Thursday, October 31, 2013

N.Y. Rangers: Stock In Chris Kreider Showing Net Gains


Buffalo   0
Rangers  2

NEW YORK RANGERS: Chris Kreider Is Benefiting From Vigneault's Patience, And Is Gaining More Confidence With Every Shift.  With The Huge Void Left Behind By Rick Nash, Kreider Now Has Goals In Back To Back Games.


The Rangers first faced the New York Islanders featuring Thomas Vanek, then faced the Buffalo Sabres Thursday featuring Matt Moulson.  While the winds of change blow through the NHL, the Rangers situation regarding their major imported star remains unchanged.  This evening, the Rangers were no closer to estimating Rick Nash's ability to lace up the skates than they were two week ago.

Rick Nash last played on October 8th against San Jose.  He has now missed nine of the Rangers twelve games this season with concussion symptoms.  This was his second known concussion within the last year.  The club has issued no updates.

I have wanted the Rangers to trade for Rick Nash for quite some time.  I always felt Rick Nash was uniquely big, fast, tough, and offensively skilled.  I also felt he played in a tough division, the former Central Division, versus Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Nashville.  I have deliberated at length over this, but more and more lately, I'm thinking I may have been completely wrong about Nash.  Did I miss-read him from afar?  Concussions aside, he has never seemed right since his arrival.  I do not want to kick a man while he's down, but I feel he showed up soft last season.  He never seemed to throw his body around like I envisioned.  Even more puzzling was how little he did to defend himself.

Enter Chris Kreider.  The twenty-two year old is finally benefiting from patience exhibited by his coach.  Sure, necessity is the mother of all invention, and with Nash, Callahan, and Hagelin out at the time, Kreider was pressed into service.  Tonight was his fifth game of the season.  He's been throwing his body around with confidence, and scored his second goal of the season against Buffalo Thursday night.  He was up to six shots on goal within the first two periods.

The Rangers peppered Ryan Miller with thirty-eight shots in the first two periods alone, forty-six overall, and generally had their way with a struggling, rebuilding (now 2-12) Buffalo Sabres team.

Derek Stepan's figurative training camp seems almost over.  He is stringing together strong shift after strong shift.  He also had seven shots on goal against Ryan Miller to lead all skaters.  I now believe it's only a matter of shifts before Stepan's shots start finding the back of the net more frequently.

I guess we'll never find out what ailed Henrik Lundqvist. It seems academic now.  The King recorded his second shutout of the season, and the 47th of his career.

The Rangers win their first game at home, and have won back to back games for the first time this season.  They have now won three of their last four games.


N.Y. Knicks: Derrick Rose Set To Reintroduce Himself Tonight

From the desk of:  DUTCH PANTS CAN'T JUMP

NEW YORK KNICKS: Tonight's Early Season Clash In Chicago Should Be The First Of Several Contentious Affairs Against The Bulls.

With Game One in the books, Carmelo Anthony is eighty-one games closer to exercising his right to test free agency.  Good for him.  I do not appreciate that kind of talk when there is a season to be played first.  I additionally did not appreciate when Patrick Ewing did the same exact thing back in the mid-90's.  On the one hand, a player would have to either be very comfortable in his situation, or be an idiot not to exercise his rights under collective bargaining.  That's fine.  The problem is, no fan wants to hear their player express that stuff out loud.

That's the way the Knicks 2013-2014 season starts for me - with crap like that.

On the court, the Knicks also already have something to worry about.  Raymond Felton's hamstring paid him a return visit.  He toughed out last night's game however, and clocked in 34 minutes against the Bucks.  He scored eighteen points but only issued three assists.  It was Pablo Prigioni who topped the Knicks with five assists.  But if Felton is feeling tender already, that may spell trouble.  He's the one I feel who will maintain order between Melo and J.R. Smith.

Carmelo Anthony pulled down a team high ten rebounds, and scored a game high nineteen points, to rescue the Knicks from what would have been an embarrassing loss, considering the Knicks led Milwaukee by twenty-five points at one point.

Is Iman Shumpert on the precipice of a break-out season?  Many people think so.  He was 5/13 from the field, and 5/5 from the line for sixteen points.  I'd like for him to continue playing near thirty minutes a night.

Tyson Chandler was the fourth Knick player to score in double-digits, with ten points and five blocked shots in thirty-two minutes.

All five Knicks starters played over thirty minutes.  No wonder though, as the game almost slipped away from them.  The Knicks were up 56-31 at the half, but allowed Milwaukee to explode for 33 points in the third quarter.  The Knicks barely won the battle of the boards by a 34-31 margin.  They shot 50.7% from the floor, while the Bucks finished at 45.9% and took three more shots from the field.  But the Knicks edged out Milwaukee at the stripe, making 15/17 shots for 88.2%, versus 83.3% for the Bucks.

Andrea Bargnani struggled in his season debut, scoring six points in seventeen minutes off the bench.  He was 0/3 from beyond the 3-point line, and committed three turnovers.

Is tonight's game against the Chicago Bulls a foreshadowing of a possible encounter next Spring?  Why not enjoy it that way, considering both teams have their full compliment of players, minus Amare Stoudemire that is, who did not play in last night's opener.  I'll be curious to see him if he plays tonight, how he meshes, and how many minutes Coach Woodson allots him.

Derrick Rose is also attempting to come back from ruinous injuries.  He complained of a sore neck after the Bulls opening game against the Miami Heat, but he will reportedly suit up and play this evening.  He missed the entire 2012-2013 regular season and playoffs.  It looks like the Bulls, Heat, Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets and Knicks will all be battling this season for the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference.  Should be fun.

For now, the time has finally come for Derrick Rose to reintroduce himself to the New York Knicks.  If Rose's neck is stiff, then the Knicks are playing off a quick turn-around from last night at the Garden.

It's all good.


BK Nets: Cleveland Hands Flatbush Their First Loss

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

NETS  94
Cavs    98

BROOKLYN NETS: Flatbush Hoops Stumble Out Of The Gate And Get Crushed On The Boards.

