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Saturday, July 19, 2014

CC Sabathia is Officially Out for the Season

CC Sabathia's season is over. His career, thankfully, is not.

That is the news the Yankees received on Friday regarding their former All Star pitcher, who will avoid microfracture surgery on his right knee, that not only would have ended his season, but his career as well.

Instead, Sabathia will have arthroscopic debridement surgery next week, which, if all goes well, will allow him to return to the Yankees in 2015. Sabathia, who was having his worst season since joining the Yankees, injured the knee during the season, but felt it become truly unmanageable after his final start on May 10.

He finished the season with only three wins and an ERA of 5.28.

In a lot of ways Sabathia's tenure with the Yankees has been nothing but tumultuous. After winning a World Series with the team back in 2009, he has seen his career go on a sharp decline, especially the past two seasons. Since 2013, he is 17-17 with a 4.87 ERA. To combat his struggles on the mound, Sabathia put himself on a strict diet the past two seasons, and was in the best physical shape of his career this season.

However, the good eating habits was not enough to stop the constant knee issues for CC this year.

The Yankees hope that he will be ready for Spring Training in 2015, but even that would be a big gamble. They can't expect him to be a number 1, when he returns next year. The Yankees rotation has been a mess all year. They lost Ivan Nova and Sabathia for the year. Lost Michael Pineda for most of the season, although he's expected back soon. And Masahiro Tanaka, has been on the DL for two weeks after slightly tearing the UCL in his elbow.

Tanaka, thinks he could come back this season, but is not sure when. Tanaka is scheduled to rest his elbow for six weeks before beginning another throwing program again. That is if the pain stops. If necessary, Tanaka could still face season ending Tommy John Surgery, which might even cost him most of 2015. If he comes back at all this year, Tanaka could see the Yankee Stadium mound in September. Either way, the Yankees pitching woes are going to be a problem moving forward.

At least they got a good performance from Brandon McCarthy on Saturday against the Reds, but McCarthey and former Rockies pitcher Jeff Francis are not enough to get this team where it wants to go. Whether the Yankees make another move before July 31 is still up for debate.

Even if this season is a lost cause, at least Yankees' fans know their former big gun is coming back next year.

Why The Derek Jeter Retirement Party is Out of Control

Breaking News: Derek Jeter is retiring. If you have been hiding under a rock, or, if you've just landed from another planet, you would be in a strong minority, because for the past five months we have been saying good-bye to the Yankees shortstop with no end in sight.

In fact the Jeter retirement party has gotten so stretched out that it no longer carries any real resonance anymore.

Don't get me wrong, I am not here to bash Derek Jeter. I am not here to call the Yankees the Evil Empire. I am here to call a balk on the mainstream media for taking the career of one player (a very good player), and making into the Greatest Retirement of All Time!

Jeter has been one of the greatest players of his generation. With the smokescreen of steroids overshadowing the game, it was players like Jeter; his teammate Mariano Rivera, and even Ken Griffey Jr., who cut through the fog to give fans some indelible moments that will never be forgotten.

Jeter had plenty of monumental moments in his career: from the flip play; to big time home runs in the playoffs and world series; diving into the stands against the Red Sox; his 3,000 hit and much more in between. Yet it does not give the baseball, and, baseball media world a pass to stop what its doing, and fall over themselves in celebrating his career.

I've never liked this new "tradition" of MLB teams to celebrate the careers of opposing players. It started with Chipper Jones in 2012, continued to the point of silliness by September of 2013 with Mariano Rivera, and, now, it follows Jeter with every step. And I mean every step.

The reason I never liked this tradition, has more to do with my old school belief that no team should celebrate the career of an opposing player while he is still actively playing. I fell it throws the players in the host dugout under the bus. Most of all, these forms of celebration feel forced, insincere and plain ridiculous.

I have found it more appalling and ridiculous to see teams that have been victimized by the honoree, shower him with gifts many years later. The Mets, for example, who had watched players like Jones, Jeter and Rivera destroy them in the playoffs in the late 90s/early 00s, honored those same players to the point of overdoing it. Imagine if the Mets actually cared about honoring people who actually wore their uniform?

The Oakland A's, who are the biggest Jeter moment victims in history, honored Jeter, but were not thrilled about doing it because of what happened in the 2000 ALDS with the "Flip." 

If teams like the A's are this upset about honoring opposing players, why do it? If I owned the team, I would tell the commissioner's office well before hand that my organization will not participate in any ceremony to honor a player in the other dugout.

Maybe that is the problem. Maybe the commissioner's office threatens teams to do it or else? Maybe draft picks get put on the line? Only the people in the baseball boiler room really know.

The only place Major League Baseball should honor it's retiring heroes is the All Star Game. In 2000, MLB got it right with Cal Ripkin Jr. and Tony Gwynn. 14 years later on Tuesday in Minnesota the excess of the Jeter-parade made the All Star Game impossible to stomach. 

