Sunday, July 11, 2010

In Isiah the Knicks STILL Trust

In case you have missed this lets put this out there: Donnie Walsh would consider hiring Isiah Thomas for the GM position.

Ok. Let me repeat that: Donnie Walsh would consider hiring Isiah Thomas for the GM position.

In the days leading up to free agency and the moments leading up to the decision, Thomas was the go-to guy to sweet talk the free agents into coming to New York. He is credited with getting Amar’e Stoudemire on board and almost had Joe Johnson convinced about coming to the Big Apple.

Walsh has considered bringing in a general manager, but according ESPN’s Chris Broussard “Walsh said he hasn’t hired a general manager for financial reasons.”

This looming fear won’t play well with the fans tortured this past decade. Many have lived through Isiah’s ups and downs, but there is no desire to see him at the helm of a franchise which has worked hard to clean the stain he left on this once proud team.

This isn’t to say that Thomas isn’t a brilliant college scout and it would make sense to bring Thomas in as a scouting director if Walsh and owner James Dolan wanted their guy back in the organization.

As far as GM candidates go, the list would be endless and it wouldn’t be shocking for New York to essentially cherry pick whomever they wanted from their current posts.

Of the currently unemployed candidates, former Blazer GM Kevin Pritchard seems to be a logical choice and his track record has been outstanding. Those who would argue that look at the Greg Oden over Kevin Durant draft choice as his major blunder. A pick that many current and former decision makers would have done too.

In Pritchard, they would get someone who understands the European market and understands how to work within the framework of the NBA salary structure to always leave the team wiggle room to make moves to continuously better the team. He also surrounds himself with talented basketball and financial minds, including current ESPN capologist Tom Penn.

It is disappointing to hear that Walsh is considering giving second chances to Thomas while it is so clear that Thomas’ first misstep this time around could create an even greater disconnect between the Knicks and the city that wants to love them.

Get ready New York because it is about to happen and maybe it is time to hop on the Prokhorov/Jay-Z bandwagon. If the Thomas re-hiring is imminent, no one would blame you.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Nationals Reign: Domination Begins In 2012

The nation has been witness to the dominance of Stephen Strasburg and now it’s time for the Washington Nationals to claim their spot among the upper echelon of baseball.

While it is obvious that this franchise has been in shambles for years, the Nationals benefited from their ineptitude by getting Strasburg and teenage hitting phenom Bryce Harper. These unique talents are once in a generation types that become cornerstones of championship quality teams.

Having both in addition to Ryan Zimmerman and Drew Storen gives the Nationals four players who each solidify specific needs found on dynastic teams (i.e. the Yankess big four of Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera).

The assets the Nationals have acquired during these years of loss and disappointment situate them to make a serious push in the next few seasons. This push could last for at least a decade.

If you look at similar franchises and project the future salary budget of this team in a major media market it would reasonable to see them with $100 to $140 million payroll. Their current payroll is $61.5 million and roughly half of what it will be once they are ready to become a contender.

Here is a reasonable blueprint for the Nationals path to a championship:

(At the beginning of this upcoming off season, the Nationals will have only $24.4 million committed dollars that could grow to $52 million through arbitration.)

1. Lockup the foursome immediately. Give Zimmerman a 10 year, $150 million dollar deal. How about a 12 year, $200 million for Strasburg? Harper would be a steal at 10 year, 170 million. Storen could be a little more economical at 8 yr, $48 million.

(The payroll would go to up to $67.4 of guaranteed cash before arbitration. Let’s call it $85 million.)

2. What to do with Adam Dunn. Dunn has been a loyal and productive player without complaining or demanding a trade. He wants to be in Washington and it would make sense to keep unless another team offers up a few choice prospects. It would make sense to sign him unless they…

3. Make room for Prince Fielder. Fielder will be a free agent following next season and that would fit with the arrival of Bryce Harper. A 3-4-5 punch of Harper-Zimmerman-Fielder would be among baseball’s best and produce the runs that have eluded the Nationals this year and in years past.

