Kenny Smith, who grew up in Lefrak City and graduated from Archbishop Molloy High School where he was a star point guard, enjoyed a ten-year NBA career although he is best known for being an analyst on TBS’s popular freewheeling pro hoops studio show, “Inside the NBA” which is renowned for the humorous exchanges between panelists Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Grant Hill, Chris Webber, and host Ernie Johnson.
Turner Broadcasting brought in both Kenny and Charles Barkley to meet with the New York media last Tuesday as a way to kick off the 2016-17 NBA season. They were also being inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame that night in an event held in the Waldorf-Astoria Ballroom, the same venue which two days later would host the Al Smith Dinner where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump exchanged occasionally humorous verbal jabs.
Kenny won two NBA titles as a member of the Houston Rockets. He was an integral part of the team that defeated the Knicks in the 1994 NBA Finals. What is most remembered about that series was that as Game 5 was being played OJ Simpson was leading police in a chase down the 405 Freeway in LA following the murders of his wife and Ron Goldman.
Smith admitted that his teammates were almost as interested in what was going on out west with “The Juice” as they were in the game that they were playing at Madison Square Garden. “During a timeout we were huddling and instead of talking about the game we kept talking about OJ being on the run. Our head coach Rudy Tomjanovich reminded us that we were in the NBA Finals but then he wanted to know what was going on with OJ!” Kenny said with a chuckle.
When asked about what makes “Inside the NBA” arguably the most popular sports studio show outside of the NFL Sunday programs, Smith did not hesitate. “We don’t go to production meetings!” he quickly replied. He added that the benefit of that is to appear spontaneous to the viewer as opposed to polished rehearsed banter that would come off as inauthentic.
Smith feels that the Knicks should win between 50 and 55 games this year and should go deep in this year’s playoffs. “It’s still Carmelo Anthony’s team but the additions of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah will take a lot of pressure off of him. They don’t have to get the ball to him on every possession.”
He belittled the Knicks’ cross-river rivals, the Brooklyn Nets, however. “I can’t even name five players on their team. They have a chance of booting the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers from the record books for the single season all-time worst record in NBA history.”
Kenny has an entrepreneurial side as he is producing a television version of “Hoop Dreams,” the 1994 award-winning indie film about two Chicago high school players who dream of NBA stardom.
The Jets finally found an opponent who was more beat up than they were this past Sunday and they took full advantage of that to end a four-game losing streak by beating the Baltimore Ravens 24-16 at MetLife Stadium.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco, who is one of the best in the NFL, was battling a rotator cuff issue in his throwing shoulder while six other Baltimore starting players had to miss the game with a variety of ailments. Nonetheless one shouldn’t shortchange the credit to the Jets defense, which had been rightfully criticized this season. They enjoyed their best day in a long time as the secondary made a pair of interceptions and overall prevented the Ravens offense from getting many first downs.
Geno Smith has been an afterthought since Todd Bowles replaced Rex Ryan as Jets head coach. Bowles had tired of starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s poor play and decided that a change might create a spark in Gang Green. Smith looked sharp in the early-going but unfortunately had to leave the game in the second quarter because of a knee injury he incurred after getting tackled. He said that he felt OK following the game and he appeared to walk out of the locker room without much discomfort.
I asked Geno at the postgame press conference if he was concerned that he would not get a chance to prove himself this year since he was drafted by former Jets general manager John Idzik and not Mike Maccagnan who has had the job since the spring of 2015. I prefaced my question by saying that in corporate America the new management team generally tries to install their own people and move out the old guard. Smith smiled and then scrambled to avoid answering it by saying that he puts the team above what would benefit him personally. Yes, he was uttering one of the most shopworn of sports cliches.
Ryan Fitzpatrick relieved Geno Smith and did a decent job managing the rest of the game. He admitted that he was aware that he had led the NFL in interceptions up to that point and his signal-calling reflected that. He was very risk-averse as he stuck with lots of handoffs to running backs and throwing passes to receivers that could only go out of bounds if they weren’t caught by a Jets receiver. The late William F. Buckley would have been proud of Fitzpatick’s conservatism.
Unlike Geno Smith, Fitzpatrick wasn’t shy about stating that he was embarrassed and angry about being benched for the start of the Ravens game. He felt that both Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan had lost faith in him but was certain that his teammates still believed in his abilities. Most importantly, however, he made it clear that he never lost faith in himself.
