Naive Pomposity

Incessant ramblings from an arrogant Yankees fan, a desperate Knicks fan, and a relentless George Clooney hater.

2012: Two Very Different Seasons for Two Very Different Baseball Teams….Playing In The Same City

The rivalry between the Yankees and the Mets hasn’t been going on for very long at all in baseball terms; the Mets have only been in the league since 1962, less than half as long as the Yankees. They are in separate leagues. They face off against each other only 6 times per year. There haven’t been many heated moments between them. The players don’t hate each other. The two have only played each other in the World Series one time(2000), and it was a lopsided affair that the Yankees needed only 5 games to win. At first glance, you could conceivably make a case that the Yankees and Mets are not rivals. And then it occurs to you while you are sitting in right field at Citi Field as a drunk loner Mets fan with more pimples on his face than Roger Clemens has on his back yells “Swishhhhh anddddd Swallowwww!!!!” at Yankee’s right fielder Nick Swisher. At that point you understand that this rivalry is as real as it gets in baseball, because the difference between the two teams lies not only in their number of titles, but in the ideology of their respective fan bases.

With the season almost halfway over, it is clear that the Yankees and Mets have two separate goals for the season as well as for the future. The Mets want to play meaningful games as deep into the season as possible while keeping their young core of talent completely intact. A first round exit from the playoffs would be a bonus for them, and yet the fans could not be happier. There is finally a direction and a core for a franchise that feels they choked away their last group of talent with bad front office moves, worse Septembers, one Jason Bay signing, and one knee-buckling curveball.

Across the city, the Yankees are stuck between an inevitable rebuilding period and their yearly motto of World Series or bust. With roster issues ranging Mariano Rivera’s season-ending injury to suspect starting pitching, the Yankees continue to reel off wins and remain in first place. However the regular season is often thought of as the preseason for the Bombers, and anything less than a 28th title would immediately put the job of manager Joe Girardi on a stove.

And while these differences may seem season-specific, they are merely this season’s illustrations of the big picture differences between the two franchises.

The Mets haven’t won a World Series since 1986. Thus there is a whole generation of fans that haven’t seen a victory parade. And while the thirst for a title is apparent, the lack of one has given birth to an appreciation for the little things that Yankee fans will never understand. Mets fans can genuinely reminisce about moments that didn’t take them to the top, but gave them a whiff of what the air up there smells like. While Yankees fans would view moments like the Endy Chavez catch  and Robin Ventura’s “Grand Slam Single”  as wasted moments that lead to nothing, you cannot convince the Mets fan base that those moments didn’t mean something.

Mike Piazza never took the Mets to the promised land. And yet if you ask any Met fan about the Piazza-era they will pump their chest out with pride because regardless of outcome, few players ever put a team on their back the way Piazza did with his Mets. In the sport that perhaps relies the least on individuals, Piazza affected his Mets as much as any quarterback or all-star center, and Met fans remember him fondly for that reason. More recently, Johan Santana was brought here to anchor a pitching staff for a team that was expected to win it all. Four years and a few major DL stints later, the Mets have yet to even make the playoffs with Santana on the team. You wouldn’t know it by the ovation he gets every single time he takes the mound at Citi Field. Johan is their guy, and his tortured stay in Queens made June 1st, 2012 that much sweeter. After never experiencing a no-hitter or a perfect game in the franchises’ entire history, Mets fans watched as Johan Santana officially completed his journey back from the all of the losing and all of his injuries in a crafty, gutsy, and very emotional() 134 pitch no-hit performance against the St. Louis Cardinals. While Yankees fans see any season that doesn’t end with a parade as a failure, New York Metropolitan fans can draw a parallel between themselves and a player like Santana, wondering if their faith and heartache will someday payoff.

