Now Comes The Hard Part

Give the Giants credit. They are 8-3, winners of six-straight. We can point out a lot of flaws, but they are doing something right, and it isn’t just a fortuitous schedule. The problem is, the schedule turns really ugly now.

The final five games are brutal: @Pitt, Dallas (Sunday Night Football), Detroit, @Philly (Thursday Night Football), @Washington. When I picked games before the season started, I had the Giants sitting currently at 7-4, and finishing 1-4 to go 8-8. I still think a 1-4 finish might be all they manage. I don’t see them beating Pittsburgh or Dallas. Detroit looks really good recently. Washington will be problematic. They could and really should beat Philly even on the road.

That would leave them at 9-7 which might get them into the playoffs, but would also leave them with little momentum and a probable first round exit. A good team has to come out of this stretch at 10-6 or better. Are the Giants that kind of team? I still say no, but this is the reason you play the games.

Not Buying It

Yes, the Giants are 6-3. And yes, I think they might be 8-3 in two weeks. But no, I’m not ready to say this is anything more than a mediocre team.

Start with some stats. The Giants are a minus-8 in the takeaway/giveaway department. They have scored two fewer points than they have allowed. They are 24th in yards gained and 15th in yards allowed. Does anything strike you as above-average there?

They can’t run the ball, ranked 31st in the league at that. They can’t pressure the QB, ranked 30th in sacks. And they don’t convert 3rd downs very often, ranked 25th in that. The one thing they do really well is protect Eli, allowing the second-fewest sacks in the league.

Yet they are 6-3 and would be a playoff team if the season ended today.  And as I mentioned earlier, with a home game this week against Chicago, and a road game the next week in Cleveland, 8-3 is a distinct possibility.

The problem is, after that they could crash and burn to 8-8. Look at the schedule. Home against Dallas, road game in Pittsburgh, home against Detroit, finish on the road in Washington and Philly. They might be favored in the Detroit game, but as of right now, that’s going to be it.

So enjoy this. Admire the standings for th next few weeks. The pain is coming. This is a 4-4 team at best masquerading as a playoff team. It won’t last.

Predicting The Giants Season

Ok, here I go, a game-by-game guess at how the Giants end up.

Game 1- @Dallas- Two weeks ago, I would have said loss, but that was before Romo got hurt, and a rookie QB stepped in. Add in a rookie RB and I think the Giants will play enough defense to win this game.

Game 2- New Orleans- While I would bet less points are scored than last time, I don’t think the Giants can beat Drew Brees.

Game 3- Washington- Giants win this one, go to 2-1 and then the pain comes.

Game 4- @Vikings- Could have been the same situation as Week 1, but the Vikings brought in Bradford, who beat the Giants twice last year. Make it three-straight.

Game 5- @Green Bay- Not even close to winning this one.

Game 6- Ravens- I think these two teams are about equal, so I give it to the home team Giants to get back to .500.

Game 7- @Rams (London)- I think the Giants can win this and will to enter their bye week at 4-3

Game 8- Philly- They can beat these guys and will.

Game 9-Bengals- Nope, they can’t beat these guys.

Game 10- Bears- Back to the win column.

Game 11- @Cleveland- Closer than it should be, but another win to get to 7-4.

Game 12- @Pittsburgh- Not even close, a big loss.

Game 13- Dallas- Romo’s probably back or the rookie has thrived. Either way, the Giants lose this at home.

Game 14- Lions- I think Detroit could be a really good team this year, chalk it up as a loss.

Game 15- @Philly- This team is a mess and I think they win this.

Game 16- @Washington- I think they lose this to finish 8-8. The crazy thing is 8-8 could win the NFC East, especially if the Giants are 4-2 in the division as I predicted.

For comparison sake, I had them at 6-10 last year which was dead right and means I will be dead wrong this year.

