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Zeke Should Be Villified/Kyle Korver/More
By Raul Smith, MOP Squad Sports Staff Writer
Jan 4, 2008 - 4:34:33 PM

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Let me start this off by saying that I hope 2008 is off to a very good start for all of you. It would appear 2008 is off to a roaring start in terms of sports.


Knicks fans, I know you’re tired of your head coach Isiah Thomas, and I know you want to see the man fired.   But, as an independent observer of all things basketball, you’re going about it the wrong way.   Over the last two years, you’ve brought signs to the games (and been thrown out as a result), organized a pep rally outside Madison Square Garden with giant pink slips, chanted “Fire Zeke” at home games and the NBA Draft, booed Zeke, and even recently gone as far as selling t-shirts that say, “Don’t hate the player or the game, hate the coach,” with a picture of Zeke on them.


But, there’s one slight problem with your logic, Knicks fans: James Dolan is still getting paid.   See, sports owners are loyal to just two things, regardless of what they tell you or the media.   Some have loyalties to the coaches, players, or even executives they hire. (In this case, Dolan has a very unhealthy loyalty to Isiah Thomas.) But the one common denominator amongst all sports owners is that they all have loyalty to money.   As long as owners continue to rake in money, they don’t give a rat’s ass what you think.   However, the minute they start losing money, and very high amounts of it, they then seem to start caring more about what the fans want.   Plus, Dolan seems to me to be the kind of guy that thrives on media attention, and everything you’ve done has definitely gotten the attention of Dolan and the media.


Therefore, there is only one way to end the entire soap opera: to end the 50-plus-point beatdowns, the sex scandals, the continuous trading for guys with large long-term contracts, and the lack of desire on the defensive end, the fans of the New York Knicks (as difficult as this may sound) must boycott the team.   Forgive me if I’ve said this in a previous column, because I really don’t know if I did or not, but if you stop attending Knicks games, I guarantee that’ll send the message loud and crystal clear to James Dolan more than any pep rally, chant, t-shirt, crowd reaction, or sign.   Believe it or not, Dolan’s loyalty to money will far outweigh his loyalty to Zeke.   Owners will stop having loyalties to guys that cost them vast amounts of money; they’re funny that way.


Jumping from the Knicks to the Utah Jazz, I have yet to react to this trade that went down shortly before New Year’s Eve involving the Philadelphia 76ers.


First of all, the 76ers must love doing business with teams from the Northwest Division.   If you recall, they made a trade with the Jazz back in February, right before the trade deadline, in which Philadelphia sent Alan Henderson and their second-round pick in the following draft to the Jazz for their second-round pick.   In essence, all that trade accomplished was both teams swapped second-round picks, because immediately after the trade went down, the Jazz bought out the contract of Alan Henderson.   Henderson never played a single game for the Jazz, and has been MIA ever since.   Of course, that trade probably didn’t even accomplish that, because during the second round of the draft, the Jazz had selected Herbert Hill, while Philadelphia selected Kyrylo Fesenko.   Later that night, they swapped second-round picks again.   Philly acquired the draft rights to Herbert Hill, while the Jazz acquired the draft rights to Kyrylo Fesenko.


Of course, lest we forget the blockbuster trade last season that sent Allen Iverson to the Denver Nuggets for Andre Miller.   In December 2006, the Sixers traded Allen Iverson and Ivan McFarlin to Denver for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two first-round picks in the following draft.   The Sixers then spent their summer doing business with Denver yet again, this time sending Steven Hunter and Bobby Jones to Denver for Reggie Evans and the draft rights to Ricky Sanchez.   So before this most recent trade, the Sixers had dealt a total of four trades in the last thirteen months with two teams from the Northwest Division.


Last Saturday’s trade involving the Sixers and Jazz made it five.   The Sixers sent Kyle Korver to the Jazz in exchange for Gordan Giricek and a protected future first-round pick.


From where I’m sitting, that is a huge steal on paper for the Jazz.   This is just another example of Philadelphia gift-wrapping an All-Star caliber player.   They did it with A.I., and now they’re doing it with Kyle Korver, who was, as of December 31, 2007, on the ballot for the All-Star Game as a forward for the Eastern Conference, despite the recent trade.


And what did the Jazz really have to give up as a result?   They gave up a protected first-round pick, which if all goes well most likely won’t even be in the top 20, as well as a disgruntled player who wasn’t contributing anything to begin with.   And in exchange, they get the type of player they’ve needed for a long time: a sharpshooter who can hit the 3-pointer with consistency and spread the zone defense, opening things up in the middle for Carlos Boozer.   Now teams can no longer double-team Boozer or even Deron Williams; they have to contend everybody or suffer the consequences.   In other words, pick your poison: Boozer, Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur (who has recently come all the way back from his shoulder injury), a much-improved Andrei Kirilenko, or Kyle Korver.   Pick your poison, boys.   All-in-all, this recent trade is a win-win for the Utah Jazz.   Right about now, I’m sure Minnesota or Oklahoma City…ERR, I mean Seattle is on the phones with whoever is the executive in charge in Philadelphia looking to see if they can land Samuel Dalembert.


Other NBA notes before I head out the door:


Dwight Howard is the best center in the NBA.   Yeah, I know; very insightful comment.  Not only is Dwight Howard the best center in the NBA, he may very well be the greatest all-around center Orlando has ever seen.   With all due respect to the Diesel, Howard is more of an all-around player at his age than Shaquille O’Neal was at that age.   If you remember, when Shaq first came into the NBA, he was more of a dominant, low-post, power dunker most infamously known for ripping down backboards and getting hit in the head by falling shot clocks.   Teams inevitably caught on to Shaq’s game and started to force him to hit shots from the low post, which was when he had to develop that little running hook.   Howard is already ahead of Shaq’s development in that he has that array of low-post moves and shots.   Yeah, he can power dunk just as well as anybody in the league right now, but he has so much more to offer than that.   I’m very glad that Howard is ahead of O’Neal in the All-Star voting.   I was worried that Shaq would be voted in by the fans yet again.   If the criteria for voting for the All-Star Game would only include how many Twinkies a player eats a week, then yes, Shaq should be way ahead of everybody else.   But this is voting for an NBA All-Star Game, not a competitive eating contest.


The Boston Celtics give me nightmares.   Right now, as of January 4, 2008, they are so far ahead of everybody else in the NBA.   Their record stands at 27-3, and they stand in first place in the Atlantic Division with Toronto being eleven games behind.   They’re already ahead of where the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls were in this stage of the season.   So, you can imagine that talk of the best season ever has already begun in Beantown.   To put it in its proper context, it’s a case of they’re just so much better right now than everybody else.    Detroit has the second-best record in the NBA at 25-7.    Phoenix stands in third place in the NBA at 23-9, with San Antonio following closely behind at 21-9.   Everybody knew when the Kevin Garnett trade went down that Boston would be better this year than they were last year.  We just didn’t know they would be this much better.   As a wise man once said, “Don’t player-hate; congratulate.”   So my hat’s off to the Boston Celtics.   Looks like the Len Bias Curse may finally be resting side-by-side with the Curse of the Bambino.   Good news for Boston, bad news for the rest of us.


Remember to vote for the 2008 NBA All-Star Game.   There’s not much time left, so go vote as soon as you’re done reading this.

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