Sunday, December 18, 2016
Every NFL team, from the players to the coaching staff to the front office has an obligation to win. At all costs.
The Seattle Seahawks and their head coach Pete Carroll have recently come under fire, stemming from their decision to fake a punt with less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter of a game in which they led by three touchdowns. The game, which was played last Thursday night, saw the Seahawks ultimately complete their rout of the Los Angeles Rams 24-3, as the outcome was never in question.
Another Thursday Night Football game, another blowout.
At first, there was consideration from this scribe that this maneuver may have seemed a trite bush-league. I mean come on, faking a punt up 21 points! It even sounds funny.* However, "upon further review" it dawned that this is nothing new. More importantly, it may even be something to be lauded, if not appreciated.
A few seasons ago, 2007 to be exact, during their undefeated, record-setting, record-breaking run to the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots under the stewardship of their incomparable head coach Bill Belichick, continually and routinely, almost as if in their sleep, ran the score up on their opponent from week to week. Some of the outcomes were closer than others. The majority being blow-outs on the scoreboard, but the message was clear: This is a professional league. Players get paid to perform. ALL. THE. TIME. There is never a moment to take a play off. There are only so many possessions and plays within those possessions to be treasured with the utmost respect. For at any time, the game, and the momentum it totes so carefully, can shift.
There have been games in which teams trailing by three touchdowns have overcome such a deficit. The instances are many, albeit far and few between, to provide evidence of such, but rest assured it does occur. Opposing teams have scored three touchdowns in less than two minutes as well; similar to what took place between the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers a month ago when both teams traded back-to-back-to back touchdowns, the Cowboys being the one to fall on the right side of the coin in that affair. So the game can change, and the tempo and momentum can increase at any point in time in a game, and it is there which lies the reason as to why teams should never take their foot of the gas, take their foot off the throat, take their foot out the...well, you get the point. So for Carroll to take the friendlier (read: less aggressive) approach with about five minutes left in the game it would be the football equivalent of sacrilege. The football gods are watching. Always watching.
There are various other instances where the supposedly improbable suddenly became probable. This is why coaches like Belichick and Carroll (who themselves are from the Bill Parcells School of Coaching) do what they do. They are not putting their destiny and fate in the hands of anyone else but their own. They get paid to win, not to make sure that the other team is feeling good about themselves.
Yes ethics and morals do matter...in all walks of life. Yet, as is the case with most things, there is a time and a place for everything. The football field is not one of them.
* Not that it was funny, but the punter, Jon Ryan, who faked the punt, after a gain of 26 yards on the play was concussed on the ensuing hit. Imagine that. You fake a punt up 21 points and get your punter knocked out. It provided a measure of hilarity to the whole situation. For the Los Angeles Rams it provided a measure of retribution to the fake.
Monday, December 5, 2016
The New York Knicks, with balanced scoring from their back-court and front-court, beat the Sacramento Kings 106-98 Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, and have now won eight of the last ten games they have played in front of the hometown crown. They also notched their third victory in a row, and now stand with a record of 11-9 after the first 20 games of the season.
The Knicks, with leads of 21 points in the first half, and 20 points at the beginning of the third quarter, were able to stave off several runs by the Kings, including a 16-0 run in the same quarter, and never relinquished those leads. The Kings were able to close within a point on several possessions, but were never able to tie the game or take the lead after the Knicks were able to establish control of the game from the second quarter until the final buzzer.
Timely baskets by the guards Derrick Rose (20 points) and Brandon Jennings (19 points), as well as Carmelo Anthony (20 points ) and Kristaps Porzingis (15 points), ultimately made the Kings' runs come up short. Although they were threatened at various stages of the game the Knicks never panicked and composed themselves productively on the possessions they needed most; defensively as well.
This game had the makeup of a blowout due to those 21 and 20 point advantages, and although the Kings made their run, as most NBA teams do, they never quite could get out of the hole that they dug for themselves. Sound familiar? Usually this is the Knicks alibi and prescription for heartbreaking losses of this type. In seasons past, and even at times this year, it usually is the Knicks playing the role of the Kings, falling behind early, only to make a run late, but never quite able to get over the hump themselves. Leading to many a frustrating night, for Knicks fans, and players alike.