 

The Anti Decision

I’m having a hard time understanding the anger directed at Kevin Durant for signing with Golden State. For one thing, he did it the right way. He didn’t go out and embarrass his former club, just the opposite, writing this piece in the Players Tribune.  Second, can you blame him for the move?

Durant is a nine-year veteran at this point in his career. He has done everything except win a title so he is joining a team that gives him a great shot to do it. What’s wrong with that?

Sure if you are an OKC fan this hurts a lot, but if you are not why are you upset? An immensely talented player used his free agency to find a place he wanted to play. He didn’t force his way out of OKC, he left after nine years.

Its funny how people forget certain things like the fact John Elway was drafted by the Colts, or Eli Manning was drafted by the Chargers. We forget those things because neither of them ever played a snap for those teams. Instead they forced their way out of those teams without even trying to play in the city that drafted them. Or how about Carmelo forcing his way out of Denver a few months before he hit free agency so he could get a bigger contract from the Knicks?

Durant didn’t do any of those things. He made the choice free agency allowed him to make. All the people howling about it should remember that.

Another Way To Go

I didn’t mind the Derrick Rose trade because the commitment was for one year. If Rose rediscovered his greatness, the Knicks would have an incredibly valuable asset on their hands at the next trade deadline. If not, he gets erased from the cap next offseason. And, if Rose makes Carmelo better, the Knicks could get more for him in a trade as well. But I was worried that the Knicks were going to turn around and sign Dwight Howard, an aging malcontent. That doesn’t sound like it will happen, but it does sounds like the Knicks are going to give Jokim Noah a four-year deal for something around $70-million. It’s not the money that bothers me, Timothy Mozgrov just got only a little less from LA, its what it means. It means that the Knicks are trying to win right now and that is stupid.

Noah can be a really good player when he is healthy, but he is 31 and on the downside of his career. Adding him to this team means the Knicks are keeping Rose and Anthony and they are going to try to be a playoff team next year which is good in the short term, but really dumb in the long term if you believe in Porzingis. Because the goal should be to surround Porzingis with enough talent in a few years to compete for a title. That means acquiring draft picks and other future assets, not guys who will be washed up or retired in a few years. Consider a team with Rose, Anthony, Noah, Porzingis, and someone TBD at shooting guard. Are they good enough to make the playoffs? Absolutely, but what are they going to do when they get there? I would say winning a first round matchup is about their ceiling. Are they good enough to beat Cleveland? Not unless that TBD shooting guard is Kevin Durant. And that’s the ultimate thing. I don’t care about the Knicks being in the playoffs again. I have suffered through two terrible eras of Knicks basketball, this one, and the 80’s, and I am still here. But, I remember the 1990’s. Those teams never won, but they had enough talent that they had a chance almost every year. That’s what I want, a team that is a legitimate title contender like what the Rangers have been these past few years, or the Yankees were from 1994 to 2012. That’s a team I can enjoy watching, and while I will suffer if they come up short, at least I will have gotten the chance to see them compete at the highest level.

Instead we will probably get a team that will finish above .500, make the playoffs and maybe win a series. They will then get crushed by someone in the second round and head home with a mediocre draft pick as their consolation prize. I would rather blow it all up, trade away everyone except Porzingis and build for the future. It’s too bad Phil Jackson doesn’t agree.

 

Now What?

In a vacuum, the trade for Derrick Rose is a good one for the Knicks. They didn’t overpay. They got a player who could be great next year, but is only signed through next year, so the risk is minimal. And when was the last time the Knicks actually acquired a draft pick in a trade instead of sending one away? The problem is, the Knicks do not operate in a vacuum and I am now terrified that the Knicks will take a serious run at Dwight Howard.

And that would be a huge mistake. Howard isn’t the player he once was, and he clearly has attitude issues. In short, he is someone the Knicks should stay far, far away from. But these are the Knicks where floor seats are expensive and need superstar names to entice customers to buy. Smart fans would prefer almost anyone, and especially Hassan Whiteside, in the pivot next year. Hopefully, Phil Jackson agrees with that.