Tradition. Pride. Class. These are the words that are often associated with the Yankee’s organization. An organization that does not even allow their players to have facial hair beyond a mustache. An organization with 27 championships, the most in any sport. An organization that doesn’t distract itself with rivalries beyond the one in Boston. Their fans? Pompous, obnoxious, petty, god-complexed. The Yankees are the most successful franchise in baseball and yet their fans still have a chip on their shoulder. It is quite simple for Yankees fans. The Mets suck. But it isn’t enough for the Mets to suck, they want the fans of the Mets to realize, understand, and acknowledge just how much they suck.  Any joy Mets fans take out of regular season or early-round playoff moments is like a naive child that thinks a shiny quarter is more valuable than a 100 dollar bill. Piazza sucks. Johan Sucks. The only reason the Mets won the title in 1986 was because of an error on the first baseman of the other team we enjoy tormenting. It’s not enough for the Mets fans to live in the backyard of the evil empire, they are expected to contract whooping-cough from inhaling the fumes of the death star.

It’s nothing personal towards Mets fans, that is how all of the other 29 teams get treated.The only thing that matters for the Yankees and their fans are championships. And while going deep into the playoffs every year is exhilarating for fans, it has forced them to become numb to regular season and individual player accolades. Some would say they should be enjoying the “Golden Years” of Derek Jeter’s great career. Their response? They want to win one more ring for him. Alex Rodriguez had some statistically unbelievable season in his early years with the Yankees, but he wasn’t truly accepted until he helped the Bombers win a ring in 2009.

In 2012 there are two franchises in the same city playing with different goals in mind. One wants to create an environment that will allow its young talent to grow. The other is relentlessly marching towards their usual goal of winning a championship. The respective mindset of the fan bases are just as different, as each have had their expectations molded by a generation of events and circumstances. Ultimately, the best situation for baseball in New York City will be one where both franchises are competing for a title.

 

But that will never happen….because the Mets suck.

 

Who cares about 2012?

Basketball is usually the sport that is the most predictable in terms of who will win. Most casual fans can usually pick 4 teams before a season begins and watch as one of those teams claims the title some six months later. With the 2012 NBA playoffs looming and set to start this weekend, there is still a lot of uncertainty throughout the league.  The Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns are separated by only one game for the 8th seed in the West. The Knicks, Sixers, and Magic can all move as high as 6th or as low as 8th in the East. And once the playoffs start, the confusion amplifies:

Injuries to star players such as Dwight Howard, James Harden, Derrick Rose, and Dwayne Wade have caused concern for four championship aspiring franchises and hope for everyone else. As usual, no one is afraid of the top seeded San Antonio Spurs. The Memphis Grizzlies have been called underrated for so long that they are probably overrated at this point. The Boston Celtic’s big three plus Rondo somehow salvaged a four seed and a “no one wants to play the old vets” label. With all of the desperation to get out of the 7th and 8th spots in the East(to avoid first round matchups with the Bulls and Heat), no one seems to realize that the prize for locking down the 6 seed is a series against an Indiana Pacers team that is young, healthy, deep, athletic, and 9-1 in their last 10 games. Depending on who you talk to, the Knicks may or may not have a punchers chance against any team they play in the first round. Kobe Bryant is still on the Lakers. The Dallas Mavericks are really pissed that no one respects them or recognizes them as the defending champions so they may play really pissed off. The Clippers lack any type of crunch-time offensive sets and Blake Griffin has a lower free throw percentage this year than most of Shaq’s seasons…………….yeah go check. Seriously, basketballreference.com, look at the numbers. You are going to take my word for it? What if I am lying to you and I am just throwing terms like “Shaq” and “free throw percentage” out there to make myself seem more credible? Is basketballreference.com even a real website? It seems like I just arbitrarily put two words together doesn’t it? Go ahead, use your rationed internet allotment at work. I am literally going to start a new paragraph now just so you don’t feel like you are pausing mid-paragraph to look up statistics; thats how bad Blake Griffin’s free throw percentage is.

With all of the speculation about who will be crowned champion of the strike-shortened, awkward, fans-secretly-love-all-of-these-games 2012 season, no one has noticed what is going to happen AFTER the playoffs. Steve Nash is going to be a free agent. 

Disclaimer: I have eliminated the Steve-Nash-is-an-idiot-and-signs-a-three-year-contract-with-Phoenix possibility.

