Wednesday, September 29, 2010

FIBA World Championships...Prelude to a Final?

USA vs. Australia today.

Should be a fierce and competitive game. These teams do not like each other and I'd imagine it could get physical despite not being a medal round game. There were some interesting omissions off the USA's roster (no Cappie, no Seimone?). Ok, In Geno I Trust, but really? Maybe the players had some say in the matter as I know Cappie was spent after the WNBA season, but I think Geno played a bit of his favorites for the roster.

Either way, big game today and I'm picking the US to pull away late in the second half and make a statement.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

'Melo to Knicks?

So ESPN is reporting that the Nets pulling out of the Melo Sweepstakes-a good sign for the Knicks. Clearly, there is much that has to happen before Carmelo could join the Knicks and in most scenarios, the best one for the Knicks is if he stays put with Denver and becomes a free-agent. Denver will be patient and definitely try to trade Carmelo before the trade deadline so they get something in return. The Nets apparently put together an attractive package, but balked when Anthony would not agree to signing an extension and would have to give up way too much for possibly just having him for one season. That is 'Melo's only trump card and a good sign for the Knicks. There are a few other teams that have been mentioned that are interested, but no way Denver trades him to a Western Conference foe and there are few teams that will have the cap to sign him to a long term deal. So what are the odds he'll end up in a Knicks uniform during this season? I say 30%, but what are the odds he's at MSG for 2011? 65% and those are odds I'll take any day.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Week Two: Under the Radar

Ok, so after some stellar performance in week 1 (CJ2K, Arian Foster) and then some disappointments here are my picks for some players who will come up big in week 2.

Brandon Jacobs and everyone else for GB. They have Buffalo at home. 'nuff said.

Greg Camarillo: Shiancoe might be Favre's favorite target, but look for GC to emerge as his favorite WR.

Malcolm Floyd: I know Naanee had a monster game, but Floyd was River's favorite target. Look for him to put up solid numbers against the Jags.

Arian Foster: I guess after last week I can't really say he's under the radar, but it's like playing knockout-gotta prove it with one more game before he's no longer UTR.

Michael Vick: Can this really be? I see Vick running wild and doing some damage to Detroit.

Ahmad Bradshaw: Shakes off the cobwebs from a slow start in week 1 and is salivating to play that Indy D on Sunday night.

Dez Bryant: I think in his home debut he comes up big in big D.

Sam Bradford: I only saw the highlights from his debut, but playing Oakland could make him feel like he's back in college. His biggest fan might be the man behind w/Stephen Jackson finally thinking he might not have to face 8 man fronts every down.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The most eventful week for NYRB since...

After a recent announcement that Mike Petke, who started the season paired with rookie standout Tim Ream at centerback, would be retiring at the end of this season, Seth Stammler, only 29 years old and contender for sweetest shot from distance this year (Rafa Marquez would also be a nominee as would Dane Richard if you include exhibitions/friendlies), announced today that he will be leaving the Red Bulls to pursue an advanced degree at the University of Chicago.  Stammler has earned respect on and off the field for his play and his commitment to humanitarian work through the Sporting Chance Foundation.  He will be a missed presence for the Red Bulls for sure.

To fill the void and address a possible lack of depth in the midfield, the Red Bulls also announced today they would be trading forward Mac Kandji, who recently announced that he would not be pursuing U.S. citizenship and therefore would not be eligible to play for the US Men's National Team (I know Bob Bradley is desperate for another striker but can't believe that Kandji was on his radar).  In return, the Red Bulls will receive midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy from the Colorado Rapids.  Once upon a time, Colorado traded away Kyle Beckerman to obtain Ballouchy, so he was a bit of a disappointment to many Rapids fans.  But a fresh start with a new coach who has shown he can bring out the best in his players (i.e. drastic improvements in Dane Richards and Bouna Condoul) and being surrounded by one of the most dynamic mix of attacking players in MLS could be just what Ballouchy needs to flourish.  Look for him to be a regular coming off the bench to replace a striker if the Red Bulls are ahead or add an additional attacking option if they are playing from behind.

