Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Melo Experience

As far as their recent history shows, it can be said that the New York Knicks had a successful season. Led by Carmelo Anthony — who led the league in scoring with 28.4 PPG — the Knicks made it past the first round for the first time since the Allan Houston/Latrell Sprewell Knicks back in 2000. They won 54 games, made 891 threes (An NBA Record), sent two of their players to the All Star Game (Anthony, Tyson Chandler), as well as J.R. Smith who toned down the recklessness in his game enough to win the 6th Man award…. in a contract year.  Carmelo has emerged as the biggest marquee star the Knicks have had since Patrick Ewing. More than that, he wants to be a Knick, can handle the city’s media glare & understands its major market pressures.  That’s the good part.  Here’s the bad part: he wants to do it on his terms with the team revolving around his skill set.  Now you might be saying, “So?! All star players would want this”, & you would be right. Just as long as you understand this: No team (much less the Knicks) will ever win a title as long as Carmelo is your best player playing the way that he does.  Not even close.

People believe that Carmelo coming to New York brought the Knicks back on the map.  Well let’s rewind back a few years ago to the summer of 2010.  Back then, the Knicks cleared all of their cap space & bad contracts to land some major stars.  They figured with their blank salary cap slate, the allure of playing in a major market, & all the business opportunities available because of it, that they would go full throttle after LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, & Amar’e Stoudemire to come play for them & make their franchise relevant again.  But after the way they handled/bungled/mangled the last decade….. actually, let’s list just some of the events & decisions that was made:

  • They traded their long-time franchise player Patrick Ewing after 15 years with the team without letting him know beforehand. (Ewing found out about the trade in his car while in traffic);
  • Had one playoff appearance since 2001;
  • Signed Eddy Curry to 6yr/$56M contract;
  • Signed Jerome James to a $30M contract;
  • Not letting Stephon Marbury know that his father (in the stands at the time) suffered a heart attack & was rushed to the Hospital until after the game.  He died before Stephon could get to see him;
  • The Rise of Jim Dolan;
  • Signed Jerome James to a $30M contract.  No, this is not a typo.

Surprisingly, all the big named free agents blew their offers off, except for Amar’e.  So while Miami became a conglomerate onto itself, the Knicks signed Stoudemire & his uninsurable knees to a 5 yr/$100M deal.  Everyone expected the Knicks to flounder with only one star player surrounded by a bunch of young bucks & role players. Instead, he put the team on his back, raised the level & value of Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, & Wilson Chandler, & had the buzz back in MSG while playing like an MVP candidate the first half of the season (26.1 PPG/8 RPG). Everyone noticed including Melo in Denver, whose impending free agency was hanging around his team like a stale fart…. while at the same time, he started angling his way to get to the new hot team.  Once Jim Dolan caught wind that Melo wanted to come to New York & that the negotiations between the two teams weren’t going fast enough, he took over the meetings, and offered up all his new valued assets with the desperation of a man offering to pay rent & hand wash panties on a first date.  Yes, even though Melo had an opt-out a few months later & could have just signed with the Knicks outright, they went ahead & traded Gallinari, Chandler, Felton & Timofey Mozgov for Carmelo & Chauncey Billups.

After a hero’s welcome for a hometown boy (even though up until then, we all thought he was raised in Baltimore but whatever), he played in his first game vs. Milwaukee, & went 10 – 25 from the field in a 114 – 108 win. TWENTY FIVE SHOTS!!! This was eventually a precursor for things to come. You know how the rest turns out, he spends the rest of the season struggling to fit his game with Amar’e but the Knicks still sneak into the playoffs.  Lost quickly to Boston in the 1st round.  Then after the team gets off to a rocky start after the lockout, Melo gets hurt, Linsanity begins, the team shares the ball & starts winning games…. until Melo starts complaining about his touches in the offense.  Mike D’Antoni resigns, Stoudemire’s knees continue to erode, and they make the playoffs under a new system on the fly, and lose again quickly in the 1st round to the Heat.

