Friday, November 30, 2007

Around the Internets in Eighty Minutes

1) SI.com has a interesting round-up of the NFL prospects on display in all the conference championship games this weekend.

2)

Pre-Gaming: Knicks vs. Bucks

Oh, what a night this could be! I'm so glad that I bought tickets to this game the other day. I was just hoping to get a look at Yi. He's more popular than the Super Bowl, you know. But, now....NOW, I'm walking into the Garden on a night where anything is possible. I don't even know if the team will show up. Literally. I wouldn't be surprised if we get there and they've all boarded flights for non-extradition countries. It will just be 15,000 fans. Someone will put on a few pots of coffee and we'll sit around talking about Kenny "Sky" Walker and Sidney Green.

Or, I guess, the Knicks could show up and go forward with the game. And, then, what happens? I have no idea but I can't wait.

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?

(The first in a weekly series of complaints and hand-wringing.

You know what really grinds my gears? The selection process for the non-BCS bowls.

We all spend so much time arguing about the BCS system but really most of us see our alma matters relegated to one of the myriad other bowls that proliferate across the country throughout the month of December. Most of those bowls have affiliations with the various conferences across the country. For example the legendary Humanitarian Bowl traditionally pits the champion of the WAC against the 8th choice team from the ACC. Meanwhile, the Gator Bowl pairs the ACC #3 and the Big 12 #4 in most years. In principle this is not an altogether unappealing way of creating inter-conference rivalries. However, everything falls to pieces when you realize that ACC #3 does not mean that the team finished 3rd in the ACC standings. It means that the team was the third school selected by a bowl.

This really grinds my gears because if BC were to lose tomorrow's ACC Championship Game against Va. Tech they could potentially fall from the BCS Orange Bowl all the way to Champ Sports Bowl played on Dec. 28th, being passed over by the Peach Bowl (or the Chick-fi-A Bowl as it is now called) and the Gator Bowl who have the choices of ACC #2 and ACC #3 respectively. In each instance they would be passed over for a lesser team who didn't reach the Championship game and, in the case of Clemson, who BC actually beat. The Gator Bowl committee claims that they do not want the ACC Championship loser in their game because off their game's proximity to Jacksonville while the Peach Bowl folks are very open about the fact that they're just trying to sell tickets and they feel like Clemson might be a safer bet due to geography and the fact that their are twice as many students there as there are in Chestnut Hill, MA.

Boston College could be passed over in spite of having 10 wins, rising as high as #2 in the rankings and boasting a Heisman-candidate QB because the hosts of the Peach Bowl and the Gator Bowl are skittish about Northerners making the trek down to their games. The idea that some schools "travel" better than others puts a premium on the size of a student population rather than the talent of the team. This takes on an extra level of insidiousness because of the fact that monetary awards are given to the schools. Essentially the big schools get supported whether or not they are any good and smaller schools never get the money they actually need to improve facilities and never get the chance to answer questions about their ability to travel. By sending smaller schools with strong football teams (BC) to lesser bowls in backwards places their travel rep becomes self-fulfilling.

Shouldn't the game that will have to be played on the field be more of a determining factor than who the organizers can sell tickets to? After all, the better the matchup the more tickets you'll be able to sell to non-alumnus. With good games you could actually sell tickets to real football fans in your host city. Now, there's a novel idea! But by forgoing the best teams for the biggest student crowd you force yourself to sell tickets only to those two fanbases because no one else in your area wants to see mediocrity.

Of course, none of this will matter once Matty Ice takes the field in Jacksonville and dominates. BC will head to the Orange Bowl and the Peach Bowl won't pass on Virginia Tech and their 25,000 students. But the fact that this sort of thing is even possible really, really grinds my gears.

Omar: "I'm Keith Hernandez"

ESPN and SI websites are both reporting that the New York Mets have dealt outfielder Lastings Milledge to the Washington Nationals for catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church. What?

The folks over at Capitol Punishment (a Nats blog) are understandably excited about this deal:

"More money + potential All-Star outfielder! All for a fourth outfielder and a light-hitting catcher? Sign me up!"

Me? I'm less psyched. Unless this is Part 1 of a multi-part plan that nets us Santana, Haren or Bedard than this looks like a horrendous deal. Not only did we give up our top prospect (since injuries kept L-Milz from playing much last year I still consider him a prospect) to a team in our division but we took back two very average ballplayers. We just gave away the guy who two years ago was as untouchable as Wright and Reyes for an older and less-talented outfielder and a catcher who will be a backup if all goes well with Castro.

Omar has jumped the shark. This is his "I'm Keith Hernandez" moment.

Lupicas, Thomsens & Bermans. Oh My!

(What the Pros are Writing About the Knicks Today)

-Mitch Lawrence's version of the Fire Isiah story in today's News.

-Virtually everyone over at Daily Dime has at the Knicks this morning. I'm pleased and disappointed to see that Marc Spears also noticed the similarity between last night's Knicks performance and the workman-like demeanor of the 0 for life Washington Generals. That was the consensus on my couch too. The Knicks were out there technically playing basketball but without any overt signs that winning or competing were on the docket.

..and, that's all. My eyes are bleeding from reading all of this.

Friday's Starting Five

1) Aaron Rodgers replaced Brett Favre in last night's NFC-uperbowl and while I can't say with any certainty how Rodgers would handle himself playing high stakes poker while on a river boat it is safe to say that he did well last night quaterbacking the Packers. Of course, the Boys still rolled to victory (with a few crucial whistles taking all the drama out of the ending).

2) The Cowboys are officially the NFC Pats. TO is the NFC Moss and Romo is the NFC Brady. And just like the NFC they are not quite as good as their AFC counterpart.

3) Johan to Red Sox? So Beckett would be there 2? That is terrifying if I'm a Yankees fan. Thankfully I'm not and therfore it's not.

4) The GS Warriors are back. With their win over the Rockets last night they've brought their record to 8-7 after their 0-6 start.

5) Louisville comes back from 18 in second half to end Rutgers regular season on a sour note. Ray Rice still got his. Over 100 yards rushing and three tds.

The Bench: The Knicks have been intentionally left out of the starting five. They don't even deserve to crack the lineup on a Knicks blog.

"You don't just come out and quit. You have to have a reason or someone has to make you quit."-Kevin Garnett

"Patrick Ewing is rolling over in his grave."-Charles Barkley

A Game in Quotations
Part 2 of 5


Second Quarter

"You can't make this stuff up...which has to be a first in NBA history."-Marv

"The Big Baby out of nowhere diving on the floor!"-Reggie

"...and the Knicks shooting has been brutal."-Marv

"Oh! Nice move by Allen. The second effort, Balkman thought he had him but Allen kept coming."-Marv

16-32

"That's two free layups off the same play that the Celtics have gotten."-The Czar

18-35

"The Celtics have outscored the Knicks 10 to 2 in the second quarter."-Marv

"When your #1 and #2 options, the Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry, are not going then you start to press and start to shoot outside shots."-Reggie

18-37

"Garnett out hustling two Knicks and it pays off. Eddie House from downtown!"-Marv

18-43

"There is no excuse for this. This is unbelievable."-Reggie

"Fred Jones has come on the floor for the first time."-Marv

22-44

"With the talent we brought in it's like 'wow,' it's like a breath of fresh air."-Paul Pierce in pre-taped interview

"What Pierce just said about a breath of fresh air. Is that what the Knicks have been going through? It has been six seasons since Jeff Van Gundy being the last coach when they won 48 games seven seasons back. Since that time 30, 32, 39, 33, 23, 33 wins, a stretch of futilty that they have to deal with."-The Czar

"Nice move by Robinson!"-Marv

29-48

"Pierce for THREE!"-Marv

29-52

"Right now the effort that the Knicks have given is subpar. I look at the body language on the Knicks bench, I'm looking at Mardy Collins and these guys and I don't even think they're...the body language doesn't look good."-Reggie

"For the Knicks a season low for a half with just 31 points."-Marv

31-54

End of the Second Quarter

"I've never even someone get beat at darts this bad." -Kenny Smith

A Game in Quotations
Part 1 of 5


Pre-Game
"Stephon Marbury and the Knicks have won their last two but are winless on the road. They'll try to change that in Boston where Kevin Garnett and the Celtics haven't lost en route to the NBA's best record. Kevin Garnett and the Celtics are eleven and two. It's time for TNT NBA tipoff presented by autotrader.com"--Ernie Johnson

"And this is a matchup of two teams that are going in opposite directions. This is a Knicks team that is 0-6 on the road while the Celtics at home, 7 and 0...The Knicks have been a team in utter chaos and it's tough to consider this a rivalry if both teams do not excel. As the Celtics control the opening tip..."-Marv Albert

First Quarter

"Rando takes it to the rim."-Marv Albert

0-2

"Right now New York has three possesions, three jump shots. Something Isiah Thomas really did not want to see. They need to establish Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph down low."-Reggie Miller

"That's Richardson for Three!"-Marv Albert

3-4

"Their record really doesn't indicate how good they good be and they're a joke because they should be much better than they have really indicated so far."-Reggie Miller

"This is a team that is very poor at the defensive end and they'll turn the ball over. Their is a lack of chemistry. If you look at it in terms of a fantasy league team, yes."-Marv Albert

"But, Marv, I really like their talent. I think they've got talent. They've got size, uh, they're strong at each position. I really like they're second five. While they miss a layup right there, but I like their size and I think their big problem and question mark is going to be with the Knicks is chemistry."-Reggie Miller

3-8

"Allen pulls up. Yes!"-Marv Albert

3-10

"Since we're jumping on the Knicks right now to start out the game, one of the problems right now is chemistry. Chemistry right now because of all the scorers."-Mike Fratello

"And this is a Boston Celtic team that was horrendous."-Marv

"You can immediately tell that New York is going to have to get back in transition. The Celtics are running the floor hard and pull up and spot up behind the three point line and there is no one there to challenge the shooter."-The Czar

"So, the Knicks are 1 of 9 here at the start."-Marv

3-12

"Right now if I'm Isiah I'm scratching my head because this is a big game and you've won two in a row against Chicago and Utah. This is a chance on national TV to come out and make a statement and right now they're not doing that."-Reggie

"Well, Reggie, this is a very good offensive unit, this, as Curry turns for the turnaround jumper and misses it, it's a very good offensive unit. It's a very bad defensive unit."-The Czar

5-16

"The Knicks open up 2 of 13...and Kevin Garnett already has 7 rebounds."-Marv

"Welcome back to Boston, the Celtics have a 16-7 lead. I'm Craig Sager with the Lincoln Sideline Report. The last few months have been very difficult times for Isiah Thomas...He said last night a personal grudge was renewed between he and Boston and the Celtics fans. He checked into his [hotel] room [last night], went to a spin class and he said that when he went back to his room he was locked out. They had changed the lock."-Craig Sager

7-18

"How about the Knicks now? 3 for 16 from the field and it's not like the Celtics are going at a blistering pace with their shooting."-Marv

"Randolph rarely gives it back once the ball goes down low to him"-Marv

"Their is no ball movement for the Knicks right now on offense. You gotta have some kinda system where the ball moves a little bit from side to side."-Reggie

"Randolph! It is deflected. He is Oh for Six here at the start."-Marv

"Here's Brian Scalabrine who just came on, that's a THREE, off the bench to give the Celtics a 23-98 lead"-Marv

8-23

"The guy who made the play is Scalabrine, who settles, puts it on the floor, dribbles hard and gets a wide open look for Rondo."-The Czar

"Randolph! So Randolph with his first bucket, he had missed his previous seven shots."-Marv

14-25

"So the Celtics with a 27-16 lead after one."-Marv

End of First Quarter

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Since we're jumping on the Knicks right now..."