Some have expressed concern that without Kandji, a major void will be left at forward next season if Juan Pablo Angel is not offered a contract renewal as a Designated Player, which at this point is widely expected.  That doesn't mean, however, that he won't resign with the team as a non-DP, very much like Guillermo Barros Schelotto did with Columbus despite being one of the top contributors to the team.  The Red Bulls have promising young forwards in Connor Chin who played well during US Open Cup qualifiers as well as Juan Agudelo, who features for the United States U-20 national team.  Salou Ibrahim also remains on the roster, but if you've ever been within 1000 feet of me during a Red Bull games you'll know my thoughts on his lacking pace and first touch.

If Angel does indeed leave, look for the Red Bulls to use their third Designated Player spot for another threat up top to pair with Henry.  A slew of options at midfield also could lead to a formation shift from the typical 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 with Marquez and Tchani playing behind Richards, Lindpere, and Ballouchy.  The Red Bulls organization has shown it is willing to invest the money necessary to build a competitive club team that will be a real threat in US and international club tournaments for at least the next couple of years.      

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fantasy Football 101

So a lot of my non-fantasy football friends ask me what fantasy football is and what is the big deal. Well fantasy football is now a billion dollar enterprise for what used to be a bunch of armchair quarterbacks. We don't care about if the Patriots win or lose, we just want to know how many touchdowns Tom Brady threw, how many receptions Randy Moss got and how many points the opponent was held to for the game. We are addicted to stats and look for any advantage to give us a statistical edge.

For the die-hard fantasy owners this is something you do year round-not just in September when the NFL season starts or even in August with mock drafts, but this can be a 365 day obsession. You follow the offseason workouts, college combines, the draft, trades, waivers, GMs, coaches, strength of schedule; everything and anything that will give you an edge for the fantasy draft and when the season starts.

The Basics:
Fantasy football is a competitive game where owners earn points by using real NFL players statistics each game. The idea is to have the team that accumulates the most wins in your league over the course of the 17-week NFL regular season. So how do you get a win? Well each player on your team will earn fantasy points based upon their statistical performance in their real game that week. Every week you will compete head to head with another owner and see who can get the most points.

Ok, so hopefully you're following so far. Next question: How do you earn fantasy points? There can be slight variations, but I will give the most basic scoring format. Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends can earn points for yardage and touchdowns. Kickers earn points for extra points and field goals. Defenses earn points if they get a defensive touchdown, how many points they hold their opponent too, and turnovers.

Likewise, players can lose points if they turn the ball over (interceptions or fumbles), a kicker misses a field goal/extra point or if a defense gives up a lot of points to their opponent.

Quarterbacks generally earn 1 fantasy point for every 25 passing yards, 4 points for every touchdown they've thrown, and 6 points if they ran for a touchdown themselves. So if your fantasy quarterback was Peyton Manning and for Week 1 his stat line was 250 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns and 1 interception he would get 10 points for his 250 passing yards, 8 points for passing touchdowns, but lose 2 points for the interception so his net fantasy points that week would be 16 fantasy points.

Running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends earn points mainly 3 ways: 1 point for every 10 yards receiving/rushing, 6 points if they score a touchdown, 1/2 point per reception and can lose points for fumbles. So if you had Randy Moss as your wide receiver and he had 10 receptions for 100 yards and 1 touchdown with no fumbles he would earn 5 points for the 10 receptions, 10 points for the 100 receiving yards, and 6 points for the touchdown he scored for a total 21 fantasy points.

Each of your starters will earn points, you take the grand total and hope it's more than your opponent's starters. You do not get points for players on your bench.

Most leagues have 9 starters, which consist of: 1 Quarterback, 2 Running backs, 2 Wide Receivers, 1 Flex player (allows you to play a RB or WR), 1 Tight End, 1 Kicker, and 1 team Defense. There are variations to this. For example some leagues don't have a Flex option and regulate 2RBs and 3WRs or maybe you draft individual defensive players instead of the team defense, but for the most part you have 9 starters and 7 bench players that comprise your team.

Ok, but how do you get your team? Well first you join a league. You can create your own with your friends or join a public league. Generally they range from 10-16 members (owners) per league. 12 is the most common number of owners. Once you've joined a league the next step will be to participate in a draft. There are different types of drafts, but basically you can either have a computer make all your picks for you or you can enter what's called a "live" draft and make the picks yourself. Most fantasy owners will enter a live draft with their league and each team gets 16 picks. The draft order is chosen at random and everyone makes their picks depending upon that predetermined order.

