Its playoff friday and there’s plenty to get into. Hank Gola of the Daily News breaks down the match ups and gives his prediction. Ebenezer Samuel says that the Giants will rely on the running tandem of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw to help win them the game. Filip Bondy says no matter how upbeat coach Coughlin is in his squad, the question remains about which Giant team shows up Sunday at home in the first ever home playoff game at MetLife Stadium. Paul Schwartz of the Post says that Osi Umeniyora is cherishing this opportunity as it may be his final year in a big blue uniform. Mike Vaccaro says that the Giants are resilient along the lines of their head coach Tom Coughlin. George Willis writes the same old silly article about Eli Manning becoming his own Mann. Get it? Dave Blezow says that because of the adversity that the Giants have faced all season long, he’s betting on them to win the Wild Card game Sunday. Sam Borden of the New York Times writes a rather intriguing column about a question I’ve long knew the answer to: what are the receivers looking upwards at when they are going for a long run? Themselves of course; oh and whether they have people chasing behind them. Tom Rock of Newsday writes point for point what everything means when it happens. You’ll understand what I mean when you read it. He also talks about the Giants confidence heading into their first playoff game. These Giants think they are just as Super as the 07 team.
In my heart of hearts, I don’t think the Atlanta Falcons are that much better than the New York Giants. They have flaws and the Giants can beat them. But it depends on which Giant team shows up Sunday. Will it be the team that played with so much emotion these last two weeks? The team that showed up against the Packers and played with the best? Or is it the team that barely got off the plane in New Orleans and got blown out? That’s the perplexing thing about this Giants team. There seems to be have been a turnaround but as a Giant fan, yes I’m overthinking this and reading too much into the entire season but we have to be realistic as Giants fans and ask ourselves what happens if the Giants come out flat? What happens if its ONLY Victor Cruz, Eli Manning and JPP giving a damn? What happens then? What happens to the Giants if they get absolutely destroyed by the running game early on? Do they have the moxie to recover? Do they have the short memories equipped to shrug that off and keep plugging away? Because the Falcons will give the Giants chances. They don’t play a complicated scheme. The Giants have the QB to make the plays to get them to where they need to go. Its about execution and the Giants HAVE to be ready to execute.
This game will come down to two match ups. The Giants defensive line and how many seconds it affords Matt Ryan to sit in the pocket. If he’s not shuffling his feet constantly, the Giants are in trouble. On the opposite end, it comes down to how well the Giants run the ball and their offensive line. The Falcons don’t really have a pass rush because their line backers are athletic and can keep up with tight ends and their cornerbacks play decent. How will the Giants run the football? Can Brandon Jacobs be the bruising back he was in 07? Its asking alot of a guy who’s taken a pounding these last four years to conjure up those images. Jacobs had a memorable full-head-of-steam collision in each game of the playoffs and that can set the tone for the rest of the game. If THAT Jacobs shows up, it will do wonders for Ahmad Bradshaw both running and catching it out of the backfield. Forget that guy who salsas. The Giants need to run the football Sunday. That’s going to be key. If they can’t, the Giants will be hard pressed to win Sunday and it doesn’t have to be a dominating performance by the running game. It just has to set up the play action well. IF it does, the Falcons are in for a long day.
My prediction? No prediction- YOU CRAZY?
The Mets hired CRG Partners as reported in a press release. This may not mean much to you from the offset but according to Richard Sandomir of the New York Times, they are bankruptcy experts. The Mets have not explained why their services are being retained. Then there’s this heartwarming tale of Mr Met written by Richard Sandomir that should warm any person’s heart.
Look, I don’t want to get any Met fans hopes up but this is encouraging news for any Met fan who has long dreamed of the day that Fred and Jeff Wilpon and their dear uncle Saul Katz would have to finally forfeit the privelege of holding our beloved Mets hostage. Yes, you don’t want to read into anything immediately. But the signs are pointing to the Mets preparing the necessary papers to file for bankruptcy which would insinuate that they have to sell the team.
Again, I don’t want anyone to have to go through any financial hardship during tough economic times like these no matter how much I despise them. Wishing that upon someone would be terrible. However, I’m not about to pray for that the Coupon family suddenly find a boatload of cash underneath a sofa cushion to save them from their own idiotic mess they themselves created. I don’t feel sorry for them and I don’t empathize the situation they are in. I dont know them personally but personally I could care less. The Mets have been run INTO the ground and then a few holes were dug and they have been placed their thanks to improper financial care taking and now the Mets are the laughing stock of the NL East destined for the cellar for YET another year.
