The 2014-15 NBA season is only two weeks old so it’s obviously impossible to forecast any long-term trends but our local NBA teams appear to be serious works-in- process.
My gut feeling is that the Knicks and Nets will be battling each other for the eighth and final playoff spot in the NBA Eastern Division. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if both teams wind up on the outside looking in on the post-season come mid-April.
The Knicks shocked the basketball world in their second game this season by ruining LeBron James’ return to Cleveland as they beat the Cavaliers 95-90. The momentum did not last as they fell apart in the second half against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden a few nights later. If the Wizards had not missed a bushel of easy shots in the first half the Knicks might have been blown out from the get-go.
It’s clear that it’s going to take time and probably more talent for Knicks head coach Derek Fisher to implement the triangle offense that is beloved by his boss, team president Phil Jackson.
That was evident Friday night in Brooklyn as the Knicks looked totally out of sync in their first game of the year against the Nets. The final score 110-99 score belied the fact that the Knicks were down by 20 or more points most of the night.
The Nets had lost seven straight games to the Knicks at the Barclays Center going into Friday night but it was clear that new head coach Lionel Hollins had his guys prepared for battle. Joe Johnson, always the Nets’ best shooter, was not only draining three-point shots but was more than holding his own defending Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony who had an off-night. Point guard Deron Williams and center/forward Brook Lopez also played like the All-Stars that they once were.
If the triumvirate of Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez can stay healthy the entire season, and that’s a very big “if,” the Nets are capable of beating nearly any team on a given night.
The Knicks should play a lot better once point guard Jose Calderon comes off the injured list. Calderon is not only a skilled playmaker but a guy who can reliably knock down outside jumpers. Calderon’s understudy, Shane Larkin, who came to the Knicks in an off-season trade with the Dallas Mavericks, has been doing a respectable job.
Shane is the son of Cincinnati Red Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin. Shane confirmed to me that his dad was willing to come to the Mets in 2000 but refused a trade to them when our Flushing heroes would not offer him a three-year contract. Having even a past-his-prime Barry Larkin at shortstop would have been preferable to Mike Bordick or even Rey Ordonez. Same old Mets, even back then.
Washington Wizards president, and former Forest Hills High School hoops star, Ernie Grunfeld was at the Garden on Tuesday night to watch his team take on the Knicks. Ernie was president of the Knicks in the 1990s when Dave Checketts was running the Garden. “I still root for the Knicks,” Ernie admitted although I am sure that he meant when they aren’t playing the Wizards.
Ernie was on the hot seat in Washington a few years ago when the Wizards were awful but team owner Ted Leonsis, a Brooklyn native, stuck with him. His faith has been rewarded as Ernie has skillfully used the NBA draft and free agent signings to make the Wizards one of the best teams in the NBA’s Eastern Division. He did admit that he was concerned about arguably his best player, forward Bradley Beal, who may miss the first two months of the season with a broken wrist.
Former Knicks and Wizards forward Roger Mason, Jr. was also in attendance at MSG on Tuesday in his new role as vice president of the NBA Players Association. Roger was the Knicks union rep when he was here and did a great job of communicating to the media the contentious issues between labor and management. Trust me, that’s a rarity.
I asked Roger if he would give up his business suits if an NBA team called to inquire about getting him back on the hardwood. “I have already gotten calls and told them that I have gone onto the next phase of my career,” he said with a hearty laugh. Ironically, Ernie Grunfeld, had wanted Roger to take a position with the Wizards similar to the one that Allan Houston has with the Knicks.
The Knicks were so concerned about getting stuck in traffic on Friday going from their Westchester training facilities to the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn that they arrived in the morning for an early practice and then rented rooms at a Brooklyn hotel for the afternoon so that their players could rest.
Speaking before of the Mets, there is good news on the promotion front. The popular “Free Shirt Fridays,” in which the team gave out a sponsored T-shirt at every one of their Friday night home games, will be coming back next season. There will also be four Saturday postgame concerts. The performers and specific dates will be announced in the coming weeks.
The Jets must have gotten pumped up for this upcoming bye week as they played a solid, though far from error-free game Sunday, to beat the formidable Pittsburgh Steelers 20-13 to end an eight-game losing streak. In a what has been a rarity this season, it was the Jets who were the beneficiaries of four turnovers by the opposition.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan admitted at his postgame press conference that he noticed the large number of Pittsburgh Steelers fans in the crowd who may very well have outnumbered fans of the nominal home team at MetLife Stadium. Ryan denied that he used that fact as a motivational tool to his players during the game.
