October 26, 2011
May 28, 2011
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We have a definite soft spot for Dwayne Polee II (above). When we heard earlier this week that he was transferring, we were a bit perplexed. As we opined early on last season, Polee could be a 1 and done talent, only we were thinking NBA, especially after a few highlight reel dunks in the season opener. As it would turn out, there weren’t too many more of those moments for Polee, who, for the sake of appearances and what well may really be, wants to be closer to home for family reasons, a sick family member, we think.
Polee never really fit in here and that is a terrible shame, because his commitment to the program–the first major talent to sign on–helped St. John’s get the ball rolling in terms of buzz and recruiting, helping them land Norvel Pelle and nearly Remi Barry, other California kids who had a zillion options. Polee, a symbollic starter for a portion of the season, lost his claim to real minutes early on, after some uneven performances, bad shooting, and terrible decision making. But he talked the talk, and seemed to have confidence in the program. One knew as much after an awful Syracuse loss at the Garden, after which Polee spoke to the media about marking the loss and avenging it.
But it couldn’t have been easy for Polee, the only freshman, a guy from the left coast who was much heralded, to join a cliquey St. John’s team, with players who were probably looking at him like competition. There was a Pennsylvania clique and a JC clique, and there’s the lanky kid from Cali who may not have had anyone to bond with. Polee probably looked ahead a bit to next season, which was already becoming quite cliquey, and the cliques again did not involve him. Maurice Harkless, Jakarr Sampson (see his impressive highlights on www.youtube.com above), and D’Angelo Harrison all played on a national all-star team recently, and seemed like they were having a good time together, while tearing it up. Harkless and Sampson both have a bit of a position clash with Polee, as does Sir Dominic Pointer, who also played in that competition.
Pointer’s high school teammate, Dwight Meickle, has also skipped out on St. John’s, as Steve Lavin announced last month. Meickle, who is whispered to be only 6’6 and not 6’9, is probably doing the Johnnies a favor. The quality of recruit St. John’s is now typically in the mix with is well above the talent level of a Dwight Meickle, and we are sure that Lavin and staff will redistribute that scholarship and bring in a bigger talent. For 2012-2013.
Right now, as it sits, St. John’s has an extremely thin roster, with only 10 players signed for next season. One of whom, Nurideen Lindsey, the supposed starting point guard, may not be eligible for the fall. Of those 10 players, only 1 has NCAA Division I experience, and that’s point guard Malik Stith, who we made fun of all year for his lack of talent. So we find ourselves questioning St. John’s for next year, though they recently completed a coup by signing power forward God’s Gift Achiuwa.
It was probably never the best thing for the program to give out so many scholarships so quickly. Not when so many young kids want to wear the jersey. Was all the pub about the biggest and best class in St. John’s storied history a bad thing? Not at all. It was important in getting the program re-established. And so was Polee, who we are genuinely sad to see go. He’s a great kid, and we wish him well.
Meickle? We don’t think he woulld have played much, and we’d just as soon have somebody else. And from what we hear, with the attention Lavin’s staff is showering on Kyle Anderson, who at 6’8 can play 5 positions, and Ricardo Gathers, we think St. John’s would rather have better players. They might even get a better player in here to replace Polee, though we were content to sit with him and see his development, and hail him as the first to come.
We still will. Too bad it will have to be from afar.
April 30, 2011
USA Fed Cup embarrassment another losing referendum on our women’s game (see recent Serena bikini video)Posted by crackbillionair under Alison Riske, Andrea Petkovic, Andy Roddick, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, bikini shots, Bryan brothers, Christina McHale, Coco Vandeweghe, Davis Cup, Entertainment, ESPN, Fed Cup, Formula 411, James Blake, Jim Courier, John McEnroe, Julia Georges, Liezel Huber, Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles, Patrick McEnroe, Pennsylvania, Plexicushion, Richard Williams, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Severin Luthi, television, tennis, Tony Godsick, USTA, Venus Williams, Zina Garrison
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After three days and 8 straight sets of losing tennis, America finally got on the board, taking the first set in doubles at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart, Germany. Too bad for our Federation Cup team, our national pride, and the state of American tennis that by then it was too late and obviously too little, as the team of Liziel Huber and Vania King still lost in 3 sets to cap one of the worst weekends in American tennis history. Needing to win the tie to remain in the World Group of Federation Cup, from which we have never been relegated, Captain Mary Joe Fernandez trotted out an FC squad that did not boast one player of distinction, worthy enough to present a decent challenge to any members of the German squad, including world #156 Sabine Lisicki, who dusted Jersey native Christina McHale in mop up duty yesterday, filling in for Julia Georges, who would have been, at that point, risking her health unnecessarily by continuing to play in a tie that was academic, a glorified exhibition, but one that featured less talent than an actual exhibition.