Now we have this season where Melo is playing the four & has his best regular season as a Knick.  In an offense designed for him, he gets to do what he does best: Shoot from wherever & whenever he wants. We kept hearing how much veterans like Jason Kidd helped him to become a better leader, and a more mature, complete basketball player.  Maybe it did to an extent….. But it didn’t totally reflect in his stats:

2011-12 Melo: 22.6 PPG/6.3 RPG/3.6 APG/43% FG/33% 3FG/1.1 SPG/0.4 BPG

2012-13 Melo: 28.7 PPG/6.9 RPG/2.6 APG/45% FG/38% 3FG/0.8 SPG/0.5 BPG

It also didn’t reflect in the playoffs either.  In 12 playoff games this year, he shot the ball 24 times or more in 9 games.  During the first 5 games of the six-game Boston series, he had 6 assists.  In the Pacer series, he shot 65 – 150 (43% FG).  Take away the stats in Games 2 & 6, and he shot 38%.  Ironically enough, it’s right around his playoff averages as a Knick (39.9%).  He had a teammate (Chandler) indirectly call him out for the way that the offense was sticking to his hands.  He had more fouls (29) than assists, steals, and blocks combined (14). I’m not expecting him to turn into Magic, or even LeBron all of a sudden.  He’s a scorer and that’s his strength. I understand this. But he’s gotta affect the game in more ways than just his scoring.  I always believe at some point, the team takes on the traits and personality of their leader. So when I watch the Knicks playoff games & observe guys going one on one, taking up chunks of the shot clock before heaving up a low percentage shot, it says something about Carmelo.

You always hold onto the hope that the potential of people can be reached, but after a while, you realize that this is who they are.  Eventually, you realize that with some people, the only thing that changes about them are their clothes.  Anthony is headed into his 11th season.  He’s only been out of the first round twice.  Unless he has an epiphany in the next couple of years and changes his game where he makes his team better, this is who he is.  If you’re a Knicks fan, you may want to get prepared to see him sit beside Dominique Wilkins, Allen Iverson, George Gervin, and every other historical gunner who ended his career without a ring….

……. & maybe that’s just how it’s supposed to be.

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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Where Brooklyn At?

Whenever you think of Brooklyn and what it represents, many things come to mind. It’s defined by the character of the people & the gritty toughness that is ingrained in their blood. You think about the Borough’s heart. You think about its hustling mentality & spirit. You think about its style, its swagger. It’s attitude. You think about the people that were bred there: Mike Tyson, The Notorious B.I.G., and Spike Lee. You think about its rich history. You think about Ebbets Field. You think about the Brooklyn Dodgers. Shiiit, you even think about the Crooklyn Dodgers. You also think about Jay-Z & how he’s repped Brooklyn & has made himself into a cultural icon. Now, besides his affiliation with the team & maybe the uniforms he helped to design, did anything the Brooklyn Nets did this playoffs (or this season for that matter) make you think of any of those things??? Outside of maybe Reggie Evans ripping rebounds & causing mayhem in the paint, there was nothing very Brooklyn about this team.

Nobody should be surprised at how their season ended. Their whole season lacked consistency on the floor & lacked personality off the it. There was never a defining point in their season that anyone can remember, other than the four games they played against the New York Knicks this season. Even though they locked up a 4th seed & home court advantage in the Eastern Conference where only two teams won 50 games, they couldn’t have met a worse match up in Chicago, a team that ironically represents more characteristics of Brooklyn than they do. Led by Brooklyn’s own Joakim Noah, they brought their personality & swagger after Game 1 & changed the series to their own tempo. In fact, look at Chicago’s team. Noah? Hustle. Luol Deng & Jimmy Butler? Grit. Carlos Boozer? Toughness. Nate Robinson? Heart. If these teams could have switched uniforms, they would have been more BK-relatable. In Game 6, the Nets almost lost to Chicago that had Taj Gibson & Robinson battling the flu. Kirk Hinrich was out with a severely strained right calf, & Deng was sent to the hospital after undergoing a spinal tap. Not to mention, no Derrick Rose either. Yet they were still a jump ball away from possibly going into overtime. In Game 7, after going down 61-44 at the half (& their hollow comeback attempt), it’s fair to say they should have had their stripes ripped from their jerseys like a disgraced soldier. Game 7 is more about imposing your will & heart over another team. Look at this example of who left their heart on the floor:

Joe Johnson (playing with plantar fasciitis): 6 pts (2 – 14 from the field, 1-9 from 3-point land), 3 boards, 2 assists, & 1 FREE THROW from the line.

Joakim Noah (with the exact same injury): 24 pts (12-17 from the field), 14 boards (7 offensive), and 6 blocks.

