Day: August 18, 2010

Motion Offense: Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks?

So Carmelo Anthony wants out of Denver. Can’t say that I blame him but what are his options?

Music to listen to: Black Grease by The Black Angels

Read an interesting article in the New York Post about the prospects of Carmelo Anthony, the All-Star forward for the Denver Nuggets possibly becoming a New York Knick.

I have several issues with this article and will address them. As a disclaimer, I’m a Knicks fan so keep that in mind.

1) Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t be a “better fit” for the Knicks than LeBron James. Despite the negative heat that James has gotten for his “decision” to take his talents to South Beach or Miami for those of us who don’t party like that, he is still one of, if not the best player in the league. Some may say its Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, James or even Kevin Durant. The point is that he’s in the argument. Carmelo may crack a top-ten list of players in the league, arguably the top-five but he’s not in the same class as James.

2) Never trust a “confidant” of someone speaking for anybody, especially a professional athlete. This person who claims to be close to Anthony says on the Nugget coming to the Knicks.

“Nothing would bother him…The media wouldn’t bother him because he really likes people. The pressure wouldn’t bother him because he loves to have the game in his hands. Nothing bothers him.”

Its good to know that Carmelo likes people. I like people as well so we can be friends. Playing in Denver has allowed Anthony to work on his craft in a relatively anonymous atmosphere by media outlet standards. Denver isn’t small like Portland or Milwaukee but it also isn’t Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and especially New York. I’m sure that Anthony may not let anything bother him but that’s a little presumptuous to say that the New York media wouldn’t bother him.

Also, I’m not the first to state this, but that quote was a subtle shot at James as well for choosing Miami over New York to avoid the pressuer. That’s not completely accurate. Was the idea of playing in Miami instead of New York influenced by the media for James? That’s a possibility but I also think that factors such as lifestyle, ownership and playing with friends on a potentially better basketball team were bigger influences.

3) Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire together won’t win the Eastern Conference, maybe not even the Atlantic in the near future. Both of those guys are excellent talents but if a trade did happen before this season starts, Boston, Orlando, Miami and maybe even Chicago would still be better than the Knicks.

4) Anthony’s refusal to sign an extension with Denver may be more a disapproval of the Nuggets organization more than a desire to leave for New York. He turned down a three-year deal that would pay him over $21 million annually, making him one of the highest paid players in the league. Most guys would look at this and sign immediately. Denver is a nice city, excellent fan base, good people all around.

However, the organization is in turmoil. On the court, the personalities of Chauncy Billups, Kenyon Martin, J.R.Smith and others makes it a volatile locker room that saw the Nuggets go from the Western Conference finals two years ago to a weak exit in the first round against Utah this year.

The counter to that is that head coach George Karl was missing for the end of the season with health issues but when he was manning the team, the same problems existed.

Anthony sees the Denver situation and looks at his contemporaries in stable organizations in places like Miami, Orlando, Oklahoma City, in Los Angeles with the Lakers and he wants that. Picking New York is just Anthony picking the biggest market.

5) This has to be the most coverage for a wedding toast in history. I haven’t been to too many weddings but it’s a time where people get loose and make statements for humor and to have a good time. When you mix good music, good looking people and alcohol, things are said that shouldn’t be taken at complete face value.

That’s why the analysis of Stoudemire’s and Chris Paul toasts at Anthony’s wedding claiming that the three of them are plotting to play together in New York is surprising to me. I’m sure that the three of them have discussed it at some point but the media is acting like this will be a foregone conclusion, which brings me to my next point.

6) It’s going to be nearly impossible for all three guys to play together in the next two to three years. Stoudemire is already there and Anthony can become a free agent after this season. However, there is also a possibility that the 2011-12 season may be delayed because of labor issues and even cancelled. Owners in the NBA aren’t going to offer extensions or sign free agents during this period if possible.

Plus, Paul is in a long-term deal with New Orleans, meaning that the Knicks would have to trade for him. The Knicks have limited assets and draft picks, making trades even more difficult for them to execute.

7) Coming home isn’t necessarily a good thing. The “confidant” claims that coming to the Knicks would be “coming home” for Anthony. Its true that Anthony was born in Brooklyn, New York and was raised in Baltimore, Maryland but I don’t see the connection of him becoming a Knick being a homecoming.

He just should have said that Anthony has a wife who is in the entertainment industry and moving to New York would provide her an opportunity to grow her career. I would respect that statement more.

Finally, I would love for the Knicks to pursue and even get Anthony. However, I don’t expect him to lead the team to a championship alone. If we’ve learned anything over the years in the NBA, its that you need more than one elite player to win a championship. The only exception may have been the Detroit Pistons a few years ago. Besides that, between the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Heat and countless other championshp teams, we know that you need a unit that has more than one part.

