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….
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.
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:
– Finally the Ron Artest tweet to make all of you happy:
LA vs LA tonight… I think LA gonna win
I will have more on Melo and Amare during the week. More on Spring Training. More stuff coming. Enjoy the week folks