My extremely early prediction for the 2013 NBA champions is simply whichever team Steve Nash signs with. In this NBA era of signing 3 guys with all of your money and then attempt to fill out the roster with cheap role players; Steve Nash should be the prized possession of the 2012 free agent class. He has already made his millions so he should be willing to sign the veterans minimum contract with any team he deems a contender. Many of the championship aspiring teams next year will be a shopping for a point-guard this offseason:

  • If you add Steve Nash to the big three of LeBron, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh(or whoever they trade Bosh for if they don’t win this year), you will be hard-pressed to find an expert that won’t pick them to win it all. Right now the Heat lack a half court offense, something that a Nash pick-and-roll with LeBron while Wade delays slashing down the lane instantly gives them.
  • If the Knicks could somehow land Nash and pair him with his old friend Amare Stoudemire as well as Carmelo Anthony, James Dolan should scrap the defensive-minded structure of Mike Woodson and hire Mike D’Antoni back. Just kidding. But he probably would. Oh crap.
  • The scariest scenario for the rest of the league is Nash signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder. I realize that this would involve Russell Westbrook conceding that he is not a true point guard and slots over to the shooting-guard position. Just imagine for a second watching Nash run the break off of a Serge Ibaka rejection with Durant and Westbrook on the wings waiting for a steady dose of perfect bounce passes, chest passes, and lobs. But Nash isn’t young anymore, so the most important thing a team that signs Nash will need is someone to come off the bench and run the offense; something that James Harden has proven that he can do.
Just look at the roster that Nash has been carrying all season towards a fight for a playoff berth. Outside of Jered Dudley and Marcin Gortat they are a combination of cast aways(Channing Frye, Josh Childress), draft busts(Hakim Warrick, Sebastian Telfair), and oft-injured veterans(Grant Hill, Michael Redd). They are competing with the Utah Jazz for the 8th seed in the Western Conference; A Utah Jazz team with guys like Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Devin Harris, and Gordon Hayward.
Nash has already been a part of two great situations that were dismantled by General Managers and ownership. Early in his career with the Mavericks he was paired with Dirk Nowitzki and the two became close friends and were really starting to build something in Dallas when Nash became a free agent. A younger, inexperienced Mark Cuban did not want to shell out the money to keep the defensively challenged point-guard in town and let him sign with Phoenix. Later that offseason, Cuban gave what would be considered today to be nearly a max-contract to….Erik Dampier.
Once in Phoenix, Nash and head coach Mike D’Antoni almost immediately transformed them into a perennial top 3 seed in the Western Conference. In a three-year stretch from 2004-2007 the Suns won 62, 54, and 61 games. However, after coming up short of the title all three years(attributed to tough breaks and bad officiating), General Manager Steve Kerr was convinced that they needed to become more of a half-court team so he traded for Shaquille O’Neal, thus destroying what had been built in Phoenix. Two years later with Shaq finally off the team and Steve Kerr long gone; Nash and the Suns were playing his type of basketball again and made a surprise trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2010. They pushed the soon-to-be-champion Lakers to 6 games but ultimately lost. That offseason, all-star forward Amare Stoudemire was lost to free agency and the Suns have been stuck in mediocrity ever since.
The common thing for superstars in the NBA to do when the team is not performing is to demand a trade. Nash has done the opposite; he has constantly insisted that Phoenix is where he wants to be as long as they are committed to winning. At this point the Suns can be as committed as they want, but they are not winning a championship within the next three seasons. Nash will be as coveted if not more sought after than Peyton Manning was in the NFL recently. Somewhere between 20-25 of the 30 teams in the NBA will at the very least make a call to his agent about him, and not for just a one year contract either. Whoever signs the Canadian point-guard will want to make him a mainstay for the next two to three years.  Ultimately, Steve Nash will have to decide what team he thinks is the closest to winning a title and where he wants to finish his career…..
……I hear he has an apartment in Tribeca….

The Decision(‘s Second Season)

Sasha Pavlovic started game 4.

Not game 4 of the preseason. Not game 4 of the regular season. Not game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Not game 4 in the same night of solitaire on your computer that you will continue to restart until you open with at least one ace.

No, Sasha Pavlovic started game 4 of the 2007 NBA finals.

