Thursday, October 30, 2014

N.Y. Knicks Show Two Different Faces In Two Nights

From the desk of:  DUTCH PANTS CAN'T JUMP

69th Season of 
Knickerbocker Basketball

NEW YORK KNICKS: In its debut, the Triangle didn't quite fit Madison Square.

No playoffs last season.

No Mike Woodson this season.  No Tyson Chandler or Ray Felton either.

Although Phil Jackson signed on late last season, and started putting his stamp on the Knicks during the off-season, the Triangle Era officially started Wednesday night and failed miserably.

The byproduct of their 104-80 defeat to the Bulls was the season's first excuse.  The Knicks played Wednesday night without Jose Calderon, who will miss the next 2-3 weeks with a strained calf.  He was brought in to execute Jackson's triangle offense.  Now they'll just have to wait.

The real problem, however, was a lack of effort.  That came out of Knicks mouths after the game,   not mine.  Someone dressed in a Knicks uniform indeed said the team quit.

No need to point fingers though.  It is better if they all understand not to say anything they wouldn't want Phil Jackson to hear.  That is now a sure way to abbreviate one's Knicks career.

Then came Thursday night's effort in Cleveland against LeBron James and the suddenly resurgent Cavaliers.

Did new head coach Derek Fisher press the right buttons?  We don't know.  But, after sleepwalking in the 1st quarter, they pulled within 2 points by the half.  The Knicks then took control in the 3rd quarter en route to a 95-90 victory.

LeBron James led all players with 43 minutes, but struggled to shoot 5/15 from the floor, with 17 points, and an uncharacteristic 8 turnovers.  He was the Cavs' third leading scorer behind Kyrie Irving's 22 and Kevin Love's 19 points.

Carmelo Anthony scored a game high 25 points and led the Knicks with 6 assists.  Quincy Acy led the Knicks with 10 rebounds.

That's it.  Until the Knicks play the Charlotte Hornets this weekend, the season is a tale of two very different games, two very different efforts (eh hem, Iman Shumpert), with very different results.


Brooklyn Nets Routed By Rebuilding Celtics in Boston

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

NETS    105
Celtics   121

BROOKLYN NETS: Defense Calls In Sick On First Day Of Work.

Wait till the first home game, right?

Uh, no!

Deron Williams' pre-season assessment with regards to playing defense must be taken at face value.   He accused the Nets of being lazy last season.

  • Lazy is defined as unwilling to work or use energy.
To watch it in application, one must look no further than game one of the 2014-2015 regular season.

The early returns are now in.  Coach Hollins' efforts to improve the defense have paid off handsomely - for Boston.

In truth, the Nets looked lethargic playing against youngsters.

The (rebuilding!) Celtics jumped out to a 32-23 1st quarter lead and never looked back.  By halftime, they owned a decisive 67-41 lead over the visiting Nets, en route to a dominating 121-105 final in Boston.

While the Nets were more proficient from the free throw line, and even out-rebounded the Celts 39-35, they also turned the ball over 20 times that contributed to 25 points the other way.

Rajon Rondo and 7 other Celtics scored in double-digits.  Boston was 49/88 (55.7%) from the floor.
Rondo also broke down Brooklyn's statuesque defense with a game high 12 assists, which helped the Celts outscore Flatbush 62-40 in the paint.

Brooklyn on the other hand was 39/80 (48.9%) from the floor (which for them is actually good).  

Off the bench, Mirza Teletovic led all scorers with 20 points.  Deron Williams led all players with 39 minutes, and led the Nets with 8 assists.  He and Joe Johnson contributed 19 points each.

In his first game as a Net, Jarrett Jake played 30 minutes off the bench and scored 11 points.

Kevin Garnett was the fifth Net in double-digits, with 10 points to go along with 6 rebounds in 23 minutes time.

Next stop for the lumbering Nets is Detroit, where they'll face the Pistons Saturday night.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Brooklyn Nets Tip-Off Season In Beantown

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Regular Season Opener

Brooklyn Nets
Boston Celtics

BROOKLYN NETS: Billy King Facing His Most Uncertain Season On Flatbush.

The Nets won 49 games during their first season in Brooklyn.  After a horrific start last season, the Nets still managed to post 44 victories.  They finished in 2nd place of the Atlantic Division each time.

So what does Billy King's ever changing roster, and the 2014-15 Brooklyn Nets have in store this time?

  • Key Losses: Shaun Livingston, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, Coach Jason Kidd.
  • Key Additions: Jarrett Jack, Bojan Bogdanovic, Sergey Karasev, Jerome Jordan, Coach Lionel Hollins.
  • 2014 Draft: Billy King has compromised the Nets draft for years to come.  Somehow, he managed to purchase the 44th overall pick (from Minnesota) guard Markel Brown, and 60th overall pick (from the 76ers) forward Cory Jefferson.
  • Returning: Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Mason Plumlee, Alan Anderson, Mirza Teletovic, Andrei Kirilenko, and Jorge Gutierrez.

I'll start by saying this will perhaps be Billy King's most uncertain season.

His biggest worry is split between his two top players.  Deron Williams and Brook Lopez are both returning from off-season surgery, and the latter will miss the season opener Wednesday evening in Boston.

Lopez missed nearly all of 2 of the last 3 seasons with recurring foot injuries.  More so than even Deron Williams, Brook's presence on the court, or absence, factors most in Nets success, or lack thereof.  He also effectively dictates what style of play the Nets utilize (although Coach Hollins is trying to dispel that notion).  Nevertheless, the Nets open the 2014-15 campaign with front court issues.

Deron Williams had off-season surgery performed on both ankles.

The big trade with Boston didn't work out the way Billy King had hoped.  Paul Pierce is now with the Wizards, while at 38-years of age, Kevin Garnett returns for his 20th NBA season.

Andrei Kirilenko, Joe Johnson, and Alan Anderson, albeit all good players, are no spring chickens either.  Andrei will turn 34-years old in February, Joe-Jo turned 33-years old in June, and Anderson turned 32-years old this month.

There will be a huge spotlight shining upon 31-year old veteran Jarrett Jack - Billy King's big acquisition (via the Cavs) of the off-season.

Joining him will be a pair of European imports.  After a few years playing in Turkey, Bojan Bogdanovic is an NBA rookie, while Jerome Jordan is returning to the NBA after playing last season in Italy.  He was drafted in 2010 by the Bucks, and played one NBA season (2011-12) with the Knicks.

On the more familiar side of things, Mirza Teletovic and Mason Plumlee perhaps represent two of the Nets more promising players.

The grand plan ultimately circles back around Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Joe Johnson - the three main constants of the Brooklyn era.

Coaching on the other hand, has been far from settled.  The Nets are on their 4th coach since moving to Brooklyn.  Lionel Hollins is the new man in charge promising more team cohesion, and less isolation.  Defense remains to be seen, rebounding will pose a big problem, and forget about team speed.

The Nets competition across the river is in Phil Jackson's hands now.  They will also be contending with Toronto, Indiana, Cleveland, Miami, Washington, and Chicago makes 7 teams.

Include any other team you like, but the 2014-15 Nets season looks like it will be a battle for the 6th to 8th seed in the conference....again.

Ending the regular season between 44 and 49 victories will be quite a challenge.


N.Y. Giants: They Are What Their Record Says

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

Being outdone by Jerry Jones?

New York Giants Football: John Mara makes it difficult to determine whether or not Jerry Reese is on the hot seat.

With Monday night's loss to the D.C. Hogs, the Dallas Cowboys graciously afforded the Giants one last chance at turning their season around, albeit a slim one.

Of course, good teams do not rely on their competition for creating their opportunities.  Good teams create their own situations and opportunity.

So what does that make the Giants?

At 3-4, Bill Parcells would say - you are what you're record says you are.

Their in-conference record says they are not contenders.  Losses to the Eagles and Cowboys were preceded by losses to the Lions and Cardinals.  Their two conference victories came against the lowly Falcons and Hogs, whom sport a combined 5-11 record.

Although 3 of their next 4 games are at home, they must face the COLTS, @Seahawks, 49ERS, and COWBOYS.  That's four weeks against top contenders.

The last five games:
D.C. Hogs

If the Giants season didn't end in Dallas last week, it could very well be over by the time the Cowboys come to Giants Stadium.

The Giants need 5 more victories (in 9 games) in order to finish the season with an 8-8 record.

Catching up with the Eagles and Cowboys is obviously priority number one.  Otherwise, they need to keep pace with the Packers/Lions, Panthers/Saints, and Cardinals/49ers/Seahawks.

At 3-4, the Saints find themselves in the same predicament as the Giants.  But, in order for the Giants to run with the pack, they must overcome much.

This is just the very short list:

I. Offensively
  • an ineffective offensive line;
  • Rashad Jennings still injured;
  • no tight end to speak of;
  • No Victor Cruz.
II. Defensively
  • no pass rush to speak of;
  • Jon Beason is out for the rest of the season;
  • a beleaguered secondary;
  • a defensive coordinator that needs to be replaced.
Giants Football was devolving even before their Super Bowl XLVI victory.  That was just their last hurrah.  

They no longer have that stable of talent they once did (on either side of the ball) which they built primarily through the draft.  Free agency was always used to fortify the roster.

In previous years free agency indeed proved a much more effective tool as they relied on it less.   However, since their last ring, Jerry Reese has annually shuffled the deck in an attempt at keeping the team competitive during Eli Manning's remaining years.  There's the rub.  If it weren't for Eli, a full blown rebuilding would be in order, lest we forget Manning was a rookie on a very veteran team.  

That said, Jerry Reese's reliance on free agency has increased every season since 2011.  He was clearly at his most aggressive during this past off-season, and was generally commended for addressing specific needs.  Above all, he managed to purchase fan confidence heading into the 2014 season.  

At 3-2, they looked fine heading into Philadelphia.  Or, so we thought.  They got shut out 27-0 by the Eagles, and looked even worse than that.

So, the question again begged to be asked - how good are the Giants?

We should look no further than at the NFC East division leading Dallas Cowboys for the answer.   Plain and simple, Dallas' offensive line, back field, tight end, and receivers, are all superior to those of the Giants.  And it showed in a 31-21 defeat in Dallas.

That must have had Jerry Jones doing cartwheels in the hallways of AT&T Stadium.

That should have had John Mara contemplating his general manager's future as well.

During the pre-season Coach Coughlin said he had no plan on retiring.  But at this rate, this is likely his last season as Giants head coach.  The Giants are also in dire need of a change in defensive coordinators.

Giants ownership, we know does nothing hastily.  And, Reese is widely believed to be held in high esteem by the organization.  One can't help but wonder, however, if Jerry Reese will be the one making those determinations heading into next season.

As a result of their most recent defeat against the Cowboys, the Giants are now 19-20 since winning their last Super Bowl.  They only posted a  9-7 regular season that year, and followed that with another 9-7 record in 2012 before falling to 7-9 last season.

The Giants haven't fired a general manager since Wellington Mara replaced Andy Robustelli after the 1978 season with George Young.  The baton was then passed, so to say, to Ernie Accorsi, whom then passed it to Jerry Reese.

Giants history says Reese will still be calling the shots next season.  But John Mara was born into this game, and perhaps knows better than anyone when to make such a move.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Brooklyn Nets: Winds Of Change Keep Blowing Down Flatbush

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH


BROOKLYN NETS: Year Three Poised To Be Team's Most Uncertain Yet.

I smell a rat, but for as long as Bruce Ratner completes Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park (like he promised the people of Brooklyn), the phone call for Pest Control will remain on hold.

THAT is the top story if this upcoming season set to commence this Wednesday - not the team.

Ratner, a native Brooklynite, endured ten long years of litigation, ultimately bought the Nets, built Barclays Center, and moved the team to Kings County.

Of course, we knew that was only (a hook) part of his more grandiose plans for developing the LIRR yards along Flatbush Ave./Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street.   Locally, the contentious way Ratner went about securing the property for his proposed Atlantic Yards (through city backed eminent domain) was the main issue of protest.

Fast forward to 2010 - The NBA ratified Ratner's sale of majority stake in the Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov, as well as 45% interest in Barclays Center.

Fast forward again: the first residential complex after Barclays Center finally got started at the corner of Flatbush and Dean Street, and, and..., now Bruce Ratner again wants to sell his remaining stake in Barclays Center.

All I know, is that he has a lot more building to do.  I don't care if the development is ultimately named Atlantic Yards or Pacific Park.  Just get it done.

And what of the majority Nets owner?  It turns out Mikhail Prokhorov isn't such a sure thing either.   The Russian billionaire owns 80% of the Nets.  Apparently, a portion of his stake has been under negotiation, although he would maintain controlling interest of the team.

Yes, the team....

We last left them post Game 5 elimination from the Eastern Conference semi's against the Heat.

Since then, Andray Blatche ran off to play in China, former coach Jason Kidd exiled himself to Milwaukee, and Paul "The Truth" Pierce denounced Brooklyn on his way to D.C.

Thanks for the memories guys.

Now for the recurring nightmare:

First and foremost, the Brooklyn Nets suffer Ankle Anxiety.  This occurs when the team's point guard and top paid player (Deron Williams), and the team's top scorer (Brook Lopez), continually miss games, or play ineffectively due to recurring ankle/foot injuries.

Let's speak truth; to date Deron Williams has not been the elite franchise player the Nets anticipated. And while already burdened with carrying the weight of the organization, he must now attempt to do so on two surgically repaired ankles.

Brook Lopez' situation is even more distressing.  He missed nearly all of 2 of the last 3 seasons with recurring foot injuries.  More so than even Deron Williams, Brook's presence on the court, or absence, factors most in Nets success, or lack thereof.  He also effectively dictates what style of play the Nets utilize.

Brook Lopez' status for Wednesday's season opener in Boston is now questionable.  Coach Hollins says he'll play.  Nevertheless, the Nets open the 2014-15 campaign with front court issues.

Leading the Nets will be new head coach Lionel Hollins.  He took over for Jason Kidd, who was by far Billy King's most curious venture, as Kidd turned on King by biting the hand that fed him his first NBA job.

Billy King will be hard pressed to live that down if his club falters badly this season.  Every GM is entitled to one pet project - much less two.  Lionel Hollins isn't exactly a slam dunk.  Billy King gave him a 4-year contract based primarily on his work for the Grizzlies and to a much lesser extent, his work with the Bucks.  That's not an overwhelming resume.

One must also keep in mind that Kidd took over for P.J. Carlesimo, who took over for Avery Johnson, meaning Billy King and the Nets have yet to begin their 3rd season in Brooklyn, but are now on their 4th head coach.

After last season's gross expenditure, and 2nd round elimination, I think it safe to say Billy King begins the season on the hot seat.

Now the conversation about the 2014-2015 Brooklyn Nets can start.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Today for Rising Apple - Jeurys Familia: Mets Season In Review

Here's my latest for

Senior staff writer/Rising Apple

PIGSKIN 2014: Football Sunday - Week Eight


Football Sunday
Week Eight

On Vacation 

Week Seven Record:  6-7
Overall Record:  44-33-2
Schmear of the Week:  3-3
BAGELS in the Basket:  +9

Coin Toss:
  • This is why everyone fiends for football.  It's already the half way point of the regular season.  Damn it.
1st and 10:
  • It's time for the Pats to pull away from the Bills, and for the Ravens to pull away from the Bengals.
2nd and Long:
  • This is when the Lions drop down to 2nd place, and the Packers assume 1st.  The 2nd place Eagles want to keep pace with Dallas, but the Cards will have a huge say in that.
No Gain:
  • No victory for Oakland this week.
  • Even without playing (bye), the Giants season stands to get worse this week.