Thankfully this is a new season and thankfully these are new Knicks. Going into this season, with so many unfamiliar faces added to the roster, it was the sentiment of this scribe that we (as well as the Knicks themselves) would begin to have an idea of this team's identity after about twenty games or so. And, after twenty games, it's safe to say that these Knicks are destined to be much better than their 15 and 30 win counterparts from the last two seasons.
These Knicks should most certainly win 45 games, and could possibly win 50 or better. 15 win improments in 2 to 3 season increments is certainly not astonishing, although it is nothing to blink at, but the notion that these Knicks could be embarking upon something of a special journey, gives rise to the sentiment that they may indeed be worthy of doing some real damage this season.
[Editor's Note: This piece originally was intended to appear during the New York Knicks 2016-2017 campaign.]
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Monday, November 28, 2016
The Russell Westbrook show, a season-long performance in its early stages, literally hit the big stage tonight as the Oklahoma City Thunder played to rave reviews, albeit Off Broadway in the World's Most Famous Arena. The Thunder, along with the uncanny yeoman's effort which Westbrook routinely supplies usually in the form of triple-doubles (as he did tonight), defeated the New York Knicks 112-103. Turning what was an 11-point 1st quarter deficit into a "knock 'em down, drag 'em out" beatdown.
The Knicks, as mentioned before, squandered an early lead by allowing Westbrook his usual forays into the paint. Wrecking havoc to the tune of his 8th triple double of the season as he finished with a line of 27 points, 18 rebounds, and 14 assists, along with contributions from Enes Kanter and Steven Adams, who scored 27 points and 14 points respectively. The Knicks seemingly could not, nor did not want to, provide the effort defensively that was needed to support their offensive output.
The objective to winning in any sport is to outscore your opponent, especially in basketball. This, however, does not mean that in order to be victorious that it is all about scoring points. Defense matters. Keeping your opponent from scoring as much as you do ultimately is the deciding factor between wins and losses. The ancillary components of the game come into play as well in support of the success of teams in the form of taking care of the ball via not turning the ball over. Securing rebounds on the defensive side of the court matter as well. These seemingly minute, but critical, aspects of the game have always played a hand in how any team on any given night will fare against another team. Handle these functions of the game and you will find yourself if not at the very least in contention in most contents. Excel at these functions of the game and you will find your team at the top of the standings, year in and year out. And yet, in the effort to be a more cohesive unit, these are some of the issues that continue to plague Knicks.
Seventeen games in, with a record of 8-9, after seemingly finding their way and their identity in propelling themselves to an 8-7 record, the Knicks have now lost two in a row. No the sky is not falling, as the need to panic this early into the season reeks of the desperation which has emanated from the bowels of Madison Square Garden for what feels like the last decade or so (minus lackluster playoff appearances from 2010-2012), but the signs are alarming enough. Are they harbingers of what might finally do in this version of the Knicks? Or is this something that can be corrected by alot of tape? No, not the tape that is used to stabilize joints and limbs, although that would seem helpful as the Knicks looked as disjointed and wobbly as ever on both sides of the floor, but tape as in watching film and figuring out exactly what will be the Knicks approach to defending (pick and rolls especially) and not being out-hustled and out-worked on the defensive glass. Also up for review: What to do offensively in the waning moments of games when possessions are crucial and the conversion of shot attempts can decide a game, whether ahead or behind.
The Knicks for now continue to be a work in progress. Pieces of the puzzle to their identity continue to be put into place. Tonight Russell Westbrook and the Thunder knocked most of those pieces out of place.
[Editor's Note: This piece originally was intended to appear during the New York Knicks 2016-2017 campaign.]
Thursday, November 17, 2016
After an ugly start by a seemingly disinterested first team, the Knicks looked to their second unit to bail them out of an ugly first quarter in which they shot poorly from the field and seemed to resume the same porous defense that has been their calling card in their previous two losses. To be fair, both teams seemed hard-pressed to even be able to hit the side of a barn on most of their attempts, initially turning the game into a barely watchable contest as both teams aimed to find cohesion.
