New York Knicks Tickets: The Demise of Carmelo and Amare and the Rise of Tyson

As New York Knicks tickets continue to be among the best-selling amongst NBA teams, the team and its perhaps more-famous fans are bemoaning the foretold demise of a Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire duo. Pundits who existed outside of New York warned of the dangers of putting two players on the court who can only play in isolation. Now as the first long losing streak of the 2012 NBA season enters its sixth game, the Knicks fans are coming to terms with the latest flawed team building exercise.

Fans have taken to celebrating the latest “John Starks-type”. Last season Landry Fields igniting the fanbase, giving them a working man hero. He, like Starks, was a second round draft pick. Now he is starting at shooting guard. The latest hero in the making is Iman Shumpert, a point guard and the 18th pick in last year’s draft. Shumpert is not a second round draft pick, but he is not a lottery pick and he has had enough success to inspire some group of basketball fans at Madison Square Garden to proclaim him the best point guard in the league.

That praise for both players may not be quite warranted in the basketball universe outside of the media vacuum that is New York City, but at least this gives them some sort of hope. Instead, the fans should be falling all over Tyson Chandler. He is the sort of glue guy whose production is far more valuable than his statistics suggest. He is averaging a mere 9.9 points per game, 9.7 rebounds per game, 1.38 blocks per game, and a 66.7 shooting percentage.

His most valuable asset may be his aversion to scoring anything but lobs and put backs. He also allows Stoudemire and Anthony to hang out on the perimeter on offense and defense. Imagine just how bad the Knicks defense would be without him manning the middle. For remember, Chandler may have been the most important piece to the puzzle in the Dallas Mavericks 2011 NBA Championship series win.

Of course, as the Knicks continue to fall under .500, the New York basketball fans are in search of the next big star to be given the task of leading the New York Knicks to their first NBA Finals since 1999 and the perhaps win the franchise’s first NBA Finals since Phil Jackson was a basketball player back in 1973.

The NBA: Knicks Tickets for the Finals and Other Surprises

After the first weekend of NBA play, it appears all is well. The slate of games actually increased from 6 million to 6.2 million from last year to this. Many feared repercussions similar to those after the NBA lockout in 1999. However, the players and owners proved most wise to save the Christmas dates. Besides, it is rare that the league enjoys much national attention (read – a national broadcast) until the holiday weekend.

While the league must be ecstatic about these developments, the fans should be just as thankful the NBA season is destined to challenge any notion of favorites. The Lakers are 0-2 and Dwight Howard has looked like anything but the best two-way player in the NBA. New York is already abuzz, ready to coronate the Knicks as true contenders. Of course, it is far too early for anyone in Los Angeles, New York, or any other basketball-obsessed city to expect a championship. That discussion has to include the Miami Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the San Antonio Spurs, and even the Denver Nuggets have to be mentioned. Knicks tickets, Heat tickets, and Lakers tickets oh my!

Ignoring the flurry of early predictions, the beginning of the NBA season also had a few surprises. Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio lived up to every expectation. He only played 26 minutes, coming off the bench and scoring 6 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds. Rubio ran the break like a magician and discovered seams in the half court only a player like Magic Johnson could see.

The other Los Angeles basketball team provided the fire power with power forward Blake Griffin and point guard Chris Paul. These two will be one of the best combos in the NBA. They may just steal the spotlight from Kobe and the Lakers.

Last season was one of the best in the history of the NBA, and this season is shaping up to be an even better one. The powers are shifting and we the fans get to watch traditional powers burned and the youth rise like the sun.

Lakers Tickets: Worth More Without Paul?

While the rest of the basketball universe is busy condemning David Stern for blocking a blockbuster trade that could have jumpstarted interest in the NBA, I am wondering if the Los Angeles Lakers would be that much better with if they had acquired Chris Paul and traded away Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.