(Friday Line ~ NYDN)

JETS -3 (Bills)
This has more to do with the Bills underachieving, than the Jets getting this one right.
Loss; 43-23 Bills

Falcons +4 (Lions) @London
I hear some of the Lions aren't being very kindly mates across the pond.  They'll blow this.
WIN; 22-21 Lions

BUCS -2 1/2 (Vikings)
....only because I'm forced to pick someone.  Bucs can't even lay the customary 3-points.  Pffft.
Loss; 19-13 Vikings  O.T.

PATRIOTS -6 (Bears)
These Bears aren't very feisty.  The Minutemen will see them coming from a mile away.
WIN; 51-23 Patriots

CHIEFS -7 (Rams)
Here is a game I have no confidence in.  I really think the Rams can cover, but.....
WIN; 34-7 Chiefs

Seahawks -5 (PANTHERS)
The Seahawks will be motivated to break a 2-game skid.  The spread is very reasonable.
Loss; 13-9 Seahawks

Dolphins -6 (JAGUARS)
Can the Jags win 2 in a row?  NO!  They'll find out Dolphins are mammals too.
WIN; 27-13 Dolphins

Texans -3 (TITANS)
Captain Obvious called and said lay the points.
WIN; 30-16 Texans

Forget the Ravens for a second....  This is a big home game the Bengals notoriously blow.  Back to the Ravens - I don't see this game being this close (PK).
Loss; 27-24 Bengals

CARDINALS -2 1/2 (Eagles)
The Cards should be able to bottle up LeSean McCoy, and that should be all the difference.  Key word = should.,
WIN; 24-20 Cardinals

Colts -3 (STEELERS)
Last week showed why it's still hard picking against Big Ben.  But it's awfully hard to pick against the Colts right now.
Loss; 51-34 Steelers

BROWNS -7 (Raiders)
This is why I hate the Browns... giving the Jags their first win.  C'mon!  I'll go out on a limb and say the Browns will deny Oakland their first win.  The Raiders offense (last in the NFL) couldn't even score in a woman's prison with a carton of cigarettes.
WIN; 23-13 Browns

Packers +1 (SAINTS)
Did I hear take the over?  A fireworks show in New Orleans.  I'll take 1-point and the Packers defense over that of the Saints defense.
Loss; 44-23 Saints

Schmear of the Week: (3-3)
Patriots -6
WIN (+3 bagels)

Whatever is cookin' in my mom-in-law's kitchen.  What's on your Football Sunday menu?

Good luck and have a Happy Football Sunday everybody!

Post Game:
Week Eight Record:  7-6
Overall Record:  51-39-2
Schmear of the Week:  4-3
BAGELS in the Basket:  +13


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Devils fall to Rangers in season's first Battle of the Hudson

From the desks of:  


Game One Final
Rangers   4
Devils       3

New Jersey Devils: Life After Marty....

Life after Martin Brodeur has begun in Newark.

With Cory Schneider in net, the Devils opened the season with 3 straight victories.  But after last night's O.T. loss to the Rangers, the Devils have now dropped 3 straight.

As a result, the Devils have slipped behind the Islanders and Rangers in the local area standings.

Islanders   4-2-0   8 pts.
Rangers    4-3-0   8 pts.
Devils       3-2-1   7 pts.

The Devils goalie for most of the last 21 seasons, Martin Brodeur is stuck at 688 career victories - just 12 away from an increasingly elusive 700, but with no team to play for.  He is yet to strike a deal with any team, and none seem to be beating down his door for an autograph either.

The latest rumors have Brodeur connected with Colorado.  That would be something, huh? - if Brodeur wound up playing for Patrick Roy (the goalie whose record he broke).

Jaromir Jagr will turn 43-years old in February.  Last season, he played in 82 games for the Devils, averaged 19:10 minutes per game, and scored 24 goals - his most since the 2007-08 season with the Rangers.

Tuesday night against the Rangers, Jagr scored his first goal of the season, and the 707th goal of his career.  He is presently 7th on the NHL all-time list.  Old Rangers favorite Mike Gartner is next at #6 with 708 career goals.  Within potential reach this season, are #5-Phil Esposito (717) and #4-Marcel Dionne (731).

And then there was one....

When the Devils originally came to town in 1982-83, I was 16-yrs old, and all my (Rangers fan) hatred was already directed towards the Islanders.  So, by the Devils arrival, my attention was piqued more than anything.

The Kansas City Scouts and Colorado Rockies failed, which of course opened the door for Mr. John McMullen to buy the franchise and relocate them.

At the time, the Nets were only recently resettled into the Brendan Byrne Arena, the New Jersey Generals (USFL) were kicking off, and the New York Cosmos were immensely popular.  So, it was perhaps a good time to blend into the Meadowlands and greater metropolitan area sports scene.  I merely felt that a big sports metropolis was just getting bigger.

I came to appreciate guys like Pat Verbeek, Brendan Shanahan, Bruce Driver, John MacLean, Kirk Muller, a rookie named Ken Daneyko, then Peter Stastny.

Had the Devils defeated the Rangers in the 1994 conference finals, and not the other way around, I'm sure I would feel very differently about New Jersey's team today.  For instance, my son's hatred is primarily directed at the Devils, and less so towards the Islanders. That's understandable considering both team's respective histories ever since the Isles last competed for the Cup.

