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Iona Basketball Players, Ranked

17 Mar

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It’s March, which mean’s it’s March Madness time, which means it’s bracket season, which means it’s time for everyone to lay claim to their favorite Cinderella.

This year Iona is a popular pick. And for good reason. The Gaels play fast, shoot a ton of 3s and are, generally, a ton of fun to watch. Iona also happens to be located about a mile away from my childhood home. I grew up watching the team, learned how to play at the college’s basketball camp. Yeah, the school might have bought out and demolished my favorite local diner. But, hey, no one’s perfect.

Anyway, I thought this would be a good time to do an unofficial ranking of the 10 best players to ever come through New Rochelle. And there have been some good ones over the years. The school, after all, has made the NCAA Tournament 11 times (though it’s never advanced to the round of 32) and has won the MAAC tournament nine times. So, without further ado, here are my top-10.

  1. Jeff Ruland: Kind of a no-brainer. A two-time NBA All-Star and the school’s fifth all-time leading scorer. The 1980 team led by him and coached by Jim Valvano is probably the school’s greatest ever.
  2. Richie Guerin: Just 22nd on the school’s all-time scoring list. But he was a six-time NBA All-Star.
  3. Steve Burtt, Sr.: The school’s all-time leading scorer and averaged 24.2 points per game as a senior.
  4. AJ English: Now we get to the dude’s I’ve actually seen play. English, the star of the current team, is one of the best scorers in the country but is a really good passer, too. He has a shot at making the NBA.
  5. Scott Machado: I really thought this guy was going to make the NBA. He’s the best point guard to ever come through Iona. He couldn’t shoot but was a great point guard/team leader. He played with two other guys on this list, and Arizona tranfer MoMo Jones. That was the best Iona team I’ve ever seen.
  6. Steve Burtt, Jr.: Until English came along this guy was the best scorer I’d seen in a Gaels uniform. Dude averaged 25.2 points per game as a senior.
  7. Tariq Kirksay: Wasn’t as explosive as Burtt, but did end up having a nice career oversees.
  8. Sean Armand: The team’s all-time leader in three-pointers made. Could also put the ball on the floor a bit and was part of that Machado team that, I believe, led the nation in scoring.
  9. David Laury: Had a nice career and is now in the D-League, according to Wikipedia.
  10. Mike Glover: The rare talented big man to come through the MAAC.
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My NBA Predictions, Because Who Doesn’t Love Predictions?

26 Oct

Eastern Conference

  1. Cavs
  2. Bulls
  3. Hawks
  4. Heat
  5. Wizards
  6. Bucks
  7. Raptors
  8. Pacers

Conference Finals: Cavs over Heat

Western Conference

  1. Thunder
  2. Warriors
  3. Clippers
  4. Spurs
  5. Rockets
  6. Grizzlies
  7. Pelicans
  8. Jazz

Conference Finals: Spurs over Warriors (Note: the top of the conference is absolutely stacked. Any of those top-five teams could make the finals)

Finals: Spurs over Cavs

MVP: Anthony Davis

ROY: Emmanuel Mudiay

DPOY: Draymond Green

Coach of the Year: Honestly, who cares?

Mel Brooks vs. The Mets

14 Oct

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So, I have a problem.

Tomorrow, Thursday, is Game 5 of the Mets-Dodgers series. The winner will move on to face the Cubbies. Players on the losing team will be forced to clean out their lockers, after which they may cry a bit before realizing that they’re mostly rich and mostly really good looking (I said “mostly”) and that their lives are still awesome. But all that’s neither here nor there.

Back to my problem. Tomorrow, Thursday night, I have tickets to “Mel Brooks — Back in the Saddles Again,” which will feature a live screening of Blazing Saddles followed by a Q+A with Mr. Brooks himself. The film starts at 7:30.

First pitch for Game 5 is at 8:06. Hence, my problem.