(Payroll with Dunn $100 million, with Fielder $103, with another lesser known first baseman $91 million)

4. Sign or trade for a top of the rotation pitcher. Strasburg is going to be a star and will be an ace for several years, but a pennant caliber team needs two guys at the top of their rotation. The pitching free agent market looks bleak and there is only one man to be had. His name is Cliff Lee and he will be available after this season. While it is highly unlikely Lee would sign with a team no ready to contend, it is worth making a pitch to bring him in. A signing like this and bringing in Fielder would make waves in baseball and establish the Nationals as a championship contender.

(Payroll with Lee is $120 million.)

5. Complementary pieces put in place. The Nationals have pieces ready to fill these roles. Ian Desmond is a year or two away from being a solid infielder who could give them power in the bottom half of the lineup and possibly become an option at the 2-hole. The rotation, as presently constructed, has three started who could fill out the rest of the rotation. John Lannan, Scott Olsen and a healthy Jordan Zimmerman. Tyler Clippard is a solid seventh inning guy and could help their eighth inning setup man. The other pitchers vying for rotation spots could be used to fill out the bullpen. For instance maybe Detwiler becomes a lefty specialist or he claims a rotation spot.

6. Players on the horizon. What is left to be said about Bryce Harper? Virtually everyone agrees that Harper will be a unique talent and can be penciled in for several All-Star appearances. However it makes sense for Harper to become the everyday right fielder so that could allow another prospect Derek Norris to handle the catching duties beginning next year. Norris could learn a lot from Pudge and the transition could also extend Rodriguez’s career another season as he shares catching duties with Norris. Chris Marrero could start the switch from playing first base and be groomed to be Willingham’s left field replacement. His experience at first base could come in handy if they don’t pursue the two options previously suggested for the position. Danny Espinosa will allow Ian Desmond to move over to second base allowing Espinosa to play his natural position where he excels at.

7. Feed the farm. The farm system has begun to yield some pro-level talent and there will be more to come, but it is important to continue acquiring assets and nurture their young talent. This process could see an influx at the trading deadline if the Nationals decide to move some of their veterans for prospects. Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and Jason Marquis could bring back a few players who could help the team down the road. This process was hindered greatly by the wrongdoings of the previous regime and it is important Rizzo continues the development if this talent resource.

How about this 2012 Opening Day roster:






Fielder or Dunn-1B





Rotation and bullpen:


Cliff Lee

Scott Olsen

Jordan Zimmerman

John Lannan

Setup: Detwiler and Clippard

Closer: Storen

TOTAL PAYROLL: $120 million

The future is beginning to look like a full ballpark and talent on the field that could be a once-in-a-generation experience that will continue to be appointment television and attendance. A dynasty is coming at all of us quick.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Who Needs Ilya Kovalchuk? The Devils Should Sign Bobby Ryan

While Lou Lamoriello battles other general managers over superstar left winger Ilya Kovalchuk, there is a curious question not being asked by Devils analysts and fans. Why not spend their surplus of cash on a player who could potentially make more sense for the short and long term success of the franchise?

That player is none other than future star, standout U.S. Olympian and New Jersey native right winger Bobby Ryan.

Ryan, 23, is currently a restricted free agent from the Anaheim Ducks and could come to the Devils for a lower price than Kovalchuk is sure to receive. Ryan recently turned down two offers from the Ducks and is looking for something in the neighborhood of $6 million. This number is something the Devils could workout by creating a long-term deal to build their franchise around him and superstar left winger Zach Parise.

Unlike Kovalchuk, Ryan would be a proper fit for the Devils system and create a top line of Parise, center Travis Zajac and himself. This line would feature to 30 goal scorers and would be among the best, if not the best, in all of hockey. We were witness to Ryan's high level of skill at the Olympics and his numbers in Anaheim suggest he is on the verge of superstardom.

A superstar who could give the Devils two of the top American born forwards in the game and help the dismal attendance, just saying.

Having another prolific scorer on the roster creates flexibility during the season for other interesting pairings. For instance, they could slide Ryan to the second line and pair him with Jason Arnott and Patrick Elias. This also would strengthen the power play unit that has been known to go anemic during crucial stretches of the regular and post-season.

Of course there would be a hefty cost that goes along with signing a Group 2 RFA, but the loss of up to 3 draft picks is easily worth it. Remember this is a front office notorious for finding talent late in the draft and through minor free agent acquisitions, which turn into major players.

