Stop Being So cLINgy, Knicks Fans

[Editor’s Note: I promise that this is the last time I use a Lin-based pun in a headline on this space. No mas. You have my word and my word is bond]


Have you taken enough time to get over losing Jeremy Lin? Have your eyes dried? Have you exhausted your resources from which you draw forth venom to spew at James Dolan? Before you answer, let me first apologize for the clumsiness of that last sentence. Why didn’t I delete it and start over? Because, like Mr. Dolan, I am a glutton for punishment. Anyway, if the answer to those first few questions is no, please allow me this chance to cure what ails you…

Jeremy Lin is not worth the money. More importantly, he’s not good enough yet to be anointed the starter for the next three years. Not to this team, anyway. Not now. Not when they are in the proverbial “win-now” mode. Even if, like me, you don’t believe that this Knicks team is a legitimate title contender barring catastrophic injury to Wade/LeBron/Durant/Westbrook/Kobe/Nash/Pau/Bynum-Howard, you can still understand the win-now mentality under which management is operating. They have paid, through the nose, for star players and a deep bench. When you have a team that is constructed in that manner, you can’t afford to commit big money (and guaranteed starters minutes) to a guy who may take a while to reach his ceiling, if he reaches it at all.

What we saw during the peak of Linsanity was nothing short of amazing. It reinvigorated the team and fan base and provided us with the most thrilling stretch of basketball we’ve seen in New York since the ’99 Eastern Conference Playoff run. But when you take a step back, you see a young point guard with a lot to learn who has yet to endure the rigors of an 82 game NBA schedule. In essence, Jeremy Lin played the equivalent of an NCAA season: 35 games, only 25 of which saw him play starters minutes. And what was the end result? A season-ending injury and a drop-off in performance even before the injury. So, if we accept the win-now mentality, if we understand that the front office had already made the decision to try and make a title run with this being Melo’s team first, STAT’s team second, and relying on their nearly unparalleled depth to make up some of the difference between Miami’s superior big three and their own, is it so crazy that they went with more of a sure thing over potential greatness? Is it so ridiculous that they chose the steady-if-unspectacular Ray Felton over the young guy still learning the tricks of the trade? Can you not make the argument that Felton’s defense, physicality, and ability to be effective in Woodson’s more traditional, set-play offense, makes him a better fit for this roster than Jeremy Lin’s turnover-prone, ball-dominating, free-wheeling style? I certainly can.

[Also, as a side note here, people are making way too much out of Ray Felton’s miserable season last year. He showed up out of shape, a fact which he has readily admitted, and played on a terrible team for a coach who lost faith in him early. If you scrub last season from Felton’s resume, he’s carved out a very nice career as a good-not-great NBA point guard]

Moving on, the beef that so many Lin fans have, and that countless members of the media have articulated in the immediate aftermath of the decision not to match the Rockets offer sheet was that this decision was purely made to save James Dolan luxury tax dollars. That, due to the “stretch provision” in the new CBA, if Lin fell flat on his face, the Knicks could simply waive him and stretch the 15 million dollar cap hit in year three over a three year period. Furthermore, it was cited by numerous pundits that the value of a 15 million dollar expiring contract was undeniable. In short, the idea was that the Knicks could simply get out from the contract easily if Lin didn’t pan out in the way that they hoped. This is a little more than wishful thinking. First off, using the stretch provision would mean that for three straight years, the Knicks would be committing 5 million dollars worth of salary cap space to a guy who wouldn’t even be on the team. Second, just because a large, expiring contract has value, doesn’t mean a legitimate trade partner would materialize. Every year in the NBA multiple teams have expiring contracts that they would love to deal for assets but those deals do not go down with any kind of regularity. Remember this: these types of cost-cutting deals require the team sending out the expiring contract to take back long term salary commitments. This is the nature of that type of transaction. So in order to assume that a deal of that ilk could and would likely take place, you need to make the assumption that there would be a team out there looking to shed long-term contracts that add up to close to 15 million and that have value to the Knicks roster construction. That’s a pretty big leap of faith.

Let’s ignore the luxury tax issues for the sake of this argument. I, for one, don’t care one bit how much money James Dolan saves by not paying the exorbitant luxury tax that would have been attached to that “poison pill” in the third year of the Lin contract. Let’s also put aside all of the emotions that arose from Linsanity: the underdog story, the ethnic barrier breaking, etc. Let’s just view this move through the prism of roster management. In so doing, what I see is the Knicks front office making a shrewd move that complements the current roster and gives this team the best shot possible at hosting, and winning, a couple of playoff series next spring. It also provides at least the potential for long term roster flexibility, even if the Knicks would be approaching the luxury tax threshold with or without the Lin contract.

