(Photo: James Dombrowski)
Only time will tell whether Latvian center Kristaps Porzingis, selected by the Knicks at last Thursday’s NBA Draft held at the Barclays Center, will work out.
Unfortunately for the Knicks they had the fourth pick in a draft which appeared to have only three almost-certain high impact players: University of Kentucky center/forward Karl-Anthony Towns, Duke center Jahlil Okafor, and Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell.
This was Knicks president Phil Jackson’s first draft and he was understandably under a lot of scrutiny. Jackson knew that he was behind the proverbial eight-ball even before Thursday’s proceedings because he had no luck in last month’s draft lottery that determined order of teams picking players. The ping-pong balls worked against the Knicks who in the old days would have had the second pick based on their putrid 17-65 record last season. Jackson decided to roll the dice by selecting Porzingis, a 19 year-old who had played professionally in Seville, Spain and had reminded many of a young Dirk Nowitzki.
The Knicks fans at the Barclays Center lustily booed upon hearing the selection. Porzingis, who speaks better English than a lot of Americans, displayed a lot of poise by taking it in stride. He told the media in the interview room that he understood that NBA fans were far more familiar with college hoops stars thanks to American television than they were with European pros.
The big concern for fans is whether the rail-thin Porzingis is ready to be a major contributor to the Knicks. The media quickly had a field day because apparently team superstar Carmelo Anthony has his doubts about his ability to improve the Knicks immediately. Melo may be right but given the current state of the Knicks it would be absurd to expect the team to be a serious contender for an NBA title next season.
Phil Jackson can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that a longtime habitue of Madison Square Garden’s Celebrity Row, actor Steve Schirripa who played Bobby Baccala on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” and recently launched his own line of pasta sauces, “Uncle Steve’s,” is impressed with Porzingis’s height and talent. It’s always a smart idea to please a cast member of “The Sopranos!”
Although he knew little about baseball having grown up in Latvia, Kristaps gamely through out the ceremonial first pitch at Citi Field Friday night and displayed good form.
Collins admitted to the media before Friday’s game that the Mets can’t manufacture runs easily because they can’t bunt; can’t execute hit-and-run plays; and have no speed. He said that the Mets offense is built on power.
Granted, injuries have sapped a lot of that power but even when healthy the Mets are a far cry from the 1927 Yankees. Clearly Collins was being sarcastic and is understandably unhappy with the lineup that general manager Sandy Alderson has assembled.
Terry Collins may want to use rookie pitcher Steven Matz, who made his Major League debut Sunday beating the Cincinnati Reds 6-2, in the field on days when he is not pitching. Matz went 3 for 3 while driving in four runs at the plate.
Nelson Doubleday who bought the Mets with Fred Wilpon from Joan Payson in 1980 passed away at the age of 81. He and Wilpon had a falling out that led to him selling his interest in the team to Wilpon in an acrimonious battle over fair market value that was part of their buyout agreement in 2002. While the two men were not close in recent years, placing a patch that reads “ND” on the sleeves of Mets players jerseys for the rest of this season would be a classy thing for Wilpon to do.
Getting back to the NBA Draft, Nets general manager Billy King deserves credit for trading limited skills center Mason Plumlee to the Portland Trailblazers in return for University of Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who Portland drafted in the first round on Thursday.
Plumlee arrived with a lot of fanfare from Duke University as the Nets’ first-round pick in 2013. The team tried hard to make him the face of their franchise at last February’s All-Star Game Weekend even though he had done little to earn that kind of accolade. Whenever he was asked to spell center Brook Lopez for a few minutes, the Nets’ offense would cease scoring and the opposing team would run off points at will on their possessions.
Many scouts called University of Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson the best defensive player from this year’s college class. Rondae grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania which is just south of Philadelphia. He has a quick wit and should bring some much needed life to the quiet Nets locker room.
Rondae’s teammate from Arizona, forward Stanley Johnson, was selected by the Detroit Pistons certainly matches him when it comes to personality. I asked him if he would be buying a car from one of the Big Three auto makers since he would now be working in Detroit. “Oh yeah! I love the Dodge Challenger. I can’t wait to get one!” I then asked him if he had an endorsement deal with Chrysler. “No, but I am hoping to get one now!” he replied.
D’Angelo is not a common first name so I asked Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell who was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the second pick of the NBA Draft if he had ever crossed paths with his St. John’s University counterpart, D’Angelo Harrison. “I never heard of him,” Russell quickly replied. Apparently neither did NBA team executives as his name was not called on Thursday at the Barclays Center although his Red Storm teammate, Sir’ Dominic Pointer, was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers towards the end of the second round.
Neither Jahlil Okafor nor Justise Winslow, who both left Duke after their freshman year in which the Blue Devils won yet another NCAA hoops title, could explain to me why a college that is often referred to as the Harvard of the South is so obsessed with winning basketball titles with players who have no interest in spending more than one year there. You have to be at least 19 to play in the NBA and that accounts for why so many players drop out of college after their first year in higher education.
The companies in the wireless phone industry are always looking for ways to poach customers from each other. T-Mobile, which has an endorsement deal with Major League Baseball, allows its customers to have free use of the premium features of MLB’s “At Bat” app including streaming of select games. Consumers have to pay $20 for the privilege if they use other wireless carriers.
Summer is no longer the TV primetime wasteland that it once was. HBO has just launched its second season of “True Detective” while NBC has been enjoying critical success with its look at Los Angeles in the late 1960s, “Aquarius.” That series, which features a look at a bizarre musician named Charles Manson and his strange acolytes, has just been renewed for a second season. No word yet if NBC will try to rush production so that it can return in the spring. Series star David Duchovny will be returning to Fox for a reboot of “The X-Files” this fall.
Add rock star Dave Mathews to the ever-growing list of celebrities who have become vintners. His Dreaming Tree wines come in five varieties and are priced at $15. The wines are produced from grapes from various parts of the West Coast. In keeping with Matthews’ concern with sustainability, the bottles are made from lighter glass and all of the labels are made from recycled paper.
Food Fete and Editor Showcase, two of the quarterly food industry trade shows for the media to learn about both new and established brands, took place in New York City last month. The emphasis was on healthy snacks. The California Almond Board was at both shows touting the cardiac benefits of that tasty nut. 7-11, which will be getting its usual headlines by giving out free Slurpees a week from Saturday, is starting to place a heavier emphasis on packaged fruits and vegetables as a way of drawing in more sophisticated customers. General Mills gave out its latest line of Nature Valley grain bars; Santa Cruz Organic displayed its various kinds of peanut butters and fruit spreads; and Chobani let folks know about its latest yogurt flavors. The best new snack idea that I saw was Biena Foods’ roasted chick peas.
OK, there were plenty of guilty pleasures as well. The pride of Philadelphia, Tastykake, offered samples of its latest creme-filled baked goodies. LACTAID ice cream takes pride in proving that people whose bodies are intolerant to lactose can still enjoy real ice cream. A new company in the traditional ice cream space is the cleverly named Lovin’ Scoopful. Veteran rock music fans should get a kick out of that. Stoneridge Orchards makes chocolate covered fruits which should please anyone who grew up loving Raisinettes or the samples at a Harry & David’s store.
Retail Confectioners International held their annual convention in New York last week. Bonomo Turkish Taffy, which many baby boomers remember from their elementary school days, has been relaunched by Pennsylvania Dutch Candies. It’s still tasty, and yes, it can still break fillings in your teeth.