That’s right. Playing America is now unnecessary. The Americans are irrelevant in the women’s game, led by Captain Mary Joe Fernandez, who not so long ago had her contract extended for another two years. Has the team’s production on the court warranted an extension? It’s debatable, but we certainly do not think so. Fernandez, part of the dazed and confused American tennis establishment, is the first captain to ever preside over a relegated team in the history of the Federation Cup. And we’ll give her little credit for reaching finals in her first two seasons, and losing, but more credit indeed because of the power her husband wields behind the scenes in the game, which in all likelihood, in combination with her profile as an ESPN tennis personality, is what got her the gig. Because she certainly didn’t win the job on the basis of her success as a player or coach. In 2010, we especially fault the American squad for losing the championship tie on “hardcourts” in San Diego to Italy. But in part thanks to Fernandez, California doesn’t have any real hardcourts anymore, and so the ladies played on a track of soft blue foam (the dreaded Plexicushion) that gave the Italians as much of an advantage as the prior year when America could not take one match at Calabria, Italy on outdoor red clay.
How do we get around to blaming Fernandez for everything from California’s putrid tennis courts to the quality of our Fed Cup teams that have failed miserably and continue to do so, to the point that we are out of the world group? Easily. She’s the captain. Not only has she been the captain for 3 years, but before that, she sat at then captain Zina Garrison’s obese elbow for a good year, playing Stan Laurel to Garrison’s Oliver Hardy. We are tired of it all. Fernandez obviously endorsed and worked with a Garrison led group that produced zero in terms of titles and developed no meaningful players. That’s what we mean when call her part of the establishment, for you do not get the captaincy if you do not support the horrid regime that came before you, and the horrid surfaces that big business looks to slap down.
The nonsense about Serena and Venus not playing? We’ve had enough. The Williams sisters, when young, led us to our last two Fed Cup titles in 1999 and 2000. Then they lost interest in the FC, their commitment to it, and the competition. People want to blame the sisters for that, who had been there and done that. Part of the whole ‘Let’s rip Venus and Serena for having fashion lines and enjoying the limelight’ craze that swept the nation and still reverberates in some circles. What people do not get is that the sisters never burnt out on tennis, and continued to play their asses of at majors, in singles and doubles, regardless of any and all outside factors, even when injured. For players who have won the Federation Cup, or the Davis Cup, there is no legitimate criticism that can exist should they have reasons for skipping the competition. And while we have criticized Roger Federer in this space for skipping Davis Cup regularly, despite being coached by Swiss DC captain Severin Luthi, Roger obviously has himself a plan to win majors, and Davis Cup runs counter to that plan.
So our body of incompetent tennis minds here in America, with which even we are associated (proud USTA members, LOL–the deals on tennis tickets are too good to pass up!), chooses Garrison, another loser, to guide our squad. Why? Because they thought that hiring a black woman would give them a leg up on convincing the Williams sisters to play. That’s just plain racist. Frankly, the Williams sisters have a lot more respect for great tennis minds than they do for black women. Just ask Asha Rolle. Instead of blaming the Williams sisters for making choices appropriate for their careers, the USTA should have been working a lot harder on developing talented players like Venus, Serena, and Lindsey Davenport–who aside from the Williams sisters, is the last American female to win a title of any sort, as far as we can recall. And she won it as a ghost, fresh from retirement, further highlighting America’s lack of meaningful young talent.
Yesterday comes news that Venus Williams has withdrawn from Rome and Barcelona, citing her lack of readiness. There’s no real time table on Serena, and while we know she will return, any projection would be optimistic considering the travails she has endured since cutting her foot. At least she is up and about (click on the link above to see her and a friend on South Beach recently). So basically, we are stuck with this piss poor Fed Cup squad and its captain. Mary Joe Fernandez is not a winner, but is a better politician than Garrison. Patrick McEnroe, a much worse tennis talent than both, also owes his job to television, politics, and probably a healthy dose of nepotism (his brother lobbied for his appointment, though John John probably wouldn’t have him on his list if you asked him right now, after seeing the state our game go unchanged for years) . These are the people in whose hands the national tennis program and developmental programs rest in. Thankfully, Patrick McEnroe has stood aside and Jim Courier, a real winner, has taken on the captaincy of the Davis Cup squad, and is off to a great start, defeating Chile in tough conditions. As you can tell, we don’t give Patrick McEnroe any credit for squeezing 1 DC title out of a team that boasted a 1 time #1 in Roddick, 2 perennial top 10 guys in Roddick and Blake, and the #1 doubles squad–a huge advantage in team competition. We should have won more. But at least McEnroe, roundly criticized, even by big brother John, had the sense to pick fast tracks to play on as the host nation that are advantageous to Americans and our style of tennis.