The second-half turned into a much better deal for the Knicks, with contributions from the unlikeliest of sources. Such as shooting-guard Justin Holiday, who continues to show flashes on both ends of the court and is making it difficult for coach Jeff Hornacek to keep him on the bench. Holiday started the second-half, and the length and energy which he provided helped to add another dimension to the usual contributions from Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.
An ugly win it may have been from an aesthetic point of view, however a loss under the aforementioned terms would have painted a much uglier picture than the one the Knicks are currently attempting to create of themselves. We will just have to see if this is the beginning of their version of a masterpiece.
Saturday, November 12, 2016
The Toronto Raptors beat the New York Knicks 118-107 tonight, and although the game was played north of the border, leagues away from the southern regions of this great country, the New York Knicks still found a way to pay a repeat visit to ATL. ATL in this case being: another tough loss.
Once again they played hard, and maybe even a bit smarter than the way they did last night in Boston, however they found themselves still falling victim to the same deficiencies that have been ailing them so far in the infancy of this season. Most notably on the defensive side of the basketball court.
Yes it is still early. Very early. And time will only tell if the trends which have made themselves visible so early on will be prevalent throughout the season. However the way that the Knicks have been playing defensively is a bit alarming. Numbers can be analyzed as much as possible to reflect the Knicks ineptitude in the defensive department, but in this case they eye-test is probably the one in which they are failing the most. To see them allow teams to come and go as the please is to know that a step-up in that area is direly needed.
Picking up on the notion that every quality team in the NBA has an identity and that teams on the cusp of being quality teams have to find their identity, standing at a record of 3-6, no where near being into the quarter or mid-point of the season, one expects that the Knicks should be closer to that realization 25 to 40 games into the season. Will they be a quality team just on paper or will they be a quality team on the floor as well? Once again, time will tell. Until then a stop or two on the defensive end with the game in the balance won't hurt. In fact, it will help.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
The second game of a four game set versus the Baltimore Orioles, being played tonight, finds the New York Yankees smack dab in the middle of mediocrity. At 46-46, after competing (not sure if you could really call it that) in 92 games of a 162 game season, the Yankees find themselves with 70 games left with which to really finally get, not just their heads out of water, but their whole selves entirely, after being submerged for much of this season.
Last season the Yankees garnered a spot in the playoffs (although some would say a spot in the play-ins) by winning 87 games; enough to qualify for the 2nd wild-card. They subsequently lost to the Houston Astros, but the fact that they had given themselves a chance, albeit miniscule to compete for a title, is something that was not lost to this scribe. Getting in, if even for a little bit, is way better than getting left out. For so many reasons. If those need to be explained to you, then you haven't really been paying attention to that which you have been observing.
More importantly there is a question to be answered. Rather, a few. The main one being do the Yankees give up on a season which has given its fans more ups and downs than the see-saw at the local neighborhood park? (Ugh, I'm getting sick already!) Do they turn the individual attractive pieces of a team which has not performed well collectively into assets for future campaigns, or do the they stay the course and see if those individual pieces turn into more of a collective whole? Although there is no reason to believe so as evidence has not been provided to this point to give assurances to those notions. No matter, it must be stated that in many situations in life, especially in the world of sports that it takes a while for things to change, and then it doesn't. Things and situations that are seemingly dour and morose forever, sometimes suddenly right themselves and become the opposite of what they were to begin with. (Once again, should you feel the need to have this explained or examples pointed out, you truly have not been paying attention to the sport you have been watching or much less the world you are living in).
Such could be the case for the Yankees.
Could such a case be these Yankees? It could. If the Yankees were to win 20 or more games than they lost of the next 70 for a record of say 45-25. They would finish the season with 91 wins. (Four more than last year, mind you.) And potentially make the playoffs depending upon how the landscape of baseball, as it hits its home strectch, around them forms.
Is this a 91 win team? Who knows? Will the Yankees win more than they lose over these last 70 games? Who knows?