How About Some Soccer?

Now that baseball is the only sport left standing in America, how about we turn our attention to our “fifth” sport, soccer? Fans around the world have been enjoying two top-notch tournaments, the European Championship and the Copa America. Now before you turn your noses up, consider that the U.S. could actually win Copa America. Let’s break it down.

The Copa America tournament is traditionally a 12-team event held in South America with all ten members of the South American Football Federation participating and two outside clubs from North America, or even Asia.

It is the oldest tournament of its kind in the world and this year marks its 100th anniversary. So to celebrate, they decided to have a 16-team tournament outside of South America for the first time ever.And so tonight, in Houston, the U.S. National Team will play Argentina, the team with the best player in the World, Lionel Messi in a semifinal match.

Here’s why this should be fun and interesting to U.S. fans. We are the underdogs. Argentina is one of the best teams in the world. They finished second in the last World Cup and have won two of them. The best we have ever done is finish third, which happened in the first World Cup in 1934 when the competition wasn’t what it is today. We have qualified for every World Cup since 1990, which is an achievement because we didn’t do that from 1950 until 1990.

So winning tonight would be epic, and would put us in position to win the tournament. We should have a good home crowd, but it will take a lot more than that to beat a powerhouse like Argentina. But tune in, you might catch a great story.

That Was Awesome

I know if you’re a Golden State fan, and I am related to a few of those, you are in the dumps today. Everyone else, you should have been thrilled by a truly great Game 7 last night.

Let’s start with the fantastic scenes in Cleveland. Fifty-two years is a long time to not see your team win and the people of Cleveland had to suffer through that for all of their teams.  Fans in New York should keep that in mind the next time they are feeling depressed about the state of one of their teams, we have been pretty lucky around here sports-wise.

How about the game itself? Tied with under a minute left and the go-ahead shot was a monster three. How about that block by LeBron right before the three? Pretty great ending all around.

And LeBron, we need to talk about him. There are people who will never forgive him for “The Decision”. I get that, but it is time to stop holding that against him. He made a stupid mistake when he was in his 20’s, who hasn’t, and he went back and made it right. He also has to be one of the top-5 players in NBA history, so maybe we can just enjoy him?

And don’t forget what Cleveland, all of them, had to do to win this series. They not only had to beat the team with the best regular season record in NBA history, they had to do it after going down 3-1, something no team had ever accomplished in the Finals before.

Finally, Golden State’s historic season now gets put into the historical trash can. 73-9 is only legendary if you close the deal. They not only didn’t, but as I mentioned above, they are the first team to lose in the Finals after being up 3-1. That will make for a long summer in the East Bay and beyond.

Finally, A Good Game in the Finals!

The result wasn’t what I hoped for, but at least Game 4 of the NBA Finals was competitive. After three-straight clunkers, we needed this as fans.

The problem is, all indications are that his might be it. Golden State has kicked it into a different gear since falling behind 3-1 in the Conference Finals.  Cleveland seems to either not have a higher gear, or is simply overmatched.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I hope Cleveland can get us back to Wednesday.

The Finals We All Wanted

Sure, if you had a team in this year’s NBA Playoffs you wanted them in the Finals.  But once they were eliminated, this matchup became the thing that warmed your basketball heart. Where to begin?

Well let’s start with the rematch factor. We had an amazing six-game series last year when LeBron basically played the Warriors by himself. This time we get to see if the full Cleveland team can do better.

Add in the 73 wins factor. It looked like the Warriors might flush that season down the drain in the Conference Finals, but they showed grit and heart and overcame a very good Thunder team in 7 games.

Don’t forget the stars. Curry and LeBron are obviously the headliners, but Klay Thompson has emerged as one of the best guards in the game. Kylie Irving and Kevin Love are really good too.

Add it all up and this should be an epic series. Is it too much to ask that it comes down to Game 7, Warriors down by 2, Curry with the ball and time running out?