Phil vs Carmelo

New York Knicks’ star forward, Carmelo Anthony, has recently received a lot of attention in the media for his open dispute with Knicks’ president Phil Jackson. The dispute has stemmed from Jackson’s willingness to publicly put his own players under a microscope.

Jackson is a well-known and well-respected NBA coach with 11 championships to his name; not to mention the two he won with the Knicks as a player in the early 70s. In total, Jackson holds the NBA record for most championships as a coach and a player.

While he undoubtedly holds a very impressive resume, many would argue that Jackson is pushing for an outdated system. He is known for his use of the “triangle offense,” which can be successful when implemented by the right players. Knicks’ coach Jeff Hornacek, however, has not made consistent use of the triangle. He usually opts for a more fast- paced approach that the players responded to earlier in the season.

After getting off to a fairly strong start, the Knicks have struggled as of late. Some blame the problems on the difficult transition of key players from Chicago to New York, and even the team’s star Carmelo Anthony for holding the ball for too long.

Even the team’s president, who should be one of the biggest advocates of the players, has more or less thrown his star player under the bus.

The true problem with the Knicks lies in distractions off the court. At the heart of these distractions is Jackson himself. After the Knicks won four consecutive games in December, the team’s president publicly called out Anthony for being a ball hog.

Jackson’s comments came as a shock, especially because the Knicks were doing so well at that time. Among other factors, the timing just didn’t make sense.

It has become more clear now that Jackson’s plans for the future of the Knicks do not include Carmelo Anthony.

The two have rarely seen eye-to-eye on the team’s operations and plans for the future, but Anthony has always seemed more willing to work with Jackson for the success of the team. After a meeting between the two this week, it appears that Jackson is less eager.

In the meeting, Jackson reportedly asked if Anthony even wanted to be a Knick anymore. Time and time again, Anthony has proven himself and his love for New York to the organization and its fans. He is the centerpiece of a team that has great potential. In his meeting with Jackson, Anthony reiterated his desire to stay with the team. His only roadblock might be his own president.

Many Knicks’ fans fear Anthony will soon grow tired of Jackson’s shenanigans and accept a trade to a team that gives him a more immediate chance of winning, and less of an everyday battle with the front office.

Tensions are high in the Knicks’ organization. The team is struggling and certainly cannot afford to lose Melo. He has been a power force, team leader, and model citizen for the Knicks since 2011, and should not have to continuously answer for the president of the organization.

If someone has to go in order for the Knicks to have success, it has to be Phil Jackson.

image: http://clutchpoints.com/

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Catch the Heartbreak

Prior to their 2015 surge to the World Series, the New York Mets experienced a nine-year drought of postseason-less baseball. This brings us all the way back to 2006, a year of wide-eyed young stars and seasoned veterans. The perfect combination, or so they had thought, to bring Queens its third championship in franchise history. Team chemistry had a lot to do with the success of the 2006 Mets. All of their hard work culminated to a National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

With their entire season on the line, the Mets sent Oliver Perez to the mound against Jeff Suppan in Game 7. The game was tied at one going into the sixth inning. What happened in the top of that inning would be forever etched in MLB history as one of the greatest defensive plays in the sport’s postseason history. Endy Chavez robbed Scott Rolen of a home run at the left field wall and doubled off Jim Edmons at first base to end the inning. Had he not made “the catch,” the Cardinals would have been up by two runs, which would have likely put the final nail in the coffin for the Mets. Fittingly, the advertisement along the left field wall at Shea Stadium was AIG’s slogan, “the strength to be there.”

Despite Endy’s heroics, the Mets would lose that game in 2006, sending them packing until they finally reached the postseason again in 2015. Fast forward one year later, and the Mets are in the 2016 Wild Card game against the San Francisco Giants, trying to scratch and claw their way back to the NLDS.

The stage was set at Citi Field for the ultimate pitchers’ duel between Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner.