Without Gasol and Odom the Lakers are going to be starting Andrew Bynum at center and a free agent to be named later at power forward. Bynum is hyped as a developing superstar every year, but the fact the Lakers front office was talking about acquiring Dwight Howard is pretty solid anecdotal evidence Bynum is not the man in the middle of the future.

Even with the best backcourt in basketball (CP3 and Kobe), the Los Angeles Lakers would have to survive with Metta World Peace jacking up unadvised three point shot, whoever is playing backup center, and the future free agent power forward. This would require Kobe and Chris Paul to score a combined 70 points a game.

I venture a guess that Lakers tickets would not go much farther into the postseason than with a three-headed monster. Meanwhile, the teams involved are appealing the decision to veto the trade. If anything, the other teams in the trade actually benefited from the trade. The Houston Rockets get the center they wanted to replace Yao Ming as well as a few first round draft pick. The New Orleans Hornets get Odom, Luis Scola, and Kelvin Martin, warding off futile seasons for a few years.

Guess What NBA, The East Has Arrived

Now that Carmelo Anthony has arrived it appears the balance of power may have shifted from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference for the first time since Michael Jordan was shooting Space Jam.

Think about. The Orlando Magic made a huge trade to essentially reinvent themselves as the East Coast Dallas Mavericks, the Big Three are partying it up in Miami (yes they are struggling this season, but it is the first season Wade and LeBron have had to work together), Boston remains at the top of the conference with four all stars, and Chicago appears to be a piece or two from officially arriving, and Carmelo finally arrived in New York, making Knicks tickets finally worth buying.

Meanwhile, back West, the Spurs, Mavericks, and Lakers are the only realistic title contenders this season. The Spurs are playing a more guard oriented offense which may diminish the team’s chances since Tim Duncan was just so good in the postseason when the game slowed down and became a half court marathon. The Mavericks can be counted on to implode like the drunken uncle at a Christmas party. Only the Lakers appear to have the pieces to remain championship contenders for more than a season longer.

Sure, the Oklahoma City Thunder are loaded and are perhaps the next young team to be considered serious title contenders, but there is little else to count to fill the void on West of the Mississippi River. Only if Dwight Howard truly decides to go West will the East suffer a loss they cannot brush off, but that team is likely going to be the Lakers and that will not make the West any deeper.

Of course, all this potential in the East will be for naught if the NBA goes into lockdown mode next season.

Knicks Tickets 2011: Is Carmelo Finally Coming?

An NBA trade, or the events leading up to the completion of an NBA, can be compared to many arduous or inclement events. It can be compared to building a pyramid over several generations or surviving a Category 5 hurricane. I like to think of it as a grotesque front office marathon. The talks begin a month into the season, ESPN prematurely reports and laments on potential deals, and the team that ends up with the coveted player is the last one mentioned in February. This February the player is Carmelo Anthony and the team appears to be the New York Knicks.

Now yes, I am going to source ESPN here (which may invalidate the rumor before it begins turning into a real boy!), but the late rumor is that the Knicks, Nuggets, and Timberwolves may be embarking in a ménage a trios that includes at least five players and a draft pick and is one piece from becoming a done deal.

The Knicks would be shipping Anthony Rudolph and Eddy Curry’s expiring eight–figure contract to the Timberwolves and Wilson Chandler to the Nuggets. The Timberwolves would send Corey Brewer and a first round draft pick to the Nuggets. The Knicks would receive Carmelo and Carmelo would receive a three-year $65 million extension.

So who wants the one piece? The Minnesota Timberwolves do. Really, how does a team with Kevin Love and Michael Beasley at the forward spots benefit from the addition of Anthony Randolph? Sure they will be able to keep their eight figures in cap space thanks to Curry’s contract, but what good does this do when no one wants to play in Minnesota? So, the question is: What will the Timberwolves receive to make this deal happen and will this bring in a fourth team?

