Saturday, May 5, 2012

New York Knicks Grades: Game 3 vs. Miami Heat

If there was a game for the Knicks to steal in this series, Game 3 was that game.  Sadly, the Knicks were still unable to overcome the Miami Heat, but stuck with them well for three quarters.  The Knicks lost 87-70, now facing an almost insurmountable 3-0 deficit in the series.

Coaching: Grade: C-

After Game 2, the Knicks looked to have worked out some kinks and were confident heading into Game 3 at Madison Square Garden.  The Knicks didn’t back down and never gave up, but they just did not execute as efficiently as they could have.
Defense was not the problem for Mike Woodson and his staff, as they finally got the Knicks up for the occasion on the defensive end; evident by the 58 points through the first three quarters.  It looked more like the Knicks team Woodson led through the end of the regular season, giving up only 91.5 points per game, good for 4th in the NBA since Woodson took over.  

The problem for the Knicks was on the offensive end.  They scored only 70 points and were unable to get anything going at any point in the game.  “Offensively, we just didn’t have it,” Woodson said.  “We were so stagnant.  I’ve got to take the heat for that.  I thought with Game 2, we moved the ball from side-to-side and tonight we played one side of the ball all night long.”

One reason for this was the decision to start Steve Novak and have it backfire terribly for the Knicks.  Novak was inserted into the starting lineup with hopes that he would stretch the defense and open things up for the rest of the Knicks offense.  That never happened as the Heat were all over Novak, not allowing him any air space to shoot the ball.  This decision loomed large because of the deficiencies that Novak has on the defensive end of the court.  When he is unable to knock down 3 pointers, he becomes a huge liability because he is not making up for what he gives up on the defensive end.

Woodson and his staff took a gamble but unfortunately lost.  Look for more changes to be made in Game 4 as the Knicks look to end NBA records and building for the future.

Backcourt: Grade: B

As a Knicks fan, you really could not have asked for more out of Landry Fields and Baron Davis.  They both came prepared and ready to play in Game 3, giving the Knicks everything they had being two of the more over-matched players in the starting five.

Landry Fields was great for the Knicks in the first half, scoring a team high nine points. 
He did not miss a shot in the first half, giving the Knicks the offensive spark they desperately needed.
 Fields also played great defense on Dwayne Wade in the first half.  Wade struggled mightily outside of his 12 point 3rd quarter with Lebron James on the bench.  Fields has been widely criticized throughout the season and playoffs, but definitely came to play in Game 3 and you have to respect his effort given how inconsistent his playing time and role have been.

Baron Davis gave another gutsy outing for the Knicks tonight.  He, like Fields, looked good in the 1st half but was unable to provide the same impact in the 2nd half of the game. 

Davis ran the team as well as anyone could have given the circumstances.  It was a hard fought, dragged out game that was sloppy and tough for everyone involved.  Davis being a wily veteran was prepared for what the playoffs bring.  It was good to see Davis giving it his all even though he is visibly hurt and hobbled, which is having a major impact on his game.
 Frontcourt: Grade: D

Mike Woodson took a shot putting Steve Novak into the starting lineup and moving Carmelo Anthony to the Power Forward position.  Let’s just say the plan did not go as hoped. 

Steve Novak was shut down by a ferocious Heat defense.  They would not allow Novak to beat them from the perimeter.  Novak has only scored a total of nine points on seven shots in the series.

When Novak is not knocking down 3 pointers, it is a liability to have him on the court.  He is not a strong rebounder or defender, giving up countless second chance opportunities on defense.  He gives up too much on the defensive end to get major minutes if he is not getting the opportunities to knock down perimeter shots.

The Novak experiment didn’t work, but the bigger disappointment here has to be Carmelo Anthony.  The one game the Knicks needed him to step up and carry them, he was unable to.

Anthony scored 22 points, but needed 23 shots to get there, going 7-23 from the field and 7-9 from the foul line.  He added eight rebounds, but also had five turnovers.
 The Heat threw everything at Anthony in the game, I’m pretty sure there was even a kitchen sink on the court at once point.  They pressured him and put him into tough situations, much like Game 1 of the series.  Unlike in Game 2, Anthony was not able to get off to that hot start and have his teammates feed off of him.  With all eyes on him, Heats defense and Knick fans alike, Anthony wilted a little under the pressure with no sidekick.

Defense: Grade: B+

This grade would have easily been an A+ f basketball games lasted only three quarters.  Through three quarters, the Knicks hung with the Heat because of a fast moving, pressure filled defense. 

The charge was led by a healthy Tyson Chandler, who received his Defensive Player of the Year award prior to the game.  He looked to be fully recovered from the stomach flu, grabbing 15 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.  He changed numerous shots of Heat players, being the presence the Knicks had missed in the first two games of the series.
 Another boost came in the form of Jared Jeffries, who played 14 minutes which was three more than in the first two games combined.  He brought energy and defensive toughness with the second unit that was lacking in Games 1 and 2.  Jeffries was visibly still affected by the sore knee, but it was nice seeing him going out there and fighting for his teammates.

One thing that stands out is the performance of the Knicks defense on the Heat’s big 3.  Lebron James had more turnovers and fouls than made baskets in the game, as the Knicks forced him into eight turnovers and five personal fouls compared to nine made shots.  Outside of a dominant third quarter in which Wade scored 12 points, the Knicks held him in check allowing him to score only eight the rest of the game.  Chris Bosh only scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds as he returned from the birth of his son.

Defense was not the problem for the Knicks tonight, holding the Heat to only 87 points total, 58 through the first three quarters.  If the offense had been clicking like the defense, I firmly believe the outcome would have been different.

Bench: Grade: B+

The Knicks bench didn’t have a great night, but they are not the reason for the loss.  They came into the game and gave the Knicks everything you ask for from the bench, energy and hustle. For the game, the Knicks bench finished with a +7, compared to a -32 for the Heat bench.

J.R. Smith struggled with his shot, but did not let that effect the rest of his game.  He didn’t back down from the bigger Lebron James on defense, and when asked took on the responsibility of guarding Dwayne Wade as well.  Smith also cut down on his turnovers, having only two in the game.
Mike Bibby did a solid job backing up Davis at point guard.  He had a very unlikely eight points, and also added three rebounds and an assist.  Bibby has been a pleasant surprise for the Knicks throughout the series. 