This is where following football year round can pay off because everyone knows the obvious star fantasy players. I say "star" fantasy players because you can have a quarterback who may be a great NFL quarterback, but an average fantasy quarterback because in the NFL everything is based on wins; in fantasy everything is based statistics. A quarterback who gets 13 wins a season for his team is great, but if he only averages 10 fantasy points a game-well that's not what we like to call a fantasy stud.

So now you're in a league, you've drafted your team, and you compete week in and week out with the other owners mostly for bragging rights, but there are plenty of buy-in leagues anywhere from $10 to $10,000.

I hope this has helped those of you understand fantasy football a little better. Hit me up with questions or comments.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why Nadal Will Win

After winning the French Open, Rafael Nadal during his post match interview gave everyone that was watching what title he was zeroed in on after reclaiming his King of the Clay title. He told Johnny Mac that he wanted to add the US Open to his trophy case. What had hindered Nadal in the past was not that he was a poor hard court player, but after playing front loaded schedule his body simply could not withstand the hard courts. He was broken by the time September came around. Anyone that plays tennis knows that hard courts can be grueling on your body. Add that with Nadal's physically demanding style of play meant he was running on empty.

This year though he really cut down on the number of tournaments knowing that if he came in healthy he'd have a great shot. What you've seen is a fresh Nadal with an improved serve that gets him free points that he's never had before. Nadal has been a great player, but always lacked a serve that was a weapon, which only compounded the number of balls he would have to hit. Now, he's getting more free points, which keeps him fresher, longer. Not that conditioning has ever been an issue for Rafa, but I'll take an ace/service winner over a 15 stroke rally any day. I don't care who he's playing (props to Djokovic for a great semi-final), but he's winning this match. He'll have a career grand slam and a chance to have all 4 titles at the same time if he can win the Aussie Open-something Federer has yet to do.

Viva Rafa.

Live Commentary and Under the Radar Starters for Week 1:

Some guys who will be solid if not spectacular this week.

Jabar Gaffney: Denver’s number 1 receiver. Someone’s got to catch the ball and if he picks up where he left off from last season he could be addition off the waiver wire. Add that Jacksonville has a weak passing D only helps the case for him to start.

Brandon Marshall: Playing against Buffalo. Miami wears the Bills down with the run and the Henne hits Marshall for a few short passes that turn into 25+ yard plays.

Ahmad Bradshaw: He’s getting the start over Jacobs and will back it up with a solid performance.

Ryan Mathews: Makes his debut and it will be big.

Cadillac Williams: Finally healthy this year and Browns will be without Shaun Rogers.

Arian Foster: Explosive game with high octane offense and he’ll benefit from it.

Chad Henne: More because he’s playing Buffalo, but will be a solid starter today.

Matthew Stafford: Look for him to put up enough stats for to be a top 10QB this week.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

EPL/MLS Soccer Saturday

I'm really looking forward to watching Bolton visit Arsenal this morning (loving the new arrival of Fox Soccer HD on my cable box).  Stuart Holden is playing some of the best soccer of his young career and arguably of any of the usual suspects on the USMNT.  Many supporters of USA Soccer have been calling for a formation change away from the outdated 4-4-2, at least while the team is without a second dominant forward.  A formation change to a 4-2-3-1 would allow Altidore to play up top with Donovan, Holden, and Dempsey in an attacking midfield role.  Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu/Jermaine Jones as defensive/holding midfielders, and a back four that no one, including USA soccer, knows exactly how will evolve.  If Holden continues to impress in the EPL, he may force Bob Bradley to utilize the depth of the American midfield (relative to the forward position).

Two of Major League Soccer's best face-off tonight late as the Columbus Crew visit the LA Galaxy.  David Beckham may make his 2010 MLS debut after tearing his achilles while trying to secure a spot playing for England in the World Cup on loan to AC Milan.  The LA Galaxy were able to win games while Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle were in South Africa, but they have dropped off their incredible form to start the season (fatigue?).

This could be a preview of MLS Cup 2010 and both teams are in a good position to compete for the Supporters Shield.  Columbus has one of the deepest rosters in Major League Soccer despite not employing a single Designated Player.  They'll need lots of legs as the MLS season wears on and Columbus competes for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which will be decided vs. Seattle on October 5th, and the CONCACAF Champions league, currently in the group play stage.

