The Gospel of Smoov

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Category Archives: Knicks

Patience? Yes, Patience

Like any other Knicks fan coming into this offseason, I had big expectations in regards to potential moves that Phil Jackson would make to improve the team. It’s in our nature to hope for a big splash in free agency, embedded in our DNA to be excited about drafting the next young superstar in the NBA Draft. Hell, we feel spoiled at times because of all the incompetence we’ve suffered through for the last 15 seasons. With a high draft pick and bundles of cash to spend, you couldn’t blame us for salivating over the prospect of flanking Carmelo Anthony with the most elite basketball talent available.

Instead, we’ve gotten the exact opposite. No flashy names. No large, crippling contracts. In a summer where everybody and their mother is getting a maximum-value deal, New York has played it safe by bringing in the right role players. Only Robin Lopez (4 years, $54 million) received big money from the Knicks this offseason, and even that deal seems like a bargain compared to what other frontcourt players will earn. He, along with Aaron Afflalo (2 years, $16 million), Derrick Williams (2 years, $10 million) and Kyle O’Quinn (4 years, $16 million in a sign-and-trade), provide the Knicks with players who will do nothing more than play their game and not do too much on the court. Let’s not forget about the Draft, where Phil went with the biggest high risk/high reward talent in Kristaps Porzingis and traded for Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant.

It’s been a great breath of fresh air to see the Knicks’ braintrust change course in building a team. It shows that Jackson has really been paying attention to how the Knicks operated over the years and wants to put an end to the ineptitude. He’s always understood that TEAMS win championships no matter how talented your best player is. I’d even go as far as to say that Phil doesn’t really concern himself with what Melo might want in this rebuilding process. Newsday’s Al Iannazzone touched on this idea in an article yesterday:

Phil Jackson hasn’t spoken with Carmelo Anthony since he revamped the Knicks’ roster and doesn’t seem concerned about his franchise player’s patience level.

Jackson doesn’t know if he has assembled a playoff team, and that might not sit well with Anthony, who is 31 and coming off knee surgery.

“We’re a team sport,” Jackson said Monday night. “When we’re putting a team together, that’s our first priority — how do we make a team that works together? That’s the important aspect. How this all comes together is still a mystery for us. We’ve got five months to kind of get into it here.

“Obviously, Carmelo is a guy that is a premier player, we understand that. But it’s a team game. And it has to fit together.”

Jackson reiterated that it was by design that the Knicks didn’t go star hunting. “I don’t look at basketball that way,” he said. “That’s what we’ve done over the years in New York. That’s not what I’m doing. We’re going after solid players that will step into vacuums and play ball, and if we have a system that we play basketball together with, that will all work out.”

It’s about damn time!

For all the Knicks fans out there who may not be overly excited with rebuilding, I merely ask that you trust Phil Jackson. He’s won 11 rings as a coach for a reason, and it certainly wasn’t by relying solely on one elite player. There are some really solid players coming into the fold at MSG this season, and they will definitely bring brighter days to the Garden.

New York Groove

(Belated) Happy New Year!

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Linsanity. I remember that day last year like it was yesterday: NYC was already hyped enough for the Giants playing in the Super Bowl the next day after another improbable playoff run. The Knicks were desperate for a spark, having lost the first two games of a rare back-to-back-to-back set (thanks, lockout). I was offered a free ticket from my friend Jessica to sit in one of the suites at MSG for what would be my only Knicks game that season. I knew that Jeremy Lin would put in work that night, but I never expected 25 points and 7 assists against All-Star guard Deron Williams. And I certainly didn’t expect him to go on the run that he went on throughout the month of February.

But damn, was it fun to watch.

I bring this up today because the excitement that Lin brought to the Knicks last season has carried over to this season. Although he took his talents to Houston, the Knicks are playing their best ball in over a decade. The three-headed PG monster of Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni has been fantastic in controlling the pace. Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are in beast mode following their Olympic run over the summer. Steve Novak and J.R. Smith have been lethal off the bench. And Amar’e Stoudemire has come back with a vengeance and taken the Knicks’ depth to another level. Y’all still wanna trade him?

I know football season is over now, and spring training is right around the corner. But with the way the Knicks have been playing basketball, I’ve got my eyes on a team who is going to be dangerous come playoff time and possibly make a long run into June. The buzz doesn’t happen without the emergence of an undrafted guard out of Harvard.