Jared Jeffries and Josh Harrellson provided the Knicks with the spark they had been looking for on the defensive end of the court and on the boards.  In 19 combined minutes, Jeffries and Harrellson combined for seven rebounds.  They also provided the Knicks with a much needed defensive presence in the middle on the defensive end. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Tyson Chandler Wins Defensive Player of the Year Award
New York Knicks Center Tyson Chandler was named the Defensive Player of the Year earlier this week.  There is no player that deserved the honor as much as him.

This award has been a year in the making for Chandler.  He was the main cog in the defense that slowed down Lebron James and the Miami Heat last season en route to an NBA title last season for the Dallas Mavericks. 

Following that championship run last season, Chandler joined the Knicks this off-season as a free agent.  He came to a Knicks team that is not known for their defense, ranking 22nd in defensive efficiency last season.  This season, with Chandler manning the middle, the Knicks improved to 5th in defensive efficiency this season.  

Interim Head Coach Mike Woodson has, on multiple occasions, said that Chandler deserved the award.  “He’s done everything to put us in the position where we are today,” Woodson said last month.  “You don’t find very many centers that (are) committed like he is, don’t have any hidden agendas.  You know, it’s not about Tyson Chandler, it’s always about the team and, you know, that speaks volumes.”
Chandler averaged 11.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 0.9 steals per game this season.  They are not eye popping numbers, but the impact Chandler had on a team as a whole plays into the decision for him winning the award.  He was able to change the culture around a team that had previously just worried about how many points they could score in a game. 

Chandler is not one to put personal goals ahead of the team, but this award is one he sets his sights on.  “It seemed like every time I thought I maybe I got close to being an All-Star or something like that, it was like something always came up,” he said.  “And so to win this … I never set out for individual goals, except for this one because I felt like if you’re Defensive Player of the Year, you’re changing something and you’re helping win ballgames.  So to win it, I was speechless.”

Chandler was presented the trophy before Game 3 between the Knicks and Heat by four-time award winner Dikembe Mutombo.  He is also the first Knick to receive the award in the history of the franchise.

Get Your Broadway Hats!

The New York Rangers "Broadway Hat" has become the trademark of the team, and can now be purchased by the fans!

At fans can purchase their own "Broadway Hats." They are $21.99 per hat.
Let's fill the Garden with the Broadway Hats during the playoffs!!!

Rivera Tears ACL, May Miss Rest of Season

Last night during the Yankees batting practice, Mariano Rivera was shagging fly balls out in center field. This was nothing new, Rivera is always seen in the outfield before games running down fly balls, but last night went terribly wrong.

Rivera was tracking a ball back to the warning track in left center field when he came down on his right knee awkwardly. Rivera hit the dirt and stayed down grabbing his right knee. Rivera was carted off the field and went for an MRI.

The Yankees received the worst news possible about their Hall of Fame closer, a torn ACL ligament. Rivera could miss the rest of this season, and maybe more. The question that Rivera was faced with last night after the game was, "Will you return to pitch after your injury?" An emotional Rivera did not have a response for reporters. It looked like Rivera was still in shock from this injury, and a possibility of never pitching for the Yankees again.

Of all the injuries the Yankees have been faced with this season, this is the toughest one to swallow. The Yankees will have to find a replacement for their closer who has a record 608 career saves. The bullpen is already slim for the Yankees since Joba Chamberlain suffered a season ending injury before the season began. David Robertson would be the smart choice to replace Rivera, but then Robertson needs to be replaced in the innings leading up to the ninth inning.

It will be up to the Yankee bats, and the starting rotation to pick up the slack and carry the Yankees.
So far this season the starting rotation has been inconsistent, with the exception of C.C Sabathia. The only thing more disappointing then the starting pitching is the middle of the Yankees order. The bats of Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Alex Rodriguez have been silent all year, and the pressure is on them now more than ever.

New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat Game 3 Post Game Recap

Final Score: Miami Heat 87 New York Knicks 70

Tonight provided the Knicks with their best opportunity to steal a game in the series, but were again unable to overcome a better Heat team.  The loss tonight means the Knicks are one loss closer to summer vacation and also that the Knicks are now in the record books.  Tonight’s loss gave the Knicks the most consecutive losses in the playoffs in NBA history, at 13.  For three quarters, the Knicks were able to hang with the Heat, but were sorely outplayed in the 4th quarter, resulting in a blowout loss. 

-Carmel-No Anthony
 On a night in which the Knicks needed Carmelo Anthony most, he was not able to provide one of his patented performances.  Anthony finished with 22 points, but needed 23 shot attempts to get there, going 7-23 from the field.  Anthony also added eight rebounds. 

Once again, the Knicks were unable to get Anthony into positions of strength, playing right into the Heat’s hands.  Anthony was forced into tough spots, resulting in poor shot selection and iffy ball handling, the result of five turnovers.

For a coach that preaches accountability for his players, it was good to see him take accountability for the stagnation and overall terribleness of the Knicks offense.  “Offensively, we just didn’t have it,” Woodson said.  “We were so stagnant.  I’ve got to take the heat for that.  I thought with Game 2, we moved the ball from side-to-side and tonight we played one side of the ball all night long.”

“They’re loading up on him,” Woodson continued, in reference to Anthony.  “They’re doubling him and they’re forcing him to take tough shots.  Even when he passes the ball, we’ve got to get other guys comfortable shooting the ball.  We moved the ball, their defense was solid but we still got good looks.  Out defense was solid throughout the first half and pretty much throughout the whole game until the fourth quarter and then we just, we gave in.” 

-Novak No-Show

Steve Novak replaced Amar’e Stoudemire in the starting lineup tonight and it was a rough outing to say the least.  Novak scored as many points as Stoudemire and Stoudemire was in a suit at the end of the bench.  Novak only took two shots in the first three quarters of the game, not stretching the Heat’s defense as Woodson had hoped.  The idea was that Novak would open up the court, making it easier for Carmelo Anthony to operate and enabling the Knicks to run the pick-and-roll.  It never came to fruition at any point in the game.

Novak entered the game only taking five shots and scoring nine points.  He was again exposed in the starting lineup of not being much more than a 3 point specialist.  The Heat were able to get plenty of second chance opportunities because Novak is not an adept rebounder or defender. 