On the one hand: this is effing Game 5! deGrom-Greinke. Do or die! The life-long Mets fan in me is screaming that I’m crazy for even considering skipping the game. After all, it’s not like we’re the Yankees or Cardinals. Playoff trips don’t come around very often when your team is ran by a nincompoop who saw nothing fishy about handing over all his cash to a dude guaranteeing a 15 percent return every year. And while having a stable of flame-throwing phenoms like deGrom and Matt Harvey and Thor and Matz does seem to be a recipe for prolonged success, if there’s anything we’ve learned about baseball over the past few years it’s that there’s nothing more fickle than a powerful young arm.

And anyway, I absolutely love this group of Mets. I love Granderson and the way he’s completely overhauled his approach at the plate. I love Cespedes and the violence he brings to everything he does on the field. I love David Wright, The Captain, and how he’s embraced his role as team elder statesman while also showing an exuberance usually seen in nine-year-olds in little league. I love everything the rotund Bartolo Colon does and how he redefines the word “athlete” every time he steps on the field. I love the emotions this team makes me feel — the euphoria following a Cespedes bomb, the anger following yet another dirty play from an old nemesis.

Watching this team — the one put together in late July, not that triple-A junk that was being thrown out their beforehand — has been a blast, and I don’t want it to end. But all baseball seasons do — some just last a little later than others. This Mets season is almost over and I want to soak in as much of it as I can before it fades away.

But, if we’re talking about ticking clocks, well, chances are Mel Brooks doesn’t have much time left either. When you get to 89 you’re pretty much on borrowed time. Even if Brooks does make it into his late 90s, the chances that he remains lucid enough to take part in public Q+As are slim.

This is my dilemma. I love the Mets, but I also love Mel Brooks more. Both were introduced to me by my father at a young age.  Space Balls and Blazing Saddles were shown at multiple birthday parties of mine, and I’ve seen both movies dozens of times. 2,000 Year Old Man was the first comedy album I ever listened to. Brooks’ humor killed me a kid and I think I enjoy it even more now. That’s his magic. You can think you know one of his films by heart, then re-watch as an adult and suddenly discover a new joke that previously you didn’t understand.

Example:

I remember stumbling upon this scene a few years ago and cracking up — at the joke itself, and also at the fact that it had gone over my head every time I watched Space Balls as a kid.

And now I can go watch a Mel Brooks movie WITH Mel Brook, and listen to him be interviewed after?! This is, likely, an opportunity I will never have again.

And I have no clue what to do.

I could go to the screening, DVR some of the game, and be home by about 10. That would likely be around the seventh inning. I’d get to catch the end, but I’d miss so much of the good stuff — those feelings that flow through you as you watch your team in a win-or-go-home playoff game, which, by the way, as Jets, Knicks and Mets fan, is something I don’t get to feel very often.

I could skip Brooks, just watch the game — but if the game is ugly, or the Mets win, or if the Mets are blown out, I will hate myself for choosing baseball over a national treasure.

I have less than a day to decide. Anyone got any thoughts?

Matt Harvey is a Phony

7 Sep

Excuse me a minute while I dip into my #HotTake chamber and morph into a WFAN overnight show caller. It’s just, well, Matt Harvey is really pissing me off.

You see, it’s been years since I’ve been able to care about the Mets this late in the season, and, frankly, I’m loving it. Summers are better when your favorite baseball team is playing meaningful games. It gives you something to check in on every night, something to follow and get into on nights when Bachelor Paradise isn’t on TV.

Making the summer even better was the fact that this post-Cespedes Mets team has been an absolute joy to watch. They mash, they field and they seemingly have flame-throwing monsters taking the hill every single night, that is except those nights when the jolly circular acrobat known as Bartolo Colon gets the ball, which turns Mets games into a mesmerizing circus where any moment you might see a movement which blows your mind.

But the man at the helm of the Mets’ resurgence has been Matt Harvey. It wasn’t just the perfect mechanics or that heat-seeking missile of a fastball or the dazzling numbers that made Harvey so fun and captivating. It was that look and attitude he brought with him to the mound, the idea that him being untouchable was a fact and one he was constantly reveling in.

