A vote took place in New York City a day ago in regards to Madison Square Garden’s permit in New York City. The New York City Council voted to extend the Garden’s permit to operate above Penn Station for ten more years, not the perpetuity vote the Garden was hoping for. The vote was nearly unanimous, as the Council voted 47-1 to limit the permit. What does this mean for New York City and MSG’s sports teams? There is a very real chance that New Yorkers will have to find a new venue to root on the Knicks, Rangers and attend many of the sporting events, concerts, shows and other events that they have been going to the Garden since 1968 to see.
As a New York sports fan, there is really no place like Madison Square Garden to watch a sporting event. I loved the old Yankee Stadium but when the Knicks and Rangers are in the playoffs, you can feel the electricity in the building. The memories I have from the 1994 season, when both the Knicks and Rangers made their respective finals are right up with my favorite sports moments of my life as an intense fan. If New York City loses Madison Square Garden, it will lose a big chunk of its identity.
Ask any opposing player in the NBA or NHL which arena they love playing in the most and the answer will be Madison Square Garden 99% of the time. Over the years, our team’s have been negatively affected by their oppositions motivation by playing on the biggest stage in sports, but it had led to great performances for New York fans to witness. From Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Wayne Gretzky, Martin Brodeur and many others, New York City sports fans have been able to witness the all-time greats travel to New York City and give their best performance because they knew we were the best fan base to impress.
The New York City Council feels that it is more important to extend Penn Station above ground. I don’t understand why this is necessary. I’ve been using Penn Station to travel on New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad all of my adult life. Although I can agree that a renovation for Penn Station might be a little overdue, I don’t see why it’s necessary to remove an arena that has given New York City and the midtown area of Manhattan so much life. How many bars, restaurants and other businesses thrive from Ranger and Knick game nights? Also, the New York City Subway system and other major train depots have been more than functional underground. Does the New York City Council really feel moving our sports home is necessary so people traveling have better phone service as they wait to board their trains?
As a New York City employee, I pay a lot of taxes. Madison Square Garden just put nearly a billion dollars into renovating the Garden and the project will finally be complete this fall. Now, this Council is telling New Yorkers that not only will the city need to build a new arena and renovate Penn Station, but also it is likely that Cable Vision and Knick and Ranger owner James Dolan will want to be reimbursed the money he spent on the latest renovations. Where do we think this money might be coming from, if not New Yorkers paychecks?
Lastly, New York City fans are well aware of what happens when our teams homes are relocated. As I said earlier, the old Yankee Stadium was about as electric as MSG. The new Yankee Stadium is more like a mall then a baseball stadium. An individual can have a full night out at the new Yankee Stadium without seeing one pitch. Metlife Stadium might be bigger and cleaner than the old Giants Stadium, but it’s certainly not as loud and does not nearly carry the same home field advantage. Look at the Giants recent playoff success and you might notice that all of their big victories over the years have been on the road. MSG is the last sporting gem that we have in our area and now the clock for its relocation is ticking.
The first round of the playoffs brought a plethora of excitement to NBA fans across the country. From upsets to injuries we saw it all in the past two weeks and now we are entering the Conference Semis with some unpredictable faces. The power in the West seems to have shifted now that Westbrook is sidelined until next year and while the Heat still remain everybody’s favorite, there are a few teams that are looking to rock the boat. With 5 out of 8 correct first round picks, I am now going to try and go a perfect 4 for 4 for the Semis.
As I predicted, the Heat ran over the lowly Bucks for an easy sweep. While the Bulls won’t provide the same simplicity that Milwaukee did, Miami should have no problem making it to the next round but I don’t feel that this series will end in a sweep. I am predicting that the Bulls will squeeze out a meaningless game 4, a la the Knicks last season, but inevitably the Heat will prevail in 5. Lebron is too good and Rose is too injured.
