Carroll: Plum Time for the Nets

The Nets have always played second fiddle to the Knicks in both good times and bad. The Knicks’ so-far disastrous 2014-15 season has understandably garnered far more attention than the win-one, lose-one (more or less) season that the Nets have had.

Although they have not endured the same amount of travail that their Manhattan neighbors have had, the Nets have had their share of drama. New head coach Lionel Hollins has not been reticent about blasting his team in postgame press conferences when they have played poorly. Nets general manager Billy King has made it clear that he will listen to offers for any of his players including surly underachieving point guard Deron Williams.

The biggest surprise so far this season has been Hollins’ willingness to start Mason Plumlee at center instead of Brook Lopez. Plumlee doesn’t have even a quarter of the shooting skills that Brook possesses but he is a far better defender and rebounder. The rest of the starting team plays a lot better when Mason is in the pivot.

The St. John’s Red Storm continued to cruise along at the Barclays Center on Sunday as they barely broke a sweat against Tulane University beating them 82-57. Sir’Dominic Pointer led the way with 24 points while D’Angelo Harrison scored 21.

Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin, while happy with the win, made it clear that he was not pleased with the team’s performance in the second half although he didn’t specify what angered him and none of the reporters from the daily newspapers, who hogged the microphone during the postgame press conference as per custom, followed up by asking Lavin about what upset him.

I caught Steve as he was leaving the podium and I asked him about the number of three-point shots the Johnnies took in the second half even though they had a lead that never fell below 20 points against a lifeless Tulane team. “You nailed it. I wasn’t happy at all with that,” he said.

Coach Lavin had a right to be ticked off. It was both poor sportsmanship and bad basketball on the part of the Red Storm. Using the “let sleeping dogs lie” logic, there is absolutely no reason to motivate an opposing team that is basically waving a white flag. Shooting low percentage three-point shots with plenty of time on the clock instead of driving to the basket as time is winding down on a possession is a dumb thing for any team with a huge lead to do.

Why is that the Jets always seem to lose the last game of a season in Miami when it has playoff implications for them and win it when they are out of contention and thus getting a worse slot for the upcoming NFL Draft?

New York Yankees president Randy Levine must have some meteorology magic because for the second straight year the Pinstripe Bowl was played in 50-plus degree temperature. The game was very exciting as the Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Boston College Eagles in overtime by a score of 31-30. It was Penn State’s first bowl game since the Jerry Sandusky scandal that toppled coaching legend Joe Paterno in 2011.

Penn State’s defensive coordinator is Bob Shoop, who before joining the Nittany Lions, was the head coach of the Columbia Lions from 2003-2005. His return to the Big Apple did not generate any nostalgic pangs. “My record was 7-23 in my three years at Columbia so you can understand why I don’t want to speak about it.” Shoop didn’t smile when I told him that in light of the team’s putrid record over the last decade his tenure could be considered a golden age for Columbia football.

Last Friday I went to my first-ever World Wrestling Entertainment show at Madison Square Garden although I have seen the WWE in other venues. As has long been the case, it is the villains (known in wrestling parlance as “heels”) who know how to work the crowd. Mike “The Miz” Mizanin, who is an avid sports fan, goaded the crowd by saying “I know why you are upset. You are not used to seeing winners around here. I can throw a football better than Geno Smith can and I can sure play basketball better than the Knicks do!”

The headline match featured WWE mainstay hero John Cena against its latest bad guy, Seth Rollins (real name: Colby Lopez). Rollins has decent microphone skills but he needs better verbal material if he wants to become a breakout performer a la “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, or CM Punk (real name: Philip Jack Brooks).

The WWE will be returning to the Garden on February 27 and the company is promising that arguably the most famous living wrestler, Hulk Hogan, will be making an appearance to promote the upcoming Wrestlemania. Thirty years earlier, the Hulkster was the main draw on the very first Wrestlemania that took place at MSG.

Lou Lamoriello has controlled every facet of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils in his capacity as general manager for the last 28 years. In that time he has fired a lot of head coaches and he was back to his old tricks as he dismissed Peter DeBoer as the team’s head coach the day after Christmas. So much for the holiday spirit.

What is strange is that Lamoriello named a triumvirate to replace him as he named Adam Oates and Scott Stevens as co-coaches and himself as a third head coach. If you are confused about how this can possibly succeed then you are far from alone. Can you imagine what the media reaction would have been had the Rangers or even the Islanders tried to do something this stupid? The New York sports media pays little attention to the Devils however, and while that may not make team owner Josh Harris happy, that seems to be just fine with Lou.

It is bizarre how many National Hockey League player have come down with the mumps, a onetime major childhood disease that most of us thought was eradicated years ago. Surprisingly this story has not gotten a lot of play which is kind of a mixed blessing for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman who grew up in Forest Hills. If this kind of outbreak had occurred in Major League Baseball, the NFL, or the NBA, this would have gotten Ebola-like coverage.

Every January 1, a group of hearty swimmers known as the Polar Bears, brave the frigid Atlantic Ocean waters at Coney Island to ring in the new year. The Coney Island Brewing Company has introduced a Belgian style ale in honor of these hearty bathers called “The Plunge.”

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