“Well I never knew it was a man’s world! I never accepted that. I thought I had an education just as good as a man’s. I deserve to have the same opportunities and advantages. So I antagonized a lot of people, but I fought for women’s rights and blacks’ rights and civil rights. Discrimination against women was very bad. There was no reason to accept discrimination. No reason.” Helen Thomas, 1920-2013.
“‘My personality was formed by Chicago,’ he told Cigar Aficionado magazine in 1999. ‘It’s very American, very straightforward. If you can’t find it, or make it there, you won’t make it anywhere. It’s a very honest place.’” Dennis Farina. 1944-2013.
“I was the Knicks’ third-leading scorer [8.1 ppg], I also finished third in the league in assist average [2.0], and my salary was 60 dollars per game. Ha! These days, the players make about sixty dollars a minute. Don’t get me wrong, though. I have no jealousy or resentment over how much money these guys make today. I think they’re the best athletes in the world, and they’re worth every red cent. I’m just proud to have been one of the NBA’s pioneers.” Ossie Schectman, 1919-2013.
Well, we went out earlier than hoped, but I still feel pretty good about this season. For one, even though we had at least two key players — J.R. Smith and Jason Kidd — go ice-cold this series, the Knicks still contended against a big, physical team that may well give the Heat serious problems. (It likely didn’t help that both Melo and JR played hurt.)
For another, I like Mike Woodson as a coach, but his decision-making in this series was…not good. Chris Copeland should have gotten more run — a 3-shooting big man is exactly what was needed to offset the Hibbert factor — and Smith, Kidd, and Amare should all have been benched earlier on. Similarly, I know Steve Novak is a defensive liability, but he should’ve gotten a few of those minutes too. If he gets hot and makes a few threes, it spreads the floor, forces the Pacers to guard the perimeter, and allows Felton, Melo et al to penetrate. It was worth a try, given that JR was throwing up more bricks than the Stonecutters in the first few games.
In any case, Mike Vaccaro’s analogy of the Knicks being an 18 on a blackjack table is a pretty good one. The Knicks are a talented jump-shooting team, and, on the bright side, Iman Shumpert is clearly evolving into a high-impact player. But we need either a consistent second scorer or some sort of inside presence — preferably both — to really contend moving forward. Tyson Chandler is a defensive anchor, but his offense is all tip-ins and Felton alley-oops, and Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin, and the recently departed Kurt Thomas are all aging in dog years at this point.
Which brings us back to the Amare question — Can he be the player he once was, while co-existing with Melo? — The spacing never looked right when they were both healthy on the floor the past two years. To be continued, next November.
Even with 2012-2013′s scoring leader (Carmelo Anthony), the six man of the year (J.R. Smith) and a gaggle of seasoned, savvy veterans (Chandler, Kidd, K-Mart, Camby) on our squad, the 2013 NBA Championship clearly remains Miami’s to lose. Still, here’s hoping we at least get a chance to take on the reigning Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. So far, so good — The Knicks go into Boston, a team that swept us two years ago (albeit with Rondo), having defended our home floor for the first time since 2000. Say go New York go New York go…
Continuing his recent renaissance as a cultural critic, Kareem explains why the otherwise entertaining Django shouldn’t be an Oscar contender. I agree with the take-films-seriously sentiment, but, at least as far as Oscar goes, that ship sailed decades ago (and he’s too charitable to the excellent-but-also-flawed Lincoln.)
Also making the round today, Christoph Waltz and the SNL gang’s Djesus Uncrossed. A funny idea almost redeemed by Waltz, but as with so much SNL fare the execution is less clever than it should be.
This, this, a thousand times this. As talks continue and games disappear, Ian O’Connor summarizes the central issue of the NBA lockout: the owners bring no value to the table — they’re basically leeches on the system. “LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose — they don’t play in the NBA. They are the NBA. The entire league. The workforce and the product. The owners? They’re just along for the ride.“
Now, the better owners, I think — Mark Cuban, say — understand this. They get that an NBA team is a luxury asset that makes most of its money when it it sold, not as a day-to-day enterprise. And they have a good time playing the owner game and getting to hang around with basketball players.
As an aggregate, however, the NBA owners here are the problem. They’ve been lying about their financial straits, and then trying to pin the “downturn” on their employees. Just because the employees are reasonably well-compensated in this instance doesn’t change the fact that this is classic bait-and-switch behavior by management.
If there’s a reason the NBA is doing poorly at the moment — which, again, is an open question due to all the accounting shenanigans — it’s because unemployment is at 9% and poverty is at 15%. We did not get here because Eddy Curry ate his way to the bottom of a ridiculous contract. Besides, it is not Curry’s fault that somebody wants to pay him $100 million a year for riding the bench anyway. It is the fault of whoever paid him – cough, James Dolan — that exorbitant price. So now, owners want to be bailed out by the powers-that-be for their own terrible business decisions? We’ve seen this movie before. Classic corporate-socialism at work.
I expect the players will probably fold in the end, since, like labor in most situations these days, they don’t have much leverage. But, however it all pans out, let’s remember: The players have the skill set. They create the product. There is no product without the players. In an perect world, the owners should give players a generous share of the revenues (since they’re 100% of the value of the operation), and then be happy they get to own a basketball team. Now, let’s play ball.
