THOUGHTS ON THE YANKEES’ “KEY LOSSES,” THE OLYMPICS, THE KNICKS AND LEBRON, THE RANGERS, DEFENDING THE THREE- POINT SHOT AND OLD HEADLINES

                                                                                           Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

THE YANKEES’ “KEY LOSSES”

From the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” Department: Sunday, during a fantastic piece on Carl Crawford and his amazing work ethic on Baseball Tonight, ESPN had a listing on the right-side of the screen on each team’s “Key Additions” and “Key Losses.” For the New York Yankees, the Key Additions were listed as: Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson, Javier Vazquez and Randy Winn. Fair enough. Under “Key Losses,” however, and the list you can’t make up, is: Brian Bruney, Melky Cabrera, Phil Coke, Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy.

Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon didn’t make the list. Seriously.

THE OLYMPICS

You didn’t have to be a luge-course expert to see that the luge course in Vancouver was potentially dangerous with unprotected poles and no protective fences around it. If any Olympic official walked the course before the games and called it safe, that’s a huge problem for them. It’s hard to believe there won’t be some kind of lawsuit and some kind of assumption of the risk defense. But the Olympic press conference, where officials clearly tried to cover their butts with a “blame the victim” mentality, was a joke.

The hypocrisy of it all was obvious. Or maybe the message is: you’d better not make a mistake because, if you do, you could die. Just bizarre for a course that reportedly had led to complaints about its safety from numerous people, including competitors, BEFORE someone died.

After the fact, of course, the powers-that-be ordered that the poles get wrapped in protective padding and that other protective measures be taken. Too little, too late for Nodar Kumaritashvili, the ill-fated luge athlete from the country of Georgia who died last week.

THE KNICKS AND LEBRON

Hard to believe that Lebron James would seriously consider coming to the Knicks next season. What’s he thinking when he walks into the Garden to play a team with no stars, no point guard, no big man? It can’t be good.

But forget all of that. If anything, Mike D’Antoni’s job description this year should have included the following: don’t upset Lebron, his agent or his friends. Lebron and Nate Robinson share the same agent. Robinson was benched for 14 games on a woeful team. While we all would agree that something had to be done about Robinson’s immaturity on the court, his goofing off, his shooting at the wrong basket (with time out), his shot selection, etc., two games, three games, five games would have sent the message. But once Robinson’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, had to get involved, it was a terrible thing for the Knicks.

Next came the Larry Hughes fiasco. Hughes, a close friend of Lebron’s, who actually can step on the court and make an effort defending Lebron, was next into D’Antoni’s doghouse. Hughes voiced his displeasure, which led to the now famous (infamous) D’Antoni comment that I didn’t know I had to talk to the player before I made a change.

It’s 2010, and Mike D’Antoni doesn’t get it.

Throw in the fact that, in the last 18 months or so, Lebron built his dream house about 45-minutes from where he plays his home games, and it’s hard to believe he would give the Knicks much thought as a destination.

Of course, if the Knicks could talk Dwyane Wade into coming to New York, that could trump everything.

THE RANGERS AND THE KING

It seems that, every year around this time, a Ranger fan has to focus on how tired is star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist has played 70 or more regular-season games in the last three seasons and is on track to play about 70 again this year. He seems to have to stand on his head most nights to get the Rangers a win. And he does play great games more often than not.

But that wears you down during the regular season and hurts you for the playoffs. The Rangers look like they are going down to the wire in the playoff race so there’s less chance to rest The King.

The Olympics puts an even greater strain on Lundqvist. As Sweden’s goalie, especially if they go deep (Lundqvist has a gold medal for Sweden already), Lundqvist will be in additional, high intensity games.

And that won’t help the Rangers.

So the Rangers, if they do make the playoffs, will need their goalie to play out of his mind to advance. By then, Henrik Lundqvist may be too tired. And that would greatly hurt, if not destroy, the Rangers small chance to make a run in this years’ playoffs.

PITT, LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE, DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO DEFEND THE THREE-POINT SHOT

It happens dozens of times a year (maybe more) at all levels of basketball. You are up three very late in the game (only a few seconds left). Your only job is to NOT give up a three. But a defender doesn’t know what’s going on, a coach can’t get his team to properly defend the three-point line and the other team gets a good look to tie the game.

So it was this past weekend at the exciting triple OT game between Pitt and West Virginia. In a game that Pitt desperately needed to win, they were up three in the first overtime when West Virginia got the ball with just a few seconds left in overtime. Only a three (not a two) could hurt Pitt. As Darryl Bryant of WVU brings the ball quickly across the half-court line, his defender backs up and backs up and backs up, winding up BELOW the three-point line (Why?).

Needless to say, Bryant has no intention of going past the three-point line. So he pulls up behind the arc, gets token defense from the Pitt defender BELOW the arc, and drains the game-tying three with 1.4 seconds left.

Inexplicably, this has long been a problem for basketball teams (see Kallas Remarks, 6/12/09). Coach Jamie Dixon, like every other coach, has to teach his kids to play above the three-point line and NEVER go below it in the last few seconds of a game when your team has a three-point lead (because if anybody scores a two, you win the game by one). That way, a player has to pull up much sooner or face a contested shot that would be virtually impossible to make in that situation.

Pitt needed the game desperately and was very lucky to win it. Late in regulation, Pitt’s Brad Wanamaker saved a ball from going out of bounds which led to a game-tying three. But Wanamaker clearly stepped out of bounds (with an official right there). But no call was made.

And, yes, the game was played at Pitt.

So Pitt got their big win (in triple-overtime), despite not knowing how to defend the three, and with the help of an amazing no-call.

OLD HEADLINES

Flipping through some years-old newspapers, here are a couple of sports headlines from the past:

The New York Times, Tuesday, November 2, 2004:

ISIAH THOMAS, A STREET-FIGHTING MAN ABOUT TOWN, REVIVES THE KNICKS

Well, not exactly. In his first full season running the Knicks, they would go 33-49.

And, believe it or not, no Knick team since then would win more games. That’s scary stuff.

The New York Post, Sunday, August 27, 2006:

WEIS GUYS FINISH FIRST: COACH WILL LEAD NOTRE DAME BACK TO TOP

Charlie Weis, a Notre Dame alum, came to South Bend as a multiple Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. Weis went 9-3 in his first year and the belief was that Notre Dame was back. And, while they would go 10-2 in the 2006 regular season, they were non-competitive with the top teams in NCAA football. They got hammered early (47-21, in their third game) by a good Michigan team, got hammered late (44-24, in their final regular season game) by an excellent USC team and then got hammered in the Sugar Bowl (41-14) by an excellent LSU team.

Notre Dame finished the season ranked #17.

The defensive weaknesses apparent when they played good teams were never corrected by the offensive-minded Weis. Notre Dame went 3-9 in 2007, 6-6 in 2008 and 6-6 in 2009, complete with some of the worst losses in the history of Notre Dame. And Charlie Weis was fired with an eight-figure “thanks for being here” payment.

It’s interesting to read these old headlines, years later. And while I have no problem saying that, at the time, I thought that Isiah would be an upgrade over Scott Layden and that Charlie Weis would be an improvement over Ty Willingham, the reality is that both of these guys (Thomas and Weis) came up unbelievably short.

© Copyright 2010 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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