Although this signing would likely leave the Devils with no cap room, they would be in a great position when the trade deadline rolls around.

With valuable players with valuable expiring contracts, the Devils could be in a great spot to bring back players who could help New Jersey hoist its fourth Stanley Cup.

It all begins with bringing in the superstar that completes a top line that will be set to dominate for the next decade. So Mr. Lamoriello, please sign Bobby Ryan and let Kovalchuk be a chemistry killer somewhere else.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chuck Klosterman's "23 Questions I Ask Everybody I Meet In Order To Decide If I Can Really Love Them"

These are questions from Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs*. I enjoy them and like to use them as often as possible.

Here you go:

1. Let us assume you met a rudimentary magician. Let us assume he can do five simple tricks--he can pull a rabbit out of his hat, he can make a coin disappear, he can turn the ace of spades into the Joker card, and two others in a similar vein. These are his only tricks and he can't learn any more; he can only do these five. HOWEVER, it turns out he's doing these five tricks with real magic. It's not an illusion; he can actually conjure the bunny out of the ether and he can move the coin through space. He's legitimately magical, but extremely limited in scope and influence.

Would this person be more impressive than Albert Einstein?

2. Let us assume a fully grown, completely healthy Clydesdale horse has his hooves shackled to the ground while his head is held in place with thick rope. He is conscious and standing upright, but completely immobile. And let us assume that--for some reason--every political prisoner on earth (as cited by Amnesty International) will be released from captivity if you can kick this horse to death in less than twenty minutes. You are allowed to wear steel-toed boots.

Would you attempt to do this?

3. Let us assume there are two boxes on a table. In one box, there is a relatively normal turtle; in the other, Adolf Hitler's skull. You have to select one of these items for your home. If you select the turtle, you can't give it away and you have to keep it alive for two years; if either of these parameters are not met, you will be fined $999 by the state. If you select Hitler's skull, you are required to display it in a semi-prominent location in your living room for the same amount of time, although you will be paid a stipend of $120 per month for doing so. Display of the skull must be apolitical.

Which option do you select?

4. Genetic engineers at Johns Hopkins University announce that they have developed a so-called "super gorilla." Though the animal cannot speak, it has a sign language lexicon of over twelve thousand words, an I.Q. of almost 85, and--most notably--a vague sense of self-awareness. Oddly, the creature (who weighs seven hundred pounds) becomes fascinated by football. The gorilla aspires to play the game at its highest level and quickly develops the rudimentary skills of a defensive end. ESPN analyst Tom Jackson speculates that this gorilla would be "borderline unblockable" and would likely average six sacks a game (although Jackson concedes the beast might be susceptible to counters and misdirection plays). Meanwhile, the gorilla has made it clear he would never intentionally injure any opponent.

You are commissioner of the NFL: Would you allow this gorilla to sign with the Oakland Raiders?

5. You meet your soul mate. However, there is a catch: Every three years, someone will break both of your soul mate's collarbones with a Crescent wrench, and there is only one way you can stop this from happening: You must swallow a pill that will make every song you hear--for the rest of your life--sound as if it's being performed by the band Alice in Chains. When you hear Creedence Clearwater Revival on the radio, it will sound (to your ears) like it's being played by Alice in Chains. If you see Radiohead live, every one of their tunes will sound like it's being covered by Alice in Chains. When you hear a commercial jingle on TV, it will sound like Alice in Chains; if you sing to yourself in the shower, your voice will sound like deceased Alice vocalist Layne Staley performing a capella (but it will only sound this way to you).

Would you swallow the pill?

6. At long last, someone invents "the dream VCR." This machine allows you to tape an entire evening's worth of your own dreams, which you can then watch at your leisure. However, the inventor of the dream VCR will only allow you to use this device of you agree to a strange caveat: When you watch your dreams, you must do so with your family and your closest friends in the same room. They get to watch your dreams along with you. And if you don't agree to this, you can't use the dream VCR.

Would you still do this?

7. Defying all expectation, a group of Scottish marine biologists capture a live Loch Ness Monster. In an almost unbelievable coincidence, a bear hunter in the Pacific Northwest shoots a Sasquatch in the thigh, thereby allowing zoologists to take the furry monster into captivity. These events happen on the same afternoon. That evening, the president announces he may have thyroid cancer and will undergo a biopsy later that week.

