You Cannot Be Serious!

ESPN has a new story titled, “Should the Knicks blow it up or pursue the playoffs?” I am not making that up. It includes this amazing quote”

That time is here for Knicks management. Jackson needs to decide whether he wants to continue to push for the playoffs or pull the plug on what feels like another lost season in New York.

“continue to push for the playoffs”!? The Knicks are 11-games under .500 and 3-7 in their last 10. That’s a playoff push? Sure, the Eastern Conference is once again top-heavy, but they are four-games back with three teams in front of them. And if they made the playoffs then they would probably be a sacrifice to King James in the first round.

Instead here is a “crazy” idea. Lose games as often as possible. If ever there was a season to tank, this is it, because the draft looks really deep and the Knicks finally have paid off all of Isiah and Jimmy’s terrible draft pick trades. If possible, trade Carmelo for another first round pick and then do the smart thing- rebuild. A lottery pick added to Porzingas with another first rounder thown in is a good start. Stink again in 2018 and you have another lottery pick. Suddenly, you might have a pretty good core of players.

Whatever you do, don’t try to add anything to this team that would sacrifice the future. That would be amazingly stupid.

We Need More!

Unless you are a big college hoops fan, it probably escaped your notice that the NCAA revealed the top-16 seeds for the tournament on Saturday. Of course, with a month left in the regular season, those seeds are just temporary, but it gave us a glimpse of how March Madness might set up.   The idea comes from football where they start releasing CFP rankings in late October, and it is a great way to get some buzz going for the tournament. I am hopeful that they will add two tweaks to it to really get this going.

1- Announce it weekly. They do this in college football like I said and it generates a lot of buzz. A weekly announcement would do the same thing and keep the information more current. As of right now, these 16 seeds could change significantly over the next month.

2- Include a list of teams on the bubble or, even better, the last four in and the last four out. Now this would be harder because of the need to look at the entire field every week, but can you imagine the buzz that would generate?

Anyway, its a good start that could be really improved down the line.

This Will End Badly

The story in Blecher Report was a harsh, but fair critique of Carmelo Anthony. Basically, he doesn’t have the killer instinct of Jordan or Bryant and Phil Jackson has screwed up by expecting him to develop it. The story would have faded away pretty quickly if Phil Jackson hadn’t decided to tweet about it, after not tweeting anything since the end of December. Here’s what Jackson had to say:

“Bleacher’s Ding almost rings the bell, but I learned you don’t change the spot on a leopard with Michael Graham in my CBA daze.”

Now, if you want to take the best possible spin on that, Jackson is saying that he knew what Anthony was and still thought he was a max-contract player. (Let’s not debate if he is or not, just stick with me.) So, it’s a somewhat awkward defense of Anthony involving a player from 25-years ago that almost nobody remembers.

The problem is, you have to be really willing to jump through hoops to get there, and Phil knows the NYC media well enough to know this would be the equivalent of throwing meat to hungry dogs. And so you have this. Or this one. And this one. And plenty more. It’s an easy narrative to fill because the logic is Phil wants to trade Carmelo, but needs Carmelo to waive his no-trade clause, so he needs to make Carmelo want to leave at all costs.

But that ignores, the reality of what GM does this? The Yankees treated A-Rod better than this when he was suspended for a year for cheating and the reason is, you never ever want to malign your own players because it lowers their value. Other GM’s aren’t stupid and they will read stories like this and tell Phil if you want him gone that badly, here’s our lowball offer.

So then you have the other possible explanation suggested in one of those links- Phil wants to get fired and head back to his beach house with a fat contract for two more years. Definitely plausible again, but while Phil’s reputation is going to survive, flaming out so badly in NYC isn’t the ending I can believe he wants and will resurrect the narrative that Pat Riley is a better coach/executive than him.

If it had been reason #1, a backhanded compliment. Jackson could have defused the whole thing with a follow-up tweet like this: “I love Carmleo and he is a vital part of the franchise. I would never want him to change his playing style.” Problem solved and crisis averted. And yes, we know he is lying, but he is putting the story to bed.

So that leaves us with the other two explanations and both point to the same conclusion. Jackson is trying to force Dolan to make a decision. It will be his franchise or Carmleo’s and one of them is leaving town. Either Carmelo in a fire sale or Jackson with $24-million still owed to him. Scorched earth either way and just another terrible chapter in a franchise with way too many of them this century.

Hail Brady

I often dream of an alternative NFL history. In it Bill Parcells resigns from the Giants in time for their defensive coordinator, Bill Belichick, to take over and the Giants, fresh off a great Super Bowl victory, go on to dominate the NFL for years.

There are two problems with my dream scenario.  First, Belichick went to Cleveland off of that Super Bowl victory and failed- 36-44 in his time there. And second, Tom Brady wasn’t the Giants QB.

I think it is time to recognize that as accomplished as Belichick is, he is nothing without Brady. Brady is the greatest draft pick ever. Every NFL team missed on him, at least FOUR times. That is their shame and evidence that Belichick isn’t quite the genius people make him out to be. He’s very good, but he hit the lottery with Brady.