This is historic. I'm actually giddy watching as the Cetlics are attempting to double-up the Knicks. If I am 100% honest, I want to see it happen just so I can say that I saw it happen.

Pre-Gaming: Knicks vs. Celtics

It's a big one. Or, it can be a big one. If we win. If we lose than the result can be credited to the Celtics dominance rather than the Knicks ineptitude. But if we win than all of a sudden that dreadful West Coast trip seems like a long time ago. If we win that means a three-game winning streak with a home game tomorrow night against the beatable Bucks of Milwaukee. If we win it's a big one.

So, how do these Knicks beat those Celtics tonight? Here's how:

1. Stephon Marbury needs to dominate his matchup with Rajon Rondo. This is one of the only spots on the floor where we have a marked advantage. Marbury needs to be aggressive going at this kid. Unfortunately, Marbury occassionally seems less motivated when playing against the lesser guards in the league. Hopefully, that won't be the case tonight. With his old running mate Garnett on the floor and all the pub around Boston this shouldn't be a problem.

2. Ditto for Eddy Curry and his matchup with Kendrick Perkins. He needs to fill up the paint and basket. Mercifully, they don't score much from the center position so we don't have to worry as much about Eddy's defensive struggles.

3. Speaking of defensive struggles, we need to figure out who guards Ray Allen? Do we really entrust this job to Jamal Crawford? I feel like we need to put Q on him as much as possible. And then we can get Richardson to post him up on the other end in hopes of tiring him.

4. Next, we need to figure out early on who can guard Paul Pierce? I feel like we need to put Balkman on Pierce as much as possible. And, if he tires then we need to try sending Jeffries at him. It is highly unlikey that Zach Randolph will slow down KG so it is of paramount importance that Knicks do everything they can to stop Pierce and Allen.

5. Eddie House cannot be allowed to go all Daniel Gibson on us. We need to keep him from raining down threes. It's one thing to lose this game to any member of THE BIG THREE and something else entirely to loose because we can't rotate to the open shooter.

6. The Knicks second unit needs to continue to be a strength. Lee, Balkman and Nate coming off the bench need to take advantage of the C's lack of depth. The Knicks need to make up ground with this group if they fall behind or, hopefully, pull ahead if they're in when the game is close. The Big Three will get their numbers over the course of the game and we need to make sure our Bench Three does the same.

If we do these things than we MIGHT win this game. Then again, we might not. Either way I'm sure Charles Barkley will have some wondrous zingers to share at half-time.

Around the Internets in Eighty Minutes

1) Bo Knows Killing Bears

2) Entertaining article in Washington Post about former D3 full-back turned BC head coach Jagodzinksi.

3) From homo-curious cow-poke to Broadway Joe?

4) Play-by-play, analysis and axe-grinding aplenty will be offered by tonight's broadcast team for tonight's NYK/C's game.

Lupicas, Thomsens & Bermans. Oh My!

(What the Pros are Writing about the Knickerbockers)

-Thems be fighting words. Q sounds off on the C's Big Three for Bart Hubbuch at The Post. It's nice to see a player with some confidence, even if it is baseless.

-According to the Sun, we should forget tonight's game and focus on tomorrow's tilt against Yi and the Bucks. Since I've got tickets for Friday I'm not going to argue.

Thursday's Starting Five

1) Challenge is not really the right word. ACC dominates Big Ten again, winning 8 of 11 games in the annual series of inter-conference matchups. And, while Ohio State actually gave #2 UNC a ballgame, the domination was punctuated last night with Boston College's second-half romp at Michigan. Tyrese Rice scored 28 and keyed the 12-0 run that put the game and the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on ice.

2) Delmon Young for Matt Garza. Who for What? Hitting for Pitching. Young troubled stud for young slightly underachieving stud. Rays and Twins. Delmon Young may be a nutbar but he is very, very good at baseball. It's not quite the A-Rod deal but it means the Twins have quietly and economically replaced Torii Hunter. That was quick.

3) Fear the one-year Turtle. Stevie Franchise sparks Rockets and Yao brings the gasoline. Yao dropped 31 and grabbed 13 as Houston beat Phoenix. With 3 straight wins the Rockets have recovered from their slump (6 straight losses) and they've already got statement W's over LA, Utah, San Antonio, Denver and Phoenix.

4) Police announce that they have no suspects in murder of Sean Taylor and say that all evidence points towards break-in gone wrong.

5) Dwight Howard hung 39 on the Sonics last night. And used the space needle as a toothpick.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm taking Reggie Miller's side

I'm sorry Pat. I'm sorry John. I'm sorry Charles. And, Spike. Oh, Spike. I'm so sorry. But Reggie Miller, that unfortunate looking washed-up former basketball player with a gargantuan and more talented sister, knows what he's talking about when he says that:

"Right now, [the Knicks] are a league-wide joke. It's sad because they are an historic and iconic franchise. But people think they are late night comedy jokes."

This quote appeared this morning in an article by Frank Isola in The News. And while it is no surprise at all to see Cheryl, err, I mean Reggie gathering attention unto himself at the expense of the Knicks, it is quite unusual for me to be in complete agreement with him. It pains me. Right in my neck. Nevertheless, this emaciated and soulless, one-dimensional jump shooter cum mediocre television analyst makes some keen observations when it comes to the Knicks:

"You always want your best player, which is Stephon Marbury, and head coach to get along. When Steph steps on the court, they've got to get on the same page. They've got to right the ship. It's disturbing. He flies home, flies back to L.A. The team votes (for him) not to play. Those are things that can destroy a team. You've got to make an example, but he plays him 40 minutes. What is that saying?"

This snippet from Isola's article offers a glimpse into the wide-open expanses of Miller's mind. It is important to remember that Reggie is well-versed in the troubles of being coached by Isiah Thomas. Our local problem was his local problem during some of his last seasons in Indiana, when he was regularly buried on the bench by Isiah during crunch time. Of course, to Zeke it made perfect sense to keep such an assassin, whose only good minute per game was likely the last one, as far away from the ball as possible during the fourth quarter. Such strategy is one of the many reasons why those Pacers never won a playoff series.

Lupicas, Thomsens & Bermans. Oh My!

Or, What The World is Saying About the Knicks

-Ian Thomsen, over at SI, wrote yesterday that things aren't nearly as bad for the NYK as it seems. He (who still admits to picking them 6th in the East) contends that their is enough talent on the roster for this team to overcome this early season skid and still vie for a playoff spot. I tend to agree. And it terrifies me. Not because I don't want to agree with Thomsen. He's a smart fellow. Rather, it terrifies me that this team is definitely capable of stringing together enough wins to keep Isiah Thomas patrolling the sideline. They've got enough talent to win some regular season games by making making a minimal amount of clutch plays. That much is certain. The team may keep Isiah around, but Isiah will hold the team back. He is not a good in-game coach and he has clearly mishandled his best player. If even half of the stories are true And, while Thomas deserves credit for his talent evaluation (i.e. drafting), he has been a disaster as a coach and as a team architect. This team deserves better. The fans deserve better. And, it seems like the team will have to lose in the short run before they can win. So, therefore it terrifies me that I agree with Thomsen.

-Frank Isola at The News marvels at Isiah's turnaround with Steph.

-The mathematically talented John Hollinger explains how the Knicks main problem is their offense and NOT their defense.

-Knicks rate 28th out of 30 teams in the latest Power Rankings over at SI.com.

READ OF THE DAY: there's a great piece by Howard Beck in the NYT about the Marbury/Garnett breakup. It's both a reminder of what could have been and that Garnett's HUGE contract is what caused the '98 lockout. Great work.

Your Local Listings

[I've created a sort of TV guide in an attempt to keep the burgeoning readership of What Would Oakley Do? informed about the latest developments and to create some sort of plan for myself. So far I like doing the Starting Five each and every morning. Like a well Irished coffee, it gets us all going first thing.]

The Listings

Daily Knicks Fix: Pre-Game, Post-Game and the occassional In-Game commentary on each and every contest. The Knickerbockers will always be the focus in this space and the glue that holds the rest of this together. But man cannot live on Knicks alone (trust me, I've tried) so they'll be some diversity. It's what Oakley would want.

Monday
AM:Starting Five/ Monday Morning General Manager/Lupicas, Thomsens and Bermans. Oh My!
PM: The Attic (new feature debuting this coming Monday)/ Around the Internets*

Tuesday
AM: Starting Five /The Better Half / Lupicas, Thomsens and Bermans. Oh My!
PM: College Footbal & Baksetball/ Around the Internets*

Wednesday
AM: Starting Five / Lupicas, Thomsens & Bermans. Oh My!
PM: Fantasy Atlantic, The Beautiful Game, Around the Internets*

Thursday
AM: Starting Five / Lupicas, Thomsens & Bermans. Oh My!
PM: What If...(new feature debuting tomorrow), MLB Hot Stove, Around the Internets*

Friday
AM: Starting Five / Lupicas, Thomsens & Bermans. Oh My!
PM:You Know What Really Grinds My Gears? (new feature that willl be debuting this Friday), Around the Internets*

Saturday/Sunday:
Knicks posts and anything else that catches my attention will be posted in a haphazard way without any concern for the time of the day.

So, it seems like all that is missing is Hockey. Well, my apologies go out to Brian Marker. He is the Hockey fan that I know. Please pass along my apologies to the one (and only) Hockey fan that you may
(or may not) have in your lives.

*Please send links if you come across anything while wasting time at work.

The Better Half

(ESPN has Erin Andrews, FOX has Pam Oliver, ABC has Michelle Tafoya and What Would Oakley Do? has Becca. Please join me in welcoming our first-ever sideline reporter/guest columnist. "The Better Half" will appear in this space each and every week and will feature the best, brightest and prettiest sports-related musings in all of the land in an attempt to explain what our girlfriends and wives are thinking when we ask them if they want to order wings before the Giants game starts.)

The Better Half
Episode Three
An Open Letter to Colt Brennan


Dear Colt Brennan,

Now, I know that you never did anything to me, my friends or family members. And I’m told you’re a good player. But after watching you play football on television this past Friday night I decided that I do not like you. At all. In fact, my dislike quickly metastasized into hate as I watched you strut around like you’re the bee’s knees.