Update: “One is, historically, you’ve seen franchises appreciate in value and that appreciation has more than outstripped any cash-flow losses that you’ve had…Secondly, it’s a lot of fun to own an NBA franchise…[B]y and large, NBA franchise ownership has been a good investment. You can’t base long-run projections on how you did in the biggest financial downturn of the last 50 years. On that basis, there are no good investments out there.“
Karl Malone’s gonna play the way Karl Malone can. And Kevin Murphy’s gonna sort out this lockout like Kevin Murphy do.
With an NBA lockout looming tomorrow, SBNation‘s Tom Ziller explains what, exactly, the owners are trying to achieve. (Hint: It’s management’s usual approach to labor.) “There definitely need to be some tweaks, perhaps to contract length…Instead, the league wants to end the reasonable percentage-based split of revenues with players — who are actually the labor and the product in the industry — and ‘guarantee’ $2 billion a year in salary and benefits.“
In very related news, as the NBA owners claim large losses (and yet don’t show their books), Deadspin‘s Tommy Cragg dissects how sport teams usually hide profits through a weird tax quirk that defines players as depreciable assets. “Every year, taxpayers hand the plutocrats who own sports franchises a fat pile of money for no other reason than that one of those plutocrats, many years ago, convinced the IRS that his franchise is basically a herd of cattle.“
Way to shield the hated Heat…Proving once again I know nothing about basketball, the Dallas Mavericks win the 2011 NBA title over the team America — and especially Cleveland — (rightfully) loves to hate, the Wade-Bosh-James Miami Heat. Congrats!
As for my picking Dallas to lose in the first round to Portland, clearly I never factored for (1) Dirk being even more unbelievable than usual, (2) Tyson Chandler giving Dallas a legitimate defensive anchor, (3) J.J. Barea weirdly slicing through the Heat D at will, (4) Jason Terry actually hitting a lot of the ill-advised shots he puts up, and (5) LeBron disappearing once again in the clutch. In the end, it’s starting to seem like the Knicks dodged a bullet last summer, and no mistake.
Since it’s that particular Saturday morning in April again, time for this year’s NBA playoff picks. (Note: accuracy of picks may well be impacted by the return of the Knickerbockers after seven years of ignominy.) Here we go…
Miami Heat (2) v. Philadelphia 76ers (7): This was looking like a return to the Knicks-Heat series of old before New York went on a late-season streak and the Celts faded down the stretch. Anyways, the Heatles (Wade, LeBron, and Bosh — does that make Mike Miller Ringo?) have been a combustible squad all season, and, after watching LeBron mentally check out of the Boston series last year, I have much less faith in his multi-ring playoff potential than I used to. Still, they were designed with the post-season in mind, and the Sixers are only slightly better than Indiana. Gonna have to go Miami in 5.
Boston Celtics (3) v. New York Knicks (6): Hey, look, it’s the Knickerbockers! Now, all the smart money has the Celtics in this match-up, and my head tells me that’s probably true. In fact, they’ll probably take the Knicks in five or six — New York is still a work in progress, and we’re really one more star and 2-3 more role players away from really contending. Still, after an ugly March, Amare and Melo seemed to be finding their groove in the last few weeks of the season, while Boston — a team I’d root for in most other situations — has looked haggard and ornery ever since they traded Kendrick Perkins away at the deadline. And, hey, it’s been seven years, so why not say New York in 7.
Orlando Magic (4) v. Atlanta Hawks (5): Like the Mavericks in the West, Orlando is a team built around a force of nature (Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard) that I’m starting to think is never going to put it together. That being said, they’re facing a team they swept last year, and one who has been struggling (10-17) since the All-Star break. Orlando in 5.
Los Angeles Lakers (2) v. New Orleans Hornets (7): Ironically, this is the first season in a long time where I might have rooted for the Lakers. Should they manage to make it to the Finals versus Cleveland, sure, I’d root for Phil Jackson to get his twelfth ring. But, like Boston, they have been showing their age down the stretch, and Bynum being hurt — again — doesn’t help matters. They’ll beat Chris Paul and the Hornets, but I’m thinking they won’t make it to June this year. Los Angeles in 6.
Dallas Mavericks (3) v. Portland Trailblazers (6): As I said in the Orlando section, I have my doubts that they’re serious contenders anymore. Unfortunately for Dirk, who’s a consistently impressive and gutty player, I’m starting to think he’s going to end up like Barkley or Ewing, a star without a ring. Especially when they’re facing a young, hungry, and dangerous Trailblazers squad, the team nobody wanted in the first round. Portland in 6.
Oklahoma City Thunder (4) v. Denver Nuggets (5): With a legitimate second option in Russell Westbrook and a playoff veteran manning the paint in Kendrick Perkins, it seems about time for Kevin Durant’s OKC to make the leap. Still, after watching Gallinari, Felton, et al play for the first half of the season, I have a soft spot for “Knicks West.” Denver in 7.
