he True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: June 2007h

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Knicks Acquire Randolph From Blazers

Draft night 2007 promised to make a big and memorable splash on the NBA community. Not only was the draft one of the deepest since 2003, but there were blockbuster trade rumors swirling around seemingly every team. Teams like the Bobcats, the Sonics, the Warriors, and the Celtics all made blockbuster trades. Even the Knicks got involved, trading for one of the best post players in the NBA in Zach Randolph. Randolph averaged 23.6 ppg (a career high) and grabbed 10.1 boards for the lowly Trailblazers during the 2006-2007 campaign.

The Knicks dealt away Steve Francis and Channing Frye for Randolph, Fred Jones, and Dan Dickau. Isiah was very lucky to find a team that would take on Steve Francis' contract. It seemed that Isiah was going to inevitably buyout the rest of Francis' contract, making him a free agent. Instead not only did Isiah trade him he got the 12th best scorer in the NBA last season. Trading Frye hurts a bit because he is talented and showed signs of becoming a good NBA player, but his inconsistency this season soured Knicks fans a bit. Plus Randolph is only two years older than Frye, and far more talented.

Randolph's acquisition is a curious one for the Knicks. I'm not certain this put the Knicks over the edge in terms of where they stand in the Eastern Conference because Randolph does not necessarily solve a team need. In fact Randolph is statistically worse defensively than Eddy Curry. Curry averaged more blocks per game (.5 compared to .2) and only averaged .4 more steals than Curry. Due to Randolph's poor defense he does not solve the Knicks most pressing need, defense and a formidable shot blocker. However, Randolph's rebounding will help Curry much like David Lee did when he played. This way when Lee is not in the game Randolph will still be there to help Curry. In addition, it will be interesting to see how Isiah sets up the Knicks offense with two post players who need the ball to be successful. Marbury and Crawford might have to sacrifice a couple of points off of their season average so that Randolph and Curry can get the touches they need to succeed. Hopefully the paint will not be too crowded with double and triple teams possibly coming on both players.

Although Randolph clearly improved the Knicks it is unclear whether or not he has made the Knicks into a playoff team. Only time will tell. Isiah, the ball is in your court.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Mets Should Sign Milton Bradely

On Thursday the Oakland A's designated outfielder Milton Bradley for assignment. As you know the A's now have ten days to trade Bradley, or he'll be released after the ten days (he probably won't accept an assignment to AAA). Bradley has always been a talented outfielder, but his hot-headed attitude and injury prone body has held him back from establishing himself in the majors. His best year came with the Dodgers in 2004. He hit .267 with 19 home runs(career high), 67 rbi (career high), 71 BB (career high), and 15 SB in 516 at bats. 2004 was the only year in Bradley's career that he had more than 377 at bats. Bradley, who turned 29 in April has played on 4 teams in his career, and has never stayed on one team for more than three seasons.

With the rash of injuries suffered by the Mets this year, especially in the outfield, the Mets can use all the talent they can get. Shawn Green is struggling and Carlos Beltran seems to be coming out of his slump. It seems like Willie is platooning Ricky Ledee and Carlos Gomez in the outfielder. I like Gomez, but anyone who has seen most of hits knows that nearly half of them have been lucky dribblers. Gomez seems to be over-matched badly against most good pitchers. Yes he has gotten hits off of Mariano Rivera and Johan Santana, but he has still looked very bad against some of the better pitchers in the league.

Unlike Gomez and Ledee Bradley has started for a ML team for a full season. Bradley is also a solid defender in the outfield, with a strong arm. Omar should trade for Bradley and place him in left field until Moises Alou comes back. Bradley just returned from an injury himself (he missed 18 days) so all the Mets would need him to do is stay healthy for about two-three weeks. Once Alou comes back the Mets could play the switch-hitting Bradley in right field against lefties, and give Shawn Green (Bradley's teammate in LA) a day off. For his career Bradley has a career batting average of .260 when batting lefty and .297 when batting right handed. Since Endy Chavez is out for a couple of months the Mets need a good fourth outfielder, and Ricky Ledee is not the answer. Gomez could be, but I think he is better suited to get consistent playing time in AAA.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Beltran, do what's best for the team

After the Mets lost the weekend series to the Yankees 2-1 Met fans across NY were not asking why El Duque got destroyed by the Yanks, or why Wang was so nasty. Instead they were asking "why is Carlos Beltran playing so poorly?" Beltran has not been the same since his collision with Giants first baseman, Rich Aurilla, and it came out earlier this week that Beltran's quad was still bothering him. With the injured quad Beltran can't create as much power from the left side of the plate, thus effecting his stronger side. Beltran has been awful since April ended. In May and June combined Beltran has hit just .204 with only 14 rbi in 40 games (147 at bats). The poor numbers after a hot start (.356 avg with 23 rbi in April) are strikingly similar to Beltran's disastrous first season in NY, in 2005.