The Timberwolves desperately need help at the point guard spot. Ricky Rubio is never coming over to play in the Land of a Thousand Lakes and Jonny Flynn has been usurped by Luke Ridnour as the starting point guard. Do the Nuggets or Knicks have any point guards Minnesota could whet their lips over? Yes, his name is Ty Lawson, but he is the heir apparent to Chauncey Billups.

Part of the Nuggets plan to rebuild the franchise post-Carmelo is to start Lawson. Alas, these are the cracks that quickly grow into impassable canyons over the course of NBA trade talks. So, how does this deal continue?

Well, Carmelo does not have to initiate this trade before the end of the season, but he wants a max contract and Denver does not want to become Toronto 2012. Both these key pieces want this deal done. Then, add the pressure the Knicks GM is receiving from the majority owner to complete this deal (despite it being cheaper to sign Carmelo after the season is over and possibly after the CBA negotiations ends any hopes of a 2011-2012 season). So, one of these teams is going to cough up a piece it does not want to, whether via the addition of a fourth team or with these three.

As a Chicago Bulls fan I would be ecstatic if the deal falls apart. While I was one of the throng of voices that did not want Carmelo ruining the Bulls team chemistry, I fear he would be the piece to put the New York over the top and transform them from a 6-8 seed and into the top four. I want no part of Knicks tickets for a second round series after Carmelo and Amare have had half a season to learn how to play with each other in Mike D’Antoni’s system. I want no part of them in the first round either (they have the Bulls number), but would choose the latter if forced.

So pay attention to every rumor over the next two-plus weeks and see if the Knicks or Nuggets are willing to give up a player key to the long term liver function of the franchise and complete this marathon. As a Bulls fan I hope not.

Send the Miami Heat to the 2010 FIBA Championship

Team USA has puts its collection of talent together for 2010 FIBA Championship in Turkey. This initial collection of 22 potential national representatives is far from as impressive as the All-NBA team that rolled out for the 2008 Olympic Games in China. Still, there is no real sense of worry that our national team will fail to bring home the first outright FIBA Championship since 1994.

I am looking at this roster of 22 and can barely find a team of 12 players I am excited to see representing our country playing a sport we should own every single year. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat are rumored to be rounding out their roster with the additions of Michael Finley and Jerry Stackhouse, two former all stars apparently willing to take the NBA veteran minimum to be a part of sports history.

Now I see these two situations and I believe I have come up with a solution, let the Miami Heat represent the United States at the 2010 FIBA Championship. The NBA, TNT, ESPN, and ABC are banking on this team to boost ratings all season long and the national sports nation has turned on LeBron and Wade (to a much minor extent) after very bad public relation flubs (one sank an entire city into a depression and the other used a terrible analogy to the 9/11).

Letting this team play at the tournament let’s the nation get a little preview of the dominance to come and helps two of the most amiable superstars in sports repair any damage to their public image, which matters since these guys make more in endorsement deals than through their Heat salary.

This cockamamie scheme is not without its share of hiccups. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is ineligible to play for the team, since he is Lithuanian. However, the recent signing of Juwan Howard and Jamaal Magloire give the Heat enough size to comfortably send a roster of 12 to Turkey. The first to sign between Michael Finley and Jerry Stackhouse could join the 11 other Heat (I am not counting Kenny Hasbrouk, even if he is listed on the Miami Heat roster on ESPN).

I much prefer this to what will likely become the real 2010 Team USA. There is one pure shooter on this team (Stephen Curry) to break the zone, too many point guards likely to be called for carrying at least five times a game (Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo), and Robin Lopez and Javale McGee are real possibilities to play center for this team. These players can barely start for an NBA franchise and they get to try out for this team? Heck, McGee was added to the 22 because of a strong Summer League workout!

We have not one this event, the FIBA Championship since 1994, why make me wait until 2014? Put a real team trying to create cohesion out there and the results will be far better, plus each game will be a ratings bonanza for whichever network is broadcasting the games.

Who Are the Miami Heat Starting Five?