Miami Heat (2) v. New York Knicks (6): See, this is what being a Homer gets you. Now I have the Knicks outperforming the first round only to play the hated Heat in the second. And damned if I’m going to pick Miami — particularly this Miami team, the most easily dislikable since the Mourning-Hardaway outfits of the late-90′s — to beat New York, even if, you know, that probably makes a lot more sense. New York in 7.
San Antonio Spurs (1) v. Denver Nuggets (5): Like I said, I like this Denver team — but they’re gunners. If the shots aren’t falling, they are going to stink up the joint. And when you move deeper into the playoffs and the tension builds, those rims will start to clank more often than not. Plus, I have a feeling, even if the Spurs are built on speed attack these days, that Gregg Popovitch will figure out how to close Denver down with not much trouble. San Antonio in 5.
Los Angeles Lakers (2) v. Portland Trailblazers (6): WIth or without Bynum, I suspect Kobe has the killer instinct to put LA on his back and get them past the Blazers (or, at the very least, he’ll yell at Pau Gasol until he does it.) Still, LA may win this season, but Portland is going to tire them out, and that’s going to be a factor in the next round. Los Angeles in 6.
EAST FINALS: Chicago Bulls (1) v. New York Knicks (6): Ok, I think here’s where reality sets in. Even if New York makes it this far, they will have had to knock off two of the three main contenders from the East. Meanwhile, Chicago has had a pretty easy road of it — nobody’s really imagining Indiana or Orlando to go anywhere deep. Plus, let’s face it, the Knicks have a lot of exposed holes still…like Denver, they rely on offense and offense only. But wait ’til next year — Chris Paul will look great in the blue-and-orange. Chicago in 6.
WEST FINALS: San Antonio Spurs (1) v. Los Angeles Lakers (2): You again, I see — The two best teams of the last decade meet for yet another go-round in the Western Conference finals. And, this year, Tim Duncan has more fresh legs on his side than Kobe. San Antonio in 7.
FINALS: Chicago Bulls (1) v. San Antonio Spurs (1): Ok, they’re both one-seeds, but a lot of you have the Heat and/or Lakers here, right? Anyways, it’s hard to bet against Gregg Popovitch and Tim Duncan in the NBA Finals. But it’s also hard not to like this Bulls team, who are both well-rounded and deep. I’ll keep it real for the East and say Chicago in 7.
So, looking back on this, I actually find myself rooting for the Bulls and the Lakers at various points. Strange times we live in, strange times. Anyway, Game 1 is starting right about now, so let’s go to it! The NBA, it’s faaaan-tastic.
To make this dynamic duo happen, we had to give up Felton, streaky scorers Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, 7-foot prospect Timofey Mozgov, X-factor-gone-bust Anthony Randolph, the ghost of Eddy Curry, some future draft picks and some cash…For the record, I am totally ok with all of this.
As ESPN’s Ian O’Connor writes, “This is a great deal for the Knicks, a greater moment for their fan base…[I]t’s one of the best trades this team has made since Eddie Donovan acquired Dave DeBusschere in 1968.” Let’s hope events bear out this sportswriterly exaggeration — The Carmelo Era at MSG begins tonight at 7:30.
“Isiah believes that, with or without James, he will someday help the Knicks win their first NBA title since 1973. ‘want to be on the float and I want to get my ring,” Thomas said.‘” Now here’s a comeback I definitely don’t support. Former GM and coach Isiah Thomas pleads to ESPN for a return to the New York Knickerbockers.
No offense to Isiah, and I know the GOP just retook the House and all, but, really, have we forgotten the Bad Old Days already? Fortunately, I’m thinking Knicks fans have longer memories than most midterm voters.
True, that. Still, even after the Amar’e signing, the Knicks are looking like a seventh or eighth seed at best at the moment. And with potential X-factor Anthony Randolph starting the season hobbled, Gallinari and Felton playing inconsistently in the pre-season, and Stanford second-rounder Landry Fields starting at SG, I fear it’s not going to take too many games before we’re all just waiting for Melo all season.
(But, hey, at least right now we have a better record than the hated 0-1 Heat, who looked terrible last night against the Celtics. Booyah.)
Oof, what a sorry spectacle. Over the years, I’ve been on the receiving end of break-ups that were probably worse-handled than what LeBron did to Cleveland — on national TV! — last week…but only just barely. And, while I know I was rooting for a LeBron-to-NYK trade in the past, it’s hard not to feel at this point that the Knickerbockers may have dodged a basketball bullet here. Between the 2010 playoffs and the sorta-sad deference to D-Wade, it seems like James isn’t really wired to carry a team to a championship, and all talk of him as the next Michael Jordan now sounds ridiculous — That honor is now pretty clearly bestowed on, much as I hate to say it, Kobe Bryant.
