While the Knicks’ poor record this season, combined with the arrival of president/general manger/savior Phil Jackson have made them a daily backpage story, the Nets’ disappointing season has largely gone under the radar.
In many ways the Nets have bigger problems. Nets GM Billy King badly mortgaged the team’s future by trading for veteran forward Joe Johnson in 2012 and for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry in June 2013. The net result was that the Atlanta Hawks, who have the best record in the NBA’s Eastern conference, and the rebuilding Boston Celtics, basically have the Nets top draft picks for four out of the upcoming five years.
Kevin Garnett still can play; unfortunately he can only do so in small batches of minutes at a time in a game. Paul Pierce only played a year for the Nets before leaving as a free agent for the Washington Wizards while Jason Terry, once one of the most feared three-point shooters in the league, lost his touch once he wore a Nets uniform and was dealt to the Sacramento Kings.
I asked Billy King at the time if he was concerned that he was mortgaging the team’s future by trading a lot of tomorrow for a very small window of opportunity today when he made the deal in June 2013.
King concurred with that assessment but also stated that he felt that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov would not be hampered by such pedestrian concerns as budgets or NBA salary caps. Of course back then the ruble was strong as were Russian oil prices. Things haven’t been so rosy however in Putin-land since the Red Army attacked Ukraine. In retrospect, his headline-grabbing trade with the Boston Celtics now looks as smart as Seattle Seahawks’ head coach Pete Carroll’s decision to pass on the Patriots’ one-yard line with 20 seconds to go in the Super Bowl.
I finally got to watch the Islanders play in person for the first time this season two weeks ago I ventured back to Philadelphia on a bone-chilling night to witness the Islanders defeat the Flyers 3-2 in a shootout as Cal Clutterbuck was able to put a shot past Philadelphia goalie Steve Mason.
This was a big game as the Islanders had lost three straight. It sure looked as if the hockey gods weren’t going to be kind to them that night as Mason stopped countless Josh Bailey breakaway shots. The Isles found themselves down 2-0 midway through the second period even though they had outshot the Flyers by a wide disparity.
In an indication that these aren’t the same old Islanders, the guys rallied to tie it up by the time the second period ended. They kept their composure and Islanders’ goalie Jaroslav Halak kept the Flyers scoreless the rest of the way.
After a sluggish start which can probably be attributed to the team’s long 2013-14 season that placed them in the Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers are playing solid hockey. Unfortunately for most of February they have been without their goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, whose throat was pelted by a slap shot from Carolina Hurricanes center Brad Malone.
Despite the obligatory February cold and snow, spring can’t be too far away when Topps releases its Series 1 baseball cards. Derek Jeter will receive his last card and there will be one issued for the late Ernie Banks. In a creative move, Topps will issue baseball cards of celebrities who threw out first pitches at stadiums last year. South Jamaica hip-hop legend Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who infamously threw a wild ground ball somewhere in the direction of Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud last summer, is among those honored.
Giants punter Steve Weatherford was one of the honorees at the 35th annual Thurman Munson Dinner which pays tribute to the late Yankees captain who was killed in an August 1979 plane crash and raises money for AHRC, a nonprofit that enriches the lives of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Weatherford told the press that he suffers both from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and that is why the Munson Award meant so much to him. “My parents did not start me on prescription medicines but rather enrolled me in various youth sports leagues where I could work off my energy.” He also cited his regimented diet which consists of organic fruits and vegetables and lean proteins as a way of keep his ADHD and OCD under control.
Many Mets fans are understandably upset that Bob Ojeda will not be back on SNY Mets pre and postgame shows. Ojeda was always a straight shooter and didn’t sugarcoat losses although he would occasionally get a bit too effusive over wins. Nelson Figueroa, who at press time was rumored to be Ojeda’s successor, had two pitching stints with the Mets and is an excellent communicator. His matinee idol looks should attract more female fans to Mets telecasts.
The old adage about celebrity deaths coming in threes was certainly true with respect to the sports world this past weekend.
Retired University of North Carolina head coach Dean Smith was one of the most revered men in his profession not just for amassing wins and championships but for his courage. Smith was one of the first coaches to integrate the Atlantic Coast Conference and that wasn’t an easy feat in the Tar Heel State in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. The list of great players who learned from Smith tutelage is very lengthy but the one that stands out is a guy who didn’t make his high school team when he tried out in his sophomore year, Michael Jordan.
Charlie Sifford was the Jackie Robinson of golf and you can make an argument that he endured more abuse than Jackie did. As an individual sport, rather than a team one, Sifford had to endure a lot of indignities on the PGA Tour while suffering in silence. Robinson’s mistreatment was more public and better documented. While he never won championships the way that Lee Elder and Tiger Woods did, there is little argument that he paved the way for minority professional golfers.
One of Sifford’s rivals on the PGA Tour in the 1960s was Billy Casper. Back in the LBJ era, golf’s big three were Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player. If there was any golfer who could have expanded that list to a “big four” it would have been Billy Casper who won many tournaments. The seven majors that he won were indicative of his greatness.
Rest in peace, gentlemen.