I became even more disappointed with you and your face after I got a good look at the rest of your team, the Hawaii Warriors. Those guys play hard. They are brutal. They make professional football players look like lazy pansies who drink tea and crumpets. In fact, I think all the players were actual warriors in a past life. No, I mean actual warriors, like the ones in history books, with chain-link armor and long scraggly beards. The rest of the Warriors are 100% terrifying and have given me a newfound respect for football, football players and the state of Hawaii. It may have just been the whole drum/face-painting/culture thing they have going on, but nonetheless, this was zealousness bordering savagery.

But Colt, you’re different from your teammates. I mean, you “play hard”, sure, but your attitude, your style, your mien, it puts me off, Brennan. You have the all-American good looks of a David Wright, but lack the gracious, genuine, and humble charm. You just saunter along the sidelines like your farts don’t stink. Like you’re too cool for school. But I’m almost positive you have stinky farts, and I know that you are currently enrolled in college, most definitely a type of school. You give off a repulsively smug air that doesn’t warrant the title of a Warrior. And for someone who “watches a lot of football”, I find that kind of sideline behavior tacky, and unattractive. I don’t care that you are a good player. And even though I don’t know what the Heisman award is, I am sure that you shouldn’t win it. Well, unless it is some kind of award for douchiness. Then, you get my vote.

Good luck!

Love,

Becca

Chocolate Unicorn Elves vs. Rainbow Warriors

My neighbor Karl has some harsh words for the teams vying for a spot in the BCS title game. Oh, and for Eli Manning:

Wednesday's Starting Five

1) Lebron James scored eleven points in overtime (and 38 overall) as the Cavs edged the Celtics 109-104. As far as November goes this is a pretty big statement game in the Eastern Conference. Some Ray Allen doppelganger missed two free throws at the very end of regulation (23 ticks left) that could potentially have won the game for the C's. I say it must have been a doppelganger because the real Ray Allen shoots 89% from the charity stripe. Of course, it would have been nice if the Cavs would have chosen to hang this loss on Boston at time when the Knicks were the next team to roll into town. Thanks.

2) Simeon Rice was cut by the Colts yesterday. This guy must be d-o-n-e. I've heard his name about four times this season and every time it seems like someone else just released him. Dancing with the Stars and autograph signing at Tampa area card shows beckons...

3) Kobe (35) leads Lakers in scoring. Durant (25) leads Sonics. Lakers win. Sonics lose. No surprises. The alleged sexual criminal (that is Bryant and not Durant) passed former Knick great Bernard King for 32nd place on the all-time scoring list.

4) Arsenal actually lost a game. Yes, they had already qualified for the next round in the Champions League. But the Gunners 1-3 loss at Seville marks the first time that they've stepped off the pitch without that winning (or, at least, that tying) feeling since April. That is 28 games.

5) Boomer blames Archie (yesterday). Reese blames Eli (two days ago). Eli stares and looks mildly confused (everyday). The little guy has been (rightfully) getting raked over the coals after that 4 INT game against the Vikes. Eli currently ranks 24th in QB Rating, 27th in completion percentage, 26th in yard per passing attempt and is tied for last place (with 2 others) for most interceptions thrown. On the bright side, he has the 10th most touchdown passes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesday's Starting Five

1) Redskins safety Sean Taylor passed away last night. That means that he died. He was/is 24 years old. He was shot in his Miami home with his fiancee and 18-month old daughter also in the house. This is just unfathomably sad. And it doesn't matter how people feel about Taylor or his style of play. He was 24. He just had a baby. He was about to get married. Sad. Sad. Sad.

2) Miami escapes victory in rain. Pittsburgh escapes expectation of beating Patriots with another lackluster game against another lesser team from the AFC East.

3) Ricky Williams is back. Then he got stomped on. I can only hope that the trainer didn't write any refills for that painkiller prescription.

4) At some point last night, the sporting media learned that the Yankees want to acquire Johan Santana. WHAT? OH MY GOD! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT. Oh, wait. I can believe it. Johan is the best pitcher on the Earth and is potentially in the prime of his prime. Of course, the Yankees want him. And would be capable of paying him. They print money. And for a change they have some young talent. But so do several other contenders. This is just beginning.

5) Wiz beat Mavs. Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are picking up slack with Agent Zero out. It seems likely that this good karma is due to the fact they Wizards have decided to retire Earl "the Pearl" Monroe's #10. Well played, Wizards.

"Jazz flute is for little fairy boys"

Knicks beat Jazz, 113-109

The Knicks have a winning streak. Two games in a row. It is something. They beat a good team last night that got solid performances from its stars. Deron Williams was real good. In the fourth quarter Carlos Boozer was even better. It seemed like the song was going to remain the same as the Jazz closed the gap coming down the stretch. But Eddy Curry blocked a shot, the Knicks grabbed the back-breaking offensive rebound and held on to win the contest.

Steph was the best player on the court. He scored 28. He played defense. And thanks to him the Knicks have a winning streak. Two games in a row counts as a streak. It is most definitely something.

What They're Saying:
ESPN.com
The News
The Post
The Times

Monday, November 26, 2007

This Just In: Sean Taylor shot. Bad.

Washington Redskins's safety Sean Taylor was found by paramedics at his home late last night, with a gunshot wound to his groin.

According to The Miami Herald:

"patrol officers received a call about 1:45 a.m. Monday that a homeowner had been shot in the leg. The homeowners told police they heard intruders at the rear door of the house, trying to pry it open.
The male homeowner went to investigate and a woman in the house then heard a shot. Paramedics responded and found Taylor with a gunshot wound to the groin."

According to The Washington Post, Taylor is in critical condition. This all sounds bad.

Monday's Starting Five

1) Pats ALMOST lose to Eagles. Dewey holds late lead over Truman. Now that would have been a great way to end a long weekend. However, the run at 16 continues at full speed in New England. While a QB controversy could be brewing in Philadelphia.

2) Back together again: England and Croatia matched up in the same qualification group for the 2010 World Cup just a fortnight* after Croatia dumped the English out of the running for the Euro 2008 Tournament and oft-injured but still famous England striker Michael Owen remarks that not a single Croatian player would even earn a spot in the English lineup. They said the same thing about George Washington.

3) I skip the game and they win. The Knicks won for the first time on Saturday, when I wasn't present. Yes, it feels like a betrayal. Yes, I have mixed emotions about all victories that prolong Isiah's stay. They scratched out a win against the free-falling Chicago Bulls. The team's three wins are against Minny, Chicago and Denver. That's one legitimate win and then two eeked out W's over two of the only teams who may be worse than the Knicks. Up next, the Utah Jazz.

4) Eli just got picked off trying to pass the leftover sweet potatoes. That performance was really bad. Vinny in Tampa bad. Gary Myers offers a pretty good breakdown of the historically bad outing in today's NEWS.

5) Mizzou wins Border War. In Kansas City. Which is in Missouri. It's easy to see why this one gets heated. The Tigers jump up to No. 1 in the BCS standings. West Virginia is the new No. 2 and provided both win next week (v. Oklahoma and v. Pitt respectively) then they will meet for the NC. Oh, and Pat White should win the Heisman Trophy. He is awesome. And, is leading his team, below-the-radar, to a national championship. By the by.

*It wasn't really a fortnight but when writing anything about the English I prefer to use this term for any and all lengths of time.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Things I'm Thankful For Today:
-That I'll be sitting down for a meal later today with all four of my grandparents who are still running around and having a fine time.

-Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Game 5 of the 1998 Eastern Conference First Round Playoff Series.

-The POSSIBILITY that Isiah Thomas could be fired soon. Maybe even tomorrow. Even if it is not likely it is still possible and for that I am thankful.

-Endy's catch. I was there.

-That David Stern rigged the NBA Draft Lottery in 1985.

-The Dunk.

-The chance to attend so many Knicks games when I was kid. I'm very thankful for all those nights that started out with dinner at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant called The Print Room in Hackensack, NJ. Hamburger with fries. The hamburger was usually a little over done and the fries were those thick "steak fries." And, then off to MSG with my dad, my grandfather and my uncle.

-The 4-point play.

-That for one afternoon all of New York and New Jersey and Connecticut will be rooting for the same football team: The Jets. As a Jets fan in a family full of Giants fans it will make the day go a bit smoother. Of course, they'll all be blaming me after the 'Boys roll over Gang Green.

-That Guillermo Mota is history. The Mets traded this horrorshow yesterday for the artist formerly known as Johnny Estrada. Addition by Subtraction.

-That Trent Tucker hit that shot to beat Chicago before they invented the Trent Tucker Rule.

-That my sister, Sarah, made it home from New Mexico for Thanksgiving.

-Anthony Mason, Xavier McDaniel, Kurt Thomas and every crazy-eyed and hard-nosed player who has donned a Knicks uniform.

-Game 5 of the 1990 NBA Playoff Series between the Knicks and the Celtics. Ewing and Bird each scored 31, but Patrick lead the Knicks over the C's with a memorable three-point shot in the deciding game of this series.

-That the Knicks found Gus Johnson after they shamefully fired Marv Albert. The only way Thanksgiving could be better was if Gus was at our table and announcing the meal. And, "Marilyn PASSES the sweet potatoes! OOH! This IS Thanksgiving!"

-Gerald Wilkens, Kenny "Sky" Walker, Johnny Newman and every other good Knick who gets forgotten.

-All of the food that I'll be eating in a few hours and the great nap that I'm going to take afterwards.

-And of course, I'm thankful for June 27, 1988. On this day the New York Knickerbockers traded Bill Cartwright and some draft picks for Charles Oakley and some draft picks. Oak was three seasons out of Virginia Union and the inside presence that the Knicks needed to pair with Ewing. Say what you want about Rick Pitino as an NBA coach but this was an inspired move. It is one of the best days of an era that is finally starting to be recognized for how good it actually was.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

With Arenas Out are Wiz desperate enough to...

Trade for Marbury?

It was announced late this afternoon that all-world guard and uber-weirdo Gilbert Arenas underwent knee surgery to repair a torn left meniscus. He tore the same meniscus last April and surgery on the same knee. He'll be out approximately three months. That's until like until the end of February at the earliest.

Ouch. I'm very disappointed as a basketball fan and as someone who bought tickets to Knicks vs. Wiz on January 15th. Gilbert is easily one of the five best attractions in the Association. On the court he is a vision of strength and speed. He seems to tower over certain players while flitting peskily around others. He is one of a kind. Off the court he cheats at video games lives in a vacuum sealed house kept at Colorado-like altitudes somewhere in the DC metro area and is just an all-around spaceman.

More importantly to Wiz fans and players he was the meal-ticket. They're screwed. Probably. They've got a lot of games to play before he gets back. Seasons are decided in a time frame like that. Windows open and close. Of course, the East is not very deep so everyone is still alive. Even the Knicks.

