With the Heat riding a winning streak, the Knicks doing their best bubble team impersonation and the Sixers clinging to the very last shred of playoff viability I have to admit, the tone of posts around Blogs By Fans is skewing too much toward blind optimism these days for my tastes. I realize I'm the main culprit, so this edition of "Round Tables" has only one rule...nothing positive about your team. I want to know who your worst player is, how he's killing your team, and why he's worse than everyone else's worst player.

We need to start this discussion somewhere, and though I don't see how anyone can argue against his stats, I thought it would be fitting to start this St. Patrick's Day discussion with Willie Green.

Willie's Stats (from 82games.com): I've been tracking Willlie's statistical futility for a couple of weeks now, and even during the Sixers winning streak, his affect on the team's performance was remarkable. Through 3/15, the Sixers were -241 points in the 1392 minutes Green was on the floor, and +45 points in the 1762 he was on the bench. Stark, but it gets even worse.


Effective field goal percentage: With Green, 46.4%; Without Green, 49.3%.
Effective field goal percentage allowed: With Green, 50.9%; Without Green, 49.6%.
Assisted field goals: With Green, 53%; Without Green, 59%

 

You get the picture. With Willie on the floor, the Sixers are considerably worse on offense and defense. They don't move the ball as much.

Stating Willie's Case: I'm sure you're going to hear names like Nate Robinson, Gary Payton, maybe even Antoine Walker mentioned by the other BBF bloggers. All horrible players in their own right, but none of them have as much of a negative impact on the game as Green does. Green has somehow made his way into the Sixers' starting lineup, plays heavy minutes, and Green's play dictates the outcome of games. There's something horribly wrong when you can honestly say, "As Willie goes, so go the Sixers." The worst player on your team should not dictate the outcome, but for the Sixers, there are absolutely nights when he does.

Throw Your Remote Through Your TV Moments: Willie definitely leads the league in these. You know what I'm talking about, Green comes in off the bench, heaves up 5 shots in the first 3 minutes, gets called for a charge and throws a pass into the stands, a ten-point lead suddenly turns into a deficit. Or, how every single friggin game the opposing team's announcers say something like "Wow, that Willie Green sure can light it up." Or how we have to constantly be reminded that they named a locker room after Willie at Detroit Mercy. Who f'ing cares? Watching Willie play has taken weeks if not months off my life, can any of you guys say that about your team's worst player?

I defy you to top "Garbage Time" Green.
[full story]

by Brian on February 14 at 10:00PM

So the first Yankee Roundtable has completed its circle, and the ball is back in my court. Be sure to check out parts 1-4.

- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4

And now for the questions from Stop Mike Lupica:

1. Who do you see as the biggest threat to the Yankees in the East next year? Alot of people in the media want to play up the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, but don't you think the Blue Jays are the real threat? Or do you think the Sox can make up the ground they lost to the Jays last season?

I don't know if you'd consider this short-sighted, cynical, realistic or stilted, but until a team other than the Red Sox finishes ahead of the Yanks, or is at least within arm's length in September, I'm not going to consider them a threat. It's been 10 years since any of the other teams in the A.L. East has put a contending team on the field, and I don't think that's going to change this year. The D-Rays are a joke, and probably will remain so for as long as they exist. The Orioles ownership and front office have no idea how to compete in today's game and while Toronto is somehow coming up with resources, I don't think they're making smart moves with that money. Halladay's a stud, Wells is too, they overpaid for B.J. Ryan, even though he turned out to be a good acquisition, and the A.J. Burnett signing was disastrous up to this point. Glaus is basically this generation's Rob Deer. I like Reed, I don't like Rios, Catalanatto would be a nice guy to have off the bench, but this year he's going to have to play the field I guess, cause there's no way Frank Thomas is going to play the field on turf. Speaking of Thomas, that money was thrown down the drain. I will be beyond shocked if he puts up numbers anywhere near last year's, in fact, I'll be shocked if he doesn't go down with a leg injury by the All Star break.

In a nutshell, if the Yanks have a threat in their division it's the Sox, but this year I think Boston has more question marks than they did last year, and I'm expecting them to sputter and flop.