After missing last week's game due to a Labor Day trip to Boston, it will be great to catch the Red Bulls host the Colorado Rapids.  The NYRB are coming off a tough 1-0 loss at Real Salt Lake, a result that reflected the handful of key contributors missing for international duty (starters Rafa Marquez,  Bouna Condoul, Dane Richards, and Roy Miller).  This afternoon's match comes down to New York's back four, particularly rookie standout Tim Ream, containing Colorado's Omar Cummings and Conor Casey - one of the more complimentary striker pairs in MLS.

I'll be keeping an eye on how Lindpere, Marquez and Tchani go after Mastroeni and if speedy Colorado defender Marvell Wynne sees the field despite a nagging hamstring injury.  Speedy actually doesn't come close to describing how fast Wynne is and how quickly he can make up space, as Irving Garcia discovered during a US Open Cup qualifier earlier this summer.  Only 24, Wynne is actually a player who could still work his way back into the national team picture if he can stay healthy and show he is a threat getting forward.  

More to come - enjoy a great weekend of soccer and football!    

Friday, September 10, 2010

Knicks Mystery Man

In case you were wondering how Timofey Mozgov will do in the NBA then look no further than an update about him at the FIBA World Championships

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Turducken Week 1 Matchups

Power rankings are in the works for a post-Week 1 release.  In the meantime, some quick thoughts on the first six matchups of the season...

GaGa's Penis vs. DC Dementors: When do you bet against Peyton Manning?  When he's up against the Saints.  Unfortunately, the Dementors don't have any New Orleans players but could make it a much closer game than ESPN projects.  Watch for breakout games from Jerome Harrison and Malcolm Floyd, two great later round picks from DC.   Interestingly enough, GGP will rely on two Saints, Pierre Thomas and Robert Meachem to compliment what will be almost certainly a huge day for Chris Johnson vs. oakland.  Pick: Gaga's Penis

Team Box vs. Chelsea Pirates: The Pirate's backfield of Frank Gore, Rashard Mendenhall, and Jahvid Best may be the best in Turducken.  And with Brandon Marshall, Dwayne Bowe, and Dallas Clark all bound to score a ton of points off receptions, the Pirates only downfall this year may be once again at quarterback.  Team Box, on the other hand, has two future hall of famers in Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb behind center.  Brett Favre gets the call against New Orleans, but a stroke of bad luck for Team Box - their star RBs and WR are all up against some of the league's best defenses.  Pick: Chelsea Pirates

Oaktown Griz vs. Team Murkin Man: The battle of the Bay Area, past vs. present.  This game comes down to how many points Houston can store vs. Indianapolis as TMM puts its faith in #1 draft pick Matt Schaub and RB Arian Foster.  The other big question here is how many points will Ray Rice score against the Jets?  Oaktown might not have as flashy a roster, but if Green Bay scores a lot of points against Philadelphia (by no means a guarantee) they'll have a great shot to pull a big week 1 upset against last year's runner up.  Pick: Team Murkin Man

Manhattan Maddenisms vs. GSO Bayern Ballboys: Two of last year's top scoring teams will face off in what will likely be Week 1's highest scoring matchup.  Maddenisms QB Matt Ryan has a tough task against a hungry Pittsburgh defense, but will likely get a lot of opportunities to drive Atlanta down the field as Dennis Dixon will inevitably go three and out at least a few times.  If Aaron Rodgers finds Jermichael Finley for a couple of touchdowns, either team could score over 150 points and still lose.  Pick: Maddenisms.

PreSeason Champs vs. Kathleen Turner Overdrive (game 1 of this week's Brooklyn Bowl 2010): Drew Brees is going to score a lot of points this week, and it will be up to Philip Rivers to make up the difference despite the absence of WR Vincent Jackson.  Brandon Jacobs, Jonathan Stewart, and Jamaal Charles can all score a lot of points, but will they all contribute the same week?  Pick: PreSeason Champs

GAME OF THE WEEK (GOTW):  The other half of Brooklyn Bowl of 2010,  BKLYN Brwlers vs. Turducken newbie the Gowanus Growlers.   A truly great matchup that's too close to call - even ESPN has a projected final score of 128.5 to 127.   The Growlers seem to have better matchups than the Brwlers at first glance (Jay cutler vs. Detroit, Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams vs buffalo, and Larry Fitzgerald vs. St. Louis (SOMONE will pick up Derek Anderson prematurely after he passes for 400 yards and 4 TDs this week).  This game will come down to the possible resurgence of Calvin Johnson, the dependability of Donald Driver, and the promise of rookie RB Ryan Matthews.  Pick: Too close to call.  