In Beltran's injury plagued 2005 he hit a combined average of .293 after April and May, but once June came he once again was awful. Beltran hit .198 in June 2005. One of the differences from 2005 and 2007 is that in 2005 Beltran wasn't even drawing walks (he had only 23 after June, and only 4 in May and 9 in June), and this year Beltran has 32 walks in total, but only 1 in June. Even free swinger Carlos Gomez has one walk in June. After Beltran's awful June 2005 he went on to hit for respectable averages the rest of the months (.268 being the worst). Beltran did not have two months in which his average was below .250. Beltran is on pace to do so this year, which is disturbing. So now the argument comes, what do the Mets do with Beltran?

If Beltran is indeed hurting too much to be himself should the Mets DL him until he gets better? We've all seen Beltran isn't productive at the plate when he is playing through pain like he clearly is. However, even if Beltran is DL'd who takes his place? Ben Johnson? The same Ben Johnson who hit .185 in his brief time with the Mets a couple of weeks ago? While Johnson is a good athlete, he has never hit at the major league level, and he seemed lost when he was hitting two weeks ago. So then the question you ask yourself is would you rather have Beltran making outs at the top of the lineup or Johnson getting out at the bottom? With Beltran on the team the Mets are a better defensive team, but also Beltran's name value still makes most pitchers nervous. Even if he is struggling opposing pitchers still have to be careful not to make a mistake to Beltran, because he could put it over the fence. You also have to consider that if Beltran continues to struggle like this for another week or two suddenly half of New York is going to start booing him. As we saw in 2005, that doesn't help anyone.

So the question remains what do you do with Beltran? Personally, I DL him. with Johnson on the team the Mets can put Gomez in centerfield, which is a downgrade from Beltran, but Gomez can certainly hold his own out there. Also, and most importantly the Mets can't afford to have the Mets fans booing Beltran consistently again. The fans may already be over the edge, but we'll see tonight when Beltran comes to bat. Hopefully the Mets make the right decision, but I think the ball is in Beltran's court.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Interview: Frank Isola's Take On the Knicks

I recently had a chance to exchange e-mails with Daily News writer, Frank Isola. sola is entering his 11th season as the Knicks beat writer for the News. He is also a regular analyst on NBA TV and is the co-host of the NBA Radio show "Tip Off" which can be heard daily on Sirius. Isola also writes for his own blog, Knicks Knation.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: When the season ended how different was the mood this season as opposed to last season?

Frank Isola: The team and the organization are upbeat but the Knicks have a long way to go before they can be taken seriously. They won just 33 games in a bad Eastern Conference. I don't know why you would be upbeat considering that the franchise has not won a playoff game since 2001.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: It seems unclear what exactly Isiah is looking to do in the off-season. Sometimes he seems to be hinting a big trade could be in the works, and other times it seems like he doesn't want to touch the roster. What kind of sense have you gotten from Isiah on what he is going to do in the off-season?

Frank Isola:I think Isiah is always looking for the big splashy move, which isn't always a good thing. The Knicks need a power forward and that's where he should be looking. They also have to start thinking about Marbury's eventual replacement.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: Besides the obvious big name rumors (Kobe, Jermaine, etc.) have you heard rumors about any smaller, role, players?

Frank Isola: Ruben Patterson may be a guy that they will look at. But if you look at the Knicks roster it is already filled with role players. They don't have a star which is why they won 33 games.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: Marbury seems to believe the Knicks should draft a shooter, do you agree,and do you feel Isiah agrees?

Frank Isola:I wonder how Jamal Crawford and Quentin Richardson feel about that. The 23rd pick isn't going to help the Knicks right away so I don't think it matters who they take.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: Which injury during the season do you think broke the Knicks spirit?

Frank Isola:I'm not sure. But if injuries to role players (Crawford and Lee) break a team's spirit then you have major problems. Yao Ming missed 33 games and Houston still won 52. So I'm one of the people who isn't going to give the Knicks excuses for a bad season.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: You see Francis wearing a Knicks uniform next year?
Frank Isola: Not a chance in hell.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: As the team is currently assembled, assuming everyone is healthy next year, do you think Collins has a rotation spot?
Frank Isola: No. He's got a chance to be a good player but offensively he has a long way to go.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange:The Knicks dealt Ariza for Francis last year, and then drafted a similar player in Balkman. Do you think in five years Balkman will be better or worse than Ariza?

