Monday, March 21, 2011

Chill out New York

I'm sitting here watching the Knicks play the Celtics. It's early in the game - both teams are trading buckets. Melo has already made a couple nice jumpers, KG has pounded his head at least once, the Garden crowd is already booing Paul Pierce whenever he touches the ball.

This is a big game. It feels like a big game. KG, Ray Allen, Pierce, Rondo, Amar'e, Carmelo and Chauncey are all on the floor. MSG network has been advertising this game all weekend, even in the midst of a games against Milwaukee and Indiana. The Knicks are a playoff team and the Celtics are arguably the best team in the league.

A few hours have passed and the Knicks had a memorable fade in the 4th quarter; at one point the 'Bockers were up 81-73. From that point on, they got outscored 23-5 and lost the game.

There will no doubt be a lot of uproar tomorrow in the papers. One of my friends, a hardcore keeper of Knicks-faith already went on a Gchat rant to me. I tried to calm him, but much like most of the media and fans around here, it was and will be to no avail. He's talking about how Carmelo is a "slightly better Al Harrington" and how this team is pathetic. Please friends, let me assuage your fears and doubts.

The sad truth is that this game doesn't really matter. Hell, the past 15 Knick games haven't mattered. The next 13 won't matter. And then every game, whether it be 4 games or 28 games in April through June won't really matter either. You know why? Because think of this as the hand after the royal flush hand. Right now, you're playing with house money. These Knickerbockers can do no wrong.

I know a lot of Knicks fans and they were all pretty fired up when the big trade went down. Rightfully so. The foundations for a very excellent team have been laid down. Knicks basketball is relevant again, which is a statement I couldn't have made for the past 11 years. But I don't really get the sense that they are all truly reveling in what is happening.

Right now, you all have a free hall pass. Nothing in this season matters. You just can not be expected to win, let alone compete for a championship. Anything good that happens is a bonus, like seeing a Timofey Mozgov dunk in a blow-out. Here are some of the top reasons:

1. They dropped FOUR STARTERS midseason
- Yes, THREE starters. This isn't baseball kids. This is the National Basketball Association. There aren't nine starters out there. There are five and 3/5 of that group got shipped out. To ask Amar'e and Landry "The Punisher" Fields, no matter how good they may be, to try and reconfigure their games to 2 new teammates and additional players that were not playing heavy minutes early in the season is a lot to ask.

2. Have you seen the guys they are playing with?
- Roger Mason and Jared Jeffries got over 10 minutes of playing time tonight. Turiaf logged 27 minutes. Shelden Williams got to do something physical that wasn't a blow-out, practice or doing Candance Parker's laundry. They depend on Shawne Williams. You simply cannot have those types of players to have such meaning in their roles. Each is completely overmatched in what the Knicks ask of them on a nightly basis.

3. Jared Jeffries is their tallest player.
- The Knicks are currently constituted of 15 players, NONE OF WHICH are above 6'10". That's right. Your tallest player is a guy who got cut by Houston for the privilege of watching Hasheem Thabeet being 7 foot, 6 inches of worthless immobility. Ronny Turiaf gets major, meaningful minutes as the defense pivot for the team. How do you expect this team to rebound? Yes, you don't have to biggest dog in the fight to battle for the boards, but when each one of your players is below-average size at their position, that's just not feasible. We're looking at one of the worst rebounding teams in the league.

4. Everyone is a terrible defender
- Oh wait, this won't change no matter what the personnel is. If Dikembe Mutumbo, Bill Russell, Ron Artest, Michael Cooper and Gary Payton played on this team in their primes, they'd still give up 140 a game. Love D'Antoni ball!

For all the reasons lined up here (and for a few that aren't), there really is no reason to get worked up New York. This is barely a team. Most of these guys do not belong in the rotations of playoff teams, let alone in the roles they are asked to serve. They are over-sized and over-matched in most games. This was a squad that was completely put together on the fly, with glue, and Donnie's blood and sweat. There is no way that this team should be expected to compete with the elite teams in the league, no matter how good their two 25+ ppg scorers are. This is a free pass New York! This is basically exhibition basketball for the 2012 season (if we have one)! If this team got swept by Miami in the first round, so what? They had the pupu platter of small forwards guarding LeBron and Dwyane Wade absolutely tore up Landry The Punisher. Big deal! That's supposed to happen! But let's say as an added bonus, they got 7 with Miami, and maybe even win. Let's say they even win the second round with Chicago or Boston and get to the ECF, at which point they lost in 7 tough games. Super duper! This team is not beating the Lakers, Mavs or Spurs. No way. They brought you the most exciting Knicks season (I'd argue) since 1994. They dominated the headlines, had some absolutely magnificent games against the Heat and Celtics and created excitement from a downtrodden and nearly beaten fanbase.

