Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What's Wrong with the Knicks?

As a Knicks fan, this season has been a great breath of fresh air. At least the beginning of the year was a breath of fresh air. The team played passionately on defense, moved the ball very well, always looked for the open guy by making the extra pass, shot the three ball at a high percentage, and of course got major contributions from the (in many cases, old) role players. That's all well and good, but something hasn't been right with the team recently.

Ever since they lost three games in a row in the beginning of January to the Celtics, Pacers, and Bulls. It was around this time that the offense began to stagnate, which is why they lost to these teams. The Knicks can't beat teams that actually play defense. The honeymoon period was over. Carmelo Anthony reverted back to Iso-Melo and was no longer willing to give up a decent or good shot for someone else to get a great shot. Raymond Felton starting shooting a ridiculous amount, J.R. Smith wouldn't ever give up the ball, and Steve Novak suddenly wasn't automatic from behind the arc.

The biggest problem is that the Knicks aren't stopping people enough on defense. The best remedy for this, Iman Shumpert, has seemingly rushed back from his injury and isn't playing like he did last year. This is why his name has been brought up in so many trade discussions recently, but it would be a big mistake to get rid of him. He'll be back to normal come playoff time, and he's the key to this team's playoff success. Recently, the perimeter defense has been lacking and Shumpert will help.

Amar'e Stoudemire is a real burst of offensive talent and energy off the bench, but he's still awful defensively and creates an issue when both he and Carmelo Anthony are on the floor at the same time. As long as Stoudemire improves slightly and isn't so bad at guarding the pick and roll, the Knicks can contend for a championship.

The last thing that has been different, is the inconsistent three point shooting. They keep jacking up shots, and while 38% as a team is pretty good, it doesn't tell the whole story. Some games, they shoot the lights out and the opponent has no chance of winning, and other times they're less accurate than a drunken Tim Tebow.

The Knicks have a real shot to challenge the Heat this year, but some things need to change in order for that to happen.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

NBA Midseason Awards

We've reached the All-Star break, and every NBA team has played just about 50 games. Last night we witnessed a lackluster All-Star Saturday Night, and tonight in the All-Star game. Regular season games resume on Tuesday and we're ready for the home stretch of the season. Before that happens, let's take a quick look back at the happenings so far in this 2012-13 season:

Sunday, February 3, 2013

NFL Picks: Super Bowl

It'a finally here, the most anticipated game of the year. For most sports fans, this is the best day of the year. Full of wings, pizza, beer and bacon; it's a dream situation. The commercials and the halftime show make it interesting even for a non-football fan.

Oh yeah and there's a game being played too. A very good matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. As everyone knows, it's Jim Harbaugh vs. John Harbaugh in what looks to be a classic coaching bout. Another famous storyline surrounding this game is the impending retirement of Ray Lewis. This will be his final game and it would be amazing for him to go out on top. Unfortunately Lewis and the rest of the Ravens, they have to contend with Colin Kaepernick. In other words, there will not be a parade in Baltimore this week.

The Ravens offense is very dependent on the big play, with Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith ready to run wild on each and every pass from Joe Flacco. I don't think this will be possible against the Niners. While the San Francisco secondary is overrated, the pass rush is the biggest difference. The past two weeks off has helped Justin Smith heal his torn triceps tendon. It cannot be understated how much that tendon means to the outcome of this game. If he is able to do what he normally does, Aldon Smith will be free to roam and Joe Flacco will be under immense pressure.

This of course bring me to the best part of this game: the guys up front. All year long, it has been said that the 49ers have the best offensive line in the NFL. The Ravens have recently been giving them a real run for their money. It will be interesting to see if Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, and Ray McDonald can control the line of scrimmage against the physical unit of the Ravens.

If those three guys can open up some holes, Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith will be on the outsideeready to rush the QB.

I believe that Ray Rice is the best running back in the league, and should be utilized more in this offense. The only problem is that Rice is going up against by far the best pair of middle linebackers in the league. NaVarro Bowman might actually be better than Patrick Willis.

Not get me wrong, I'm not discrediting the Ravens here at all, but the 49ers are simply a better team.

When you look at the Baltimore defense, they have greatly improved from the regular season. People thought they were good based on reputation alone, but in reality the unit was middle of the pack and lower. The injury to Lardarius Webb was a very important blow, but starting against the Colts in the Wild Card round, the defense has been much better. That may have something to do with Ray Lewis's emotional leadership. The only thing about the Ravens, they have yet to face a quarterback quite like my boy Colin f'ing Kaepernick. Colin f'ing Kaepernick has all the physical talent in the world, and will be able to shred any defense to pieces. In the NFC title game, the Falcons tried to take away the edges so that Kapernick could not run. That's fine, but they ignored the part about Kaepernick being a lethal pocket passer as well.

Even before Kaepernick's arrival, the 49ers had one of the best rushing attacks in football. Frank Gore and Lamichael James provide two vastly different but effective options at running back. The Ravens will be hard pressed to stop these guys in addition to Colin f'ing Kaepernick.

The cannon armed QB has some good options to throw to as well, with Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and decoy extraordinaire Randy Moss.

Overall, the 49ers are the better team, and there is potential for a blowout.

49ers (-3.5) over Ravens.

Season: 125-133-4*
Playoffs: 9-1

Bad Trades: It's a Disease

Over the past couple of weeks, there has been an interesting trade in both the MLB and the NBA. These trades stand out for all the wrong reasons.

I'll go in chronological order and start with the Justin Upton trade. In other words, my angry rant insulting the Arizona Diamondbacks.

This is one of the worst moves I've seen in a while, trading away a potential superstar who is under contract for 3 more seasons for a bunch of nothing. Justin Upton is only 25 years old and his prime has yet to begin. He was amazing in 2011, and while he failed to live up to the standards he previously set for himself, still had an above average 2012 campaign. He's already shown his talents; he's a five-tool player who has not put it all together yet.

Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers does not want Upton anywhere near his team. Even if Upton is a locker room cancer, the scum of the earth, the worst person in the world; he's still worth being on a major league roster. I'm pretty sure Upton isn't even as bad as that. The DBacks organization has depleted his value over the last year by vigorously trying to trade him. Teams must be thinking whether or not Upton is (as Keith Olbermann would say) "the world person in the world." I guarantee that is exactly why they got almost nothing back for him.

Let's not forget that Chris Johnson is at least a serviceable third baseman that the Snakes threw away.

In terms of the return for Arizona. Martin Prado is a very good player and extremely versatile, making him one of my favorite players in the league. He is not and never will be nearly as good as Justin Upton, and at the time of the trade, had a contract expiring at the end of this year. Had they not agreed to an extension, this trade would be even worse. They also received Randall Delgado, who isn't that good. Then there's the load of minor leaguers who won't really affect anything.

I'm not saying that this makes the Diamondbacks a terrible team, but it certainly makes them worse off than they were two weeks ago today.

On the Braves side, let's just say this; as a Mets fan, I cried inside.