The Week That Was: The Knicks Are The Surprise Of New York

     The conventional wisdom at the start of the season was that the Knicks could challenge the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers for the honors of being the worst team in NBA history.

     After all their “big” off-season free agent signing was Tim Hardaway, Jr. who was OK but no great shakes when he played for the Knicks previously. Scott Perry, in his first trade since becoming Knicks general manager, dealt the team’s biggest name, Carmelo Anthony, to the Oklahoma City Thunder for center Enes Kanter, forward Doug McDermott, and a 2018 second round draft choice. It sure looked like a one-sided dump of a deal in the Thunder’s favor.

    Knicks management may finally be having the last laugh. Tim Hardaway, Jr. has become the offensive force that Carmelo Anthony was. Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott (a.k.a. Doug McBuckets) have given the Knicks offensive weapons that they haven’t had in years.

     Current Knicks forward Michael Beasley was selected by the Miami Heat who had the second pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. He did not live up to that lofty status and has had a journeyman career playing in such places as Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Memphis, Houston, Phoenix, and of course Miami and New York.

    Beasley chuckled when I told him that he could get a job with the Weather Channel after he retires since he has worked in so many different climates. “The worst was Phoenix in the summer. I turned on my hose to cool off when I was outside and I got a third-degree burn on my leg!”

    The Knicks’ cable home, MSG Networks, had a little fun with the team’s best start in years last Thursday by running repeats of all of forward Kristaps Porzingis’s big games this season. MSG cleverly called the Turkey Day promotion, “Thankszingis.”

    You have to feel for second-year Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson who once again have to deal with injuries to key players.

    Point guard Jeremy Lin, who missed most of last season, is out for all of this one as well because of a knee injury he suffered on opening night. Lin’s backcourt partner, D’Angelo Russell, also hurt his leg and had to have arthroscopic surgery. He is expected to return sometime this season but no one knows when.

     The NBA schedule dovetailed very nicely with the Thanksgiving holiday this year for a pair of Queens natives. Knicks center Kyle O’Quinn told me that he was going to have dinner with his mom in Springfield Gardens when I spoke to him prior to the start of last Wednesday’s Knicks-Raptors game. Moe Harkless who played at Forest Hills High School, St. John’s University, and is now a member of the Portland Trailblazers, got a chance to spend time back home because his team played the Brooklyn Nets on Friday and then the Knicks this past Monday.

       The Jets dropped to 4-7 Sunday after falling to the Carolina Panthers 35-27. They weren’t blown out and losing to Cam Newton, still an elite NFL QB in my opinion, and his team is no disgrace.

       What was bothersome to Jets fans was that they have seen this movie many times before. Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess burned Jets cornerback Darryl Roberts all day on long completions. As per custom, the Jets incurred penalties at the worst times which either extended Carolina drives or halted Jets’ scoring chances.  

      As is of the case in the NBA, victory or defeat is frequently decided in the fourth quarter and the Jets had a collective meltdown at the worst possible time. The Jets had a first down and one yard to go to get into the end zone. They had to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown. A few minutes later Jets QB Josh McCown turned into his predecessor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, by trying to throw the football as he was being tackled. The end result was that McCown fumbled and Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly returned it for a touchdown. Adding insult to injury, Kaelin Clay returned a punt sixty yards two minutes later to put the game out of reach.

     Next week the Jets will have a reunion with their former star cornerback, Darrelle Revis. The Jets cut Revis after last season where it became clear that he had lost more than a step covering opposing receivers. Every other NFL team must have felt the same way because he wasn’t signed by anyone.

     I spoke with Darrelle when he was a guest at the recent Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health Sports Ball that was held six weeks ago. “I can still play,” he told me. The Kansas City Chiefs, who have decimated in the secondary, are hoping that he is right since they signed him to a contract last week.

     The Mets signed veteran minor league outfielder Zach Borenstein to a contract. He won’t be on their 40-man roster but he will get an invitation to spring training where he has a decent shot of making the team. Zach played on Team Israel during the 2017 World Baseball Classic where his teammates were former Mets Ty Kelly, Ike Davis, and Josh Satin.

      Texas is as red a state politically as you’ll find but that didn’t stop native son and Mets ace Noah Syndergaard from poking fun at President Trump who told the editors of TIME Magazine that he needed to know if he would be their 2017 Man of the Year and then said he wasn’t interested when the editors wouldn’t reveal their decision.