Take this very exciting with low expectations as a gift. You will never get anything else like it. There has never been a team that had this many good players with such low expectations. They can do no wrong. You just want them to go out there, play hard and compete, and if something good happens, muchos gracias. If not, that's what was supposed to happen. Don't piss and whine. You matter again. Be happy New York, and chilllllllll out.

YOUR...2011 MLB AL West Projections

Projected Finish:
1. Oakland Athletics
2. Anaheim Angels
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners

If last year's World Series taught me anything, it's God has forsaken us. The Giants can win the title. The Giants won the title. Four months later, the shock still hasn't worn off, as Cody Ross does the Macarena naked around his NLCS MVP trophy and Juan Uribe uses his championship bonus money to clean his guns. Someone in the Bay Area struck a deal with the devil to end one of the most underrated curses of all time.

But if there's something else that last year's World Series taught me, it's that pitching and defense win championships. As currently constituted, this, along with a couple other factors, give the Oakland A's the decided preseason advantage in the AL West. On the defensive side, nearly every Athletic is an above-average fielder, save for Josh Willingham in left. They imported enough players that you may or may not have heard of (Josh Willingham, David DeJesus, Hideki Matsui) to generate some offense for them. And then there's the pitching.

Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden all had ERAs under 3.50. Anderson and Cahill were born in 1988, Gonzalez in 1985 and the oldest of this foursome at 31, Dallas Braden, threw a perfect game last year. They are young and relatively inexperienced, but talented - just as talented as say, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgardner and Jonathan Sanchez. Behind them, Brad Ziegler, Andrew Bailey, Michael Wuertz, Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour comprise what should be one of, if not the best bullpen in the league. If everything goes right for this young club, they could have a pretty decent run in the fall.

The other advantage the A's have? The division is not very good. The Rangers made a surprise run to the series, but with the subtraction of Cliff Lee, they needed to add pitching - so they went out and got Adrian Beltre. Obviously, I've got a lot of love for the guy. This, with a combination of a World Series hangover will keep them from duplicating the success they had last season. The Angels too needed help - but not in the pitching department (their rotation is underrated as presently constituted, with Ervin Santana, Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, Joel Pineiro and whatever is left of Scott Kazmir's shoulder), but in the hitting department. While Vernon Wells is not Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford (though he has the contract to match), he is still a better than average MLB player, and will help them. They are similarly mediocre to the A's, and I think we will see a division battle unfolding all summer.

The Mariners are in another category by themselves - they have the best pitcher in the league in Felix Hernandez, but conversely one of the worst bullpens and lineups in the majors. I would be surprised if they lost less than 90 games.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

GMs please confer with my sister before giving out $100 million dollar contracts

Allow me to lay out Joe Johnson's salaries for the next 6 years:

2010-11: 16,324,500
2011-12: 18,038,573
2012-13: 19,752,645
2013-14: 21,466,718
2014-15: 23,180,790
2015-16: 24,894,863

That's right. That's $119,000,000 dollars. For Joe Johnson. This guy, whose nickname is "Silent" Joe Johnson, got one of the top 15 richest contracts in NBA history.