Take Brady away from the Patriots and do they win any of their Super Bowls?  I don’t think so.  Belichick has done s lot of great moves, but Brady is the guy who makes it all work.

As for the game.  Atlanta blew it with some terrible play calls and Brady was magnificent when it mattered.

Ahead 28-20 with the ball and just under six minutes, there are two clear goals  1- score to make the game a two-score difference 2- run the clock.  Three plays later, Atlanta is on the New England 22-yard line with 4:47 left in the game.  At this point, goal #1 is within reach a and goal #2 can be achieved if you run the ball.  They ran on first down, lost a yard, and then went to the pass.  A sack, inexcusable at this point, backed them up 12 yards.  That’s not great, but a potential field goal would still be 51-yards at this point, if they didn’t gain another yard.  Instead, they call pass agajn and while they competed it, a penalty negated the play and backed them up another 10 yards- out of field goal range. On 3rd and 33, they tried to pass again, when a run could have got them a possible field goal and forced New England to spend another time out.

And you know against almost any other QB, they still might have gotten away with their stupidity, but Brady, with the help of an amazing catch, made them pay.  My only quibble is with the NFL’s stupid overtime rule.  Both teams should get the ball once to have a championship decided off of a coin toss is ridiculous.

Finally, think about the sports run we are on.  You had the Super Bowl and the college National Championship game decided on the last play. You had extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series.  You had the NBA finals go seven games with a 3-1 comeback by the winning team. And yes, while it broke my heart, you had March Madness decided by a three at the buzzer.

I have been racking my brain to find a comparable run and I can’t.  I think the 2016-17 sports championship cycle is the greatest we have ever seen.

 

 

 

 

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Super Bowl Boredom

otI’ve been asking around, and apart from my neighbor who comes from Atlanta, I am not finding people excited for the Super Bowl. Now granted, if you have a reason to root for one of the teams, then this game is exciting to you, but I’m not feeling it. I’m not sure why. I usually love the Super Bowl and am excited for whoever is in it. This year I am struggling to even commit to watching it. I have thought about this for awhile and I have three reasons for this.

1- The teams

2- Football itself

3- The world

Let me delve into each.

1- I don’t hate the Patriots. In fact, I like Bill Belichick and I used to be a Patriots season ticket holder. But I have Patriots fatigue. I have seen too much of them and heard way, way, too much from both sides about deflated footballs. And while Matt Ryan seems like a good guy, I have zero interest in the Falcons. They have always struck me as a team that never lived up to expectations and not that interesting. So I find myself not caring at all about which team wins and that makes it pretty hard to get excited about the game.

2- I am having a harder and harder time watching football in general because it seems pretty clear that these players are killing themselves. HBO just did a Real Sports story on the death of Kevin Turner. If you click that link you will see pictures of him as he got close to death. He had ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and had lost the ability to talk or walk by the end. He donated his brain to science and they came to the conclusion that repetitive blows to the head caused his disease. The doctor who does the study looks into the camera and says that people should stop playing football. I know that if I had a son, I don’t, I would not let them play football so I am really wrestling with the moral question of what I am watching and condoning by watching.

3- Without delving into politics too deeply, the world seems to me to be a pretty scary place right now and we are as divided and angry a country as I can remember. It’s hard for me to put all my feelings and concerns aside right now and escape into sports. I find that to be true with not only football, but hockey and basketball as well.  Maybe baseball season will break me out of my funk, but right now sports aren’t giving me the joy they usually do.

So that’s why I am considering skipping the game. I imagine what I will actually do is check the score a bunch of times and then flip it on if things are close in the 4th quarter. At least I hope so.

Bye-Bye Brooklyn

Bloomberg is reporting that the Barclays Center will kick the Islanders out after the 2018-19 NHL season.

This is not a major shock. Barclays simply wasn’t built for hockey. It’s asymmetrical, leading to terrible seats on one end of the ice, and the scoreboard hanging over one of the blue lines. Furthermore, the Islanders are simply not drawing fans to the games, ranking third to last in the NHL in attendance which they also did in their inaugural season.  (And yes, they should have built the Barclays Center for hockey, but the original design was massively changed when the financial crisis hit in 2008.)

The question is what happens now? The new owners have been trying to get into a partnership with the Mets to construct an arena near Citi Field, but I can’t see how anyone would bite on that financing. We already have the completely redone MSG, the very new Prudential Center in Newark, the completely redone Nassau Coliseum reopening this spring, the very new Barclays Center, and the sitting in mothballs Izod Center at the Meadowlands, in the immediate area. How many arenas can we realistically support? And while a return to the Nassau Coliseum would have made sense, the renovations have lowered the capacity for hockey to 13,000. The Barclays Center is already the smallest in hockey (15,800) would the Islanders really move to an even smaller venue? Would the league even allow them to do so?

I am afraid that barring some miracle, this probably spells the end of the Islanders in the tri-state area. That’s a real shame. As much as I dislike the team, it has a passionate and loyal following that deserves better. My only hope is that if relocation is the final decision, they go to a real hockey hotbed, like Quebec, and not to some sunbelt city that doesn’t have the passion for the game. The Islanders can opt-out of their lease after next year, so we could have a quick resolution to this. Expect the rhetoric to ramp up quickly.