The Mets are in a word lost. They are unsure about ownership. They are unsure about who’s here. Who will be left once this season is gone. Where this team is going. What the future holds. All of that is in limbo and that’s because the owners want it that way. They want you to believe this unbelievable farce that the Mets are somehow financially solvent and that they are fine when actual records speak for themselves both in the Record Book and the financial records book. The fact is they don’t have the kind of leeway necessary to battle this storm. This fall has been slow but steady with enough loud bumps to make these last few years less painful: Almost what did you expect to happen-like if you ask me. The Mets have zero direction and it comes with ownership. THE ONLY group that seems to have its head on straight are the GM’s and the coach. I love the passion the coach has and if EVER given an honest to God chance of having a nice roster and a decent rotation, I think Terry Collins could do a good job. Then there’s the General Manager Sandy Alderson who’s mission objective is now crystal clear if it wasn’t before: clean house and try and make this the cheapest team money can barely buy.
Because the Mets don’t have any! And yet they expect the fan base to support them and it. I wonder what Fred and Jeff will think when Opening Day comes and there’s a sellout. Why? Because Met fans won’t automatically just shut them out. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled. But what happens when they look at attendance figures for game 2-162. I wonder if the Mets owners won’t finally see the writing on the wall. Atleast they have hired a firm that will tell them the truth that no one else has. Or perhaps this move is to indicate that they themselves came to the reality: they are broke and there’s no fixing it in the near future. The Mets won’t have 4 million fans walking into Citi Field barring a miracle season this year. But even this group can’t hope for something like that. They used up all the good will and karma defending their actions with Bernie Madoff.
One good turn deserves another. Unfortunately everyone has turned their back on the Coupons. Its now time for them to turn the page on the Mets. For their sake and for the fans. Oh and Mr. Met.
Good news Knick fans, you may get your wish. In a sign that Mike D’Antoni will try ANYTHING to change the lack of good play Iman Shumpert may start for the Knicks starting tonight against Washington. Who he’ll replace is unknown as of this moment but Knick fans don’t care who it is between Landry Fields or Toney Douglas says Frank Isola. Despite Carmelo Anthony’s plea that it can’t get any worse following that horrific loss to Charlotte, Marc Berman of the Post warns oh yes it can: enter the 0-6 Wizards and then the Central Division bottom feeding Detroit Pacers in a two game road swing. Howard Beck of the New York Times looks at the obvious culprit of these last few horrific losses: the defensive.
I can’t tell you how absolutely sick to my stomach it was watching the Knicks Wednesday night. They played with zero energy and zero heart. Two teams they should’ve absolutely crushed came into Madison Square Garden and destroyed them and part of it has to do with the offensive scheme which is absolutely terrible and part of it has to do with the defense which is crummy. There are holes everywhere and yes the Knicks are working through injury and part of the blame can be placed there. But not much else can be.
The Knicks are a mediocre team right now; AT BEST. The only comforting part is that this is early on in the midst of a truncuated schedule that has everyone playing up and down and perhaps you can say that the Knicks caught the Bobcats and namely four hundred pound Boris Diaw on a great shooting night but the look of a deflated team is what I and most Knick fans saw. The Knicks were playing without any kind of heart and it was not the case last year when Amar’e and co. showed the kind of effort that basketball fans in NY want to see.
There was ONE GUY who showed that kind of play and that was Iman Shumpert. Now, whether that ONE GAME of effort deserves a starting spot I dont know. It says more about the pathetic state of the Knick franchise that they would automatically give up on their starting five after just six games where the entire team wasn’t available for the entirety of the game. Again, the Knicks are playing without Baron Davis. I know people will get upset at this next guy but he does play some meaningful minutes at center, Mr. Jared Jeffries. You need guys who can play intelligently EVEN if it is on only ONE side of the court. The Knicks don’t have the depth and yes I won’t beat this beat too much longer but the Knicks destroyed their depth with that Carmelo Anthony trade which from the day it was made, I said was a bad deal. To recap: Melo says he will ONLY be traded to the Knicks. That means the Knicks have the leverage. Knicks have a decent team and play with heart and have a pretty good 6 players on the court. Knicks then deal the entire team save for a few faces FOR Melo who could’ve been had for nothing. They get Chauncey Billups who is a bona fide leader and could’ve been a positive influence heading into this season. Billups gets amnestied, vows to go postal on the Knicks on sight and the Knicks now have zero leadership and a center, Tyson Chandler, who’s energy has not caught on in the defensive end.
But hey, what do I know? Everyone wanted Melo. I’m not crying about the Knicks getting Melo I’m just saying they could’ve had him in free agency. Imagine the Knicks having Ray Felton as their point guard. Then you have Toney Douglas, Iman Shumpert, Mozgov, Gallinari, AND Wilson Chandler off the bench? Would the Knicks have been able to afford Tyson Chandler? Probably not, but let’s forget that for a second and focus on what could have been a reality. Let’s throw out Chandler and throw in Mozgov in that center spot. Let’s say the kid was starting. Now, just imagine all those guys coming off the bench and the Knicks had a decent point guard. How much better would the Knicks be? Yeah.
