Wednesday, December 8, 2010

All We Want for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa

Is for the Knicks to finish 2010 with a better than .500 record.  A recent hot streak is great because they have a TOUGH next couple of weeks coming up.

The Knicks are currently at 13-9 with more wins than only four other Eastern Conference teams.  Starting tonight against Toronto, here's a sneak peak at the rest of December.

vs. Toronto
@ Washington
vs. Denver
vs. Boston
vs. Miami
@ Cleveland
vs. Oklahoma City
vs. Chicago
@ Miami
@ Orlando

The good news is a lot of the games are at home.  The bad news is they are against some of the better teams in the league, some in particular are finding their winning ways (cough cough miami). 

Let's go for wins against Toronto, Washington, Cleveland, Chicago, and one against one of the other premiere teams.   2011 begins with a record of 18-14.  We'll be thrilled. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Return of the King

So much hype about what the fan's in Cleveland will do to LeBron. My idea: during introductions everyone stands in silence and turns their back on LeBron. Don't pay him any attention while he's being introduced. After all he turned his back on Cleveland so why not stand in unison against him. No music, no fancy lights, just complete silence for him to think a minute about how great life is in South Beach.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MLS Expansion Draft

This thing is live and streamable at or directly at

We'll be updating this post as the draft progresses with some thoughts and surprises on who will be joining the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers for their inaugural 2011 seasons (or as trade bait).

For the entire unprotected list:

The New York Red Bulls have left some quality players up for grabs after trading away right back/midfielder Jeremy Hall for a third round draft pick.  Juan Pablo Angel could go but it's not evident whether he's more valuable on the field or in a future trade to an Eastern Conference team like New England, DC, or Philadelphia.

  • Angel, Juan Pablo
  • Boyens, Andrew
  • Chinn, Conor
  • da Luz, Austin
  • Garcia, Irving
  • Nielsen, Brian
  • Robinson, Carl
  • Salou, Ibrahim
  • Sassano, Luke
  • Sutton, Greg
  • Talley, Carey
  • Ubiparipovic, Sinisa
Unlikely to go: Conor Chinn, Austin da Luz, Irving Garcia, Brian Nielsen, Carl Robinson, Luke Sassano, Greg Sutton, Carey Talley.

More likely to go: Andrew Boyens, Ibrahim Salou, Sinisa Ubiparipovic.  

The only people who know who will likely be changing teams today have quite a task today... some other big names that could move teams on the draft board today:

Dax McCarty (FC Dallas)
Pat Onstad (Houston)
Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Columbus) 
Frankie Hejduk (Columbus)
Freddie Ljunberg (Chicago)
Tim Ward (San Jose)
Julian de Guzman (Toronto)
Blaise Nkufo (Seattle)
Sanna Nyassi (Seattle)

Also a familiar face to Red Bull fans is Nick Zimmerman - many were disappointed when he was left unprotected in last year's expansion draft and was lost to Philadelphia.  For the second consecutive year, Zimmerman finds himself unprotected and could find himself moving West.  

Just about to get started, updates coming soon.  

UPDATE 1 (2:08 PM): Dax McCarty goes to Portland #1 and Vancouver take Nyassi from Seattle.  Great picks to start the afternoon.  Dallas has protected Daniel Hernandez and Seattle has pulled back Patrick Ianni.

UPDATE 2 (2:15):  Eric Brunner, Columbus Defender goes to Portland,  Attiba Harris (FC Dallas) to Vancouver.    Columbus pulls back Kevin Burns.  Columbus not completely revamping roster but definitely will be making some more roster adjustments.  FC Dallas thrilled not to lose Eric Avila but two big hits with McCarty and Harris.  Dallas now can't lose any more players to Portland or Vancouver.

UPDATE 3 (2:19): Adam Moffat to Portland, Nate Sturgis to Vancouver.  Columbus and Seattle players are now all pulled back from the pool.

UPDATE 4 (2:24):  Anthony Wallace, Colorado Rapids defender goes to Portland.  This comes after the Rapids traded away two defenders on Monday for Seattle midfielder Peter Vagenas.  Shea Salinas (Philly) goes to Vancouver.    Colorado pulls back Wells Thompson and Philly protects GK Chris Seitz.