And, as a Knicks fan I can't help but get my gears working about what this could mean for us. Our team is desperate. I am desperate. Misery loves company and now we've got some. The Wiz are newly desperate. So, I say, let's play nice. Let's share. Let's trade.

Perhaps they would want to take on Stephon Marbury, who comes with baggage but who is also perhaps the ideal stop-gap until Arenas comes back. He is a scoring point guard who needs a new home and good be had for a lesser talent. And, looking at the numbers the Wiz have the expiring contract of Antawn Jamison as a trading chip. I checked with the ESPN Trade Machine (which I am severely addicted to) and a one-for-one swap of these two works out without even having to include spare parts.

It would give the Wiz a slightly unsavory but highly viable way of keeping afloat until Gilbert is back and then a third option (after Gil and Caron) if they could make it to the postseason. On the other side, it rids the Knicks of one of their myriad distractions. It also helps the fiscal nightmare that is the Knicks payroll. Of course, they're still on the hook for one jillion dollars to seventeen other players and announcers and carnies but actually acquiring an expiring contract rather than shipping one out would be a start.

Let's see.

Their Record is Already Worse than the Jets

Knicks run over in the Motor City

In his post-game comments Flip Murray, the former Division II collegian and current Pistons back-up, summed up the Knicks performance best:

"They looked like they didn't want to compete. They were just out there. All you had to do was look at their body language. I don't know what's going on over there, but they've got a lot of issues."

Yeah, that just about says it. This is a travesty. Those who should be the best played the worst. Those who aren't nearly as good proved it but tried hard.

Alright, back to baking pie. And happier things.

Pre-Gaming: Knicks at Pistons

-Will Isiah finally hear some applause? What means more to his old fans, sexual harassment or two titles?

"What Are They Doing? This is Basketball not Recess!"

And Other Leftover Thoughts and Quotations from Last Night

Knicks 82 - 108 Warriors

-Malik Rose, Mark Aguirre and one of the ballboys were the only three clapping when Isiah got introduced during the pre-game introductions. Their furiously fast-moving hands couldn't quell or mask the boos coming from the stands. It was loud.

-There was audible laughter in the crowd during the ferociously silly freestyle walking + Knicks = video montage that plays when the lights go down for the player introductions. From production values to offensive production, this team has fallen off the cliff in every observable facet.

-Stephon Marbury is still the team's most reliable offensive weapon. Curry can't seem to handle the ball in traffic or pass out of a double team. Zach Randolph's mid-range jumper is off and he is a vortex from which no light escapes. Jamal Crawford is Jamal Crawford. Meanwhile, Steph took the ball hard to the rim and shot (or was fouled in the process of shooting) seven times last night. He scored 11 points on those seven plays. Zach Randolph scored 4 more. Steph was fouled three times. Zach was fouled twice after grabbing the offensive rebound off two misses. The Knicks got an average of 2.14 points if Steph took the ball to the rim looking to shoot. Steph's relative efficiency going at the rim is especially noteworthy on a team that needed 79 shot attempts and 23 free throw attempts to reach 82 points.

-Right or wrong, the booing of Steph was impressive at the start. This was a dedication to dislike that is usually seen in college ball. You don't see this sort of passion at the pro level too often. Each time he touched the ball on offense the crowd come alive with derision. This went on for over half the first quarter and flared up sporadically the rest of the way. This was JJ Redick in the Dean Dome treatment. As you can probably tell, I still think the Knicks need Steph to have any chance of winning games and I definitely side with him in his feud with Isiah Thomas. Still, it was pretty awesome how much the crowd was on him. These are the same fans who make the Garden the best place on the Earth to play ball. This is the same passion that makes this the best-ever home court advantage in the NBA. When things are going well. No fans will be louder when a team is on DEE-FENSE. Last night, we showed the flip side. The passion doesn't go away when the team is bad. It just needs a different outlet. Last night looked darn close to sold out. We're ready. But the team isn't.

-Isiah was thoroughly out-coached by Don Nelson. Thoroughly. The lineups he was throwing out on the floor in the second half were characteristically haphazard and ill-suited to taking control of the game. He was reactionary rather than proactive. He is in panic mode no matter how cool he may seem in the post-game press conference.

-Baron Davis is real good: 39 minutes, 31 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block against just 2 turnovers. He is a joy to watch. He didn't elicit the oohs and aahs that Iverson got when he was here but he was possibly even more impressive. He is a thick man. As soon as Mardy came in for Steph late in the first quarter (the score at this point was 15-15), Davis upped the defensive intensity seven-fold. He had no respect for Collins and overplayed him on defense. He was ALL over him in ways that he wouldn't risk with Steph. As a direct result of Davis's savvy, the Knicks had consecutive turnovers during the first two possessions with Collins on the floor (one by Mardy and one by Jamal). The Warriors went on a 6-0 run.

-Mardy Colllins is not ready. He may still be the point guard that all the fans desperately want him to be. He may. But he wasn't that guy last night. Last night he was as overmatched as Isiah. He was a liability on defense. And timid on offense.

Oakley would fire Isiah

And, whoever runs the video screen at MSG

Apparently, Charles Oakley was in attendance at the game last night. My roommate, who caught some of the game on television, told me that. What? Those of us at the game had no idea that one of our most beloved heroes was sitting in the same auditorium and breathing the same vitriol as we were. We had no idea because Oakley was never shown on the GardenVision screen at any point. Of course, I could tell you that the scourge of ESPN Classic, Robert Wuhl, was there. Because he merited some screen time. They give us Wuhl and no Oak? This is a travesty and has to be an intentional slight against the team's past. Someone, somewhere in that building hid him from us. Perhaps because Oakley would remind us of a time when hustle and heart and passion where the hallmarks of the players who donned the home uniform in that building. Perhaps because he came from a team that was perpetually in contention for a title on the basis of their brute strength and force of will. Perhaps because he would have brought each and every fan to their feet and only bad things could happen for Isiah if that ever happened.

The Better Half

(ESPN has Erin Andrews, FOX has Pam Oliver, ABC has Michelle Tafoya and What Would Oakley Do? has Becca. Please join me in welcoming our first-ever sideline reporter/guest columnist. "The Better Half" will appear in this space each and every week and will feature the best, brightest and prettiest sports-related musings in all of the land in an attempt to explain what our girlfriends and wives are thinking when we ask them if they want to order wings before the Giants game starts.)

The Better Half
Episode Two
Home-Game Away From Home


Yesterday I had an usual (for me) clothing predicament. I was going to the Knicks/Warriors game and I didn’t know if I was supposed to wear my Warriors shirt or my Knicks hat. I’m from Berkeley, but I live in New York. It’s a quandary many have faced before—who do you root for when your hometown team plays your local team? And, when you’re a not-so-sports loving girl, do you stand by your man (a Knicks fan), or do you stay loyal to your roots? Since I couldn’t quite answer such heavy questions at 7:30 in the morning, I packed both the shirt and the hat. Planning on making the decision later, by making lists of course!

Pro Warriors shirt:
  • I am from California

  • I was raised a Warriors fan

  • Chris got me a special Warriors shirt that I never wear, so here’s a good opportunity



  • Pro Knicks hat:
  • I will be at Madison Square Garden

  • Chris likes the Knicks. A lot. He has Knicks boxers. His brothers have Knicks wallpaper

  • I know a lot (relatively) about the Knicks and follow them sorta kinda

  • Eddie Curry’s tush

  • Nate Robinson’s nimbleness


  • Knicks win? That just didn’t seem fair, because if it weren’t for the second thing on the Knicks list then I probably wouldn’t be at the game to begin with. Shouldn’t things like loyalty and what my dad and brother like override big butts?

    I was still unsure about who to support when the lights at Madison Square Garden dimmed. But when the announcer called out each Knick player, I knew that it wasn’t big butts that ensured my decision, it was that I got a genuine thrill from going to a Knicks game. This excitement came from my newish knowledge of the team—and the sport in general. And both of those came from going to the games themselves.

    I’m always surprised at how much else is going on besides the actual game. People were booing Stephon Marbury and chanting “Fire Isaiah!!.” Drama! Scandal! The celebrity sightings include James Blunt (ew) and Robert Wuhl (an actor I’m sure made his last appearance as a random reference on Family Guy). This is disappointing, but it’s the holidays and the Knicks blow. Hard. The highlight of the night was probably when someone yelled, “eat a hamburger” to a skinny Warrior.

    Yeah, the Warriors are all really skinny, and Eddy Curry just stands there with the ball like he’s a grown-up holding candy and all the kids are trying to reach it. I love it but still become totally bored by the Knicks suckiness. I start poking Chris and asking him questions about the movie Michael Clayton, which we saw a week ago. Chris asks if I have changed back to being a Warriors fan, and I say no. Chris asks, do I want to go the next home game on Saturday? I don’t. BUT, I’ve still got my Knicks hat on.

    After all, I was never an avid Warriors fan. They were just another team I was raised to root for, like the Giants, the Forty-Niners, and the Cal Bears. And even though that does carry a certain weight (which I don’t mean to poo-poo), it shouldn’t mean I have to stick with my hometown teams forever. Right? Sometimes you have to move on! Be your own woman. My fandom for the teams here in New York is something I never had for my teams at home. I am choosing to accept and embrace that. Even when the Knicks really blow. Which they did. Hard.

    Nadir

    One way or another this game was going to be significant. The team had lost six in a row. They'd been swept on the most disastrous road trip since the Second Crusade (rout at Damascus was even worse than loss against Nuggets). Steph was starting. Isiah was coaching. Or, at least, sitting in a seat where coaching would normally occur. If the Knicks won then perhaps the debactacular West Coast swing could be looked back on as the season-turning, gut-check moment. We could say that benching Marbury worked. That it focused the team. On the other hand, if the Knicks lost in an embarrassing enough fashion then perhaps this would be the impetus for Jimmy Dolan to finally fire Isiah Thomas. One way or another this game was going to be significant.

    The Warriors beat the Knicks 108 to 82. The Knicks were never closer than 9 in the second half. Never closer than 13 in the fourth. They turned the ball over 27 times. Against the worst defensive team in the league. The boos poured forth from the crowd as frequently as Baron Davis's shots made their way through the net. The "Fire Isiah" chants began in earnest as the last seconds of the first half ticked away. The Warriors ended the half (and the competitive portion of the ballgame) on a 9-2 run that was keyed by NY turnovers. Isiah was, again, badly outclassed as coach.

    The ball (metaphorically) is officially in Dolan's court (literally) now.

