A Hometown Discount

We throw that phrase around a lot in sports thinking that players will take less to stay or come “home”. Most of the time, it’s a false concept. The player isn’t going to take a cent less than they can get elsewhere. Robinson Cano is a good example of that.

That’s what makes the signing of Kevin Shattenkirk by the Rangers so unusual,  Shattenkirk, from New Rochelle, NY, was the prize of the free agent class and probably could have gotten a contract similar to Keith Yandle’s seven-year, $44-million deal signed just last year.

But Shattenkirk is coming to the Rangers on only a four-year deal at $6.65-million a season. That’s a big discount, but Shattenkirk said he wanted to come home and play for the franchise he grew up loving.

That should be music to Rangers’ fans ears and I suspect Shattenkirk will be almost as popular as Henrik and McDonaugh next season. For a kid who grew up a short train ride from the Garden, can it get any better than that?

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Knickfunction

The Knicks are reportedly firing Phil Jackson today. That’s not something I object to, his 80-166 record speaks for itself, but the timing of it shows how incredibly dysfunctional this franchise is.

What other franchise would allow the team President to run the NBA draft and then turn around and fire them three days before NBA free agency begins?  You either do this after the season ends in April, or you wait until after free agency and the summer leagues conclude. Doing it now cripples your ability to improve in free agency and calls into question why the Knicks drafted the guys they did just last week.

Again, firing Jackson is not a dumb idea. His record was atrocious, and his behavior even worse. He was the guy who gave Carmelo a max deal with a no-trade clause and a trade kicker. When he saw it wasn’t working he didn’t quietly try to get Carmelo to waive that and go elsewhere, he started trashing his own player in the press. For a smart guy, that is really stupid. Then he starts smacking the future face of the franchise around in the press and floats trade rumors about him. If you are a NBA free agent, why would you sign on the dotted line to play for this man?

But the sad reality is that this won’t make things better. A new president will come in, but Jim Dolan will remain. It was Dolan who created the culture of paranoia and dysfunction that surrounds this team. It was Dolan who forced Donnie Walsh to empty the cupboard for Carmelo when the Knicks could have waited three months and signed him as a free agent. It was Dolan who foisted Isiah Thomas on us, and may try and do so again. Phil Jackson deserves his pink slip, but until Dolan goes, Knickfunction will mean dysfunction.

A Ranger Reset

The Rangers pulled off a shocking trade today, Derek Stephan and Antti Raanta for the #7 pick in the draft and Anthony DeAngelo.

I won’t begin to suggest that a team that traded its top center and backup goalie for a rookie defenseman and a draft pick is better, but this is a move the Rangers had to make.

I loved Stepan, but he wasn’t an elite center and he was earning $6.5-million a year through 2021. Raanta was a great backup goalie, but he was headed out the door after this upcoming season.

The Rangers now have a bunch of cap room and a chance to do some things. They could sign Kevin Shattenkirk and make a big splash, or spread the money out more equitably. They probably go for the splash, but might be smarter to spread the money around. One thing is for sure, Jeff Gorton has a plan and he is willing to make bold moves to execute it.

Thank You, Dan

The majority of New York sports fans will always associate the name Girardi with Joe, the current manager. But, a passionate subset will also associate it with Dan, the Rangers forward who was bought out today after a stellar eleven years on Broadway.

Much like his namesake, Dan Girardi was an underrated player who did the little things. He was undrafted, yet became an integral part of a Stanley Cup contender. He was the epitome of the “black and blue” shirts and anchored the top line of the defense.

But all those games and all of those blocked shots took a toll on his body and the Girardi of today simply couldn’t keep up with the top lines of most NHL squads. His big salary made him untradeable and the savings from a buyout made it the only possible solution.

Thats a shame because much like another Ranger on the top-10 list of games played, Rom Greschner, Girardi should have ended his career in New York. I hope he catches on somewhere and earns a much-deserved Cup. Just not against the Rangers!

A Quick End To The Finals

Give Golden State credit.  Not only did they eliminate the bad taste from last year, they did it in a dominating fashion. Going 16-1 in the NBA playoffs is an amazing feat. But, can’t we praise the Warriors while also praising LeBron James’ efforts in the Finals? Why do people feel compelled to tear him down yet again today after losing that series? He averaged a triple-double in the Finals, so I find it hard to place the blame for this loss on him.

Here’s another way to look at it. The Warriors set the record for most wins in a season last year and came one game away from winning a title. (Remember who stopped that) They then went out and added one of the best players in the league in Kevin Durant, so they got even better. Stopping that freight train was never going to be easy and while LeBron had his moments, the Warriors had too much talent.

Durant got ripped in the offseason for leaving Oklahoma City and going to Golden State because it “proved he couldn’t win on his own” according to the haters. LeBron is getting ripped today for not being able to stop that from happening. One thing is for sure, haters and going to hate.

How Quickly We Forget

According to a lot of the “experts” the NBA FInals are over as the Warriors have a 2-0 lead and LeBron sounds “defeated. I get it, but based on what we saw just last year, maybe wait until tomorrow night’s result before calling the series over?

