Bagels and Jocks: A Weekly Examination of the Jewish Sports World- Monday, April 16, 2012
This morning, Bagels and Jocks examines the Jewish NBA and the wild, wacky ride of the New York Knicks. Major League Baseball is heading into its third week and one of the best second basemen in the game just inked a huge new contract.
Despite a lockout-abbreviated 66-game schedule, the National Basketball Association’s regular season has provided tons of twists and turns. For proof of this, please consider the trials and tribulations of the New York Knicks.
Presently, the Knicks stand at 31-29, with six games remaining in their wacky season. If the season ended today, they would be awarded the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference, just behind the Philadelphia 76ers and just ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks. As the No. 8, they would draw the top-seeded Chicago Bulls, a team with only one superstar (last year’s MVP, Derrick Rose). The Bulls, under the all-world coaching of Tom Thibodeau, continue to play all-out defense and just win, despite playing without Rose for 24 games this season. They are an underplayed and remarkable story.
Entering this season, many pundits thought that the Knicks, behind perennial all-stars AMA’RE STOUDEMIRE and Carmelo Anthony, could challenge the Bulls and the Miami Heat for supremacy in the East. Indeed, Melo would have a full season (or what was left after the work stoppage) to blend with Ama’re and his other teammates. Of course, the early blend was something that would only be served in a third-rate coffee shop (It’s one in the morning and that’s the analogy, I’m going with) and the Knicks were soon an afterthought…with a hideous aftertaste.
And, then Jeremy Lin and LinSanity happened…a Taiwanese-American Harvard grad that was virtually off of everyone’s radar somehow became the starting point guard and put together a run of six or so games where he looked like Oscar Robertson in his prime. He even…paging Ripley’s Believe It or Not…put up offensive numbers in his first half dozen NBA starts that nobody had ever seen. Suddenly, the Knicks were not relevant but exceptionally compelling. Oh, I should mention that Gotham’s team played its best basketball with Lin both scoring and facilitating, and both Anthony and Stoudemire out of the lineup with injuries. Coach Mike D’Antoni’s job appeared to be safe.
While everyone blinked, Anthony returned and they started losing, Lin lost some of his magic (although he still was playing remarkably well given his lack of experience and his serpentine journey), and Stoudemire was in and out of the lineup. If you blinked again, you would now look up to see the Knicks with a new coach (Mike Woodson), Lin now out for the season and Stoudemire unable to play with a bulging disk.
The Knicks’ short season has produced enough drama for about seven campaigns, and even if they do hold onto a playoff spot, they will have to fight an uphill battle against either the Bulls or yesterday’s opponent, the Miami Heat. Despite Anthony’s huge game—42 points, nine boards and five assists, with only one turnover—the host Knicks fell to Miami 92-85.
OTHER JEWISH NBA NEWS
AMA’RE STOUDEMIRE, due to both injuries and time lost with a family tragedy, has appeared in only 43 games this year, averaging 17.6 points and 8.0 rebounds. Good numbers, but a little below the six-time all-star’s standards.
JORDAN FARMAR, of the New Jersey Nets, saw his promising season cut short with injuries. In 43 games, the backup guard averaged 10.4 points, 1.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists—all good numbers for 21 minutes per game. The UCLA grad set career highs for points per game, as well as all three categories of marksmanship—field goal percentage (46.3%), three-point shooting (44.0%) and foul shooting (90.5%).
OMRI CASSPI, the lone Israeli in the league, has appeared in all of his Cleveland Cavaliers games. The third-year small forward (he’s listed at 6’9” small) from Yavne has suffered through the worst statistical season of his young NBA career. Once the starting small forward, he now comes off the bench, contributing 7.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and one assist per game. His shooting percentages are down in each of the three categories—a reverse Farmar if you will.
Detroit Pistons head coach LAWRENCE FRANK has led his team to a 22-38 record this season. It would appear that his team also has 22-38-type talent, so…meh. Yes, this is the type of analysis that you will only get in Bagels and Jocks.
KINSLER, BRAUNY AND THE YOUK…
Ranger’s star second baseman IAN KINSLER is off to another fine start. His batting average is at a respectable .268, but that only hints at his production. The speedy and powerful leadoff man has clouted four homers and driven in seven runs in his first 10 games. He has scored 11 runs and swiped one base. And not so incidentally Ian inked a contract extension last week that will keep him in a Rangers uniform thru 2017.
The two-time all-star’s five-year, $75 million dollar deal is reported to be the highest per season salary for any second baseman in the game. Kinsler was, of course, both relieved and elated to sign the pact. As quoted by Todd Wills for mlb.com, the 30-30 man stated:
“There’s really no way to put it into words,” Kinsler said at a news conference attended by his wife, Tess, and daughter, Rian. “I’m very thankful.” (He then put it into more words.) “I just love to play the game,” he said. “I just want to be a ballplayer, play hard and let people know that I enjoy playing and that’s through my style of play. It’s never really been about money for me. It’s been about the joy of playing the game.”
Mazel Tov to a terrific player and by all accounts, a good man.
Milwaukee’s RYAN BRAUN is off to a good April as well, hitting .348 with a homer, five RBI, five runs and two stolen bases in his first nine games.
KEVIN YOUKILIS and the Boston Red Sox are showing signs of life after a very slow first several games. Youk is now at the Mendoza Line (.200 batting average) with no homers, three RBI and six runs in his first seven games.
There has been good news, bad news and just a little more good for IKE DAVIS and his New York Mets. What’s so good? Yesterday, he connected for his first homer of the year, a two-run shot off tough lefty Cole Hamles to stake the Mets to a 2-0 lead. So, what’s the problem? The Mets lost 8-2 and Davis is only hitting .125 with those two lonely RBI. Okay, so now you’re telling me there’s good news? Kind of. The Mets are 6-3 and two games ahead of the five-time-defending NL East champion Phillies. Yes, there are 153 more games to play, and expect Davis to ride 20 or so more balls out of the park this year.
Examining one more Jewish infielder, the Minnesota Twins’ DANNY VALENCIA almost matches Kinsler’s batting average at .267, but he has not been nearly as productive. He has no homers, two RBI and five runs in his first sevem games.
THE NHL…THIN ICE AND NO ICE
Washington Capitals’ center JEFF HALPERN did not appear in the team’s exciting Game 2 double-overtime victory over the favored Boston Bruins. The best-of-seven series is knotted at one game apiece with action resuming tonight in the nation’s capitol. Halpern, who played in 69 of his team’s 84 games this year, was also scratched from Game One. We don’t believe he was injured; did Passover play a role?
On that uncharacteristically insincere note, it is time to sign off from today’s edition of Bagels and Jocks. See you next Monday right here. Please feel free to share some dialogue below. If you would like to bring another Jewish athlete or mover-and-shaker to my attention, please reply below or contact me by e-mail.
For information about Matt’s books, sports columns, speaking events and requests for appearances and custom writing, please visit www.tipofthegoldberg.com, or contact him via email. His new Facebook Fan Page (“to like, to like, l’chayim”) can be found here.
About the Author: An author, speaker and custom writer from Cherry Hill, NJ, Matt loves to entertain people through his writing and public speaking. Laughs, Smiles and just enough Wisdom reach his audience through the magic of his written and spoken words. More about Matthew