The Nets 2013-2014 regular season starts with a loss.  The Cleveland Cavaliers won the overall battle of the glass handily by a 48-37 margin, seemed to be just a little faster than their opponent, and gained their first victory of the season over Brooklyn Wednesday night.

A one point half-time deficit for Brooklyn turned into a nine point deficit after three quarters.  That eight point lapse came back to haunt them, as the Nets clamped down defensively and outscored the Cavaliers 24-19 in the final quarter.  In the end however, the Cavs had six players in double-digit scoring versus four players for Brooklyn.

Brook Lopez tied the score at 91-91 off a Garnett feed with 1:04 left.  But Cleveland's Anderson Varejao dropped five points down the stretch and Kyrie Irvin made four free-throws in the final 0:13 to keep Cleveland on pace for a 98-94 final.  Although Paul Pierce hit a 3-pointer with :03 left to make it a 97-94 game, a previously missed jumper by Pierce at 0:16, and misses Joe Johnson by Jason Terry failed to close the gap.

On the bright side, Nets fans got to find out how adept Kevin Garnett is at passing the rock.  Three assists for the game didn't exactly tell the whole story.  Garnett also pulled down 10 rebounds, with 8 coming on the defensive glass.  In fact, he led all players in rebounds, yet, as previously mentioned, the Nets were beaten on the glass, which, entering the season is supposed to be a major strength of the club.

Brook Lopez led the Nets with thirty-five minutes, led all scorers with 21 points and had a game high 4 blocks.  But I'd like to see him get to the line more than 5 times.  If Garnett is going to feed him the way he did Wednesday, and with Brook's size (yes, an old argument), the time has come then for him to exert himself more.  He should be drawing fouls at a prolific rate.

Paul Pierce scored the Nets first field goal of the season.  He was second behind Brook Lopez with  30 minutes and 17 points.  He was 4/4 from the line, pulled down 4 rebounds and issued 2 assists.  He hit a 3-pointer with 1:35 left to make it a 89-91 game, then dropped another in the final seconds to no avail.

Deron Williams played the least minutes out of the Nets starting five, and tied with Kyrie Irvin with a game high 9 assists.  But he also committed a game high 4 turnovers.  He was 2/2 from the line, made one 3-pointer, and scored 7 points overall.  His last points of the evening came on a pair of free throws with 5:26 left in the third quarter.

Jason Terry scored 14 points off the bench, and dropped consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

Something happened to Andray Blatche on the way to the forum though.  In twenty minutes, he posted a (+/-) minus-10, was 0/5 from the field, never got to the line, and committed three turnovers.

The Nets will have Thursday to get over Wednesday's first loss of the season.  Friday night, the Miami Heat are coming to Barclays Center for Brooklyn's home opener.  The Heat are coming off a resounding victory over the Chicago Bulls.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

N.Y. Giants: Defense Playing The Annual Simplification Game

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS: Know What I Hear?  The Same Stuff As The Last Few Years.  Ponderous!

This isn't the first time the Giants defensive players needed Coach Perry Fewell to simplify his schemes!  It happened last year, and most glaringly two years ago, just in time to right themselves and win a Super Bowl.  I'm not even going to suggest the Giants will get there this season, but then again, an 8-8 record could conceivably win the NFC East.

After two consecutive victories, I'm more annoyed than anything.  Perry Fewell has consistently failed to realize the correlation between his cause, and his scheme's effects.  When Coach puts too much into his player's thinking, they struggle mightily, and oft look confused on coverage.  When he lightens their check-offs, the defense has thrived.  This condition is not this year's dilemma.  This has been a yearly pattern under Coach Fewell.  The only defense I offer for him, is that this has been a trying season for everyone.  Coach Fewell shouldn't be singled out as the primary problem here.  But this particular problem has certainly has been a recurring one.

Injuries haven't helped.  I get it.  On that note, the comeback of linebacker Jon Beason certainly has.  Ever since Dan Conner went down, middle linebacker was a huge problem, until Beason arrived.  He was in on nine tackles, and three solo tackles against the Vikings, and was in on four tackles against the Birds.  Spencer Paysinger, who was serving the position, all but disappeared Sunday.

It was Terrell Thomas who perhaps had his best game as a Giant last week.  He made ten solo tackles and recorded a sack against the Eagles.  While Antrel Rolle continues to be the most consistent Giant all season.

The schedule helped the Giants along.  Both Minnesota and Philadelphia both have more problems than a math book.  Perry Fewell now has two weeks to figure this out.  The Giants will sit out their bye week, then face the Oakland Raiders in Giants Stadium.

Of course with the Giants, if it's not one thing though, it's another.  While the defense was putting its act together over the last two weeks, Giants special teams have been getting exceedingly atrocious by the game.


The Rivalry: N.Y. Rangers vs. N.Y. Islanders - Game One

From the desks of:

NEW YORK RANGERS: MSG and the Canadiens Outshine the Broadway Blueshirts on Opening Night.
The best thing I can say about last night's game is that no one threw themselves off the newly constructed bridges inside Madison Square Garden.  If the Rangers early season funk continues, Jim Dolan might want to consider adding even more safety nets to the overall renovations - quickly.
Carl Hagelin will return to the line-up this evening against the Islanders.  He'll be a most welcome return, as the Rangers are desperate to establish any kind of consistent forward line scoring.  The Blueshirts were shut out last night, this time by the Canadiens, for the third time in their first ten games of the season.  They've specifically been shutout by the Habs over their last three regular season meetings.  So, in a sense, some things just haven't changed.
While goal posts, the men in stripes, and Montreal goalie Peter Budaj all played their roles in thwarting the Rangers on opening night, the Blueshirts problem is still largely an internal one.  There is no offensive zone sustainability.  Even more alarming to that end, was the ease with which Montreal kept pushing the Rangers off the puck.  The Rangers then had five power play chances, and  came up empty.  In fact, they are 1 for 15 in their last five games.
The Rangers got tic-tac-toe'd on a second period Montreal power play, and that was the end of that.  The Rangers put the Habs on the power play six times, so they should be relieved to have only lost by a 2-0 final.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS: Still Trolling For Reasons To Like The Thomas Vanek Trade - But On A Different Note, Owner Charles Wang and Garth Snow Are Making The Islanders Matter Again.
Excuse me for the following comparison, but here I go nonetheless.  Remember how WWI was about trench warfare, and suffering massive casualties for the sake of advancing the front perhaps by only mere feet and yards?  
After digesting the Moulson for Vanek trade, I believe more strongly GM Garth Snow paid too much.  If he was inclined to trade draft picks, he could have resorted to just trading them and supplemented what the Islanders already had in hand.  Instead, all he did was switch forwards, for a potentially slight upgrade, and compromise his future drafts.  This season, as well against the Penguins in last year's playoffs, their problem was not with scoring.  The Islanders primary shortcomings are on defense and in the net.  But I guess the decision towards adopting an  - outscore your opponent - tactic has effectively been made.