I then asked Rex if he was worried that the team might be rusty coming off the bye week and then having to play the Bills in Buffalo their first game back. The Jets have always had trouble winning in Western New York going back to the Joe Namath era. “Well, we’re not going to return to Dave & Buster’s, if that’s your question,” he replied which created a roar of laughter amongst the press corps. Last season, as a form of team building, Rex took the team to a night out at the Buffalo branch of the national food & game emporium. The Jets got shellacked by the Bills the next day.
Michael Vick handled himself very well as the media was asking him if thought that the team would have had a better record had he been the Jets starting quarterback from the outset of the season. He made it clear that he was not disrespecting the coaching staff nor fellow QB Geno Smith when he said that he always feels that he will lead his team to victory when he steps onto the field. He also credited the arrival of wide receiver Percy Harvin to the Jets as a reason for the win over the Steelers.
Vick also admitted that he let his emotions get the better part of him when he picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with the Jets up by 14 points and roughly four minutes to go in the game. He would have been better off taking a knee and trying to run out the clock. Instead the Jets found themselves moving backwards to the point where they had a third down and need to pick up 46 yards for a first down. They punted and the Steelers quickly scored a touchdown one play later but the Jets managed to hold on.
Two weeks ago, the website FootballBettingCenter.com, which has the odds on everything NFL-related has the Giants as a 10-1 shot to qualify for the playoffs. I would say that has now dropped to 40-1.
It will be interesting to see whether between them the Giants and Jets can combine to win 8 games which is the .500 mark in the NFL for a single club. I wonder if FootballBettingCenter.com has laid down any odds on that.
November means the beginning of ski season in some parts of the country anyway. Arapahoe and Copper Mountain have just opened in Colorado. In Vermont, the Stratton, Stowe, and Sugarbush resorts plan on opening in time for Thanksgiving weekend. For local skiers, Hunter Mountain is still the closest and best known resort and it is scheduled to open on November 21.
Nearly every other New York State ski resort should have all of its trails ready to go by early December.
If you are looking for an off-the beaten path place to ski, then try New Mexico. JetBlue has daily service from JFK to Albuquerque. Angel Fire is the state’s best known resort as it offers top-notch restaurants, spas, as well as ski trails that cater to all levels of skiers.
For those who prefer water skiing to the snow variety, JetBlue will being offering service between Curacao and JFK beginning December 2.
Newsday sports columnist John Jeansonne has called it a career after 44 years at the Long Island daily. Sadly, as was the case with his onetime colleagues Joe Gergen and Steve Jacobson, Jeansonne was not permitted to write a farewell column.
Longtime NBA columnist Mitch Lawrence, who was let go by the Daily News in a budgetary move this past summer, has started writing for Forbes.com and nbcnewyork.com
Ad-Tech, the annual e-commerce trade show, was held at the Javits Center last week. The importance of designing ads for smartphones has created a number of fledgling companies as Acesse from Minneapolis and Dudamobile from Silicon Valley and they were the prominent exhibitors.
The advent of the Internet has created new problems for merchants such as lost revenue and merchandise due to fraudulent chargebacks. That is where someone received merchandise or tickets to sporting events and then claims that he or she never got what they paid for and contacts their credit card company who in turns issues them a credit. A number of exhibitors were touting their abilities to help merchants in their fight in what has become a $40 billion problem according to the company executives who I spoke with at Ad-Tech.
Food Fete is the quarterly food industry event that previews new and upcoming products for the media. This coming January Honest Tea will be introducing Pomegranate Blue Flavored Herbal Tea and Orange Mango Herbal Tea in bottles that will each contain less than 100 calories. If you’re like me and have enjoyed Nestle’s Raisinets since you were a child, Dove is coming out with Dove Chocolates Dipped in Real Fruit packages. Instead of raisins, you can enjoy cherries, blueberries, and cranberries covered with milk chocolate. Here’s a fun low-calorie snack that will be available for the holiday season, Weight Watchers Ice Cream is introducing Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches that contain a mere 120 calories but have a taste that would make you think that it has three times that calorie count.