That means in a 0-3 series hole with the season on the line, when Lebron James drove into a double team (consisting of 1st ballot hall of famer/1st team all defense Tim Duncan and notoriously dirty defender/wears a bow-tie when he’s on ESPN because it will hopefully distract from his useless analysis Bruce Bowen), he looked to the wing and saw an open…Sasha Pavlovic. His other options?

  • pass to a rookie guard (Daniel Gibson)
  • pass it to his 7’3 center who couldn’t defend or rebound so he practiced 18 footers; Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
  • pass to Drew Gooden, his .473 disaster of a power-forward season shooting percentage, and one of his wide array of beards:  

The Spurs had a combined 103 games of NBA Finals experience heading into that series. The Cavs had a total of 11 all from one player; the 3rd guard off the bench: Eric Snow.

LeBron James carried that Cav’s team to the finals that year, a task that included beating the defending eastern conference champion Detroit Pistons by scoring 29 of his team’s last 30 points in game 5 (final stat line: 49 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals in double overtime). In fact, James carried all of those Cleveland teams to whatever round of the playoffs they got to each year. The guy is flat out the most talented all-around player in the world, and most of the true “basketball people” acknowledge that fact.

The problem is that LeBron James’ career has become less and less about his talent each of the last five years, and this strike-shortened season seems to be the epitome of that fact. With grueling 4 games in 5 nights and 3 games in 3 nights stretches, many of the players in the league are breaking down. LeBron has missed one game. The inevitable exhaustion has been causing field goal percentages to plummet around the league, LeBron is shooting 53%; his highest ever. He is taking less threes and shooting a higher percentage from beyond the arc. He has developed a mediocre-to-solid back to the basket post-up game. His defense is stellar as usual. No one cares.

The Heat only needed 5 games to eliminate the young and athletic Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs last year. They needed only 5 games to dispose of the hardened veteran Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. After dropping game 1 to their conference “rivals” and biggest threat to a trip to the finals, the Heat immediately regrouped and beat the Chicago Bulls in…5 games. LeBron James played outstanding basketball for the most part and hit some clutch shots down the stretch during all three of those series. No one cares.

The only thing that matters it seems is how James plays with 2 minutes or less to go in a close NBA finals game. Chances are LeBron James’ season, nickname, career, and legacy will be judged by how he chose to reveal a decision he made as a 25 year old, and a handful of possessions this postseason. A handful of possessions that even if he shoots at a great NBA percentage(50%), he will miss half of. Which brings us to the three notable possible endings to the Miami Heat’s second season with “the big 3″:

  1. The Heat win the title this year and LeBron plays well during “crunch time”: Year 1 is looked at as a year of building team chemistry where they ran into a smart, veteran, resilient, “team of destiny” Dallas Mavericks that no one could have beaten. After winning, the Heat are immediately the Vegas favorites for next year’s title. There is talk of a dynasty going forward.
  2. The Heat win the title but James doesn’t perform well during “crunch time”: At the post-game press conference all of the reporters praise Dwayne Wade but ask LeBron the same question in 12 different ways; “Do you feel that you truely contributed to this title?”. LeBron stresses that the Miami Heat as a team accomplished their goal and that he does not care about his individual statistics. While this is partially true, James’ critics will still have something to hang onto. ESPN will hold an entire segment comparing Jordan’s statistics during his first NBA Championship victory to LeBron’s.
  3. The Heat don’t win the title and LeBron plays poorly: Year 1 is looked at as a title that they let slip away against an old and inferior Dallas Maverick’s team that was all but buried in game 2. After losing, there is immediate speculation over which of the big 3 will get traded. LeBron James’ legacy is irreparably altered.
If the Heat do not win this year, they will likely shop Chris Bosh in hopes of getting a more traditional low post scorer. No one will take his contract, and once the front office realizes that they will release a statement saying that they were never trying to trade Bosh. They will try to convince the next group of players to sign the veteran’s minimum level contract for next year. Pat Riley will likely come down from the fortress and coach the team despite his outward allegiances towards Erik Spoelstra(having a young, first-time head coach is only romantic if he wins). But even a championship next season will not completely vindicate James and the team. The media and the naysayers will ask: “what happened to not 5….not 6….not 7…..?”
Dwayne Wade and his knees are not getting any younger. Chris Bosh and his mediocre skill-set are probably not going to improve by much, and his maximum contract is definitely not going to decrease or become more attractive to other teams. Pat Riley and his slicked back hair are not getting any more patient. The window for a Miami Heat title with this team is a lot smaller than people think. What happens this postseason will likely mold what young basketball fans 50 years from now think about LeBron James and his Miami Heat. Now, more than ever….