The Miami Heat are a few roster spots short of going to war in the NBA Eastern Conference. There is no question LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh will be starting, but there will be two more spots left on the floor though. While Zydrunas Ilgauskas will likely start at center, the question is who will take the fifth?

Some people are expecting Mario Chalmers to start at point. They believe he will be walking the ball up the court and sit around the three point stripe waiting for a chance to spot up and let the shots fly. Let’s call this the 2008-09 Orlando Magic model. The Magic let Jameer Nelson take the ball up the court and put it in Hedo Turkoglu hands so he could use his size and vision to get Dwight Howard the ball inside and Rashard Lewis the ball for open looks.

The advantage here is the Heat will have great defense on the perimeter and Wade and James get operate with the ball in their hands as the main initiators on offense without having to fight through full court pressure for 40 minutes a game.

Other people are expecting Wade to move to point, Mike Miller to start at the two, and James to start at the three. Wade and James still get to run the offense, but one of them has to carry the ball up the court. This is not as bad as it seems. There are still two players available to move the ball up the court. Also, Miller is a better outside shooter than Chalmers.

This means the Heat should be able to pour on heaps of points in the first two quarters, have the starters walk their way through the third and give the second round draft picks a whole quarter of garbage time in the fourth quarter. Conversely, this hampers the Heat’s ability to defends since Miller would be covering the two, and his foot speed is somewhat lacking to cover the most athletic position on the court.

I personally would like to see Miller start. I just do not know how other teams would match this offensive onslaught. Wade, James, and Bosh all need to be double covered, so one player will always be open and I would always rather that player be Miller than Chalmers.

The Top Ten NBA Trios of 2010-11

The NBA has an obsession with the number three. The ultimate expression of dominance in this new era of basketball is the three-peat. Every team must have a three point specialist to space the floor in this age of unimaginably tall basketball players at every position. And now the rule of three is being applied to the championship equation.

The Celtics brought the championship back to Boston for the first time since the 1980s with three superstar veterans at the tail end of their prime, the Lakers became the dominant team in the Western Conference and repeat champions by keeping their big three together, and now the Heat have entered new territory by signing three superstars in their prime to begin a new dynasty in Miami.

So in this new age of the roster trifecta, who are the top contenders? Below is a list of the Top Ten three-man rosters in the league.

Number 1: The Miami Heat – SF LeBron James, SG Dwayne Wade, PF Chris Bosh

Every one of these players is coming into their prime and can score at will if covered by a single player. Remember basketball only allows five players per team on the floor at once, so even if the Heat can find D-League rejects to fill out their starting five at least one of these guys is going to be able to post 30.

Number 2: Los Angeles Lakers – SG Kobe Bryant, PF Pau Gasol, F Lamar Odom

Add on part ultimate competitor (Bryant), one part superb low post scorer with a midrange jump shot (Gasol), and one part versatile forward (Odom) and you have two championships in a row. Sure bail outs from Derek Fisher help, but this team is great because these three present match up problems for every team in the league.

Number 3: Boston Celtics – PF Kevin Garnett, SF Paul Pierce, PG Rajon Rondo

Garnett re-emerged as a defensive stopper this season and Pierce and Rondo took turns taking over games all season long. Yes, Rondo replaces Allen on the Celtics, but he has become a top-five point guard and that trumps the aging Allen’s sweet jumper.

Number 4: San Antonio Spurs – PF Tim Duncan, SG Manu Ginobili, PG Tony Parker

The Spurs are a perpetually understated team. They have perhaps the best power forward of all time in Duncan, a gritty and creative scoring force in Ginobili, and a quick point guard in Parker who can get to the bucket against anybody and manages to knock down big shots despite having a poor outside shot. These are three guys that just know how to win. They only finish below the Celtics because I’d rather have Pierce than Ginobili.