Prediction: Heat 4-1
I am very proud that my Knicks are finally in the second round again but they are running into arguably the best defense in the Playoffs. Indiana and the Knicks provided the NBA with some of the best playoff series through the 90’s. Who could forget Miller’s heroics or LJ’s 4-point play. It’s safe to say that these two teams hate each other. Melo has a lot to prove if the Knicks are truly competing for a Title. Paul George and Indiana pose a lot of threats to the Knicks and I feel this series will be extremely tight throughout. That being said, the Knicks should be meeting the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Prediction: Knicks 4-2
I might have predicted this match up to be the Clippers vs Thunder but I feel that the Grizz will make it a much more enticing series. It was heartbreaking to see Westbrook get injured the way he did, but let’s not forget who the Thunder belongs too; he’s known as the Durantula! Durant can score and Memphis can defend. The Clippers found out first hand how tough the Grizzlies can be when they are on top of their game. A lot of analysts are writing the Thunder off with Russel being out but I don’t necessarily see it that way. The Thunder are more of a playoff-seasoned team and while this match up will probably be a lot harder without Westbrook, they will still come out on top.
Prediction: Thunder 4-3
I have to apologize to the Spurs for even questioning their ability to trounce the Lakers. San Antonio handled their business with class and ease and now they have the luxury of facing the young and hyped Golden State Warriors. In what has to be the biggest upset of the first round, Mark Jackson led his talented cast of neophytes over the starless Denver Nuggets only to have the Spurs waiting for them in round 2. Outside of my Knicks, there is no team I enjoy watching more than the Warriors, but with Duncan and Parker on the top of their games the Warriors don’t stand a shot of the Conference Finals.
Prediction: Spurs 4-1
To our faithful readers:
We apologize for our lack of enthusiasm in the past few months. Unfortunately, as all you know, we live in New York City. To be honest, it was been extremely difficult to write about sports in New York with out getting totally fucking sick to our stomachs. Sometimes at night, as I lay down and close my eyes, I am still haunted by visions of the Sanchez ass fumble on Thanksgiving. New York sports is entering a recession and we are fairly god damn close to a depression. With that said, Sports Debaters knows it’s our duty to entertain regardless and we are fully committed to picking up the slack because somebody has got to win around here.
Let’s paint a quick picture of the sports scene in New York. The Jets are a fucking joke. They are the laughing stock of the god damn NFL. As currently constituted, I would rather the Jets not show up next year and forfeit all 16 games. The Jets are so bad that they can’t even find a QB who is better than Mark Sanchez. Today the Jets lost their best offensive weapon (Dustin Keller) to division rival Miami, but replaced him by signing three guys that I could have sworn has retired already. There is not much more to say about this team…just that I fucking hate that fact that I fucking love them.
The Giants are in much better shape than the Jets, but are still on the decline. They are currently in danger of losing their best WR in Victor Cruz because of a salary cap situation in which they can’t afford to pay him the premium price needed. The Giants have let go of way more players this offseason then they have signed, including players like Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty and Michael Boley who were key contributers during their Super Bowl teams. The Giants are not among the top NFC teams anymore, which is clear by their playoff miss and failure to improve. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather be where the Giants are than where the Jets are. With that said, there are about 10-15 teams that are in better shape than the G-men, who are only one year removed from being champions.
For the past 15 years, baseball has always brought the New York city area hope and encouragement this time of year. I can’t waste much time on the Mets. 70 wins for the Mets will be a success this year and as of today they might be opening up the season without their best player as David Wright as suffered a rib injury. However, as a Yankee fan, we might be entering a period in which we haven’t experienced since the early 1990’s. All of a sudden, the Yankees don’t spend money. This offseason, they watched all of their free agents leave, didn’t sign any of their own and were actually outbid by the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player that they could actually use, Russell Martin. When was the last time the Pirates offered more money than the Yankees were willing to. Tie in the Yankees stinginess to the fact that the are dropping like flies with injuries to A-Roid, Granderson and Teixeria, and it’s safe to say that the Yankees are in trouble heading into the 2013 campaign.