There wasn't a moment without hearing that the 85th Mid-Summer Classic would be Jeter's last. Pregame interviews, pregame analysis, talk that he should win the All Star MVP because, well, he's retiring, and then a truly ridiculous 100 sec commercial spot where everyone, including invisible Mets, reluctant Red Sox fans, and, yes, Phil Jackson tipping their cap to the Yankee Captain.

Diehard Yankees' fans probably loved it. For the rest of us, I will refrain and roll my eyes. And what was with the tragic music in that commercial? He's just retiring people.

Then there is this golden gem that will become the topic of debate for a while. Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright told reporters after he left the game that he grooved pitches to Jeter so he could get a base hit. Wainwright tried to back out of it with Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews, but the damage was done.

Let's take Wainwright's words for face value. What if he really did groove pitches to Jeter? In a game that is supposed to determine home field advantage, Wainwright may have cost his team a chance at hosting Games 1, 2, 6 & 7 of the world series, if, his team gets there. The Jeter hit was the start of a three-run rally for the AL, a rally that the NL never could come back from on Tuesday.  Wainwright basically said, whether he meant to or not, that he didn't care about doing the number one thing a pitcher should do, and that's establish the inside part of the pate no matter who is batting.

In years past, no pitcher would have wanted to become the answer to a trivia question, and would have tried to establish the inside part of the plate, even in the All Star game. Yes, folks there was a day where players actually took pride in beating the other league, and meant it. If Jeter played his final All Star Game 20 years ago, he would have seen a 95 mph fastball come right for him, high and inside.

But that was the game then, this is the game now. Baseball has gotten soft. Instead of privately walking up to retiring players after the game has been played, and saying, "Mr. Jeter it was a pleasure," we now have players falling over themselves through the media to show their appreciation before and during the contest. 

This may sound like sour grapes, but it really isn't. By the time the Yankees play their final home series of the year against the Orioles in late September, the Jeter-ceremony will be so prolonged and played out, that any true power and emotion that will come from the real "final day" will feel watered down.

Call it the wild bachelor party that took place before the real bachelor party ever happens.

The Yankees and the only the Yankees should have been the team to honor Jeter in their way. He played his entire career for them; is as valuable to them as Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantel. Some would say he's the DiMaggio of this generation of Yankee fans. When the Yankees honor him, it will STILL be special, but because of the overflow of congratulations that has taken place in every ball park it will never carry the same emotion for everyone else watching.

In a lot of ways when he tips his cap to the crowd for the ceremony at Yankee Stadium in September, it will feel more like "thank goodness this party is over," rather than, "wow, this is truly the end."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Melo Agrees to 5-year Deal with Knicks

For better or for worse the Knicks have their man.

Carmelo Anthony is coming back to the Garden in 2014-15, after inking a five year deal worth $124 million, some five million dollars less than the maximum he could have made if he put the Knicks feet to the fire.

Anthony's motive is clear, he wants the Knicks to go out and get him some help. It has not been easy, nor fun for the All Star to play basically by himself, surrounded by a hobbled Amare' Stoudemire, or fellow ball-hog extraordinaire, J.R. Smith.

Anthony put all the pressure on himself the past few years, and if Phil Jackson's assumptions are correct, that is part of the reason why Anthony has played so poorly in crunch time.

"“It depends how quickly our team evolves,’’ Jackson said of how soon the club will be in title contention. “If we evolve as a team, we can do it rather quickly. If we’re still going to sit and rely on Carmelo to do everything, it’s not going to happen," (NY Post 7/13/14).

So Anthony "buying in" to this new strategy will make the max annual salary this season at $22 million, but will see his annual salary decrease 7.5 percent in 2015-16, the year that a new salary cap is instituted, and potentially the year Phil Jackson gets more pieces for the puzzle.

There is a chance that come 2015-16 the likes of Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol, Roy Hibbert, Kevin Love, and even LeBron James (more on that in the next post), could all be potential free agents. Granted the Knicks have a lot of cap maneuvering to do between now and then. Technically they are still in salary cap Hell from some bad contracts. 

However here is the good part of this deal. 1) Anthony has committed to the Knicks. Instead of taking less and running to a much better situation in Chicago, Anthony bought into the rhetoric of the Zen Master, and will do as he sees fit. Anthony has nothing to lose. 2) He's been a playoff loser his entire career. Now he has a man running the ship that won NBA titles with Jordan, Kobe and Shaq. Anthony would love to join those names one day.

The bad part: If Anthony continues to choke in big situations, and the Knicks do not improve in a few years, then he could opt out after his fourth year; but that is a big IF. I highly doubt, unless James Dolan gets in the way, that Phil Jackson will let the Knicks remain a virtual irrelevancy in this city.