Each ace battled their way into the late innings of the game without allowing a run. Just as Perez did ten years prior, Syndergaard got into a bit of a jam in the sixth inning. With a man on second, Brandon Belt hit the ball to deep center field.

Curtis Granderson, who was playing center that night, had been having a mediocre year until about September. Once that final month hit, he turned on the jets, and had the breakout month the lineup desperately needed. Already a hero for his crucial role in getting the team to the do-or-die game, Granderson tracked the ball over his head all the way to the warning track, and made an incredible catch as he crashed into the wall.

Witnessing this from the right field stands transported me, and likely many other Mets fans, back to Endy in ‘06. But this time, ten years later, we were confident the results would be different.

They weren’t.

The Mets fell to the Giants after closer Jeurys Familia allowed a three-run homer to Conor Gillaspie in the ninth inning. A defeat equally, if not more crushing, than the one in ‘06.

The moments when Chavez and Granderson made their catches were the moments all Mets fans and players alike had the same thought: “We are not losing this game.”

Hang in there Mets fans. Here’s hoping the third time will be the charm for a season-saving catch that will actually save the season.

images:
http://www.northjersey.com/
http://www.newsday.com/

Bartolo Colon makes history twice in a week

We all know the ever-growing legend of Bartolo Colon, the nearly 43-year-old pitcher for the New York Mets. Bartolo has been nothing if not solid in his two years with the Mets and has had incredible longevity to stick around for what is now his 19th season. But in his last two starts he has entered the record books in two unique ways.

On Monday against Atlanta, Colon earned his 220th career win. Not only is that the highest number among active pitchers but it also moved him past Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez into second place on the All Time list of Wins by a Dominican born pitcher. Colon is now only behind Juan Marichal.

And then just yesterday, Colon was at it again launching a two-run home run off of James Shields in San Diego for his first career home run. In doing so, Colon became the oldest player to hit their first career home run, moving past another Hall of Famer in Randy Johnson.

There is usually nothing more fun than watching a Bartolo Colon start. At nearly 300 pounds Colon certainly doesn’t look like he should be a professional athlete and yet his feats of athleticism are remarkable. Last year Colon set a career high for hits in a season. He continues to be a control wizard and rarely walks anyone. He’s exceptional when it comes to fielding his position and the Mets even made a Spring Training drill in honor of Colon and last year’s behind the back flip to first base against the Marlins. And his at bats are usually top entertainment, mostly as a result of wild swings and an ill-fitting helmet. But on some beautiful occasions, Colon makes contact and if he gets all of his bulky frame behind a ball can get some serious exit velocity on it. And if he does, more often than not he carries the bat with him to first base.

If there’s one thing to take from this it’s that there is absolutely nothing Bartolo can’t do and that we should strive to live our lives as happily as Bartolo Colon does. #BigSexy2016

Success and Pay Not Correlated in U.S. Soccer

The  U.S. Women’s National Team has made the latest move in an ongoing dispute over the  unfair treatment they receive from the United States Soccer Federation. The five most renowned players have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under which  they accuse the United States Soccer Federation of gender discrimination. Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Alex Morgan and their lawyer Jeffrey Kessler- who defended Tom Brady in the infamous “Deflategate”-  have stepped forward citing the wage gap between the men’s national team and women’s national team to be unfair considering the success the women’s team has had. Even though the five women are the ones who filed the complaint Sauerbrunn states, “the decision to file was wholeheartedly supported by the entire team.”

The United States Soccer Federation has argued that the reason behind the women’s pay is that they negotiated for a salary based system over the bonus system that the men negotiated to have. Even so, according to Kessler the team has “a very strong case of blatant gender discrimination.” The statistics support Kessler’s claim; the wage gap between the two teams is incredibly high. Each member on the women’s team will make about $1,350 if they win, and if they lose they get nothing. On the other hand, the men’s team could each make up to $17,625- depending on how high the opposing team is ranked. Even if they lose, the men’s team is still looking at making $5,000. So, even after losing a game the men’s team still makes $3,650 more than what the women’s team makes for winning. Since each team is required to play at least 20 friendly matches it’s very obvious that in the end the wages won’t even come close to each other. Imagining that the women’s team wins all 20 games they would make $27,000 each, and if the men do the same they could make up to $352,500. If the men’s team lost all 20 games they would still be making $100,000, which is still $73,000 more than what the women’s team would make for winning all 20 games.

