Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks Expose Ex-Coach Mike D’Antoni and the LA Lakers

If not for an ankle injury caused by a hard foul by Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony may have put on a show similar to Kobe Bryant’s annual trips to Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

Anthony still poured in 30 on 10 of 15 shooting in just 23 minutes as the New York Knicks beat the struggling Los Angeles Lakers 116-107, a score which does not accurately describe how distant these two clubs are right not.

Melo scored 22 in the first quarter to give his team a 41-27 lead. They once had a 26 point lead in the second and led by 17 when Anthony left the game with that ankle.

Kobe Bryant, as always, also went to work at the World’s Most Famous Arena, scoring 31 and grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out six assists.

Clearly, Anthony came to play motivated to knock off his ex-coach Mike D’Antoni, whom he completely and utterly exposed in front of the whole country on TNT for the overrated head coach that he is.

D’Antoni went 121-167 in four seasons in New York before “resigning” mid-way through what was a disastrous 18-24 campaign last year despite the boost thatLinsanity gave that lifeless squad.

D’Antoni replaced Mike Brown in Los Angeles and is 4-9 so far for a Lakers team that is going through the same turmoil that these now elite Knickerbockers went through one year ago.

What a difference a year, and a change of coaches, a difference makes.

Former Hawks head coach Mike Woodson took over for D’Antoni and won as many games D’Antoni did last year, but in 18 less games. The Knicks caught fire and grabbed the 7th seed. Now, they’re even better, off to their best start since the days of Patrick Ewing and on top of the Eastern conference.

What has been the difference between the Knicks under D’Antoniand Woodson? Quite simply, their coaching styles are completely different and Woodson’s is a much better fit than D’Antoni.

Woodson’s Knicks are 10th in points allowed, first in point differential and first in turnover differential.D’Antoni’s teams have never finished above 20th in the league in defense.

Now currently, D’Antoni is in a complete and utter mess in Los Angeles. He is clearly not a fit there either. He has turned Pau Gasol into a jump-shooter when he clearly isn’t. The bench, led by Antwan Jamison, Jodie Meeks, Darius Morris and Chris Duhon, has been the worst in the NBA yet they continue to chuck up three-pointers in typicalD’Antoni.

The only guys that are performing right now are the usual: Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, but both are flawed. Bryant is having one of his best seasons but the (undeserved) whole ball-hog reputation is starting to return as the Lakers are 1-11 when he scores over 30 points. Howard coming off back surgery has been solid but is a 4th quarter liability because of his god awful free throw shooting

Indeed. If his time New York and Los Angeles has proved anything, it’s that MikeD’Antoni’s run-n-gun system clearly doesn’t work without the ultimate floor general at point guard, Steve Nash. In the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, Nash won two consecutive MVPs and led D’Antoni’s Phoenix Suns to the western conference finals in both seasons.

Even when D’Antoni had average point guards in New York like Raymond Felton and Jeremy Lin, they excelled and had career years before falling off the very next year.

But is Nash the answer to the Lakers’ woes? They’re currently seventh in offense but 22nd in defense. Nash shouldn’t be confused for Gary Payton. Still, the Lakers offense looked like a mess at times and he will certainly help.

Will it be enough? They’ll figure it out eventually and make the playoffs but they won’t be making noise there if the defense manages to improve.

The Lakers’ goal is always to win a championship. Nash isn’t going to solve their problems so much that they will indeed fulfill this do-or-die goal.

On the other side of the country, the Knicks are perfectly happy with Mike Woodson, Carmelo Anthony, and the roster they have now and they’ll be even better once ImanShumpert and Amar’e Stoudemire return.

While one has to question whether getting both back will be an easy transition or whether the Knicks will continue to knock down this rate of threes, there’s no doubt that Mike Woodson is a better fit for this franchise than Mike D’Antoni was, as Mike No-D was exposed in NY and now even more so on the biggest stage in basketball.

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New York Basketball’s New Era Is Born: Knicks and Nets Are Officially a Rivalry

After watching these past two match-ups between these two squads, I would forgive you if you confused them for a couple of playoff games.