Could this all backfire horribly? Yes. Could Jeremy Lin become an elite point guard? Possibly. Will Jeremy Lin become an elite point guard in the next two years? Highly unlikely. So to all the real Knicks fans out there still lamenting this loss; dry your eyes. This team is better off today than it was at the end of last season and that is all that should matter.

-Max Joice

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So, given that I haven’t spent an inordinate amount of time watching Itailan Lega Basket Serie A basketball since…I was born, I really don’t know much about the Knicks new swingman, James White. Here’s what I do know:

He finished 2nd to David Lee in a high school dunk contest

He played at Cincinnati

He was drafted in the early 2nd round by the Blazers in 2006.

He has played in a grand total of 10 NBA games between the Blazers and Spurs.

He led Lega Basket Serie A in scoring and assists by non-PGs

Scouting report says he plays D, high bball IQ, doesn’t shoot well, great finisher on the break, good passer

YouTube videos say he can fly. Please watch these two short videos highlighting said leaping ability. You enjoy now please thank you.

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…to the Beijing Ducks for Stephon Marbury, a sack of rice flour, 4 steamed pork buns, a framed portrait of Yao Ming Image, and the right to acquire any top-flight talent that comes out of China over the next 7 years. The deal is reportedly contingent on Marbury agreeing to give Magic owner Rich DeVos 51% control of the Starbury sneaker brand.

Also headed to the Ducks in the deal is Hedo Turkoglu, who will then be dealt to Somali Pirates in a subsequent trade that will net the Ducks 372,000 blank DVDs for which they can use to pirate American movies and sell them to Americans by walking into Subway Inn in the middle of the day and peddling their wares to the smelly old drunks sipping Wild Turkey in the corner.

Turkolglu has no say in any of this as the Somali pirates will likely cut out his tongue.

Asked for comment on the deal, Howard simply screamed and crushed a basketball between his mammoth mitts.

Asked for comment on his inclusion in the trade, Marbury tweeted to ESPN’s Ric Bucher:

“They’re trying to put me in a box!!!#eatvaselinedaily”

Directly following that tweet, Marbury was packed into a shipping crate and placed on a cargo liner scheduled to make port at Miami in three weeks. Reports from the scene noted that a large tub of Vaseline was given to the mercurial point guard before the crate was sealed.


For more information, please piss on an electrified fence because I imagine that’s probably similarly painful to following this ever-evolving Dwightmare.


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Why Losing Out On Steve Nash Isn’t Cause To Jump Off The Brooklyn Bridge (Or Jump On The Brooklyn Nyets Bandwagon)


Somehow, over the last few weeks, it became fact that the only way for the Knicks offseason to be considered a success would be to land Steve Nash on top of bringing back Lin, Novak, JR Smith, and Landry Fields. The truth is so much more complicated than that…

First things first, it was made very clear by Nash himself that he wanted to get paid market value or close to it. This is coming from a guy who was second in the league in assists last year, scored in double digits, and shot over 50% from the field. Market value for a PG of that caliber is way above what the Knicks ever had to offer (either the $3.09 Mil taxpayer exemption or the full $5.3 Mil mid-level exception, depending on what other internal free agents re-signed and for what dollar amounts). Nash was never going to play for either of those figures when there were other teams out there clearly willing to go to market value and beyond (ahem, Raptors…we’ll get to them in a minute). So if you accept that as true (which it clearly is) then the only route the Knicks ever had to acquire Nash was via a sign-and-trade that would have cost the Knicks Landry Fields, Toney Douglas, and expiring contracts of players not worthy enough to even be mentioned by name here in this space. That would have been a very acceptable trade to Knicks fans. But if the Lakers were always out there, lurking with their draft picks and trade exemptions, the Knicks offer may never have had a legit shot at getting accepted anyway. That brings us to the reports that surfaced this week, and persisted all the way up until the PHX-LA trade was announced, that in lieu of Landry Fields, the Suns would take Iman Shumpert in a deal for Nash. This is where I immediately switched from ‘all in’ to ‘all out’ on the Nash sign and trade idea.