You know what else Brooklyn gives you? Value & bang for your buck when you’re shopping. The Nets have committed $311 Million on their starting lineup alone….. & got knocked out of the 1st round. They have a power forward in Kris Humphries who’s making $12 Million that’s sitting on their bench. Have you seen the season Gerald Wallace just finished having??? By the way, he’s making $30 Million over the next 3 years. Joe Johnson is owed $60 Million for the next 3 years, essentially being paid like a franchise superstar yet he’s the team’s 3rd best player. The guy who tied up the team’s cap space for the next few years? Billy King. The same guy who ten years ago tied up Philadelphia’s cap space to surround Iverson with questionable contract signings. Now he gets a 4-year extension! With the firing of P.J. Carleisimo, they will be on their 3rd coach by the time training camp begins. I know Mikhail Prokhorov has deep pockets and everything, but I’m starting to think that if someone can just take him down to Fulton Mall, he’ll understand he doesn’t have to overpay for everything. I understand it is only year one of their acclimation to the Brooklyn Borough, but with the unrealistic expectations Prokhorov set of them winning a title by 2015, with this lineup, this management, & minimal cap space, it may be a while before the right team can represent this city to the fullest.

Sideline Notes

Major respect goes out the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night. After blowing a 16-point lead in Game 1 to the Spurs, I thought they wouldn’t win another game in this series. The best time to take a victory as a team is Game 1, especially when the opponent has an 8-day layoff between series & will spend most of that 1st game shaking off rust. So when the Spurs were still able to win, I imagined between the Spurs veteran leadership & the Warriors playoff inexperience, they would not recover. Instead, they controlled the game again (they’ve actually lead 96 of 106 minutes of these two games) & walked away with a split in the series and their first win in San Antonio since Valentine’s Day in 1997. Responsible for this shift in the team’s culture is Mark Jackson & Steph Curry. Jackson shows you that coaching isn’t just about X’s & O’s, but about motivating your team & instilling belief in your players to do things they can’t sometimes see themselves. He’s clearly gotten the ears of the players, which has now taken on the personality & swagger he had as a player. As far as Curry is concerned, he’s doing something I’m not sure I have seen in the NBA in a long time, if not ever. Steph is almost like the secret player you unlock with a cheat code in a video game that allows you to make every shot possible by pressing X and L2 repeatedly. More than that, he’s become the proverbial hot goalie that you see in the NHL playoffs or the hot pitcher in the MLB playoffs. Being a Canadiens fan, I remember when Patrick Roy was standing on his head in the 1986 & 1993 playoffs essentially stealing two Stanley Cups from better teams those years. Or like Randy Johnson & Curt Schilling did the same pitching the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001 knocking off the New York Yankees in the World Series. Whenever you have a goalie or a pitcher that hot, all conventional playoff order & rules go out the window. Much like those teams riding their insanely hot star player to glory, Golden State is doing the same with Curry. Make no mistake; Curry is at this level now, playing with an NBA Jam On Fire type confidence leaving no answer for defenses to contain him. How else do you explain this shot he pulled off in the first quarter last night? Now I don’t want to say that they’re going to win it all, much less this series vs. San Antonio. But until a team can devise a plan to stop Curry, at this point, I’m saying all bets are off now…… Is it a coincidence that Brendon Ayanbadejo & Chris Kluwe (two players strong in their stances for Gay rights) both no longer have NFL jobs after being cut this offseason? Ha ha, what am I saying? OF COURSE it’s a coincidence….. Maybe Ricky Romero should try a new position. Um, how about DH?…… Quick predictions for the rest of 2nd Round of playoffs: Dick Bavetta aka “Knick Bavetta” refs Game 6 or 7 if Knicks/Pacers series goes that far. We don’t want break Stern’s wish of having an all major-market Eastern Conference Finals. At the very least, expect lots of fishy calls in those games; OKC will lose in 6 to Memphis; Miami will win in 6…… & the Habs will come back from 3 – 1 down and win the series. Gotta have confidence right??…… ***reading last night’s box score*** ……..Ahh f***.

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

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Does D-Rose Really Need to Play?

SHOULD A ROSE BLOOM?

Question: Should Derrick Rose play during the playoffs this season?

Answer: No. 

