Queens native and Campus Magnet alum Kyle O’Quinn is one of the unsung heroes of the Knicks this season. O’Quinn did not have a great 2015-16 season for the Knicks, his first for them after signing as a free agent from the Orlando Magic, but he is making the most out of year number two here.
His timing couldn’t be better because the guy who starts at center in front of him, Joakim Noah, who Knicks president Phil Jackson signed to a four-year, $72 million contract, has struggled this year, and Kyle has done a fine job of picking up the slack in rebounding and scoring.
A good case in point was a game last Tuesday when the Indiana Pacers built a 15-point lead at MSG. O’Quinn didn’t singlehandedly alter the direction of the game but his stabilizing work helped the Knicks nibble away the deficit. Carmelo Anthony got hot late and started draining threes while Derrick Rose ran by flat-footed Pacers guards at will in the fourth quarter as the Knicks won going away.
Although Kyle no longer lives in our borough he’s still a frequent visitor. “My mom still lives in Jamaica so I come back a lot. I’ll see her Christmas dinner right after our game with the Celtics.”
I noticed that O’Quinn was wearing goggles during the pre-game shoot-around and I asked him if they were for protection or to improve vision. “They are prescription but I wear contact lenses during games.” He added that he was thinking about laser eye surgery but his ophthalmologist told him that he wasn’t a good candidate for it.
One advantage that NHL players have over their NBA counterparts is that they get three days off to celebrate Christmas before going back to work. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist admitted that he was gassed and needed a vacation following the Rangers’ 7-4 loss to one of the NHL’s surprises this year, the Minnesota Wild, who won their tenth straight game in the process.
This was the first Rangers home game I saw in person in nearly three years. It’s a shame that the highlight was Jermaine Paul’s terrific rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Jermaine, who was the winner of the second season of NBC’s “The Voice,” was so good that the Garden crowd didn’t dare interrupt him with a “Let’s Go Rangers!” chant as is their wont during the anthem.
One-time Islanders prospect Nino Niederreiter was one of the Minnesota goal scorers. Although he was their top pick in the 2010 draft he fell out of favor with Islanders general manager Garth Snow who eventually traded him to the Wild for veteran Cal Clutterbuck. No disrespect to Clutterbuck but winning teams only succeed (an alien concept to the Islanders) by developing young talent such as Niederreiter.
The conventional wisdom was that Jets head coach Todd Bowles would return for the 2017 season in spite of the Jets’ sorry season. Following the Jets humiliating 41-3 debacle at the hands of the New England Patriots on Christmas Even in which players were pointing fingers at each other following the game, Bowles’ job security is starting to look Hillary Clinton’s electoral blue wall in the Rust Belt.
The Jets’ final game takes place on Sunday at MetLife Stadium and their opponent will be the Buffalo Bills who were eliminated from the playoff hunt this past weekend. The Bills obviously have very little to play for except to try to make their head coach, Rex Ryan, happy. Rex, as most of you know, was fired by the Jets two years ago. My guess is that if Rex’s guys beat up on Gang Green in the manner that the Patriots did last week, Bowles is a goner.
WWE superstar John Cena is arguably the most versatile grappler of all-time. While his film career has not yet matched that of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, he has shown that he can be an action hero (“The Marine”) as well as a comic actor (“Trainwreck”). He also hosted a reality series last spring, “American Grit,” on Fox. In my opinion, Cena did his best work hosting NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” two weeks ago as he took part in more skits than what most other hosts are asked to handle and he was quite funny to boot.
Fans of the 2009 film comedy “Fired Up!” will be happy to know that the International Olympic Committee has given a green light to the International Cheer Union to make cheerleading an Olympic sport in 2020. All jokes aside, cheerleading is very demanding and a lot of the routines are very risky in terms of serious injury.
The avalanche of celebrity deaths in 2016 has been a hot topic on social media. Black Dog & Leventhal has recently published two books on the passing of famous folks in recent history: “Where Are They Buried” by Tod Benoit and “The New York Times Book of the Dead” edited by William McDonald. Both books contain a section on departed sports heroes.
Speaking of death and the Times, the paper’s longtime sports media columnist, Queens College alum Richard Sandomir, has moved on to write obits. A TV sports network executive recently told me “ I’m surprised that he would do that. It’s a dying beat!” Yeah, I groaned too, but it’s hard to resist using that line.
If you are looking for an online aural treat, check out greatbigradio.com. From now through New Year’s Day, Internet radio entrepreneur and station director Howard Hoffman, who baby boomers might remember as one of the last evening disc jockeys during WABC’s Music Radio 77 era, is saluting the music of 1971. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey it’s ample testament as to why the music of my youth is far superior to what you hear on Z100 today.