The upshot, as a Knicks fan: If not necessarily game-changers on their own, Amar’e Stoudamire, Anthony Randolph, and Raymond Felton are promising additions to our squad, more promising than anything we’ve seen since the dog days of Isiah (Never again!) And count me in on the plan for an Amar’e-Melo-CP3 triumvirate in Gotham by next year or 2012. Hey, at least Melo has actually won something…
Well, I definitely wouldn’t have picked these two teams. But, even amid a sea of (admittedly low-scoring) World Cup riches, tonight is a big night in sports: One game for the NBA championship. ABC, 9pm EST. (And, fwiw, I’m definitely rooting for the Celts. They’re the Eastern Conference representatives, and more importantly, they’re not the Lakers.)
Well, the King’s season isn’t over yet. (Although it may be soon, if there’s another game like tonight’s 120-88 Game 5 fiasco.) Nonetheless, New York Magazine offers LeBron James a multi-part hard sell of NYC on behalf of the Knickerbockers. To my mind, their logic is irrefutable.
In honor of Cinco de Mayo and in protest of Arizona’s straight-up ignorant new ethnic profiling law, the Phoenix Suns will don their “Los Suns” jerseys tonight. “Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is on board, and the team even tried to get their ‘Los Spurs’ jerseys, though it was too late to do so. When asked for approval to wear the jerseys, the NBA “was all for it,” said Suns general manager Steve Kerr.“
“This is Machete, with a special Cinco de Mayo message…TO ARIZONA.” If the Arizona GOP won’t heed the carrot of the Suns’ inclusive orange unis, perhaps they’ll fear the sharpened stick of a ticked-off Danny Trejo, in the new holiday trailer for Robert Rodriguez’s full-length version of Machete, also with Jeff Fahey, Michelle Rodriguez, Robert DeNiro, Lindsey Lohan, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin, and Steven Seagall. I know I was just badmouthing this project in my review of The Losers, but I have to concede, it still makes for a pretty fun trailer. (Extra points for DeNiro channeling his inner JD Hayworth therein.)
Like last year, I’ve been something of a lousy NBA fan this season, partly because the Knicks stink and partly because I don’t get MSG anymore anyway. (I was going to plunk down for the NBA League Pass last fall, until I found out the games aren’t shown in HD ’round here. Not much point in that.) In any event, tradition is tradition, and since the first game’s already started, I should probably get up this year’s playoff picks…
Cleveland Cavaliers (1) v. Chicago Bulls (8): Even if the Bulls weren’t down 19 in Game 1 at the moment of this writing, I’d have the Cavs mostly sailing through the first round. King James is not only rested right now — He’s hungry after missing the Finals last year. And while Shaq is nowhere near the force he once was, and I don’t think Antawn Jamison is the consistent second scorer Cleveland needs, this is the best squad LeBron’s gone to war with over his young career. (If they had an automatic 3-point shooter to spread the floor and keep the triple-teams off James, oh my.) Meanwhile, this iteration of the Bulls looks worse than the team that threatened Boston in the first round last year, and are really only in the playoffs because Toronto got sloppy down the stretch. Cleveland in 5.
Orlando Magic (2) v. Charlotte Bobcats (7): On paper, this is a better Orlando team than the one that made the Finals last year. But playoff games aren’t played on paper. And in the real world, I would much rather have last year’s Hedo Turkoglu in my corner than any iteration of Vince Carter, who’s more likely to crumple up under the basket like he’s been gut-shot after a touch foul than gut any team to a much-needed playoff victory. All that being said, Michael Jordan and Larry Brown’s Bobcats are a work in progress, and I don’t see Dwight Howard’s team having much trouble with Captain Jack, Theo Ratliff, and the like. Orlando in 5.
Atlanta Hawks (3) v. Milwaukee Bucks (6): This is a wild-card matchup for me — I don’t think I’ve even seen either of these teams play. But word on the street is early rookie of the year contender Brandon Jennings has been slumping something fierce lately, and Atlanta’s Joe Johnson will be wanting to show off the free agency goods to all the many losers of the LeBron-Bosh-Wade sweepstakes. (See also: Knickerbockers). So I’ll go Atlanta in 5.
Boston Celtics (4) v. Miami Heat (5): I’m not a big fan of Wade, whose game depends a lot on the zebras getting him to the line, or of Miami (residual distaste from the Alonzo Mourning/Tim Hardaway wars — It’s a Knicks thing.) But, with Garnett and Rasheed aging in dog years now, this version of the Celts has looked bad for awhile. The Celts are like the team of Old Guys (Garnett, ‘Sheed) and knuckleheads (Rondo, Nate) you don’t want to play in pick-up — calling ticky-tack stuff while shivving you in the paint, etc. etc. And, with that in mind and since the refs love them some D-wade, I’ll go Miami in 7.
Los Angeles Lakers (1) v. Oklahoma City Thunder (8): The Lakers beat the Supersonics? Well, sort of. Although they haven’t deteriorated as badly as Boston, the title-defending Lake Show has a few screws loose right now also, with Andrew Bynum, as always, touch-and-go. I’m really hoping this series is a coming-out party for Kevin Durant, and Phil Jackson’s most recent head games totally backfire. But, much as I loathe Kobe, I gotta go with the champs in the first round. Lakers in 6.