After all that series saw the Warriors win Game 1 by 15 and Game 2 by 33. Golden State had won both regular season meeting and 71 other games. Cleveland looked pretty dead at 0-2 then. And, despite a Game 3 victory, things looked pretty over when the Warriors won Game 4 to go up 3-1. But a funny think happened, LeBron took the team on his shoulders and the Cavs won three-straight and a title.

That may not happen this year. Golden State with Kevin Durant may truly be unstoppable. But recent history tells us not to bury the Cavs until they have lost four games in this series.

Feast to Famine

The “experts” will break this down later tonight, but I feel like day 2 of the Giants draft was a huge hit and a huge miss.

A defensive tackle in round 2 was a smart pick. The fact that his closest comparison is Hankins, makes it even better. No matter what you think, the Giants took a guy who could fill the last spot in their defensive starting lineup.

A QB in round 3 was incredibly stupid. Davis Webb may turn into Eli Manning, but that isn’t the point. This draft should have been about maximizing Eli Manning’s chances to win another Super Bowl. Webb doesn’t do that and you have to wonder if he will ever develop into a pro QB.

But again, even if he turns into Eli, this represents the worst way to maximize Eli’s last years. Nothing short of another Super Bowl win excuses this pick.

Check A Box

The “experts” were predictable in their reviews of the Giants draft pick, Evan Engram. Some loved it, some hated it. Some yelled that they didn’t do enough and should have traded up. To me it is all noise. The Giants needed a tight end, and they took one. He may turn out to be good, he may turn out to be bad, but they did exactly what they should have done, and that is all that matters.

As to the argument that they should have traded up to grab “X”, I hate it. Nobody aces the draft year in and out. The only way to ensure you do better in the draft than someone else is to have more chances (ie picks). If you trade up, you lose picks, so the only reason I can think to do so is for a franchise-altering player. The Giants did it in 2004 and got Eli, nice move. They did it in 2013 and got Ryan Nassib, not a nice move. It’s a crapshoot, and you are far, far better off trading down that up. Bill Belichick gets this, and he has done pretty well with it.

So, what’s on tap for tonight? Two picks and with Tight End crossed off, the Giants probably split them between offense and defense. Running Back is an idea as is someone who could play tackle. On the defensive side, something for the interior of the line or a linebacker would be nice.

Draft Time

Here are my two beliefs about the NFL Draft.

 

1- The “experts” are generally wrong over half the time.

2- Because of this focus more on the positions a team drafts than the actual players.

Every year we get bombarded with mock drafts, draft grades and player thoughts and every year they’re are mostly junk. Look back at your favorite team’s draft and the analysis of it. Most of it turns out to be garbage once the players have actually taken the field. Lets face it, GMs get top dollar for making theses picks and they can’t deliver great and consistent results, so why do we rely on the experts?

That’s why I focus on the positions taken and the Giants have some pretty clear needs. Eli is nearing the end, but they want to make one more title run. The defense is returning 10-of-11 starters, so it is in good shape,  So, I would like to see the Giants come out of the draft with a bunch of of players who can help on offense. Specifically, I would like to see them get a running back, a tight end, and an offensive lineman. On defense a linebacker and a defensive tackle would be nice.

Things I would not want to see the Giants do include drafting for the secondary or taking a QB with a high pick. You may never be able to have too many cornerbacks, but the Giants have three good ones and two good safeties. If they get to a position where the best player on their board is a player from the secondary, I hope they trade down. And while it may be tempting to try to find Elis successor now, I would rather try to get him more help on offense in order to make one last run at a title. This is not the time to worry about the future QB of the team, a fifth rounder is fine, just not before that.

Mitch Trubisky

I like Mitch Trubisky, but I am absolutely amazed that he may be the top pick in the NFL Draft.

I would bet that I am one of the few people outside of NFL executives who watched every start he made in college. He was great a lot of the time, but there are two major red flags to me.

1- The game against Virginia Tech in October. Yes, it was played in driving rain, but he was terrible. When you have only made 13 starts in college, you have to be judged on every one of them. I would not feel great about Trubisky’s prospects in a cold weather stadium based on that.

2- The games against Duke, NC State and Stanford. Context is important here. For UNC Football, Duke and NC State are the biggest games of the year. Furthermore, this year they cost themselves another trip to the ACC Championship game by losing to two mediocre teams. Trubisky’s numbers from those games are good, but he didn’t do much, and he didn’t respond late when he had a chance to take UNC down the field and win them. Stanford was the bowl game, and the same thing that happened against Duke and NC State happened there. So, you could say that in the three biggest games of the year, Trubisky didn’t respond. Again, with only 13 NCAA starts, you need to weigh each one carefully.

That’s why I am hoping that Trubisky isn’t picked by Cleveland or San Francisco. I think he can be a very successful QB in the NFL, but he will need time and those situations won’t give him that. He needs to go to a place where he can hold a clipboard for a few years and learn about the game. Based on all the draft boards I have seen, he is probably not falling out of the Top-1o and I think that will be bad for him and bad for the team that drafts him. We shall see on Thursday.

Two UNC players I could see rewarding the teams that draft them are Ryan Switzer and Elijah Hood. Both will go in the middle rounds most likely. Switzer catches everything thrown anywhere near him and is a great return guy. Hood can pound the ball in between the tackles and bust a big run. Watch for them on Friday and Saturday.

I’ll post some more Giant-centric draft thoughts before Thursday.