After an 18-5 start to the season, the New York Knicks are 20-20 in their last 40. Amare Stoudemire is out for the remained of the regular season with a knee injury that he suffered as he was starting to look like the player the Knicks paid a max contract to 2 and a half years ago. A week later, Carmelo Anthony has been hobbling around the west coast and just had his knee drained in an attempt to get healthy. Throw in a knee injury to Tyson Chandler, suffered in Carmelo’s homecoming game in which the Knicks got laced by their 2010 first half team, and the past few games have been simply awful for the Knickerbockers. The only silver-lining is that I’m a Brooklyn Nets fan, and although the Nets are playing mediocre, the Knicks are playing bad enough to allow the Nets to inch closer to the division lead. The Knicks age was always a concern and it appears that as this season has dragged on, the injury bug is slamming this team upside the head.
Last but not least, we have my New York Rangers. I know most people don’t care about hockey and may not even be aware that there is a hockey season going on right now. Well, the NHL season has been in action for about 2 months now, but I’m not even sure the Rangers are aware of this fact the way they have been playing. The Rangers were 2 games away from the finals last year and ended up bringing in one of the best players in the sport in Rick Nash. They have a star laden team and should be one of the best in the league. After their latest loss to the Winnipeg Jets (yup, that’s really a team), the Rangers find themselves in ninth place in the Eastern Conference and out of the playoff picture. There is still time left in the season for a turn-around, but to say that they have been disappointing doesn’t even begin to explain my feelings on this team.
New York is the best city in the world. There are other amazing, beautiful cities out there, but New Yorkers are the brashest, proudest and hold the highest expectations for all aspects of their lives. We are passionate about our sports and incredibly supporting of our teams. We pay outrageous ticket prices to watch them live. Madison Square Garden just raised their ticket prices a couple days ago for next year, which oddly enough was about the same time the Rangers and Knicks have collectively taken nose dives. New Yorkers are resilient and we will continue to support our mediocre (and in some cases terrible) teams, and unfortunately for New York fans and sports debaters, I fear there will be a whole lot more complaining than celebrating in the near future. Hoping I’m wrong, but as the faithful SD readers are aware, I’m much more often right.
An 82 game NBA season can have a lot of ups and downs and can often be very unpredictable. While a lot of people don’t put to much emphasis on the early season, I find every game as important as the next and think that you can see a teams true colors right from the get go. I have always had a huge passion for NBA basketball. I mean I am such an NBA nerd that my family was introduced at my Bar Mitzvah to the “We Are the New York Knicks” theme song. So in this article I have decided to take the majority of things that have been happening around the NBA through the first fifth of the season and break it all down. There have been some predictable outcomes so far but there have also been some great new surprises.
I’ll start with the topic I am most proud to talk about; the standings. While everyone could have predicted that the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs would be among the leaders in the their respective conferences, no one would have been able to foresee who would be on the top of the East and West at this point in the season. Right now, my New York Knicks are on top of the Eastern Conference with a 12-4 record while the Memphis Grizzlies sit on top the the Western Conference with an NBA best 13-3 record. Both of these teams have come out of the gates determined to place themselves among the perennially elite teams. Other surprises thus far include the great starts by the Brooklyn Nets (11-6) and the consistently awful Golden State Warriors (10-7). The Nets and Warriors are two franchises that haven’t seen much success in their past but this year seems to be a redeeming light for them both. On the negative end we have our usual bottom dwellers like the Wizards, Raptors, Kings and Hornets but I am positive that no one expected the Lakers to be an abysmal 8-10 or even the Rose-less Bulls, who had the best record in the NBA last year, at 8-8. The Lakers fired Coach Brown and hired the much maligned Coach D’Antoni, who is off to an embarrassing 3-5 start. He might be more hated in LA then he was in NY and I know Phil Jackson is just sitting back laughing.
On to my favorite aspect of the game; the statistics. If I started by asking who are the top 4 scorers in the NBA, I am pretty sure that most people would be able to guess it correctly even if they haven’t been following this season too closely. Kobe, Melo, Durant and Lebron always find themselves among the scoring leaders but the real surprise is the 80 million dollar man who now ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring, James Harden. Harden is proving that he is an elite scorer when he’s not shadowed by Durant and Westbrook. When it comes to dropping dimes, no one in the league does it as well as the man I said would finish this season as the NBA MVP; Rajon Rondo. Rondo is averaging a staggering 12.9 assists per game and had a ridiculous streak of 37 straight games with at least 10 assists until he decided to body check Kris Humphries Kardashian which resulted in him getting ejected. The surprise name in the top 5 in assists has to be Greivis Vasquez. You might be asking yourself who the fuck is that. He is a 2nd year Venezuelan man out of Maryland and plays for the lowly Hornets. Vasquez will soon be a household name and can be connecting with the Unibrow for years to come. There are a lot teams that don’t value rebounding the way I think they should. I mean my Knicks have the best record in the East but they are among the bottom 5 teams in rebounding so there are ways to win without it. Having said that, I am a firm believer that if you want a Championship you need to rebound. Someone with a team that stands a chance this year needs to trade for Anderson Varejao, who is averaging an NBA leading 15.4 RPG, because I haven’t seen a player attack the glass the way he does since Dennis Rodman. Zach Randolph is 2nd in the NBA with 13.3 RPG and he is doing most of his damage on the offensive boards. I feel Randolph has not been getting his proper accolades because in my mind he is the main reason the Grizzlies have the best record in the NBA.
The final topic I want to talk about is my picks for the end of season awards thus far.
MVP: Rajon Rondo – I picked him before the season started and I am sticking with him for the time being. Rondo is averaging 13 PPG, 13 APG, 5 RPG and he is shooting an impressive 50% from the field. The Celtics aren’t nearly as good as they used to be, but Rondo is showing signs that he is only getting better every time on the court. For my Knicks fans, Melo was #2 on my list for MVP so far.
ROY: Damian Lillard – I talked about this rookie out of Weber State before the season started stating that he is the 2nd best rookie behind Anthony “Unibrow” Davis. Since Unibrow has been plagued with injuries, Lillard is my current front runner for rookie of the year. Damien is averaging 19.1 PPG, good for 11th in the NBA, to go along with 3.3 RPG and 6.3 APG. His connection with Lamarcus Aldridge will only get stronger and Portland will be a relevant team once again some time soon.
6th Man: Jamal Crawford – The 12 year veteran out of Michigan is arguably off to his best start of his career and is one of the main reasons why the LA Clippers are an impressive 11-6. Crawford is averaging nearly 18 PPG off the bench and every time he enters the game he brings the type of electricity that makes teams more fearful of the reserves than the actual starting lineup. With more consistency, JR Smith can give Crawford a run for his money.
Coach of the Year: Lionel Hollins – His Grizzlies record of 13-3 speaks for itself, but the former Portland Trailblazers star has his team buying into his philosophy that is perplexing any opponent that faces them. Grizzlies are super efficient on both the offensive and defensive ends and Hollins is the main reason why. My boy Mike Woodson would definitely be second on my list for COY followed by the Nets Avery Johnson.
It’s been a great season so far, especially for my Knicks, and I look forward to what the nest few months will bring. I’ll make sure to keep everyone posted.
Even though this off-season doesn’t have the same talent that was present in the 2010 Free Agent class, there is still as much if not more buzz this year. With every team in the NBA trying to match what the Miami Heat have put together, players have been offered monster contracts and teams have seen their stars flee for the money. Today is the first official day that teams can sign Free Agents and we can see who will be contenders and who will become pretenders. The Summer league has also just started and now we can see what teams drafted game-ready talent. There are some teams that have already had huge successes while other teams have seen their teams become dismantled due to the FA player shuffle. Today I’ll be talking about the current winners and losers thus far through the NBA offseason, who is dressed for success and who will inevitably travel down the path of the bottom of the barrel teams.
Los Angeles Lakers:
As if having Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum wasn’t enough, the Lakers went out and signed arguably the best PG in the NBA for over a decade. With Steve Nash moving to LA, the Lakers now boast arguably the greatest back-court combination in NBA history. Both Nash and Bryant are without question first ballot NBA Hall of Famers, and with talented big men like Pau and Bynum, as well as a defensive specialist in World Peace (the player, not Earth’s current situation obviously), the Lakers are clearly a contender for Kobe’s sixth NBA title. The best part about the Steve Nash sign and trade is that the Lakers really didn’t have to give up much at all, just a few future draft picks and some money. I know I am extremely excited to see how this combo will pan out and as my man Walt Clyde Frasier would say, Nash will be dishin’ while Kobe will be swishin’.