Giants CEO John Mara is getting a lot of grief for not booting place kicker Josh Brown from his team when reports started to surface that Brown was involved in a domestic altercation with his wife during the Pro Bowl in Hawaii last January. Apparently more documentation has come to light proving that this wasn’t an isolated incident. It appears almost certain that his time as a Giant is over and probably so is his career as an NFL player.
Many in the media are having a field day with him for not releasing Brown during training camp but I think that Mara should be applauded for not making a hasty decision that would have impacted an individual’s livelihood without more evidence. He is an attorney and believes that one is innocent until proven guilty without a reasonable doubt.
One of my favorite sports columnists, the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro, wrote an on-the-money column last Friday about how the Giants are in the pro football business and that they shouldn’t try to pretend to be a house of worship. Yes, it would be a terrific world if every one of an NFL team’s 53 players were an upstanding citizen, but the reality is that football is a violent game and it will attract people who don’t always engage in the best behavior either on or off the field.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft represented the NFL at the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame Dinner. I asked Kraft, a prominent Columbia University alumnus and benefactor, if the Columbia Lions football team could borrow the services of his Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick, for a game or two against their Ivy League rivals. He chuckled and said, “I have faith in current head coach Al Bagnoli.” Kraft was proven prophetic as a few days later Columbia enjoyed a rare victory as they beat Dartmouth 9-7 thanks to three field goals by their place kicker “Scorin’” Oren Milstein.
Tribune Broadcasting president Peter Liguori was also inducted into the B&C Hall of Fame. Peter is a veteran of the brutal television industry but he has always claimed, perhaps somewhat half-seriously, that what prepared him for the rough and tumble life in the TV business was growing up a Mets fan in the obvious heart of Yankees territory, the Bronx.
Former Mets first baseman Mo Vaughn has enjoyed a very successful post-playing career as a low and moderate income residential real estate developer. He is now entering the world of men’s fashion as he has started a company called MVP Collections that makes stylish clothes for big men as their sizes start at XL and run all the way up to 6XL. “I started the company because I could never find clothing that I liked in my size at most retailers including big & tall stores,” Mo told me at a media event last week at which his company debuted its line of jeans, t-shirts, polos, activewear, and dress shirts. For the time being however MVP is staying out of the men’s suit market.
The Arthur Ashe Institute of Urban Health held its 22nd annual fund-raising dinner last Wednesday evening. The AAIUH was started by the late tennis legend the year prior to his untimely passing and its mission to give opportunities to economically disadvantages young people to enter the many areas of health science. This year’s dinner was emceed by NY1 news anchor and Far Rockaway native Cheryl Wills, and her WNBC-TV counterpart, David Ushery. Among the honorees were ABC’s Robin Roberts and former Giants tight end and current NBC Sports analyst Howard Cross.
The Cheesecake Factory, the upscale casual dining chain that is known for its generous portions, opened its 192nd restaurant and its first in New York City this week, at the Queens Center Mall. A spokesman for the Los Angeles-based company admitted to me that they were searching for retail space in Manhattan but they quickly learned what savvy New Yorkers have known all along–that you get more bang for your real estate buck in Queens. My favorite entree is the miso salmon. Of course you should try to leave room for a slice of one of their endless varieties of cheesecake.
If you are looking for a snack that will help clear up your clogged sinuses if you are suffering from a cold then try Montreal Steak Spice Kettle Chips that are made by Neal Foods out of Ontario, Canada. Of course you can enjoy them even if you are in perfect health although I dare you to eat them without a beverage.
There are a lot of places where nascent filmmakers can show off their films but not very many for those producers and directors who have pilot episodes for potential TV series. The annual New York Television Festival, which started in 2005 as a way to fill this void, is now underway and runs through Saturday. For more information log onto nytvf.com.
Halloween brings out the most eclectic corporate press releases from a wide array of industries. Booking.com, an online travel portal, is touting the hotels who allegedly have ghosts as permanent guests while the Haunted Attractions Association (yes, there is such a trade organization) lists the spooky theme parks, dusty old manors, and even pumpkin “fright” farms of its members. Bacardi is pushing its line of Halloween-related cocktails while Hanes is promoting its silver Lurex tights for anyone who is thinking about being a robot or the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz” for a costume party.