Frank Isola:They will be both be athletic wing players who are limited offensively. Ariza is ahead of Balkman right now because Orlando made the playoffs.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: Why do you think Frye slumped this year? Was it partially because of Isiah Thomas

Frank Isola:That's a good question. Channing never look happy. I think he would rather play in the West. Maybe the Knicks had a short leash. Whatever the reason, Channing seemed to lose confidence in his shot.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: With Phil Ford leaving do you think Pat Ewing will be hired as a coach?
Frank Isola:No It's sad because Isiah deserves to be working for the Pistons just as much as Patrick deserves to work for the Knicks.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: Do you think Charles Oakley and John Starks' numbers should be retired?

Frank Isola:Oakley maybe. John no.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: Lastly, it's time to look deep into the future. Judging by how the team played this year, and what you for see in the future do you think championship could be coming to New York within the next 5-10 years?

Frank Isola: You could make a case that every team in the league believes it can win the title within the next 10 years. The Knicks need to find an impact player. Maybe Curry could be that guy. Having LeBron and Wade in the East doesn't help matters.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Interview: St. Lucie Mets Writer

I recently exchanged e-mails with Eric Pfahler of the Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. Eric covers the St. Lucie Mets, and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions of the single A Mets.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: The last few seasons St. Lucie has seen many top prospects, and future major leaguers play games on Tradition Field, however it seems right now that the single A Mets are a bit weak in terms of future talent. Only a handful of names are even recognizable. Deolis Guerra, John Niese, and Ambiorix Concepcion have all been considered and still considered prospects, however (with the exception of Guerra) Niese and Concepcion have been let downs this season. What have you seen from Niese and Concepcion, and do you feel that both still have a chance of making the majors?
Eric Pfahler: The New York Mets' efforts to test players have left a gap in the system -- and that gap is at St. Lucie. Every major league team has a gap or two. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays might have the best system in baseball, yet their Single-A team is under .500. The St. Lucie Mets still have talented players, but they are young for this league. Deolis Guerra is only 18. Almost the entire infield was born after 1985 and those who are older are either college players in their second professional season or fringe players that will have trouble capturing prospect status. Prospects like Fernando Martinez, however, would be playing in this league were they with other clubs. Concepcion needs plate discipline in order to get to the next level.He's had a lot of trouble adjusting to the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. A .282 on-base percentage is not going to get it done. I have trouble gauging Niese because he has the stuff to get through this league, but he needs consistency. His curveball is a great pitch when it's on. He's not striking out as many guys as you'd like to see,but perhaps his problem is that he's trying to strike out too many.Anything can happen as far as these two making the majors. Look at Joey Votto with the Cincinnati Reds. He's a player who fell off for a season and regained prospect status within a year.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: Back to Guerra. At only 18 years old Guerra has been relatively dominant in his brief minor league career. Guerra's scouting reports early have been nothing but positive. Do you feel that Guerra's dominance at such a young age will continue on throughout his minor league career, and into the majors. Or do you feel that Guerra is simply dominating equally young hitters with his advanced stuff.

Eric Pfahler: Guerra has a major-league change-up. It's fantastic. The Mets pulled him out of some starts in order to take it easy on his young arm, but he is well ahead of the curve. I wouldn't be surprised if the team had him spend the next two years in Double-A in order to build up some arm strength. He needs to work on his curveball, which he's doing.

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: Outside of the three players I've named thus far are there any hidden gems you see on Mets? Ryan Coultas and Joshua Petersen are both hitting over .325 this year, do you see any future for them?

Eric Pfahler: Coultas plays enough positions and has a good attitude. Petersen also has some versatility. Both of these players need to make sure this is their last season with the St. Lucie Mets. Dan Murphy is a player that has a good arm and can hit the ball well. As far as tools, Sean Henry is above average, but he's stuck behind some pretty good outfielders in the system. Henry has improved his plate discipline throughout the season,but he'll need to make further adjustments to get to the majors

True Fans Bleed Blue and Orange: The Mets are currently in fourth place, what has been their biggest problem this year, just one year removed from a championship?