New York Knicks:
There are some skeptics, but with the veteran talent that the Knicks have attracted this offseason as well as the resigning of their most formidable players, the Knicks look poised to make some noise in the Eastern Conference this season. Jason Kidd is the only PG in the NBA that can rival Nash’s success over the past decade and Marcus Camby has proven year after year that no matter how old he is he will still be able to rebound and defend (two areas the Knicks needed to address). Kidd will be the perfect mentor for Jeremy Lin whose offer from the Houston Rockets will be matched by the Knicks. New York might have lost fan favorite Landry Fields to the Toronto Raptors, but they were able to retain 3-point specialist Steve Novak and the inconsistent but indisputably talented J.R. Smith. If Amare can get his shit together and Melo can improve upon his teamwork than the Knicks will be the elite team they once were.
Los Angeles Clippers:
They are not ready to be title contenders this season, but with what the Clippers front office has done for their dismal franchise over the past 2 seasons is remarkable. They have some of the best young talent in the league with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. They have one of the most dynamic Point Guards in the NBA with Chris Paul and they are coming off of one of the best season’s in their franchise’s history. The Clippers resigned the veteran, but injury prone, Chauncey Billups and also the prolific scoring veteran Jamal Crawford. With those two players, the Clippers can look to maybe win a series or two in the playoffs this year. The major question for the Clips will be whether they can retain Paul once his contract expires after this season or will Paul end up making moves like Howard. The great news for the Clips is that Griffin has agreed to a 5-year deal worth $95 million, but without a PG Griffin won’t be a threat.
They lost Ray Allen and two of their young talents, Avery Bradley and Jeff Green, are coming off major injuries, but the Celtics are still looking like a top 3 team in the East with what they have put together this offseason. Without question, the Celtics had the most successful non-lottery draft out of any team. By drafting Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Syracuse’s Brazilian phenom Fab Melo, Boston has set themselves up for years of success. The best part about these two young studs is that Boston was also able to resign future Hall of Famer, Kevin Garnett, who will be the perfect mentor for both of them. If Rondo can continue to prove that he is one of the best, if not the best, PG’s in the league and Jeff Green can stay healthy, then Boston will definitely be a team to fear in the NBA.
Getting Deron Williams to resign and receiving Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks makes Brooklyn a decent team with some missing parts. A lot of NBA analysts, including myself, thought that Dwight Howard would have been sporting a Nets jersey by this morning, but trade complications are making that more and more unlikely. If Dwight was signed then Brooklyn would have been on the top of this list, but without him the Nets will be at best a 7th or 8th seed in the East. They did absolutely nothing in this year’s draft and outside of the always injured, Brooks Lopez, and Marshon Brooks, who they are currently shopping around, they really don’t have much young talent. The Nets will get more notoriety playing in the Empire State, but if they don’t show signs of instant success then they will be scrutinized worse than they ever were when they played in New Jersey.
As if they didn’t have enough talent already, the Heat have received two very talented and coveted Free Agent’s, Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen. They will both be camped out on the 3-point line all game every game and you can expect this to be the beginning of Lebron’s promise for multiple championships. It pains me to say this, but Pat Riley and the Miami Heat organization have done a great job keeping important pieces while adding talented and championship hungry veterans. Allen and Lewis are huge upgrades from last season’s Miller and Jones.
It pains me that my fellow Pi Lambda Phi brother, Mark Cuban, has his team going in the wrong direction. Just two year’s removed from winning it all, the Mavericks look like they will be struggling to even make the playoffs this year. They wanted Deron Williams but he stayed in Brooklyn, they wanted Steve Nash but he went to LA, they wanted to retain Kidd but he went to New York. They lost former 6th man of the year, Jason Terry and now it looks like Dirk will be trying to do it all on his own. Cuban is a brilliant mastermind when it comes to building a winning team and I think he knows that this season is a goner. They will have plenty of available money come the 2013 offseason and you can bet that he will be targeting both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard if neither of them are locked into long term deals. Andrew Bynum is also a possibility to sport the Dallas jersey after this season.