Every Once In a While….

…..a very good movie gets ignored and undeservingly banished to the $5 misfit bin at Best Buy. This occurs when  it’s subject or main character is not socially acceptable to the majority of the public, or because Best Buy doesn’t know which genre section to put it in so somebody that I imagine has a voice similar to that of Gandalf says “PUT IT IN THE BANISHING BIN!”. In this bin you will find anything from second and third installments of movies that had no business producing sequels(I’m talking to you, Robocop), to a multitude of Tom Hanks movies that have been around for so long that everyone in the world already owns them(Forrest Gump/Castaway) and Best Buy is getting rid of their stock to create room for the next live Justin Bieber concert dvd. Other than those instances, you don’t expect to see quality movies in that bin unless it is Christmas time and you see McCauley Culkin’s open mouth and stupid face on 2 out of every 3 DVDs that you pull out of there.

When a good movie is put into that pile it is a steal for movie-junkies like myself, but for the casual watcher this proves to be a great disservice for all parties. One afternoon during my college years I was 20 seconds into a stomach-deep-handstand in that bin when I pulled out “Wonderland”. I would have voiced a formal complaint with a Best Buy employee via this blog in verbal form, but I wanted to ensure the $5 purchase. Regardless, this movie has no business being in the banishing bin.

“Wonderland” is the true story of male adult film star John Holmes and his alleged role in the Wonderland Murders. The title “Wonderland” references the street on which the plot takes place.

  • Val Kilmer(more on him later) plays John Holmes, and he absolutely dominates the role. I cannot stress that statement enough.
  • Kate Bosworth(why doesn’t anyone put her in the discussion of hottest actress?) is Holmes’ teenage girlfriend that constantly allows her infatuation with Holmes to cloud her judgement as she follows him blindly into trouble time and time again.
  • Lisa Kudrow is Holmes’ estranged wife. This is the only aspect of the movie that I would change; none of the “Friends” cast deserve to be in feature films in my opinion. Kudrow’s performance in this movie is a perfect example as to why. She is obviously and hopelessly out of place throughout the entire movie.
  • The cast is rounded out with very good actors including Josh Lucas, Dylan McDermott, and Carrie Fisher.
  • Dynamite soundtrack

The movie has almost nothing to do with John Holmes the porn-star. The only real reference to that aspect of his life is what the pornographic movie industry turned him into; a lying, thieving, cowardly junky. Holmes and his selfish ways get him in debt with a group of low-level drug dealers and he is forced to attempt to help them rip off a crime lord by the name of Eddie Nash. The plot toggles between the films depiction of the actual events and the survivors of the murders giving statements to the FBI.

The one part of this movie that is actually upsetting is how good Val Kilmer performed in the leading role. There was a time that Val Kilmer was on his way to the top as one of the best male actors in the business. He was one of the first to show the ability to completely transform himself into a role; to an almost frightening degree. If you haven’t seen his rendition of Doc Holliday in “Tombstone”, stop reading this and go rent the movie immediately. Kilmer’s early performances really leave very little to be desired. According to IMDB.com, the surviving members of the band were startled by how seamlessly and accurately he portrayed Jim Morrison in “The Doors”, a role in which Kilmer actually sang instead of having Morrison’s actual voice dubbed over his own. He played a supporting role to a bill of some legendary actors in “Heat”, a movie that included Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Jon Voight, and Tom Sizemore. He wasn’t outperformed. Although the movie wasn’t spectacular, Kilmer was outstanding as the lead role in the spy thriller called “The Saint”. There are a few other examples, but for the most part Kilmer has been pushing out consecutive straight-to-dvd movies for over a decade now. Every once in awhile he pops on the grid with a vintage performance in a quality movie like “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” alongside Robery Downey Junior, but the majority of Kilmer’s films these days make you wonder who is advising him.

