When an NBA team doesn’t make the playoffs, as is the case with the Knicks this year, the lone silver lining is a chance to nab a very good college player in the NBA Draft Lottery. Lamentably for Knicks fans, their team traded their top pick …
Colin Jost, who with Cecily Strong succeeded Seth Meyers at the “Saturday Night Live” Weekend Update desk, quipped, “Monday was Opening Day for baseball and a reopening of old wounds for Mets fans!”
As angry as Mets fans had to have been on March 31 watching their heroes fail to hold a one-run lead with two outs in the ninth inning, their spirits must have truly sunk the next day over the news that the team’s closer, Bobby Parnell, would go on the disabled list because of a ligament tear in his pitching elbow.
Sophomore St. John’s forward JaKarr Sampson surprised nearly everyone by declaring he will leave the Red Storm with the hopes of being drafted by an NBA team in June.
The 6-foot-8 Sampson is a good player who averaged around 14 points per game this past season, but he is not an exceptional talent, since every college team has a player just like him on its roster. He was not listed on the Wooden Award ballot in which media members select the outstanding college basketball player of the year, and there are a lot of names on it. Toss in the fact that St. John’s University was “one and done” in both the Big East and the National Invitational tournaments, and you get the feeling that NBA teams are not exactly lining up for his services.
Now that Madison Square Garden CEO James Dolan has hired “The Lord of the Rings,” Phil Jackson, to be the new Knicks president (he has six NBA championship rings as head coach of the Chicago Bulls; five in the same role for the Los Angeles Lakers; and a pair as a bench player for the Knicks), and has promised to grant him as much autonomy as an owner can, it will be interesting to see whether the media will finally stop bashing Dolan.
At the Jackson press conference, Dolan acknowledged that he has been far from adept at running a basketball team. The most obvious bad decision on his part was firing Donnie Walsh as the team’s general manager without having a suitable replacement ready to take his place. The reason for Walsh’s ouster was that he did not want to give up a king’s ransom to get Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets. Given Anthony’s outstanding play since coming to the Knicks, it’s easy to understand Dolan’s desire to meet Denver’s asking price three years ago.
New York City may be a lot of things, but even our biggest boosters must concede it’s not a big college sports town. It’s been nearly 30 years since the St. John’s men’s basketball team made it to the Final Four and 15 years since it reached the Elite Eight quarter-finals.
Long Island University and Manhattan College have had flashes of hoops success but have not had any kind of consistency. The less said about Fordham and Columbia, the better (though in fairness, the Columbia Lions finished third in the Ivy League this year, a marked improvement over recent years, and nearly all of their players will be returning).
Saturday was a great day in Queens high school sports history, as the Francis Lewis Patriots and the Cardozo Judges won the Public School Athletic League girls and boys basketball championships, respectively, at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The Cardozo game was a nail-biter as it wasn’t decided until the Judges’ Rashond Salnave hit two foul shots with less than three seconds left on the clock [see separate stories in some editions or at qchron.com].
Both teams were the de facto visitors as they played against two Brooklyn high schools, South Shore and Thomas Jefferson, respectively. Dave Diamante, the stentorian-voiced Brooklyn Nets public address announcer, admitted to me that he tried to put a little more enthusiasm into announcing Brooklyn baskets than those made by Queens players.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson generated headlines when he told fellow team executives that he expects the Mets to win 90 games in 2014. Alderson’s remark generated understandable guffaws from even optimistic types because the Mets have come closer to losing 90 games in a season the last five years than they have to winning that many.
Even if Sandy knows he’s just blowing the kind of smoke now legal in Colorado, I can’t really fault him. Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t guarantee a parade down the Canyon of Heroes in late October or early November. The name of the game this time of year is to energize the Mets fan base, which has been understandably lethargic. Having five straight losing seasons, and going into this one with what Metsblog.com is reporting as the seventh-lowest payroll in the majors, will tend to depress ticket sales even among the diehards.
The National Football League generated backpage headlines this past weekend when it was learned that the league is pushing for penalties and possible game suspensions for players who use the “N-word” slur during a game. The NFL was acting primarily in response to such lunkheads as the Miami Dolphins’ Richie Incognito and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Riley Cooper, who brought shame to themselves and the NFL last year by using that disgusting term.
Sorry, ACLU supporters, I support the NFL’s decision in this matter. What wasn’t clear, however, was if NFL referees will have the power to issue penalties for slurs made against other ethnic groups, races or differing sexual orientations. If you are trying to take a principled and responsible stand against prejudice, then you can’t have situations where some groups are protected and others are not.