…..Ok, I’ll explain. Even though Derrick Rose has been cleared to play, coming off major knee surgery can be as taxing mentally as it is physically. Basketball is a game of rhythm. If he’s not ready mentally & his rhythm isn’t right, then why play? He’s being paid $95M to represent the franchise for the rest of the decade health permitting. If he’s holding that kind of responsibility, then let him be responsible for his body to be at its best.  Those looking to ostracize him for sitting the bench aren’t thinking clearly. Asking any player (even a superstar) that missed a whole regular season to now come into a playoff series to, A) get his game rounded out & his rhythm in order and B) do so without thinking about his knee is preposterous. Or worse, to rush him in to come off the bench & play 15-20 monitored minutes a game. That’s like asking Chris Martin to come back to Coldplay, play the guitar & sing backup during a World Tour.

The Bulls’ concern SHOULD be to the future. In Game 3 the 2003 Western Conference Finals, Dirk Nowitzki badly strained his right knee against the San Antonio Spurs. Pressed with the opportunity to play the remainder of the series with a trip to the Finals on the line, Head Coach Don Nelson decided to shut down their 24-yr old cornerstone. You think they regret that decision now? Within the next 10 years, he’s surpassed 25,000 points, played in 11 All Star games, won the 2007 MVP, brought the franchise their 1st title, a future 1st ballot Hall of Famer  becoming one of the best players of his generation & helping solidify value to the franchise around the league. I’m pretty sure it was worth it for them. Now a similar situation may occur with Russell Westbrook. While the team says that he’ll be out for the rest of the playoffs following knee surgery, if OKC makes it to the Finals again in June & Westbrook is way ahead of schedule, will he get the pressure to sacrifice the long term goals for the now?

Remember when Brandon Roy had late season surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee in 2010, then came back, & was ahead of schedule to play at less than 100% for the Trailblazers who didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting out of the first round vs. Phoenix? How did that turn out? His knees — never being 100% to begin with coming into the league — was never the same after the series & is most likely retiring after this season for a second time partly due to no one protecting his future in Portland. How about Gilbert Arenas who tore his MCL in 2007 after running through a 3-year span as one of the most explosive guards in the NBA? Everyone loved him when he came back early from his knee surgery…. until he started overcompensating for that same knee, ending up having more surgeries & injuries within the next 2 years.  Arenas & the Wizards haven’t been the same since. Where is he now? The Far East trying to recoup what’s left of his career (well, that & shaking off the “Gunplay” image.) It serves no purpose for Rose to come back. Protect him, protect the future of his career, and protect the franchise. By continuing to release reports on his status , Chicago’s PR team is putting the pressure on him to get back on the court & create more short-term buzz financially to the team. It’s refreshing that he’s strong enough mentally to take care of his most valuable asset: himself.

Notes

Don’t underestimate Friday’s deal that the MLSE made with appointing Tim Lieweke their President & CEO.  Anyone who hasn’t followed his career needs to sit up & take notice to the possibilities that are now open to the Toronto Sports scene. Here’s the main feature to understanding Lieweke:  Tim is a MAJOR player in the Sports & Entertainment world who only aligns himself to major projects (ie. Bringing David Beckham to MLS).  Mediocrity is NOT in his vocabulary, so for anyone thinking Bryan Colangelo is sticking around to continue what he’s been doing (ie. Wanting to sign Rudy Gay to an extension even though he has 2 more years left at $37M & has NEVER played in an All Star Game), I’m not sure what else there is to say….. Of many quotes that’s been said in basketball, the phrase, “You live by the jumper, you die by the jumper” has always been one of the truest. Well, I’m willing to live by Steph Curry’s jumper for the foreseeable future….. As much as I am on the Clippers Bandwagon (I currently reside in the VIP Section), I still can’t help but think why Blake Griffin isn’t better than he is.  I’ve had this debate with others in the last couple of months but I ask, how can he be considered the best Power Forward in the game when he gets 2 rebounds in a game? Too many times this season he’s had 5 rebounds or less beside his name. Somewhere between his rookie season & Game 5 of this series, he has regressed rebounding-wise. We really can’t expect the Clippers to go far in the post season if Griffin & DeAndre Jordan can’t control the paint & are using their hops for lobs that’ll rarely come during this time of the season.

 

Cal Cee  // South Shore Ave

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