Give “Wonderland” a shot, even if you have to pay $9.99 plus tax.

Check out Kilmer’s hilarious scene on “Entourage” 

The 11-Year Freefall to Contention

At the time it seemed like a great trade. The Knicks were getting a 20/10 power forward that was making a career out of ferociously slamming on opposing players. His ruptured Patellar Tendon was not thought to be a concern because of an innovative micro-fracture surgery that would be able to fully repair injured knees. What were they giving up? An over-the-hill Mark Jackson, a talented but too thin and oft injured Marcus Camby, and the draft rights to a pudgy, undersized center in that year’s draft: Nene Hilario.

The player the Knicks received was Antonio McDyess.

Just a few years removed from a trip to the NBA Finals; Knick fans immediately salivated over the thought of a core three of Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell, and newly acquired Antonio McDyess. Little did we know that McDyess’ inability to recover from his knee ailment was the first domino in a long series of bad trades, misused draft picks, and bad personnel moves that eventually led the Knicks to be a circus and the laughing stock of the league.

For nearly a decade following the McDyess trade, nearly everything that could have gone wrong for the Knicks went wrong.

….(Ace Ventura deep breath)….

Allan Houston could never quite realize his potential due to various injuries. General Manager Isiah Thomas traded countless draft picks and gave undeserved contracts to anyone that recently had a good game against the Knicks (see Jared Jeffries, Jerome James, Eddy Curry). James Dolan didn’t only stick with Isiah Thomas, he kept giving him more responsibility with the organization. Stephon Marbury listened to absolutely no one. Larry Brown, who successfully coached Allen “We-Talkin’-About-Practice” Iverson , couldn’t stand the thought of more time with Marbury; so he walked away. Zach Randolph did this: Eddy Curry started getting paid in cheeseburgers. Michael Sweetney was drafted ahead of Mo Williams, David West, and Kendrick Perkins. Houston still couldn’t get healthy. Marbury still wouldn’t listen. Nene Hilario(previously traded for McDyess), blossomed into an athletic and powerful center. Channing Frye was drafted ahead of Andrew Bynum and Danny Granger. Channing Frye was then traded and soon after became a lights out 3 point shooter off the bench for the Phoenix Suns. Painfully underachieving forward Tim Thomas was acquired…..twice. Moochie Norris(real name) played 68 games for the Knickerbockers. Vin Baker, Anfernee Hardaway, Dikembe Mutombo, and Glen Rice each arrived about 5 years past their respective primes. After leaving the Knicks, Dikembe Mutombo entered his prime again. Marbury still wouldn’t listen. Steve Francis forgot how to play basketball altogether once he entered Madison Square Garden. The Knicks traded athletic forward Trevor Ariza after he didn’t produce all-star caliber numbers immediately; he would end up starting for a championship Laker team. Countless players with expensive contracts like Malik Rose, Antonio Davis, and Jalen Rose were taken from other teams in order to complete trades that never quite panned out. And I haven’t even begun to state how far back Marbury’s inability to be coached set the Knicks. How could a team coached by Larry Brown and retaining a starting five of Stephon Marbury, Quentin Richardson, David Lee, Channing Frye, and Eddy Curry(still serviceable at that point) only win 23 games? Oh by the way, instant offense sixth-man Jamal Crawford came off the bench for that team(Jamal Crawford was one of the few bright spots during these years and was someone I was sad to see leave the Knicks organization). I will never forgive Marbury for his part in the destruction of the Knicks.

Finally in 2008, with the heralded free agent class of 2010 approaching, the Knicks made a good decision: they hired Donnie Walsh as President of Basketball Operations. Walsh immediately began shedding the expensive contracts leftover from the Isiah Thomas era. Mike D’Antoni was brought in as coach with his 7-seconds-or-less offense and the idea that the Knicks would only sign players that fit into his style of play.

