Things sure looked a lot brighter for the Jets a month ago when they went into their bye week with a 5-4 record, as they had just knocked off one of the NFL’s best, the New Orleans Saints. The conventional wisdom was that the two-week break would give Rex Ryan’s troops much-needed rest and a chance for some injured players, such as their best wide receiver, Santonio Holmes, a chance to fully recuperate.
Sadly for the Jets and their fans, things have not gone that way. Gang Green lost badly on the road to both the Buffalo Bills and the Baltimore Ravens. Still, there was no sense of panic because historically the Jets have always had trouble winning in those places. The common thinking was that the Jets would right the ship when they would take on the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium to begin December. A win over Miami would put them in a strong position to earn a playoff berth.
To paraphrase the late Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, the Jets never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. They were beaten by the Dolphins 23-3, and even that score was not indicative of how badly they were dominated. Ryan immediately apologized to Jets fans for his team’s miserable performance in all facets of football that day.
Geno Smith was awful again as nearly every Jets drive in the first half was three downs and a punt. The patient Ryan had seen enough and replaced him with fellow inexperienced QB Matt Simms, who was only marginally better. The Jets head coach admitted that he may activate veteran signal caller David Garrard next week. Garrard was signed during the off-season by new team general manager John Idzik, even though he hasn’t played since 2010.
Stephen Ross, the New York real estate developer and Dolphins owner, was certainly a happy man after the game. Ross is partnering with Mets owner Fred Wilpon to develop Willets Point into a shopping center and apartment complex. Mayor Bloomberg gave them his blessing even though there was a complete lack of transparency in the process, angering many.
“We have all of our permits and we are ready to get going,” Ross told me. He confirmed that Willets Point will have affordable middle-class housing, a promise thought to be just lip service to the public by many who saw Bloomberg’s giveaway of the Iron Triangle to Ross and Wilpon as an example of crony capitalism at its worst.
When I told Ross that he was lucky that he got his permits before there was a change in mayors, he quickly replied, “You’re not kidding!” with a relieved smile.
Tonight’s Knicks-Nets game at the Barclays Center will have intrigue, but for none of the reasons that fans of both teams were expecting before the season began. To say that the Knicks and the Nets have underperformed is putting it mildly at best.
Last year Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov fired Avery Johnson a few days after Christmas and a key reason was that the Nets were run out of Madison Square Garden a week earlier. It wouldn’t be surprising if Knicks CEO James Dolan, who has made it clear that he has not been happy with how things have gone for his team so far this season, drops the axe on Knicks head coach Mike Woodson if his team falls to the Nets.
Woodson’s Nets counterpart, Jason Kidd, has found being an NBA head coach so far a lot harder than playing point guard in the league. He added a touch of levity last Wednesday night when realizing that his team was out of timeouts in a tight game with the Los Angeles Lakers he told one of his players, Tyshaun Taylor, to accidentally bump him so that he could spill some soda on the court forcing the referees to stop the action as they summoned the Barclays Center custodial crew to clean up the mess.
The ploy did not help the Nets win that particular game but his improvisation won him support in the Nets’ locker room. I have no doubt that Prokhorov, who has a very good sense of humor, probably applauded his resourcefulness. NBA officials were probably chuckling as well but they fined Kidd $50,000, probably to deter other coaches from imitating him.
Kidd would be having an easier time if those Celtics greats that Nets general manager acquired — Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry — could show even a remote semblance of their former brilliance. The only Nets players who are coming close to earning their paychecks are forward Joe Johnson, backup center Andray Blatche and reserve forward Mirza Teletovic, who has shown a knack for hitting outside shots when the rest of his team is ice cold.
Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? New York City has not been a hotbed for college basketball for years, yet both the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden had one tournament after another in late November. Among them were the 2K Wounded Warrior Project, the Progressive Legends Classic, the Barclays Classic, Coaches vs. Cancer and the granddaddy of them all, the Preseason NIT.
The NIT drew the largest crowd, primarily because it featured Duke University, whose star player, freshman forward Jabari Parker, may very well be the first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Although he did not say definitively that he would leave Duke after only one year, Parker gave a knowing smile when I said that I would probably see him in New York in late June.
The good news is that nearly all of the aforementioned college hoops tournaments raised money for various good causes.