2. What would you do to improve this season's team? What do you feel are the weak spots that need to be worked on?

Right off the bat I'd put Matsui at first, and Melky in left, and I'd leave them there. First base is not a difficult position to play, Matsui can handle it, and Melky makes this lineup much more dynamic (hit and run, bunt, run), he's the Yanks best outfielder, and he brings an enthusiasm to the lineup that just isn't there when he's on the bench. I really think the biggest reason the Yanks sputtered against the Tigers is that Sheffield and Matsui were shoehorned back into the lineup for the playoff run. The Yanks played their best ball when Melky was in there.

Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of weak spots on this team. We can begin with starters 4&5. I have zero confidence in Pavano, and who knows what to think of Igawa. There was nothing more painful than watching Jaret Wright waddle out to the mound every fifth day last year knowing the bullpen was going to get killed even if he pitched his best game. Now, the Yanks are going into the season with potentially two guys at the back of the rotation who are going to do the exact same thing. Beyond Proctor and Farnsworth, who is Torre going to trust in the bullpen? Where's the bat off the bench? Look at the teams that won the rings, you had Strawberry, Chili Davis, Rock Raines, Glenallen Hill or Jose Canseco coming off the bench in key situations. Does Andy Phillips strike fear into an opposing pitcher? Of course, there really isn't anyone but the first basemen to pinch hit for, but it's still an issue.

And the last issue is Purple Lips himself. The situation with A-Rod is beyond repair as far as I'm concerned. The fact of the matter is that the next 8 months are nothing but 240+ days for A-Rod to be criticized and there's absolutely nothing he can do lessen it until next September/October. It's only going to get worse, and he cannot handle it. I will be shocked if he doesn't opt out after this season, and this story is only going to gain momentum as the season wears on.

3. Where do you see Cashman taking this team in the long-run? Is he (re)building the foundation of the team, and, if so, is he betting the future of the team on these young prospects (Hughes, Sanchez, etc) or is he going to go out and get a free agent after the season, like a WIllis or a Zambrano?

I'll answer the second part first: I pray to God the Yanks don't go out and sign either of those guys, but especially Willis. D-Train pitches in one of the best pitcher's parks in the majors, in the National League, in front of zero fans, with zero pressure. He doesn't strike people out, and he will not succeed against American League lineups. Zambrano's got good stuff, but he's pitched for pitiful Cubs teams basically his entire career, in a "who cares if we win" atmosphere. And if he becomes a free agent the price is going to be way too high for him.

What I think Cashman is doing, is following the Stick Michaels play book on building a champion. The core of the team will come through the farm system, and free agent signings will be good players who fit a need, like Knoblauch was (before he self-destructed), not the best available players every year for the most money. The difference between the Yanks now, and where they stood in 1995 is that Cashman has Jeter, in the prime of his career as his main building block. In 1995 Mattingly was on the way out, so the team had to start from scratch.

By no means am I saying this team cannot win. What I am saying is that the key additions they need to make to do it this year should come from within. Hughes, Sanchez whichever ones progress the most in the early season should be up, with this team cementing themselves as the future of the franchise. They do not need to go out and trade any of their chips away for a middling national league pitcher. I'd rather they finish out of the playoffs than go down that road. With all of that being said, there is one guy I would LOVE the Yanks to go after when he becomes a free agent, Carl Crawford.

OK, that's going to wrap up Blogs By Fans' first roundtable discussion. In the coming weeks we're going to launch a new a new conversation called "The Vault." This stems from something Brandon and I have been doing for years. Everyone is going to make predictions on the upcoming season and they're going to be kept in "The Vault," at the All Star break we'll take them out and see who was on the money, and who was thinking with his heart, rather than his head (I'm looking at you Mike), then we'll have a postmortem after the season to compare our predictions and ridicule Mike for picking Piazza as comeback player of the year. Stay tuned.

[full story]

This is part 4 of the Yankees Roundtable here at Blogs by Fans. See part 1 at depressedfan.com; part 2 at behindthebacksports.com; and part 3 at greenpinstripes.com

Before we answer the questions posed to us, here are some other thoughts on previously discussed Yankee-related topics:

On the starting rotation: Mussina will be the opening day starter on April 2nd, provided he is healthy. Torre always goes with the veterans; even if the fans now perceive Wang as the "true" ace of the staff, Mussina and Pettite will go before him in Torre's rotation (assuming health). Speaking of assuming health, at the four-spot: Pavano. And, provided he doesn't completely bomb in camp, at the five-spot in the rotation... Kei Igawa. Note: Pavano and Igawa could flip spots, if Igawa has a solid camp. From what I've heard, his stuff isn't too impressive; but alot of lefties can get by with unimpressive stuff if they know how to pitch (see Jimmy Key).