This is a question asked of the front-office, to be answered by it's players. They may not know it yet, but rest assured we will when they do.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
If you are a Golden State Warriors fan, tonight you sit upon the precipice of greatness; all with baited breath, mind you. This season, for all intents and purposes, has been a referendum on the almost incomparable greatness of the Warriors; namely their roster, their chemistry, their spirit, and most importantly their philosophy. A season in which they have raced themselves at a torrid pace, some would say in an effort to dispel innuendo, speculation, and conjecture regarding the legitimacy of the championship they so now are fervently defending, has led to this penultimate moment: the chance to surpass the '95-'96 Chicago Bulls all-time single regular season total for victories of 72, with the 73 of their own.
Also at stake for the Warriors fan is their opportunity to defend two titles. One being Steph Curry's personal mantelpiece hardware, the MVP award for a season which made him look as if he wasn't even giving it his all last season (another way of saying a player of his caliber being able to find yet another ceiling to reach for). And the second but most important of all, the one which really matters and will make all the dynamic things that Warriors have done, singularly and collectively, pale in comparison, would be to win the Larry O'Brien trophy. Again.
Will all three baskets get filled for the Warriors fan? Without a doubt the MVP will be handed to Curry, quite possibly unanimously. So that's a given. And that same fan would most certainly place their money on the Warriors in tonight's potentially record-breaking contest vs the Memphis Grizzlies, a team who by the way to date had employed 28 different starting lineups (the most in the NBA this season) because well, they have employed 28 different starting lineups.
Once again, the kicker, for said fan, would be the ability if all three things come to fruition to enjoy the type of season that the '95-'96 Bulls fan enjoyed. Your best player (in this case Michael Jordan) winning MVP, your team setting the all-time record for victories (72), and your team winning it all to punctuate the whole deal.
If this is to be the outcome and the Warriors cement their legacy it goes without mentioning that their fans will be euphoric to no end. It is now we will see if it is all meant to be. And it starts tonight.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
When it comes to certain things in life and the approach with respect to how those things are formulated, there is usually one rule. And whatever it is, that rule, once agreed up, supercedes all other rules below it. Everything delineates from that point forward. Take the science of math for instance. Within this science are hard and fastened rules from which all answers and outcomes flow. We know that when you add a negative to a positive you get a negative. Or that prime numbers are... These are the rules and they govern the empirical process for how things get answered, discovered, or for this particular case, built.
The Dallas Cowboys are facing one such conundrum in the form of a top-five pick (#4 to be exact) in this year's incarnation of the NFL Draft. A team with the potential to compete for the ultimate crown next season, but beset with a myriad of holes to fill in order to make that novelty a reality, the Cowboys are in dire need of creating that one rule for themselves which will supercede all, as they approach the best way to check-off everything on their shopping list.
Should they draft the quarterback they so desperately need as evidenced by last season's debacle? Should they go after the sexy speed rusher at the DE position that has long been a need since they let loose Demarcus Ware a few seasons ago to free-agency as a cap casualty? Or do they address a porous secondary by grabbing a dynamic cover man to A)-Finally get the DB they so desperately need and B)-Possibly select just the best overall talent available in the draft, and at that #4 pick (providing that they do hold onto their current position). Option B obviously serving as the final rule on the list: Drafting the best talent period.
Looking at each scenario based upon each rule for that scenario can and will yield something interesting, no matter the approach. If they decide to go after a quarterback they will choose whomever they feel is the best (or best available) and look for their DE, DB, and WR or RB (they need one of those too) with their subsequent picks. If they decide that an edge rusher is the more pressing concern for the success of defensive-coordinator's Rod Marinelli's defense then they will start there and find their QB and WR later on as well. And finally, if they decide to go with the best player, regardless of need or position, then that is what they will do and the remaining selections which the Cowboys front office will make at that point in time will be evidence of them going in that particular direction, fundamentally speaking. In fact with each approach by the rule that is being adhered to, the evidence of those picks will become to make obvious just which rule the Dallas Cowboys believed in at that time.
So, if Joey Bosa is called you know which rule is in place. If Carson Wentz or Jared Goff are called we know which rule is being employed. And if a player like Jalen Ramsey is selected , a talent which can take care of a few needs in one (best player/DB), then it becomes evident once more just which way the 'Boys are headed. And that is hopefully to the top.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
However everything happens for a reason, and the reason stands in this case that although last year may have seemingly been a lost season (for various reasons as previously discussed), it may have provided the answer for the problem that last season created (and for the forseeable future): the need for a quality, starting-caliber quarterback. Romo's absence and his understudies own version of absence, even while competing on the field, point to a glaring weakness which can be strengthened immediately in this spring's NFL Draft. Whether it be any of the two outstanding prospects currently seated at the top tier of the NFL wish list for teams without quarterbacks, Jared Goff or Carson Wentz, the Cowboys must seriously consider taking one of the two with the pick they currently own at the fourth spot.