 

Good Idea/Bad Execution

So give the Knicks points for trying to shop Carmelo Anthony as per this story. Take away points for going to Cleveland and asking for Kevin Love. Should the Knicks trade Carmelo? Absolutely, and hopefully this was just the start of their efforts, but they need to get real. They are not going to get a Kevin Love-type player in return.

And that’s ok, the important thing is to get some more draft picks or young players who might turn into something rather than try to fool anyone into thinking they can remain competitive. This is not a team that will win a championship as currently constructed, so you send Anthony and Rose out of town, give Noah a seat on the bench, and surround Kristaps and Willy with some young guys. For the first time in probably a decade, the Knicks control all of their future first round picks, so losing this year really isn’t a problem. You head to the lottery and see what happens.

They have about a month before the deadline and they are 20-26. A smart team would sell aggressively. The Knicks have never been a smart team.

 

Right Place/Wrong Team

The Giants making the playoffs after a four-year absence is a wonderful thing. The problem is, they are running into the worst possible first round matchup they could have drawn.

Yes, they have beaten Green Bay in Green Bay before in the playoffs. In fact, the last two Super Bowl victories went through Green Bay. And yes, in both of those seasons they lost to Green Bay in the regular season, just like they did this year. But tell me, what does that have to do with the 2016 Giants? There are five players still on the entire roster from the 2011 team, and one of them, JPP, is not playing Sunday. Eli Manning looks a lot more like the 2007 version of himself than the 2011 version and Green Bay is the hottest team in the league right now, winning six-straight to make the playoffs.

I’m not saying the Giants can’t win. They can, but they will need a lot of things to break their way. They will need to fluster Aaron Rodgers, no easy task. They will need to hold up in their protection of Manning, again no easy task. They will need to run the ball in very cold conditions, something they haven’t shown a consistent ability to do. Add it all up, and I don’t see the Giants walking away with a win on Sunday, no matter what “history” says will happen.

Hopefully, I am wrong.

Here’s to 2017!

My 2016 predictions were mostly very wrong,  but I did predict a Cubs World Series, a change of scheduling for the CFB playoffs,  and the Giants making the playoffs, so there’s that. Here’s what I see sports wise in 2017

January

A record seven players get elected to the Hall of Fame-Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Guerrero, Hoffman, Raines and Ivan Rodriguez.

Ohio State beats Alabama to win the CFB playoffs

The Raiders beat New England on a snowy field in the AFC Championship and advance to the Super Bowl where they meet the Cowboys.  The Giants lose their first round playoff game.

February

The Cowboys win the Super Bowl and Donald Trump takes the credit.for making the Cowboys great again

A-Rod shows up at Marlins camp in “phenomenal shape”and ready to compete for a job.

March

Duke and UNC both secure #1 seeds along with Villanova and UCLA in the tournament.

A-Rod retires again.

April

UCLA cuts down the nets after beating Kansas in the championship game

Tiger Woods actually plays in the Masters but misses the cut  Bubba Watson wins his third title

MLB sees two major stars get suspended for PEDs.

The Knicks and Rangers make the playoffs. The Knicks get eliminated in the first round

May

The Rangers lose in the conference finals to Montreal. Canada closes down for the Stanley Cup.

Cleveland and Golden State make quick work of the other NBA teams and head for their third-straight Finals matchup.

June

Durant is the difference as Golden State takes the crown.

Chicago wins another Stanley Cup over Montreal.

Jordan Speith wins the U.S. Open

July

Despite no longer “counting” MLB’s All-Star Game ratings actually improve over last year.

Phil Mickleson wins his last major at the British Open

August

Clint Frazier makes his Yankee debut while Aaron Judge gets optioned back to AAA.

September

Yankees finish the year at 83-79

October

Cubs make it two-straight with a sweep of the Astros.

November

The Knicks open the year 4-0

The 49ers are the surprise of the NFL, finishing November in first.

December

Florida State, Alabama, Michigan, and USC face off in the CFB playoffs

A blogger vows to do better in 2018 than he did with his predictions in 2017.

Happy New Year!!

 

 

 

That Was Ugly

The Giants played a clunker last night, one that should calm all the best team in the NFC talk for awhile. The good news is, they are almost guaranteed to make the playoffs. In fact, it would be quite an upset if they didn’t.

Do I sound too confident? I don’t mean to, but consider what has to happen for the Giants to miss the playoffs.

1- They need to lose to Washington next week. Win and they are in.

2- The Packers beat Minnesota this week and Detroit next week.

3- Detroit beats Dallas Monday and then loses to Green Bay.

4- Tampa beats New Orleans and then Carolina.

5- The Falcons need to beat Carolina and New Orleans.

In that scenario, the Giants end up in a three-way tie for the wild card and lose on tiebreakers. Again, every one of those things, a total of 9 different outcomes, needs to happen or the Giants make the playoffs. The way things have gone the past few years around here you would be crazy not to think there is a chance, but it is a pretty small one. So relax, enjoy Christmas weekend and get enjoy the nine days off before the next game. We have all earned it.