Dallas Mavericks (2) v. San Antonio Spurs (7): After a decade of dominance, Tim Duncan and the Spurs are finally fading. Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks should still have a chip on their shoulder about getting robbed by the refs in the 2006 Finals. While I expect Tony Parker will be pretty much torching Jason Kidd this series, the Mavs have time on their side. And with Caron Butler and Shawn Marion added to Dallas’ arsenal, they can come at the aging Spurs in waves. Dallas in 7.
Phoenix Suns (3) v. Portland Trailblazers (6): Two fun teams to watch here, and this would’ve been a great series, with a slight edge to Phoenix. But if Brandon Roy can’t play on account of the bum knee, that swings things in the Suns’ direction considerably. I don’t think Steve Nash’s team are good enough to contend for the championship, but they’ll probably dispatch a severely weakened Portland squad pretty handily. Phoenix in 6.
Denver Nuggets (4) v. Utah Jazz (5): After giving away Camby for nothing and shutting down the Iverson experiment, the Nuggets are another team that have probably taken a step back personnel-wise in recent years. Still, if his head is in the right place, I wouldn’t bet against Carmelo in a first-round series, even with coach George Karl sidelined for health reasons. Meanwhile, Deron Williams is a legitimately great point guard and Jerry Sloan is a legitimately great coach. But, as usual, the Jazz have already over-performed to get this far. Denver in 6.
Cleveland Cavaliers (1) v. Miami Heat (5): It’s the Batman versus Robin series, as 2006 co-champs Shaq and D-Wade square off against each other. But, let’s be honest: This series is about Superman and, with all due respect to Dwight Howard, King James is gonna roll right over the Heat. Cleveland in 4.
Orlando Magic (2) v. Atlanta Hawks (3): Howard’s no slouch either, of course, and while I still think Vince is Orlando’s weak link, I don’t have enough of a sense of the Hawks to pick them here, and everyone wants to see the Cleveland-Orlando Eastern Finals. Orlando in 6.
Los Angeles Lakers (1) v. Denver Nuggets (4): Kobe returns to the scene of the crime. Part of me kinda wants to knock LA out in the next series, against the Mavs. Denver is a maddening team that never quite plays to their potential, and it’s hard to envision George Karl out-coaching Phil Jackson anytime soon. But, screw it, I’m picking an upset — Don’t let me down, ‘Melo. Denver in 7.
Dallas Mavericks (2) v. Phoenix Suns (3): Used to be my homey, used to be my ace. But there can be only one, and Dirk Nowitzki’s got considerably better back-up than Steve Nash. It should be interesting to see how Shawn Marion plays in this series. Dallas in 5.
EAST FINALS: Cleveland Cavaliers (1) v. Orlando Magic (2): LeBron versus his 2009 nemeses, except now Shaq’s around, and he should have enough left in his tank (not to mention 12 fouls with Big Z) to keep a body on Dwight Howard in the paint. King James will be looking to exact his revenge, and I suspect he’ll be playing out of his mind. And this is where I highly suspect that Vince Carter will pull his folding chair routine at some disastrous point in the clutch. Cleveland in 6.
WEST FINALS: Denver Nuggets (4) v. Dallas Mavericks (2): If Denver does pull off that upset over LA (you heard it here first), I still see them running into a wall against the Mavs. Dallas is hungry and they’re deep. I would even have them beating LA in this spot, although it might take seven games. As it is, Dallas in 5.
FINALS: Cleveland Cavaliers (1) v. Dallas Mavericks (2): Last year, I picked Cleveland over LA just because I couldn’t in good conscience pick the Lake Show. But this year, I’m picking Cleveland because they’re the best team. Speaking as a Knicks fan, I’m thinking it’s probably better for me if the Cavs get knocked out at some point, so that LeBron won’t feel the need to stay in Cleveland for a title defense. But, quite frankly, I don’t see that happening. The Mavs came close once again, but in the end, I’m going Cleveland in 6, for LeBron’s first — of many — rings.
And, hey look, they already won Game 1. Now let’s see how wrong I can be…The NBA, it’s faaaan-tastic!
So, yeah, for the ninth year in a row — going back to their original sin of trading Ewing for crap (Luc Longley, Glen Rice), which soon multiplied into more crap (Howard Eisley, Shandon Anderson) — the Knicks have stunk up the joint. The T-Mac Hail Mary failed (although nowhere near as badly as the sad, lingering saga of Eddy Curry), and our one decent player — David Lee — is resigned to improving his game elsewhere.
“[I]f James, Wade and Bosh truly want to make history, they could do the unthinkable and split the Knicks’ $33 million three ways. It would cost them salary money, but can you imagine how much they’d make on the back end if they started reeling in NBA titles? In New York?” No, I’m afraid I cannot imagine it. I’ll have to see it for myself… ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski makes the case for the top tier of NBA superstars all signing with New York this summer. Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?
In a flurry of moves at the deadline, the Knickerbockers acquire Tracy McGrady in a three-team trade (for Jared Jeffries, Jordan Hill, Larry Hughes, and two draft picks), dump Nate Robinson on Boston (for Eddie House, basically), and end the Darko experiment (trading him to Minnesota for Brian Cardinal, who will likely be waived.)