Number 5: Houston Rockets – C Yao Ming, PG Aaron Brooks, SG Kevin Martin

This one comes with a caveat, Ming – when healthy. Brooks blossomed last season, taking over the leadership role in Ming’s absence after T Mac was traded to the Knicks. Add a terrific perimeter shooter in Martin and this team is terrifying. Brooks drives, Ming dominates the post, and Martin will catch you sleeping on the outside. It is the perfect inside-out combo with a penetrating guard to poke and prod the defense.

Number 6: Orlando Magic – C Dwight Howard, PG Jameer Nelson, SG Vince Carter

Say what you will about the Magic and these three, but after the Rockets it is rather difficult to find a clear big three and this combo did go to the Eastern Conference Finals before falling apart. Nelson continues to prove he is a big time player despite my inability to accept such a reality. Howard may not be a gifted offensive player, but he is beast o the boards and blocking shots. On occasion he may even make a decent back-to-the-basket move using his freakish quickness. Then there is Vince Carter. While he is hit or miss, so is a third banana like Lamar Odom and the Lakers are listed at number two.

Number 7: Dallas Mavericks – PF Dirk Nowitzki, G Jason Terry, PG Jason Kidd

The big German is still a seven-foot shooting guard despite his declining ability to make plays in the post, and that means something huge in games often decided by mismatches. Add the sage-like play of Kidd this past season and the rejuvenated play of the microwave Jason Terry and this is a team capable of decimating clubs on the perimeter.

Number 8: Oklahoma City Thunder – SF Kevin Durant, PG Russell Westbrook, PF Jeff Green

League’s most prolific scorer, a point guard whose dominance defies his stats, and a glue guy who happily accepts his role – give this trio another season or two and they will be a top three combination. Right now they are too young and lack the nitty, gritty playoff experience for me to leapfrog them over the past three or four teams.

Number 9: Milwaukee Bucks – PG Brandon Jennings, C Andrew Bogut, SF Corey Maggette

Jennings is going to be a top-five point guard, Bogut is a low post scoring force with vision despite having no hops, and Maggette is a solid 20 point-5-board forward who is still a superb athlete. The talent here may be flying under the radar of casual NBA fans, but die hard fanatics know this is a team to be feared.

Number 10: Chicago Bulls – PG Derrick Rose, PF Carlos Boozer, C Joakim Noah

Rose came back from poor play early on because of a lingering ankle injury to shock and awe Bulls fans. Boozer is a 20-10 guy with a midrange jumper. Noah is an energetic center with a knack for rebounding and just getting in the way on defense (in a good way). If Noah had any kind of an offensive game, this trio could jump up a few spots, but he is only good for put backs and fast break dunks.

Lakers and Celtics Part Deux, the 2010 NBA Finals

The 2010 NBA Finals (and yes, I am preemptively giving the Western Conference Finals to LA.) is neither a rematch of the Celtics and Lakers from the 2008 season nor a series between the 2008 NBA Champion Boston Celtics and the 2009 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers. This may seem perfectly obvious to many, but pundits are sure to compare a Celtics team with a healthy Garnett to the championship team two years ago and a Lakers team with a healthy Andrew Bynum to the championship team from last season. This could conveniently by billed as a battle between the optimal incarnation of both storied franchises in the 21st century, especially as the NBA tries to steal attention from the LeBron watch.

Rather, this is an NBA Finals between a Lakers team with two and a half seasons of chemistry under its belt and a Celtics team with the Big Three finally ready to pass the torch to Rajon Rondo. This could also be a much better series to watch than the 2008 series in which the Lakers quite obviously were ill-equipped to handle the Big Three at the end of their collective prime.

Rondo, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce are going to be a difficult trio for Jackson to contain. Typically, the opposition has at least one weak link on the perimeter and Derek Fisher is hidden away guarding that player.

The Celtics do not have a weak link for Fisher to guard, so then what is the plan, put Fisher on the player having the worst night? Fisher cannot keep up with Allen around screens, Fisher cannot handle Pierce in the post, and Fisher cannot stay in front of Rondo.