The first month of the regular season is not yet done, so Garth Snow can feasibly turn right around and trade Thomas Vanek again.  Even if Snow can convince Vanek to sign and stay with the Isles, this all strikes me as an eventual net loss because of the money involved to retain him, and the loss of picks.

Charles Wang lost millions in trying to keep the Islanders in Uniondale, I guess as best as an entrepreneur can.  But Nassau County voted no to the final compromised plan.  In two seasons, the Isles will move into Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  Meanwhile, the Nassau Coliseum will be renovated by the same people who brought us Barclays Center.  Both the Brooklyn Nets and Islanders will play a very limited number of games in the refurbished arena.  What about all this makes sense to you?

All that aside, I applaud and congratulate owner Charles Wang for enduring all he has.  He and Garth Snow are clearly trying to reclaim a proud, yet lost legacy and presence in local New York sports.


Monday, October 28, 2013

N.Y. Islanders: Garth Snow Rocks The Boat


NEW YORK ISLANDERS: GM Garth Snow Pulls Off Bold Move; Sends The Popular Matt Moulson Shuffling Off To Buffalo, In Exchange For Thomas Vanek.

For now, Devils fans, and Rangers fans like myself just have to suck it up.  The Long Islanders are currently the best hockey team in the metropolitan area, and arguably just got better.  Today, the Islanders negotiated an early season trade they feel will significantly improve their scoring.  But GM Garth Brooks is taking an awfully big chance.

Garth Snow traded the very popular and productive Matt Moulson, along with a 2014 1st round pick, and a 2015 2nd round pick to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for 29-year old winger Thomas Vanek.  He'll immediately join John Tavares to form the most formidable forward line in town.  But for how long?  Vanek will be an unrestricted free agent come July.  So, Garth Snow's new problem is how to keep him.

I'm not about to under-value Thomas Vanek.  I think he's a very good player.  He's a proven scorer.  But I'm not so sure he's immensely better than Moulson at this point, to warrant this large a package.

Thomas Vanek is inside his ninth season in the league.  He scored forty goals in a season twice, and topped thirty goals two other times.  He has 254 in his career.  In last year's shortened season, Vanek scored 41 points in 38 games.

Matt Moulson, like Vanek, is 29-years old, and will also become a free agent in July.  In four plus seasons with the Islanders, Moulson topped thirty goals in a season three straight times, undone only by last year's shortened schedule.  Last year he scored 44-points in 47 games, with 15 goals.

All however is NOT well.  Tavares and Moulson were best friends  There is already rampant speculation Vanek wants to play in Minnesota, while Moulson was perfectly content where he was.

The Islanders are currently tied for second place of the new Metropolitan Division with eleven points.  They have as many goals, 35, as their rival Pittsburgh Penguins, and trail only the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs for the most goals scored in the conference.  Garth Snow should perhaps look into shoring up his blue liners, who have allowed the third most goals in the Eastern Conference.  On that note, one of those picks could have been spent on a goalie maybe?

BTW - Matt Moulson has already scored for Buffalo tonight.


BK Nets: Billy King Resets The Bar For 2013-2014; Preview

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH


THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH: Some three years ago during the NBA draft lottery show, Mikhail Prokhorov kiddingly suggested he'd have to kill the reporter if he revealed to her his five year plan for winning a championship.

No One Was Harmed In The Writing Of This Post.

Three Years Down - Year Four of a five year mission to boldly go where the owner said they'd go, begins this Wednesday night in Cleveland.

It is becoming evidently clear what the five year plan was all along.  Most paramount of all Prokhorov's requirements, one needed to operate with a huge pair of basketballs - as in nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Being calculatingly crazy is another way to go.  Additionally included within the latest standard operating procedure, pissing off people outside the organization, albeit tactfully, seems also to be encouraged.  The owner exercises this policy when referencing his local competitor.  But until Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett arrived, Nets players usually refrained from such liberties.

The owner also seems particularly enamored with his general manager's whirlwind off-seasons.  He's thrown money at Billy King's inspirations like a drunken sailor on shore leave........

The final 2013-2014 roster cuts are now in, and Jason Plumlee, the #22 overall pick of the Draft made the final fifteen.  Good for him.  Earlier in the month, GM Billy King speculated rookie Mason Plumlee could conceivably start the season in the D-League.  Plumlee then went about playing well enough to change some minds.

Coming from Coach K's program in Duke, I'm confident he will prove fundamentally sound in the NBA.  But at first glance, I admit, I didn't think he had any size to give.  He comes in at 6'11" and 235 lbs.  Comparatively, Andray Blatche is 6'11" and 260 lbs., while KG is also 6'11" and weighs 250 lbs.  While I'm at it, all three are behind Brook Lopez who comes in at 7'0" and 275 pounds.  But there are good reasons why Plumlee made the team.  Most recently, he got in a nice block on a  Gerald Wallace attempt against the Celts and two more blocks versus Miami.  He also pulled down ten rebounds in twenty-three minutes against the Heat.  Plumlee will be the lone rookie on this heavily veteran laden team and will have good teachers around him.