Anthony is a great scorer and has made strides in his rebounding and defense. However, I can’t cosign on him being a $21+ million player who leads a team to a title. Having Stoudemire would help. If you add Chris Paul to that then we’re talking but the Knicks don’t have the resources to pull that off.

What are your thoughts on Carmelo Anthony possibly joining the New York Knicks?

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Gridiron Blitz: Pittsburgh Steelers

The next team up on our Gridiron Blitz is the Pittsburgh Steelers

Music to listen to: Fighter by Christina Aguilera

 

I was torn between making my musical selection between Aguilera and Bret Michaels. As much as I’ve enjoyed his Rock of Love show on VH1 over the years, the stench of Poison is too much to ignore. Plus, Aguilera may be annoying at times, she can sing her butt off and therefore gets this honor.

Current State: When you think of the Pittsburgh Steelers, several ideas and theories come to mind. Well-respected organization, especially at ownership. Top rushing attack led by a rugged offensive line. Elite defense. Hard-nosed players who give maximum effort and are good representatives of their team and the city. If you encompass all of those things together and had to label it with one word, a most likely one would be stable. However, after last sesaon and this past off-season, that may not be the case anymore.

However, despite of all of the issues that will be listed below, the Steelers may be looked at by some, including this writer, as a potential Super Bowl candidate.

Biggest Change: The biggest issue this season is the handling of the Ben Roethlisberger situation. He was involved in some off the field incidents this offseason resulting in a four-game suspension from the NFL.

Off the field issues caused the Steelers to trade arguably its best receiver and Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets this offseason. Why wasn’t Roethlisberger given the boot from the Steelers.

While you can most likely find a replacement at wide receiver, its tough to find another quarterback in his late 20’s who has won two Super Bowls and has proven to be a major asset for your organization. The Steelers are willing to keep Roethlisberger around even though it may cost them this entire season.

Uniform Grade: They‘ve had the same color scheme and uniforms for decades. The consistency makes the unis one of the best in the NFL and maybe all of professional sports. While I would have tinkered with a gold jersey, black pants or even white pants, the Steelers have decided to keep the same look outside of a throwback game once in a while. Grade: B+

Best Player: The team has several elite talents but many of them lie on the defense. You have maybe the best nose tackle in football with Casey Hampton. The team also has arguably two of the top five outside linebackers in James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Furthermore, the unit operates a 3-4 defense behind the top defensive coordinator in the NFL, Dick LeBeau.

However, the top talent on the entire team is Troy Polamalu. He is the essential cog for the Steelers offense to operate at its most efficient rate. Polamalu not only is the top free safety in the NFL when it comes to serving as a centerfielder for the pass defense, his role as a run stopper prevents opposing offenses from taking advantage. His knee injury in the first week of last season hampered his entire campaign. If Polamalu can come back healthy this season, then Pittsburgh may have the best defense in the league.

Most Important Player: Some may make the case of it being backup quarterback Byron Leftwich because he will start the first four games for Pittsburgh, but this title still goes to Polamalu as mentioned earlier.

That’s too easy. I’ll give you something else.

We all know about Polamalu but if the Steelers want to return to the Super Bowl, the offensive line must improve its work of the past few years, especially on passing plays. Pittsburgh will probably have a good rushing attack, especially with rising star, running back Rashard Mendenhall, but without a good passing system, defenses will be able to figure out its offense.

Best Case: The suspension to Roethlisberger doesn’t hurt the Steelers as much. The offensive line plays better than last year. The entire defensive unit stays healthy. Wins the AFC North over Baltimore. Gets a first-round bye and wins the AFC Championship.

Worst Case: The suspension ruins offensive continuity. Offensive line regresses even more from last year. Injuries cripple the defense. Finish second in the AFC North and misses the playoffs.

Coaching: Its tough to get a read on Mike Tomlin. Is he a dynamic leader who has been able to balance the high expectations of a proud and traditional organization and stay modern enough to adjust to the realities of the modern game? Has his success been based on having one of the top organizations behind him instead of coaching somewhere like Oakland or Cincinnati? I think he’s an excellent head coach who has allowed excellent assistants and coordinators to operate the team while he serves as the supervisor. That’s not a knock but a compliment to his management style.

First Memory of Team: When I started following football on a high level in the early 1990’s, the Steelers were in a transition period. The end of the Chuck Noll era was at the end and Bill Cowher has just started his tenure in Pittsburgh.

I knew about the then-four championships in the 1970’s and didn’t understand why people in Pittsburgh just didn’t move on from that era. It was the 90’s and those days were over. However, while using the same formula of a solid running attack combined with an elite defense, the Steelers found a way to be one of the most competitive franchises of that decade and even made a Super Bowl game.

At that point, I began to appreciate that style of play.