The winner of the Brooklyn Bowl will be the team from Brooklyn with the best record against the other BK teams.   Contestants?  Brklyn Brwlers, Gowanus Growlers, Pre Season Champs, and Kathleen Turner Overdrive.  The trophy?  a tallboy of PBR.  

Turducken Me

Some quick takes on each round of Turducken's legendary draft last night.

Round 3: 6RBs, 4WRs, 2QBs
Best pick: Pierre Thomas. Why? GaGa has CJ2K and Peyton Manning to go with him-that could be the best backfield all year.
Worst pick: Steve Smith. Doesn't help that Hakeem Nicks will be Eli's top target.
Big or Bust: Ryan Mathews. You never know with Rookies.

Round 4: 5RBs, 3WRs, 2QBs, 2TEs
Shocked with Eli going this high. I know there weren't a lot of QBs on the board, but Eli is hardly worth a 4th round pick. Considering the Vikings depleted receiving corps Favre is a stretch here as well. A few early TEs off the board, but when there names are Gates and Clark that's not a shock.
Best pick: Antonio Gates. I'm not a fan of TE's going this high, but considering SD doesn't have any proven WRs, Rivers will be relying heavily on Gates.
Worst pick: Eli Manning. He's good, but this is too high with so much talent on the board.
Big or Bust: Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte.

Round 5: 5RBs, 4WRs,1QB, 2TEs
Running backs are still the popular picks as teams are starting to get their core players together.
Best pick: Jermichael Finley
Worst pick: Joe Flacco (see note on Eli).
Big or Bust: Arian Foster. Can he live up to the hype?

Round 6: 4RBs, 5WRs, 3 TEs
Interesting that Felix Jones and Marion Barber both went n the 6th round. Someone will end up with the short end of the stick on this one.
Best pick: Michael Crabtree. He could be a steal this late.
Worst pick: Clinton Portis. He's got a lot of miles and is injury prone.
Big or Bust: Felix Jones. Can he finally establish himself at the Cowboys #1?

Round 7: 3 RBs, 5WRs, 2 TEs
Probably one of the most interesting rounds when you look at the upside/downside of each pick. Most teams are adding to their bench with this pick you can tell they're willing to be a bit more risky.
Best pick: Pierre Garcon. I think he'll push Reggie Wayne as Peyton's most prolific WR.
Worst pick: Zach Miller. You have Celek, Winslow, Shiancoe available and it's Miller time?
Big or Bust: C.J. Spiller. A rookie on a talent-less team. This might be a very large burden to carry.

Round 8: 3RBs, 4WRs, 1 TE, 2QBs, 2K
2 kickers in the 8th round? Really? Where is Seth Meyers when I need him.
Best pick: anyone not picking a kicker this high
Worst pick: TIE Kaeding and Gostkowski
Big or Bust: Ahmad Bradshaw. Can he get the touches to be legit starter?

Round 9: 3RBs, 3WRs, 1QB, 1K, 4Ds
More defenses selected than any other position!?!?!
Best pick: Matt Ryan. Good value this late in the draft.
Worst pick: Ryan Longwell. Again, a Kicker?
Big or Bust: LT and Thomas Jones: both veteran backups with fresh legs ahead of them-could be a waste of space on the roster.

Round 10: 3RBs, 4WRs, 2QBs, 3Ds
Best pick: Kevin Kolb
Worst pick: Darren Sproles
Big or Bust: Steve Slaton. Can he become relevant again in Houston?

Round 11: 2RBs, 3WRs, 1QB, 2TE, 3Ks, 1D
Best pick: Owen Daniels. Good value on a pass friendly team.
Worst pick: Leon Washington. Not enough PT for Leon this year.
Big or Bust: Mike Williams. Reunited with Pete Carroll and it feels so good?