Fernandez gets no credit. She’s been around this team for 4 years and we’ve seen all we need to see of Oudin, McHale, Vandeweghe, and the like. People want to shower MJF with praise for spotting these players, but these players would go unnoticed anywhere else, with good reason. They have no talent. They are grinders who can not even play on clay. Pop gun players who can’t serve and have no true tennis talent. What is the population of Germany? How is it that our top player can’t take a set from any decent German woman? How is it that none of our players could even make the German squad, who was also competing to avoid relegation? This is not a Steffi Graf in her prime led German team.
McHale, for a nice run she made at Indian Wells last month, will get some buzz, but if she is the young face of our game, we need a makeover. Fast. Forget Venus and Serena. Act like they don’t exist. Oudin? Since that summer where she played way over her head, she hasn’t existed. We need new blood, new ideas, new coaches, new courts…and a new captain. Probably the best young American, Alison Riske, who separates herself from her poor pusher peers with her big serve, is not a product of the USTA, but rather, a kid who came up playing in the Pennsylvania high school system. Exactly John McEnroe’s point when he denigrates the work that his brother is doing, the state of the American game, and the homogenization of the American game which is now one dimensional baseline half tennis.
Since Fernandez won’t be fired, especially with a new pact in hand, here’s some advice for her: pick Decoturf, a surface which will speed up her players’ 80 mph 1st serves and slow groundstrokes. It’s the national surface for a reason, and Americans play better on it than any other nation does. And feature the girls with actual potential, like Lauren Davis, Riske, and Sloane Stephens. McHale and Oudin haven’t exactly done wonders for the nation. Riske at least has a bigger game and a bigger frame with which to cover the net, and Davis and Stephens have expectations in place, and are used to dealing with expectations, as they are the only true budding pros we have of note. We’d also probably put a veteran doubles player like Craybas or Mattek-Sands (when healthy) with Huber and work on locking up at least 1 match in every tie.
For future reference, the captain does not need to be a woman, and if it is, it needs to be a woman with a real winner’s pedigree, which means, probably not an American. Richard Williams has produced the two greatest American women of our time. He should be on the short list. As should Monica Seles, who is a fixture in the game and who actually commands the respect of young players based on her merits.
December 16, 2010
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Rangers’ coach John Tortorella recently announced that captain Chris Drury would return to the lineup tonight in Pittsburgh. On its own, the declaration did nothing to stir our confidence. Drury is a hard working guy, a stand up guy, but let’s be frank–he hasn’t lived up to his $35M contract and the last really clutch goal he scored was against, not for, the Rangers. It was the way Torts said it that was such music to my ears, the song of angels to long time fans of the team. The coach said Drury will play but that “no kids are coming out.” Tortorella went on to say that it would be veterans who lose ice time and that a veteran would be a healthy a scratch, and that it was too bad for them. “He’s the captain,” Tortorella would say. “Everybody’s gotta sacrafice.”
On Sunday night the New York Rangers played perhaps their best game against a quality opponent in years, shutting out the Capitals 7-0. It was the most lopsided shutout victory the team has had since 1970 (and my wife deleted it off the tivo before I saw the 4 goal 2nd period–an “important” American Idol will be deleted in retaliation). The Rangers have a quality team because of the kids they’ve developed and refused to trade. And a lot of them are kids no more. Anisimov, the 6’4, 220 lbs. center iceman, may have slumped a bit as all players do, but he’s a leading scorer and a cog on the team’s best line, which flat out beats opposing units up physically on the wall and with its relentless cycle. The line is so good that it allowed the Rangers to withstand almost a month without world class forward Marian Gaborik, and so good that on most nights since returning, Gabby has been a compliment and not that absolute focal point he’s been on every team he has played on in his life, including the Slovak national team that’s chock full of talent up front.
Defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi who had us pulling our hair out as recently as all of last year, have grown into cornerstones of the team, and now even look polished offensively. Imposing rookie defenseman Michael Sauer won the Rangers a game last week in Ottawa with a well placed point shot in the clutch. Team USA stalwart Ryan Callahan, perennially our extra effort award winner, does everything for this team but drive the Zambonie, and is loathe to miss a shift despite being a league leader in both hits and blocked shots. We feel that Drury is keeping the captain’s C warm for him.