I have a general rule in the NBA. You're not allowed to give a guy over $100 million if my sister has never heard of him. Seriously. It is foolproof. Let's put this to the litmus test. Here are the guys my sister has heard of:

Kobe Bryant: 7 years, $136 million (2004)
Kevin Garnett: 6 years, $126 million (1999)
Tim Duncan: 7 years, $126 million (2003)
Shaquille O'Neal: 7 years, $120 million (1996)
LeBron James: 6 Years, $114 million (2010)
Dwyane Wade: 6 years, $107 million (2010)
Jason Kidd: 5 Years, $100 million (2003)
Chris Webber: 7 years, $122 million (2001)

And here are the guys that she'd go "who?" to:
Rashard Lewis: 6 years, $126 million (2007)
Jermaine O'Neal: 7 years, $126 million (2003)
Joe Johnson: 6 years, $119 million (2010)
Chris Bosh: 6 years, $114 million (2010)
Gilbert Arenas: 6 years, $111 million (2008)
Juwan Howard: 7 years, $105 million (1996)
Amar' Stoudemire: 5 years, $100 million (2010)

This isn't disrespect towards Erin Kobashigawa; quite the contrary. It's actually quite the test. My sister of course knows Kobe, KG, Timmy, Shaquille, Kidd and Webber. And you know why? These guys have 14 titles, 5 MVPs, and 7 Finals MVPs between them. They are household names. They are the silhouettes on sneakers, the faces on Wheaties boxes and the voices from some very bad rap albums. They are winners, in some facet or another. And with the exception of Webber, whose career was destroyed by a knee injury, those guys were worth their contracts in their entirety. Even if you make the argument that my sister wouldn't have known all these guys when they signed the contracts, that's not entirely true - with the exception of Kevin Garnett, every player listed was already a superstar, household name by the time they signed those deals.

These other guys? Rashard Lewis and Gilbert currently own 1A and 2A of the most untradeable contracts in the league. And if you're saying "well, that's not true, they both got traded this season". Yes, truth...but they got traded for each other. If you get stabbed on the right side of your head and "traded it" for a stab wound to the left side of your head, that would still really suck. It would suck so much that you would probably die. That's is the approximate equivalent value of this trade, in real world terms.

(That is obviously an exaggeration. In the real world, you'd be dead. In terms of the Gil for Rashard trade, you just have to watch them play awful basketball. I'm so sorry).

The other two guys, Jermaine and Juwan, were both hurt for the last years of their deals and were largely considered expiring contract trade bait for those years. Even looking at Bosh and Joe Johnson, in the first years of their new deals, they already look like they are not going to be worth the money that they're going to be paid. Amar'e is the only one on that list that could be worth that money, but as a guy who's had reconstructive knee surgery and a detached cornea (that could have blinded him for life, seriously), I am more than skeptical. A max contract is supposed to be for a franchise player. For a guy you can build around and win a championship around. And even if maybe you won't win a title, but the contract at the very least has to be validated by having a guy that people will pay to come and see. Can you imagine your girlfriend saying "Ooh, the Wiz are in town! Let's go see Rashard Lewis shoot spot up threes the whole game!" or "Forget 'Bron and Wade - I'm pretty amped up to see Bosh shooting elbow jumpers all game!".

Look, Joe Johnson is a fine player. He's a borderline all-star player (exhibited this year when he was, well, a borderline all-star) with a decent skill-set that includes one really great skill (shooting). But riddle me this about Joe Johnson - have you every watched a game where you said "damn, Joe Johnson is really exerting his WILL on this team". I've never said that. I've never thought that. I have thought "damn, Joe Johnson is on a hot streak right now. He's hit like 7 jumpers in a row" or "man, Joe Johnson is a pretty good player. He's like a poor man's Ray Allen". Sometimes, you could say "wow, Joe Johnson is really killing us tonight". But that's only sometimes.

And this is the problem with Joe Johnson. He's a good guy to have on your team, and is a decently reliable source for offensive production. He's pretty tall, a good rebounder and a good ball handler (even though his assist statistics are inflated because the Hawks have played without a real point guard for Johnson's entire tenure there, so Joe is doing a lot of the passing). But he is not an elite player and he is getting paid like one. I understand that Atlanta had to keep him because he is their best player and someone that brought Atlanta back to respectability after years of floundering. The guy is just not a game-changer.

So there is no way that you should be paying that much money to a guy if:

a) I described as a "poor man's" anybody, except if that "poor man" is Michael, Kareem, Magic or Larry.

b) Is nicknamed "Silent", unless it's ironic or followed by "Assassin", "Killer" or "But Deadly"

c) does not, on a regular basis, exert his will during games


d) Erin Kobashigawa does not know who he is.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Deron Williams...#8, New Jersey Nets

About two weeks ago, my roomate Andrew forwarded me an e-mail promoting New Jersey Nets tickets. I was, at first, disgusted with the prospect of even opening any e-mail having to do with the New Jersey Nets. But, to my hilarity and instant enjoyment, I saw that it detailed a deal selling nosebleed Nets tickets for $2.00 a piece. Yes. Two whole American dollars.

