Sunday, March 30, 2014
Here is what I believe, as a fan, that the Knicks should do to improve their team going forward.
1. Re-sign Carmelo Anthony.
Carmelo is a great player and an amazing scorer. What would be a more fitting scenario for the Knicks than if they let him walk only to see him find huge success on a good team and bring a championship to another city.
I feel Carmelo is in a position that has been seen many times in the NBA before. A score-first player who has began to grow a little sour on his fan base. The media and fans alike are saying that he is not a player who will be able to bring a championship to the city.
I compare this situation to those of Paul Peirce and Dirk Nowitzki. Both players were in similar situations, taking the blame for the lack of playoff wins for the respective teams. Both players stayed loyal to their teams and when the proper team was built around them were able to lead their teams to championships. Carmelo given the right team around him can absolutely lead the Knicks to a championship, and Phil Jackson is in a position to build that team. Letting him walk would only set the franchise back many years, on account of having one first round pick in the next three years.
2. Fire Mike Woodson.
While I was a fan of Woodson, he has proven that he’s lost the team and has made way to many mistakes with everything from player development to his rotations.
3. Develop the young talent on the team.
There is a potential starter in Tim Hardaway Jr. and a very good, athletic swing man (a position that is so important in the NBA today) in Iman Shumpert if his confidence can ever be restored after years of trade rumors and mishandling by Woodson. And keep developing Toure' Murry, who has shown glimpses of being a good backup point guard who always brings energy and defense, although Woodson pulls him at every small mistake.
4. Sign Rajon in 2015.
While the Knicks are stuck for one more year with the roster they currently have, almost everyone becomes a free agent in 2015. This means that they will have huge cap space in a summer where there will be a lot of great free agents.
The Knicks #1 priority should be Rajon Rondo. As much as I have hated him on the Celtics, I would love him equally as much on the Knicks. He would be the perfect point guard for a
Carmelo-led Knicks team. He is a defensive stud and true point guard, two things that are the opposite of Raymond Felton. He can control the offensive perfectly. In fact, he is amazing at running a offense. He could balance getting Carmelo good shots while keeping everyone else in the game.
And defensively, the Knicks would go from having arguably the worst defensive point guard ever in Raymond Felton to one of the elite defenders in the league. No more point guards penetrating with ease. No more career nights for almost every point guard they play. No more giving up 31 points to the likes of Jarret freakin Jack in must win, maybe season ending losses. Rajon Rondo wouldn’t solve every problem, but he would be the perfect complement to Carmelo Anthony.
Saturday, March 22, 2014
As my brother will gladly tell anyone who will listen to him, I have been about as mean-spirited toward the Knicks as possible in recent years while still considering yourself a fan. Carmelo, JR Smith, and most of all James Dolan have all drawn large amounts of scorn from me, but now, just when I think they can’t be any more inept, the Knicks go and do something like this…and completely redeem themselves?
Well, not yet, obviously. But unlike every other Knicks move in recent years this is a huge step in the right direction.
What I have seen and heard from Phil Jackson and James Dolan in the time since they announced he would become President of Knicks basketball has been basically exactly what I wanted to hear as a fan. Dolan has said he is going to relinquish control, and Phil handled the infamous New York media very well in his press conference I thought. On top of that, the Knicks seemed to play inspired in their first game with him in the Garden. And in a truly weird turn of events, I actually have a small glimmer of hope about the Knicks and their chances to win a title for the first time in longer than I would like to admit. But, it is still the Knicks, and they are still owned by the front man from JD and the Straight Shots.
However, before I get ahead of myself and actually let myself get excited about New York basketball, it is important to keep in mind how big a hole the Knicks have dug for themselves. I’m no cap-ologist but a decade-plus of mismanagement of any business is going to result in a disaster.
But if anyone can clean up the Knicks it’s the Zen Master himself, and I personally am excited to see how it all shakes out, for better or (if possible) worse.
Monday, March 10, 2014
Let me first say flat out: I have huge personal respect for Mariano Rivera. Through a long career in a tough town, he carried himself with the greatest possible class. I am moved by the story of his asking Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel, whether it was okay with her that he was the last player still wearing Jackie’s number 42. Her response, and I paraphrase, “I’m so pleased you’re the last player ever to wear Jackie’s number. You are the greatest possible ambassador for Jackie’s values."
And I agree completely.
And I agree completely.
That said, I’m afraid it also has to be said that to be the greatest closer ever is simply to be the best pitcher not good enough to be an elite starter.
Let’s go back to the mid ‘90s. At the beginning of their careers, it wasn’t clear for either Rivera or Andy Pettitte whether they’d be starters or relievers. In fact, at that early point, it seemed more likely that Rivera would be groomed to be a starter and Pettitte relegated to the bullpen. And relegated was the word back then.
Then a few things happened, the most important for Pettitte being that he developed a curve, which rounded out the assortment of pitches he needed to be a starter. Rivera never mastered the 2 or 3 plus-pitches a starter needs, which left him the bullpen as his only option, where of course he mastered the cutter that became his ticket to closing. And as closers go, there’s never been a better one than Rivera.
But does anyone really believe that any elite starter couldn’t close? Is there anyone who doesn’t think that Clayton Kershaw or Steven Strasburg couldn’t save 45 games a year?
Doubters need only consider the cases of John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersley, the only pitchers ever to have won 20 games in one season and saved 50 in another. Smoltz was an elite starter who had Tommy John surgery and spent the next three years as the best closer in the National League. Then, when he’d regained sufficient arm strength, he went back to starting and had a good, long second run as a starter. And Eckersley went to the bullpen only after reaching the end of a long and successful run as a starter. His bullpen numbers may well have been the more important factor in his induction to the Hall of Fame.
To close (pun intended), there are just a few simple truths at work here: First, if you have a Clayton Kershaw, you’d rather run him out there for 200 innings a year than for 60. Second, a pitcher with one pitch can’t face a batting order twice in the same game, and so can’t be a starter. But third and finally, if that one pitch is a dominant one, it may still be enough to be a closer.
Which all leads to the simplest truth of all: A dominant closer isn’t as good a pitcher as an elite starter.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
I grew up as a baseball player in the greater NYC area in the 1990s, so admittedly I’m a bit biased. But Derek Jeter is absolutely one of the legendary Yankees, shortstops, and baseball players ever to lace ‘em up. In an era of baseball now as tarnished (more tarnished realistically) than any other in history, Jeter is not only someone who played the game right, but he did it with pizzazz, flair, and passion that few others could.
Derek Jeter played for the most iconic team, in the biggest city, in a very successful era. And throughout that time, more importantly than stats or other numbers, Jeter managed to produce a number of amazing memories. Not the least of which, was the following:
That was one of the most instinctual, amazing plays ever, and it came in the American League Division Final. Classic Jeter. I say classic Jeter, because unlike a lot of other great players who might produce more numbers or play better defense, Jeter managed to place himself into the legend of baseball, like Babe Ruth "calling" his home run, or Willie Mays catching the no-look ball over his shoulder.
Jeter produced that caliber of baseball moment. From the flip play, to him flying into the stands behind 3rd base (this time in the World Series), Derek Jeter did something that a very rare number of players made, and truly made himself a legend.
At least in the eyes of one generation of baseball fan.