let’s just say that Kobe puts up with this whole Mike Brown as Head coach thing that the Lakers have here.  Let’s just say that he listens to him for some time preach about defense because in all candidness, Mike Brown is a really good coach.  He comes from the school of Popovich and knows how to create a really good defensive scheme but Kobe is still Kobe.  Some of that classic Kobe ego is beginning to pop up again.  He’s 33, going through a divorce that I’m not sure is going to be as messy as people think it is but he’s still a human being and it WILL affect him.  The great ones feed off the negativity and always wind up prevailing.  Remember that stretch where he was flying in and out of Utah and in for games?  He dominated.  Of course he dominated the basketball but he was a great offensive force and played like he never had.

But now he’s coming off an experimental knee procedure where the jury is still out on how effective it will be.  IF the Lakers are really going to be great they are going to need Kobe to step it up.  I’m not going off the deep end when I think that the Lakers will STILL be better than the Clippers this year.  BUT, in the off chance that the Clips DO come together and get some depth which they sorely are lacking, TRUST ME, Kobe’s ego will be on full four (w)heel drive and he will run the Lakers into the ground.  Its no koinky dink that as soon as Pau Gasol turned into the Tin Man, the Lakers had no shot of beating the Mavs.  If that Gasol shows up after being bandied about in trade rumors and I’m going to venture to guess that he’ll remain there until this Dwight Howard sorry ass saga ends, trust me when I say that Kobe will destroy and shed to pieces any last bit of confidence he has.

Jordan’s teams always had a revolving door of teammates that he played with and for.  Paxson, Kerr, BJ Armstrong, Horace Grant and even Scottie Pipper for a time could not STAND Jordan and you either crumbled under his oppressive ways OR you emerged.  Its completely on the Laker team if they are going to be stomped on by Kobe Goliath or if they rise up to play the way Kobe wants:  You know, clear out and let him shoot about 30 times.  JUST KIDDING KOBE FANS!

As if Pennsylvania sports couldn’t get any more insulting and vile, out comes a report that not only are the coaches vile, but so are the sportswriters.  Even their hall of fame ones.  Reports indicate that during the 1970’s Hall of Fame Sports writer Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News is accused of sexually molesting four underage teens including his very own niece.  Conlin abruptly retired following the surfacing of these allegations.  But that isn’t the biggest one to come out.  Monta Ellis is being charged with sending sexual photographs to a former female Golden State Warriors employee and texting her for two months and there are several Golden State Warrior executives also being named in the suit.  

Ok, so both photos aren’t flattering of these two knuckleheads.  BUT if its true, then there needs to be some sort of study done on sexual dominance that men feel when dealing in sports.  What makes men feel that they have any right to do this to little kids OR to females?  I’m not nearly intelligent to comment on the why’s or how comes.  BUT, I do have some defenses for the two that their lawyers may want to look into before they go in with the usual “MY CLIENT IS NOT GUILTY” or ” WAIT TILL ALL THE FACTS COME OUT” arguments.

First off, Colonel Sanders may have had too much grease in his system and made him lax on his moral ground, which he stood upon on a daily basis in Philadelphia when he was a writer there, and thereby he saved all his good citizenry for his columns AND NOT for his own daily life.  Maybe, being under the employ in the same state as Jerry Sandusky made him use the ol “when in Rome do as the Romans do” life model.

As for Monta Ellis, maybe he was sending the employees pictures of his genitals because he felt like she could give him better medical advice than the training staff with the Warriors?  You know those medical professionals: they don’t know ANYTHING!  OR maybe he wanted to show off how good those ExtenZe pills were working out for him.  MAYBE those text messages he sent her were sent under the wrong guise.  Sometimes I save a number under the wrong name.  Maybe he meant to send it some other employee.  DID SHE EVER THINK ABOUT THAT?  But his real defense SHOULD BE that he looks 14 and if anything she was coming on to him and trying to sexually entice him which would be illegal cause that would be raping of a minor and let’s just say that’s NOT the crime you want to be involve din in sports.  By the way, I can’t wait to read up on the facts of this case because it looks like Isiah Thomas and the Knicks vs. Anucha Brown-Sanders part two.  Also, can we please try and harass a REALLY HOT girl this time?  Anucha looked like a big ol bag of Ducha to me.  Atleast Brett Favre had some taste when he decided to step out of the circle of marital bliss.  Which reminds me of another defense that Monta could have:  That wasn’t even his penis.  That was a stunt dick that she saw! SO HA!

Here are the miscelaneous links:

Richard Dietsch released his NBA 2011-2012 broadcasting guide including his favorite group and his must see games on each network.  Its one of those bookmark me articles.  