However do not expect the Knicks to make any more big moves this summer. This is a transition year, inspite of what coach Derek Fisher says. Jackson is going to play his cards close to vest, give him credit. And if Anthony changes as a player and becomes a better teammate than all the better for the Knicks moving forward.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Carmelo Anthony: Will He or Won't He Re-sign With Knicks

Well Knicks fans, here's the good news, Phil Jackson is close to making a move this off-season. Here's the bad news: Carmleo Anthony might be coming back.

Love him or hate him. Adore his offense, abhor his defense. Carmelo Anthony is not going anywhere, according to Frank Isola of the NY Daily News. The News reports that Anthony will sign the max deal to stay in New York City where his family is most comfortable; yet there are also conflicting reports from Ken Berger of CBS, and even Anthony's agent that paint a different picture.

According to a Tweet by Berger, Anthony has yet to tell the Knicks of a decision to stay in New York or sign elsewhere. Anthony's agent Leon Rose told ESPN that his client still is deciding between the Knicks and Lakers.

So there is definitely still a lot of grey area on this story. Until Anthony officially puts ink to paper on a contract, there should be no certainty that he will return to the Knicks.

Anthony was courted by the Rockets, Mavs, Lakers and Bulls, and reports were he was intrigued by LA not too long ago. So who really knows.

While he is a prolific scorer, the Knicks might be better off financially letting Anthony walk elsewhere. The Knicks have enough bad contracts on their hands, i.e. Amare Stoudemire, and need to get out of salary cap hell (again). Anthony is in a "now or never" stage of his career, and the Knicks are nowhere near close to winning right away.

Stay tuned for the latest on this drama to play out. While the News reports a decision could come Thursday, don't bet on it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nets Finalizing Deal with Lionel Hollins

The Nets are not wasting any time in putting the Jason Kidd fiasco behind them. The franchise is close to finalizing a contract with former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins.

Rumors are that it will be a multi-year deal that will pay Hollins roughly $4 million a season.

The signing of Hollins give the Nets much needed stability. He was a winner with the Grizzlies, turning a dead franchise that had moved from Vancouver in the early 2000s' into a perennial playoff contender by 2010. He led the Griz to the 2013 Western Conference Finals before parting ways when the two parties couldn't agree on a contract extension.

Hollins has spent the past season watching from the sidelines, and has been a favorite of Nets officials for some time. He was a candidate for the job last summer, and was approached to replace Lawrence Frank as Kidd's top assistant in December.

Hollins brings to the Nets a coach who has veteran experience both as a winner and mentor. He found a way to make Zack Randolph, Marc Gasol and Tony Allen into All Stars with the Grizzlies, so he should have success working with the likes of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and company. He might even carry enough clout to convince someone like Paul Pierce to return to Brooklyn next season.

The Nets will be a challenge for Hollins, since they are an aging roster with a lot of bad contracts. Yet, he should be the perfect guy for the job.

Jason Kidd Officially New HC of Milwaukee Bucks

The Brooklyn Nets said good bye and good riddance to the major distraction that had become their now former head coach, Jason Kidd.

Kidd was finally sent packing to Milwaukee in exchange for two second round picks, one in 2015 and another in 2019. Not a bad exchange for a head coach who went through a rather odd first season on the bench after a Hall of Fame playing career.

Kidd proved one thing during this entire bizarre process: he's not a good man. Kidd tried everything he could to make a power play to take the rug out from underneath Nets GM Billy King, going as far as to ask owner Mikhail Prokhorov if he would promote him to General Manger with final say on all personnel matters.

Give Prokhorov credit, he didn't let Kidd's status as a HOF player and the best player in franchise history sway his decision making. He allowed his General Manager Billy King to make the move to move Kidd out of town in exchange for two minor future draft picks that may or may not result in a good player one day. But really, who cares?

The Nets are rid of the prima donna that is Jason Kidd. 

Kidd is the ultimate back stabber. From his days playing for the Nets when he tried to talk whine his way to the LA Lakers, and ultimately getting his wish in a trade to Dallas, to his back stabbing his old coach Lawrence Frank, months after he hired him as his top assistant, and now this.

All Jason Kidd has proven is that he craves power, and the more that he gets the happier he is. He got Byron Scott fired, got Frank demoted, and now got Larry Dew, the former Bucks coach fired as well. Talk about a walking case of collateral damage.

The Bucks better beware. Marc Lasry may be close to Jason Kidd, but the day will come when he will want to have more power in the Bucks organization, even if he hasn't earned it.

He more than certainly didn't earn a general manager's promotion after one mediocre season with the Nets.

His departure may be the best thing that will ever happen to the Brooklyn Nets.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Who Should Replace Jason Kidd as Nets Coach?

With reports surfacing that Jason Kidd is on his way out, and heading to Milwaukee to serve as a GM of the Bucks, the Nets are again searching for a new head coach.