The Rangers won the Cup in 1994, and so I saw no harm in continuing to appreciate certain Devils players, and the overall success they enjoyed through 5 Stanley Cup appearances, and 3 Cup victories (just as long as they weren't playing the Rangers, because you can't be great, without great opponents).

Besides, with the Rangers, Devils and Islanders, it was just cool to be able to watch hockey (in general) every night.

The thing is, you just can not discount the Devils as some Mickey Mouse organization, as Wayne Gretzky once famously did.  And if you're a metropolitan area local of my age, then you watched their entire history (unlike the Islanders, whose earliest years escape my knowledgeable range).

Through those years, Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens, MacLean, Daneyko, Scott Niedermeyer, and a few others held my respect.

Lou Lamoriello is easily among the greatest executives NY/NJ teams have ever known.  Scott Stevens is perhaps the toughest defensemen I ever saw play.  Martin Brodeur only become the NHL's all-time wins leader, while John MacLean initially set the organization's offensive records.

And then there was one....  

Patrick Elias is the man who broke John MacLean's club records, and continues to reset the organizational bar.  He is perhaps the last Devil I retain an interest for.  He may also be the last.  For me at least, what started with Pat Verbeek, may end once Patrick Elias retires.

Was I ever a Devils fan?  When they play the Islanders, sure.  Otherwise, no.  Regardless, my son is intolerant of whatever I call it.

Devils wins and losses have never, and do not factor in my life, or general disposition the way the Rangers/Giants/Mets can, and do.  

I'm just a guy who enjoys his surroundings.  Heck, I wish the Islanders were good again just to rekindle that rivalry, and elevate area hockey overall.

New York Rangers: Power Play Finally Lights The Lamp...

Yes, my team.


Just the opposite of the Devils, after losing 3 straight, the Rangers have won 3 in a row.  They entered Tuesday's game on the heels of an impressive 4-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks.

The Blueshirts scored 3 unanswered goals against the Devils to gain an (elusive) overtime victory.   Of course, that would not have been possible without Rick Nash's game tying goal in the 3rd period. It was his NHL leading 8th goal of the season.

The Rangers also finally scored on the power play - twice in fact, against the Devils.  They broke an 0 for 17 streak, and are now 2 for 20 on the young season.

Next stop, a true test against the Montreal Canadiens.

Derek Stepan has not skated yet.  Dan Girardi was back on the ice.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

PIGSKIN 2014: Football Sunday ~ Week Seven


Football Sunday
Week Seven


Week 6:  8-4-1
Overall Record:  38-26-2
Schmear of the Week:  2-3
BAGELS in the Basket:  +7

Coin Toss:
  • Has anyone watched the FXFL yet?  The Brooklyn Bolts hosted the first pro football game in the Borough since the Brooklyn Dodgers/Brooklyn Tigers last played in the NFL 70 years ago at Ebbets Field.
1st and 10:
  • All eyes on the Cowboys.
2nd and Short:
  • How shameless was Daniel Snyder for hosting the president of Navajo Nation in his owner's suite?  Brilliant!
No Gain:
  • There is something very suspicious about the Jets acquisition of Percy Harvin from Seattle.  Why the hell would the Seahawks make this trade in mid-season?  Answer?  Pick a source - he became a clubhouse cancer.  New GM - same old Jets though.
  • Read this USA Today article: NFL Refs ruining games with absurd penalties.

Week Seven:
(Friday Line ~ NYDN)

COWBOYS -6 1/2 (Giants)
The Giants did nothing against the Eagles that gives me confidence this week.  And after all, the Boys went into Seattle last week and won.  What's fair is fair.
WIN; 31-21 Cowboys

COLTS -3 (Bengals)
Last week's O.T. tie was the big let down I thought the Bengals were thus far avoiding.  They'll play another close game in Indy, but run into bad LUCK at the end.
WIN; 27-0 Colts

Titans +5 1/2 (D.C. HOGS)
I'll take my chances with the inconsistent team on the road against the really bad team at home.
WIN; 19-17 Hogs

Dolphins +3 1/2 (BEARS)
If a Bear can go to Georgia (WK 6 vs. Falcons) and win, then a Dolphin can go to Chicago and win too.
WIN; 27-14 Dolphins

Browns -5 1/2 (JAGUARS)
The crowd in Jacksonville will be the opposing quarterback.
Loss; 24-6 Jaguars

Seahawks -7 (RAMS)
The Seahawks players will rally and win for their GM as a - thank you - for getting rid of Percy Harvin.
Loss; 28-26 Rams

Panthers +7 (PACKERS)
Cam Newton is healthier these days.  I'm merely looking for the Panthers to cover in a high scoring game.
Loss; 38-17 Packers

RAVENS -7 (Falcons)
Sure Flacco is doing well, but the Ravens are getting it done with defense.....again.  For the Falcons, defense is just a theory.
WIN; 29-7 Ravens

BILLS -5 (Vikings)
Because it's the Vikings.  Motivation?  The Bills better win if they wanna keep up with the Pats.
Loss; 17-16 Bills

LIONS -3 (Saints)
Lions are merely getting the respect for being the home team.  They have the NFC's top defense, but they won't hold Drew Brees to 3-points like they did to Minnesota.  But of course, the Saints can't function on the road.
Loss; 24-23 Lions

CHARGERS -4 (Chiefs)
A low scoring game.  The Bolts by 5?
Loss; 23-20 Chiefs

Cardinals -3 1/2 (RAIDERS)
Cards know the Niners are in Denver.  Mr. Spock would say lay the points.
WIN; 24-13 Cardinals

49ers +6 1/2 (BRONCOS)
I'm definitely looking for the Niners to cover.  Outcome more uncertain.
Loss; 42-17 Broncos

Schmear of the Week: (2-3)
Cards -3 1/2

Short ribs, loaded potatoes, and BBQ corn on the cob...  What's on your football menu?