Would Nash have made the Knicks a better team this year and next? Absolutely. He would have organized the offense, created easier shots for all of the varied weapons that the Knicks posses, his gravitas and leadership skills would have helped unify the Melo-STAT-Chandler troika, and he would have provided sage tutelage to Jeremy Lin (who would make an awesome back up, by the way). All of that said, would that team be capable of beating a healthy Miami Heat squad in a seven game series?


This is why the idea of trading a valuable, affordable, defensive-minded SG with a developing offensive game for the right to lose to the Heat in the playoffs just didn’t sit well with me. Furthermore, the sign and trade would have meant that Nash was coming in with a cap hit that would figure to sit in the $8-10 Million range annually. This would have created an even more restrictive salary cap situation for the Knicks than the one they currently find themselves in and would essentially remove the mid-level exception as a roster building tool for the duration of the Nash contract.

I promised that I’d get back to the Raptors…nobody loses more in this whole turn of events than them. They essentially signed Landry Fields to a grossly inflated offer sheet to remove him as a trade chip with which the Knicks could acquire Nash. His contract was meant to be, essentially, collateral damage in the Nash pursuit. Since the Nash pursuit failed…egg, meet Bryan Colangelo’s face. No matter what the Raptors prez/GM says in the coming weeks about how they really love Landry, how he fits the offense, great upside, blah, blah, blah, just remember that it’s all shameless spin-doctorism. In reality, they already have a better version of Fields in DeMar DeRozan and they just drafted another athletic wing, Terrence Ross, with their lottery pick. Given that, it’s hard to see how Landry even fits in the rotation, much less seems worthy of $6-7 million annually over three years. Since all indications are that the Knicks will not match this offer sheet, two things happen:

1)      The Raptors get sidled with a bad contract that will most likely haunt them for three years or more and

2)       The Knicks will have a chance to stay under the luxury tax apron, thereby magically transforming $3.09 million to spend on a “meh, if that’s all that’s out there…” free agent into $5.3 million to spend on a “ok, he can definitely help” free agent.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The new CBA is so complicated that I have no idea whether or not what I just asserted is actually true. What I know is this: teams that have a payroll in excess of $74 million dollars are forced to pay the luxury tax. Teams that are paying the luxury tax are not allowed to use the full mid-level exception and only have the smaller taxpayer exemption and minimum salary contracts as roster building tools. Therefore, if the Knicks manage to stay below that $74 million figure, they may be able to use that full mid-level. Possibly. Probably. Get it? Got it? Fantastic.

Forgetting about all of the math and salary cap flimflammery, the fact is this: Knicks fans should be ecstatic today that James Dolan didn’t manage to, once again, mortgage the future for a not-good-enough present. Three cheers for accidental prudence.


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Top Five NBA MVP Candidates


As one of the most titillating, tumultuous, and tremendously interesting seasons in recent NBA history winds down, the Outsiders want to know who you think deserves this year’s MVP award. Here’s my list, in order:

1. Derrick Rose

His numbers are sick: 25 ppg, 8 apg, 4 rpg, 1spg and 37 minutes per game. Past that? Oh, just the best record in the East (51-19) and the second best record in the entire league behind the Spurs. Furthermore, he’s about he most user-friendly dude in the league, always accessible to the media and from what I hear, the fans too. He defends well, plays his heart out all the time and is the best leaper the Windy City has seen since some dude who wore Number 23…Michael somethingorother. He could also be the league’s most-improved player and is on the way to a historical career.

2.  Dwight Howard

In Dwight’s case, his numbers, which are astounding by any measure, do not tell the whole story. 23 ppg, 14rpg, 2.5 bpg, 1.5 spg, and he shoots 60 percent from the field. But at the end of the day, the fact of the matter is, Dwight Howard is literally other Dwight Howard’s (as opposed to head and shoulders, get it?) above his competition. He’s the only center you need to really game plan for in the league, with the exception, arguably, of Andrew Bynum. There are other solid centers a la Tyson Chandler and Brook Lopez out there, but nobody comes close to Howard. He completely changes the game defensively as well, to the point where guys miss wide open layups simply because he’s in the vicinity. He’s led the Orlando Magic to an impressive 46-26 record and you should expect this team to make substantial noise in the playoffs. Although I still lean heavily towards D. Rose, Dwight actually isn’t too far behind.