It’s easy to second guess a decision after it happens, but if I were put in the same position, I would have started Josh Harrellson.  In limited minutes, Harrellson was very active for the Knicks on both the offensive and defensive boards and played great defense.  He was +8 in his five minutes of action, giving the Knicks a spark they could have severely used.

-J.R. and Tyson Bring It

There were not many positives to be brought out of this game that may have set the NBA back a few years.  It was very reminiscent of the old rivalry games between the Knicks and Heat from the 90’s.  Not everyone was prepared for such a slobber-knocker, but two people, J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler, definitely were.

Smith struggled from the field, going 5-18 for the game scoring 12 points, but he never backed down once from the duo of Lebron James and Dwayne Wade.  Smith provided great effort on the offensive and defensive ends of the court and was a trooper for Mike Woodson.  Smith also provided two highlight reel dunks that looked like they would turn the momentum of the game in the Knicks favor.  The second dunk ended an 8-0 personal run by Lebron James brought the Knicks within eight with 8:45 remaining.  The Knicks sadly were not able to build off of that as the wheels fell off after that and the Heat continued their onslaught.

Tyson Chandler was another positive for the Knicks.  Chandler looked 100 times better than he did in the first two games of the series, having a major impact on the glass and a major reason the Heat struggled so much through the first three quarters.  Chandler finished the game with 10 points, but more importantly grabbed a game high 15 rebounds, adding two blocks as well for good measure.  Chandler showed tonight why he won the Defensive Player of the Year award and how important he is to the Knicks success.

It all comes down to Sunday afternoon for the Knicks.  It is a do-or-die game, as the Knicks face getting swept and eliminated from the playoffs for the second consecutive season.  Game 4 starts at 3:30 P.M. ET Sunday afternoon back at Madison Square Garden as the Knicks look to extend their season for at least one more game.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat Game 3 Pre-Game News and Notes
Thursday, May 03, 2012 7:00 P.M. ET
Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks
Game 3 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals 2-0 Heat Series Lead
 -Injury News and Updates

Amar’e Stoudemire is out for Game 3 because of the laceration on his left hand he got when hitting the fire extinguisher after Game 2.  He says he wants to be back for Sunday afternoon’s Game 4, but he is currently listed as doubtful.  One positive he does have going for him though is that the injury is on his left, non-shooting hand.

Jared Jeffries is starting to feel better, as head coach Mike Woodson said that Jeffries minutes can be increased for Game 3.  Before the series started, Woodson had said that Jeffries would be limited to 15 minutes a game, but has played only 11 minutes combined in the first two games.  Jeffries will help add to the Knicks interior defense, something that has been lacking thus far in the series. 

Tyson Chandler is all systems go.  After receiving the Defensive Player of the Year award, Chandler will look to show why he got it tonight at full strength.  He says that he is 100% and fine after suffering through the stomach flu Games 1 and 2.  Look for him to have a dominant performance on both offense and defense with the absence of Stoudemire.

There had been rumblings that Jeremy Lin was going to attempt a comeback for Game 3, but that has been shut down.  His knee did not respond as well after full contact practice earlier in the week, and his return has been pushed back again.  It is now doubtful that he will return for Game 4 as well, meaning that the chance of seeing Jeremy Lin again this season are becoming less and less likely.

The Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh welcomed a baby boy into the world this morning.  He is questionable for Game 3 because he returned to Miami late last night to be with his wife.  The Heat have not yet ruled Bosh out, holding out hope he can return to New York in time for Game 3. 

Mike Woodson will have a lot of decisions to make going into tonight’s game with his starting lineup.  With two starters being out, Woodson will have to change up his lineup for the third time in three games.  There have been whispers that Steve Novak will step into the starting lineup, but he would present tough match-ups on the defensive end for the Knicks as he would struggle to guard Lebron James or Chris Bosh.  In my opinion, the best option would be starting Josh Harrellson.  He provides great defense and rebounding, allowing Chandler to guard the Center instead of Bosh, keeping him closer to the basket where the Knicks need him.

-Bench Production

With the Knicks missing two starters, the bench unit is going to look a little different but they will need to step up nonetheless.  Players will get playing time tonight that hasn’t all series and they have to be prepared for game action.

One player we know will be prepared is J.R. Smith.  He has been the best player for the Knicks thus far in the series.  The Knicks will need him to provide a scoring punch off the bench and help carry the load along with Carmelo Anthony.  Smith has been aggressive on the offensive end and defensive end.  He has taken on whatever Mike Woodson has asked him to do and succeeded.

It would be nice to see Steve Novak get going as well.  The fans at the Garden are going to be going crazy tonight and Novak having a good performance will only increase that.  Every time he touches the ball, there is a little more buzz in the crowd.  If he’s able to get a few shots to fall early, the game could be there for the Knicks taking.

-Carmelo Anthony Slides to the 4

Carmelo Anthony will be moved to the starting Power Forward position tonight with the absence of Amar’e Stoudemire.  This has been a position that Anthony has thrived in throughout the season.  He causes match-up problems for opposing teams because there is no power forward in the NBA that can contain him.  It also helps that Anthony can hold his own on defense against bigger opponents because of his excellent strength and power. 

Having Anthony at the 4 will also bring one of the Heat’s bigs away from the basket.  Anthony does a lot of his work from the perimeter, so bringing the Heat’s big men away from the basket will not only make it easier for Anthony to score, but at the same time open up the lane for easy attempts for his teammates.  

-Attack the Paint

The Knicks have been badly outscored in the paint through the first two games of the series.  This is a trend that must be reversed if the Knicks hope to make some noise and end their 12 game playoff losing streak. 

One reason for this is the lack of Tyson Chandler.  Battling the stomach flu, he has not been himself on either end of the court.  Finally feeling better heading into game 3, expect the gap of scoring in the paint to come closer to the Knicks.  Chandler will add easy points for the Knicks while taking away scoring from the Heat.

Attacking the paint will also result in more trips to the foul line.  The Knicks have not been as aggressive as the Heat (and don’t have the refs helping them out like the Heat), leading to less free throw attempts.  If the Knicks are able to get to the foul line more and slow down the game it will go a long way for them, as they could be battling fatigue with yet another injury decimating their team.  

Last Night's Triple OT Winner

Watch it again as Gaborik scores in triple overtime to beat the Washington Capitals and give the Rangers a 2-1 series lead

Gaborik Cashes In

If there was ever a time for Marion Gaborik to score in the playoffs, he picked the best time to do it. Gaborik beat Capitals goalie Braden Holtby with just over five minutes to go in the third overtime, and give the Rangers a 2-1 series lead.