It’s official: the Battle for the City of New York is on. Manhattan’s Knicks and the Brooklyn’s new team the Nets are officially rivals.

The players on each squad may not admit it, but the intensity of their two meetings this season say other wise. This is the hottest rivalry in the New York Metropolitan area, and may be the hottest in the NBA.

The first matchup was rescheduled for Monday, November 27th after Hurricane Sandy canceled the potential season opening matchup. The Knicks, minus Jason Kidd, fell to the Nets in overtime after having a late lead. Brooklyn was led by Brook Lopez and his 22 points and 11 rebounds.

This time, it was the Nets, minus Lopez, who blew a 17 point lead and the Knicks came back to stun them led by MVP candidate Carmelo Anthony’s 45 points and the game winning three pointer by the man who led the New Jersey Nets to two straight NBA Finals, Jason Kidd.

Now, Kidd, who finally won his championship with the Dallas Mavericks two years ago, looks as if he could be a big piece in the quest to bring the city of New York its first basketball championship in 40 years.

However, the road will not be easy, because the new look Nets, in a new home with a new image, look as if they came to play. They are ready to challenge the Knicks for the dominance of the city and look to stake their claim among all those competing for the championship.

The Knicks spent their offseason trying to find pieces to add to compete with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference. The Nets successfully retained point guard Deron Williams and put a supporting cast around him and unleashed their new identity. Now they’re looking to accomplish more.

The Nets clearly have established an aura in the city, particularly in the Republic of Brooklyn, who have been missing a sports franchise since the Dodgers left 55 years ago. You can certainly see the Nets’ new black and white image all over the city, and many natives have embraced them.

Still, the Knicks are already far ahead of the Nets as of right now. They have already flattened the reigning champions twice by 20 this season while the Nets have gotten embarrassed by the Heat twice down in South Beach. Clearly, the Knicks are in the lead in this regard.

Both teams of course, have plenty of room to improve in this marathon of a season.

The Knicks are still without Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, who respectively add a huge offensive and defensive game to this Knicks roster. Stoudemire is projected to return on Christmas Day in Los Angeles. Shumpert looks to come back around New Year or after. When they return, New York could end up having one of the best benches in the NBA.

The Nets have been missing Brook Lopez for the past few games, which has caused the Nets to slump. Deron Williams, plagued by injuries, has been shooting under 40% since arriving with the Nets, but he’s still one of the best point guards in the Association. Their bench has been stellar and Joe Johnson has started to come around recently.

Both teams are headed for the playoffs, and could end up meeting sometime there, setting up the most intense crosstown matchup since the Subway Series of 2000 between the Mets and Yankees.

But in the city of New York? The Knicks still run this town, and the Nets will have to try very hard to win the people over. They’ve already done so in Kings County, but Knick Nation made their presence known in each battles there this season.

The Knickerbockers are clearly number one in the City That Never Sleeps and in the East, and that isn’t changing anytime soon. The Nets still have a ways to go, but they are indeed here and we got a rivalry brewing in the Big Apple.

Knicks Show off Depth, Prove They Can Play with the Champion Heat in 112-92 Win

If you were doubting whether anyone in the Eastern conference can compete with the Miami Heat with Derrick Rose out for Chicago, it’s time to open your eyes.

There is a new sheriff in town. It’s the New York Knicks.

The Knicks, always in the news whether good or bad, made their city forget about the damage laid by Hurricane Sandy for just one night in a 104-84 opening night victory at Madison Square Garden over the reigning champions.

On Thursday night, they went into South Beach where the Heat hadn’t lost this year and laid another beating over LeBron James and company by a score of 112-92.

It was the most lopsided loss of Miami’s Big Three Era in which all three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were playing.

LeBron scored 31 and came within an assist from his second straight triple double. Bosh and Wade combined to shoot six of 25 and scored 25.

They did this without Carmelo Anthony, who suffered a finger laceration and decided to play it safe.