Eric Pfahler: The biggest problems for this team is youth and health. They don't know how to win games at this level yet and two of their best players(Guerra and Nick Evans) have been on the disabled list for considerable time. If Niese can make further adjustments to give the Mets a solid top three and Evans can continue to rake like he has been, then this team should go far. It's impossible to compare this team to last season's squad since few players remain.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Second Day Workouts Scouting Reports

After their first day of workouts Isiah Thomas invited four more players for Wednesday's workouts. The list, and my scouting reports of the four seniors, are as follows:

Stephane Lasme- F, 6-8, 215, Massachusetts
Lasme plays the power forward position, however his 6-8 frame may be a bit small to play PF consistently in the NBA. Since Lasme is only 6-8 a bigger, stronger defender can easily keep him out of the post. Since Lasme cannot create off of the dribble he can't even attempt to play small forward. However, Lasme makes up for his lack of size in his athleticism and quickness. Lasme can run the floor nearly as well as players a few inches smaller. Lasme has garnered comparisons to former Denver Nugget, Keon Clark. Clark was known as a good role player (11.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, and 1.50 blocks in 27 minutes), but only played six years in the NBA, and couldn't stay on one team for more than three years. Unlike Clark, Lasme has shown good passing skills, and, unlike Eddy Curry, recognizes double teams. Probably the most important part of Lasme's game is his high character.

Brandon Wallace- F, 6-9, 203, South Carolina
Should Wallace join the Knicks he would be the second USC player that the Knicks would have drafted in as many years. Wallace in many ways compares to Renaldo Balkman, the other USC Knick player. Renaldo Balkman is 6-8, 208lbs and Wallace is 6-9, 203lbs. Balkman averaged 9.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.7spg, 1.3bpg, and a 54% free throw percentage in his junior year of college. Wallace averaged 9.9 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.3spg, 2.3 bpg, and a 53% free throw percentage in his senior year this year. Those numbers are eerily similar. Since both players are so similar it would be interesting to see if Isiah would draft another player with similar abilities to Balkman. A team with too many of the same players will not succeed, Wallace would join Balkman, Jeffries, and Malik Rose as plus defenders who struggle to score.

Jamar Wilson- G, 6-1, 185, Albany
The 2006 America East player of the year has a terrific all around game. Wilsons' 18.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, and 4.8 apg were amongst the best overall stats in all of college basketball. Wilson was Albany's team captain in his junior and senior year which shows signs of being a team leader, something the Knicks drastically need. Wilson's career 80.8 free throw percentage, and 45.6 field goal percentage show signs of a terrific shooter. In addition, Wilson had a career 37.5 three point percentage. That number will drop in the NBA because the three point line is farther back, but it shows Wilson can hit a long range jump shot. Scouts worry about Wilson's size, and slight frame. At only 185 lbs Wilson will need to bulk up to earn consistent playing time in the NBA.

Dashaun Wood- G, 5-11, 180, Wright State
Wood's tendinitis in his knee makes his play sporadic, and the knee problem at such a young age could make many teams shy away. Wood is another good leader on and off the floor. When he isn't setting his teammates up for open jumpers he is heard encouraging his teammates to play hard and keep their heads up. Reports from Orlando said that in a 5 on 5 game that included, Corey Brewer, Martell Webster, and Kirk Snyder, Wood was easily the best player on the floor. Wood controlled the tempo of the game, and has the unique talent of making players look like they have played with him for years. Wood is a good shooter and has a terrific first step, but his size worry some teams. However, despite his size Wood is not afraid of anyone and plays very tough on defense. Before the Orlando camp Wood was not expected to get drafted however, some scouts believe that Wood will now wind up getting drafted.

It should be noted that the Knicks and the Nets are holding these workouts together, so some of the players not have been invited by the Knicks.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Knicks Set For First Prospect Workouts

According to the Knicks 4 Life site administrator (a very reliable source) the Knicks will hold their first draft workouts on Tuesday, June 5th. The four players (all seniors) listed are:
Derrick Byars G/F, 6-7, 220, Vanderbilt
Sammy Mejia G, 6-6, 195, DePaul
Demetris Nichols F, 6-8, 216, Syracuse
Curtis Sumpter F, 6-7, 225, Villanova
As per some of my research I have put together a small scouting report on all four players.
Derrick Byars: His 17 ppg, 4.9rpg, and 3.4 apg averaged this year for Vanderbilt show signs of a good all around player. Byars' court vision is strong, and despite his 6-7 frame ran point guard at times for Vanderbilt. Byars is a defensive player who has garnered NBA comparisons of Shane Battier, and 2006-2007 rookie of the year, Brandon Roy. Byars' athleticism, mixed with his ability to score, rebound, pass, and defend makes him an all around player that has been projected to go middle-end of the first round. Most Byars' faults are correctable. He tends to become a chucker at times, and can stand around when the ball isn't in his hands. Both problems can be fixed with good coaching and guidance. However, on a team that already has Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson (notorious chuckers) we have heard they could be fixed more than once.
Sammy Mejia: In most mock drafts I have seen Mejia isn't even shown being drafted. The Knicks don't have a second pick, so it is a bit curious to see Mejia working out for the Knicks, especially in their first draft workouts. Perhaps Isiah is looking to sign Mejia should he go un-drafted. Mejia was painfully skinny throughout his college career but has recently hit the weights and added some weight before the workouts. Mejia is a lanky player with solid court vision, but struggles with his ball-handling. Mejia averaged 14.1ppg, 5.9 rpg, and 2.6apg this season for Depaul (the alma matter of Quentin Richardson).