The United States Soccer Federation also argues that the five team members and their lawyer have picked the most successful year for women’s soccer and it is resulting in misleading conclusions. Yet, the Women’s National team has brought in a revenue of $17.7 million, much more than what the Federation had anticipated. The Women’s World Cup Final was also the most watched soccer game in United States television history with  25.4 million views. With three Women’s FIFA World Cups, four olympic gold medals, winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup seven times, and one Algarve Cup- one of the most prestigious women’s tournaments-, Carli Lloyd rightfully states “I think that we’ve proven our worth over the years.” Dates for any action that will occur with the complaint are still being negotiated.

Major League Baseball Returns to Cuba, first time since 1999

On a day that was marked with a dark cloud over the terror attacks in Brussels, Belgium, many were able to seek solace with a landmark event that occurred in Havana, Cuba. For the first time since 1999, a Major League Baseball game was played in the country that, for decades, had been relatively closed off to the United States. A symbol of renewed openness and relations between the United States and Cuba saw Presidents Obama and Castro sitting behind the netting at Estadio Latinoamericano as the Tampa Bay Rays took on the Cuban National Team in a Spring Training exhibition game.

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Rays players line up with Cuban children for the singing of the respective National Anthems

The Rays defeated the Cuban National Team by a score of 4-1 as Dayron Varona made his return to his native Cuba, leading off for Tampa Bay. Prior to stepping into the batter’s box, Varona received a standing ovation from all fans in attendance; he is the first player to ever defect and then return to play in his home country. After the game, Varona expressed the entire thrill of the trip, from seeing his family for the first time since his defection to playing in front of his home crowd. The first pitch of the game was hit to the right of first base by Varona;  a high pop-up that resulted in the first out. When asked why he swung at the first pitch, Varona stated that he might as well hit the ball as hard as he could because “it would make it to the Hall of Fame” anyway.

The last visit by a Major League Club to Cuba happened 17 years ago when the Baltimore Orioles played in a Spring Training game. Today’s game showcased something much different. It was filled with a capacity crowd of 55,000, celebrating the “open door” relations between Cuba and the United States, it was a homecoming for Dayron Varona, and it was a game filled with symbolism and exuberance.

Said Ray’s starting pitcher, Matt Moore, “It’s really great, you know, this is something that feels like a very big game back home. … I’ve had the opportunity to be in the playoffs a few times, and this feels like that kind of an event.” Moore, like others were amazed by the entire scene, from the thrill of the game to the political and organizational underlying significance. Baseball may finally be open to Cuba and Cuba to baseball. We might see an influx of Cuban players in the game; players who no longer feel the need to run under cover of night and defect from their home just to achieve a dream of playing in the Major Leagues. Cuban players were also incredibly excited about the opportunities this day brought with Cuban player, Rudy Reyes giving his view of the game, “A lot, this game meant a lot, because of the brotherhood there will be from now on.”

Notes:

-Notable members of the crowd included Secretary of State, John Kerry, Yankee icon Derek Jeter, Rachel Robinson, widow of the late Jackie Robinson, and Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred.

-Cuban pitcher and 19-year major leaguer, Luis Tiant and former Cuban National player, Pedro Luis Lazo threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Estadio Latinoamericano

-Though there was much excitement over the game, Cuban protestors and dissidents interrupted ESPN’s Bob Ley throwing pamphlets and calling for freedoms

h/t:

-http://m.mlb.com/news/article/168496904/historic-rays-cuba-game-filled-with-thrills

-http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/15045394/tampa-bay-rays-beat-cuban-national-team-landmark-game

AU Men’s Hoops takes home 2 conference honors

As the regular season is all wrapped up and Patriot League postseason match-ups are set, the conference awarded it’s annual awards. And despite finishing in the bottom half of the standings, AU had two notable names come up with big honors.