The upshot here? We get Tracy McGrady for 31 probably meaningless games, and should have lots of money to play with in this summer’s LeBron sweepstakes — enough to sign two marquee free agents next year. All in all, well-played, New York. Here’s hoping the post-Ewing decade of losing is at last coming to an end.
“You know it. I know it. Worst of all, Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni know it. The slogan printed on the tickets this season should be ‘BIDING OUR TIME’ and not whichever metropolitan polemic that the MSG public relations department dreams up. We are a team of second-string transients and, like a young girl with a year to go until she gets her braces off, we will muddle through this next year with bigger dreams of what we can be, and will be, in 2010.“
The 2009-2010 NBA Season starts tonight, and, um, the Knicks don’t look very good. (I’ve been playing them this past week in NBA 2K10, and, yeah, they’re terrible — the simulator never lies. But hope springs eternal. And, hey, maybe that new point guard Murphy can right the ship…)
On a Draft Day deal with potential title implications, Shaquille O’Neal joins LeBron James in Cleveland. (Phoenix, giving up on their ill-advised Shaq experiment, pick up Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, and the 46th pick — so, this is a money move, basically.) To my mind, this is a solid move by the Cavs. Shaq may be in the tail-end of his career, but he’s still good enough and strong enough to draw double-teams down low, which is exactly what Cleveland was missing this past post-season. Pick up a pure shooter or two to spread the wings and keep the D on Lebron honest, and the Cavs are looking deadly.
Other than Shaq, the other major move of late was Richard Jefferson to the Spurs for Bruce Bowen and Kurt Thomas, which puts a stop to San Antonio’s slide in the West almost immediately, and should make them a contender again if everybody stays healthy. And ex-Knick and now-journeyman Jamal Crawford looks headed to Atlanta from Sacramento, where he’ll undoubtedly put a lot of points on the board…but I don’t really see him making that team a top-tier contender. At least in the Knick days, his D was atrocious.
Speaking of New York, they tried to move up the draft to No. 5, but now look to be hoping somebody decent falls to 8 tonight. They may also be trying to get Darko Milicic for Quentin Richardson, which sounds iffy on paper. But perhaps Darko has improved since his days as a notable draft day bust. In any case, we’ll see how it all shakes out tonight at the Garden.
Update: The Knicks buy a late first round pick — 29 — from the Lake Show. “‘Certain teams, they may want to preserve cap space for the next year or two and they may need to add players,’ Kupchak said. ‘A good way to add talent at a fixed price is to have a lot of draft choices and then you can still maintain cap space a year from now.‘” And we all know what happens a year from now…
“The games are fluid. There’s a good energy on the court. People talk on defense. When Salazar finally gets in, it’s obvious he is actually pretty athletic, and he has a lot of hustle. He’s not easy to cover. Someone yells, ‘Who’s got Secretary?’” By way of a college friend, ESPN looks at Pres. Obama’s “Power Game,” and the ensuing newfound popularity of hoops in DC. (Apparently, in the Big Game, they don’t call fouls, but rather chalk them up as “enhanced defensive techniques necessary to Keep Our Lane Safe.” [Rimshot] Thanks, I’ll be here all week, be sure to tip your waiters.)
Anyway, the last time I lived in DC it was generally pretty easy to find a court on a weekend — We usually set up shop on either end of Adams-Morgan (or later, after I moved to VA, right down by the King Street metro), and the other folks playing/waiting to play were locals of some variety, not just aspiring politicos. I did occasionally play in one “power game” of sorts back then, which involved a number of folks from a liberal-minded journal of some repute. It was probably the most Type-A athletic endeavor I’ve ever been involved in, and that’s coming from a guy who played high school sports in the South and spent four years among Ivy League rowers. With all due respect, I prefer the random pick-up games, I think.
These are actually a weekend late now, and my knowledge of the league now that I’ve left New York (and thus haven’t been watching Knicks games) is at an all-time ebb. Then again, broadcasting uninformed opinions is pretty what much the Internet was created for, so, without further ado and as per tradition, some quick NBA playoff picks…
Cleveland Cavaliers (1) v. Detroit Pistons (8): As per the last few years, I still don’t think King James’ supporting cast quite matches up to the moment. (I like Mo Williams, but he’s no Scottie Pippen, and “Big Z” — Zyldrunas Ilgauskas — is definitely no Dennis Rodman.) That being said, Lebron is pretty much playing to his amazing potential and then some, and it’s clear that — while he may still be Jordan circa ’89-90 at the moment — his dynasty is right around the corner. Conversely, the Pistons look old, tired, and broken. Particularly without Allen Iverson on hand, they would seem to be in the shoes of the mid-00′s Kings: a former title contender now obviously in eclipse. Cavaliers in Five.
Boston Celtics (2) v. Chicago Bulls (7): The Game 1 upset was a certifiable coming-out party for all-around player and Rookie of the Year PG Derrick Rose. (The facet of his game that most needs work: post-game interviewing.) But, let’s remember: The Bulls won Game 1 because Paul Pierce uncharacteristically missed a clutch free throw. With Kevin Garnett reportedly out for the playoffs, I think Boston is dead in the water this year — it’s just a matter of time (And, to be honest, that’s fine with me. They deserve some horrible mojo after swooping up Stephon Marbury as they did.) But they’re still a better team than Chicago and, remember, they had trouble with Atlanta early on last year too. Boston in Seven.