Demetris Nichols: Syracuse fans are familiar with Nichols. Syracuse's best scorer this year has been projected to go early second round in most mock drafts. At 6-8 Nichols has good size for a SF, although Nichols can play the four. Nichols is a quality defender who also has a good touch from behind the arc. Since Nichols is taller than most threes he rarely gets his shot blocked. Mixed with his already lethal touch Nichols is a good player to run off screens. Rasual Butler comes to mind in terms of a player who can shoot the ball with similar size. Butler was drafted late second round in 2002. As Orange fans know Nichols would sometimes go into half-time with 3 points, and end the game with 20+. It seemed every game Nichols would have a big first or second half, and fade in the other half. Although Nichols is tall he lacks court vision, and surprisingly has no post-up game.

Curtis Sumpter: Sumpter, like Mejia is projected to go un-drafted. Sumpter scored 17.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and .9 apg this year for Villanova. At the Orlando workout games Sumpter has looked awful. Sumpter has attempted to play SF, as his 6-7 frame is too small to be a successful PF, and his stat line for Friday's game: 6 pts, 2 rebounds, 5 turnovers. Sumpter has been stopped by good defense, and has been frustrated by referee calls that have gone against him. Sumpter had two ACL injuries in his career, including missing the entire 2005-2006 season. Because he missed the entire season Sumpter was a fifth year senior this year. Despite the injuries reports in early December showed that Sumpter might have actually improved his skills after the injuries. Sumpter showed an improved jump shot, and an even better shot off of the dribble. In fact, in early December some scouts were saying Sumpter could be a first round draft pick. However, Sumpter's poor court vision for a SF and injury prone past are on the top of lists that worries NBA GM's. Isiah wanted a look for himself.
3 of the 4 players Isiah and his staff are looking at on Tuesday are projected to go either in the second round, or not be drafted at all. This could mean one of two teams. Isiah may be looking to shock the world like he did last year with Balkman. Or Isiah may already know that he is going to trade the draft pick and is simply focusing on players he can sign who don't get drafted. Stay tuned.

Early Rumors Show Signs of Wild Off-season

Jermaine O'Neal, Rashard Lewis, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Vince Carter, and even Ron Artest have all been rumored to be coming to the Knicks. Rumors have even said that Kobe and O'Neal have directly gone to management and asked for a trade to the Knicks. The off-season hasn't even started yet! It looks like it won't be a slow off-season for the Knicks and their beat writers. If the Knicks get even one of the players listed above then the Knicks will immediately become a playoff team. Artest is the worst player on that list, and that is saying something.

On that list Rashard Lewis is probably the most likely player to come to the Knicks, and Lewis would most likely come on a sign and trade with the Sonics. Offers of Crawford and Nate for Lewis have circulated the rumor wire. That trade would be perfect for the Knicks for a few reasons. One, Lewis is the consistent second scorer for the Knicks who would also become their main downtown threat (career 38.6% for three). Secondly, losing both Crawford and Nate would open up more playing time for Collins, and with the loss of Nate the team fundamentally becomes much stronger. Although I love Nate, I also hate him just as much. His sporadic play is beyond frustrating, and the excitement he offers does not outweigh the negatives he brings, at least not yet.

Jermaine O'Neal and Kobe are the other two rumors that have not stopped since both players have apparently demanded to be dealt. Stephen Jackson, a close friend of Jermaine O'Neal, told reporters that he think O'Neal wants to go to the Knicks to play for his old Pacer coach, Isiah. Jackson went on to say that O'Neal plus Curry could carry the Knicks to epic proportions. As for Kobe, he would be the hardest player for the Knicks to trade for. The Knicks could offer a package (assuming they still have all their players because of other trades) of Lee, Frye, Francis (to even contracts), and the Knicks 23rd overall selection. The problem with that offer is that the Knicks don't give up the one stud player. Sure David Lee could wind up averaging 18 ppg and 12rpg, but that's only if he develops some post-up moves. Most of his points come from tip ins and dunks, and if he does not develop some post moves then it would be hard for him to average more than 14 points a game.

One thing is for sure. If even one of the players are acquired by the Knicks we will have a lot to look forward to come next season.

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