First, senior, Jesse Reed was honored with a selection to the All-Patriot League Second Team. Reed led the Eagles in scoring for the third consecutive season (12.8 PPG), as well as in rebounds (4.3 RPG) and assists (2.1 APG). This is Reed’s third straight all-league honor as he was named to the third team last year and the second team in 2014. Reed now has 1375 points in his career at AU currently good for 16th in program history and #2 among active players in the conference.

AU’s second big honor came when freshman Delante Jones was named to the conference’s All-Rookie team as well as the Patriot League Rookie of the Year. In his first season of D1 basketball, Jones averaged 12 points per game while adding 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 28 games and 23 starts. Jones quickly impressed coach Mike Brennan to become one of two freshmen in the 2015-2016 starting lineup along with James Washington. Washington and Jones should play important roles both this postseason and moving forward to the long term for American.

Jones was selected by the 10 coaches in the conference and likely saw a boost in votes after reaching double figures in points in 12 of the Eagles’ last 13 games. He is the first Eagle to win Rookie of the Year honors since Derrick Mercer in 2006.

The sixth seeded Eagles will look to continue their season when they travel to face #3 Boston University on Thursday in the Patriot League Quarterfinals.

The Curious Case of the Premier League

The Barclay’s Premier League has long marketed itself as the most unpredictable league in the world. And while in most years the claim serves as a strong advertisement and nothing more, this year the words are quite true.

Look no further than the league leaders with 15 games left to play. Don’t rub your eyes, that is Leicester City’s name you see atop the table. Led by the dynamic duo of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, the Foxes have taken the English league by storm. While the struggles of Chelsea (in 13th place) and Manchester United (5th) have allowed room at the top of the table, Leicester City was not supposed to be a beneficiary of these struggles. Leicester was supposed to be in a relegation fight with new manager Claudio Raneiri, not a fight for a Champions League spot.

With each passing week, people claim Leicester City’s bubble will pop and they will return back to earth, and with each passing week Vardy, Mahrez and Co. prove everyone wrong. Vardy set the Premier League record for consecutive games with a goal when he scored in 11 straight matches in during a red hot period from August to November and has managed 16 goals overall. Mahrez, not to be overshadowed by his teammate, has managed 13 goals, giving Leicester two of the top five goal scorers in English soccer.

It is now too late in the season to say Leicester City is a pretender. They must be strongly considered to fight Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham for the Premier League title.

News just this week has made Leicester’s case for the title even stronger. Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City’s $90 million man, suffered ligament damage in a League Cup match against Everton that will sideline him for up to 6 weeks. This injury coupled with Arsenal’s recent struggles (2 points from their last 3 matches) make it really seem plausible that it could be Leicester City’s year.

Leicester’s magical run at the top of the league has masked some of the other unpredictable elements of this year’s Barclay’s Premier League. West Ham United, Southampton, Stoke City and Watford (all typical mid-table/relegation fighters) sit on the top half of the table within 5 points of a Europa League spot. Tottenham is experiencing a youth revitalization under Mauricio Pottechino and are threatening to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since the departure of Gareth Bale. Liverpool is struggling under new manager Jurgen Klopp, Everton is underperforming for its talent level and AFC Bouremouth is surviving comfortably in its first top flight season in its 125 year history.

Yet all these stories are being overshadowed, rightfully so, by little Leicester City. Will Leicester City keep up their torrid pace and win the league? Who knows. They’ve already dodged what many perceived as a major bullet in retaining Mahrez and Vardy during the transfer window.

This Premier League season truly has been unpredictable and will be must watch TV from now until a winner is crowned in mid-May.

Can the Warriors do it?