No problem, because the Knicks were able to bury the Heat in a three-pointer barrage led by Raymond Felton (27 points, 7 assists, 6 of 10 shooting threes), Steve Novak (18 points, 4 of 9 from three), along with killer defense led by Jason Kidd (+31), and Tyson Chandler (+23, 9 rebounds).

After being tied at 53 at halftime, the Knicks grabbed a 10 point lead after the third and stepped on Miami’s throats in the fourth, holding them to just 12 points in the final period.

In this blowout victory, the Knicks have proven that they are deep, they are for real and that Miami is not invincible. The Heat have company in the East and it is not the Bulls, it’s not the Celtics, it’s not the 76ers, it’s not the Pacers, it’s not even the Brooklyn Nets.

It is the New York Knicks.

Miami has been exposed. They have zero size presence, which will be a problem against teams like both LA teams, Memphis, San Antonio, and New York. Wade looks banged up and clearly in decline.

Still, any team with LeBron James is not a team to be under-estimated. He is unquestionably the best player on the planet, but looked like the only player on the Heat who looked like he cared during this embarrassment. James is going to be a favorite for MVP yet again because he will carry his team as always.

Still, they may have met their match in the New York Knicks, and these Knicks are not going away anytime soon.

First off, their formula to their success is simple: A commitment to playing defense as well as sharing the basketball to create and knock down shots. The Knicks are 3rd in the NBA in three-point shooting as well as the best at preventing turnovers (while being 4th at creating them).

Overall, the Knicks have the 4th best offense in the NBA, while being without Amar’e Stoudemire, and have the 8th best defense in the league, without Iman Shumpert and Marcus Camby.

Most of this has been led by Carmelo Anthony, who has created a new commitment to playing defense as well as playing as a beast offensively at power, scoring 26.4 points per game and shooting under 44% from three. His normal shooting and rebounding numbers are on line with his career norms.

Many of the Knicks offseason moves have so far been huge. Jason Kidd has played some excellent ball thanks to sharing the ball-handling duties with Raymond Felton, who clearly is motivated after returning to New York.

Ronnie Brewer has played very well coming over from Chicago, and has filled the perimeter defensive role that they lost in Iman Shumpert.

The Knicks also have plenty of size to match almost anyone. Tyson Chandler has been his usual defensive anchor, and the addition of Rasheed Wallace has brought back his hard defensive play. Also keep in mind the Knicks are still missing the rebounding presence of Marcus Camby and the inside scoring of Amar’e Stoudemire.

The Knicks have the 9th highest scoring bench in the NBA, and this can improve once all three come back.

Don’t think the Knicks have played an easy schedule easier. They already beat both Miami and Philadelphia twice, scored some huge comeback wins in San Antonio and Charlotte. They’ve already played 11 road games, going 7-4 and are perfect at home.

The only question remains is if Stoudemire can fit well with this red-hot roster and re-establish himself as one of the elite PFs in the league. Also have to wonder if the rebounding (currently third worst in the league) can improve to keep the team in the game whenever shots do not fall.

Personally, I think the Knicks need to take it easy with both Amar’e and Shumpert. Have them come off the bench at first and slowly work them back into the rotation until they are finally ready to start and play big time minutes soon.

But, if they can, they will officially establish themselves as one of the elite teams in the NBA and legitimate contenders for the NBA title, or at least a tough match up for the Miami Heat.

Nobody is questioning the Knicks’ talent. They can do a lot of things and do it well. Fitting Amar’e together with Melo will be key and they will be big time results if this can happen.

But even if not, they have already proven that they can hang with the Miami Heat, because they will have a lopsided advantage in size and can knock down shots in bunches as well as defend well.

So if these two teams end up meeting in the playoffs again, don’t expect such a rout of a series like last year. Both teams are much different, but the Knicks have improved a lot, and they are indeed for real.

Kevin Youkilis Makes Sense for Yankees to Replace Alex Rodriguez at Third Base

Every year it seems Alex Rodriguez finds his way into the news, and most of it the last few seasons it has seldom been for positive reasons.

Every year it also seems Alex Rodriguez finds his way onto the disabled list, and in 2013 he will get a head start when he undergoes hip surgery in January, which will side-line him for four to six months.