Good luck and have a Happy Football Sunday!

Post Game:
Week Seven Record:  6-7
Overall Record:  44-33-2
Schmear of the Week:  3-3
BAGELS in the Basket:  +9


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

N.Y. Rangers: Isles Trample King Henrik's Garden


Tuesday Final:
Islanders   6
Rangers     3

NEW YORK RANGERS: Islanders and Blueshirts headed in opposite directions.

The Islanders haven't moved into Brooklyn yet, but have already started throwing rocks through MSGs windows.

Long Island took 27 shots on net, and 6 of them made it passed Henrik Lundqvist en route to a 6-3 drubbing at the Garden.

That's a total of 12 goals Lundqvist has surrendered in the last two games.  He endured a disastrous 2nd period against Toronto in the home opener before getting pulled.  On Tuesday night, things went awry for Lunqvist in the 3rd period, when he allowed 4 goals.

Making his 2nd start, Jaroslav Halak faced 43 Rangers shots on net, and allowed 3 goals.

The Islanders power play continues to click, but the Rangers unit remained scoreless.  They are now 0 for 11 this season.

The sinking Rangers have now allowed 17 goals over 3 straight (pathetic) losses.

But hey, Rick Nash scored 2 more goals to bring his total up to 6 in only 4 games.

The Isles on the other hand, remain undefeated (3-0) and moved into an early 1st place tie with New Jersey.


N.Y. Mets: Beyond The Right Field Fence

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

NEW YORK METS: The contrived right field fence will no longer be the Wailing Wall of Willets Point.

Were the original expansive outfield dimensions at Citi Field killing attendance?  That's the real question.

Ownership sure is behaving that way.  Shorten the fences, and hopefully the team does better in their new accommodations.  After all, it's not just chicks who dig the long ball.  That dad spending $450 bucks bringing his family sure would appreciate his kid's favorite player jacking one out too.

More offense, and more exciting games, will make fans flock back to Citi Field, where they'll buy beer, food, and souvenirs,

Basically, improve everyone's quality of life by moving the fences in.

Brilliant, right?

Let this reaffirm what a huge mistake the original dimensions at Citi Field were - (just because the organization keeps messing with them).  They would have showed more guts just sticking with the original layout and concentrated on fielding more suitable players.

But they caved, and by the end of 2011, the organization had no choice but to revisit left field's Great Wall of Flushing.  But, guess what - that wasn't enough.  Now, after the World Series, the Mets will make a second attempt to finally get things right (I use that word very loosely) - this time they'll reconfigure the right field Wailing Wall of Willets Point.

It's yet another example of just how far off the mark ownership was with this park from the very beginning.

We know it's more than just the dimensions - it's the overwhelming tribute to the Dodgers, it was the initial lack of a Mets Hall of Fame; it was hiding the Home Run Apple back by the chop shops; it was the Domino Pizza looking Citi Field logo and patch; it was a place that did more to alienate Mets fans in its first year than it did to welcome them home.

Citi Field's rudimentary alterations only occurred after the outcry.

The fences that robbed David Wright of his power alley, during his prime, weren't deemed too far until their high priced free agent acquisition, Curtis Granderson, couldn't hit them out of Citi either.

Good.  So now they'll move the fences in during a time when they are rebuilding around young pitching.

It's always so reactionary with them.

When you get right down to it, a field built in a giant parking lot has no reason for such idiosyncratic fencing.

The Mets won't be the only players to find Citi Field's dimensions more forgiving either.  The opposition has already endured the prohibitive years.  Hitting there will become easier for them as well.

The fans negative opinion and distrust of ownership is why attendance is down.  The decimation caused by the Madoff scandal, and the team still teetering on near-bankruptcy is why attendance is down.  The limited operating budget is why attendance is down.  False assurances and empty promises are why.  Five straight losing seasons are why.

Win, and they will come.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Rivalry 2014: Islanders vs. Rangers - I

From the desks of:


New York Islanders
33rd Street at 8th Avenue

New York Islanders: Two Steps Forward...

With no Matt Moulson or Thomas Vanek in the stable, the Isles new defensive reinforcement, Johnny Boychuk, is paying immediate dividends.  The team is off to a 2-0 record after completing a home/home sweep of the Hurricanes.  Oh, and this is their last season in Long Island.

Starting next season, the Islanders will call Barclays Center, Brooklyn, home.  Technically on the same slab of real estate carved out by the last ice age, their relocation nonetheless transforms future Isles/Rangers games into an inner city rivalry.

In net, this year's tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson split the first 2 games.

Entering his sophomore season, young center Brock Nelson already has 6 points.

New York Rangers: Two Steps Back..