Hindsight is 20/20 but the Knicks now must focus on being more active defensively. Unfortunately you can’t diagram a play to pick up the effort. That’s innate. Something born from within and yes I see that at times from Tyson Chandler, Carmelo and Amar’e. Let’s be frank: that’s what make good players great. That second effort. But this offense needs better shooters than the Knicks have. This offense really needs better slashers and the one guy that can do it with any effectiveness apart from Melo is Iman Shumpert. Landry Fields needs to re-work his confidence back which is a finger point in his direction which bears no further explanation. Alot of this is Wizard of Oz type stuff that can’t be taught in a class room or through a 90 minute film session. That has to be found within. The home crowd is there to cheer you on if you show some kind of effort. But getting boxed out on rebounds and standing there and watching guys jump over for slam dunk finishes is unacceptable and you might as well have James Dolan come down onto the court and charge the players for courtside seats if all they wanna do is watch while a game is going on.
Its embarassing. I’m not saying that the Knicks should fire D’Antoni because like I said, by February 15th, you will be able to make a fair assessment about the Knicks. I’m only going on what I see. What I see is a mess of a team not playing with any rhythm and not showing any fire. THAT can’t be coached and if what the Knick fans are saying is: wait for Baron to return then that’s fine. But it won’t matter if that kind of effort shows up on the Garden floor. The boos will remain and the losses will pile up.
In National Basketball News, Eric Gordon said the Clippers lied to him about the trade that sent Chris Paul to the Clippers and Gordon and the 2012 unprotected pick to the Hornets says Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports. Zack Lowe of SI’s Point Forward Blog says that the Paul Westphal firing had more to do with organization failings than his much discussed dust up with DeMarcus Cousins. Marc Spears writes that the futures of Keith Smart and DeMarcus Cousins are intricately linked now that the two have been paired up together.
The elephant in the room needs to be discussed. This WAS about DeMarcus Cousins. But this was also that Paul Westphal left the Kings no choice. The Kings were terrible. They made the Knicks offense look great and the defense seem firm. I mean COME ON. But this was a result of the coach’s short comings as a coach and as a leader. Westphal had the league’s youngest roster which means that he could have his way molding a team together but I can’t remember a Paul Westphal coached team do anything noteworthy since that 1993-94 Suns team that was built to compete with a moderately fit Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson (now the mayor of Sacramento ironically enough). Westphal failed to relate with Cousins who was the star big man and the coach always falls on the ax first before the player does so this was not newsworthy and no one should get on the Kings and Geoff Petrie for taking the player’s side in this instance because 99.9% of the GM’s in this league would’ve reacted the same way.
But THIS move was a wake up call to DeMarcus Cousins because if I WERE THE KINGS as soon as I had a chat with Westphal, I would’ve pulled Cousins and sat him down and explained to him the consequences of his actions. It partially got a man fired. And it may result on his own pink slip and once you become a diva and a head case it will take a LOT to earn back the kind of money you may have earned had you played your butt off and still lost. See, Cousins had this reputation even in his days at Kentucky and its now coming back to haunt him because that stigma remains. He’s a fantastically skilled player when he keeps his head on straight. BUT he can be a nuisance AND he can be childish. There are coaches who will take a chance on that kind of talent but attitude doesn’t necessarily disappear because a coach with some gravitas pulls the kid aside. If he doesn’t listen he doesn’t listen and so now he and Keith Smart had better find a middle ground. News that they held a players only meeting is all good but the failings of a team to win fall on the coach and now the glare will be on the player. The coach is gone and with a new coach, more defense oriented, if the results continue to linger one can only assume that it is the wrong mix of players. Now, whether the Maloofs decide that Geoff Petrie hasn’t had a single decent personnel move for a few years now and deserves to get the ax or whether he empowers Petrie to make a personnel decision is for another time but the fact is that the Kings are now on the clock. Everyone will be watching the Kings and the first sign of trouble, SOME TEAM crafty enough will come with a trade offer. THEN, it will be on the team to decide whether its worth keeping either Cousins OR Tyreke Evans. Talented yet troubled players who have a problem with authority and constantly question it. The troubling aspect is that the ability to get fleeced is a very high probability in this case and it can set the organization back several years so the challenge will be to make a solid business decision. How well do the Kings know Cousins? How well do they know Evans.
THAT is going to be the most interesting thing to watch. Wait for a few losses and then the wolves will be outside waiting to tear this team apart. We’ll see who makes the decisions and what decisions are made.