Game 2 was a game of golden chances for both sides, and a game of world class saves for the goaltenders. Ryan Callahan opened the scoring with a power play goal seven minutes into the second period, but John Carlson tied it up less than five minutes later.

In overtime Alexander Ovechkin had a chance to win the game but hit the far post, and did not see any chances after that. The New York Rangers played their brand of hockey in the overtimes, and won the way they have all season, with a team effort. Although Gaborik netted the game winner, the Rangers sold out all game and gave up their bodies to block shots and make plays.

Great team plays beat talent every day, and the Rangers are the best example why. Maybe the Knicks should go to a Ranger game or two. #teamb4me

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Joe's No No of the Week

I have decided to create a No No of the Week part of our blog. These blog's will talk about a New York athlete who has done something dumb and stupid either on the field, or off the field.

I was inspired to create this by my first No No of the week, Amar'e Stoudemire and his best friend, the fire extinguisher.

Amar'e Stoudemire took himself out of the Miami series the other night after the Knicks dropped Game 2 to the Heat, and Amar'e decided to punch a fire extinguisher, and slice his hand open. Stoudemire will miss Game 3 Thursday night, and possibly miss the rest of this series that probably won't go passed 4 Games.

Amar'e tweeted his remorse over the incident and said he was angry at himself. He also tweeted that "this too will pass". Sorry Amar'e but this is not going to pass for a long time. Some Knick fans actually thought that the Knicks had a chance against the Heat, and maybe they could push the series to seven games, but Amar'e and the Knicks have shown that they cannot handle LeBron and company.

Now with Amar'e sidelined for the rest of this series, the Knicks will have one of their $100 million stars on the bench, because he had to act childish and throw a temper tantrum on the way to the locker room.

That's a No No Amar'e, and so are those corn rows you have been sporting.

New York Knicks Grades: Game 2 of Series vs Miami Heat

Game 2 was much better for the Knicks, but the end result was still the same.  The Knicks lost to the Heat 104-94, falling down 2-0 to the Heat in the series. 

Coaching: Grade: B
 The Knicks were not able to pick up the win in game 2, but the game plan was definitely better this time around.  The necessary changes were made on the offensive end by Mike Woodson and his staff.  The offense is most successful when it is ran through Carmelo Anthony, and the Knicks struggled to get him into position to make plays in game 1.  In game 2, Woodson tweaked the offensive sets.

Carmelo Anthony was smothered by Lebron James and company on his post ups in game 1.  The Heat defense made it nearly impossible for Anthony to receive passes and make plays because they fronted him and then sent a double team.  This frustrated Anthony and the Knicks, evident from the 3-15 shooting and blowout victory for the Heat.

In Game 2, the Knicks put Anthony in better positions to succeed.  Woodson tweaked the offense by having Anthony start more at the top of the key instead of on one side the court.  This opened up the floor making for a better free-flowing offense.  It also enabled Baron Davis, J.R. Smith and Mike Bibby to run the patented pick-and-roll game, making for easy opportunities around the basket. 

The reason this grade is not higher is because the Knicks still have not made up a game plan to slow down the Heat.  After having a top 5 defense in the regular season, the Knicks have been embarrassed in two games by the Heat, giving up over 100 points in both contests. 

One reason for this letdown has been because of the health concerns the Knicks have been facing.  Tyson Chandler has been fighting the flu, and Jared Jeffries is not 100%, unable to play more than a few minutes per game.  Losing Iman Shumpert in Game 1 will also hurt the Knicks defense, but a good game plan put in would help.

Backcourt: Grade: B-

Baron Davis gave the Knicks a valiant effort in Game 2.  Davis, battling his newest injury to his back, soldiered on and gave the Knicks as much as they could have asked for.  He is on a minute limit, but played nearly the whole second half, 21 minutes, after only playing six minutes in the first half.  Davis scored 12 points and added six assists.  The Knicks could not have asked for a better performance from Davis who is visibly hindered by his nagging injuries.

Davis’ backcourt mate, Landry Fields, did not fair as well.  Fields only played 18 minutes, most of which seemed to be wasted.  Fields has lost all confidence in his jump shot and is a liability on the offensive end.  Passing the ball to him is a waste of time, as he will just take a dribble or two and pass it back out; going nowhere fast.
Fields also has become a liability on the defensive end, as Dwayne Wade did whatever he wanted to Fields on offense.  He scored from all over the court and was virtually unstoppable.  Fields will need to step up his performance with the Knicks facing so many injury concerns.  Fields is solely responsible for this grade being so low after such a performance from Davis.

Frontcourt: Grade: B+

Unlike in Game 1, Carmelo Anthony got off to a scorching start this time around.  He ended up scoring 30 points, adding nine rebounds.  He came ready and prepared to play this time around.  His confidence was sky high and he attacked the Heat defense from all different angles. 

For the Knicks to have any chance of winning games, they will need performances like this from Anthony the remainder of the series.  They would also like to have efficient games from Amar’e Stoudemire, like he had in Game 2.  Stoudemire went for 18 points and seven rebounds, much more involved than Game 1. 

Sadly, Stoudemire will most likely not have that opportunity.  He punched the glass container that holds the fire extinguisher in the Heat locker room, getting a very ugly laceration.  Medical attention was needed as sources say half of Stoudemire’s hand was ‘hanging off’.  He will miss Game 3 and does not seem likely to play the remainder of the series after receiving 15 stitches in his hand.
Defense: Grade: C-

The Knicks once again gave up 100 points, 104 to be exact, which will not be acceptable when trying to beat the Heat.   

The only positive for the Knicks on defense was the improved play of Tyson Chandler.  He was much more active in Game 2, aggressively going after rebounds and playing a lot more like his old self.  He grabbed seven rebounds, and looked like he was more engaged.  His energy level was also much higher, visibly looking more engaged and energetic; closer to the normal level up play Chandler is accustomed to.

Chandler says he should be fine by Game 3.  It would be a huge boost to a Knicks team to have Chandler playing at full health.  With Jared Jeffries being limited and Iman Shumpert being lost for up to 8 months, the Knicks are without a lot of their defensive stoppers.
Another thing that may help the Knicks on defense is Amar’e Stoudemire not playing.  Stoudemire has been atrocious on defense on all season and was not getting any better in the series against the Heat.  Chris Bosh was taking advantage of Stoudemire every time they lined up against each other.  The Knicks defense has been better all season while Stoudemire sat on the bench, so hopefully the trend continues if Stoudemire isn’t going to be playing. 