Oh, and he also had no problem being the guy to throw at opposing villains when his teammates needed a little protecting.

This was, after all, Gotham’s Dark Knight, words which he engraved into his bats. He was a badass, one who could make an August Tuesday night in Flushing seems like Game 7 of the World Series.

But this is where that narrative, that image of a gangster pitcher blowing away everyone in his path, starts to wash away. By now, if you’re reading this, you’re likely familiar with the recent hoopla surrounding Harvey and the Mets. Harvey is coming off Tommy John Surgery. Someone — whether it’s him, or his agent Scott Boras, or Dr. James Andrews, or someone else, or a mixture of all them is unclear — is worried about him surpassing 180 innings in his first full season post surgery. Right now Harvey has thrown 166.1. He was supposed to make four more starts this year, and that doesn’t include the playoffs.

In theory, I have no issue with a pitcher wanting to protect himself and his right arm. That, after all, is his money-maker, and we know a team would have no qualms cutting a player if he ceased performing at a high level. If Matt Harvey wants to look out for himself first, that’s fine by me.

What is not fine by me is a pitcher bitching and complaining all season every time his organization tries to manage his workload and then waiting until after the trade deadline to send his agent to the media to inform the baseball world that there’s a problem.

Let’s rewind for a second: it bears reminding that Harvey actually wanted to return to the mound last September and was reportedly peeved when the Mets wouldn’t permit it. That became a thing in the tabloids. This season, when the Mets said they would go to a six-man rotation to give Harvey some additional rest, he complained.

That, it turns out, was all a facade, Havey playing up this idea of him being the tough guy who doesn’t want to sit, ever. That’s at least how it seems right now. If 180 innings was really the number, well, Harvey should have been welcoming these days off instead of going all caveman. It also would have been cool if he had, at some point, had a mature, adult-like conversation with the Mets so that, I don’t know, maybe they could have been aware of his plan to parachute away before the playoffs. I’m no expert, but that kind of seems like the sort of info that’s normally useful to have prior to the trade deadline.

Even if you’re of the belief that this hard-cap of 180 inning is something that Dr. Andrews only recently suggested, well, Harvey still handled this whole thing like a primadonna toddler. He allowed his agent to go to the media with this info, then, upon being questioned by reporters repeatedly said, “I’m just focused on Tuesday,” his next starts, which he’ll make against the Nationals. Then he allowed some PR crony to pen a letter for him stating that he will, indeed, pitch in the playoffs, and published it on the Player’s Tribune. Again, there doesn’t appear to be a mature bone in this man’s body. Forget about a badass one.

So here we are, with the Mets holding onto a four-game lead over the Nationals in the National League East and the teams scheduled to kick off a three game series today. Matt Harvey is slated to pitch Tuesday. I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes eight innings and strikes out 14.

But it won’t feel the same as it did in the past. All summer I was telling my then-fiance-now-wife about how I couldn’t wait to take her to a Harvey Night at Citi Field, that even someone like her, a non-baseball fan who finds the sport excruciatingly slow, would have a blast watching Harvey ignite the crowd. Now I think that ship has sailed. Matt Harvey might help the Mets make the playoffs, and maybe even win a few October games. But the era of the Mets’ Dark Knight has come to an end. Looking back, I don’t think it ever really began.

Super In Depth Analysis of the NBA Trade Deadline

20 Feb

As sports fans everywhere know, yesterday was the NBA trade deadline. ‘Twas a fun time to be on Twitter. A lot happened. Below I Break. It. Down!

Trade: Goran and Zoran Dragic to the Heat; John Salmons, Justin Hamilton, Danny Granger, 2017 and 2019 first-round picks to the Suns; Norris Cole and Shawne Williams to the Pelicans.