    It can't get worse than this. The team is a disgrace. It is a joke. Knock, knock. Who's There? The Knicks. It is a cautionary tale. It is a reason for people with severe problems to feel better about their lives. Oh, don't worry. It could be worse. You could be a Knicks fan. They have transcended sports and become a part of the popular culture in the way that only the sublimely good and bad can ever do. The '07 Knicks and the '07 Patriots both have what it takes. The team is worse than their record states. They are synonymous with failure and hubris and folly. They are Watergate. They are Laser Discs. They are Waterloo. They are David Caruso leaving NYPD Blue. They are Colin Powell at the UN in 2003. They are Michael Jordan playing baseball. They are Godfather Part 3. They are Joey, Baywatch Nights and every failed spin-off in the history of network television. They are Bud Dry. They are The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and The Revenge of the Sith combined. It can't get worse than this. However, it can stay this bad. And, it will stay this bad as long as Isiah Thomas is affiliated with this franchise. He has failed at the task set before him. He has butchered the roster. He has banished tradition. He has crippled the financial flexibility of the team. He has alienated the fan base. He has alienated his peers. He has alienated his players. It can't get worse than this.

    But how long will it stay this bad?

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007

    f-I-re! Is-A-ah!

    Pre-Gaming: Knicks vs. Warriors

    Some Facts and Thoughts Before I Head over to MSG

    • Marbury is starting: somehow I feel like Isiah is starting him in hopes that most of the booing during the team introductions will go Steph's way rather than his. Or, maybe it's about basketball. I couldn't tell you. With Marbury starting how will Mardy be deployed. He was not seeing any time before the road trip. Does Isiah see him as a contributor or merely a means of punishing one of his other players?


    • Marbury vs. Baron Davis: In spite of it all, this is a matchup that I would pay to see. In fact, I did. Both have had their ups and downs with the public. Guess who is up and who is down right now?


    • The Rotation: Isiah needs to find the new normal with the rotation. He had a short bench when the team looked good, but the wheels have entirely come off over the past week. In other words, Fred Jones needs to stay put on the bench.


    • Will Dolan be at the game? Will Isiah be fired if the Knicks lose? Will the team tank the game hoping that's the case?


    • Stephen Jackson, Don Nelson and the rest of the Warriors will also be there tonight. I'm pretty psyched to see this team. I was pulling for them during the playoffs last year and will root for them throughout this season. Except for tonight.


    • Does watching Andris Biedrins shoot free-throws lead to blindness?


    • Will my girlfriend, who hails from the Bay Area, be wearing her We Believe t-shirt or her Knicks hat? Or both? I don't know. Will we get into a fight about it? Entirely possible.


    • And the role of Daniel Gibson will be played by...Monta Ellis.

    Starting Point Guard or Backup Shooting Guard?

    Is Stephon Marbury better suited to be a 1 or a 2? Is he the best point guard on the Knicks roster? If he should be the shooting guard then should he be playing ahead of Crawford? Or should he be coming off the bench (with Crawford shifting to the point) to lead the up-tempo second unit? For a moment, let's put aside all of the questions about the relationship between the player and the coach or any questions of punitive actions on Isiah's part. The real issue surrounding Marbury's status is the uncertainty about what kind of basketball player he is at this point in his career. And, where does he fit on the team that the Knicks are sending out onto the court.

    As a point guard, Marbury is still more talented than anyone else on the Knicks roster at this position. His minutes have reflected that whether he starts or not. Still, his game is not ideally suited for a post-oriented offense, which our personnel would seem to dictate. He needs the ball in his hands to be at his best. This is not a character flaw this is just the way he excels at the game. Most players in this league do not excel in all facets and all styles of play. They have obvious strengths and weaknesses and teams are constructed accordingly. Well, except for the Knicks. Marbury's strength has always been scoring, getting to the hoop and getting to the free throw line. He is still the best we have at getting the ball to the rim. When he lowers that shoulder he's going to get a shot off or he is going to get fouled. With the game on the line against the Clippers, on the night after he had skipped a game, the ball was still in Marbury's hands when it mattered most. He missed a potentially HUGE three-point shot but got to the rim for two to keep the game alive a bit later.

    Meanwhile, Mardy Collins is the point guard on whom we have all pinned our hopes. Yet he has not shown much in the last few games. In fact, all we've got to go on are a string of strong games down the stretch of a lost season. Even coming off the bench, Marbury is playing far more minutes than Collins, who still does seem the most capable (of all of our guards) of playing a pass-first, feed-the-post game at the point. Ultimately, the team needs the sort of guard that we all want Mardy to be but needing and hoping cannot make it so. The best that Isiah can honestly say about Mardy this week is that he is not Marbury. Or Nate. Or Crawford. His mistakes won't be their mistakes.

    That brings us to Nate Robinson, who is a lesser version of Marbury. He is more explosive but even less in control. And although he has made some noticeable strides from last season, his cannot be the count by which this team keeps time. He is best used as the spark plug off the pine. The fact that Mardy got the starting nod while Steph was missing in action shows that everyone is pretty sure about not starting Nate. This is fine by me.

    And, then after we talk about all of the players listed as point guards we come to the player who handles the ball the most: Jamal Crawford. A versatile and skilled offensive player, Jamal is less of a defensive presence than Marbury. He is doormat, a turnstile and less imposing than a speed bump. Like Marbury he has his niche and struggles when asked to do more. He is a scorer. Not a shooter. A scorer. He makes off-balance runners in the lane. He has a cross-over dribble that rolls ankles. He is fearless and has no memory of missed shots. He has been clutch down the stretch of games and, at the very least, brave down the stretch of others. However, he has been hounded by traveling violations, can be a black-hole in a half-court set and is only able to assist Eddy Curry. He is not a starting-caliber point guard.

    As a shooting guard, Marbury does not seem likely to play over Crawford, who is entrenched as a starter with Isiah and seems to have the faith of his teammates in the fourth quarter. Still, Crawford's shooting is erratic and often absent in the first halves of games. On a good team, he would be the instant-offense off the bench. He would be the gunslinger in the second unit that would revive a team during lackluster outings. On the Knicks he leads the team in minutes played (39.9) and his shortcomings are exposed too often. When his shot is not falling he has not figured out a way to get to the free-throw line consistently, even though he is the team’s best free-throw shooter. Each of the past few seasons he has gotten better at this but Marbury still can initiate contact near the rim better than most guards. This gives him something to fall back on even when his shots won’t fall.

    I guess Fred Jones should figure in here somewhere as well, but between Steph, Mardy, Nate and Jamal we’ve got plenty of guards to fill 48 minutes. And, as a change of pace I’d love to see us go BIG sometimes and play Quentin Richardson in the 2 hole.

    As a defender, Marbury is not often going to impress. His speed going at the hoop no longer translates to staying with his man. He can be beat off the dribble over the course of a game. He will get his hands in some passing lanes and notch a steal or two coming to double on another team's 4 or 5, but on the whole he is a sub par defensive player. However, he is on a team full of less than stellar defenders. Crawford might as well have the word "welcome" printed on his shirt where it says New York. In fact, the only players who put forth consistent effort on the defensive end are Lee, Balkman and Richardson. Therefore, it seems foolish to harp on Marbury's lack of defensive prowess. He was brought here to rack up points and assists. He never had a rep as a defensive player. If Isiah brought in Bruce Bowen and he couldn't defend then we should get on Bowen but this is different. He is who we thought he was. And who Phoenix thought he was. And who NJ thought he was. No one was mistaking Steph with Bruce. Bruce, what a funny name for a basketball player...

    As easy as it is to pile on Marbury lets not forget that he is very, very good at playing basketball. He was once great at playing basketball. And, not too long ago. Yes, he is a complete nut-bar who may be crazier than Kurt Thomas and Travis Bickle's love-child. But he can still contribute. Is Marbury better than Oscar Robertson? No. Is he better than Magic Johnson? No. Is he better than Isiah Thomas? No. But he is one of the few folks who has ever been able to put up comparable numbers and he is currently a better point guard than Nate Robinson, Jamal Crawford or Mardy Collins (and is arguably a more reliable shooting guard either Jamal, Nate or Fred Jones).

    And, while he isn't going to single-handedly lead any team to a championship, how many players have ever really been able to do that on their own? Yes, It was foolish to build a team around him but that isn't really his fault. Is it? That was the fault of the architect: Isiah Thomas. Our team president is an incompetent jackass who brings absolutely nothing to the table while our wayward, sometimes starting point guard can at least offer tangible results.

    I know which one I would rather keep.

    Heinsohn: "replacing Rajon Rondo is Stephon Marbury"

    In It Couldn't Get Worse Until it Did news, some writer over at MSNBC throws some more fuel on the Marbury to Celtics (after a buy-out) rumor. This notion produces a sharp pain in my abdomen.

    Running Late

    Sorry folks, but my BETTER HALF is running a little bit behind schedule. I think she is watching her hair or washing her Friends. The next installment of her weekly column will appear in this space tomorrow.

    Tuesday's Starting Five

    1) During this holiday week there may not be anyone more thankful for Isiah Thomas and the New York Knicks than Lawrence Frank and the New Jersey Nets. Losers of six straight, after last night's beat down at the hands of the Jazz, the Nets have dropped as many on the bounce as their crosstown rivals. They've just done it without cross-country temper tantrums, threats of blackmail or fundamentally and comically flawed ownership.

    2) A-Rod wins MVP and NY writers complain that two Detroit reporters (who voted for Magglio Ordonez) kept it from being the first unanimous vote in a decade. All of a sudden the whole opting out fiasco is in the rearview mirror. Rivera is locked up for another three years (although thinking of Mo hobbling out to Enter Sandman in 2010 doesn't strike much fear). Posada is locked up until his knees snap off. It seems the last outlier is Pettitte. And if they sign him then the Yankees are right back to being a team who needed an amazing second-half run and the best player in baseball to have the best season in his career just to make the playoffs and be perfunctorily dismissed in the first round. Well played, Hank. The Torre departure seemed like the ideal time to work on reconfiguring the team (not the dreaded rebuilding) but it seems like all the efforts thus far have been to maintain the status quo. At least, so far.

    3) At 6-4 the Charlotte Bobcats are off to the best start in franchise history. The perpetually under-pubbed Gerald Wallace has scored 27 points in three straight games and these guys seem like they're doing this on purpose. Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic team that was last seen beating the Celtics is very quietly 10-2 after a win at New Orleans. Dwight Howard is a beast (no doubt due to the tutelage of Patrick Ewing) and their only losses have come against Detroit and Phoenix.

    4) Ron Mexico, er...Dog Fighter McGraw, I mean former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has turned himself in early to police in hopes of beginning his yet to be determined sentence a few weeks early. Vick is not due to be sentenced until Dec. 10 so this is either an attempt to score some points with the sentencing judge or it's just a way to get that whole jail thing over as soon as possible. I'm sure the recent reinstatement of Ricky William and Chris Henry and Tank Johnson and Chuck Manson into the League has given him some hope regarding his on-field future.