Round 12: 4RBs, 5WRs, 1QB, 1TE, 1K
Best pick: Vincent Jackson. Great value. He'll play this year and pay off bigtime
Worst pick: None.
Big or Bust: None. A pretty safe round through and through.

Round 13: 4WR,1QB, 3TE, 1K, 3D
Best pick: Devery Henderson. The way Brees spreads the ball he could easily become a flex/3WR option
Worst pick: None
Big or Bust: Golden Tate

Round 14: 3RBs, 5WRs, 2QBs, 1TE, 1D
Best pick: Vince Young. He could actually become a legit fantasy QB this year. It's the 14th round. No harm, no foul.
Worst pick:none
Big or Bust: Dexter McCluster

Round 15: 1RB, 6WR, 1QB, 1TE, 2K, 1D
Best pick: Sidney Rice. Yes, he's out atleast 6 weeks, but that could mean 10 weeks with a top-10 WR. Just in time for playoffs.
Worst pick: none
Big or Bust: Mark Sanchez. Let's see if Sanchez has a sophmore slump.

Round 16: 2RB, 4WR, 1QB, 1TE, 3K, 1D
Best pick: anyone who picked a Kicker in the 16th round
Worst pick: anyone who didn't pick a kicker in the 16th round
Big or Bust: Heyward-Bey. Let's see if he can live up to his top draft status this year with a new QB.

The Greatest Season of All...

Yes, fantasy football is finally here! With 99% of all the drafts completed before tonight's kickoff everyone for one day can feel like an undefeated champion. Tonight's game is a rematch of last year's great NFC Championship with the dramatic OT victory that propelled the Saints to the Super Bowl and sent Favre fans ironically happy knowing that he would never retire with an interception as his last pass. Fast forward through all the drama of the offseason and we are here-finally.

Tonight's prediction. Minnesota will look to control the ball on the ground until Favre finds his new favorite target. Fantasy owners of all-day AP will benefit the most from Sidney Rice's 6 week absence. I expect Percy Harvin and Shiancoe to be Favre's favorite targets.

New Orleans will look to use its' many offensive weapons and spread the ball. Only Peyton Manning does a better job than Brees in using every weapon on the offensive arsenal.

Biggest fantasy winner's tonight: Brees, Colston, Peterson, and Harvin.
Losers: MIN DEF, Favre, and Bush.

Enjoy the fireworks.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Liberty: Looking Good

I know all the Liberty fans are disappointed with last night's outcome losing to Atlanta. I could nit-pick and say they should have done this or done that, but the fact is they lost to a very good Atlanta Dream team. More importantly, New York came a long way this year so the future is looking very bright in the big city.

At the beginning of the year they were barely a .500 team and really struggled finding their identity with so many new pieces, but by the time August came around they were playing better than anyone. Next year they'll be even better. If there was ever a question how good Cappie Pondexter was- then she answered every critic with resounding performance after resounding performance. She is lethal with the ball in her hands with a quick pull-up jumper, impossible to stop fade-away, and is arguably one of the most creative shot makers in the league. To add to her offensive arsenal she is one of the best defenders in the league and a great leader on the court. As long as she's in a Liberty uniform they will remain a contender for the title.

This offseason will be an important one for the Liberty. Replacing Anne Donovan will be the biggest priority. The good thing is that the front office has known of Donovan's departure for some time now and should already have a short list of candidates for the job.

This off-season, I'd like to see Kalana Greene really improve her offensive and game management skills. Her athleticism and defense could be a big asset next year so here's to hoping she's ready to make the move and contend for a starting position. Essence Carson stepped up big during the playoffs after a relatively quiet regular season. She created shots, made big plays, and was much better on defense than a flat-footed Nicole Powell. Powell had an up and down season. When she was playing well in August the Liberty were near unbeatable-that's how much of a difference she can make. Unfortunately, her contributions have to be more than just standing in the corner making 3's. Leilani Mitchell earned her most improved player, but went quiet in the playoffs. She stopped looking for her shots, but you cannot take away what she meant to this team. Plenette Pierson brought a lot of toughness to the inside game, but her shot selection needs to improve. I'd like to see her draw a double-team and dish the ball than get stuffed. McCarville really improved with her conditioning and Liberty fans will be left wondering what would have been in the playoffs with a healthy McCarville.