Four days later, Deron Williams got traded to the Nets. We saw an instant rise in the price of Nets tickets. A 250% increase to...$5.00. I was enraged at the prospect of having to pay that kind of mark-up.

Regardless of my feelings of consumer betrayal and anger at such outrageous inflation, with the addition of Deron and with Steve Nash coming to town, I relented and paid such exorbitant prices to watch YOUR...New Jersey Nets in beautiful, scenic Newark, a town known for it's fine cuisine and cleanliness (though those two adjectives are not necessarily tied together)

I've been to a Nets game before. Earlier this season, I came to watch the world champion Los Angeles Lakers visit the tri-state area. The game miraculously appeared to be a near sellout (the Nets regularly have one of the lowest attendances in the league), and the arena was littered with purple and gold. In a casual, yet scientific and unexaggerated estimation, I'd say 65 percent of the crowd were Lakers fans. I scoured those in attendance for NJN gear, but as I walked through the Prudential Center, saw maybe (no joke) two dozen or so people in Nets gear. It really is that desolate.

Last Monday was Deron Williams' first home game as a Net. I expected to see a few people in newly minted Williams #8 jerseys or shirts, but by extrapolating what I knew about the fanbase, I didn't expect much more than that. We walked through the doors and I was blown away, as I instantly saw 4 or 5 people wearing white "Williams #8" shirts. "Wow" I thought, "Jersey really stepped up. People actually might be a little fired up for this. Holy shnikes". As we strolled through the concourse to our extravagantly and outrageously priced seats, I saw more and more "Williams #8" shirts and realized "Oh...this has to have been a promotion. People who are buying $2 seats are not buying $25 Nets merchandise". And I was right. Apparently the Nets stepped up and gave Williams #8 shirts to the first 10,000 "fans" in attendance.

(This kind of situation happened to me once before. When I was a freshman at Boston College, a Jesuit institution of the finest and highest of learning, I walked around campus one fine April morning and saw a girl with some dark smudges on her forehead. I did a double take as she passed and thought "Man, that is EMBARRASING! That girl has make-up all over her forehead! What a goon!". Then I saw that another girl. And another with smudges. And another. And then a couple guys. And a nun. And a dog. And another nun. So even with all the testosterone and masculine instincts that pulse in my veins that run through my well-muscled body, I betrayed my manly nature and asked what was going on - someone replyed "Ash Wednesday. They put crosses on your forehead from ashes...You don't know this?". Jesus, 1. Blake, 0)

We sat down to watch a game (which ended up being a good one - the Nets came back late to force OT and ended with a Channing Frye 3 and a Kris Humphries tip-in that was waved off after the buzzer) and after a few Sasha Vujacic-directed "MACHINE" cracks, I couldn't help but remain in amazement of the promotion the Nets had put on with the shirts. Oddly enough, my NBA nerd brain went to the the thought of "damn, that must be confusing with former obscure lottery pick Terrence Williams on the team....wait a sec...."

Terrence Williams got traded in December of last year. Is it possible that the Nets took all their Terrence Williams merchandise, the former New Jersey lottery pick who wore no. 8 before he was traded to the Rockets, and simply gave it away, trying to pass it off as Deron Williams swag???? Is it possible that the Nets marketing team hit the coincidences of all coincidences and may only lose $5 million this year, as opposed to $6 million? Is it possible that someone brought the forklift into a warehouse in Wayne, New Jersey and brought it directly to the hands of the customers in Newark, New Jersey?

Prokorhov, you Russian genius! I know that this would be such a underhanded, cheap and sneaky promotion to pull on your fans, but who gives a shit? It's brilliant! You pawned off merch that no one ever wanted to begin with and you're moving to Brooklyn in two years! No one has cared about the Nets since 1976, and that includes two Finals appearances! Wunderbar!