3.  LeCon James

As much as it sickens me to admit it, I still put LeCon third. You just cannot rationally argue against 26 ppg, more than 7 rpg, 7 apg, 1.4 spg and a division leading 49-22 record. Nonetheless, his inability to close out games is crystal clear at this point and, as so many of us have said over and over again, the man just does not have a Jordanesque killer instinct. Oh, also, you suck, LeBron.

4. Dirk Nowitzki

NOTE: After the top three, I’d say it’s all VERY arguable from this point on. Dirk’s numbers, as per usual, are terrific: 23 ppg, 7 rpg, 2.5 apg, 89% from the line, 41% from the three point line, 53% from the field and the Mavs are an impressive 49-21. Add to that that Mavs suffer terribly when Dirk’s out of the lineup and what you have is a very strong case for a fourth place finish.

5. Kobe Bryant 

25 ppg, 5 rpg, 5 apg and the third best record in the league at 51-20. Amazing defense and heart and the guy’s been battling various injuries all year long. Kobe, much like Dirk, is of such great importance to his team that even if his numbers were slightly lower he’d still have to be in the conversation.

Honorable mention: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Amar’e Stoudemire. So what do you guys think? Totally disagree? Awesome. Tell us why.

-by Jamie Fedorko

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NCAA Tournament-7 Things We’ve Learned So Far

The Outsiders Love of Gus is Boundless

1) Little East was Overrated

Pitino failed to handle Morehead….at least this time it was on the basketball court and not in the bedroom [cue crowd-eye roll].  The wounded Johnnies showed up…but that’s about all they did.  Jay Wright proved his Wildcats shouldn’t have gotten a bid, and Georgetown showed us that JT-III is no JT-II. Is Gerogetown the T-Mac of the NCAA?  Yes, Uconn is 2-0, but they’ve played one high-school team and a fellow LittleEast team.  Pitt, the lone one-seed in this “power” conference, lost in what was probably the greatest game of the tournament…but to Butler, the eight seed.

2) Butler is Legit

I’m not sure how much longer Butler can handcuff Brad Stevens to their head coaching chair, but the longer the better for Bulldog fans.  This team has not only arrived, but they aren’t departing anytime soon.  They have legitimate ballers in Howard and Mack, a big-time coach in Stevens, and two-straight sweet-sixteen appearances including being 6 inches from a national championship last season.  They play hard, smart, and don’t quit.  Sounds like another midwest team….has Brad Stevens become the next Tom Izzo?

3) Tom Izzo isn’t God, But Close

For years, MSU was the little brother to Michigan’s elder.  Izzo has flipped this around and made a perrenial powerhouse with the Spartan program.  He managed to receive a tournament bid (after kicking a starting guard off the team) and although they lost, it was one of the greatest tournament comebacks I had ever seen (they were down 23 with 8 and change to go and lost by 2), and he did so despite hes “star” Kalin Lucas contributing as much as Nate Dogg will on the next Dre album (too soon?).  It isn’t news that Izzo is a supertstar and hall-of-famer, but it’s nice to see it in action year after year. To be fair, the Spartans were only in the tournament as a result of this being the weakest field in tournament history.

4) Weakest Field Ever

(You’re starting to love my segues, aren’t you?) The 64 teams in the tournament have a combined loss total greater than any other year in history.  Notre Dame and Florida may be two of the weakest two-seeds the field has ever seen, and there is seemingly not one great team in this bracket. All this parity talk isn’t necessarily a positive thing, is it?  This also confirms my assessment that this upcoming NBA draft will be just as weak.  I wholeheartedly subscribe to the “2-years removed from high-school” rule the NFL has in effect and wish the NBA would adopt the same policy, but that is for another post entirely.

5) The 2012 NBA Draft < Interesting

We don’t need much explanation for this do we?  This tournament’s “stars” aren’t exactly all-star prospects.  Sullinger is underdeveloped and I what I believe to be a “low-ceiling” guy. Jimmer is 50-5. Kemba is an under-sized 2 and not a complete 1. Kahwi hasn’t showed up for the dance yet, and Kalin Lucas destroyed his draft value while simultaneously failing to penetrate a freshman UCLA defender for 40 minutes.  Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried might be the best potential pro, and hes no more than a homeless man’s Dennis Rodman.  I am, however, glad my Pistons will be drafting in the top ten this year so Joe Dumars can showcase his inability to draft.