Guard Tyshawn Taylor, the popular Mirza Teletovic and forward Tomike Shengelia return as one year players.  The next least experienced player on this squad is a misnomer who has a passport stamped with international jerseys.  Guard/forward Alan Anderson has four years of NBA service.  Anderson's last two seasons were spent with Toronto.  During the four seasons prior to that, he played in Italy, Russia-Croatia, Israel, Spain and the D-League.  He played for Charlotte his first two NBA seasons.  He is fresh off a team leading 17-point performance in the Nets final pre-season game against the Heat.  At twenty-eight years old, Shaun Livingston has also made his way around the league.  Since entering the league at age nineteen, the Brooklyn Nets will be the guard's ninth club in ten years.

The Hoops of Flatbush main bench components rival those of any in the league.  They will feature Jason Terry this season, who underwent off-season knee surgery, to go along with returning Reggie Evans, Andray Blatche and yet another key acquisition, Andrei Kirilenko.  Brooklyn stands to benefit handsomely from this cast of reliable vets, who potentially will provide Jason Kidd a large measure of floor sustainability.  The age of several key players on this team should dictate that minutes get spread around generously.  There should be enough wear and tear to go around for everyone to enjoy.

The shackles of isolation basketball might be off Deron Williams, but I'm interested to see who exactly he, and Coach Kidd plan on running with.  There is no doubt as to who the preeminent five players on this team are, but in order to run the floor (more), Coach will need to select a creative mix.  Of course age is an issue.  It's a long season.

Job Two would be for Deron Williams to weave together last year's Nets and last year's Celtics, into this year's Brooklyn team.  Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have already brought several needed  characteristics to the Nets.  However, one thing remains the same.  This is still Deron Williams' team. He finally participated in his first pre-season game against Miami, albeit the last game on the schedule before the season tips-off.  In ten minutes played, he was 4/5 from the field, and 3/4 from beyond the three for eleven points.  He added two assists, but most importantly, looked smooth on his feet.  His troublesome ankle did not appear to hinder him.

In the Nets final tune-up, Paul Pierce, who turned thirty-six earlier this month, dropped 16-points in twenty minutes, pulled down six defensive rebounds (seven overall), and led Brooklyn in getting to the line.  Since age thirty-two, Pierce has consistently averaged 18-points over the last four seasons.  There is every reason to expect another.  He averaged thirty-three minutes last season, and for the most part, should not average nearly that many here.

The same goes for Kevin Garnett.  He averaged twenty-nine minutes last season, but should only see a few minutes shaved off his time.  Twenty to twenty-five minutes a night can serve the power forward well over the course of the season, whether he likes it or not.  I wouldn't listen to the noise regarding playing back to back games.  You want combative players who are protective of their time.  You just do not want an insubordinate player, and that's not KG.  The man is here to serve and protect.  He is the gate keeper.  No one punches in and out of the Nets locker room without having put in hard work.  The Nets needed a mood manager and an attitude adjuster on the floor.  Garnett is just the guy to do it.  Leadership doesn't come across well with some, and with others it doesn't resonate at all.  Kevin Garnett will not have that problem.  Everyone knows he is fiercely loyal and all-in.  Attitude will not be a problem on his watch.  I expect a marked difference this season over last year's admittedly bland product.  On the floor, KG is still good for twelve to fifteen points a night, and eight boards, but any knowledge that rubs off on players like Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee may prove invaluable.

I wonder how Nets fans (and Knicks fans) feel about Cheerios now?  I digress.

Is Dwight Howard the former "top" center in basketball?  Despite what transpired against the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs last year, and if Brook Lopez continues along his steady rate of improvement, then, yes.  Both image wise and on the court, Dwight Howard has an uphill battle, and will get a fresh start in Houston.  Brook is only beginning to understand what his big body should be doing, lest we forget last year was his first time back on the floor after missing practically a whole season to foot surgery.  But he still became the league's top scoring center.  Lopez averaged 8.2 rebounds per 36-minutes, and 6.9 rebounds otherwise.  That's off slightly from his 8.3 overall average from his first two seasons in the league.  On this team, that's fine.  The Nets have no shortage of players who can crash the boards.

That leaves Joe Johnson for discussion.  He's a good guy - hard guy to knock.  He played hurt last season, and still averaged 16.3 points per game, admirable, although it was his lowest output since the 2003-2004 season.  We've seen him come up huge, with big shots in big moments, but we also watched him ring true the rumors that followed him, and spoke of his sudden disappearances.

These are the fifteen players charged with winning Mr. Prokhorov a championship within the next two years, if indeed the owner is to keep his stated declaration of winning a title within five years of taking over.  After two initial years of stripping down, rebuilding, and moving, last year was the first credible Nets regular season effort towards that end.  Billy King then shipped out Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and a bag of bagels to Boston in return for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry.  Collectively, Billy King's reloading effort has made Mikhail Prokhorov's luxury tax bill skyrocket.  Billy King in turn put the onus on the players to win this year.

That's a bold man.  That's two bold men.

Jason Kidd last played for the Nets during the 2007-2008 season.  While in the midst of purchasing the Nets and having his plans of relocating them to Brooklyn falling apart like wet toilet paper, Bruce Ratner admitted years later in hindsight he committed a huge mistake by not resigning Kenyon Martin back in 2004.  At the time, Mikhail Prokhorov was not yet in the picture, while ground-breaking of Barclays Center was still an uncertainty, if not years away.  The Nets signed Vince Carter to fill the void left behind by Martin.  But by the 2008-2009 season, VINCEanity also ended, as the Nets stumbled to a 34-48 record under coach Lawrence Frank.  Brook Lopez was a rookie.

In 2009-2010 Lawrence Frank's team went 0-16, causing his dismissal.  The Nets hit rock bottom with a 12-70 record, as Rod Thorn set out to rebuild the Nets again.  He hired Avery Johnson as their next head coach, which I thought was a very good move.  But in June of 2010, former President of Basketball Operations, Rod Thorn, in my opinion, inexplicably resigned from the club.  I say he was made to feel unwelcome by the new incoming owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, for Thorn quickly reappeared in Philadelphia with the 76ers.  Enter Billy King who was ironically shown the door by Philadelphia.