Bench: Grade: B-

The bench was better than bad, but worse than good in Game 2 against the Heat.  They did what they regularly do, providing hustle and energy.  But they also had some of their weakness exposed, one of which being defense without Jared Jeffries.
J.R. Smith brought the same intensity and aggressiveness he did in Game 1, showing just how tough he is.  Smith did not back down from Lebron James or Dwayne Wade, taking on whatever Mike Woodson placed in front of him.  Smith also provided a nice punch in the scoring column, going for 13 points on 6-11 shooting.  He was the only Knicks outside of Jared Jeffries limited minutes, to finish with a positive +/-. Smith has been the most consistent and best player for the Knicks in the first two games in my opinion.

Mike Bibby gave the Knicks good minutes again off the bench.  The Knicks did not suffer a letdown with Bibby running the team.  He actually got big minutes in the first half, playing 18 of his 21 minutes in the first half, as Mike Woodson rode the hot hand.  Bibby has been a pleasant surprise for the Knicks in the playoffs.

Novak is the one who was exposed the most in Game 2.  Novak was caught multiple times in the wrong position on defense, allowing for wide open 3 point attempts for the likes of Shane Battier and Mike Miller.  If Novak is not knocking down 3 pointers, he has very little reason to be on the court most of the time.  It was encouraging to see Novak grab five rebounds though.  But he will need to step up the effort on the defensive end as well, as Novak will see a lot of playing time with all the injuries he Knicks have and his prowess he has of knocking down perimeter jump shots. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Although he has struggled at times, Rangers Forward Brandon Dubinsky was certainly missed in last night game 2 loss to the Washington Capitals, who evened up the Conference Semi Final Series at 1. Dubinsky seems to have a lower body injury, which the Rangers as a whole have done very little talking about since its existence.

The 2011-2012 season was a season in which Dubinsky could not wait to end. Dubinsky, who netted 24 goals last season took a step back this season only cashing in on 10 goals throughout the course of the season. So that leads us to the question, if Dubinsky isn't in the lineup are the Rangers better off?

Let me be the first to tell you that your dead wrong. Dubinsky is as responsible of a forward in both the neutral zone and defensive zone that you'll ever have. Grinding along the boards, blocking shots, and the potential of scoring a "big" goal along the way is something that Dubinsky brings to the table each and every night. All of those details of the game  are important, but the one thing you lack when Dubinsky is out of the lineup, is fire.

You can rest assure that if a guy like Washington Capitals Matt Hendricks, who last night took some liberties on Rangers undersized forward Carl Haglein was to run around, Brandon Dubinsky will be that player to make sure that it will not happen again.

The New York Rangers need "Dubi" back in this lineup. Whether it is tomorrow night or Saturday afternoon, you can bet your bottom dollar that in one way, shape, or form, Dubi will come up with one big play of importance.

Amare Questionable for Game 3 After Punching Fire Extinguisher

Amare Stoudemire left American Airlines Arena Monday night with his left arm in a sling. After the Knicks fell to the Heat 104-94, Stoudemire punched a fire extinguisher that was inside a glass case. Stoudemire broke the glass and sliced his hand open.

Stoudemire's act of frustration has now put his playoff series in jeopardy. The severity of the cut is not fully known, but it could keep Stoudemire out for the rest of this series.

The Knicks are in an 0-2 hole heading into Game 3 at Madison Square Garden Thursday night. The Knicks need much better secondary scoring, and need to find some answer for Miami on the defensive. If Stoudemire cannot play Game 3, they will lose a little on the defensive end, and will need a team effort to pick up the scoring slack and give Carmelo Anthony more support.

Monday, April 30, 2012

New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat Post Game Recap: Game 2

Final Score: New York Knicks 94 Miami Heat 104

The Knicks put on a better performance tonight than in game 1, but still came up short against a strong Heat team.  The Knicks fell to 0-2 in the series, in the process tying the NBA record for most consecutive losses in the playoffs at 12 games.  The Knicks will need to show a little more urgency and aggressiveness in game 3 if they hope to end the playoff losing streak.

-Offensive Flow Improvement

Carmelo Anthony led the charge tonight on offense, coming out of the gate strong and finishing with 30 points.  Anthony scored 14 of the first 24 points for the Knicks, setting the tone early and often.  Mike Woodson and the Knicks made the necessary adjustments so that they could still run their offense effectively.  Instead of keeping Anthony on the wings and the blocks on one side of the court, the offense was run more towards the top of the key.  It balanced out the court more and gave the Knicks more options.

With Anthony playing so well, the Knicks were able to run more of their conventional pick-and-roll offense, balancing out both sides of the court.  Starting Point Guard Baron Davis and back-ups J.R. Smith and Mike Bibby were able to make plays feeding off of Anthony’s great effort.  Davis finished with six assists, while Smith had five and Bibby added two.

Amar’e Stoudemire was also much more active tonight, scoring 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds.  Stoudemire was able to avoid foul trouble and looked much more comfortable tonight compared to Saturday afternoon.

-Tyson Chandler Shows Up

Battling the flu is not an easy thing to do, especially when you’re expected to be a vocal point of your team.  But that is exactly what Chandler did tonight, having a much better turnout tonight in game 2 than in game 1.  He was still not 100%, but he was much closer to his regular self, showing much more aggressiveness on offense, defense and the boards. 

Chandler led a pretty dominant performance for the Knicks on the glass tonight, especially on the offensive end.  Chandler had six offensive rebounds tonight and seven total.  In limited action, Jared Jeffries compiled three offensive rebounds of his own.  Anthony and Stoudemire did a good job of cleaning up the defensive glass, combining for 14 defensive rebounds and 16 total.

-Where is the aggressiveness?

Much like in Game 1, the Knicks were not aggressive enough in attacking the paint to get to the foul line.  They attempted only 19 free throws compared to 27 for the Heat.  The Knicks have to make a more concentrated effort in getting to the foul line.  Right now they are giving in to easily to the pressure from the Heat and letting it fly from the perimeter way too often.  It is okay to take perimeter shots when they are there, but many of these shots are contested and forced towards the end of the shot clock.  The Knicks need to get more flow and continuity to their offense and it will open things up for them.  Too often the Knicks are stagnant, standing around watching Anthony or Smith dribble and take pull up jumpers.