You are the front-page editor of The New York Times: What do you play as the biggest story?

8. You meet the perfect person. Romantically, this person is ideal: You find them physically attractive, intellectually stimulating, consistently funny, and deeply compassionate. However, they have one quirk: This individual is obsessed with Jim Henson's gothic puppet fantasy The Dark Crystal. Beyond watching it on DVD at least once a month, he/she peppers casual conversation with Dark Crystal references, uses Dark Crystal analogies to explain everyday events, and occasionally likes to talk intensely about the film's "deeper philosophy."

Would this be enough to stop you from marrying this individual?

9. A novel titled Interior Mirror is released to mammoth commerical success (despite middling reviews). However, a curious social trend emerges: Though no one can prove a direct scientific link, it appears that almost 30 percent of the people who read this book immediately become homosexual. Many of these newfound homosexuals credit the book for helping them reach this conclusion about their orientation, despite the fact that Interior Mirror is ostensibly a crime novel with no homoerotic content (and was written by a straight man).

Would this phenomenon increase (or decrease) the likliehood of you reading this book?

10. This is the opening line of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City: "You are not the kind of guy who would be in a place like this at this time of the morning." Think about that line in the context of the novel (assuming you've read it). Now go to your CD collection and find Heart's Little Queen album (assuming you own it). Listen to the opening riff to "Barracuda."

Which of these two introductions is a higher form of art?

11. You are watching a movie in a crowded theater. Though the plot is mediocre, you find yourself dazzled by the special effects. But with twenty minutes left in the film, you are struck with an undeniable feeling of doom: You are suddenly certain your mother has just died. There is no logical reason for this to be true, but you are certain of it. You are overtaken with the irrational metaphysical sense that--somewhere--your mom has just perished. But this is only an intuitive, amorphous feeling; there is no evidence for this, and your mother has not been ill.

Would you immediately exit the theater, or would you finish watching the movie?

12. You meet a wizard in downtown Chicago. The wizard tells you he can make you more attractive if you pay him money. When you ask how this process works, the wizard points to a random person on the street. You look at this random stranger. The wizard says, "I will now make them a dollar more attractive." He waves his magic wand. Ostensibly, this person does not change at all; as far as you can tell, nothing is different. But--somehow--this person is suddenly a little more appealing. The tangible difference is invisible to the naked eye, but you can't deny that this person is vaguely sexier. This wizard has a weird rule, though--you can only pay him once. You can't keep giving him money until you're satisfied. You can only pay him one lump sum up front.

How much cash do you give the wizard?

13. Every person you have ever slept with is invited to a banquet where you are the guest of honor. No one will be in attendance except you, the collection of your former lovers, and the catering service. After the meal, you are asked to give a fifteen-minute speech to the assembly.

What do you talk about?

14. For reasons that cannot be explained, cats can suddenly read at a twelfth-grade level. They can't talk and they can't write, but they can read silently and understand the text. Many cats love this new skill, because they now have something to do all day while they lay around the house; however, a few cats become depressed, because reading forces them to realize the limitations of their existence (not to mention the utter frustration of being unable to express themselves).

This being the case, do you think the average cat would enjoy Garfield, or would cats find this cartoon to be an insulting caricature?

15. You have a brain tumor. Though there is no discomfort at the moment, this tumor would unquestionably kill you in six months. However, your life can (and will) be saved by an operation; the only downside is that there will be a brutal incision to your frontal lobe. After the surgery, you will be significantly less intelligent. You will still be a fully functioning adult, but you will be less logical, you will have a terrible memory, and you will have little ability to understand complex concepts or difficult ideas. The surgery is in two weeks.

How do you spend the next fourteen days?