(By the way, was anyone else annoyed with the dubious and oft-repeated stat that Chicago hadn’t beaten Boston in a playoff game since 1948? Uh, well that may partly be because the Celtics were atrocious from the time Larry Bird’s back gave out until Michael Jordan retired. It’s not like the Bulls are the Bobcats, Wizards, or some other legitimately underdog franchise.)
Orlando Magic (3) v. Philadelphia 76ers (6): I’m fond of Superman (Dwight Howard), but, for all the hype surrounding Orlando mid-season, blowing an 18-point lead at home against the lowly Sixers is not something a real title contender would do. And, in the one (nationally-televised) Knicks game I have caught recently, the Magic looked terrible. But I’m not a particularly big fan of this Sixers crew either, so I’ll give ‘em the benefit of the doubt and say Orlando in Seven.
Atlanta Hawks (4) v. Miami Heat (5): To be honest, I don’t know the first thing about this iteration of the Hawks: I hadn’t seen ‘em play until yesterday, and the last news I heard about their franchise was when Josh Childress went to Europe. But they looked pretty dominant yesterday, and they’ve got a proven clutch performer, Mike Bibby, running the point. So, even though the refs love them some D-Wade, I’ll go with Atlanta in Six.
Los Angeles Lakers (1) v. Utah Jazz (8): Always a tough call, for, as longtime readers well know, neither Kobe Bryant nor the Mormon church tend to be in my Fave 5. (And Carlos Boozer is his own case of bad mojo.) Still, the Lakers are deep, Kobe is an undeniable talent, and he’s got arguably the most underappreciated No. 2 in the league right now in Pau Gasol. I think, barring injury, this could very well be the Lakers’ year. In any case — sorry, Jerry Sloan — Deron Williams, Andre Kirilenko, & co. won’t stop ‘em. Los Angeles in Four.
Denver Nuggets (2) v. New Orleans Hornets (7): This is one of those series where all my old intel isn’t of much use. Chris Paul and the Hornets looked deadly last post-season — exactly the type of team you didn’t want to run into early on. But I haven’t seen them play this year and don’t know if they’ve lost a step or if they’ve found a way to score when Chris Paul gets triple-teamed. Meanwhile, on paper Chauncey Billups running the Nuggets seems like a huge boon for them — he’s had experience managing hotheads (Kenyon Martin, meet Rasheed Wallace) and can successfully distribute shots among a bunch of players who all need the ball. But is he really enough to stop a George Karl team from choking early on? Given that they’re already one up, I’ll say Denver in Six.
San Antonio Spurs (3) v. Dallas Mavericks (6): With Ginobli out, the aging, injured Spurs got a spot of luck when they matched up against another fading West Coast giant, the Mavericks. I doubt the Spurs are good and/or healthy enough to get to the Conference Finals this year, but I don’t have much confidence in Dallas either. San Antonio in Seven.
Portland Trailblazers (4) v. Houston Rockets (5): I’ve gotten the impression from various sources that Portland is a much better team than they displayed in Game 1. And they’ve certainly got an impressive core of young talent in Roy, Aldridge, Oden, etc. (I kinda wish Channing Frye had continued to develop, but oh well.) Still, just by the law of averages, I think Yao et al are due to break out of the first round. (And there’s a certain irony that they’d finally get to do it after perennial loser T-Mac sorta checked out on them.) Houston in Seven.
[Hmm. With one exception, I picked the top seed every time again. Way to go out on a limb.]
Cleveland Cavaliers (1) v. Atlanta Hawks (4): LeBron and the Cavs have pretty much been playing a higher-level of basketball than the rest of the East this year, particularly at home. And I think King James is too focused this year to screw things up in the second round. Cleveland in Five.
Boston Celtics (2) v. Orlando Magic (3): Like the Spurs-Mavs, I don’t have a lot of faith in either of these teams at the moment. But, while I had Boston winning this at first, I think I’m going to switch to the Magic. Perhaps the first round will work out the hiccups for Stan Van Gundy’s team, and — without Garnett on Boston — I’ll go with youth and energy over age and guile. Orlando in Seven.
Los Angeles Lakers (1) v. Houston Rockets (5): I’m going to be rooting quite hard for Yao Ming and the Rockets here. But, as with the Cavs in the East, the Lakers are just operating at a different level right now. Los Angeles in Six.
Denver Nuggets (2) v. San Antonio Spurs (3): Unless they psychologically implode, and there’s always a chance of it with this combustible squad, I have to think Denver has enough weapons to take care of injury-ridden San Antonio. Denver in Five.
EAST FINALS: Cleveland Cavaliers (1) v. Orlando Magic (3): Third verse, same as the second and first. The Cavs are playing better ball that most everyone in the East at the moment, and James will not be denied. Cleveland in Five.