In Avery Johnson's first season, the Nets doubled their victories to twenty-four.  In Avery's second season, the dismantling continued, as the team slipped to a 22-44 record, but not before engaging in a contentious battle against the Knicks for the services of Carmelo Anthony.  Mikhail Prokhorov himself took to the press and declared the Nets were pulling out of the bidding.  Then under the cover of night, GM Billy King traded for Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams.  Many argued at the time, trading for a point guard was the better deal.  Billy King sent a large package of players and draft picks to Utah, with no guarantees Deron Williams, a soon to be free agent, would extend with the Nets.

King's gamble eventually paid off, literally, as Deron Williams finally opted to stay and signed a long term deal with the Nets.  Committed, he then led the charge into Brooklyn.  The club achieved a 49-33 record in their inaugural season, an achievement in itself, and participated in the post-season only to get dumped by the Bulls.  The season came at a price however.  Avery Johnson was fired just before 2012 ended, and P.J. Carlesimo, who led them the rest of the way, was likewise not retained.

This past off-season, Billy King went off the reservation.  He hired Jason Kidd to coach his now twice revamped Nets, and brought back Lawrence Frank to help him.  Bold indeed, if not bodacious of Billy King. 

The GM inherited Brook Lopez.  Otherwise, he's shake and baked for the three seasons, and has now cooked up a starting five which includes Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.  Gerald Wallace came in, and was then parlayed into Pierce and Garnett.  That's five players, backed-up by a deep bench, that can potentially give the Atlantic Division a collective headache, both physically and on the scoreboard.

In just under a year's time, Avery Johnson's finger prints have been effectively removed from this team, while Rod Thorn's efforts have likewise been purged.  Only two players remain from the 2011-2012 New Jersey Nets.  And before that, only Brook Lopez was there to see the death of the old empire, and survive the great purge in order to witness Billy King strike back.

Bold moves initiated by the general manager were ultimately approved by an equally audacious owner, who, a few months ago was "advised" by the commissioner to stop taking cheap shots at James Dolan.


Let the games of Brooklyn's second NBA season begin.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

N.Y. Rangers: Spanning The Globe For Six Points


NEW YORK RANGERS: The Blueshirst Are Coming!  The Blueshirts Are Coming!  Battered and Bruised, Tex's Rangers Are Finally Coming Home.

A comeback overtime victory over Detroit should come with its just rewards.  Now I'm forced to be fair-minded, and at least afford the Rangers the opportunity of playing a few games at home.

After going into Newark and Philadelphia, and allowing both teams at least one day of wellness at our expense, I was beginning to wonder if we were the Broadway Blueshirts or the American Red Cross.  How ironic I thought considering we weren't allowed to know what ails Henrik Lundqvist, who has been hurt since the Los Angeles Kings game!  And speaking of the King, their is still no contract extension in place.

Outside of another loss, I guess what we got in Philly was a style much more familiar to Rangers fans.  Brandon Mashinter threw haymakers with Wayne Simmonds.  Derek Dorsett and Zac Rinaldo scrapped as well.  A misconduct penalty and a bunch of misconduct minutes highlighted the Rangers night.  Typical Rangers/Flyers, but did it make you feel any better?  I felt marginally better that they at least displayed a backbone, and that Brad Richards scored again.  Almost all his goals have come on horrible angles.  But what ever works for him works for me, as long as he continues to be productive.

Cam Talbot had himself one hell of an NHL debut.  He faced 27 shots and stopped 25 pucks.  His overall performance versus the Flyers was considerably better than the game's final outcome indicates.  For this one game at least, it was a shame the Rangers forward lines suffer from a scoring disability, as Thursday night was no different.

Then the Rangers arrived in Hockeytown last night for the ninth and final game of this road trip through hell.  Cam Talbot faced another 34 shots, and turned away 32 in three regulation periods.  Detroit did not have a shot on goal during the overtime session.  That makes 71 shots faced and four goals allowed, for a .941 save percentage.  That's a good debut by any standard.

If John Tortorella had a dog house for rogue Blueshirts, I'm still not sure what Alain Vigneault's method of madness is yet.  He did publically put Mats Zuccarello (a healthy scratch against Philly) and Derick Brassard on notice though, and has aimed a few choice words through the media at certain unnamed players along the short haul so far.  He just did it with calm in his voice.  Torts was more explanatory with his actions.  As we know, he shared nothing with the media and went through great lengths to not criticize his players publically.  You knew who was riddled with mistakes and who was in trouble when they suddenly disappeared from the ice.

Both Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard responded quickly to Coach Vigneault's chiding.  In fact, three Rangers forwards scored their first goals of the season against Detroit.  Benoit Pouliot, who also has also received an early low grade from Coach scored the Rangers first goal.  MattZooks scored the game tying goal, and Derek Brassard scored the winner in overtime.

The Rangers managed six out eighteen points to start the season.  Okay.  They will have that many more home games to come.  With only fifteen goals to date, the Rangers are currently the least scoring team in the NHL, twenty-five goals behind the Eastern Conference leading Maple Leafs, and twenty-eight goals behind NHL leader San Jose.

Defensively at least, they seem to have plugged-up some leaks.  They have allowed thirty-three goals against, but the rest of the conference is starting to catch up.  Even the two eastern division leaders, Toronto and Pittsburgh, have allowed thirty and twenty-eight goals respectively.

Next stop - Madison Square Garden, with $1 billion dollars of renovations finally complete.  Oh, and by the way, I'm sick and tired of the ticket increases!