Favorite Jimmy Key-related story: I was hanging out with Ill Will once, and described a lefty as Jimmy Keyish.

SML: You know, he throws crap but gets away with it. He throws his change-up alot.

Will: If you throw it all the time, is it really a change-up? Should it be called a same-up?

That still cracks me up.

As for Philip Hughes, I love the future, but he won't be in the majors any earlier than June, and then only if there are injuries. And even then, I don't think he will be needed... the Yankees only got rid of Randy Johnson because they must think they have the inside track on Roger Clemens come July.

Questions about Pettite are unnecessary. Assuming he is healthy, he has thrown for over 200 IP the last two years; yes, it was the NL, but his homefield was a hitter's park, and he had an amazing 2005 (17-9, 2.39 ERA). I don't think he'll do that, but I think a 14-16 win season with a 4.20 ERA is likely.

On to the questions from greenpinstripes:

1. The Yankees strength is their offensive firepower, but outside of the top of the order (Damon and Jeter) and the number 9 slot (whoever is on first), what would be the best way to fill out the everyday lineup?

The problem the Yankees have had the last three to six postseasons has been that they can't manufacture a run in a close game. The rely too much on power, and especially the last three years, they have had too many power hitters in the lineup - that's great in the regular season, when you can rely on Giambi to carry the team for a few weeks when he's hot, A-Rod for a few, etc; but in the postseason rarely, if ever, can a hitter really carry a whole team. You are now facing top pitching every night - you'll never see so much as a team's fourth starter, and you won't see much middle relief in a close game - only the top pitchers.

The Yankees (from 1996-2001) used to be able to hit and run, or have someone lay down a bunt in a critical situation. When was the last time you saw the Yankees bunt, or sacrifice, in a playoff game? How do you ask Sheffield, or A-Rod, or Giambi, or Damon, to lay down a bunt?

The inability to manufacture a run cost the Yankees in game 4 and 5 against Boston in 2004; they had opportunities, but could not score a run from second with less than two outs. We saw it again last season against Detroit - they lost game 2 by a 4-3 score, and let Detroit back into the series. We saw in 2005 against the Angels.

The Yankees need less power in their lineup, which is why, even though we love Sheffield we knew he had to go. Giambi is still untradeable, and has a great eye. So, too does Abreu. With Cano, Damon, and Jeter, and whoever is playing 1st (watch for Josh Phelps, he has an outside chance), the Yankees now have a team that can better manufacture runs - speed, contact hitters, guys with good eyes. I would go with Damon, Jeter, Abreu, Matsui, A-Rod, Giambi, Posada, Phelps/Mientkiewicz, and Cano, in that order.

This off-season saw the Yanks trade Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson for young arms. Will any (like Humberto Sanchez or Ross Ohlendorf) make an impact on the Yankees in 2007 or will Philip Hughes be the best bet to make the claim as the Yanks new young gun this year?

Both have a better chance of making the team than Hughes; whereas Hughes is 20 years old and never pitched above AA, Sanchez is 23, Ohlendorf is 24, and both have some (minimal) experience at AAA. Sanchez is 6'6 with a power arm and a tender elbow - I could see the Yankees going the bullpen route with him, and in that role he would be my bet to have the most impact on the 2007 Yankees. I don't see Hughes getting a significant amount of time in the majors, unless Clemens signs with the Red Sox and forces the Yankees' hand. Ohlendorf is the oldest, so if something happens to the rotation (with Pavano, Pettite, and Mussina, that's almost certain), he could be used to spot start or fill an injury, but Sean Henn and Jeff Karstens have dibs on that role. He could be tradebait (see next question).

What do you expect out of Carl Pavano this season? Also, if he has a strong Spring Training, should the Yankees consider trading him while his value would be at its peak?