    5) Lloyd Carr announces his retirement as head coach at the University of Michigan. The name everyone mentions is Les Miles from LSU. But can you really leave the LSU job these days? Is Michigan still a top-5 gig? If Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia gets shut out of another BCS championship game perhaps he would be ready to jump ship and head to a school with an easier path to the title. And who really has it easier than Michigan (or Ohio State)? You've got all the name recognition and pre-season poll hype in the world year in and year out and you've only got one perpetually tough game per year. Dan Shanoff took a good look at this yesterday.

    Monday, November 19, 2007

    One Thing I Think Really Bores Me

    In case you didn't know, Peter King (of SI) watches games in a fancy room at NBC, regularly exchanges text messages with Trent Green or just about any other white veteran in the league and enjoys a latte while traveling around the Mid-Atlantic states where he occassionally watches game from inside of a stadium. This is apparently news. About football.

    What used to be a fine column (Monday Morning Quarterback) is now the cult of no-personality every week. It is a shame. And I think it bores me. I still go back and read some weeks but am almost always greeted by passages like this now infamous excerpt from a few weeks back:

    "Is it my imagination, or does Romo lead the league in smiling?"

    I gave it another try this morning (because of the Jets) and was predictably underwhelmed. Surprisingly, I'm not interested in Peter's trip to Albany to see Springsteen this weekend. And I'm from Jersey and like Bruce. A lot. King went to the show with a producer from HBO. Did you know that Peter King does television? Oh, you didn't? Well, he does. And, you don't.

    Clutch [kluc - h]:

    transitive verb
    1. to grasp, seize, or snatch with a hand or claw
    2. to grasp or hold eagerly or tightly

    intransitive verb
    1. to snatch or seize (at)
    2. to engage the clutch of an automobile, etc.

    noun
    1. a claw or hand in the act of seizing
    2. a device for gripping or clawing, as in a crane
    3. a woman's small handbag with no handle or strap
    4. Matt Ryan, quarterback of the Boston College Eagles

    You can have Tim Tebow for the first three quarters and ten minutes of the football game. He is a man-child powered by faith and gatorade. But with the game on the line there is no one else on the Earth who I would want leading my team down the field than Matty Ice.

    On Saturday night Ryan lead the Eagles to a come-from-behind victory in Death Valley against the 15th-ranked Clemson Tigers by throwing a 46-yard touchdown pass with under 2 minutes to go, clinching BC's first appearance in the ACC Championship Game.

    Additional Reading: The Aura of Matt Ryan [ESPN.com]

    Monday's Starting Five

    (and the best from the weekend)

    1) MUST-READ for Knicks fans: a great article by Frank Isola of the News, dated from Friday. It's a phenomenal and seemingly genuine appraisal of how far the Knicks have fallen from the days of Ewing, Grunfeld and Checketts. It's two parts nostalgia and seventeen parts anger.

    2) Should he stay? Or should he go? Now. The Post says Isiah isn't going to be fired while The News says he might be. With an off-day today the next few hours should decide who will be on the sideline for tomorrow night's game. And, if the Knicks get shellacked by the Warriors then what better reason to give thanks on Thursday than a new coach and a new general manager? Perhaps Jerry West and Herb Williams...

    3) Garnett shocks press by admitting that "We're not perfect," after the apparently fallible C's lose for the first time at the hands of the Orlando Magic.

    4) Mets give 32-year old, second baseman Luis Castillo 4 years in new deal: After losing Yorvit Torrealba in ways that I have yet to actually decipher and hearing that Glavine was signing with the Braves for a song, this relatively long-term pact with Castillo smacks of panic. And while Castillo was one of the only Mets (along with Wright and Alou) who could find his way around the bases in September it seems like four years is a stretch. He is 32 and is having knee surgery this offseason. He might not be playing in 4 years. In spite of all that, if the net result of this weekend is that we'll have a three-time Gold Glove winner at second and Castro crouching behind the plate on Opening Day then I am very happy. I always wanted Castillo back (just at a better price) and most every Mets fan has wanted Castro to get his shot for a while now. The guy hit a home run last year every 13.09 at bats, seventh best in the Majors. He was eighth best in RBI per plate apperances as well.

    5) And, by the power of Curtis Martin, the Jets win a game. Against the Steelers. Who are very good. Or at least were supposed to be. In the "every silver-lining has a cloud" department, the Steelers were the team that I was hoping would be able to knock off the Pats in the playoffs. But now I'm not so sure. EIther way, it was such a relief to see the Jets playing well over the course of an entire game. Finally. They ran the ball better than they have any time this season. Thomas Jones looked every bit the player he was last year for the Bears en route to becoming the first RB to roll up 100+ yards on the Steelers since Edge did it in 2005. Young Kellen looked shaky at times and his unecessary spike (we would have had forty seconds to run 3 plays into the endzone) could easily have cost us the game. But they won and that is the most important stat for any QB. Just as Chad. I think we need to get Curtis on the sideline (he can hang out with his ol' buddies Chad and Laveranues) for the rest of the year if this is how his former teammates will respond.

    "I believe you'd get your ass kicked sayin' something like that, man."

    After a weekend away from the Knicks and the city I'm back in my office space with a case of the Mondays and a lot of ground to cover. Not surprisingly, the Knicks lost the second two games of their west coast swing. Isiah still has a job. Marbury is still coming off the bench. And, the team is still a laughing stock.

    Saturday, November 17, 2007

    ...To Worse

    Knicks destroyed by Nuggets in Denver, 83-115

    All the shine is off that win against the Nuggets almost two weeks ago. This is a bad team who played a good game and not a good team struggling through some tough times. Most everyone else knows this but I had been holding out hope. With their full compliment of players Melo, Iverson and Co. steamroll the 'Bockers.

    AP recap

    Friday, November 16, 2007

    From bad...

    Knicks fall in 2OT to Kings, 118-123

    Kevin Martin scored 43. Artest added 28. Curry and Lee both had big games while Marbury outplayed Collins while still coming off the bench. Same old. Same old. Knicks lose. Interesting side note: potential pieces in trade may have been working so hard to impress potential new coaches and teammates.

    AP recap

    Isiah would look good in a pink slip

    In a column in today's NY Post, condescending and justifiably banished (to NBA TV) Peter Vecsey deigns to tell us that perhaps Isiah's comically poor handling of his argument with Marbury could be his best attempt to get himself fired. According to Vecsey that is the word spreading through the locker room. Wouldn't that be something?

    And, this is why the coach should not be the GM and the Team President. That removes two very necessary people whose job it would be to fire Isiah Thomas. Someone with Thomas's track record shouldn't have to go out of his way to get fired. He should just have been fired. Several times over. Yet, we're stuck depending on the owner of the franchise to do it. And, Dolan is Isiah's greatest local rival for ineptitude.

    I say, let the Herb Williams era begin.

    Lebron Hates Affordable Footwear

    In yesterday's Cleveland Plain Dealer, Lebron James made it clear he is not enthused about the idea of bringing Stephon Marbury or his line of sneakers to Cleveland when he said, "I don't know him that well, but I couldn't have a guy like that on my team."

    Friday's Starting Five

    1) Bonds has been indicted on multiple counts of perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to the grand jury during all of the BALCO investigations. During that testimony a few years ago, he was granted full immunity for anything incriminating that he may have revealed. The only condition was that he had to tell the truth. "Allegedly" he didn't. These are crimes where the punishment is doled out in years, not months. All of the talking heads were shocked last night that this comes so long after the investigation started but it makes sense to me. First of all, it's the government so of course it was going to take a while. Secondly, there was no way that they could risk hauling Bonds into court while he was in the middle of chasing Aaron's record. No matter how much evidence they may have it is always possible that Bonds wins the case. If he were to be acquittted and would have given up months if not seasons of productivity to fight this then the USG and MLB would be in for a whole lot of trouble. Bonds would end up owning baseball if it looked like he had been kept from reaching the HR milestone due to wrongful prosecution. They had to wait until he got the mark and his contract expired. Now, the record is safe either way.

    2) Oh, A-Rod sure does love stealing thunder. But, it didn't work this time. The greatest player in the game is reportedly very close to re-signing with the Yankees. It looks like a ten-year deal worth about $275 million, with performance/award bonuses that pushes it north of $300 million. That's pretty good work if you can get it. Regardless of how he got here, the results are that A-Rod is getting a pay increase from his previous contract (10years/$252 million). He is signing the richest contract in the history of baseball. He got the ten years that he wanted. He ensures that he will be the face of he most famous and important franchise in the game. And, he gets to pocket an additional $9 million payment from the Rangers for opting out. Yet, he still doesn't appear nearly as greedy and as he did about a week ago. He looks like he is going out of his way to be a Yankee even though there were no suitors and he essentially forced the Yankees to bid against themselves. Well played, Scotty Boras. Well played.

    3) Dixon hurt, Ducks cooked. Heisman frontrunner Dennis Dixon aggravated a knee injury as #2-ranked Oregon lost to unranked Arizona. The Ducks are the fifth #2-ranked team to fall this year.

    4) Ricky Williams is back. Cypress Hill will be singing the national anthem before this week's Fins game.

    5) Josh Howard leads Mavs past Spurs in inevitable playoff preview.

    Thursday, November 15, 2007

    "Paging Mr. Gomez. Pedro Gomez please pick up the red phone."

    According to the Fox Sports website, "Barry Bonds was indicted Thursday for perjury and obstruction of justice, charged with lying when he told a federal grand jury that he did not knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs. If convicted on all five counts, baseball's home run king could go to prison for up to 30 years."

    For something that was definitely a long time coming this sure does seem all of a sudden. Maybe they've been waiting in the wings until the HR record was broken and the World Series was over? If so, they clearly didn't go to the Boras school of headline-grabbing. Either way, it is officially on.

    Fistacuffs and a Flux Capicator

    If you believe what you read in the papers or hear from Jalen Rose on ESPN than the Isiah vs. Marbury stand-off kicked off with a phsyical confrontation on the team's charter flight out to Phoenix a few days ago. It's not hard to believe that Isiah is wearing his '89 Pistons uni under his three-piece suit and being ready to rumble as soon as Rick Mahorn calls. Either way, the one thing that is undeniable is that there are MAJOR problems behind the scenes. And in front of the scenes and between the scenes.

    The internets, the radio waves and the newspapers are all spilling words about buy-outs and benchings. It's mass hysteria. It's a soap opera. It's cats and dogs living together. But I'm not ready for a world where the Knicks buy-out Marbury and then KG brings his old running-mate to Boston where he is rehabilitated and wins a title, so I've decided to focus on the chance that we might be able to trade him.

    Marbury still has above average NBA talent and he's got some run still in those legs. And, I feel like enough people around the league know how inept Thomas is at everything he does that there is more internal benefit of the doubt for Steph than there is externally. In any case, I headed over to ESPN.com's TRADE SIMULATOR to see what I could figure out. The simulator couldn't be any better if Doc Brown himself put it together. It does all the math on the salaries and just spits out results.