Friday, October 25, 2013

PIGSKIN 2013; Football Sunday - Week Eight

Football Sunday
Week Seven Record:  6-7
Overall Record:  42-45-5
Schmear of the Week:  4-3
Bagels in the Basket:  -5
  • The Giants had mercy on me and finally won a game.  The lone two winless teams are Tampa and Jacksonville.  The Buccaneers are going down in a blaze of glory.  Jacksonville could very well win before Tampa does.
  • Peyton Manning took it on the chin last week, first by his former owner, then by his former club.
  • How much more can Atlanta disappoint?
  • The anthem of Tampa - Fire Schiano! Clap  Clap  Clap-clap-clap.  Fire Schiano!  Clap  Clap  Clap-clap-clap.
  • I'm sick and tired of the Browns!
Let's roll some friggin' Bagels..!
Friday Line - NYDN
Giants +6 (EAGLES)
Who knows anymore.  Take the points.
Win; 15-7 Giants
BENGALS -6 1/2 (Jets)
How do the Jets say - classic let down after big win over the Patriots.
Win; 49-9 Bengals
49ers -16 1/2 (Jaguars) *London, England
After starting a war over a tea tax, we have a lot of nerve sending the Jacksonville Jaguars to London
Win; 42-10 49ers
LIONS -3 (Cowboys)
Suh or Romo - who do you trust more to affect the game?
Loss; 31-30 Lions
CHIEFS -7 (Browns)
It's a Browns game - no comment.
Loss; 23-17 Chiefs
Bills +11 (SAINTS)
I'm being lured in by the points.  I stuck it out with Buffalo last week and they did not disappoint.
Loss; 35-17 Saints
PATRIOTS -6 1/2 (Dolphins)
See loss to Jets - This will be the classic bounce-back victory.
Win; 27-17 Patriots
Steelers -2 (RAIDERS)
Two points is too much to ponder.  I see this as a pick-em game.
Loss; 21-18 Raiders
Redskins Hogs +13 (BRONCOS)
RGIII is playing better of late, and teams have incrementally exposed the Broncos defense.  I like the Hogs to cover.
Loss; 45-21 Broncos
Falcons +2 (CARDINALS)
My golden rule is always take the Cards getting points at home.  I never said anything about laying points.
Loss; 27-13 Cardinals
Packers -9 (VIKINGS)
.....because the Vikings did nothing against the Giants and they have no quarterback.
Win; 44-31 Packers
Schmear of the Week:
Packers -9 (Vikings)
 Take your Tostitos, and stick it...!!  I'm making jars of home made salsa dip this weekend with the rest of my home grown tomatoes.  It's too cold to leave them out there any longer.  The ones that haven't ripened yet, I'll pickle and jar, and eat over the course of the season.  What's in your garden?
Happy Football Sunday!
Week Eight Record:  5-6
Overall Record:  47-51-5
Schmear of the Week:  5-3
Bagels in the Basket:  -3

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

BK Nets: Still Waiting On Deron Williams To Unify Team

From the desk of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

BROOKLYN NETS: Without Deron Williams On The Floor, Jason Kidd's Crew Is Still A Split Squad.

The Nets have played five pre-season games so far, with two remaining before they open the 2013-2014 regular season on October 30th in Cleveland.  To date, there is still no determination on Deron Williams' return from a sprained right ankle suffered during an off-season workout in Utah.  Deron has been practicing on a very limited basis, but has not participated in any pre-season games, while doctors are yet to even clear him for contact.

This time last season, that would have registered as a complete catastrophe on the Richter scale.  This season, with Paul Pierce on board, Deron's situation only registers somewhere closer to disaster.  But of all the dumb luck, just when Williams was about to be unshackled from the world of isolation, he can't run.  So for now, the Nets remain a tale of two teams.  At one end, are Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez waiting for their familiar floor leader's return.  At the other, are Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry.  Until Deron Williams returns, and returns in full health, this is the way this team will remain in my view.  Williams was ideally going to be the homogenizing force bringing everything together.  The longer he remains out, the longer this integration of forces gets delayed.

Last year, we heard how Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace needed time to familiarize themselves with Williams and Lopez, and vice versa.  So what makes this situation any different?  My quick response would be the Nets have a greater measure of sustainability this time around, albeit in yet joined  segments.

After a day-off yesterday, the Nets are back at practice today.  On Wednesday, they'll take on the Celtics in Boston, but Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will not play for sake of rest.  The Nets will then conclude their pre-season in Miami on Friday.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Urban Art Murals: Wythe & North 12th Street

Mural @ Wythe

Buff Monster 2013 @ North 12th Street





N.Y. Giants: Monday Night Fewell

From the desk of:   DO IT FOR THE DUKE

NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS: Perry Fewell Insists His Players Must Win Individual Battles With Little Help.  If Adrian Peterson Romps Tonight, The Defensive Coordinator Might As Well Start Packing His Bags.

Stop Adrian Peterson and you stop the Vikings, right?  The Giants beleaguered linebacking unit will be front and center tonight.  For those of us watching on TV, it would be nice to hear Spencer Paysinger's and Jon Beason's names mentioned repeatedly throughout the telecast.  In a perfect world, that would mean they are making frequent tackles and containing Peterson who rushed for over 2,000 yards last season.  Linval Joseph should be able to get some of that tonight as well.

Otherwise, what can be said at this point, that hasn't been said already?  From either defensive end, the Giants still haven't been able to turn up the sacks.  Justin Tuck continues to underperform, while JPP continues to lightfoot his way back from back surgery.  But that's a tough criticism to make.  It's not my back that underwent surgery.

In any scenario, every player on defense is on their own.  That's the way Perry Fewell rolls, and  reiterated that again last week.  He is still putting everything on the players to win their individual battles.  In a way, that's not wrong when you have no depth, and a bunch of under-performers.  But desperate times call for desperate measures, however Coach Fewell seems to not feel the heat of the fire.  You would think he'd like to go out in a blaze of glory, shooting all his guns, and coming up with schemes we haven't seen before.  We have gotten none of that, and he will be gone because of it.  I'm sure of that now.

There are so many things to point our fingers at for the predicament the Giants find themselves.  But tonight, because the Giants have allowed over 200 points in six weeks, I put Perry Fewell in tonight's national spotlight.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

N.Y. Rangers: Devils Dance To First Victory


A King Under Siege

NEW YORK RANGERS: Peter DeBoer's Four Lines Too Much For Depleted Rangers.

New Jersey's collective blue-liners were sporting a horrible +/- rating right up until the Rangers came along, and single handedly turned around many a Devils' defensemen season.  The riches of a 4-0 victory were spread throughout the team though, as no Devil registered better than a plus-two.

Early in the opening period, the Rangers got out-hustled by a Devils forecheck, who cashed in on the game's first goal.  The Rangers meanwhile had one shot on goal in the first ten minutes of play. Then Adam Henrique slapped a screaming puck from the left circle past through Lundqvist for a 2-0 lead. Two more New Jersey goals later, and Devils goalie Cory Schneider took care of the rest.

It is hard to explain how, or why Brian Boyle was the best Rangers player on the ice, yet didn't lay a single hit on anyone.  He led the Blueshirts with four SOG, and won 9 of 13 face-offs.  But some-where in Coach Peter DeBoer's full usage of four lines which challenges the Rangers depth is your answer.  Four different forwards scored for New Jersey.

It is worth noting that Boyle, Derek Dorsett, J.T. Miller, Benoit Pouliot and Derek Stepan were all +/- zero.  Thrust into hasty action, Miller had three shots on goal and threw his body around a little bit.  Taylor Pyatt's night wasn't as good.  He was a minus-one, with only one shot on goal in more minutes and shifts than Miller.

How do we say - Henrik Lundqvist was not good.  The Devils owned a 4-0 second period lead with a total of sixteen shots on goal.  Henrik only faced nineteen all night.  Henrik is now 2-4-0 this season, and far away from his career percentages.  His current 3.45 goals against average is light years away from his career 2.27 mark, while his current .890 save percentage is well below his .920 career mark.

The New Jersey Devils are winless no more, while the Rangers road trip to ruins continues full steam ahead.  Victories over Los Angeles and Washington still appear to be nothing more than isolated moments of clarity.


N.Y. Jets: Rex Ryan Survived John Idzik's Hiring To Coach This Game


NEW YORK JETS: Rex Ryan Survived The Hiring Of John Idzik To Coach This Game.  His Defensive Reputation Is On The Line.

The Art of War teaches, know your opponent.  When it comes to Bill Belichick, that's no easy task.  The man under the hoodie is aware of every play ever devised dating back to the 1920's.  While the Patriots can also largely thank Tom Brady for their prolonged success, it's their offensive system that has allowed many different cast members to seemingly seamlessly step in and out over the years, and contribute at high levels.  With respect to Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, the Jets should only be so lucky.

But unlike his wife, Tom Brady's legs haven't improved with age.  The book on the New England Patriots quarterback was written long ago, and still speaks truth today.  He' a virtual statue.  Disrupt the pocket and the game will change.  And if Gronk plays, defend him as Coach Bill Belichick  himself would - assign one person to hang out with him all day.

If you think that sounds simplistic, then try this one - above all, expect the expected.

If the Jets head coach is worth his mettle as a defensive mind, no one person should have more  knowledge of Gang Green's chief division rival than Rex Ryan.  As a matter of fate or destiny, or what - he survived the hiring of new GM John Idzik for one reason - to coach this game.

The Jets greatest moment under Rex Ryan came on January 16th day in 2011 when they went to Foxboro and defeated the Pats by a 27-21 final.  Including their Week Two match-up, the Jets haven't beaten the Patriots in their five meetings since.  The Jets are still in reasonably manageable shape with a 3-3 record.  But the Pats are getting away from them, and there is still Miami to hurdle first.

If only for a week, Rex Ryan can stand on top of the mountain again, after being dragged through the valley.  The Jets could conceivably spend their beings on this one game, because Rex makes players want to do that.  Whether that propels the Jets beyond Week Eight or causes them to run out of gas matters not today.

Beating New England still may not save Rex Ryan's job.  But today's game here in MetLife Stadium will once again define, if not redefine Rex Ryan's legacy as Jets head coach.  His defensive acumen is on the line.

Offensively, if there was ever a time for Ground and Pound to come through, this would be the week; to keep Tom Brady on the sidelines.  If Geno Smith and the Jets do not turn over the ball, they could conceivably spark a whole new Monday morning conversation.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

N.Y. Rangers vs. N.J. Devils; Battle Of The Hudson - Game One



Brick City, New Jersey
NEW YORK RANGERS: With Callahan And Nash Sidelined, This Is Brad Richard's And Derek Stepan's Team Now.

We can't even start to truly find out how heavily a new system, adjusting to a new coach, and opening on the west coast weighed on the Rangers.  While a return back east garnered a well played all-around victory over the Capitals, not having Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan moving forward fails to lend any clarity to the Rangers early plight.  Carl Hagelin has yet to hit the ice as well.

Ryan Callahan continues to catch one bad break after another.  He missed camp stemming from off-season shoulder surgery, took a puck to the mouth against the Kings, and then suffered a broken thumb against the Caps, all the while, still literally doing everything for the Blueshirts.

Next on the forward lines are J.T. Miller and Taylor Pyatt.  Feel free to contribute at any time boys.

The Rangers are currently headlined by some good news, but mostly bad news.  In the early going, Alain Vigneault apparently has improved the power play.  The Rangers rank 13th overall - uncharted territory under Tortorella.  After five games, they have scored on the power play in three games, and have been shut down twice, and are 4 for 20 overall.  The now injured Ryan Callahan had two goals, Brad Richards and Marc Staal each have one.  On the other side of the coin, the Blueshirts rank 21st on the penalty kill, something they did exceedingly well under Torts.

If it's not one thing, it's another with this team.  Brad Richards is so far playing with marked improvement, however, Marc Staal's game is suffering after starting out strongly in the first two games of the season.  Coach Vigneault took away Staal's tradition partner against the Caps, and will most likely pair Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh on the top line again tonight against the Devils.

Entering tonight's game, the Rangers are likely to only dress five skaters who've scored a goal this season.  At least Brad Richards has four of them.  Otherwise, they rank 28th in the league in scoring, with still no sign of Chris Kreider.  Derek Stepan has yet to score a goal, but still leads the team with five assists.  So, his game seems to be coming along after holding out and missing camp.  The Rangers are battling attrition as well as the competition, so the time has come upon Stepan to take a larger leadership role and help stabilize the team.