The Rangers defense has given up 11 goals in the last 2 games; the Columbus Blue Jackets pushed them around while MatsZucs in particular again proved too small in a physical game; the power play hasn't scored in 8 opportunities; Chris Kreider has been locked in the penalty box, and Henrik Lundqvist gave up 6 goals and got pulled in the 2nd period of the home opener.

Otherwise, Rick Nash is off to a fabulous start, isn't he?


N.Y. Giants: Big Blue A No-Show In Philadelphia

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE


Giants         0

NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL: Jon Beason makes inconsequential return; Victor Cruz likely out for season.

It was hard to piss off The Duke.  But, this game surely would have.  This game would have pissed off John's grandfather too.  It was the Eagles.

Sunday's loss puts the Giants 2 games behind both Philadelphia and Dallas (whom defeated the Seahawks in Seattle).  But we all know that's only scratching the surface.

This was a demoralizing straight up beat down.

The offensive line, starting their 6th straight game together, and seemingly improving, failed to get the running game going, and allowed an amateurish 8 sacks (6 Manning; 2 Nassib).  Justin Pugh was the culprit in 3 of those.

Steve Weatherford almost doubled the Giants offensive output with his foot.

And of course, there's the obvious bad news: It looks as if Victor Cruz is out for the remainder of the season.

The return of Jon Beason didn't help at all.  Defensively, they allowed 200+ yards on the ground (149 of that to LeSean McCoy), and another 248 yards through the air via 7 different receivers.

Demontre Moore recorded the only sack on Nick Foles, and was the only Giant to touch him all game.

Special teams have been absolutely atrocious since Week One.

This isn't my line - I heard it on TV, but it's true.  The Eagles looked faster than the Giants in every aspect of the game.

On Monday, it is clear they are not as good as 3 consecutive victories led us to believe.

Unless they rebound in Week 7 against the Cowboys, the Giants will sped their bye week listening to everyone list everything wrong with them.

The lists are long, but they'll get the benefit of one more week to figure this out.

I'll only say that the more Jerry Reese has relied on free agency, the worse this team has gotten.


Monday, October 13, 2014

N.Y. Yankees: So Long Mr. November

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

Jeter's final series at Yankee Stadium against Baltimore

New York Yankees: At night, mild mannered Derek Jeter turned into the notorious Gotham Hitman.

The 20-year playing career of Derek Jeter has ended.

It goes without saying, Derek was a professional on and off the field - always in total control of his affairs.  He stayed humble, but more importantly remained his own man, which in NYC can be difficult to do.  When GM Brian Cashman chose to callously negotiate Jeter's final extension through the media, the Captain chastised the organization for it.  In a blue collar town, that was endearing.

Derek Jeter was my son's favorite.  He's all my son has ever known.  I was saddened for him upon Jeter's final game.

Me?  I'm more practiced at seeing players come and go.  Being older and a little more jaded, it's rare I get attached to singular players anymore.  As a younger man, the advent of free agency helped ruin things somewhat.  Some players have come close in my adult years, but I always knew Jeter was different from most players in my life as a New Yorker.

Suffice to say, my son had better luck with his childhood hero than I did with mine.

He was different - a throwback.  His class stood out.

He transcends 3 different centuries of baseball. Jeter would have been as supremely respected in the Murray Hill clubhouse of the 1840s New York Knickerbockers as he was in modern day Yankee Stadium.

In New York City, obviously steeped in baseball history since its earliest day, rich with legendary teams and players of all eras, Derek Jeter will go down as one of its titans.

If you remember, there was a time Derek Jeter placed behind contemporary shortstops Nomar Garciapara, Alex Rodriguez, and Miguel Tejada, on statistical, as well as popularity lists.  He may not have been the best to ever play shortstop, but Jeter was great throughout.

That said, let Derek Jeter be a lesson and reminder of what it really takes to be a Hall of Famer.

The entirety of his career was a relentless storm of hits, right through his 18th season when he led the American League with the second highest mark of his career.  In the post-season, in short series competition, Mr. November's bat flashed with lightning and roared with thunder.

In the 139 years of professional baseball, only 5 players have more hits than Derek Jeter.

No other Yankee, no Met player, Giant or Dodger - no other New York City player even comes remotely close; not Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Zack Wheat, Mel Ott, DiMaggio or Gehrig, the Duke of Flatbush, Pee Wee, the Scooter, et al...  no one has more hits in this city than Jeter.

If you're old enough to have seen his whole career, like I did, then you had the opportunity to watch, listen or witness all 3,465 of them.

I only caught the 2nd half of Pete Rose's career, and the tail of Hank Aaron's career.  So, in my life as a baseball fan, Derek Jeter is indeed the hit king.

At the time Derek Jeter signed his final contract extension, he owned a career .314 batting average. Going forward, my worry was that he would jeopardize his average, and fall below .300 like Mickey Mantle did.

Missing most of the 2013 regular season with an injury turned out to be a mixed bag of goods.  In the end, Jeter started 2014 with a ,312 average, and finished the season with a career .310 batting average.  I feel that adds much more polish to a career, than say a .307 average would have.

We'll never know what type of 2013 season he could have produced, but we do know it cost him an opportunity at finishing 5th on the all-time hit list.  Only 2 American Leaguers have more.  Tris Speaker ended his career with 3,515 hits. Jeter was just 50 hits away.