This is yet another injury A-Rod has suffered that will undoubtedly further his decline. Reports say he was dealing with this one during the postseason, which could explain why he looked so pathetic and lost, especially against right-handed pitching.

So, not only are the Yankees in search of a starting catcher with the loss of Russell Martin to the Pittsburgh Pirates; they also will need to fill a hole at third base while Rodriguez is out.

The Yankees might decide to bring back Eric Chavez, who played some outstanding ball filling in for Rodriguez this past season when A-Rod was on the DL for a broken wrist.

The Yankees may instead decide to go the cheap, in-house route and start Eduardo Nunez. However, it has been painfully established that Nunez is not a starting-caliber player at any position, as he is a mediocre at best hitter and an absolutely abysmal fielder, rating at -8.7 UZR in 419.1 career innings at 3B.

There’s plenty of other options the Yankees can pursue both in house and around baseball. However, none of them make more sense than one man: one Kevin Edmund Youkilis: The Greek God of Walks himself. The former Red Sox infielder has also had some injury history the last few seasons. He was one of the early scapegoats in the destruction of the Red Sox roster in 2012, being traded to the Chicago White Sox in late June.

After struggling in last days in Boston, Youk enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence as a member of the Pale Hose, hitting 15 homers to a tune of a .771 OPS and 106 OPS+. He filled the hole at third base the ChiSox had and he can do the same for the Yankees.

If Youkilis could be had for two to three years, $22-$37 million, it would be a very good deal for the Yankees.

Even when A-Rod comes back, Youkilis has plenty of versatility to bounce around the lineup. He played first base for so many years and can back up Mark Teixeira every once in a while. He also has a history of playing, so it’s possible he could fill that role in an emergency.

When everyone is healthy, he would be the full-time designated hitter, but could possibly become the full-time third baseman if the Yankees decide to make A-Rod the full-time DH.

He’s a right-handed hitter with power, producing at the same level of A-Rod at this point, but that’s not a bad thing. The Yankees are loaded with left-handed hitters, besides Jeter and A-Rod (Teixeira is a switch-hitter).

But the best thing about Youkilis? He grinds out every at-bats to the tune of a .384 career on-base percentage. He has never posted a walk rate below 10% in his career.

The Yankees are clearly in need of hitters like Youkilis after seeing their home run or bust utterly fail in the ALCS against Detroit. Youkilis hits HRs too, but he isn’t reliant on them to be useful.

Getting Youkilis would also be interesting as he would become yet another former Red Sox player to defect to their hated arch-nemesis. Best of all, it would spite Red Sox Nation for them to see a fan favorite to don the pinstripes.

All of these reasons support the idea that Kevin Youkilis to the New York Yankees makes so much sense. They have a need, and he is a perfect match due to his versatility and his style of play could bring positive results on the lineup.

2013 BCS: SEC at-Large Squads Should Play in Games over Wisconsin and Louisville

This weekend was quite possibly one of the most exciting final weeks of the regular season we have seen in college football for quite some time. So many huge games, so many huge victories, and so many blown opportunities.

Now, after this whole weekend, so many crazy things happened, and the final BCS standings may begin to form and take place.

On Thursday night, Louisville (10-2) went into New Brunswick, New Jersey to knock off Rutgers (9-3) to all but clinch the Big East championship and possibly a BCS berth. Both teams were un-ranked after losing conference games the week before.

On Friday, #21 Northern Illinois (12-1) defeated #17 Kent State in the MAC Conference Championship game in Detroit. Kent State had a chance to play for a BCS game had they won

Later that night #8 Stanford (11-2) defeated #16 UCLA (9-4) for the second straight week (this time much closer AND at Stanford) in the Pac-12 championship game and clinched their first berth in the Rose Bowl since 1999 and will go for their first victory in the game since 1972.

Some maligned squads, #6 Kansas State (11-1) and #13 Florida State, both clinched their conference by winning big on Saturday night. The Wildcats will likely play in the Fiesta Bowl while the Seminoles will likely play in the Orange Bowl.