Entering the summer of 2010, on Donnie Walsh’s watch; the Knicks had the cap-room for two maximum contracts as well as a roster with some already capable NBA players on it including Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari. After organizations were done wooing all of the superstar free agents and the dust settled, the Knicks had signed dominant offensive forward Amare Stoudemire and underrated point guard Raymond Felton(one of the biggest steals of that offseason that no one talks about). They also drafted a young guard with the ability to be a good role player out of Stanford: Landry Fields.

Halfway through the next season, with the Knicks playing good basketball under Mike D’Antoni’s system, owner James Dolan forced Donnie Walsh to complete a three-team trade to bring star forward Carmelo Anthony and point guard Chauncey Billups to the Knicks from the Denver Nuggets. Anthony would have been a free agent at the end of the season and had previously stated that he only wanted to play in New York. In exchange, the Knicks would send Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov(3 very good players and 1 serviceable center) and 3 draft picks to the Nuggets.

Just like that, the direction of the Knicks was almost completely wiped out. The players on Mike D’Antoni’s roster no longer were a good fit for his system. Carmelo Anthony was an isolation player now on a team that was thriving with ball movement. With injuries and too many moving parts, the team went 14-14 down the stretch and got swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.

….and then some funny things started happening….

  • Heading into the present season, the Knicks released Chauncey Billups and signed defensive-minded center Tyson Chandler, and defensive-minded assistant coach Mike Woodson.
  • Jared Jeffries signed with the Knicks at a much more affordable price; a price that you can now appreciate what he brings to the table without asking yourself “HOW MUCH ARE WE PAYING HIM TO TAKE CHARGES??”
  • Knowing his contract as team president was not being renewed, Donnie Walsh still drafted a defensive guard he thought the Knicks would need the next season: Iman Shumpert.
  • With a need for depth at the forward position and very little money to spend, the Knicks signed a slow, lanky Caucasian shooter named Steve Novak.
  • With no true point guard on the roster, the Knicks signed a veteran with a reputation for quitting on his teams at the first sign of trouble: Baron Davis.
  • With injuries hampering the team, the Knicks signed a Taiwanese point guard to fill their final roster spot: Jeremy Lin.
  • With everyone signing with the up-and-coming Los Angeles Clippers, explosive scoring shooting guard JR Smith chose to sign with the Knicks in order to guarantee himself playing time.
  • Halfway through the season, with D’Antoni’s team struggling because the players did not fit his system, the coach parted ways with the team and assistant Mike Woodson took over as head coach.

The Knicks somehow fell into the perfect supporting cast for a championship caliber team. Tyson Chandler is a defensive anchor that Madison Square Garden hasn’t seen since Patrick Ewing. Jared Jeffries provides defense, rebounding, and stability off the bench. Iman Shumpert is among the league leaders in steals. Steve Novak has the best 3 point shooting percentage in the entire league. Jeremy Lin exploded and is now known as Linsanity. Linsanity’s back-up; Baron Davis, can probably start at point guard for 10 teams in the NBA. JR Smith can carry an offense for stretches of a quarter. Landry Fields is an underrated scorer that will not makes waves over his lack of touches. New head coach Mike Woodson is not afraid to hold all of these players accountable, including the stars.

The Knicks go 10 deep. They each have specific roles. They root for each other. THEY PLAY DEFENSE. Their bench not only sustains leads, they can build on leads while the starters rest. There is a good mix of veterans and young players. Let’s not forget that they play in the best arena in the NBA, an arena that can single-handedly swing games in the Knicks favor if the opposing team isn’t careful.

The general manager isn’t holding them back. It is too late in the season for owner James Dolan to change the team with a bad trade. The coach isn’t holding them back. The supporting players are certainly not holding them back. How far the Knicks go this season will ultimately rest on Carmelo Anthony’s ability to share the ball/takeover when needed, and on Amare Stoudemire’s knees.

So ultimately, the Knicks are left to wonder if their superstar’s have what it takes to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy to New York. Isn’t that what Miami is doing with Lebron James and his subpar play during 4th quarters? Isn’t that what the Thunder are doing with Durant and Westbrook and their inability to coexist at times? Isn’t that what every championship caliber team does? Tell me….why can’t the Knicks win again?

And even if they don’t, this decade as a Knick’s fan is certainly looking more promising than the last.

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