Here’s a story that needs no punchline:  New York Post revealed that Rex Ryan likes to get together for ice cream socials with the Jets offensive players.  Ahh, the offense, Rex’s favorite guilty pleasure.  Ok fine, I didn’t need to say that but it was right there!

Maybe it was the altitude still kicking in but I’m with John Hollinger (who has them rated as his second best team in the Western conference), I agree that the Nuggets are a contender and I wrote as much a week and a half ago.  Dave Krieger looks at their crazy offseason.  

Ok, more to come later including the NBA preview edition coming soon.  Expect a post tonight about the Knicks after their final warm up!

Enjoy Sports fans!

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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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Final tally from Melo deal

Carmelo Anthony is finally a Knick.  Its over.  Close the file on this one boys.

Late last night, the Knicks and Nuggets, with a little help from Minnesota, came to an agreement on the specifics of a deal that brought Carmelo Anthony to New York.  The place he always wanted to play.

This is the deal:

NYK Gets:
F Carmelo Anthony
PG Chauncey Billups
PF Shelden Williams
PF Renaldo Balkman
PG Anthony Carter
F Corey Brewer (via Minnesota)

DEN gets

F Danilo Gallinari
F Wilson Chandler
C Timofey Mozgov
PG Raymond Felton
Second round draft picks from 2012 and 2013 acquired in the trade with Golden State for David Lee
2014  1st round pick

Minn gets:

PF Anthony Randolph
C Eddy Curry (Expiring contract expected to be waived)

As far as numbers, this is no 15 player trade that the Nets had on the table earlier in the season but its the best that the Nuggets could get and trust me when I say that they came away with a lot.

I didn’t feel good about this trade as I went to bed last night but I talked myself into it this morning for several reasons:

1. The Knicks did what they had to do. The new labor agreement was the “phantom menace” (stolen from my friend Joel) hovering over this entire proceedings.  It was the reason the Knicks were even in trade discussions to begin with.  Had this been last year, the Knicks would’ve waited this thing out.  But with uncertainty looming and talks of hard caps and franchise player tags, they could not run the risk of losing Carmelo to the Nets who all along were as serious as cancer about getting Melo as the crown jewel when they opened up the new facility in Brooklyn.

2. To get something you have to give up something. Timofey Mozgov was NOT the hold up in the Melo trade as some have jokingly insisted.  He was yet another piece that the Nuggets insisted the Knicks add if they wanted Melo.  The Knicks felt they had given up a significant amount of their team to facilitate this trade.  But nothing comes cheap and certainly not a Top 10 offensive player in the league.  Someone who is a threat to go off for 40 on any night regardless of who’s on the court opposite him.  The opportunity to combine Melo and Amare was something they felt they couldn’t pass up and something they could not risk.

3. They remained flexible for 2012.  I think. Whatever the cap looks like next year, they will have Billups 14.2 mil expiring and Corey Brewer’s 4.96 mil expiring in 2012 and contractually only Balkman’s 1.75 mil remaining from this deal.  Money that could potentially be turned around for either CP3, Deron Williams OR Dwight Howard should the reports not be true that he’s got his sights set on Hollywood.  The CBA will have a lot to say about how this deal potentially adds up to other pieces to the Big 3 that New York has been buzzing about since Melo’s wedding back last summer.

4. Knicks didn’t lose Chemistry.  They gained talent.

The biggest problem I had was that the Knicks sacrificed too much of a good thing they had going here to get Melo.  I checked the books again and I realized a few things.  One, I’m a huge chemistry guy.  I think a team has to enjoy playing with one another to win.  Its that simple.  Glue guys do that.  The Knicks main glue guy was Amare who came into New York and immediately announced to the world that the Knicks were back and then went out during the season and backed up those sentiments with some statement wins over some of the NBA’s best.  For all the great things the Knicks did this season, they are a .500 team.  That’s not a knock on their talent, its a fair assessment of where they are.  Simply put, the Knicks got someone that will put the fear of God in defenses.  They now have 3 viable options late in games.  Their collective basketball IQ got a lot better.  Whatever chemistry they lost, will quickly be brought back with a veteran like Billups and Amare leading the way.  Nothing’s changed.  This is still Amar’e team leadership wise.

But for me there are still some troubling things about this deal that don’t bode well for the franchise.  The architect of the team that just got shipped to Denver is conspicuously quiet and I’m sure that once the deal is made official with Melo’s physical and signing the extension that he wanted all along with the team he wanted to play for all along, then Walsh will make a statement.  But anyone who believes that this deal was a Donnie Walsh move has not been paying attention.