The Liberty have a solid core, a bona-fide super star, and will be the team to beat in the East next season.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Torch Report: Liberty vs. Dream

The Liberty head to Atlanta to face off against the Dream with their backs against the wall. In Sunday's game they were dominated on the boards and on the free throw line. Atlanta's DeSouza and Little waxed the glass with 24 rebounds-almost equaling the total for the Liberty (28). Atlanta also picked up 15 offensive rebounds with a lot of those turning into second-chance points. Despite having near equal foul totals the Dream shot 31 free-throws to just 14 for New York. In a close game where each possession counts giving up too many offensive rebounds and losing the battle at the free throw line proved too much for the Liberty to overcome.

For tonight's game expect it to be a fierce and physical game. Atlanta will look to remain perfect in the playoffs and close out the series on their home court. New York is the better team, but everyone needs to step it up tonight and get contributions from the bench and starters alike. Cappie is carrying the team and finally got some offensive help from Nicole Powell and Plenette Pierson, but the bench that was so impressive in Round 1 vs. Indiana went silent at MSG on Sunday. Look for Essence Carson to pick it up tonight and be the key to bringing the series back to New York.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Knicks Decide Price for Fernandez Too High

According to a report coming from ESPN, Donnie Walsh has vetoed a trade that would have sent newly acquired Anthony Randolph to Indiana and an Indiana first round pick to Portland with Rudy Fernandez joining the Knicks.  I can only imagine who, if anyone, the Pacers would have given up as part of the deal to either Portland or the Knicks -  recently arrested Lance Stephenson perhaps (I will admit to some sense of disappointment when the Knicks passed up the chance to draft Brooklyn native Stephenson in the 2nd round of this year's draft)?

A good move on Walsh's end not pulling the trade trigger - Randolph has a ton of upside and potential this season to contribute as a Knick and/or be a key piece of a trade that could bring in an elite player to compliment Stoudemire.  Fernandez was looking to improve his stock while playing for Spain at the World Championships, but despite flashes of spectacular play has yet to do so.  As time moves on, Portland will want something for Fernandez and their asking price may go down, or they could potentially waive the disgruntled guard.  Knicks fans fall asleep to dream about 'Melo or Chris Paul at MSG.  At this point, I'm more than happy for the Knicks to pass on roster moves that don't move the franchise in that direction.    

Friday, September 3, 2010

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Liberty in the Playoffs

Wednesday night's game with Indiana was a hard fought, physical, at times, i mean scrappy game for the Liberty. They were down a starter, down 3 refs, and trailed most of the game, but when it mattered most they found a way to create turnovers, get stops, and put points on the board. It wasn't pretty, but it was pretty damn special to be in the Garden that night and witness this team gut out a victory.

I will say the officiating was horrible and one-sided. The refs were in love with Katie Douglas who acted her way through the game padding her stat line along the way. Ironically, it was Lin Dunn who complained about the officiating. Was Tameka fouled with less than 10 seconds-maybe. There was definitely contact to the body, but no worse than a no call on Cappie a few minutes prior when she got hit by 3 Fever defenders so call it awash.

Now the Liberty will face the Atlanta Dream for the Eastern Conference Championship beginning on Sunday in New York. The Dream destroyed Washington and showed their early season form as opposed to their end of season slump. This team is one of the best defending teams and led the conference in points per game. High octane offense, smothering defense will give the Liberty plenty of problems.

The Liberty squeaked by the Fever and relied too heavily on Cappie to come up big, which she did time after time. Taj has to start knocking down shots from inside and do a better job of hitting the boards especially if McCarville is out with an injured ankle. The Liberty also need more from Nicole Powell. She was benched in the second half of Game 3 and it was the right call. Her anemic offense and invisible defense has been a constant liability. Fortunately, Essence Carson has stepped up and been reliable off the bench. I think she's earned a starting spot the rest of the way- the margin of error is so slim in the postseason you need to stick with who's hot. Surprisingly, our poor 3-point shooting has yet to catch up with us, but Mitchell and Powell both need to pick to start knocking down shots beyond the arc to open up the rest of the floor.

Our bench (Kia, Essence, and Plenette) have all come up huge. We're going to need them now more than ever. This team knows how to win. Now it's time to get it done.