Then there was quite possibly the most surprising matchup of the week. The un-ranked Wisconsin (8-5) absolutely manhandled #12 Nebraska (10-3) by a score of 70-31. The Badgers may have technically clinched their third consecutive appearance in the Grandaddy of them all.

Of course, there was THE big game of the day, and quite possibly the season: #2 Alabama vs. #3 Georgia in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta. After an excellent, well-played, back-and-forth game, it was the Crimson Tide (12-1) who prevailed in the end as the Bulldogs (11-2) ran out of time in the red zone.

The defending national champions look to repeat in Miami against the upstart Fighting Irish of #1 Notre Dame (12-0), who have enjoyed their best regular season in a long time. No matter how you slice it, this is the matchup that was meant to be and will be a hell of a game.

However, every single year, there has been criticisms of the BCS and its results. Of course, last season was about who #1 LSU should have played in the National Championship between Alabama and Oklahoma State.

No, this may be possibly bigger. The SEC is as good as it’s been in years, quite possibly it’s best. Before this past weekend, SIX SEC teams were in the BCS Top 10, all finishing with at least 10 wins and no fewer than two losses. All should have a shot to play for a BCS bowl game.

These six teams are:

Alabama, SEC Champions

Georgia, SEC East Champions

Florida (11-1, 7-1), who had their biggest wins at Texas A&M, Florida State, and against LSU and South Carolina but also lost to Georgia in Jacksonville.

LSU (10-2, 6-2), who had their biggest wins at Texas A&M and against South Carolina but also lost to Florida and Alabama

Texas A&M, who had a season defining victory over Alabama in Tuscaloosa

South Carolina, who had their biggest wins against Georgia and at Clemson, but also lost to Florida and LSU.

All in all, the SEC is a loaded conference with teams filled with excellent resumes that warrant BCS appearances. They just happened to all defeat each other, which makes the SEC look even more strong as a whole

Alabama already gets to play in the National Championship, so that leaves five teams to four different BCS bowls. The Fiesta Bowl is likely going to between Kansas State and Oregon. The Sugar Bowl could very well go to Florida, as they were the highest ranked of the six that was idle over the weekend.

However, because of some standards of each of the bowls, some berths may end up going to two undeserving, un-ranked teams, Louisville and Wisconsin.

Louisville finished in a four way tie in an eight team conference (in terms of conference record) with Rutgers, Cincinnati, and 7-5 Syracuse.

Wisconsin only won a right to play in their conference championship as a result of the bowl bans for Ohio State and Penn State, who both finished with better overall records than the Badgers. The Buckeyes in fact finished 12-0 and were ranked #4 in the AP polls in the final week.

This isn’t right or fair to the SEC teams who didn’t win their divisions or the conference.

This is really how the BCS should end up like:

National Championship: #1 Notre Dame (Independent) vs. #2 Alabama (SEC champions)

Fiesta Bowl: #4 Oregon (Pac-12 at-large) vs. #5 Kansas State (Big 12 co-champions)

Sugar Bowl: #3 Florida (SEC at-large) vs. #11 Oklahoma (Big 12 co-champions)

Orange Bowl: #12 Florida State (ACC champions) vs. #8 LSU (SEC at-large)

Rose Bowl: #7 Stanford (Pac-12 champions vs. #9 Texas A&M (SEC at-large)

with #10 South Carolina earning a berth in Big 12 vs. SEC bowl, the Cotton Bowl Classic, a non-BCS but prestigious bowl game. However, this leaves Georgia out of the BCS picture, but voters may look at their blowout loss to South Carolina as well as their close loss in the SEC title game to Bama and vote them out.

It may not be right to go against tradition, much like in the 2010-11 bowl season when TCU played in the Rose Bowl (when Oregon, the Pac-10 champion, played in the national championship) and Stanford, a Pac-10 at-large, played in the Orange Bowl.

But it is right to reward the SEC for being arguably being above every conference in the land. They cannot be denied. After all, if Alabama wins, it will mark seven straight seasons the national championship is won by the SEC.