-Rotation Changes

It still perplexes me as to why Landry Fields gets so much run with the first unit.  Obviously, the injury to Iman Shumpert has caused changes to be made.  But Fields is not the answer in my opinion.

When Anthony is double teamed or Davis and Smith break down the defense off the pick-and-roll, passes are wasted to Fields.  Fields will position himself somewhere along the 3 point line and he is where they kick it to.  But Fields is hesitant to let fly from the perimeter and will usually just waste time dribbling and then kicking it back out to the top anyway.  It is wasted time and movement by the Knicks that results in nothing.

Smith and Steve Novak need to be in the game more in those situations because of the skills they offer.  Both Smith and Novak are more than capable 3 point shooters, and the Knicks need to take advantage.  The Heat are one of the worst teams at defending the 3 point shot, so it would be beneficial for the Knicks to work that into their offense more once they return home for Game 3.

-Injury List a Mile Long

The Knicks, for the second straight season, picked the worst time to start to have injuries mount.  Iman Shumpert is out for up to 8 months after tearing his ACL and lateral meniscus and will be missed.  In addition to him, the Knicks have two rotation players in Baron Davis and Jared Jeffries who cannot give you extended minutes you need in the playoffs.  I believe Mike Woodson needs to give a chance to other people on the bench like Josh Harrellson and see what they have.  Giving them a shot may give the team a spark they need.

You can also add another name to the injury list now.  Details are still coming out, but it is clear that Amar’e Stoudemire injured his hand.  He was seen coming out of the arena tonight in a sling with bandages covering his hand.  He supposedly punched the glass case that holds the fire extinguisher, shattering it.  It is believed that Stoudemire received stitches in his hand and his status for Game 3 and the remainder of the series are up in the air.

The Knicks return to action Wednesday for Game 3 in the series against the Heat.  It is do or die time for the Knicks now, who will be returning to what will surely be a raucous and loud Madison Square Garden crowd.  

New York Giants Select Tackle Matt McCants in 6th Round

With the 201st overall pick, 31st in the 6th round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected tackle, Matt McCants out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham.  This is the second tackle that the Giants have used a selection on.

McCants is 6’5” and weighs 309 pounds.  To most people that is a monster of a man, but there are scouts that call McCants tall and lean with the ability to add more bulk to his frame.  At UAB, he was the starting left tackle.

Here is the scouts take on McCants:

“Long and quick enough to take away the edge.  Strong for size and can hold ground when beats defender to the top of drop but can give too much ground when defenders get under him before he gets set.  Moves well laterally and can improve with better technique but narrow base and inability to sink hinders ability to redirect quickly at this point.”

The scouting report continues, “Lack of experience at high school level and academic problems raise concerns here.  Can pick up line stunts but inconsistent in this area.  Appeared to have some problems locating assignments at the second level.  Can over-commit to defender and get caught out of position as a zone blocker.  Flashes nasty disposition.  More of a finesse wall-off blocker than a mauler.  Not violent or aggressive enough at the second level.”

The offensive line depth chart is now starting to get crowded for the Giants.  Will Beatty is slated to begin the season at left tackle.  David Diehl is versatile and can play either left tackle or guard, but could potentially move to right tackle.  The Giants also have James Brewer, Sean Locklear and 4th round pick Brandon Mosley capable of playing tackle already on the roster. 

At this time, McCants really just provides depth for the team, if he even makes the final roster.  Beatty is entering the final year of his contract, so the Giants could be looking at McCants as a potential piece further down the road past this season.  It is never a bad thing having developmental pieces on your roster.  The Giants are very good at developing younger players so that they are able to reload on the run and not have to go into full blown rebuilding processes. 

That is exactly how Jerry Reese sees it.  McCants could possibly be a starter down the future, and they intend on developing him to see what they got.  “Really a pleasant surprise when you watch him,” Reese said.  “He is intriguing.  Long, 36-inch arms.  He is 315 now and I think he will be 325 pounds in a blink.  Very interesting prospect for us.  I think in a year or so he can make some headway and start challenging for a spot in our starting lineup.  I think he is going to be that kind of player for us.”

High praise for a 6th round draft pick in which the Giants are very high on.  

New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat Pre-Game News and Notes: Game 2

Monday, April 30 2012 7:00 P.M. ET
New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat
Game 2 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals 1-0 Series

The Knicks look to bounce back after a putrid performance in Game 1 against the Miami Heat. The Knicks had one of their worst performances in their franchise's playoff history, tying the least amount of points scored and turnovers in a game. The Knicks have to adjust to the Heat's different defensive strategy they have thrown at them if they want to make this into a series.

-Injury News and Notes

The Knicks suffered a big loss with Iman Shumpert going down with a torn left ACL and lateral meniscus Saturday afternoon. He will be out for the remainder of the series and will be a part of a 6-8 month rehab process.

The news remains the same for Jared Jeffries, who is battling a sore knee. It was reported that he was in a lot of pain after playing only seven minutes Saturday. He practiced Sunday and will give the Knicks whatever he can. Expect him to be limited again though and to be on a strict minutes limit again.

Starters Baron Davis and Tyson Chandler both came out of Game 1 worse than they entered. Mike Woodson says it will be a miracle for Chandler to suit up against the Heat tonight and that Davis is a true game-time decision. Chandler is still battling a case of the stomach flu. Davis has been battling a number of nagging injuries all season and you can add a back injury to that now as well.

*Update: Tyson Chandler and Baron Davis will both in fact be in the lineup tonight starting for the Knicks. Landry Fields will join them in the starting five, replacing Iman Shumpert, along with Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. Woodson said he decided to start Fields over J.R. Smith at the shooting guard position because he wanted to keep Smith's scoring with the second unit off the bench.

-Bring Defensive Intensity

In Game 1, the Knicks did not present much of a challenge for the Heat a reason for that was their lack of intensity on the defensive end of the court. The Heat were able to get into the heart of the Knicks defense and attack the paint causing high amounts of fouls on the Knicks players. The referees had a hand in the problems making a number of questionable calls, but the Knicks have to not let the officials get in their heads and just keep playing their game.