UPDATE 5 (2:30):  David Horst (RSL) will be heading to Portland and veteran Alan Gordan goes to Vancouver.  Salt Lake pulls back Collen Warner and Chivas pulls back Trujillo.  With a break in the action between rounds the only big surprise, and surprises are hard to pull off in expansion drafts, is Alan Gordon to Vancouver.

UPDATE 6 (2:33): ROBBIE FINDLEY GOES TO PORTLAND.  So much for no big surprises.

UPDATE 7 (2:41): Real Salt Lake off the board with that Findley pick.  Lots of speculation that Findley would be moving to Europe, so there was either some early signaling or this is a real dice roll.
Vancouver picks O'Brian White from Toronto who subsequently protect Julian de Guzman.

UPDATE 8 (2:45): Peter Lowry from Chicago to Portland, Alejandro Moreno from Philly to Vancouver.  Jonathan Bornstein to Portland???? Why is Portland stocking up on players leaving MLS? (Oh, because USMNT players don't go into a reallocation draft if (when) they return to MLS.  Portland retains their rights.  Savvy.

UPDATE 9 (2:53):  Joe Canon (San Jose) to Vancouer, Tim Ward pulled back.  Also need to mention Dasan Robinson pulled back by the Fire from the Lowry pick, Chivas players off the board with the Bornstein pick.  Jordan Graye (DC United) to Portland and DC pulls back Morsink.  Vancouver takes Sporting Kansas City back Leathers.  Kansas City for some reason pulls back a goalkeeper despite Portland and Vancouver being set between the sticks.

UPDATE 10 ( 2:55): To Portland: Arturo Alvarez from San Jose and the Earthquakes are off the board.

UPDATE 11 (2:57)  Last but not least, with the final pick of the draft, Vancouver picks John Thorrington from the Chicago Fire.  Seattle, Chicago, San Jose, Dallas, Philly hit hard.  Los Angeles and NYRB untouched....    

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Breaking News: Knicks in Rebuilding Year

The Knicks have now lost six of their last seven, and if it wasn't blatantly clear going into the season, despite being big spenders on the free agent market over the summer, New York is in a rebuilding year.  Their starting lineup consists of two rookies (Landry Fields and Timofey Mozgov) and third-year Danilo Gallinari who played his first full season last year because of rookie injury problems.  It shows. 

The decision making on the floor and shot selection, particularly down the stretch, is poor.  Bursts of energy and up-tempo offense matched with high pressure defense are not sustained.  To be fair, it's early in the season and the Knicks are relatively better off now than they were at this point last season.  I'm not a huge fan of D'Antoni (at least with this group of players) but I'm also by no means singing the "hey hey, ho ho, Mike D'Antoni's got to go" song like a lot of Knicks faithful.  Give these guys a bit of time to fit together and they could very well compete for the 7th or 8th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The worst thing that could happen, however, is if Donnie Walsh succumbs to the building pressure and trades away valuable assets (draft picks or young talent) for a short term solution.  Some are calling for Steve Nash to be brought in.  I love Steve Nash, he's an elite point guard, and the increased possiblity of playing pickup soccer with him at Sara Roosevelt Park in New York City would skyrocket if he came ot the Knicks. 

But New York is in their current position because of overreacting and looking for short-term solutions.  The main targets of the organization need to be Chris Paul or Deron Williams either via trade or through free agency after the 2012 season.  It absolutely hurts watching second-year standout Brandon Jennings run the up-tempo Milwaukee Bucks while we watch Jordan Hill... oh, wait.  We don't watch Jordan Hill.  With drafting young talent, there is a bit of luck involved.  For every two or three first round picks teams usually find one future franchise cornerstone (aside from the 1990s Dallas Mavericks). 

The Knicks do not have that luxury because they notoriously trade away all their draft picks.  It made sense as a way to clear cap space for a run at LeBron, but enough is enough.  Stop trading the draft picks (especially since they are most likely lottery picks) and focus on building a team from the ground up, supplementing with role players and perhaps even a superstar brought in via free agency or a beneficial trade.  I'll cheer for the Knicks regardless of their record if they stick to a long term plan to contend on a consistent basis.   