    If a trade were to go down it would likely be between clubs who are also desperate, either because they have their own problem-children or are just very, very bad. After all, one man's trash is another man's treasure. Or one man's Stephen Jackson is another team's captain. So, the teams who could be trade partners:

    Sacremento
    Lakers
    Atlanta
    Minnesota
    Charlotte
    Miami
    Philadelphia

    (It's also important to realize that most Western teams would chip in as a third-party if it meant moving Kobe east. Conversely most Eastern teams would refuse to do that)

    1) Three-Way Deal Between Knicks, Lakers and Kings
    How They Met: Everyone has one serious problem on the roster and the Kings (and any other third-wheel in the West) would love to help move Kobe out of the Conference.

    Knicks receive:
    SG Kobe Bryant ($19.5 million)
    GF Maurice Evans ($1.7 million)

    Lakers receive:
    PG Stephon Marbury ($19 million)
    SF Ron Artest ($7.4 million)

    Kings receive:
    SF Quentin Richardson ($8.1 million)
    C Randolph Morris ($810k)

    Why They Would Do It: Everyone passes their own hot potato. Lakers get two bona-fide box office draws for Kobe. Each has only two years remaining on their contract and can hold you over until you figure out what the post-Kobe Lakers should look like. The Knicks get Kobe and lose Steph. Enough said. Kings help weaken rival, move Kobe across the country and unload their biggest problem for a solid team guy in Q and a young, cheap center.

    2) Three-way deal between Knicks, Kings and Heat:
    How they met:Knicks and Kings met at crazy-star support group, while Riley and the Heat are desperate after awful start. They're an old team and need to try something to win one last time with Shaq.

    Knicks receive:
    SF Ron Artest ($7.4 million)
    FC Shareef Abdur-Rahim ($5.8 million)
    Chris Quinn ($687k)

    Kings recieve:
    PG Jason Williams ($8.9 million)
    PF Udonis Haslem ($6 million)
    C Randolph Morris ($810k)
    Dorell Wright ($2 million)

    Heat receive:
    PG Stephon Marbury ($19 million)
    C Spencer Hawes ($2 million)

    Why They Do It: Why Not? Knicks and Kings jetison their gifted and guilty while the Heat take a reclamation project in Steph with the hope that he can contribute in sane fashion on a team where doesn't have to carry the load on-camera, on the court or in the paper. Spare parts move around as well but they do fill position needs that open up on the teams involvevd.

    3) Four-way deal between Knicks, Kings, Lakers and Hawks:
    How they met: Three teams with problem players, one team with problem decades.

    Knicks receive:
    SF Ron Artest ($7.4 million)
    PF Vladimir Radmanovic ($5.6 million)
    GF Josh Childress ($3.6 million)
    PG Tyrone Lue ($3.5 mllion)
    FC Sheldon Williams ($3.2 million)
    G Salim Stoudamire ($783k)

    Kings receive:
    SF Quentin Richardson ($8.1 million)
    F Lamar Odom ($13 million)
    F Renaldo Balkman ($1.2 million)

    Hawks receive:
    SG Kobe Bryant ($19.5 million)
    C Randolph Morris ($810k)
    C Kwame Brown ($9 million)

    Lakers receive:
    PG Stephon Marbury ($19 million)
    G Joe Johnson ($13.5 million)
    FC Brad Miller ($10.5 million)
    FC Shareef Abdur-Rahim ($5.8 million)
    SF Jared Jeffries ($5.6 million)
    GF John Salmons ($4.7 million)

    Why they do it: Well, malcontent carousel gets Knicks, Kings and Lakers involved. Kings get the cleanest return on their investment in the deal and it is a no-brainer for them. The Knicks take on a bunch of parts but Artest is the centerpiece and gives you another hometown hero. The Knicks almost drafted Salim Stoudamire when he came out of Arizona, Williams is a suitable, conservative backup to Curry and everyone else fills a need. Moreover, Isiah has never been shy to take on extra parts to get what he wants. The Hawks get Kobe, so they are willing to take on the expiring conduct of Kwame Brown in the process. And, lastly the Lakers get several marketable and startable players in exchange for moving Kobe.

    Rorvit Castrealba

    The Mets have apparently agreed to a deal with free agent catcher Yorvit Torrealba, formerly of the NL champion Rockies of Colorado. According to Mets.com the deal with would be worth $14.4 million over three years. The plan is for Castro to remain the backup but for him to play more than he did last year while Lo Duca was the starter.

    Last year Paulie was making $6.25 million and Castro was making $850,000. And, Jorge Posada-who is 36 years and will never hit for the same average he did last year-just inked a four-year pact for $52 million Yikes.

    I like being younger and cheaper than we were last year at this position. Paul was a double-play machine during the September tailspin but his veteran stature kept Castro on the bench. Now, we can pair up Castro with a member of the rotation and make sure that he plays at least once a week aside from the day game after night game duty that he was relegated to last season. I've always wanted to see if he could keep up those power numbers with more ABs.

    Additional Reading: There was a great piece on Mets Blog yesterday in which Troy Renck from Denver Post gives a full run-down on Torrealba. He does sounds a lot like a younger, cheaper Lo Duca. And, he speaks Spanish.

    Around the Internets in Eighty Minutes

    1) Eli = Eeyore

    2) Phil Jackson apologizes for equating a game featuring repeated dribble penetration to the film Brokeback Mountain

    3) Aubrey Huff. Deviant? Or honest, virile, slightly perverse everyman?

    I've played with people I don't like, I've won with people I don't like...However I feel about a person it doesn't matter. We're trying to win."

    As this post-game quote from coach Isiah Thomas shows, something is still very rotten in New Amsterdam. Steph was back on the floor last night in Los Angeles but is clearly not back on Isiah's Chrismtas card list. The Knicks lost last night to the LA Clippers thanks largely to the worst/unluckiest quarter of offensive play that I've ever seen. They missed 17 straight shots in the third quarter. They were outscored 22-9. They missed layups. They missed baby hooks. They missed three-points shot from the corner. They missed runners in the lane. Eventually they were also missing on desperate drives to the hoop. Randolph, noticeably off his game (and with a legitimate excuse for it), and Curry were the main culprits but over the course of that third quarter everyone in rotation chipped in. It was the second time all season that the team seemed to be all be on the same page since the fourth quarter against the Nuggets last week.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    "If he can't do it we'll have to find someone who can."

    Steph is back. Isiah was forced to speak with a bit more detail about the situation. He still wants to keep everything in house, but he reiterated that Steph "is capable of leading this team playing great defense." He talked about the fact that all championship teams and players have to overcome some tough times. And, he also talked about the fact that his star point guard has to earn his place in the rotation.

    We shall see. Either way Steph is back. He'll play tonight, but he won't start. He'll be joined by Zach Randolph, who has also returned to the team after taking his own leave of absense due to the death of his grandmother. Q might also play in spite of hyper-extending his elbow. Balkman is doubtful and so is Mardy Collins.

    Tonight's result will go a long way towards figuring out what the story is tomorrow. Was yesterday the beginning of the end or the beginning of the beginning? We shall see.

    The Most Publicized Personal Day in the History of Work

    So, according to every media outlet on the Earth, Steph is back with the team. He'll be at the Staples Center tonight for the game agains the Clippers. Will he play? Will he even be on the bench? Will he score 40? Nothing would surprise me.

    Considering Steph's television escapades over the summer and the recent malaise, it is not a stretch to say he is going through a rough patch. He may be entirely in the wrong with all that has transpired over the past 36 hours. But, he may not. All we really have to go on is hearsay and speculation. Reports from numerous outlets are that he has indeed been fined by the team. However, regardless of how he came to leave the team it is ENTIRELY on Isiah Thomas that this affair became a circus.

    I was asked earlier tonight if "the can Knicks can do anything in anything less than the most embarassing way possible." With Isiah in charge the answer is no. Whether he wants Steph back or not. Whether he sent him home or not, he could have put a lid (relatively speaking) on this whole thing by making one defenitive statement yesterday. If he would have acknowledge that this issue wasn't merely in-house and would have addressed this in the fashion that a head coach, a general manager or a team president should be expected than the Knicks could have gone one more week without being a punchline again. However, Thomas skirted the issue yesterday. He smiled and he acted like there was nothing to talk about. He let the anonymous sources and the beat reporters do all the talking and create the story themselves.

    And, therefore we've been hearing for 36 hours about how dysfunctional the team is. We've been hearing about discord in the locker room. We've been hearing about blackmail. Everyone in the press has been given an excuse to dredge up all of the problems of the past few years. We've revisited the previous buy-outs and the sexual harrasment trial. Yet, if Isiah would have started his press conference yesterday by saying something, anything then perhaps yesterday would just have been another personal day for another member of the American work force.

    If Isiah would have said that "Stephon has left the team for personal reasons. He has my consent and will join us in Los Angeles" then this would not have been the lead story in every paper this morning. If Isiah would have said that "Stephon has left the team for personal reasons. He did not recieve permission and he will be issued a fine. We expect him to be with the team tomorrow in Los Angeles" then this is still the lead story but there is some semblence of order. There is some mirage of control by the coach. Isiah had every chance to shape the perception of this and he took a pass. In doing so he brought more dishonor to a once noble franchise and perhaps has severed the last tie with this most important player.

    Around the Internets in Eighty Minutes

    MLB Hot Stove Edition

    1) Sad A-Rod, desperate Cashman team up to back door Boras? Film at Eleven.

    2) And, starting at Catcher for the New York Mets: Rorvit Castrealba

    3) Sox plan for life after Lowell

    4) If a Kaz goes to the Cubs does it make a sound?

    "In-House" for the Out-house.

    Isiah Hates Me and Thinks I'm Not Very Smart

    If the last 24 hours in Knick-land have taught us anything it is that Isiah Thomas does not care what you think and he doesn't think you are very smart. With his cheshire smile beaming forth last night before the game against the Suns, Isiah repeatedly referred to everything involving Steph as being an "in-house matter." Meaning, he wasn't going to answer any questions with any certainty. He wasn't going to tell anyone what happened. He wasn't going to defend his player. He wasn't going to castigate his player. He wouldn't comment on whether Steph had been sent away from the team or if he had fled from the team. He wouldn't confirm Steph's claim that he had permission to fly home. Nothing.

    By refusing to deal plainly with the media and by extension the fans of the team, the coach has again shown that he has no respect for the people who root for the Knicks. He believes that we have no right to know what is happening and that we are too slow-witted and trusting to think that things are other than he says they are. It's a method of conflict resolution that he seems to have picked up from the Bush administration.

    Yeah, Iraq is doing awesome. And the Knicks are too. Now, go out and have some fun, kids.