One area they need to improve on is pressuring Lebron James. They allowed him easy access to the paint, allowing for easy lay-ups and a ton of free throw attempts. The Knicks need to focus more on keeping James on the perimeter and forcing him into taking contested jump shots. The Knicks best chance to winning is making the Heat a perimeter orientated team. The Heat are strongest in the open court and attacking the basket, so slowing the pace and forcing jump shots is the Knicks best defensive strategy.

-Reverse the Roles

The Knicks were dominated in Game 1 and one place it stuck out like a sore thumb was the foul line. The Heat attempted 22 more free throws than the Knicks. Some of that can be credited to the Heat being the more aggressive team but a lot of credit should be given to the referees for giving the Heat so many chances. If you haven’t read it yet, the officiating was abysmal in Game 1.

The Knicks need to come out as the aggressor this time around and set the tone for the game. Carmelo Anthony struggled to start off last game, so getting him going from the beginning would be a huge boost. Stoudemire getting involved would be beneficial as well as he was a non-factor Saturday.

-Second Chance Opportunities

The Knicks have two areas they need to take advantage of against the Heat. The first is 3 point shooting. The Heat are vulnerable to teams that can knock down perimeter shots because of the emphasis they place on the wings and athleticism. That leads into the other area the Knicks need to dominate, which is on the glass.

The Knicks have to take advantage of a smaller Heat front-court. The Knicks need to work the offensive glass and rack up second chance points to slow the Heat down. On the other hand, they need to limit the Heat's second chance points. The Knicks will have trouble keeping up with the Heat because of how athletic they are, so slowing the pace down will be the best option for the Knicks. Making it as much of a half-court, drag it out, beat-em up game as possible is the best option for the Knicks. If they are able to come out as the more aggressive team, beating up the Heat down low, the tone of this series can turn in their favor very quickly.

No Letdown for Rangers in Game 2

The New York Rangers took a 1-0 series lead against the Washington Capitals on Saturday with a 3-1 win. In the first round of the playoffs, the Rangers opened up with an impressive win against the Ottawa Senators, only to lose in overtime in Game 2. That Game 2 loss gave the Senators momentum and ultimately gave them the confidence to take the Rangers to the brink of elimination.

The Rangers are going to have to come out with the same game plan as Game 1. The fore-check needs to get the puck in deep and keep the pressure on the Washington defense. The Rangers D will have to step up and shut down Ovechkin again in Game 2. When Ovechkin is playing well and scoring, the Capitals win. In Game 1 head coach John Tortorella used Dani Girardi and Ryan McDonagh to control Ovechkin, and they did just that holding the star to one shot on goal.

On the offensive side, Brad Richards has begun to play like the player who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2004 with Tampa Bay. With Richards coming alive, and the emergence of young stud Kris Kreider, the Rangers are looking for one more person to get going, Marion Gaborik. The Rangers leading goal scorer from the regular season has one goal and four points in the 2012 playoffs, not an impressive line. Gaborik has shown some energy on the fore-check, and has three assists, but the puck needs to find Gaborik,s stick and then the back of the net.

Tonight is a big game for the Rangers to take real control of the series as it goes to Washington D.C, and a loss would give all the momentum to the Caps.

 I don't think the Rangers will have a letdown tonight in front of the home fans. I think they get to the Caps rookie goaltender Braden Holtby again and win this one 3-1, like Game 1.

New York Giants Select OT Brandon Mosley in 4th Round

With the 131st overall pick, 36th of the 4th round in the 2012 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected Right Tackle Brandon Mosley out of Auburn University.  This is yet another need filled by the Giants with their second pick in the 4th round.

Mosley is 6’5” and weighs 317 pounds.  He is a very versatile athlete, being a former tight end and defensive end in junior college at Coffeyville Junior College.  He actually recorded 12 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns on offense while recording 35 tackles and blocking a kick during his time there.  At Auburn he started 24 total games at right tackle, starting 13 games and being named to second-team all SEC this past season.  Mosley’s athleticism enables him to play all across the line, able to play at guard in addition to tackle and plays with the gritty, old-fashioned attitude that the Giants franchise covets in their offensive linemen. 

Scouts Inc. report on Mosley is, “Protects the edge well.  Arms are long enough to make it tough for edge rushers to turn the corner.  Powerful punch that knocks edge rushers off course.  Above-average athlete who flashes the ability to redirect quickly when footwork is sound but footwork is inconsistent.  Can give too much ground to power rushers.” 

They continue on saying, “Drivers legs and flashes the ability to move defenders off the ball.  Strong up top.  Locks on and controls defenders when he gets his hands on them.  However, pad level is a concern and can get stood up in the hole when doesn’t stay low.”

The Giants are looking for a new starter at right tackle with the departure of Kareem McKenzie.  David Diehl could potentially slide over from the left side, but the Giants have plenty of options in Sean Locklear and last years 4th round pick James Brewer.  Mosley has a chance to compete for the right tackle job in camp, but seems more like a lineman the Giants will use for depth because of his versatility.  In all honesty, having a 4th round selection starting on your offensive line to begin the season is not a position you want to be in.  Mosley has potential to be a starting tackle down the road for an NFL team though.

Jerry Reese adds, “Big, tough smart… just like we like in our offensive line room.  He reminds us somewhat of David Diehl.  This guy has a good concept.  He understands [and] knows how to play.  We think he is going to be a good addition.  We think he could go in there and play some guard as well if we needed him to play guard.  But he is an offensive tackle.”

New York Giants Select TE Adrien Robinson in 4th Round

With the 127th pick, 32nd pick of the 4th round in the 2012 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected Tight End, Adrian Robinson out of Cincinnati University.  This pick helps fill a need that the Giants have while adding another weapon to an already impressive passing attack.  With starting tight end Jake Ballard and backup Travis Beckum both getting hurt in the Super Bowl adding a tight end was a good move even with the addition of Martellus Bennett in free agency.

Robinson is 6’4” tall and weighs 267 pounds.  Robinson, unlike the last three picks made by the Giants, does not have much of a track record in his four years at Cincinnati.  He had 12 receptions for 183 yards and three touchdowns last season, and totaled only 29 catches in hi four seasons.  What really has intrigued the Giants is athleticism and “untapped” potential.  Robinson is being likened as the “JPP of tight ends.”  There is no better team that Robinson could have ended up on, as the Giants and Tight End coach Mike Pope are some of the best in the business at developing tight ends.  The track record of Pope has been good, developing undrafted free agents Jake Ballard and Bear Pascoe into starters recently. 