If you lose a talent like Steve Nash, you automatically had a terrible offseason. When your replacement for him is Gordon Dragic (feel free to say who?) then you clearly aren’t where you want to be. With no talent worth mentioning, Phoenix will find themselves on the bottom of the totem pole in the West for years to come. Maybe they can be bad enough to receive draft picks like the New Orleans Hornets had this year, but unfortunately for them, there won’t be another talent like Anthony Davis to receive.
I’m not the type to kick someone while their down, but Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Bobcats are quickly becoming the biggest joke the NBA has ever seen. Already the record holder’s for the worst winning percentage in the NBA history with only 7 wins last season, the Bobcats have done absolutely nothing to improve on their talentless bunch. I will be shocked if the Bobcats can match their win total from a year ago, but who knows. Maybe Michael should suit back up because there is not one player on this team deserving of an NBA contract.
All in all this off-season has been exhilarating. I am getting sick and tired of the Dwight Howard saga that we have all suffered through for over a year now and I hope the end is near. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end with Dwight in a Lakers uniform because that just wouldn’t be fair. There are still some coveted Free Agents out there that haven’t been signed, like OJ Mayo, and I will be waiting to see who will be improving their roster for the rest of the off-season.
Being a Knicks, Mets and Jets fan has helped me build some thick skin and cope with defeat and heartache better than most people can. But this Monday night I was pushed to a whole new level of “fan frustration.” Amare Stoudemire performed what I can only describe as the most selfish and moronic move I have ever seen in sports. Following a demoralizing game 2 defeat in Miami, the Knicks players headed to their locker room with their heads down, and in Amare’s case fists loaded. Stoudemire thought that the best way to take out his post game frustrations was to punch the glass casing on a fire extinguisher. Who knows, maybe this act was a metaphor for how Amare thought he could “put out” the Heat’s fire. Regardless of his intentions, Amare has now removed himself from game 3 and most likely the remainder of the series because of the lacerations he sustained from the punch.
This could not have come at a worse time. First, let’s start with the fact that the Knicks are now going to have to try and find a way to beat arguably the best team in the NBA without their second leading scorer and rebounder whilst down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series. Secondly, this is now back-to-back seasons where Amare Stoude’quagmire’s dimwitted actions altered his ability to play in the playoffs. Last season in a shoot-around before game 2 against the Boston Celtics, Amare tweaked his back trying to perform over-the-top dunks in pregame warm ups and was unable to perform for the rest of the series. This most recent act of selfishness is inexcusable and he definitely deserves to to be reprimanded for his lunacy.
“I am so mad at myself right now,” Stoudemire tweeted after declining to speak to the news media. “I want to apologize to the fans and my team, not proud of my actions, headed home for a new start.” Hopefully the first thing he does when he gets home is give some of that 5-year $100 million contract back to some fans around New York who have had to suffer through his last two seasons of underwhelming performances. I for one would like the $99 I spent buying his jersey reimbursed to me.
What does this mean for the remainder of the series against Miami? Well, games 3 and 4 are going to be played in New York and hopefully the Knicks will have a fire lit under the asses…(if it gets out of control I hear Amare knows what to do.) Regardless of the Knicks tenacity in Thursday’s upcoming game 3, this all feels a little too similar to last seasons series against Boston where we also had two starters down for the count, Amare and Chauncy Billups. The series ended in a sweep and is part of the Knicks tying the worst losing streak in playoff history with 12 straight losses. After the game Carmelo Anthony said, “Nobody wants to lose, but my thing is, as one of the leaders of the team, I’ve got to keep everybody positive. I’ve got to keep everybody’s head up to keep everybody confident.” All season long Melo has tried and help Amare get over his injuries and career-worst performances but it doesn’t seem like it helped. When asked about what Amare did he said, “I really don’t know how to put it in words, but it’s a tough situation. It seems like it’s always something happening. Snakebit.”
I am a very strong believer in Karma so maybe back in New York there will be a fire extinguisher that punches Amare back. All I am really hoping for is a couple more competitive games against Miami and then an off-season where the Knicks look for healthy and responsible players that actually have a goal of winning…(and rubber casing around all fire extinguishers in the Garden.)