The Lakers have their own troublesome triumvirate. Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom can be taken out of the game individually by Kevin Garnett, but considering the Lakers will be playing at least two of these players at a time, the Celtics have no answer for the length and skill of this group.

Gasol can do everything. Bynum is beast five feet in, and Odom is a terrific passer with a decent midrange jump shot and the ability to move like a ninja without the ball. Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis are not the answer, they are just 12 fouls. Rasheed Wallace is not an all-world defender. What are the Celtics to do?

The Celtics still have hope, as long as Wallace and Garnett can continue to draw defenders out of the lane on offense, allowing Rondo free reign to drive to the basket or Allen and Pierce to make cuts to the basket. The Lakers have an answer if they bring in Odom at small forward though.

Boston and Los Angeles seem to compliment each other, meaning this series could be the best since the Celtics and Lakers were great teams in the 1980s. I am definitely looking forward to this series and wish I had season Celtics tickets for TD Garden or Lakers tickets for the Staples Center.

Biting The Hand That Feeds: The Derek Fisher Story

Yesterday I was watching the replay of PTI on ESPN2 and caught an interview with Derek Fisher. Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon were asking his thoughts on the aging of Kobe Bryant and on the backlash from Utah Jazz fans during the last playoff series. This is where I get angry. He has the gall to summarily dismiss the anger of the Jazz fans, saying that he simply plays a game.

For those who forgot, back in 2007 Fisher asked to opt out of his contract with the Jazz so he could move his family closer to a city with specialists who could help in his young daughter fight with retinoblastoma (cancer of the eye). The Jazz organization let him leave and he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, playing out the rest of the season as the most sympathetic player in the NBA.

Fast forward three years and Fisher is still playing for the Lakers, leaving a gaping hole in the Lakers perimeter defense and occasionally playing Robert Horry in big playoff games. The Lakers played the Jazz in the second round of the 2010 NBA playoffs and two girls wore shirts accusing him of lying about his daughter’s illness to escape Salt Lake City and the terrifying reach of the Mormons. The spirit of the accusation infected the rest of the raucous crowd and they chanted “Cancer” as Fisher walked up to the free throw line.

Are those fans who chanted “cancer” and wore shirts stating “Fisher lied” despicable? Yes, of course, but they are also wonderfully inventive and exactly what a sport needs to create a television-worthy rivalry. Are not who I am angry at? No.

I am angry at Derek Fisher. I do not think he lied, but the fact that he was amazed and dismissive of fans’ ridiculous devotion is what pissed me off. Yes, basketball is just a game, as is football, baseball, soccer, and plenty of other professional sports, but their devotion to a silly game is the reason he is making $5.3 million this year.

This is not a rare occurrence. Professional athletes, high profile sports writers, movie stars, and ridiculously popular musicians say the exact same thing about their industry after a few years in the spotlight. Dogs are smart enough to not bite the hands that feed, so why are jaded rich people allowed to do so?

Understand that if you are willing to take the paycheck to play a sport for a living, watch sports for a career, act for a multi-million dollar payday, or sing before crowds of thousand paying a week’s paycheck for the concert tickets, then you must respect the very insanity of the world in which you live.

These athletes, writers, actors, and musicians play an important role in our society. They provide escape from the mundane, soul-crushing existence that is the 50- to 60-hour work week. Being meta-aware of the situation is not helpful to the illusion keeping millions of people sane.

Do not tell the middle class fans depleting their bank account to purchase three hours of entertainment with New York Yankees tickets to the overpriced Yankees Stadium or Los Angeles Lakers tickets to the equally overpriced Staples Center they are being ridiculous.

I am not asking them to give back all the money they have been paid (I hesitate to say earned after watching some these people play, reading what they have wrote, watching them soil the silver screen, and listening to the atrocious discordant sounds of a tapped out music mind). All I ask is these people fortunate enough to earn millions living out a dream to be thankful and respect the improbable situation in which they live, lest they want to see their world implode and reality to wreak its revenge like a George Romero movie toppling consumerism.