If Pavano can avoid injuries, he will be a decent fourth - his stuff never wowed me, but he'll be better than Jaret Wright last season. Put him down for about 12-9, 4.40 ERA. He won't be an ace, nor will he have to - as long as he can do a decent job as a fourth starter, he has done his (overpaid) job. As for trading him - if you trade out of camp, even if he looks great during camp - you are going to get undervalue for him. I don't see Cashman going that route; if anything, I think he would let him show his stuff for a few months, then trade him in July when Clemens comes in. If the rest of the rotation - Mussina, Wang, Pettite, and Igawa - are doing great, then it makes sense - Clemens can take Pavano's spot, the Yankees save $10 million next season, and can get back some prospects or some bench depth.

One last thing to watch for, in the event Clemens doesn't sign with the Yankees - look for a possible move for Dontrille Willis or even Carlos Zambrano, both free agents after this season. The Marlins are not re-signing Willis, so he should be available; Zambrano is a different story but it depends on how the season goes in Wrigley. With the newly restocked farm system, I could see Ohlendorf or Sanchez getting traded for one of those guys.

Questions for Depressedfan:

1. Who do you see as the biggest threat to the Yankees in the East next year? Alot of people in the media want to play up the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, but don't you think the Blue Jays are the real threat? Or do you think the Sox can make up the ground they lost to the Jays last season?

2. What would you do to improve this season's team? What do you feel are the weak spots that need to be worked on?

3. Where do you see Cashman taking this team in the long-run? Is he (re)building the foundation of the team, and, if so, is he betting the future of the team on these young prospects (Hughes, Sanchez, etc) or is he going to go out and get a free agent after the season, like a WIllis or a Zambrano?

[full story]

by Mike on February 13 at 10:44PM

This is the questions portion of the Yankees Roundtable here at Blogs by Fans.  See part 1 at depressedfan.com, part 2 at behindthebacksports.com and part 3 was right here at greenpinstripes.com.

Here are my questions for our cleanup blogger, Stop Mike Lupica or SML at http://www.stopmikelupica.com/:

1.  The Yankees strength is their offensive firepower, but outside of the top of the order (Damon and Jeter) and the number 9 slot (whoever is on first), what would be the best way to fill out the everyday lineup?

2.  This off-season saw the Yanks trade Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson for young arms.  Will any (like Humberto Sanchez or Ross Ohlendorf) make an impact on the Yankees in 2007 or will Philip Hughes be the best bet to make the claim as the Yanks new young gun this year?

3.  What do you expect out of Carl Pavano this season?  Also, if he has a strong Spring Training, should the Yankees consider trading him while his value would be at its peak?

Remember to check out the answers to these questions and more at http://www.stopmikelupica.com/

[full story]

by Brandon on February 12 at 8:35PM

This is part 2 of the Yankees Round Table here at Blogs by Fans, see part 1 at depressedfan.com.

Question No. 1.

Let me start by saying that your love affair with Philip Hughes has got to stop. I have never heard someone talk so much about a pitcher they have never seen pitch. This guy will hopefully stay in the minors all year until the September call-ups. The less I see of Hughes, the better. If he's the Yankees' future, like you and a lot of the local media types claim, than I don't want to see the guy rushed up to the majors.

I'm going to guess that on opening day, Torre is going to start Wang. It will probably be the only move that Torre will make all year that I will agree with.

Torre's starting five in order will be Wang, Pettitte, Mussina, Pavono and Igawa. Based on what I currently know, I'm going to have to agree. I will say this though, I'm expecting a big year out of Pavono (15+ wins) because no man can possible be as worthless as he's proven so far. And I'm expecting Pettitte to be a HUGE bust. This isn't the NL. This isn't the same media that covered the Yanks when the Yanks could do no wrong, and he was never that good to begin with. So I wouldn't expect that starting rotation to be the same come September.

Question No. 2.

This is kind of a tricky answer, but I really don't believe there is anyone on the Yanks that can handle the pressure that surrounds the team on a regular basis. That's right, not even Jeter!

Buster Olney was right when he wrote "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty", it's over. The Yanks aren't going to be able to get back to it's winning World Series ways anytime soon. The pressure from the fans, media and players themselves have taken on a life of their own. It's a much different atmosphere than what surrounded the team during the 96'-00' run. Pettitte's about to find that out. Back then there was hope. There was admiration. Pride.

That's all gone now. First place isn't good enough anymore. 100 wins isn't good enough. Division Champions aren't good enough. All that matters is a World Series Championship. When your entire season is based on the ultimate prize, you can't win.

Question No. 3.

To Bernie,

I have hated you from day one when you showed up on the baseball diamond wearing glasses. I want you to know that you are a heartless, emotionless, selfish, most over-rated artist/robot that has ever played the game and no one outside of the Tri-state area even knows who you are. Go die!

Part 3 

Alright, Mike. You are next. See if you can answer these questions three.

     1. Tell me why Joe Torre should be coaching this team after going six years without a championship, and will he be back next year?

     2. If this current team is missing something (i.e. player, manager, GM, intensity, youth), what is it?

     3. For the last several years, the Yankee/Red Sox rivalry has reached an all time high. Especially after the 2004 choke job by the Yanks that reversed the curse. Is the rivalry still as strong as ever? Are the Sox still the Yankees' number one competition. If not, who is? Finally, does the regular season even matter anymore?

Check out the answers to these questions and more at greenpinstripes.com

[full story]

by Brian on February 12 at 3:30AM

It's a few days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training at Legends Field in Tampa, and it's also time for all of our Yankee bloggers at Blogs by Fans to get ourselves in shape for the upcoming season.

Because we're a New York-centric network, we've got 4 bloggers covering the Yankees, and because the Mets are a second-rate organization, our Mets blogger has yet to pop his cherry, but that's neither here nor there. The important thing is that we've got 4 Yanks bloggers, all with different outlooks and opinions, and we're going to hear from all of them.

I'm going to kick off the discussion with a couple of questions for the band-wagon Heat fan, Brandon. The only team he follows with any consistency is the Yanks, and he's our resident Bernie/Mussina-hater. In fact, I'm not sure he likes any Yankees now that Tino Martinez is gone, but I digress.

Brandon, here are your questions, readers, check out Behind-The-Back Sports for Brandon's answers, and waiting in the hole is Mike over at Green Pinstripes:

1. Out of Wang, Pettitte, Mussina, Pavano, Igawa, and let's throw Philip Hughes in there just for kicks, who will Torre start on opening day? Who would you start on opening day? Take it a step further, give me the full rotation coming out of spring training 1-5, your version and Torre's version.

2. OK, that first one was a softball, here's one you're going to have to think about: The only players left from the Yanks dynasty years are Jeter, Mo, Posada and now Pettitte (sort of), besides those guys, who on this team has the same kind of fire that propelled the Yanks to those rings? Who has the the intestinal fortitude to come up with the big hit in the playoffs? Do any of them? And who brings the toughness to this team that's needed when their backs are against the wall? I think, beyond everything else, that's what's been missing from this team. Seeing Paul O'Neill freak out when made an out had to scare the other players on those teams and make them afraid to fail. Does watching guys laugh it off or shake their heads, talk to their shrinks and cash their checks have the opposite effect?

3. OK, I'll give you a fun exercise to end this, write a two sentence eulogy for Bernie Williams' Yankee career.

Again, check Behind-The-Back Sports for part 2 of the round table.

[full story]

by Brian on February 1 at 3:52PM

This is part 3 of an ongoing conversation between Stop Mike Lupica, and yours truly, the Depressed Fan. Here are parts one and two.

On to part three:

a) My first question, to Brian, since he brought up Isiah - what has he done to warrant getting fired? I mean specifically as GM of the Knicks - I don't care what he did to the CBA, or at previous jobs; and I don't care about non-work related stuff (sexual harassment suits) or as coach (precipitating riots, if you believe the papers). I mean trades, draft, free agent signings, etc.

Players he brought in: Marbury, Malik Rose, Jalen Rose, Jerome James, Quentin Richardson, Jamal Crawford, Steve Francis, Jared Jeffries. The result: too many guys for too few positions. Isiah assembled the team out of mismatched parts, and he got the wrong kind of guys for too steep of a price. The most talented player he's acquired, Curry, has a potentially deadly heart condition which he refuses to get properly diagnosed. Allowing him to play without getting it checked out proves he's not only a horrible executive, but a horrible person as well. Probably the worst move he made was using a one-time exception (basically, the league allowed all teams to cut one player's deal from the cap, meaning their salary would not count against the luxury tax total), to cut Jerome "Junkyard Dog" Williams, and his $21 million from the cap number, instead of cutting Allan Houston, and his $41M. Isiah said he thought Houston would be back soon to help the team. Houston retired 1 month later, and as you said, the Knicks are still paying him $20 million this year.

There's no doubt that Isiah inherited a flawed team, but after 3+ years, are they any better than they were back then? Does the future look any brighter? Pointing to Lee and Balkman as proof that Isiah has an eye for talent just doesn't make sense when you look at the trades he's made and the free agents he's signed. Look at the youth on the team, Nate Robinson, Channing Frye, Lee and Balkman. Robinson is basically a shorter version of Marbury with less talent, and possibly with a worse attitude (He's also one of the worst passers I've ever see). Frye may top out at 15 points, 7 boards per game. Lee is a solid rebounder, nothing more, and while we can agree to disagree on Balkman, even you have to admit that he's not a potential starter. Isiah's been rebuilding since he took over, and he still doesn't have the first building block. All he's done is amass bad attitudes, awarded them with huge contracts and sprinkled in some middling young talent.

A sidenote: The Knicks gave up their first round draft pick in 2004 in the deal for Marbury. That pick went to Phoenix who picked Luol Deng. Andre Iguodala was picked two slots after Deng.

b) Hasn't Billy King done a worse job? What does he have to do to get fired?

I've asked myself this question so many times. I just don't know. He's botched draft picks, made questionable signings and horrible trades. Apparently, he's untouchable. I can only hope that if he wastes the 3 first round picks next year he'll be on his way out, but I doubt it.

c) You have AI2 (Iguadala). He's a keeper, I hope. Who else on the 76ers is sticking around during this rebuilding phase?

Dalembert is finally progressing, and Korver isn't going anywhere. Those are the three building blocks they have right now. As I said before, I think Andre Miller is the right guy to run the point for a young team. He puts guys in good spots for higher percentage shots, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him moved before the trading deadline, maybe for a higher pick in the first round.

d) How soon before the 76ers pass the Knicks in the standings, in your opinion? Next season with Oden/Durant? 2008-2009? Basically, how long before the 76ers are even a .500 team again, much less a contender?

I think next year they pass the Knicks. If Brown comes back to coach, he's going to be more motivated than ever. I firmly believe that Isiah lured him to NY with lies, and once there when he realized he couldn't make the roster moves he wanted to make he gave up. He doesn't want that be the last memory people have of him as a coach. Iguodala is a budding superstar, and he's the right kind of guy to build a team around. Last year he wasn't happy with his FT%, so he spent the whole Summer shooting foul shots, this year his FT% is up 8% to 83%. Leaders who put in extra work are essential to a rebuilding process. He's started every game of his career, and his stats have improved in every category every year. (except shooting %, which has dropped since AI left, but is still a respectable 46%).

This is all contingent upon them getting either Oden or Durant in the draft, and assuming they get one player to put into the rotation out of their other two first round picks. "Contender" is a tough word to define. It won't take much of an upgrade to become a contender in the Atlantic, especially if Kidd and/or Vince Carter exit NJ. Contending for a title is absurd at this point.

My next round of questions:

a) Do you think Isiah is capable of taking this team and turning them into a contender? He's got seemingly unlimited resources, given the time, can he get the job done (as GM)?

b) In your opinion, who was the better player Iverson or Ewing? Barkley or Ewing?

c) Outside of Tim McCarver, Is Clyde the worst color man in sports?

d) Are you going to jump ship when the Nets move to Brooklyn?

[full story]

This is part II of the Talking Hoops series with Brian from over at depressedfan.com. For Part I, click here.

First off, I want to thank Brian for taking the time to do this, and for all his help with this site... we owe him a big debt of gratitude over here. I strongly agree that, if David Stern does fix the draft, Philly has Oden locked up. And Oden is the way to go, no matter how good Durant appears; here's hoping Billy King remembers the lesson learned by the Houston Texans this past year...

Sorry, dude... your GM is a douchebag.

Brian may feel that the Sixers haven't given up on the season - the players may be playing hard, which is always good to see - but management has stuck a fork in the season. Trading Iverson for very much below value, then buying out Webber... this season is all about getting that top pick and clearing what they could of a horrible cap situation. The good news that was the direction to go in (if ever there was a season to tank, this is the one, with a deep draft), so it's nice to see that got that right.

Watch out with Brown - he's the true destroyer of the Knicks franchise. And his track record with rookies and young teams is less than stellar.

If I was Brian, I wouldn't trade places either - that was a throwaway question... however, while SML has long been accuse of being a Thomas-supporter, the reality is we don't think Thomas is great; but we acknowledge that the media representation of him is bias (see Larry Brown), and that there are worse GMs out there. One of those is Billy King. Rebuilding is nice at first because it gives the fans a sense of hope ("future hall of famer"), but the reality is never that easy. A half-dozen teams (minimum) have to rebuild every year, and many get stuck in rebuilding mode (see Hawks, Atlanta). Even those that land the premier star, if stuck with a crappy GM (see McHale, Kevin) can go nowhere despite having a Hall of Famer. The Knicks may not have a hall of famer to build around, but I would rather have Isiah as GM if they did - the man can spot talent.

The patron saint of wasted years.

Now to answer the questions posed to me:

a) If the Knicks make the playoffs, do you think there's any chance they won't get knocked out in the first round?

I don't think they will make the playoffs, but they'll be in the hunt until the end. Even if they do, realistical, no, they don't have a shot. But they do play well against good teams (beating the Heat w/Shaq and Wade recently; they also have beaten Cleveland, Indiana, Detroit, Utah and Chicago this season, and had one point losses at the buzzer to the Nets and Wizards recently), and the odds would be so long it would be worth a bet. But I harbor no false hope.

b) If someone offered you a bag of balls for Marbury would you jump at the opportunity to get rid of him?

Hell yeah. Same for Steve Francis and Jerome James. Here's the reality - if the Knicks could get rid of Francis or Marbury, their cap situation would be solid. But neither is going anywhere, sadly.

c) Do you really think Balkman's ceiling is higher than the 8th or 9th man in the rotation?

 He's a hustler who plays defense, and is a great rebounder. He's David Lee with more blocks. Balkman also possess no shot (neither does Lee, though), and can't handle the ball for more than two seconds. Lee is infinitely better at passing. But the easiest thing to learn in the NBA is a little baby jumper, and some moves... I think next season Balkman can put Lee-like effort off the bench (that is, be a solid 6th man).

d) Is there anyone on this team right now who you're 100% confident will still be a Knick in 4 years?

 Jerome James - he's signed until 2010, and who is stupid enough to trade for him?

 e) What does Isiah have to do to get fired? Obviously sexual harassment, losing records and the luxury tax haven't been enough to get the job done.

The reality is that the losing record and luxury tax are not entirely his fault - Scott Layden left quite a mess. Do you know who the highest paid Knick is this season? Allan Houston, at 20 million. Making $8,500,000? Shannon f*cking Anderson. These are players left on the cap from THREE years ago - others that just got off the cap last season include Howard Eisley and Tim Thomas* at $22 million+ combined.

In order words, even if Isiah had done nothing for the past three years - signed no one, did nothing - the Knicks cap situation would still have been f*cked until the end of this season (three and a half years later).

a) My first question, to Brian, since he brought up Isiah - what has he done to warrant getting fired? I mean specifically as GM of the Knicks - I don't care what he did to the CBA, or at previous jobs; and I don't care about non-work related stuff (sexual harassment suits) or as coach (precipitating riots, if you believe the papers). I mean trades, draft, free agent signings, etc.

b) Hasn't Billy King done a worse job? What does he have to do to get fired?

c) You have AI2 (Iguadala). He's a keeper, I hope. Who else on the 76ers is sticking around during this rebuilding phase?

d) How soon before the 76ers pass the Knicks in the standings, in your opinion? Next season with Oden/Durant? 2008-2009? Basically, how long before the 76ers are even a .500 team again, much less a contender?

Looking forward to your response,

SML

*Note: Tim Thomas was acquired by Isiah Thomas straight up for Keith van Horn - however, their contracts are almost identical in length and salary (around 13.5-14 million), so Layden's original signing of van Horn is essential Tim Thomas.