(By the way, how incredible is it that no one seems to care that the Nets are moving to Brooklyn? There is basically no talk of any type of fan uproar, or calls from the city or state for the Nets to stay Jersey-side. I mean, last week there was a story that the Sacramento Kings' owners might apply to have a proposal for a long rumored move out of the city to greener pastures in Anaheim and the city was in absolute disarray over it. Mind you, this was just to get the paperwork in on it, and not to actually consumate the move, let alone the fact that this would face massive opposition from the Clippers and Lakers, whose Staples Center home lies not 30 miles away from Honda Center in Anaheim. This just goes to show you that no one cares about the Nets, truly)

Great times had at the Nets game. And despite the loss, I think the first 10,000 Nets "fans" still went home happy with their Terrance Williams merchandise.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Donald Sterling don't care about black people

The Los Angeles Clippers' black history month ad controversial

In a full-page ad today in the Los Angeles Times, the LA Clippers printed an ad with Blake Griffin and owner Donald Sterling which details their intention to support Black History Month by admitting 1,000 underprivelged kids for free into a Clippers game.

Let that one sink in.

But before any criticism, let's give Donald Sterling some credit here. He's putting his own money on the line, which is shocking in itself for this Scrooge McDuck impersonating, morally bereft, putrid wasteland of a human being, and donating tickets to some kids so they can see a professional basketball game. That's nice Donny. Solid. Glad you're giving up 1,000 Clippers tickets with a combined market value of $23 dollars. Asshole.

But let's examine the litany of ways that this is offensive.

1. It's March.

Yeah...Black History Month is in February. It's not Black History Month anymore.
You had a whole month to celebrate Black History Month. Could you not squeeze that one in for all those weeks? Did you forget that February is only 28 days and you thought you had another 2 or 3 to burn?

Some trivia. You know why Black History Month is in February? Because that's when Frederick Douglass' and Abraham's Lincoln's birthdays are. You didn't know that? You don't know who Frederick Douglass is? Then stop reading my blog Donald T. Sterling. You hate mongering arrogant old blowhard.

2. Hmm. So to celebrate Black History Month, you're letting in 1,000 underpriveleged kids for free?

...because there is some sort of correlation between underprivelged kids and the black community? That what you're trying to say here Donald? That's certainly not what I'm saying. But is that what you're saying Donald, you heckling ancient buzzard? Hmm? Hmmmmm? HMMMMMMM?

3. Hmm. So to celebrate Black History Month, you're letting in 1,000 underpriveleged kids for free?

...because you feel like you need to make it up to the black community because there is a ongoing multi-million dollar racial housing discrimation suit pending against you, Donald, you cheap, penny pinching, idiotic assclown? Hmm? Hmmmmm? HMMMMMM?

This whole thing is absolutely fucked. I understand the sentiment. And truly, without mocking, I do believe that it was done with good intentions. But that's where the problem is - arrogance oftens leads to carelessness. Here, in this situation, Sterling chose to be the philantropist and give something to the community. But at the same time, he shows his true colors - thinking he did something so good, so beneficial to society and so altruistic, he lets his mental defenses down and forgets use those few filters that he so commonly has to put in place to put on his public face. So, in this moment of arrogance, Sterling showed his hubris, and thus - his obvious racial stereotyping came to surface. And thus we had this advertisement.

Some Sterling proponents, or even skeptics will say things like "well, you can't necessarily peg this on Donald Sterling. What is to say that someone in marketing or publicity didn't make this up?". There are dozens of people in the Clippers organization. Sterling doesn't write every ad and certainly doesn't oversee every single function of an ordinary business day. Maybe this is something that goes through without his knowledge?

Regardless of whether or not this is Sterling's brainchild or not, the ad is from his organization and branded with his face. His big, fat, wrinkly, decrepit, shit-eating grin slathered face. I refuse to believe that the Clippers have the permission to use their owners crooked visage (which, in the ad is the same size as Blake Griffin's face - the few dozen Clippers fans like the team in spite of you, not because of you, you miserable old racist shitbag).

I will save this rant for another day, but this is truly just another case that this guy is absolutely not fit to run, let alone run, and National Basketball Association team. This is one case in literally dozens that sully the good name of the league and my beloved home town.

Honestly though, I couldn't make up stuff this funny if I TRIED. And believe me, I've tried being funny for 26 years and all that effort has not gotten me anywhere.

Regardless, Mom, can you please get an LA Times for me today so I can frame it? Thanks ma!