Thanks, Jeremy Lin, for rejuvenating the New York Knicks.

Not-So-Perfect Timing

The following post will be featured on the BeatKnicks blog of Aerys Sports.

It’s finally okay to be a Knicks fan again. They have their first winning record since 2001. The 42-40 was good enough for a playoff berth. While it only amounted to a four-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics, there’s still a lot to be excited for. Amar’e Stoudemire willingly put the team and the city on his back and left it all on the court every night — much like Patrick Ewing did during his 15 seasons in New York. Add in the 2nd superstar in Carmelo Anthony, the experience of Chauncey Billups and a supporting cast that stepped up at any given moment … you have a team on the rise that can challenge for the NBA title in a few seasons. You can’t help but think to yourself, Nothing can stop the Knicks now!

Of course, the lockout strikes on July 1st. Figures, right?

The main sticking point in labor negotiations (not that there have been many recently) has been the owners’ insistence on a “hard” salary cap, preferably one significantly lower than the $58 million set for 2010-11. As it currently stands the Knicks have nine players under contract for 2011-2012 at a total of $60,610,763. Most of that money is tied into Anthony and Stoudemire (both set to earn north of $18 million), plus $14 million for Billups*. That $60 million does not include forward Derrick Brown’s qualifying offer, nor does it include the potential rookie contracts for guard Iman Shumpert and center Josh Harrellson. And lest we forget the fact that the Knicks still need a center and shooters. Oh, and it doesn’t help that Donnie Walsh was forced to walk away after saving the franchise from salary cap hell.

I’d love to go into who the Knicks should target in free agency to fill the necessary holes, but the uncertainty of a new CBA makes it difficult to fully gauge who will be available and at what cost. You can judge for yourself by checking out the free agent classes for 2011 and 2012. But what we’re looking at is a Knicks team that desperately needs not only a higher salary cap, but one that is “softer” and allows for exceptions to exceed it. Otherwise, we could be headed for yet another dark period of being the red-headed middle child stuck in the NBA’s dreaded purgatory.

And quite frankly, we don’t want to see THIS again:

*This was the main reason I was against including Raymond Felton in the deal and taking back Chauncey.

GO NY GO NY GO!

HOW ‘BOUT THOSE KNICKS!

After possibly the darkest decade in the history of the franchise, the New York Knicks have won back my heart. Not only are they headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2004, but they will do so with their first winning record since 2001. Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony have put this team on their respective backs and made me and other Knick fans proud to rock the REAL orange-and-blue. You have to love the fact that they are carrying out Donnie Walsh’s plan of retaining relevance this season in hopes of contending for a championship down the road.

The job that Walsh has done in his three seasons as President of Basketball Operations is nothing short of remarkable. How many men out there can successfully unload the contracts of Zach Randolph, Jamal Crawford and Jared Jeffries to put the team in position to acquire two A-list players in free agency? Even though the main prize got away, we are more than happy to have Amar’e on our side — a player with immense talent who, unlike LeQuit, actually wanted to be a Knick and resurrect the franchise. Then Donnie managed to unload the monstrosity that is Eddy Curry’s contract (thanks, Isiah) in order to bring in ‘Melo and Chauncey Billups, while still leaving room to add another quality starter in the coming seasons. I honestly believe it would be a crime if Donnie Walsh isn’t Executive of the Year.

I cannot wait for playoff basketball to return to Madison Square Garden. Even if we don’t have a realistic chance of beating the battle-tested Boston Celtics in a seven-game series, it will be great to see the sellout crowds make the Garden shake like the old Yankee Stadium used to. You remember that feeling, don’t you?

No More Melodrama

Even this blog is relieved that the Melodrama is over.

It’s relieving that we Knicks fans can finally welcome Carmelo Anthony to New York. Not only does this move take some of the scoring burden off Amar’e Stoudemire, but it also gives the Garden faithful two stars who actually WANT to resurrect a franchise and bring it back to NBA prominence (unlike a certain superstar who shall remain nameless). While the Knicks were never meant to be title contenders this year, Donnie Walsh has managed to undo all the misery and incompetence that spanned the last decade and show the rest of the NBA that the New York Knicks are back to play for the next few years.