WEST FINALS: Los Angeles Lakers (1) v. Denver Nuggets (2): With Phoenix, Dallas, and San Antonio on the way down, Denver now looks to be one of the premier contenders in the West. But, unless Carmelo has the type of break-out, monster playoff performance that many think he’s capable of but that we’ve yet to see, I don’t see this being all that close. Los Angeles in Five.
FINALS: Los Angeles Lakers (1) v. Cleveland Cavaliers (1): If you read what’s come before, you may have noticed that I deemed this the Lakers year a few paragraphs ago. And that’s probably true — they’re hungry, they’re experienced, and I don’t see how Cleveland’s going to manage once Phil Jackson uncorks his own version of the Jordan rules on LeBron. But, I’ve gotten pretty far in life rooting against the Lake Show…so, no reason to stop now. Cleveland in Seven.
So, there you have it — Cleveland rocks. And, if they’re this good now, just wait until James get some legitimate help…I just hope it all happens on the Knickerbockers’ watch.
“‘I don’t know what’s going to happen in 2010. I can’t plan for it,’ D’Antoni says. ‘I just know I live with these guys. My focus is on them. I want to wake up in 2010 and have a couple of the players we have now be the guys we want.’” As his first season with the Knicks winds down (which can be roughly summarized as “Waiting for LeBron”), ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” posts a long (and snazzily-designed) interview with Coach Mike D’Antoni.
Following up on his stated intentions to free cap space and pave the way for acquiring LeBron James in 2010, Knicks GM Donnie Walsh pulls the trigger on two big trades, sending Zack Randolph (and trade-filler Mardy Collins) to the Clips for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley (pending a heart issue — make your own joke here) and Jamal Crawford to the Warriors for Al Harrington, all of which will be off the books during the crucial free agent season in question.
I guess it seems a bit distasteful to embrace so openly the hired-gun philosophy of winning a championship…but, hey, that’s the way the game is played. So, with that in mind, kudos to Walsh on a job well done (and good luck moving Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry.) Besides, we Knicks fans have slogged through the past eight years since the cap- and karma-destroying trading of Patrick Ewing. At this point, we can probably eat another two.
While Philadelphians wait one more day (they hope) to end their 25-year losing streak, basketball-inclined sports fans such as myself are now focused on Beantown, where the 2008-09 NBA season tips off tonight on TNT. (And, hey, with zero games played in the season, this newest iteration of new-look Knicks are tied for best record in the league!)
Seriously, tho, while I expect another, ahem, “rebuilding” year in New York despite the best efforts of Walsh and D’Antoni, it’ll be good to have the NBA back in town — and Kenny, EJ, and Charles back in the studio. Particularly now with Mad Men in mothballs again, Inside the NBA is probably my favorite show on television…even if they don’t deign to show the Knicks this year.
“One observer from yesterday’s workout noted the uneasy atmosphere among the other players. ‘You could just feel the hate,’ the person said.” It’s been rumored all summer, particularly since the Knicks acquired Bulls backup Chris Duhon. Now, according to the Daily News, the tortuous Marbury era in Madison Square Garden looks like it may be coming to an end this Friday. “Several persons with knowledge of the situation have indicated that the Knicks are planning to part ways with Marbury by the end of the week…The Knicks will likely place Marbury on waivers and, once he clears, begin negotiating a buyout. Marbury will then be free to sign with another team; the Miami Heat have a desperate need at point guard.“
On one hand, getting nothing in return for a player like Marbury seems like a loss for the Knicks. Then again, with his massive contract, Stephon basically has little-to-no trade value — See also Zach Randolph. And if he’s as much of a locker room cancer at this point as this article suggests, we might as well just cut him and start the D’Antoni era fresh. So, so long, Stephon. And if you start actually playing to your long-heralded potential this coming season for Miami, I’m going to be very irate.
Update: “This thing is initiated in the press and then I have to ask questions about it,’ Walsh said, sounding somewhat perturbed. ‘I haven’t approached [Marbury] about a buyout.’” New GM Donnie Walsh says it’s not so.
Round 2 of everybody’s favorite party game: What do Berkeley and Seattle sports fans have in common this week? Answer: They both absolutely detest the sound of “Thunder.” The Oklahoma City Thunder (nee Seattle Supersonics) officially unveil their new name and logo. (I guess the Oklahoma City Whirlwind might still have been considered in poor taste.)
On the Knicks side of the ledger: As Patrick Ewing enters the Hall of Fame — and his son, Patrick Ewing Jr., comes to Knicks training camp — is new GM Donnie Walsh really thinking of picking up former Detroit bust Darko Milicic? I know we want to unload Zack Randolph’s contract at all costs before 2010, but aren’t we a big enough joke around the league without adding the Frederic Weis of #2 picks to our roster?
The Knicks lose their Gamecock on the bench: Energy player Renaldo Balkman is traded to the Nuggets for peanuts (a 2010 second-rounder, Taurean Green, and Bobby Jones, both of whom will be waived.) “Balkman became expendable with the addition of first-round pick Danilo Gallinari. The Knicks also have an increased role in mind for Wilson Chandler at small forward.” (What about Q-Rich?) That’s too bad…I always liked Balkman. You can’t teach hustle.