Win Or Go Home

The SEVEN
by Mack Williams
15 April 2014

I. Na Na Na Na…

The generally held assumption is that Mike Woodson is in his last days of coaching the New York Knicks, especially since the Atlanta Hawks’ victory over Miami Saturday night eliminated the Knicks from contention for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference – and to a certain extent, that’s understood. It’s expected that almost any new management group – in sports or in general – will often bring on board people that they have familiarity with.

That said, here are two things I really dislike:
1) Coaches/Managers fired mid-season.

(This obviously did not happen to Woodson.)

2) Coaches/Managers left to swing in the wind of uncertainty. This did happen to Woodson, and I’m not so sure – after an 18-6 mark during the end of the 2011-12 season, a 50-win season last year and the team’s first playoff series win in years – that that was what he deserved.

As for Phil Jackson and what happens going forward, Knick fans can only hope that Jackson’s championship resume can attract free agent talent needed to get the team over the top. Otherwise, this may turn out to be the movie we’ve seen before; Mike D’Antoni was very successful with Phoenix but went to the Knicks without bringing two-time MVP Steve Nash along with him – and did not replicate his prior success. Phil Jackson has coached 10 championship teams and played on two others, but we know for a fact that Jackson is bringing along neither Jordan, Pippen and Rodman, nor Kobe and Shaq, nor Clyde and Earl.

II. Off To See The Wizard

Shout out to my dude Flax, who once told me of a high school game in which he scored his career high of 18 points, including a half court shot to send the game into overtime, along with more heroics in the overtime period. In the next game, armed with new found courage and confidence like Dorothy’s Cowardly Lion, he scored 40.

The Timberwolves’ Corey Brewer, averaging 12.3 points per game this year and 10 points per game over a seven-year career, has had a week like Flax, albeit on a much larger scale. On Friday – with high scorers Kevin Love and Kevin Martin sitting out – he scored 51 in a win over the Rockets.

III. Win And Go Home

The forthcoming playoffs, which will not feature either the Knicks or the Timberwolves, will also not feature the Phoenix Suns, who will be going home winners of 47 games in a year many assumed they would be “tanking.” Meanwhile the Hawks will be in with a sub-.500 record as the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. I’m glad new commissioner Adam Silver thinks the system should at least be looked at on some level. Adam, if you’re reading this, here’s a solution: keep the division winners in regardless of record, take the next best ten records regardless of conference, and guarantee each regular season conference winner home court advantage in round one.

IV. Try Something Else

Perhaps Blake Griffin should jump over some more cars or people or something, because those Griffin Force spots are not funny. Kia, if you want to farm out some of your ad agency work, shoot me an email!

V. The Luckiest Man…

At the very least, one of the luckiest men on the face of the earth would be Manhattan College coach Steve Masiello, who was poised to leave for a bigger school until new school found his credentials were not exactly as represented on his resume. Fortunately for him, Manhattan will take him back. How often will that happen?

VI. Train Wreck

Actually the luckiest still-employed individual in the world might be Rutgers University AD Julie Hermann, whose latest foot-in-mouth incident featured her saying that it would be great if the Star-Ledger would fold. I’m just going to assume that she failed to consider the economic effect from the folding of the state’s largest newspaper.

Give the job to Eric LeGrand.

VII. Doggone People

Now some folks are protesting Mike Vick’s participation at the New York Jets camp. Did they forget that Mike Vick did time for his crime, apologized numerous times, and was nothing but a model citizen during his years with the Eagles? And they don’t want him to be able to work in his field?

If only people were as steadfast about punishing George Z.

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Get Your Billion Back

brackets

The SEVEN
by Mack Williams
7 April 2014

I. A Billion Reasons to Try Again

The bracket that I was certain would make me a billionaire, courtesy of Warren Buffett, is pictured here. Oh well, there’s always next year, which brings me to…

II. Next Year?

When I fill out my 2015 bracket I could do worse than predicting Final Four appearances for the teams in this year’s NCAA Men”s basketball championship game. Tonight’s game features two of the great programs in college sports, UConn and Kentucky, one of which has lately become known as a “one and done” factory, preparing their single-year players for the NBA draft. For that reason many traditionalists may find themselves rooting for Connecticut tonight.

Funny how the core issue hasn’t changed much from my school years, in which I penned an essay championing the right of players to declare early for the draft (which at that time often meant after junior year). The bottom line is that 99.3 percent of collegians are there in order to better their prospects for acquiring good jobs, especially in their chosen field. So when a college basketball player leaves college early, it is because he has a job opportunity in a field he is very much skilled in. Far be it for us to insist that he stay in school as a full-time student, when the job he is going to will pay ten times – or much more, for that matter – what the top graduates will earn. And what if he gets hurt? All of a sudden the NBA isn’t throwing that big cash at him…what then?

As an aside, sports such as tennis and baseball are filled with many athletes that did not complete four years in college, if they went at all in some cases. Little is said about these players, as opposed to basketball players. For whatever it’s worth, these guys playing under John Calipari at Kentucky and other early declaring players are getting what they need or want out of college, just as the future accountant is by staying four years and getting a degree. But, of course, there is one major difference between now and the days of my original essay: the Internet. With the advent of online coursework, an early-leaving player does not have to choose between staying in school and turning pro; now he can choose both.

III. Oh, Baby

Chances are more casual fans outside of the New York area now know the name of Mets’ infielder Daniel Murphy than ever before, because of the controversy as a result of his taking two games off to be with his wife as she had their first child. Short-sighted sports radio hosts criticized his decision, implying his first priority was to his team.

Really? The Mets have begun the season 2-4, and one of the two was on an Ike Davis walk-off grand slam – which shows that that was pretty close to a loss as well. Their closer, Bobby Parnell, is out for the season…bottom line is it shouldn’t have been an issue.

IV. MLB Predictions

Hopefully my division winner picks will be better than the bracket…

NL East – seems like everyone is picking Washington…so I’m going with Atlanta, in part on the strength of a big bounce back year by B.J. Upton.

NL Central – I would like to pick Pittsburgh, who will be a playoff team, but I won’t go out on a limb, and therefore play it safe by choosing St. Louis.

NL West – Dodgers will have their issues but ultimately we will continue to see what a skill set Yasiel Puig has.

AL East – Something tells me to say Boston…but as we are in the Derek Jeter retirement tour year, I’m going storybook ending and picking the Yankees.

AL Central – Detroit (despite losing Prince Fielder)

AL West – still Texas – now with Fielder.

V. Heat Is On

I was just about to say that my dude C-Squared, Heat fan extraordinaire, was about to see the playoff match ups he specifically didn’t want if the Heat held on to the conference first seed – meaning a first round against New York and a second round against Brooklyn, but just as quickly as the Knicks made it into the eighth seed, they have now fallen two games out. For Mike Woodson, the heat is definitely on.

VI. Speaking of Predictions…

The administration predicted 7 million signups under the Affordable Care Act by March 31st, but the Republican naysayers were full of doubt. As it turns out, the administration was correct. Guys in that other party, how about stopping your efforts to repeal it? Better yet, can you tell us – and them, while you’re at it – which of the many more than seven million people who are now insured that you want back off the rolls, and why?

VII. Richard Sherman

This man is articulate and brilliant, as shown again when he defended DeSean Jackson for the “gang-related” charges levied at him. This is why a lot of folks weren’t mad when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl.