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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Starbury: Marketing Genius

Hi. I'm Stephon. You may not remember this, but I'm the guy who got all sorts of good press last summer when I rolled out my line of sneakers that sell for just $14.98 a pair.

Good times.

You may be having trouble remembering... because recently, I've been behaving like the petulant crybaby you remember from before my image-rehabilitation campaign. For the last couple of weeks, I've been pulling the same crap on Isiah Thomas that I used to pull on Larry Brown. I didn't even manage to take a shot in my last game.

But there is one bright side to all this. Really, it's my second stroke of marketing genius in the last six months. First: the sneakers. And now... now I've done something that even the best and brightest of Madison Avenue, combined with all the marketing gurus at Cablevision and the NBA have yet to accomplish.

I've made Isiah Thomas look good.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Headbands and Headcases

Do you really want to be the person telling this man he can't wear a headband? (Do you really want to be the person telling this man he can't do anything he pleases?)

Usually, I'd want to take the player's side on any conflict involving something silly like headbands or knee socks or length-of-sideburns. But in the Ben Wallace vs. Scott Skiles controversy, there seems to be no shortage of blame to go around.

Apparently Wallace feels singled out because of Skiles' team rules about having ankles taped and other such trivialities. But the no-headband rule is the straw that broke Big Ben's back. As the AP story reports...

A source close to Wallace told The Tribune that the big man is annoyed by the headband rule because he wasn't informed about it until after he signed his four-year, $60 million contract with the Bulls.
Reading between the lines, Wallace's mouthpiece seems to be saying, "Ben would have turned down the contract if he'd known about this headband rule." I'd like to think it goes a little deeper than that. But then, I've never been so attached to a piece of headgear that I'd consider bailing on $15 million a year.

Luckily, I have experience dealing with cranky three-year-olds, so I know exactly how to talk to both of the combatants in this squabble.

Earth to Ben: You're getting paid $15 million a year for the next four years. No one forced you to take Chicago's money, and if you didn't consider what it would be like playing for Scott Skiles, that's your bad. Reason with the guy. Talk to his boss. But don't try to show him up during a game -- that's never going to work.

Memo to Scott: Ben Wallace is an NBA veteran, not a college kid still used to taking heat from Roy Williams or Jim Calhoun or Mike Krzyzewski. You might want to tone down the "little dictator" routine just a touch when dealing with Wallace and P.J. Brown. Besides -- your Bulls currently sit in thirteenth place in the Eastern Conference.

You have more important things to worry about.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Another Open Letter to the St. John's Athletic Department

Maryland 92, St. John's 60.

Do you fear the turtle? I fear the turtle.

I take it all back. I liked it better when Red Storm games weren't televised.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Internet has let me down...

Based on the descriptions and accounts of the incident, it seems very fair to say that the latest Bob Knight controversy is a great big steaming pile of nothing. Thus far, the biggest impact seemed to be on Mike & Mike, who scheduled a long succession of guests (Gene Keady, Jay Bilas... I imagine Dickie V had to weigh in at some point) who all agreed that last night's incident was a great big yawner.

(A side note -- it was interesting to hear Keady talk about using "paddles" on players when he coached in high school. Paddles?!? Are you kidding me?)

Here's the much bigger and more important question -- why hasn't this incident surfaced on YouTube yet? C'mon, army of people who post such things... you are clearly off your game on this one. It's two-thousand and freakin' six -- a newspaper account of what Fran Fraschilla said about the incident really ain't gonna cut it.

Get on the stick, YouTubers.

An Open Letter to the St. John's Athletic Department

Congratulations on assembling what sounds like an exciting young team. As a long-time fan of the program, I was glad to read about Avery Patterson breaking the team record for three-pointers in the season opener, and about Darryl Hill's progress in the Navy game.

Please note that I am reading about these exciting games. Like most of the rest of the world, I haven't been able to see or hear the Red Storm play this year.

It continues to be a disappointment that, in a city with approximately nineteen all-sports cable outlets, only four of fourteen Red Storm games before the new year will be televised. While Norm Roberts' squad was playing its most anticipated season opener in years, the SNY Network showed Connecticut vs. Quinnipiac. For game two against Navy, SNY subscribers were treated to a Big 10 football game.

I know that this subject has been brought to your attention in the past. And I'm aware that the rights to TV broadcasts are controlled by the Big East Conference. And I'm certainly aware that, after the catastrophic years of the Mike Jarvis regime, St. John's basketball doesn't have the same cache to TV networks as it did during the days of Chris Mullin or Walter Berry or Mark Jackson or Ron Artest.

The fact remains -- Connecticut somehow manages to get its season opener on the air -- and on a major cable network in New York City.

To make matters worse, local radio coverage is provided by 1050 ESPN Radio. 1050 also holds the broadcast rights to the Knicks and Rangers -- if either team has a conflict with a St. John's game, the Red Storm is shunted to 1560 Radio Disney... which has a signal so weak, it cannot be heard in Westchester or on Long Island, and which does not offer internet radio of basketball games. As a result, the most die-hard fans of St. John's basketball -- the guys who spend their lives discussing recruits and game plans and coaching decisions on -- spend game nights trying to connect to streaming radio broadcasts from Jacksonville or Annapolis.

You are alienating your die-hard fans. Worse, casual fans don't even know you exist.

It seems a shame to hide Norm Roberts' light under a bushel. So here's a suggestion from a long-time fan: your arrangement with the Big East must be amended. You need to have the option to sell games that aren't picked up as part of the league TV contract to SNY or some other local network. These games need to be on the air. High school players and their coaches and parents need to see St. John's -- and not the Connecticut Huskies or Boston College Eagles -- on television in New York.

And New York's basketball fans need to see something other than the Knicks.

If the Big East cannot adjust so that all its member schools get appropriate media coverage; perhaps its member schools should take a second look at participation in the Big East.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Good News, Bad News for the Tru Warier

Ron Artest took a lot of abuse earlier this week when XXL Magazine reported that his solo album, "My World" sold just one copy in its first week of release. Well, good news for the Tru Warier -- due to some sort of goof, SoundScan apparently undercounted sales quite a bit. The correct figure: 343.

The bad news: while 343 is certainly better than one, it's more than 6,000 less than Kevin Federline sold.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mea Maxima Mel Kiper Culpa

Dave Telep, the brains behind, has been way off on a few players over the years. The most recent example: Adam Morrison and Tyrus Thomas (the third and fourth picks in this year's NBA draft) weren't rated as top 100 prospects in their high school classes.

Unlike most professional talent evaluators/talking heads, Telep actually went back to figure out where he'd gone wrong, and told the Philadelphia Inquirer about it. This is worth a read for anyone who follows the college game.

I'd love to see a similar analysis from Mel Kiper or Chad Ford... "Well, you see... I paid entirely too much attention to the guy's 40 time and vertical leap. Completely neglected the fact that he's an utter meathead."

Credit where credit's due department: found this one on the always-informative

New Arena Sponsor: United Van Lines

More sports-related fallout from Tuesday's elections: King Kaufman on has details on how voters in Seattle and Sacramento gave the big thumbs-down to public stadium financing. (NOTE: You MAY need to click on a sponsor link to see the entire post. Does Salon really count that as an ad clickthrough? Seems shady to me.)

As a result of these votes, it's looking more and more like the Sonics and Kings will be heading to greener pastures in Oklahoma City and Las Vegas, respectively. Which also raises the possibility that Seattle native Paul Allen will look to move his Trailblazers up the coast to Washington. (Assuming, that is, that Zach Randolph and Darius Miles are allowed to cross state lines.)

Isiah's Master Plan

I've finally figured out Isiah Thomas' master plan to save his job. And no, it has nothing to do with winning games, though the Knicks did squeak one out in Denver last night.

The Knicks' settlement with Larry Brown was supposed to be confidential, but parent company Cablevision included the amount in a filing to the Securities Exchange Commission this week. There was $40 million remaining on his contract, and he was asking for an additional $12 million in damages. Most observers thought he'd net at least $30 million via arbitration... but Brown settled for $18.5 million to walk away.

The fact that Brown got less than fifty cents on the dollar for the rest of his contract has, predictably, enraged several members of the NBA coaching fraternity -- including several of Brown's closest friends and allies.

Expect this to be a theme as the Knicks face new opponents this year. Every opposing coach will be asked what he thinks of the Knicks' treatment of Larry Brown. Spurs coach Gregg Popovic sounded off last week, and last night George Karl and Doug Moe were up. Karl said the Brown controversy showed "a dark side of Knicks basketball and NBA basketball," while Moe commented that the Knicks had gotten out of Brown's contract for "pocket change."

All this raises the question:

When Isiah Thomas is inevitably fired... who is going to want to take over? If you were a highly sought-after NBA personnel guy or coach, would you be willing to go work for an organization that just squeezed Larry Brown? Or would you wait and hope that a more attractive job became available?

Our guess is the axe will fall before Christmas. Jamal Crawford's desperation steal and heave last night likely saved New York from a 1-9 start; I don't see too many winnable games coming up on their schedule, with visits to San Antonio and Houston on deck, followed by home games against the Cavs, Wizards and a trip to Miami. At that point, the Knicks will be forced to close out the season with interim management... Herb Williams redux, perhaps... and have a ton of trouble finding their next GM next summer.

So maybe that's Isiah's master plan. If he can't turn the Knicks around, he can make the job look so bad that no one else will want it.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why Sports Fans Should Vote...

I'm so tired of hearing Bob Menendez and Tom Kean Jr. throw mud at each other, I'm thinking of moving to New Jersey just so I can vote against both of them. But today, Lester Munson of has given me a new reason to care about tomorrow's election.

Long story short, the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives has been making noise about a possible review of how big-time college athletic programs benefit from the tax-exempt status given to educational institutions. Outgoing committee chairman Bill Thomas (R-California) has written a letter, in which he asks,

"How does playing major college football or men's basketball in a highly commercialized profit-seeking entertainment environment further the educational purpose of your member institutions?"

Another interesting question:

Do big-time college hoops and football offer any educational benefit greater than "that which is received by participation in other Division (II and III) or intramural athletics."

(Speaking from experience, I can say that intramural basketball players attract a lot less "benefit" from groupies than the guys who play in the big gym... but I suspect that's not what he meant. And no, I'm not bitter.)

Some other factors covered in the Thomas letter:
  • Why should federal taxpayers subsidize charter travel, athletic facilities, and huge coaching salaries?
  • Do the current academic minimums really ensure that student athletes can succeed academically at the collegiate level?
  • Payouts from events like the NCAA Tournament are handed out based on wins and losses -- wouldn't it make more sense academically if the tournament money was handed out equally to all?
And this doozie:
  • Aside from the fact that the athletes aren't paid... how exactly do you differentiate D-1 college sports from the pros?
The NCAA has until November 14 to respond. (Read the full text of the Thomas letter here.)

So here's where the whole "voting" thing factors in. Thomas opted not to run for re-election, so there will be a new chairman of Ways and Means come this January. If the Democrats take over a majority in the house, Charlie Rangel of New York is expected to take over the position. If the GOP hangs on to its majority, any one of several representatives might step in. It isn't clear whether or not this inquiry will be a priority for the new chair, but Rangel at least is reportedly in agreement with the letter.

So make sure to cast a vote on Tuesday. You could play a part in deciding the future of college sports. (Oh, and the free world and all that.)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Every Rose Has Its Thorn...

Everybody give it up for Bret Michaels and Poison!

And speaking of poison... Phoenix is reportedly close to signing Jalen Rose.

This strikes me as what Bill Simmons might call the Suns' "Keith Hernandez moment." Suns management has seen Mike D'Antoni make productive players out of other squads' castoffs so often now, they're convinced he can turn lead into gold. Me, I'm not convinced. Rose showed up for camp out of shape... in a contract year. He failed to hit a shot from the floor in the entire preseason. He's going to help the Suns?

Hey, I shouldn't doubt. D'Antoni has worked miracles before -- hell, Tim Thomas was one of the stars of last year's playoffs, and he couldn't get run for the Knicks or the Bulls.

But I doubt. I really doubt.

Knicks Knation

The New York Daily News -- my newspaper of choice for all things Knicks (and Nets, and Yankees, Jets... etc.) has launched a new Knicks blog, written by beat writer Frank Isola. Check out his first post, which offers a succinct and unique insider's perspective on the decline and fall of the Larry Brown era.

It's easy, at this point, to look at the Dolan/Thomas/Brown relationship as doomed from the start, and to explain last year's 23-win season as the product of a brutal power struggle between coach and GM. The problem is, Knick fans want someone to blame.

Some blame Brown, and have wildly optimistic views on the 2006-07 season.

Some blame Thomas, and can't wait for the axe to fall.

Some, like our MySpace buddy Sell the Knicks, lay all the blame at Jim Dolan's feet.

Me? I look at it this way:

Let's say you own a fish tank. You see five really pretty fish at the pet store, buy them, and put them in your tank. One by one, they die... one of them is a salt-water fish, and you have a fresh water tank. One of them is a predator. One of them needs higher water temperature. The one thing they have in common is that they're totally incompatible.

So who's to blame?

Not the fish. The nimrod who put 'em all in the same tank.

So if you want an explanation of the Three Mile Island caliber 23-win meltdown of the Knicks, riddle me this: who made the decision to hire Larry Brown to coach Stephon Marbury just weeks after Brown tried to have Marbury cut from the Olympic team?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

First Impressions on the Grizzlies

Saw the Memphis Grizzlies in their triple-overtime season-opening loss to the Knicks last night -- my first impressions:

  • Rudy Gay looks like he'll be a serious asset if he can keep his head on straight -- having a no-nonsense coach like Mike Fratello will probably be very good for him.
  • Kyle Lowry might be the steal of this year's draft. He made a few rookie mistakes, and he's easily the youngest-looking player in the NBA since BJ Armstrong retired, but he really energized the team. Lowry totalled ten boards, including a couple of pure hustle plays where he grabbed the ball away from much bigger guys like David Lee. Look for him to start stealing minutes from...
  • Damon Stoudamire, who really looks like he's not 100% recovered from last year's injuries. Mighty Mouse looked good in the opening quarter, but seemed to get winded pretty quickly. With the Grizzlies likely out of contention this year due to Pau Gasol's injury, I could see the team looking to develop younger players like Lowry ahead of Stoudamire and...
  • Chucky Atkins, who still has some game, but who seems like an unnecessary luxury for a team like the Grizz. If I'm Pat Riley, I'm on the phone right now with my old buddy Jerry West, trying to swing a deal for Atkins.
  • Mike Miller has a beautiful jump shot, but he disappears for long stretches of games. His line in last night's box score (18 points, 4-9 from three) might look impressive, until you consider that he hit three threes in the space of about two minutes in the first quarter. Miller also bricked a couple of big free throws at the end.
  • Oh, and speaking of free-throw shooting, Hakim Warrick is Ben Wallace-esque. Yikes.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Shaq Fu: The Return

Nice interview with Shaquille O'Neal this week in Time Magazine, of all places. The Diesel continues to be the best interviewee in the NBA since Charles Barkley retired... this nugget was my favorite:

"The ball is terrible. It's something we'll just have to get used to. Playing with the new ball is like going to a gentlemen's club, seeing an exotic dancer and then going home and playing with a plastic blow-up doll."
Interesting image, Shaq. And nice to see that things have calmed down for NBA stars since the heyday of the Gold Club.

But I digress.

The rest of the interview is good, too. Shaq talks about his role in a botched raid on a child pornography suspect's house, his ambition to someday become Miami's sheriff, and the Heat's chances of repeating as NBA champs.

Of course, after the beating they took at the hands of the Bulls last night, he might want to revise that last bit. Shaq netted just seven points in the loss, which was the biggest opening night beat-down of an NBA champion ever.

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