      Syndergaard jokingly tweeted that he told the editors of Sports Illustrated that he wasn’t interested in their Sportsman of the Year Award because he is not happy with how his hair looks and that he doesn’t want to miss his interpretive dance class which will coincide with the event that takes place on Friday, December 8 at Barclays Center. It will be televised on the NBC Sports Network.   

      One-time Islanders captain, Mark Streit, who enjoyed a very distinguished NHL career, announced his retirement last week.

     Mark unfortunately played on some very bad Islanders squads and he had to be the face of the team. I remember covering a Bruins-Islanders game in October 2011 in which the Isles got smoked 6-0 and had very few shots on goal to boot.

      After the game I mentioned to Streit that it appeared as if Bruins goalie Tim Thomas could have had dinner in front of his net without being disturbed. He understood that I was trying to put a lighthearted spin on a bad day at the office for his team and he smiled.

     However an Islanders executive who overheard our conversation was incensed that I, a writer for a Queens weekly newspaper, had the audacity to speak to his majestic captain in such an irreverent jocular manner. I haven’t been granted a credential to cover an Islanders home game since then. The funny thing is that I truly believe that this executive would have been slapping me on the back with a hearty laugh had I been writing for Newsday.

     You don’t have to possess a Harvard MBA to figure out that when a sports team gets press coverage, especially one that is basically just a blip on the sports/entertainment radar screen to nearly everyone with the exception of a few thousand passionate hockey fans, it can only enhance revenue for that franchise.

     I was hoping that the team’s managing partner, Jon Ledecky, who grew up in Bayside, would try to change this insular, thin-skinned corporate culture given that it has been two years since he and his partner, Scott Malkin, took over the team from the inept Charles Wang.

    From my perspective however nothing seems to have changed.  Before purchasing an equity stake in the Islanders, Ledecky was a minority owner of the Washington Capitals but apparently he learned next to nothing from that team’s sharp managing partner and fellow New Yorker,  the especially media savvy Ted Leonsis.

    Baby boomer Islanders fans who want to relive their glory days should pick up a copy of “Birth of a Dynasty” (Sports Publishing) written by current MSG Network and ESPN Radio personality Alan Hahn who covered the Isles for Newsday before moving onto electronic media. Hahn does a terrific job discussing the state of hockey in our area in the late 1970s when the Rangers-Islanders rivalry was first starting to heat up. Long Island was really on the sports map when the Islanders won the Stanley Cup in 1980 and would continue to do so for the next three years.

     Frat boy sports fans who were disappointed that ESPN ended its relationship with Barstool Van Sports because of their past crudity towards Bristol air personality Samantha Ponder will be happy to know that BVS has its own channel on SiriusXM radio.

    The NBA champion Golden State Warriors visited Queens as they held a practice at St. John’s University on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The current Red Storm men’s basketball team had the chance to interact with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and company at the conclusion of the practice.

    The NYC Marathon Expo held earlier this month at the Javits Center is obviously designed for manufacturers of running shoes and other apparel, knee braces. energy drinks and nutrition bars. One unexpected exhibitor was Long Island-based Bedgear ( which took up a sizable space on the Javits floor.

    Bedgear reps offered an excellent reason for being prominent at the Marathon Expo. If you don’t sleep well then it is hard to do any exercise let alone think about running 26.2 miles.

    Americans seem to be getting less sleep than ever and baby boomers are discovering as they age that it gets increasingly harder to sleep through the night. One such baby boomer, Mike Lindell, started his own company in frustration. Nearly everyone has seen those ubiquitous My Pillow TV ads.

    The major complaints that most people have with pillows are they get flattened quickly, they get hotter as the night goes on, and of course that leads to sweat gathering on the pillow case.        Bedgear’s Solar 2.0 pillow is quite sturdy without being uncomfortably stiff so that they maintain their density. The company uses a patented technology which they call Ver-Tex that keeps a pillow from getting warner and from absorbing moisture. It’s also ergonomically designed so that your time in bed doesn’t lead to neck and back pain. 

      Seth Meyers doesn’t get the attention for this 12:30 AM show that James “Carpool Karaoke” Corden does for his competing show on CBS at that hour and that’s a shame. Meyers, who many will remember from his days anchoring the Weekend Update desk on “Saturday Night Live,” is a skilled satirist with a quick wit and is an adept interviewer.

     NBC will try to raise his profile as he will be hosting the 2018 Golden Globes on January 7. My guess is that he will be a worthy successor to Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler.

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