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

USA vs. South Africa preview

We have arrived - the United States' last match of 2010 against South Africa is today.
The biggest story for the match is that Teal Bunbury, coming off an impressive MLS rookie season for the Kansas City Wizards, has agreed to play for the United States national team instead of Canada where he was born.  Earlier statements by Bunbury gave clear preference to Canada, but a change of heart came because the young forward wants to play in a World Cup - a long shot for the Canadian national team in the foreseeable future.

Some other exciting call ups for the US are Tim Ream and Mikkel Diskerruud.  Good performances today and at the January camp could land both spots on the 2011 Gold Cup roster, but more than likely we'll be getting a good look at some players who will factor in more heavily for the 2014 World Cup.

South Africa has called in over ten players from its World Cup team for the match, the big news being that midfielder and Everton standout Steven Pienaar will be wearing the captain's armband today.  Rumors are linking Pienaar with a move to Liverpool during the January transfer window, and an inspired performance today will reinforce how high this player's ceiling is. 

Enjoy the match (ESPN2 at 2 pm) and post your thoughts before, during, or after the match below. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Few Seconds of Panic Review

While killing some time browsing on I came across a review I wrote a couple of years back for Stefan Fatsis' A Few Seconds of Panic.  If you're looking for some good winter reading, especially now that football season is in full swing, I highly recommend it (especially to Broncos/Redskins fans - lots on Mike Shanahan):

"I enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, and as the 2008 NFL season is winding down, it provided an interesting look at a team that year in and year out is in the thick of the playoff race - the Denver Broncos. Fatsis does a great job touching on a number of different subjects including kicker subculture, coaching approaches to game preparation and roster cuts, the NFL as a bureaucracy, and players who go largely unnoticed from city to city, filling in for injured players and making the league minimum's salary on various practice squads. As a football fan, gaining a better understanding of the off-season, training camp, and the preseason from someone almost entirely on the inside was well worth the time on this page-turner. 

The book is a lot about the mechanics and psychology behind kicking, and as an often-overlooked part of football, that's fine. But while Fatsis seemed to assimilate well with Denver's coaching staff, kickers, Quarterbacks, and a handful of other various position players, much of the book focuses on players toward the bottom of the depth chart who don't even make the 53-man roster. His book relied too heavily on a small group of players, leaving me feeling like there were many other personalities and stories that he either left out or did not have access to despite his presence being casually accepted by the majority of the Broncos organization.

This is a story of a 43-year old who becomes a member of a professional team as an experiment, and much credit to Mr. Fatsis for pulling that off in a league that is incredibly controlling of its media exposure. But it is also a story largely about the journeymen of the NFL, as Fatsis tries to uncover why these players, many of whom are injured, neglected by the coaching staff, or unlikely to ever find a steady job playing professional football, still show up to fight for roster spots. I would have liked to see more about the players with more job security (non-kickers) and gotten more of a glimpse into the preparation they go through year after year and what their impressions of the game, league, and team were.

Definitely a great piece of writing and Fatsis' story in this book is just as interesting as that of any of the players."  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tim Ream Robbed

Most of the buzz around MLS' 2010 Rookie of the Year centered around Tim Ream and Danny Mwanga.  A surprise announcement today that the award went to 17-year old DC United rising star Andy Najar.  Najar is undoubtedly an emerging talent in Major League Soccer and possibly even for the Honduran or US National Team (depending on which country he decides to play for).  He has huge upside, but my take on rookie of the year is to give it to the player who in his first year made the biggest impact for his club.  And that player, without a doubt, is Tim Ream.

Ream started every game for the team that finished 1st place in the Eastern Conference.  And he didn't enter an established back line - the Red Bulls were terrible in 2009 and switched Ream's counterpart at Centerback halfway through the season (an aging Mike Petke was replaced by Carlos Mendes).  Chris Albright took some time getting back into form and Roy Miller loves to play up the left wing.  Tim Ream was the one consistent piece of the defense and impressed even USMNT coach Bob Bradley with his vision and skill on the ball (a call-up during the January camp for Ream is likely).

Andy Najar could in the next season or two break out into a legitimate star and command a sizable transfer fee to a European club.  But he was not the best 1st year player this season.