Analysis: 

  • John Salmons is still in the NBA? I honestly have no idea which of these teams traded him to the the Heat.
  • Goran and Zoran sounds like the name of a Key and Peele sketch.
  • Only Pat Riley could figure out a way to get an All-Star caliber point guard for a package that includes one player (Justin Hamilton) I’ve never heard of and a 12 year old (the 2019 draft pick). What an ass.

Trade: Brandon Knight to the Suns; Michael Carter-Williams, Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis to the Bucks; 2015 first-round pick via Lakers (top-5 protected) to the Sixers.

Analysis: I’m all for the “process,” but what’s the game-plan here with Philly? Who’s coming there? If they don’t hit big in the lottery no star player will ever sign with them. Also, they’re annoying.

Trade: Kevin Garnett to the Timberwolves; Thaddeus Young to the Nets.

Analysis: KG becomes the first person to ever move to Minnesota voluntarily.

Trade: Reggie Jackson to the Pistons; Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler, D.J. Augustin, Steve Novak to the Thunder; Kendrick Perkins, Grant Jerrett, future OKC first-round pick, future DET second-round pick to the Jazz.

Analysis: 

  • Reggie Jackson says he’s ecstatic about being traded to Detroit.
  • Any player who’s happy about being traded from a contender featuring Kevin Durant to a hapless team like the Pistons sounds like a real keeper.
  • Also, not sure the role player who thinks he’s a star is a guy you want to be bringing in. Jackson in the offseason   turned down a four-year, $48 contract extension in the offseason. If J.R. Smith did that we’d all laugh.
  • Wish Kendrick Perkins actually had to stay in Utah. Would love to see him walking the streets there.

Other Thoughts: 

  • Some dude named Alexey Shved was sent to the Knicks for Pablo Prigioni Was time actually spent negotiating this?
  • Five of the following six names are real and represent players who were traded on Thursday. Can you pick out the fake on? Jonas Jerekbo, Luigi Datone, Daniel Johnson, Cenk Akyol, Victor Claver, Grant Jerrett
  • The answer was Daniel Johnson. If you’ve heard of the other five guys, well, you’re a better basketball fan than me.

Some Thoughts on Rex Ryan to the Bills

12 Jan

According to reports, Rex Ryan is about to become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. I find this interesting for a few reasons, which I felt like sharing (in a rambling manner) in this space because, well, I’m pretty sure that’s the point behind having a space like this. So, with that being said, here goes:

  • This is classic Rex, in good ways and bad. The good: he’s picking a team that he knows already has a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball. The Bills, according to Football Outsiders’ metrics, had the NFL’s best pass defense this year and the league’s second best defense overall.
  • That unit led the team to a 9-7 season, which is pretty impressive when you consider the fact that Kyle Orton was the team’s starting quarterback, and that he signed like a week before the regular season because the incumbent, E.J. Manual, stunk in the preseason. The Bills, with Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus, have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. They have talent in the secondary, too. All of this is to say that, with Rex in the fold next year, I’d be shocked in Buffalo’s defense isn’t regarded as the AFC’s best.
  • This, no doubt, is what drew Rex to the job. Defense is what matters to him and so he picked the spot where the defense was the best.
  • That said team also happens to play in the same division as the franchise that just fired Rex for sure played a role as well. That’s just how Rex thinks. To him life is about finding those people that don’t agree with you, and then giving them one giant middle finger. That’s what this is. Next year’s Bills-Jets game, and the Ryan quotes that come after his team holds the Jets’ offense to 87 yards, will be great. The decision to take the Bills’ job pretty much puts all of the good of Rex Ryan on display: the confidence, the swagger, the refusal to roll over.
  • It also shows all the bad stuff: the short-sightedness, the ability to let his emotions get the best of him, the belief that defense is all that matters. Ryan is essentially walking into the same situation that he had when he took the Jets job in 2009. A talented defense, but no quarterback, which a team trying to take out Tom Brady and the Patriots needs.
  • Yeah, Sammy Watkins might be the most talented offensive player Ryan’s ever had, but if EJ Manuel is throwing to him it won’t matter. That Ryan is brining over Vic Fangio from San Francisco to be his offensive coordinator is good, but Fangio can’t make a QB appear out of the air. Also, it’s not like the Bills are going to get a QB in this year’s draft. You know who might be Ryan’s starting quarterback this year?
  • Mark Sanchez.
  • That’s right, Mark Sanchez.
  • Let that sink in for a second.
  • If I were advising Rex, I would have told him to hold out for the Atlanta Falcons job. The team already has a good quarterback in Matt Ryan; he and Rex could have been a perfect match.
  • That being said, Rex in Buffalo will be fun. The city and fans will love him, and I do think he’ll be pretty successful. The problem is that in the NFL, having some success is not enough. For a head coach to keep his job he needs to make the Super Bowl. That’s not happening for a team with no quarterback. The Bills will be good the next few years, but in five I expect Ryan to be looking for a new job once again.