Charles Dolan continues to value Isiah Thomas’, the GM that Walsh replaced, friendship and opinion.  Its a relationship that is troubling to say the least and with this trade cements Isiah’s place among the hierarchy in MSG.  There is no doubt whatsoever that Dolan believes everything Isiah told him because there is no doubt that Isiah convinced Dolan that if he were running the organization and NOT Walsh, that Lebron James AND Dwayne Wade would be playing at the Garden with Amar’e Stoudemire.  That star trio would’ve electrified the Garden but what Isiah says is not true.

I wrote yesterday that today’s players are much more conscious of their brand and will do anything to maximize its value.  These guys aren’t going to go anywhere just because they are told that its the right move.  They will go there because they have decided to.  The Knicks walked into that meeting certain that the allure of New York would win over Lebron and when it didn’t Isiah made his move.

Isiah can’t convince these guys of anything just like Worldwide Wes can.  According to Woj he’s also a player trying to enter the rank and file of MSG.  He wanted Lebron to go to Chicago.  They both have no pull or say whatsoever.  The danger here is that Dolan is the only one that doesn’t see that.  Dolan believes wholeheartedly in everything Isiah tells him and despite having a single brain cell in his head left that tells him that he would be in PR hell were he to bring back Thomas in an official capacity to MSG, Isiah knows he doesn’t need that.

He knows where he stands within the organization.  Donnie Walsh wanted Melo.  But at a favorable price for the Knicks.  I can’t imagine this is what he was thinking.  In his mind, he’s as good as gone within the Knick hierarchy and won’t be given a passing mention if this all results in a championship though he should.  He’s the reason the Knicks are even in the position they currently are.  He brought in Felton, and drafted Fields.  He took a chance on Amar’e and his bad knees despite all the worries from doctors and not having the contract insured.  He’s the reason there’s a buzz in MSG.  He hijacked Anthony Randolph from Golden State which enabled him to make this deal work under the rules.

This move was certainly made with one purpose in mind.  This year’s Knick team probably won’t make that much noise in the playoffs but their job isn’t over.  Yet another star player is in their sights and so that means Isiah’s influence and voice will be felt.  No matter what us Knick fans say or do, it won’t convince Dolan.  Isiah knows this and will happily accept the boos and curses on message boards if it means that ultimately he is vindicated by a Knicks championship.

That much I can respect.  As warped and twisted as he is, Isiah is convinced that his method will bring a championship to New York and I believe him when he says he wants to bring one to New York.  If he does that, great.  But his prior record shows that his way isn’t the right way.  His way won’t win titles and he isn’t the right man for the job.

The future may look bright for the Knicks now, but let’s remember that the future is uncertain.  Remember how sure we were that Lebron was coming?  Nothing is promised with this trade.  The only thing guaranteed is that Isiah will be in Dolan’s ear and his voice will still be heard.

 

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Why Jimmy?

At this point, I dont want to know the reason.  I don’t care to hear the misguided reasoning of some unnamed worker in MSG who has “knowledge of the situation”  trying to calm the nerves of Knick fans who have waited far too long for this offseason to come, only to have their hearts broken again.

Jordan in the 90’s.  Dolan in the 2000’s.

As if this team has no other corner of the earth to find a consultant, the New York Knicks went back to a very dark past in digging up Isiah Thomas.  Yes, that guy.  This is not a joke, nor is this some kind of rumor.  It’s happened folks and let’s be real about one thing: he’s staying.

When James Dolan finally let his sports celebrity crush leave the Knicks, it was because he had to let him go.  There was no other choice.  But since that day, you just knew that like some star crossed lover, he was always holding on to the chance that someday they would be reunited.

What’s even better about this, is how Knick fans found out: not through some press release stating that, no, through the rumor mill and when they were cornered about it in the press, they fessed up like a kid caught in a candy jar.  They tried to sneak him in through the back door but the security found them.

I genuinely feel wrong bad mouthing Isiah the way I do sometimes, but in the pantheon of bad decision makers, he has his own wing.  He can do no right, because there’s just too many wrongs in that book for him to have room for the good to be on display.

Its all so sneaky and conniving that there are rumors insisting that its a scary proposition that will only get worse.  Imagine, if he can talk his way back into the good graces of the folks in Madison Square Garden, how much higher can he ascend?  Everyone in MSG is saying the right thing, because they don’t want to admit to what they really think:  Isiah has a legit amount of influence over the decision making and his re-entry into that fold comes at a peculiar time when the Knicks face rampant rumors about Donnie Walsh’s health and his potential successor.

Call it paranoia, but there’s legitimate fear that if Isiah Thomas does come back as a consultant, its proof that James Dolan is absolutely clueless about how to run the team he owns.  Rich people are supposed to be smart, I mean they got rich somehow right?  But James Dolan being the son of a rich guy makes perfect sense.  Spoiled.  Entitled.  Hard headed.  Stubborn.  He thinks that just because his father was a success, he is one too.