Marc Ross, director of college scouting for the Giants, said that Robinson is a former high school basketball player.  That is the new thing for teams to look for in tight ends, as Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham to name a few all had basketball backgrounds before picking football. 

One scouts take on Robinson is, “Above-average athlete but needs polish with routes.  Possesses the top-end speed to run away from defenders with flag, seam and crossing routes.  Has the experience and is effective lining up flexed out.  Possesses long arms and a big frame that provides him with a wide catching radius.”

Another scout says, “Soft hands and catch the ball naturally away from his body.  Underrated athlete that has above-average body control to adjust to throws outside of strike zone.  Possesses the initial burst and top-end speed to stretch the middle of the field and factor in down the deep seams.  Flashes a competitive edge and not afraid to mix it up.  Could do a better job of sustaining blocks but effort is not the issue.”

This was a great addition for the Giants.  It gives them another healthy body at tight end, which they needed, and a potential problem for other teams.  Robinson will have an opportunity to show what he is made of with Beckum possibly not being ready to start the season and Ballard not returning until maybe half-way through the season if he returns at all. 

Pope is the best in the business in developing tight ends and should have a blast working with someone dripping with potential such as Robinson.  Ballard is obviously less gifted athletically than Robinson and Pope along with Eli Manning and the coaching staff made it work.  At the very least, Robinson adds depth for this season with potential to have an impact the more work he has. 

“We really think this guy has a huge upside,” GM Jerry Reese said.  “He is a big, big man [with] long arms.  He didn’t catch a lot of balls for them.  But he is kind of a late bloomer who has really come on.  And we think this guy is kind of a ‘JPP’ of tight ends.  We like these kind of people.”
 “He is just a big, gigantic man with long arms,” Reese explained in comparing Robinson to JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul).  “He has got those freakish athletic numbers.  When we got Jason [Pierre-Paul] we said, ‘This guy hasn’t scratched the surface.’  And Jason still has a lot of learning to do [and] continuing to grow.  This kid [Robinson] hasn’t scratched the surface yet.  He has a chance to be really something, we think.”

New York Giants Select CB Jayron Hosley in 3rd Round

With the 94th overall pick, 31st of the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected Cornerback, Jayron Hosley out of Virginia Tech University.  For the second time in three rounds, the Giants dipped into Virginia Tech to draft their prospect.  Hosley will join teammate David Wilson on the Giants.

Hosley is 5’10” tall and weighs 178 pounds.  Hosley was very productive in 2010 as a sophomore, leading the nation with nine interceptions.  He saw his production dip in his junior season though, accruing only three interceptions this past season.  One possible reason for this Tom Coughlin believes is that quarterbacks were afraid to throw in his direction. 

The Giants liked the intangibles that Hosley brings to the table and the way he plays.  The 5’10” cornerback is very physical and athletic.  One thing that sticks out is his speed as Hosley ran a 4.43 40 yard dash at the combine.  Another thing the Giants covet is his ability to return punts.  Hosley finished 11th in the country in yards per punt return with a 12.67 average.  Punt returns were a weakness for the Giants last season, so any additions that will help there are welcomed additions.

The one negative for Hosley was that he did fail a drug test at the combine in February.  “He did fail the test in Indianapolis,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin.  “Were very much aware of that and we’ve addressed that with him and we’re prepared to address that professionally as well when we do get him here.”  He also had to deal with concussion and hamstring issues last season, but the Giants medical staff cleared him and given him the okay.

“I definitely regret it,” said Hosley.  “But it’s something that’s in the pat and behind me.  I’m working toward bettering myself and not letting something like this happen again ever.  They trusted me and I’m thankful for that and I want to make this a worthy decision.”  Hosley is very thankful for the opportunity the Giants are going to give him and also for the chance to continue on his football career with his Virginia Tech teammate and roommate David Wilson.

Hosley will be joining what currently is a very crowded Giants secondary.  But he will not be short on opportunities to make an impact this season.  He will compete to be a nickel back this season and could also be the starting punt return man.  Hosley also has to be prepared for extended playing time because of all the players coming back from injury that the Giants intend to use.  You never know how players are going to respond after being out for such a long period of time so it is always nice having capable players to step in if need be. 

GM Jerry Reese and the Giants brass are very happy to have Hosley as part of the squad.  “He is not a big man but this guy has athletic arrogance and plays like a big guy,” Reese said.  “He kind of reminds me of Adam “Pac-Man” Jones, he plays kind of like that.  He runs like a little linebacker.  He has outstanding cover skills.  We expect him to be in our nickel package and bonus is he returns punts and kicks.  He has a lot of good qualities that we like. 

“Pacman Jones is a tremendous player, minus the off-field stuff,” Hosley started in response.  “But he’s a tremendous player.  When you watch him on film he’s very sound in his technique.  He’s aggressive, a smaller guy like me.  I kind of favor that.  I think that’s a good comparison.  I like to compare myself to Asante Samuel, Pacman and Brandon Flowers.  But I think that’s a very good comparison.”

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mets Continue to Surprise

Although some of their wins have not been a thing of beauty, The New York Mets continue to shock the National League with another extra inning win today in Colorado 6-5. The Mets improved to 13-9 on the season, which is certainly something to gloat about.

As strange as it seems, this ball club seems to be destined for late inning heroics. Up and down the lineup everyone has contributed with big hits throughout the course of this early season. David Wright continues to mash as he is hitting .397 with 14 RBIS. The real surprise has to be the start of new Mets Shortstop Ruben Tejada. Tejada who has filled the void of All-Star Jose Reyes, who took his talents down to south beach this passed winter is hitting .310 with 13 runs scored and a team high 8 doubles.

With the offense doing their job, The real story this season is starting pitching. Johan Santana has been brilliant and Jonathan Niese has earned every ounce of the monster contract he garnered this spring. R.A. Dickey and Dillon Gee have posted several quality starts as well. Mike Pelfrey was even off to solid start, but in typical Pelfrey fashion that was short lived after he was placed on the D.L. and will miss the remainder of the season.

Through the first 22 games of the season, you have to tip your cap to Manager Terry Collins and the rest of the staff on a job well-done. Not saying they'll win the NL East but as of April 29th, why not?