In Defense of Dan Le Batard and Fun

11 Aug

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So, I should start off by saying that I’m a huge fan of Dan Le Batard’s. I find him smart and interesting and funny and I find myself jealous of his writing ability. Perhaps all that makes me biased here. I don’t know.

Anyway, one thing I’ve kind of picked up from him*—and it’s funny that in today’s #HotTakes** world this is now something you sometimes need to reacquire—is that sports are supposed to be fun. So simple, right? Duh! Sports are fun. Everyone knows that. Except we don’t. Just pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV or radio. Sometimes the sports talk is more serious than the political talk, which has for a reason made a decision to emulate sports talk, and now we have serious debates about whether Rex Ryan is a distraction and vaudeville ones about presidential candidates. The world is loopy.

*It also should be noted that irony of lamenting the rise of #HotTakes in a post like this is not lost on me. So it goes.

**I’ve realized that as a young writer/journalist, you, or I, end up picking up morsels from all the different people you admire. The trick, I guess, is to try to learn and absorb as much as you can while figuring out a way to, simultaneously, develop your own voice. I’m probably not as good at that second part as I would like, but that’s neither here nor there. 

Sure, every now and then events surrounding the games and the people that play them are important. There’s no denying that. And I certainly don’t subscribe to the theory (which was so eloquently once put forward to me by a Rabbi of mine who wanted to know how I could care so much about something that’s means so little) that the happenings in the sports world don’t matter, either. Just ask Cleveland whether the economics of sports matter or gay people whether Michael Sam matters—and those are just two recent examples picked out of a (metaphorical) hat.

Here’s where sports talk and how we consume sports flies off the rails, though—when we begin to think that the winners and losers and legacies are important. When debates about fan bases turn violent. Perhaps matter is the wrong word. I think what I’m trying to say is when we take these things too seriously.

I love sports, and am, obviously, all for caring about them. And I think the emotional connections and reactions that sports can create are fantastic and should be cherished. But I also find 99 percent of sports radio shows unbearable. The reason: everything is so SERIOUS! I’m not saying don’t discuss the games and have fun debates; I, like most sports fan, love talking about the greatest NBA teams of all time and where the Mets’ young pitching staff might stack up next year. But if someone disagrees with me I’m not going to go curse them, their mother, their children, their sister and their pet dog.

This is all kind of a roundabout—and probably not so clear—way of getting to Dan Le Batard and his decision to pay for the billboard you see in the picture above. That went up in Akron last week. You can read more about the story here. That this whole thing has become a controversy to give #HotTakes about is completely asinine. This was a radio host spending his own money to get his show some publicity. And to make the city that he’s made clear he loves—and the one who he, for all intents and purposes works for—feel like someone on the national stage has its back. This was all harmless. And, in my opinion, pretty funny.

Notice, there’s nothing critical in that billboard. No shots were taken. It’s a joke, and a good natured one.

It also got him and his show suspended.

Is it so hard to find games fun?