16. Someone builds and optical portal that allows you to see a vision of your own life in the future (it’s essentially a crystal ball that shows a randomly selected image of what your life will be like in twenty years). You can only see into this portal for thirty seconds. When you finally peer into the crystal, you see yourself in a living room, two decades older than you are today. You are watching a Canadian football game, and you are extremely happy. You are wearing a CFL jersey. Your chair is surrounded by books and magazines that promote the Canadian Football League, and there are CFL pennants covering your walls. You are alone in the room, but you are gleefully muttering about historical moments in Canadian football history. It becomes clear that—for some unknown reason—you have become obsessed with Canadian football. And this future is static and absolute; no matter what you do, this future will happen. The optical portal is never wrong. This destiny cannot be changed.

The next day, you are flipping through television channels and randomly come across a pre-season CFL game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Knowing your inevitable future, do you now watch it?

17. You are sitting in an empty bar (in a town you’ve never before visited), drinking Bacardi with a soft-spoken acquaintance you barely know. After an hour, a third individual walks into the tavern and sits by himself, and you ask your acquaintance who the new man is. “Be careful of that guy,” you are told. “He is a man with a past.” A few minutes later, a fourth person enters the bar; he also sits alone. You ask your acquaintance who this new individual is. “Be careful of that guy, too,” he says. “He is a man with no past.”

Which of these two people do you trust less?

18. You have won a prize. The prize has two options, and you can choose either (but not both). The first option is a year in Europe with a monthly stipend of $2,000. The second option is ten minutes on the moon.

Which option do you select?

19. Your best friend is taking a nap on the floor of your living room. Suddenly, you are faced with a bizarre existential problem: This friend is going to die unless you kick them (as hard as you can) in the rib cage. If you don’t kick them while they slumber, they will never wake up. However, you can never explain this to your friend; if you later inform them that you did this to save their life, they will also die from that. So you have to kick a sleeping friend in the ribs, and you can’t tell them why.

Since you cannot tell your friend the truth, what excuse will you fabricate to explain this (seemingly inexplicable) attack?

20. For whatever the reason, two unauthorized movies are made about your life. The first is an independently released documentary, primarily comprised of interviews with people who know you and bootleg footage from your actual life. Critics are describing the documentary as “brutally honest and relentlessly fair.” Meanwhile, Columbia Tri-Star has produced a big-budget biopic of your life, casting major Hollywood stars as you and all your acquaintances; though the movie is based on actual events, screenwriters have taken some liberties with the facts. Critics are split on the artistic merits of this fictionalized account, but audiences love it.

Which film would you be most interested in seeing?

21. Imagine you could go back to the age of five and relive the rest of your life, knowing everything that you know now. You will re-experience your entire adolescence with both the cognitive ability of an adult and the memories of everything you’ve learned form having lived your life previously.

Would you lose your virginity earlier or later than you did the first time around (and by how many years)?

22. You work in an office. Generally, you are popular with your coworkers. However, you discover that there are currently two rumors circulating the office gossip mill, and both involve you. The first rumor is that you got drunk at the office holiday party and had sex with one of your married coworkers. This rumor is completely true, but most people don’t believe it. The second rumor is that you have been stealing hundreds of dollars of office supplies (and then selling them to cover a gambling debt). This rumor is completely false, but virtually everyone assumes it is factual.

Which of these two rumors is most troubling to you?

23. Consider this possibility:

a. Think about deceased TV star John Ritter.

b. Now, pretend Ritter had never become famous. Pretend he was never affected by the trappings of fame, and try to imagine what his personality would have been like.

c. Now, imagine that this person—the unfamous John Ritter—is a character in a situation comedy.

d. Now, you are also a character in this sitcom, and the unfamous John Ritter character is your sitcom father.

e. However, this sitcom is actually your real life. In other words, you are living inside a sitcom: Everything about our life is a construction, featuring the unfamous John Ritter playing himself (in the role of your TV father). But this is not a sitcom. This is your real life.

How would you feel about this?

Regrouping FromThe Inevitable Gut Punch: A 2010 Knicks' Off-Season Audible

The "worst case scenario" seems to be unfolding as the Summer of 2010 is about to become real. The best opportunities are not in Manhattan and reside in other cities with rosters ready-made for multiple NBA Finals trip. However, there are possibilities to build something special in New York, and it could begin with a front office splash and measured by an off-season plan where all the cap space created isn't thrown away hastily.