While losing Kidd, initially might look like a big time blow to the Nets, as free agency is about to kick off in a couple days, there are some more than capable replacements out there. Lets' take a look a few:

Mark Jackson: Former head coach of the Golden State Warriors, who turned that franchise around, taking them to the playoffs for two consecutive seasons. Jackson has New York roots, was a former Nets broadcaster and would bring instant credibility to the table. Plus, he would be a draw to a lot of young players because of his passion for the game, and for the fact that he played the sport not too long ago. I could defiantly see someone like Deron Williams getting along well with Jackson.

George Karl: At 63-years old it's fair to ask if Karl wants to coach again, but he is one of the more successful head coaches in the NBA by far. His .599 winning percentage aside, Karl made winners out of the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics and Denver Nuggets. He coached stars like Gary Payton and Carmelo Anthony, and he'll be a calming force to this transition. The only issue is the fact that he hasn't coached in two plus years.

Lionel Hollins: It is shocking that this guy hasn't gotten a job since leaving the Memphis Grizzlies at the end of the 2012-2013 season. Hollins not only turned around the woeful Grizzlies into a winner, he was there when the team made the transition from playing in Vancouver to Memphis. The Grizzlies were a solid playoff competitor the last three years he was on the job. He even guided them to the West Finals in 2013. This guy should get a job, it's a crime he hasn't yet.

Jeff VanGundy: Because I want to make this article a little longer. Not likely to come out of his TV gig with ESPN, but VanGundy was successful in guiding the Knicks to the Finals way back in 1999. It has been a long time since he last coached in Houston. You have a better chance winning the Mega Millions.

Lawrence Frank: Talk about irony. Frank was all but fired by Kidd in December when the two of them got into a spat over philosophy. The Nets are still paying him a lot of money to sit at home and write "reports," so why not? But in all seriousness, the guy did guide the Nets not too long ago, took them to the playoffs a few times and was moderately successful. But, I think the Nets are looking at bigger fish in this pond.

Jason Kidd Likely on Way Out in Brooklyn

Well, that marriage didn't last long did it?

A year ago at this time the Nets made a precarious move when they inked their former superstar Jason Kidd as head coach, just weeks after the former point guard retired from playing. The move was received with a mixed reaction, but at the end of the day Kidd had to prove that he was worthy of being an NBA head coach with no previous coaching experience.

It looked like the experiment would become a disaster, by the end of December the Nets were 10-21 and heading south fast. Suddenly Kidd changed his ways, learned from his mistakes and the Nets put together a very solid second half to get themselves not only over .500 but into the postseason, where they won a round against the Toronto Raptors.

It looked like Kidd had made the transition with success. He went from vilified buffoon to a Coach of the Year candidate. Even Phil Jackson took notice when he tabbed Derek Fisher to coach the Knicks just days after his own retirement a few weeks ago.

Now it appears that the Nets and Kidd are heading for divorce court.

According to multiple sources, Kidd tried to coax Nets ownership into giving him more personnel duties, and the front office rebuffed. Now the Milwaukee Bucks are rumored to be potential suitors for Kidd.

The Bucks have a strong interest in making Kidd their President of Basketball Operations, and have already contacted the Nets about sending him over. Reports are that the Nets and Bucks are currently working on a compensation package for Kidd, which means that this thing could get done within hours, if not days.

It is unclear whether those duties would include coaching the Bucks.

If Kidd bolts the Nets to run the Bucks from a cozy front office seat it is both A) surprising because of the timing, and B) ultimately not surprising because Kidd was eventually going to want out from the drudgery of coaching on a daily basis.

First the timing couldn't be worse for the Nets. Free agency is about to begin, and the team wanted to re-sign veterans Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston. If Kidd leaves that could change a lot of thinking by interested free agents.

However, lets be real, Kidd is like most ex-star players. He got used to being a super star player playing in a glamorous sport and a glamorous position. He didn't have to worry about long hours, managing practices, managing player schedules, hotel and flight accommodations,  game tape analysis, coaching meetings, player-to-coach meetings, teaching, all of the things that go into coaching at a high level.

Being a head coach in the NBA is a grueling, time consuming process, and it was eventually going to eat at Kidd. To sit here and expect Kidd to be a head coach for 10+ years would have been silly. But only 1 year, and he is finished? That is insane.

According to the same reports, there are even rumors that Kidd was never really on par with GM Billy King, who "suggested a coaching change in December as the Nets were in the midst of a 10-21 start to the season." Ownership rebuffed King; Kidd got the chance to finish the year. Now Kidd wants out.

If Kidd goes, don't expect him to coach. Expect him to sit up in the owners box watching the Bucks play for a few years before he gives up on that toy for another one and another and maybe another, because, ultimately, that is what stars who have trouble replacing their glory days try to do.