Considering their abysmal 1-11 record during Romo's absence, defense and special teams notwithstanding, this was the season of the absent and missed quarterback for the Cowboys. That said, the Cowboys ought not be absent of mind and miss out on the opportunity to draft their next Roger Staubach or Troy Aikman. Heck even, their next Tony Romo. Romo like his idol Favre, could tutor another Cal stud in Goff, similar to the way Favre did for Aaron Rodgers, and we all know how that worked out. The Cowboys owe it to themselves to get the most important position on the field filled. A position which showed and proved to them to be the flash-point for everything they did (and did not do) last season. If the Cowboys are looking forward to something in this year's draft, they need only to look backward at last season.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Monday, February 1, 2016
Sunday night's blase mid-season contest between the walking in place New York Knicks and the Golden State Warriors, who play at pace which no one would confuse with the word slow, a seemingly innocuous pummeling by the team on the left (coast that is) to the team on the right, is continuing to provide on a nightly basis evidence for which, just how much the mercury needs to travel in the opposite direction for teams competing (and much less hoping to compete) with the championship-defending Warriors.
On their way to another of the routine patented "plus-fifteen" beatings they've been handing to the rest of The Association (Yes San Antonio Spurs that includes you, Tim Duncan or not), a 116-95 systematic dismantling of the recently revamped Knicks machine of Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and company, a mundane 1st quarter, was followed up by the kind of quarter you would expect from a team which has taught us to forget about the kinds of things you should expect, at least when it comes to a basketball team. The Warriors converted 14 of the 17 field goals they attempted, for a whopping 82% for the quarter. They attempted four 3-point shots, and were flawless in that area as well as they missed not one. The only area of the court in which they had a minor hiccup with during that period was the charity stripe as they went 5-7, for a modest 71%. Maybe the most telling stat of the quarter would probably have to be Stephen Curry "only" playing seven minutes, with the Warriors relying on the four-headed monster of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, and Harrison Barnes for the bulk of the minutes. Just for thought: Usually a team's "one-two punch" are it's leading two scorers, however the Warriors third scorer may actually be the "two" in the aforementioned punch. A luxury no championship-level team that I can think of in recent memory employs. Numbers and percentages don't tell you the whole story when it comes to this team. They really do not.
The question was asked of Knicks head coach Derek Fisher immediately following the game during the press conference held in the bowels of the World Greatest Arena, an arena whose world's greatest fans had just witnessed the world's greatest team, how a game like this one highlights their need for a second scorer. "Tonight [as opposed to other nights?]" or something to that degree was the reply. A thinly-veiled incredulous response to a reporter's misguided query to a game he obviously may not have really been paying attention to.
And it happens; to the best of us even. You witness this efficient of an offensive machine every bit as productive as the greatest teams of all time: the 1927 Yankees, the Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds of the 1970s, and you begin to forget the fuel which creates the fire currently burning up the hardwood at an arena near you. Defense. This was not a game that was going to be decided upon whether Anthony would find help from another source, whether expected or unexpected. Rather, and Fisher painfully knows this is the reason, it was a game decided by which team would play the better defense, generally speaking the recipe for success in the NBA and in most sports for that matter.
And don't get it fooled. Despite the ability to put up iconic second quarter numbers the Warriors know how to defend. On a championship level. But more importantly. As it pertains to a team such as the Golden State Warriors, their adversary better have the wherewithal to sum up the funds to pay for the kind(s) of defense it takes to stop this team. For they come at you in waves. Yes, basketball is a game of runs, which, are waves in and of itself. The kind of waves that come at you when you play the Warriors however are the waves of a different sort. They are the type of waves a team, any team, much less a team like the Knicks, who are still finding their way, drown in. The Association could use a lifeboat right about now. Alot of arenas are underwater.