6) Jay Bilas = Best Analyst on Television

The guy flat out says it like it is.  Yes, he was the most outspoken when it came to VCU not deserving a bid, but he was RIGHT! THEY DIDN’T!  It doesn’t matter how far this miracle team plows through this weak field, you get your bids based on the regular season (or in Izzo’s case…past performance) not what you accomplish during the tournament.  Either way, Bilas is quite possibly the best college analyst out there.  If you are on Twitter and you’re not following his brilliance, you should be here.  Now that were on the topic of analysts, how great is the four network coverage?!

7) We Were WAY Overdue

TNT, CBS, TBS, and the horrendous “HD” TruTv have been absolutely phenomenal. The seamless meshing of the Turner network’s NBA guys with the CBS mainstays has been a joy to follow.  I don’t even mind the addition of Pitino! My favorite utterance was delivered by Greg Anthony…”how about the lack of upsets this round?” What?! He says this while sitting 6 inches from Pitino, who was fresh off getting ousted by Moorehead.  The look on Rick’s face made his presence worth it.  Four options, great analysts, better coverage, and a Gus Johnson sighting (if you are a Gus Johnson fan, please see this)make this year special regardless of the lesser quality product.

-by Lowell Ahee


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The No Fun League Strikes Again

As if the lockout weren’t enough…

Over the last few years we’ve seen a surge in player-safety-based rule changes in the NFL that are gradually alienating fans nearly as much as, if not more than, the lockout itself. It started with the rules designed to protect the QB which, while sound in theory, have changed the way that defenders attack opposing signal callers. When flying off the edge on a pass rush, defenders are now supposed to pull up and lay nary a finger on the QB once the ball has been released. Anyone who has played football knows that this is MUCH easier said than done and there have been countless “roughing the passer” calls that never should have been.

Last year, the emphasis on penalizing hits to the head, spearing, or helmet-to-helmet contact  of any kind was the talk of the league. Again, while sound in theory and designed strictly to protect the players from brutal collisions that lead to concussions and other dangerous injuries, it’s a very difficult thing to police. When players are flying around a football field at breakneck speed, collisions are going to happen in which there is incidental helmet-to-helmet contact. Yes, egregious and blatant use of the helmet as a weapon (ahem…James Harrison) should be penalized but referees were far to quick on the trigger with the call last season leading to a lot of momentum-killing, drive-prolonging penalties that sapped the swagger of defensive units.

Now, the owners have voted to approve a rule change that will reduce the number of kick-returns and the ferocity of hits on the returns that do actually take place. In the 90’s, owners voted to move the kick-off spot back by five yards specifically to decrease the number of touchbacks and boost a potentially exciting part of the game, thereby giving the fans another reason to stay glued to their TV sets on Sunday afternoons. It worked like a charm. Kick return TDs nearly doubled in a decade-and-change. In the process, marginal players like Devin Hester, Josh Cribbs, and Leon Washington became stars due to their kick-return prowess and ability to thrill the fans. Let’s face it, there are few plays more exciting then a kick-return touchdown.

With the new rule change, which moves the kick-off spot forward by five yards and will lead to more touchbacks, there will be far less exciting plays on kick-offs. In an effort to keep the balance a little bit and bestow a slight advantage on the return teams, kick-off coverage units will only get a 5 yard head start, as opposed to the 10-15 yard head start previously allowed, with which to get down field and make a play. This should, in theory, reduce the severity of impacts on return plays.

This strikes me as an overall asinine rule change. Injuries will still be possible on any play. This is football. It’s a brutal contact sport and anyone who chooses to play the sport knows exactly what they are getting into. If we’re honest with ourselves, the brutality of the game is part of our attraction to it. It holds the same bent-appeal that gladiator fights at the coliseum in ancient Rome held. We crave  sanctioned violence. It is entertainment at its most basic and that is one of the reasons why the NFL is the most profitable sports organization in North America. It also puts teams that have spent serious money on kick-return specialists, and teams that thrived in kick-return situations, like the Jets, Bears, and Browns, in a tough spot.

I understand the need for player safety, especially after seeing the plight of so many ex-players who have struggled mightily to cope with debilitating head injuries that get worse over time. It makes sense on a practical level. But football is a sport, an athletic competition, and anyone who engages in sport willingly puts their body at risk for the sake of the game. If the NFL continues down its current path, they might as well just go all the way and make it a flag-football league.

-by Max Joice Continue reading

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