The Portland Trail Blazers' implosion and unraveling could benefit the Knicks greatly as Donnie Walsh hires Kevin Pritchard to be the new GM. Since Walsh is the President, he would retain the right to sign-off on Pritchard's work, which has be nothing short of spectacular, and groom an heir apparent. It would also make sense for Pritchard to hire another bright basketball mind to come over as an Assistant GM.

With a braintrust of Walsh, Pritchard, Grunwald, D'Antoni and an Assistant GM, highly thought out moves could push the Knicks forward and build the foundation that was lacking as they entered this free agency bonanza.

With a loaded front office blending both wisdom and new wave ingenuity, here are some non-LBJ alternatives to laying the foundation:

1. Trade for Chris Paul. This is the pillar of a D'Antoni team. A top point guard like Paul brings the wrinkle to the offense that could mean 10 more wins right off the bat. While it would be great to finalize this trade prior to July 8th, it is important to exercise patience to ensure this deal isn't crippling down the road. Emeka Okafor and his huge cap number is expected to be a key to this deal, but the Hornets have been hitting roadblocks in trying to move that insufferable contract.

It may make sense for the Hornets to unload Peja Stojakovic or James Posey or both. This will be beneficial both financially and personnel wise considering the Hornets drafted players to fill the positions occupied by Morris Peterson, Stojakovic and Posey.

The proposed deal is Eddy Curry, Wilson Chandler and cash for Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic/James Posey.

2. Make a pitch to sign Bosh and settle for Tyrus Thomas. Chris Bosh has made it very obvious that his new team is directly linked to where LeBron or Wade lands, but if he sees a plan laid out that includes Chris Paul that could change things.

This could be far-fetched considering that Bosh, like the other marquee free agents, wants to win now and a few years of building isn't what he wants.

And this is where a Tyrus Thomas backup plan could serve as a formidable and less expensive option. Charlotte has already made a qualifying offer to their young power forward, but it is worth making a play for him since his fast motor would fit well with the run-and-gun offense used by D'Antoni.

The proposed offer is a four year, $32 million contract with a player opt out after the third year.

3. Make a pitch to sign Anthony Morrow. Many of us aren't familiar with the slick shooting shooting guard of the Golden State Warriors, but this restricted free agent has thrived in a fast tempo offense the past two seasons. A contract offer for Morrow would be in a range that could afford the Knicks cap flexibility beyond this summer.

The prosed offer is a four year, $24 million contract.

4. Roster filling without hindering. As painful as it was to not have a lottery pick this year, the Knicks did draft two players who fit into D'Antoni's system. Rautins is a fantastic shooter and Fields supplies the athleticism this team has craved for years.

There are still several positions that need to be filled by other free agents of lesser name, but could fit into a sleeper team in the Eastern Conference.

The one or two year offers could be made to Channing Frye, Mike Miller, Kyle Korver, Amir Johnson, Al Harrington, Hakim Warrick or others.

5. Future considerations. The effective use of contract length and an unwillingness to over extend contracts should leave the Knicks in a position to have considerable cap room from year to year. It could mean a shot at Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant or other future free agent All-Star down the road.

Here is a look at the proposed 2010-11 lineup (with cap figures):

Starting Lineup:

PG: Chris Paul (3 years, $13.7 million per year)

SG: Anthony Morrow (4 years, $6 million/year)

SF: Danilo Gallinari (2 years, $3.3 million/year)

PF: Tyrus Thomas (4 years, $8 million/year)

C: Amir Johnson (1 year, $5 million/year)


PGs: Toney Douglas(3 years, $1.1 million/year)

SGs: James Posey (2 years, $6 million/year)

SFs: Andy Rautins (1 year, $750K/year) , Landry Fields (1 year, $750K/year), Bill Walker (2 years, $900K/year)

PF: Channing Frye (5 years $5 million/year)

C: Jerome Jordan (1 year, $750K/year)

Total Salary Costs: $56.25 million ($250K over the cap)

2011 Potential Cap Room and Assets: $12 million and a first round draft pick (Houston has right to swap picks)

This lineup would be good enough to make the playoffs while providing cap flexibility to make a move to acquire a marquee player at the trade deadline or in future free agency periods.

While I am sure that a new brain trust would carve out their own path, this path is something that Knicks fans could embrace while they wait for the free-agent signing frenzy.