One thing that I didn’t like were all of the fans of the Steelers around the country. Those front runners needed to calm down. You can’t be a fan of a team if you haven’t at least either lived in the host city or been to five or more games in person. I would find Steeler fans who couldn’t point out Pittsburgh but liked them because they were known for winning.

They aren’t as bad as Cowboys fans but darn close.

Schedule: They have to deal with Baltimore, Cleveland and Cincinnati in the division.

As far as home games, they get Atlanta, New England, Oakland, New York Jets and Carolina. That’s about an average home slate. The road games will be at Tennessee, Tampa, Miami, New Orleans and Buffalo. All of those games are winnable accept maybe New Orleans.

City Nicknames: Steel City works for everybody.

Fantasy Focus: Definitely take the defense if you have the chance and Mendenhall will be a nice second running back on your team.

Overall Outlook: This will probably be a typical Pittsburgh team. Slow start without Roethlisberger, possibly a 2-2 or maybe 1-3 start. Team starts to get its act together midseason. A possible loss to a team it shouldn’t have like Buffalo. Wins its final three or four games and no one wants to face them in the playoffs. That sounds about right to me.

Final Record: 10-6

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Miami Dolphins

AFC North:

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Baltimore Ravens

Triple Option Attack: #18 North Carolina

Next up on the Triple Option Attack is #18 North Carolina

Music to listen to: Bitches Ain’t Sh*t by Ben Folds

I’ve been a fan of Ben for a long time. I could have gone with James Taylor or Petey Pablo but Ben gets the choice because he’s an excellent musician and my former neighbor back in Nashville. Good people.

The Story: This offseason has gone from the optimism of possibly winning its first ACC title since 1980 to maybe finishing with up to four losses for the Tar Heels. The disconnect has come with the possibility of losing the eligibility of their two best players, defensive lineman Marvin Austin and wide receiver Greg Little because of their potential involvement with an agent. The situation has become a national story that has even seen programs such as Alabama, South Carolina and Florida address the issue of agents on college campuses. For now, the Tar Heels must prepare for the season, especially the opener against LSU in Atlanta.

Last Season: Finished with a record of 8-4 including a loss in the Meineke Car Care Bowl to Pittsburgh, 19-17.

Offense: The fortunes of the offensive unit will come down to senior quarterback T.J. Yates. His inconsistency last season, especially his 15 interceptions with only 14 touchdown passes, stalled UNC from taking advantage of an excellent defense. If Yates can cut down on the turnovers, things can work well for the Tar Heels.

Having the option to throw to Little would help because the rest of the receiving corp, led by Erik Highsmith, lacks experience and productivity. The top returning running back is Shaun Draughn and the offensive line returns four starters.

Defense: The strength of UNC is without question the defense. The squad may contain up to nine NFL draft picks, the same number of returning starters as well. The two defensive ends, Austin and Robert Quinn may be finest duo in the entire nation. The entire set of linebackers and defensive backs are back from last season.

Of course the potential of losing Austin is a major concern. Not only will his loss affect the play of the entire defensive unit, it would be one less body on a defensive line that already lacks depth.

The Schedule

09/04/10 vs. LSU
09/18/10 vs. Georgia Tech
09/25/10 at Rutgers
10/02/10 vs. East Carolina
10/09/10 vs. Clemson
10/16/10 at Virginia
10/23/10 at Miami
10/30/10 vs. William & Mary
11/06/10 at Florida State
11/13/10 vs. Virginia Tech
11/20/10 vs. NC State
11/27/10 at Duke

The schedule has gone from rough to extremely difficult. The Tar Heels will probably beat Virginia, William & Mary, NC State and Duke. Outside of that, who knows. The tone of the entire season will be set in the first game against LSU. A victory can help the team move forward with or without the suspended players. A loss can cause problems.

Most Famous Sports Alum: Michael Jordan is way too easy to choose. I’m going to take Lawrence Taylor, my favorite football player ever.

 

Celebrity Crush Alum: I’m going to step outside of the box and take Sharon Lawrence. Please save your “cougar” jokes, you’re better than that. She’s very attractive, a talented actress, seen her in person (very good looking) and is an alum of UNC. That sounds like perfect crush material to me.

 

Prediction: 8-4

When I made my initial preseason poll, I did it on the assumption that Little and Austin would be available for the entire season. Now, I have no clue how to predict what’s going to happen. Those games at Florida State and Miami are looking more like losses now. There’s no way they go into Virginia Tech to get a victory. Even that non-conference East Carolina game is tricky. They may end up with a losing season before everything is done and that would be a major disappointment for Tar Heel fans.

Sports Inquirer Top-25 Preseason College Football Poll:

#25 West Virginia

#24 South Carolina

#23 Auburn

#22 Oregon State

#21 Arkansas

#20 Florida State

#19 Georgia