[full story]

by Brian on January 31 at 7:50PM

We've got a new blogger on the Blogs By Fans Network, his name is Stop Mike Lupica, and you can check out his stuff here. SML will be following the Yankees, Jets and Knicks.

We're going to start a conversation tonight, using our blogs as the forum, on the Knicks vs. the Sixers. Where are they now, where are they going? SML kicked off the debate by email, and we're going to carry it out here. I'll post, he'll respond on his blog and vice versa.

SML wrote:
If the topic is the immediate future, i.e. this season, then that's been decided already... as poor as the Knicks have played (supposedly), they still have a chance of making the playoffs, either as the #8 seed or perhaps even as the Atlantic division winner... they have played .500 ball since their 4-9 start... no doubt that, despite all the negative reports you may read everyday, they have reached mediocre. The 76ers, on the other hand, have given up on this season in order to rebuild, perhaps around Greg Oden.

Some questions for ya are:

a) Do you think you will land a top-2 pick (Oden or Durant), and which would you prefer at this point? What happens if you land at #3, instead?
b) Do you think this is the right direction to go with the team this season?
c) When will you guys compete for the playoffs again?
d) Would you want to trade places with the Knicks?

Depressed Fan's response: I hadn't really thought about it, but I guess you could call the Knicks mediocre this year. I don't think it's because they're any better than they were last year, I think it has more to do with them staying level while the rest of the Atlantic has deteriorated. On to the questions:

a) The cynic in me thinks the Sixers will win just enough games to finish out of the top two picks in the draft, or they'll have the worst record and still lose the lottery. This could also be a good year to see if the lottery is really fixed. The way the A.I. trade happened so quickly after the Knicks/Nuggets brawl suggests some meddling from David Stern, maybe the Sixers received a wink from Stern and the #1 pick is already in the bag. Who knows? I think it's a crapshoot at this point between Oden and Durant. I'd almost rather have the #2 pick, that way someone other than Billy King has to make the hard decision, and he can just pick whichever one is left. If I was making the pick today, I'd probably take Oden. Dominant big men are harder to find than pure scorers, and Durant plays no D. If the Sixers wind up with the #3 pick I fully expect Billy King to take Joakim Noah, and I think that would be a huge mistake. He's an energy guy with no offensive skills. Good to have on a roster, but not someone to build around and not someone worth the #3 pick.

b) I'm not sure I would say the Sixers have a direction. I like Andre Miller a lot, but I'm torn on what the Sixers should do with him. When he's running the offense he doesn't let them settle for contested jumpers, he moves the ball and finds guys in the right spot for higher percentage shots. This is going to be a vital asset for the Sixers next year and beyond. On the other hand, having him on the floor is probably going to be good for an extra five or six wins this season, which could hurt their chances of getting Durant or Oden. The Sixers haven't completely given up on the season, and this limbo they're in is a dangerous place to be with the future of the franchise hanging in the balance.

c) With Oden or Durant, and Larry Brown back on the bench next year, I'd expect them to make the playoffs. It doesn't take much in the East. If Mo Cheeks is still coaching, it could take a decade.

d) No way in hell. Isiah has got to be the worst basketball executive I've ever seen (unless you count the Knicks ownership who haven't fired him yet). I realize a lot of people are saying he's got a great eye for talent because he drafted Lee and Balkman. Lee I'll give you. The guy is a rebounding machine. The best Balkman can aspire to be is a Jerome "Junkyard Dog" Williams, with less offensive skills. The team is built around a fat guy with bad heart who could drop dead any minute and the most selfish point guard in the league (and that's saying a lot.) The Sixers have a chance to rebuild. They've got the right kind of players to do it now, personality-wise, and they could get a hall of famer in the draft in June. I wouldn't trade places with the Knicks for all of King Midas' silver.

My questions to SML:

a) If the Knicks make the playoffs, do you think there's any chance they won't get knocked out in the first round?
b) If someone offered you a bag of balls for Marbury would you jump at the opportunity to get rid of him?
c) Do you really think Balkman's ceiling is higher than the 8th or 9th man in the rotation?
d) Is there anyone on this team right now who you're 100% confident will still be a Knick in 4 years?
e) What does Isiah have to do to get fired? Obviously sexual harassment, losing records and the luxury tax haven't been enough to get the job done.

Check Stop Mike Lupica for SML's response.

[full story]