He'll go down as one of the city's elite: with Jim Creighton Jr., Christy Mathewson, Jackie Robinson, Tom Seaver, and numerous others including Lou Gehrig and the Highlander/Yankee legends of the last 100+ years.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

N.Y. Giants: Time To Silence All That Chirping

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE


Philadelphia Eagles
The City of Thuggery Love

NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL: Big Beaks Demand An Answer.

That's a lot of crap coming out of Philly.  I can smell it from here.  And nothing too kind has been coming out of the Eagles mouths either.

So, who's in charge of the Eagles Twitter account anyway?  Nickelodeon?

Was that video filmed inside the jail at Lincoln Financial Field?

In truth, the only thing Eli Manning needs to worry about in Philadelphia, is Philadelphia itself.

#BlackSunday (?)  Really?

Hey, I know...   Hash tag this ya bunch of filthy birds..!  Here comes the blimp!!  ....crashing into the Eagles Super Bowl aspirations - Oh the humanity!

They got math jokes too?  Here's a problem for their text book - Let's see how many Big Blue sacks Jason Kelce can count to.  I know Tom Coughlin can count to 2....ssssssUPER Bowls.

Although I despise playing on Sunday/Monday/Thursday night, this is actually going to be a great day for football.  Two teams with hate for each other - I wouldn't have it any other way.

For a change, this game actually means something (to the Giants) for the first time in 2 seasons.  And if you're like me, then you appreciate when this division is at its best - that's if the Giants are up to par, of course.

That's what we're about to find out.

Remember, this is an Eagles/Giants game, which means zany shit happens. So, expect it.

But what about the Eagles?  Simple..., I'm unimpressed with their victories over the last place Jaguars, last place D.C. Hogs, and last place Rams.  I'll cede them the Colts.

Even without Rashad Jennings, I think the Giants will do more against Philly's defense, than Philly will manage against the Giants defense.  This will be the offensive line's 6th straight game together. There's gotta be a reward for that.  Scientific..., I know.  And despite Beason still out, the Giants have gotten good play from their linebackers, and the secondary.

There is much to like heading into this game.


Friday, October 10, 2014

PIGSKIN 2014: Football Sunday ~ Week Six


Football Sunday
Week Six

Week 5 ~ Vacation

Week 4 Record:  7-3-1
Overall Record:  30-22-1
Schmear of the Week:  2-2
BAGELS in the Basket:  +7

Coin Toss:
  • Football in Los Angeles is back on the table again, but with the same old tired plan they always propose.  L.A.'s chance of landing a team have never been better than 50/50.
1st and 10:
  • Head to head division games with 1st place implications ~ Patriots/Bills and Giants/Eagles
No Gain:
  • There are no undefeated teams remaining in the NFL.  The race is now on to see which team earns their 1st victory of the season: Oakland or Jacksonville.
3rd and Long:
  • The Jets are losing altitude fast!
  • Adrian Peterson is in even bigger trouble now.  Someone get that man some help.

(Friday Line ~ NYDN)

Giants +3 (EAGLES)
The Birds -3 at home doesn't say much.  The Giants have handled LaSean McCoy well in the past.

Broncos -9 (JETS)
Sorry Rex, there are no miracles in sight.
WIN; 31-17 Broncos

BROWNS -2 (Steelers)
There's a new sheriff in this rivalry, and his name is Johnny Manziel.
WIN; 31-10 Browns

Jaguars +5 (TITANS)
Because the Titans deserve to be crapped on.
WIN; 16-14 Titans

FALCONS -3 (Bears)
Georgia is no place for a northern bear.
Loss; 27-13 Bears

Packers -3 (DOLPHINS)
This is another of this week's conservative 3-point spreads.  C'mon Vegas, show some nuts.  A 1/2 point would have been nice.
PUSH; 27-24 Packers

Lions -1 1/2 (VIKINGS)
Why wouldn't you take the Lions?
WIN; 17-3 Lions

Panthers +5 1/2 (BENGALS)
I think the Bengals bounce back with a victory, but I'm shooting for the Panthers to cover.
WIN; 37-37 O.T. Tie

Patriots -3 (BILLS)
See Packers game - otherwise, this is an early battle for 1st place.  I'll go with killer instinct and take the Pats.
WIN; 37-22 Patriots

Ravens -3 (BUCS)
See Packers and Patriots - The Bucs have been playing better of late, but not that much better.
WIN; 48-17 Ravens

Chargers -7 (RAIDERS)
This is going to be a sparing session.  Be on the lookout for a blowout in the Black Hole.
Loss; 31-28 Chargers

SEAHAWKS -8 (Cowboys)
Did you see how happy Tony Romo looked last week?  That means he's due to have a miserable day against the LOB.
Loss; 30-23 Cowboys

CARDINALS -3 1/2 (D.C. Hogs)
Who made this week's lines, Ebenezer Scrooge?  What a tight ass.
WIN; 30-20 Cardinals

Schmear of the Week: (2-2)
Chargers -7

Chicken kabobs, garlic shrimp, stuffed mushrooms, zucchini fries, and a big salad...   What's on your football menu?

Good luck, and have a Happy Football Sunday everyone!

Post Game:
Week Six Record:  8-4-1
Overall Record:  38-26-2
Schmear of the Week:  2-3
BAGELS in the Basket:  +7