    Yo Zeke

    Um, Isiah. Mr. Thomas. Excuse me, but all of your statements on Marbury's departure from the team are ridiculous and useless. Wanting this to be an in-house matter cannot actually make it an in-house matter. As soon as your star point-guard started exchanging text messages with reporters at the New York Post about this whole boondoggle yesterday afternoon this stopped being in-house. Well, it actually stopped being in-house the moment that the only player on your roster to appear in an All-Star effectively ran away from home. When he left the house so did this story. People are aware what is happening and you have to deal with it. Now, I can understand why you may have wanted to keep a massive problem like this under wraps. However, that plan didn't work. And, you're only making matters worse by letting everyone speculate wildly about the outcome. OK? OK.

    Hanging wih Carmen Sandiego

    Where in the World is Stephon Marbury?

    Apparently he is back in NYC this morning. Maybe eating breakfast right now. Maybe packing a bag to fly out to LA to play against the Clippers tonight. Maybe packing a bag to fly to Italy to play against La Fortezza tonight. Maybe he is just driving around in his truck thinking about old times. Who knows? Not me. And, not any of the intrepid writers who are on the case.

    Is this just about Marbury being benched because of his play at the end of the Miami game? Is this about Dolan brining the hammer down on Isiah who is scapegoating his former pupil? Is this about an underachieving player who has just lost his desire? Is this a coach's teribbly executed plan at motivating one of his most gifted players? Is this about a sexual harrasment case in which Marbury's testimony didn't do anyone at MSG any favors?

    Whatever it is about it isn't about winning basketball games. That much is clear after watching last night's game. Even if Steph's defense is porous he is still a better player than either Nate or Mardy. That is just a fact of the game. Nate is more exciting to watch and Mardy could, at some point, be better at keeping opposing players from getting into the paint, but neither is going to give the team a better chance to win tomorrow. Neither is likely to average 19 and 7. Oscar Robertson did that. Magic Johnson did that. Isiah Thomas did that. Stephon Marbury does that. And, lest we forget, almost every other player in the rotation prior to last night is subpar on the defensive end. Only Lee and Balkman are nominally considered D-oriented. And Lee still has a ways to come with his one-on-one defense. Q can play defense (and frequently does) but he is still a scorer first. So, that leaves Marbury with plenty of company in ineptitude.

    According to Isola in the NEWS, Curry was also set to start last night's game on the bench before Steph flew back to NY. That makes a bit more sense. For all of his shortcomings as a player, it is hard to pin the team's defensive woes all on Steph. This move makes more sense if it were part of a larger move by Isiah intended to send a message to the team during a game that they would have been hard pressed to win even if they were playing well. Still, even if one were to give Isiah the benefit of the doubt regarding his intention there hasn't been a plan executed this poorly since Cobra Commander and Destro thought they could take over the world by controlling the weather.

    All of that being said, there are number of ways in which the team could be better off with lesser players in Marbury's spot and we'll get into that later today.

    As the Association Turns

    Last Night's NBA action:

    -Celtics win again. Pierce has 31. They're 6-0 and they haven't seen Marbury either.

    -Sonics lose again. Durant has 10. They're 0-8 and this losing every night thing might start taking its toll on the little guy.

    -Heat go back to losing against Bobcats. They're that bad. But they still won at New York on Sunday night. Pat Riley is threatening to play again.

    -McGrady drops 41, but Memphis outlasts Rockets behind Gasol and Darko. The Darko Ages have begun.

    -Kobe leads Lakers in scoring. Lakers lose. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

    Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    It's Alive: Knicks versus Suns in real-time

    One week ago the Knicks won a big game against Denver. They had a winning record. They were undefeated at home. Curry and Randolph were dominant. The bench was stellar.

    Today, Marbury skipped out on the team after a bust-up with Isiah. There has been no mention of how soon he'll back. All the papers are saying he might never come back. As ever, Isiah is calm and guileless. Quentin Richardson is down with an injury. Zach Randolph is not with the team due to the death of his grandmother. We have a losing record. We're starting a four-game western swing. Against the Phoenix Suns.

    There seemed no other choice, really, than to just get on the computer and just ride this one out in real time. I've never done this before but I'm ready to go.

    Preamble: In the moments before tip-off it seems like this game is the beginning of something. The beginning of the end? Or the beginning of the beginning? Hopefully it is the latter. Whether Steph returns to the lineup or not, tonight is a huge test for those who are about to take on the Suns. They've got every excuse a professional team could possibly have: travel, injuries, missing components, top-flight competition. However, if these guys can pull this together than it will send a message to Steph, Isiah and, most importantly to themselves.

    Starting Lineups:

    NYK
    PG Mardy Collins
    SG Jamal Crawford
    SF Fred Jones
    PF David Lee
    C Eddy Curry

    I like it all but Jones

    Suns
    PG Steve Nash
    SG Barbosa
    SF Grant Hill
    PF Marion
    C Stoudemaire

    1st Quarter
    -The Suns score with relative ease on their first two trips, while the Knicks first two trips see the ball go directly into David Lee. David Lee? He passes out of a double to Jones (3) and then puts in another himself (2).
    -Amare can't be stopped by Curry. Fred Jones can't stop Grant Hill. We need to outscore them. Phoenix?
    -Curry is scoring and we're hanging in 13-15 coming up on halfway through the quarter.
    -Suns pushing through Knicks like subway turnstiles. Amare beats the whole team down the floor and gets a gorgeous pass from Nash. Isiah calls timeout. We're losing 13-19. Um, if they score first out of the timeout then we're officially not hanging in there.
    -For the sake of this enterprise, Crawford scores first. 15-19.
    -Collins manages to stop an ally-oop to Marion (from Nash) by hurting himself. Nate and Renaldo check in with 6 left.
    -Suns are on an 11-3 run. Stoudemaire has a dozen points already and Curry heads back in to give it another try.
    -Knicks are playing some defense. But missed free throws and missed shots keep them from closing the gap.
    -Even when Nate sticks Nash, their subs are dropping in shots, 19-28.

    Commercial Break: well, I'm not really sure how this experiment is going. First, I'm pretty sure no one is reading. Second, if you're reading and watching the game then everything is probably a bit behind. Worth noting is that Kenny Smith is teamed up with Gus for tonight's game. He is solid, honest and earnest away from his TNT buddies. He also is big on the way the uncertainty surrounding Marbury is a problem.

    -Nate doesn't seem to miss Steph. He hits a three as the shot-clock expires to make it a three point game.
    -Knicks lose a jump-ball after a tie-up and then Curry misses a layup. They're going to need those points to pull this out.
    -1st quarter ends 29-34. Nate is rolling and the Knicks hodge-podge lineup can beat the Suns second team. We'll see what happens when the starting five is back out there.

    2nd Quarter
    -Nate misses a layup to start the quarter. Argh.
    -Nash/Amare stay on the bench for Suns. Jared Jeffries checks in for NYK. Hmm...Gus says this is a good thing. Honestly, I don't know. I never liked him in the starting lineup, but he figures to get a chance to show what he's got tonight.
    -Knicks are missing makeable shots. Suns are making them. Knicks timeout. Super.
    -Gus announces that Mardy is hurt and his return is doubtful. Great. Grand. Kenny's reaction is "wow."
    -Fred Jones is battling. I'm down on his talent-level but he's showing some heart. He steals and drives for a layup. And one. But he misses the foul shot. Another missed foul shot. He's got ten points.
    -Grant Hill hits a three. Knicks trail 33-47. Hill looks good out there. Funny in the orange and purple. But good. Better than what we've got. They've got vets. They've got stars. They've got role players. I don't know who is who on the Knicks. Marbury is the longest tenured player on the team. I know that. Oh, wait.
    -Another timeout filled with Kenny The Jet using his buzz word: uncertainty. He doesn't feel good about things. He clearly has no idea what is going on, which is weird.
    -Jeffries picks out Curry with a nice pass. Knicks are losing by slightly less than they were before the ensuing basket.
    -Marion checks back in to the game. Gus notes how hard it is for Diaw to find minutes. Their best are better. Curry can barely catch up to Amare to even foul him as he bounds towards the hoop.
    -The Recipe: Nash slices into the paint, makes pass to cutting Big, Knicks foul, Suns make free throws.
    -I can hear my phone ringing. I know its
    -At 43-55 the route could be on. Suns miss but the ball gets hot-potatoed around until it ends up in the hoop. After another Amare block, Marion scores on the break with a beauty of an up-and-under. And, Nash steals it as the Knicks try to call timeout. Gosh. Missed shot, timeout.
    -Oh, goaltending. That is a new way to give them points. Two minutes.
    -Even when Nash loses the ball it ends up traveling directly to the hands of one his teammates. It's uncanny. Amare drains a nice baseline shot over Lee.
    -Jeffries makes another nice pass in to Curry. Kenny the Jets remarks that Eddy just needs "to do what Amare does." Yup, that's all. Who woud've guessed that it was so easy. He'll be as good in no time once he gets that advice.
    -Nash seems to be playing extra sloppy. Not that it matters. Knicks trail 51-63 at the half.

    Half-Time
    -phone calls and food

    3rd Quarter
    -Curry picks up a foul immediately. He sits with 4. We have a Malik Rose sighting.
    -Gus and Kenny marvel at the "textbook" fastbreaks that the Suns are running.
    -Malik Rose uses Curry's method of defending Amare. Get beat and then foul.
    -Crawford hits another runner. We're hanging around.
    -Nash continues to look uninterested. He turns it over to Nate who feeds Jones. He's fouled. Hits the first and Malik Rose is called for a lane violation on the second. Way to make an impact, Malik.
    -Malik stays at it by tossing up a brick. Meanwhile, Grant Hill has made consecutive buckets. There may be a country for old men after all.
    -Crawford misses layup. Barbosa makes layup. That about sums it up to this point. 60-78. Suns.
    -The Rook Wilson Chandler checks in. Runs off a screen and catches a pass from Crawford. He shoots. Immediately. His high-arching shot misses. Balkman tips it in. Alright, another guy with quick release? Let's see what we got.
    -As Kenny remarks that watching the Knicks "is almost like an exhibition game" Chandler bounces a shot off the top of the backboard.
    -It seems like the only question as the third winds down is whether or no the Suns can get their lead to 20.
    -The precocious Chandler gets the ball in about the same spot his last shot (the one that hit the side/top of the backboard). This time he drives. He scores. Three touches and three shots. It is beginning to look like this trip (or as long as Steph, Zach and Q are missing) is going to be an audition for a lot of the guys trying to break into the rotation.

    4th Quarter
    -Balkman fouls Nash to start the quarter. Curry checks back in. I'm not sure what Isiah was saving him for to start the quarter anyways.
    -Grant Hill looks like he's never owned a set of crutches. Only against the Knicks.
    -In attempt to stay within 20 the Knicks put six men on the court. Joey Crawford notices.
    -Nash wakes up, hits another bucket. Knicks trail by 21. Maybe that sixth man could've helped.
    -Curry, once properly subbed in, ends up fouling out.

    And, I'm going to head to the bench with Curry. The Knicks are down 78-99. Isiah seems to be asking Malik Rose for help on the bench. They're both smiling. I'm not.