Along with great triumph, however, comes great tragedy. In this case, the tragedy is the package that was given up to obtain Anthony — Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Timofey Mozgov plus three draft picks and $3M. Felton and Chandler were in the midst of breakout years under coach Mike D’Antoni, Gallo was further enhancing multiple assets in his game, and Mozgov was recovering nicely from a month-long benching. Any of these four players would have been key to the supporting cast around ‘Melo and Amar’e, so it’s understandable for Knicks fans to feel that Walsh was fleeced by the Nuggets (I, for one, would have liked the deal done without Felton).

Yes, it was risky trading away all of those pieces. But when talking about a player of Carmelo Anthony’s caliber it is a risk definitely worth taking. New York is officially back on the NBA map in a positive light, ready to make noise in this year’s playoffs. And we can only imagine how the team will look once Donnie adds a legit center. There’s no telling how good the Knicks can be going forward … but it’s going to make for one helluva ride.

*****

So CC’s skinnier and not worried about his opt-out, Joba’s “heavier”, A-Rod has a sense of humor about the Super Bowl popcorn incident and Hank Steinbrenner called out last year’s Yankees for not being as focused as in 2009 …

Yup, just another Yankees spring training at GMS Field!

Joy and Pain: 2010 Memories

Damn, we’re almost at 2011 already?

With 2010 coming to a close, it seems like the perfect time for me to reflect on the events of this past year. Unlike 2009 when there was more joy than pain, this year was evenly up-and-down. With every sense of triumph, tragedy seemed to follow. One minute everything was fine in my world, the next everything was shaken up in the blink of an eye. Everything happens for a reason, though, and I found that I learned just as much from the tragedy as I did from the triumph. I think I found myself growing up quicker than usual, and I wouldn’t trade 2010 for anything in the world.

You’re going to laugh. You’re going to cry. Here are my top five memories from 2010:

1. HOPE Week Surprise

To those of you new to the blog, you may recognize Jane Lang from this season’s HOPE Week at Yankee Stadium. She sits behind home plate for every weekend game and is the most exceptional Yankees fan I have ever met. Born blind, Jane is an inspiration to all — from her knowledge of a game she cannot see to her flawless navigation of Penn Station with only her guide dog, Clipper, to assist her. I won’t bore you here, but be sure to read the blog post I wrote about her remarkable impact on my Stadium experience and watch the following video (courtesy of best-selling author Jane “She-Fan” Heller):

2. “The Knicks are back!”

With those words, Amar’e Stoudemire ushered in a new era of New York Knicks basketball. And it’s about damn time.

It was Stoudemire who left the only team he ever knew for the bright lights of Manhattan. Not LeBron, not Wade, not Bosh. Those three formed their version of the Big Three in South Beach. It was the former Phoenix Sun forward who took on the task of saving a franchise sullied by poor management and mediocre results over the last decade. He wanted to be the leader of a team desperate for leadership. It’s safe to say that things have turned out for the best.

While there is still room for improvement, Raymond Felton has performing at an All-Star level, and wingmen Wilson Chandler and rookie Landry Fields have developed nicely for Mike D’Antoni early on in the season. The Knicks are suddenly back in the playoff hunt and destined for their first winning season since 2000-01. Throw in the possibility of Carmelo Anthony becoming a Knick in the near future (my money’s on July) and it is okay to be a rock the Knicks’ orange and blue yet again.

GO NY GO NY GO!

3. The “F*** Yo Couch” Game*

The nickname for this game really says it all. With the Texas Rangers riding the momentum of their handling of the favored Tampa Bay Rays in the Division Series, the Yankees had to go into Arlington and make a statement early in the ALCS. Things didn’t look good early with C.J. Wilson outperforming CC Sabathia through seven innings and the Yankees offense stumbling. But Brett Gardner’s lead-off infield single in the eighth inning kicked off a stretch of seven straight Yankees reaching base, ultimately resulting in the Bombers taking a 6-5 lead and sending Reade St. Pub into a frenzy. Making this game more special was that I was watching with approximately 20 of the most passionate fans I’ve met on Twitter (more on this later). To get a good idea of the atmosphere, here’s a video I captured of us doing our own “roll call” at the beginning of the game:

*Props to the esteemed William Helms for coming up with such an epic nickname

4. Remembering The Boss and The Voice of God

As I mentioned at the top of this post, learning from pain is just as instrumental to our character as learning from joy. As sad as it may seem, there was a ton of pain for me to endure in 2010. In a span of three days in mid-July, God took two Yankee icons from this world: George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard.