Defensively, they rank a putrid 29th, however, enter tonight's game on the heels of a shutout victory over Washington.  Their goals against average is still inflated due to a 9-2 drubbing suffered against the Sharks, followed by a 6-0 wipeout against the Ducks.  Outside of the those two games, the Rangers have scored ten goals, and allowed ten goals.

The Rangers aren't home yet, but playing in Jersey is the next best thing - maybe not.  We'll find out later tonight.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS: Situation Getting Hot For Coach DeBoer And His Faltering Demons.

Maybe the new Devils owners can do something to prevent the next Brian Gionta, Zach Parise, David Clarkson or Ilya Kovalchuk from leaving town, although Kovalchuk's exit was unique, if not odd,  because he left a large sum of money on the table.  But these are certainly the most recent and frustrating departures that have slowly brought down the Devils.  This was a team that just two seasons ago played for a Stanley Cup, and is now in full blown transition.  Today, the Devils remain the lone team in Hockey not to have won a game this season.

The "old guard" is still led by the team's all-time scoring leader Patrick Elias.  While Travis Zajac, Bryce Salvador, Andy Greene and Dainius Zubrus are the remaining elders of the clan.  The group of players complimenting them is where I start to question (sacrilege, I know)) Lou Lamoriello's  direction from this point forward.

They are currently led in points by thirty-six year old defenseman Marek Zidlicky.  That already smells like trouble.   Forty-one year old Jaromir Jagr is presently averaging 17:03 minutes in October, but what about February?  Although Michael Ryder has two goals, he's thirty-three years old - not that old by any stretch.  He scored sixteen goals in forty-six games last season, which seemed promising, but can he be a 30-goal scorer for the Devils like he was for the Habs and Dallas?

Goals will certainly come at a premium this season.  So far in seven games, the Devils have scored thirteen times for a 1.8 goal per game average, and are a woeful 2 for 22 on the power play for a rate of 9.1% efficiency.

But so far scoring isn't New Jersey's biggest problem - it's their defense that looks extremely un-devilish this season.  Adam Larsson and Peter Harold can't seem to do anything right.  Having allowed twenty-six goals to date, or 3.7 per game, the Devils are uncharacteristically ranked 26th this season in goals against.  The have allowed the second most in the Eastern Conference, and rank third worst behind Edmonton and Florida in the entire NHL.

While the Devils are still in search of their first victory, goalie Martin Brodeur is still stuck on #669.  Devils fans no doubt would like for both to achieve a victory against the Rangers tonight at The Rock.


Friday, October 18, 2013

PIGSKIN 2013; Football Sunday - Week Seven

Football Sunday
Week Six Record:  7-5-1
Overall Record:  36-38-5
Schmear of the Week:  4-2
Bagels in the Basket:  -1
Coin Toss:
* Which team wins first - Buccaneers, Jaguars, or the Giants on Monday night?

* I'm picking seven underdogs.  Thank you, thank you very much.
Third and Long:
Indianapolis Colts owner, Jim Isray has diarrhea of the mouth!  Everyone knows why the Colts turned on Peyton Manning.  We understand, and it was actually the right move.  But how, and what he said the other day in front of Peyton was just moronic.  I hope Peyton lights-up the house he helped build.
* Here's something you do not hear often - Ndamukong Suh was fined another $31,500 by the NFL for a hit against Cleveland's QB Brandon Weeden.
* When you think about it, the name REDSKINS really is demeaning, isn't it....  This is starting to snowball now.  Daniel Snyder may have no choice but to change the name - before he gets sued.  Let the re-naming game begin!  Why not name them the D.C. Whites who shut down our Gov't?  See..?  That goes over like a fart in a spacesuit, doesn't it?  The Hogs, for obvious reasons works for me.
C'mon..., let's roll some Bagels..!
Friday Line - NYDN
JETS +4 (Patriots)
This game will write the story of Jets season.  I expect Rex Ryan to devise an all-out blitz on Tom Brady this week.
Win; 30-27 Jets  O.T.
Chargers -7 1/2 (JAGUARS)
This should be business as usual...!
Win 24-6 Chargers

CHIEFS -6 (Texans)
You saw what happened to Matt Schaub last week.  Case Keenum (?) (LOL) will start at QB for Houston.  A disappointing season is about to get worse.  The Chiefs are tough enough at home as it is.
Loss; 17-16 Chiefs
LIONS -3 (Bengals)
Ndamukong Suh keeps racking up the fines, as the Lions keep winning.  Cincinnati's defense is good, but Detroit's offense is better at home.
Loss; 27-24 Bengals

Bills +7 1/2 (DOLPHINS)
I like the half-point a lot, so I'm giving the Bills one more chance.
Win; 23-21 Bills
Bears +1 (REDSKINS)
This game was PK earlier in the week.  I like the Bears to keep rolling this week over the Hogs.
Loss; 45-41 Hogs

Cowboys +3 (EAGLES)
It's going to be tight - take Romo as long as the game has minimal meaning.
Win; 17-3 Cowboys

PANTHERS -6 1/2 (Rams)
So, are we supposed to believe in the Rams now after a win last week?
Win; 30-15 Panthers

Buccaneers +7 (FALCONS)
...Because the sun even shines on a dog's posterior at least once a day.
Loss; 31-23 Falcons

49ers -4 (Titans)
I think this spread is right on the mark.
Win; 31-17 49ers

Browns +10 1/2 (PACKERS)
That half-point was a big influence.  Packers aren't really the Packers this season- not yet at least.
Loss; 31-13 Packers

Ravens +2 (STEELERS)
I'm going with the history in this one.
Loss; 19-16 Steelers

Broncos -7 (COLTS)
I want Peyton Manning to tear Jim Isray's team a new one.
Loss; 39-33 Colts

Schmear of the Week: (3x Bagels)
CHIEFS -6 (Texans)

That's sixteen more Bagels into the oven.  Here's to hoping the power stays on - Happy Football Sunday everyone!

Week Seven Record:  6-7
Overall Record:   42-45-5
Schmear of the Week:   4-3
Bagels in the Basket:   -5