Sorry Jimmy, it doesn’t work that way.

When I heard about this on the Mike Francesa show, I was shocked to say the least.  Shocked more so that James Dolan was falling for the same trick.  Its like watching one of those episodes of Jerry Springer where a guy comes on, admits to his girl that he’s cheated.  She meets the girl.  They fight.  After the commercial the girl cries, asking why the guy did this to her.  Then there’s another fight.  Then the girl inexplicably comes back to the guy and they leave happily ever after.

Have Isiah and Dolan passed the make up stage?  Are they leaving the show back together?  It must be that way, because how else to explain it?  Dolan’s firing of Isiah and hiring of Donnie Walsh was met with universal praise but Dolan had planted the seed of Isiah’s return a long time ago.

His recruiting skills and his influence over the younger players were so great that word leaked that the Knicks sent Isiah Thomas to speak to Lebron on their behalf.  In fact, reports surfaced recently that he was close to signing a deal with the Knicks before ultimately changing his mind to play with his friends in Miami and Isiah’s presence being a big reason why he would choose the Knicks.  I mean that should’ve been sign number one that Lebron just didn’t get it.  But that’s a topic for another day.

Thomas’ basketball exploits are well laid out.  The guy was one of the best, if not best point guards ever.  Top 50 player of all time and fiercest competitors ever.  But as an executive, one can make the argument that great players should never be trusted to handle the duties of a talent evaluator.  His biggest drafting tool is in finding complementary role players to fill a roster.  He usually strikes out on making deals for starters, but he sure can draft the heck out of a bench.

The Knicks in general don’t need him right now.  They are moving in the right direction.  They fell so far under the cap thanks to Donnie’s wheeling and dealing that they set themselves up for not just this summer, but the next two as well.  They are under the cap enough to pick up a star player in 2011 (Melo anyone?) and in 2012 (CP3 or Deron Williams).  They absolutely stole Anthony Randolph from the Golden State Warriors while shipping David Lee (who is not worth the contract he got from them).  They have filled out their bench nicely and even have a respectable team.  One that you can safely bet can be an 8th seed in a suddenly top heavy Eastern Conference.

They have moved on from the negativity that surrounded the Isiah Thomas era.  Stephon Marbury is in China playing ball.  Eddy Curry’s fat carcass has only a year left to torment us.  Say hi to Gordon Heyward (the Hoosiers guy from Butler), the guy the Jazz picked in the slot the Knicks were supposed to pick at.  Anuch Brown Sanders is sitting on some beach chair toasting to herself.

All that’s gone, and despite striking out on Lebron, there’s a sense that the Knicks are on the right track.

So why now?  Why do this to a loyal fan base who stayed true believing we’d be given a King and ended with a one legged power forward who’s about one poke in the eye away from being blind?  Why do this to a proud city that has done nothing but support them through all of this on the belief that it was a necessary evil to endure?

While the questions remain asked, there is no response.  Because nothing about this makes sense.  James Dolan can’t possibly give you enough of a reason to do something like this.  Something that can potential disillusion even the most die hard of fans.  Its a move that needs, no forget that, REQUIRES an explanation.  At some point, the Knicks can’t possibly believe that we’re stupid enough to go with whatever they say.

But here we are, awake in August as if we went back in time to 2003.  Isiah Thomas in Madison Square.  Ready to trade away future draft picks for the chance to get a mediocre talent.  Let’s be real.  The Knicks are going backwards with this move.  Nothing about this screams progress unless Isiah has completely changed and righted the ship.

But that would be too tough to think that could happen.  Knicks fans don’t deserve this.  At this point, what more can be said about an owner who’s completely lost touch with reality and what the reality brings with re-hiring Isiah Thomas for any position.  I don’t blame Isiah for this mess, I blame the guy that Knicks fans should’ve been booing from the get go, James Dolan.  He’s not only ruined the Knicks, he takes on cable networks, blacks them out on his service provider and then creates a frustrated customer base in its wake.  Yes, I’m blaming that on him as well.

This nightmare won’t end well Knicks fans.  Even if you believe I’m blowing this out of proportion, think about it this way: if you know a stove is hot and you touch it once and it burns you severely, how dumb do you look if you keep burning yourself?  At some point, the pity that people had over the punishment for your curiosity will wear off and it will turn into frustration and anger.  I can sense Knicks fans slowly turning.

At some point Dolan will find it hard to walk the streets of NYC without needing to hide for cover.  One nightmare only deserves another, don’t you think?

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