Derek Stepan has been a rookie sensation and now, playing consistently with Gaborik, expect him to flourish even more. The core of youth has played so well that it can carry a guy like Michael Del Zotto, a sophomore defenseman who looks lost out there and who’s struggling very badly. Then there’s team scoring leader and maybe the manliest man of the bunch, emerging star power forward Brandon Dubinsky, recently seen screaming at and giving the look of death to the Ottawa bench, last seen, kicking Alexander Ovechkin’s ass all over the ice on Sunday. You think Dubinsky will be fired up tonight to face his best girlfriend Cindy Crosby, who cheaply and classlessly gave Ryan Callahanthe slew foot in the 2 team’s last meeting?
Whatever happens tonight, New York is bringing the right mix of size, speed, talent, toughness, and meanness to the party, even in the absence of behemoth enforcer Derek Boogard, who is still out with a shoulder problem. The Rangers are seeking to win their second straight in Pittsburgh and to get a win over a Penguin team that last night had a 12 game win streak snapped by the Flyers.
LET’S GO RANGERS!!!!!
October 22, 2010
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ESPN reported earlier today that Ben Roethlisberger came out against the NFL’s announcement this week that hits to the head would be punished to the letter of the rules, and will include big fines as well as suspensions. Supposedly Big Bad Ben and backup Byron Leftwich had a meeting of the minds and came up with the theory that they’d rather have the concussion than a more serious injury somewhere else.
But we know the real reason, right? Because Roethlisberger doesn’t use his brain anyway. He thinks with his dick.
October 20, 2010
Philadelphia standout point guard prospect Nurideen Lindsey (above).
Lindsey, the former Philly prep star now at Redlands CC in Oklahoma, accepted a scholarship offer from the Red Storm Tuesday. The other finalist for his services was Auburn, though Kentucky, South Florida, Oklahoma State and LSU all were involved too.
“The thing that made St. John’s right for him was the relationship and comfort he has with the coaching staff,” said Redland coach Yaphett King. “They made it clear with their action how much he mattered to them. Every opportunity they could see him, they were there.”
In 2008 the 6-3 Lindsay played at Philadelphia‘s Overbrook High and committed to LaSalle, where current Storm assistant Tony Chiles was on staff at the time. That year he averaged 35.8 points in league play, the sixth highest ever with Chamberlain holding two of the top five spots. Chamberlain also attended Overbrook.
Lindsey, sadly, saw two of his brothers murdered in Philadelphia, which swayed him to leave his hometown for Redlands CC in Oklahoma. The 6’3 lead guard was one of the best high school scorers in Pennsylvania history, and had originally decided to attend Lasalle. It was current St. John’s assistant Tony Chiles, then at Lasalle, who was instrumental in signing Lindsey, then and now, successfully re-recruiting one of the nation’s most talented guard prospects to St. John’s.
St. John’s also secured a commitment from Detroit area small forward and defensive “stopper” Dominick Pointer, who considers himself a lockdown forward. With the Pointer and Lindsay signings, new St. John’s coach Steve Lavin can boast that the program has gone into 5 high school basketball hotbeds and landed a stud from each: Dwayne Polee Jr (Los Angeles), Maurice Harkless (NYC), D’Angelo Harrison (Houston), Pointer (Detroit), and Lindsay (Phily). Lavin also received a commitment from Akron, Ohio HS star Jakarr Sampson.
Though we expected St. John’s to make a big splash at point guard, we were thinking more along the lines of a traditional distributor at the lead guard position. Since St. John’s still has 5 scholarships to give in the 2011 class, we are hoping they can still sign a pass first point. But for a team that has struggled to score for almost 15 years, it’s refreshing to have 2 respected scorers in the backcourt, as well as Polee, who we think will fill it up in the front court. As for style of play, we know special advisor Gene Keady always favored a methodical approach, and that he preaches patience and taking care of the ball.
It should be interesting to see how Lavin and Keady find the right mix of styles to suit the stable of thoroughbreds Lavin has brought in, which is essentially made up of two scoring guards, as Lindsay is a shoot first player, and 4 small forwards. Expect Lavin to turn his attention to signing at least a few impact big men with the remaining 5 scholarships he has available.
We’re actually more excited about St. John’s than the Knicks right now. Feels like old times.
August 4, 2010