By now every NBA fan should be aware of the beating that the Golden State Warriors are putting on the league. After last night’s demolition of the Spurs, the Dubs are sitting pretty with a 41-4 record. There hasn’t been a team that has looked this dominant since the record setting ‘95-’96 Chicago Bulls. Now over halfway through the season, their only real clunker has been a 113-95 loss to the Pistons (their other losses came to the Bucks after a 24 game win streak, to the Mavs in a game where they were without Stephen Curry, and to the Nuggets by two points). Naturally, this raises the question: Can the Warriors beat the Bulls’ record mark of 72 wins?

Up until yesterday, this blogger’s answer was a staunch ‘no.’ The NBA season is a long, grueling journey in which even the best teams tend to have stretches of mediocrity. I assumed that the Warriors would start dropping games as the season wore on. This would only be natural, considering they have to take the opposition’s best effort every night. I assumed there would be mental lapses and games where the shots wouldn’t fall. I assumed the other top teams in the league would be able to take the occasional game off of them, simply because that’s how the NBA works.

I was wrong.

These Warriors are like no team I have seen in my lifetime. They don’t just beat teams. They emasculate them. They eviscerate them. They beat them so bad that they cause teams to fire their coaches (‘sup Cleveland). Last night the Spurs – a team that is shaping up to be historically great in their own right – allowed the Warriors to shoot 52% from the field and 42% from three. That was all I needed to see. If they can do that to the Spurs, especially after doing the same thing to the Cavs a week before, consider me to be on the bandwagon. At this point it’s hard to imagine the Warriors losing more than two or three games to the other top teams the rest of the way, even on the road. Add that to their seeming inability to play down to lesser opponents, and they’re looking very, very good as far as 73 wins are concerned.

In the Spurs game Steph Curry scored 37 points through three quarters, before getting his usual rest in the fourth. And this may be the largest reason why I believe the Warriors can beat the Bulls’ record. The Warriors can only go as far as Curry goes. If he wears down as the season goes on, the Dubs can kiss the record goodbye, and I’m sure they are exceedingly aware of this fact. So how do they counter this? They simply get up by so many points that Curry doesn’t even have to play in the majority of fourth quarters. He is only averaging 33 minutes per game, an amount that should ensure that he will not be exhausted by season’s end.

I could go on for days gushing about Curry and his season (I firmly believe he is putting up the best offensive season of all time), but I will instead note that his supporting cast has been nothing short of incredible. Draymond Green has turned into one of the most versatile players in the league, and Klay Thompson continues to be solid as the lesser splash brother. With Harrison Barnes’ return from injury and Steve Kerr’s return to the bench in the wake of a back surgery, the Warriors only seem poised to improve as the season goes on.

And I, for one, am looking forward to it.

Head Coach Shake-Up in Cleveland

It seems to be déjà vu all over again for the Cleveland Cavaliers. David Blatt was fired today, January 22nd, in just his second season at the helm. Cleveland fans might remember a similar thing happening to one of their coaches six years ago when the Cavs fired former head coach, Mike Brown following a season where, despite not reaching the NBA Finals, they went 61-21, owning the best record in the East.

Blatt has ultimately faced a very similar fate. After leading the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals last season where they fell to Steve Kerr’s Golden State Warriors, the Cavs came into the 2015-16 season with a renewed vigor. They officially have a healthy team of elite talent with LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving and have been surging along in the Eastern Conference yet again to the tune of a 30-11 record, holding a 3.5 game lead over second place, Toronto.

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David Blatt has been fired after just 1+ seasons at Head Coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers

So what led to this change? Many people have speculated that the coaching change came at the behest of Cleveland’s star, LeBron James. It’s no secret that James’s opinions are highly regarded when it comes to his team. The 4x MVP and 2x Champion has always had the best interest for his team (whether Cleveland or Miami) at heart. He’s vocal and expects the same from his fellow players and coaches when it comes to leadership. However, all speculation that LeBron was involved in this Decision can be thrown out the window. As per, ESPN Insider, Brian Windhorst, LeBron was not consulted on the decision to fire Blatt. It remains odd that a Head Coach who is frankly quite respected by many in the NBA was fired so abruptly. Outspoken GM, David Griffin offered his take on the decision to fire Blatt at today’s news conference. Griffin frequently mentioned a disconnect within the organization, that “pretty good” was not good enough, and that he believed in the team possibly more than they believed in themselves. Griffin basically laid it all down, there. The decision to fire David Blatt was more or less his, and his alone. He seemed pretty determined and didn’t mince words in front of the press and stated that the players did not have a say in the decision. What he saw was sufficient enough for him. If you ask me, I’d say this has shades of the recent Chip Kelly firing that I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Who knows what the real story was on Blatt? As far as any fan or spectator could tell, sure there was some “disconnectedness” between the players and the coach, but that will happen with most franchises from time to time, and it can often be worked out of! David Blatt had a great track record as a Head Coach, both abroad in Israel and at home with the Cavs. In 123 games, Blatt went 83-40 with Cleveland, that’s good enough for a .675 win percentage, and though they lost the Finals to Golden State, he did this in his first year with the team (again, not overshadowing the accomplishments of Steve Kerr)! Blatt, in my opinion, has been the best coach that LeBron has played for in the NBA. He has excellent credentials and led this team as best as he could. He is MUCH BETTER than Erik Spoelstra of the Heat who, again in my opinion, is really not much of a coach at all but more of a figurehead, especially when he has James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh on his team. So, yeah I’m kinda peeved at the Cavs organization and Dave Griffin, but what’s done is done. The Cavaliers begin a new chapter tonight with assistant coach, turned head coach (on a multi-year contract no less) Tyronn Lue. Will Lue help this team reach its full potential? I couldn’t tell you. David Griffin seems to think he’s the best coach for this team right now, even if he doesn’t think he’s a “better basketball coach” (GEEZ! Way to instill confidence in your man, Griff!). I look forward to seeing how the rest of this season for Cleveland plays out.

 

NOTES:

-Tyronn Lue signed a 3 year contract worth at least $9.5 million, as per Adrian Wojnarowski

-GSW Head Coach, Steve Kerr returns to the bench for the first time this year, following an extensive recovery from offseason back surgery, the Warriors are 39-4 on the year

Federer and Sharapova reach milestones in Melbourne

The Australian Open is in full swing and  and as the first major of the year, it serves as a chance for some of the game’s best players to get back into the swing of things and ramp their game back up to their top level.

This year’s tournament, though it has already seen some upsets of top players, some of the biggest names in the sport have been cruising along as expected. On the men’s side, each of the top 4 seeds have made it through to the third round with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic already on to the fourth. On the women’s side, the 1, 4 and 5 seeds are through to the fourth round, with #3 seed Garbine Murguruza still left to play.

In their most recent matches, Federer, the men’s #3 seed, and Maria Sharapova, the women’s #5 seed, each reached significant career milestones.

Starting with the winningest player of all time, Federer earned his 300th Grand Slam match victory by beating Grigor Dmitrov in 4 sets 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. Federer is at this point simply expanding his own record as he sits 67 wins ahead of Jimmy Connors. Federer, at 34, is also the oldest man to reach the round of 16 since Andre Agassi in 2005. Federer will face the 15 seed, David Goffin in the next round.

maria sharapova
Maria Sharapova has struggled in her career against Serena Williams but has 598 wins against everyone else

Sharapova is a 5 time Grand Slam winner and won in a championship in Melbourne in 2008. Though she faltered in the second set, she did go on to win the deciding third against young American Lauren Davis by a score of 6-1, 6-7, 6-0. For Sharapova it was her 600th career victory, a milestone that she joked was a reminder that she was getting old. Sharapova will face #18 Belinda Bencic in the fourth round and might face another match against Serena Williams in the quarterfinals if both women win their next matches.

As the Open heads into its second week, the match-ups start to get much more interesting as many of the unseeded qualifiers will have fallen, setting up ranked matches such as the classic Sharapova-Williams bout.

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