While their respective deaths come as no surprise given their recent health issues, there was still a sense of shock when the news came out. For two of the most recognizable figures in Yankees history to be taken from us in the blink of an eye … it took more than a toll on everyone’s hearts. The majority of the Yankees fans that I know have only know Bob Sheppard as the P.A. announcer and George Steinbrenner as the principal owner. It was weird to have both men gone, and it still feels a little weird now. But their legacies will live on forever.

And of course, I can’t forget to mention the untimely passing of my co-worker John Ceruti. His death came two days before Sheppard’s, making it three deaths in a five-day span for me. When I found out about John the same day I found out about Steinbrenner, I lost it. Here was a man who I saw every day I went to work from last season on, and he brought out the best in me. His presence on the 100 level at the Stadium will be missed.

5. The Power of Twitter

I can confidently say that nothing impacted my 2010 more than Twitter. The daily interactions with various people all over the world really opened my eyes to how different people lead their lives on a daily basis, and it made face-to-face interactions with them that much easier. There’s no better feeling than knowing that there are hundreds — thousands, even — of “tweeps” who are just as crazy about the same hobbies as you are, sometimes even more so.

Twitter opened the door for instant interaction during Yankees games with both die-hard fans and Yankees beat writers. Twitter brought together hundreds of fans for various “tweet-ups” throughout the year — from my section at the Stadium to karaoke in Stamford with the guys from the YES Network. And it was Twitter that made it easier to cope with the death of our fallen soldier Steven Smith. If you ever got the chance to interact with Steven on Twitter like so many of us did, you could fully grasp Twitter’s purpose. I am glad that I got that chance; here’s what he meant to my experience.

*****

In short, it was a wild and crazy 2010. There’s so much more that happened that I could have added here, but it would have been tough to knock any of these five memories off the list. These clearly defined my year the most, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is no doubt that I will take everything from 2010 and continue to grow as a person in 2011 and beyond.

And that’s it from me for 2010. Look out for me as I further enhance my blogging skills and try to get going towards my career. Be safe and enjoy your New Year’s!

Being Thankful

It’s that time of year again — the time where we start reflecting on the year at hand. The time where we hang with our families more as the weather drops. And where we eat twice our weight in food that one Thursday in November while handling all the football we can handle.

Yup, I’m talking about Thanksgiving.

There’s much for me to be thankful for every day, and this year is no different. It may sound cheesy to most of you, but I feel truly blessed every waking moment. So without further ado, here’s everything I’m most thankful for:

  1. LIFE. We always hear people use the phrase “Life is what you make it.” And while there are certain aspects of my existence that I could do without, I try to take it all in stride and focus on what is good and positive in my life. It’s when the bad takes over that everything falls apart. So it is important to be strong-willed and soldier on to be truly happy and satisfied in life.
  2. FAMILY. My mother, sister and grandmother have played the most important role as my support system. I have developed the utmost respect for women from growing up around mostly women, and they have helped shape me into the person I am. While my father wasn’t an active part of my life, I find myself learning from him all the time. And when I start a family of my own, I hope to be twice the father that he was to me.
  3. FRIENDS. Over the last few years, I find myself being more outgoing and engaging with my friends every day after being sheltered for most of my life. It’s important for me to be outgoing since it specifically pertains to the career I want to pursue, and I’m glad that I have taken this giant step in my life (thanks in part to Twitter and Facebook).
  4. SPORTS. This is the biggest piece of my identity. In the artistry of life, it is my muse. The Yankees, Giants and Knicks all affect my mood in some way — whether I like it or not. I like that I can use sports as a starting point in developing lasting friendships, making conversation that much easier.
  5. EMPLOYMENT. While I sometimes wish I had a steadier paycheck coming in, working in Yankee Stadium is the next best thing to playing on the field. Between seeing the games live and interacting with the fans, it truly is a tremendous experience. I hope that anyone who gets a chance to be employed by the Stadium in some capacity will take in the sense of pride and history of the New York Yankees.

Long story short: I don’t see a reason to complain about the great things I have in my life. Even though everything is a grind and the going does get tough (another cliche … awesome), I feel good enough about myself to keep pushing and appreciate all the great things that I have in my life.

What are you most thankful for? Feel free to discuss in the comments section.

*****

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving everyone! And remember — eat twice your weight in food!