In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Chris Molicki, challenges Sports Editor Alex Wolfe, Staff Writer Brandon Gould and Correspondent Bryan Bellanca to answer questions about how the Knicks will fare the rest of the season, who will win the suddenly very strong American League, and who should win the famous (or infamous) spot on the cover of Madden 2013.
1. With March Madness over, the basketball world turns its focus to the NBA. One of the primary focuses of the league this year has been the roller coaster ride of the New York Knicks. The Knicks are currently on a roll after Mike Woodson took over as head coach. Do you think they can keep up this play? And even if they get an eight seed, where do you think they rank in the Eastern Conference as a team?
AW: This question has had me puzzled since the beginning of the season. The Knicks were so bad (pre-Lin), so good (Linsanity), so bad again (Melo returned) and now so good again (post-D’Antoni). This team hasn’t really had a middle ground this year where they’ve been consistently good or bad. Unfortunately, because it was just reported that Jeremy Lin tore his meniscus (Liniscus?), I don’t think the Knicks will be able to take the jump to the next level to end the season. With Lin and the way they’ve been playing under Woodson, I would place them at about third best, below the Heat and Bulls. However, without Lin, they’re now lacking depth at two positions (point guard and power forward, where Amar’e Stoudemire is out indefinitely). Baron Davis and Mike Bibby are not nearly the one-two punch that Lin-Davis was, and Josh Harrellson and Jared Jeffries are not close to a replacement for Stoudemire (at least not offensively). With those two major injuries, I rank the Knicks at about sixth best overall. Better than Philly, Milwaukee and even Atlanta, but not quite good enough to touch the top tier. Ironically, if these Knicks make it far this year, it’ll have to be because of their defense.
BG: The New York Knicks are just a mess this season. It looked like they had everything figured out when Jeremy Lin stole the show, but then Carmelo Anthony came back. What ensued was a return to mediocrity, which led to the firing of head coach Mike D’Antoni. Things have been on the upswing since then, but can we really trust anything that happens in New York this year? Amar’e Stoudemire is out with back issues, and Lin is dealing with injuries as well. Anthony is a very good player, but he can’t carry this team alone. The Knicks will make the playoffs, but it’ll be short-lived since they’ll most likely match up with the Chicago Bulls. The pieces are there for the future, but for now they are what we thought they were, the eighth best team in the Eastern Conference.
BB: With the recent injuries to Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire, and the fact that both will most likely be done until the playoffs if not longer, I believe it will be hard for the Knicks to continue the 9-2 pace they have been on since Woodson took over as head coach. I still think the Knicks will make the playoffs, and the old saying of defense wins championships means if the Knicks continue to buy into Woodson’s system they certainly can make a run. Since Woodson has taken over, Knicks opponents have only averaged 86 points and are shooting 40 percent from the field compared to the 96 points and 45 percent under D’Antoni. The two big problems with the Knicks are consistency and injuries. The Knicks are the most inconsistent team in the NBA this season, but in the playoffs all it takes is a hot streak to make some noise, so if they can get healthy and stay healthy they’re probably the third best team in the East behind Chicago and Miami.
CM: Alex gets 3 points for pointing out how injuries at multiple positions have hurt the depth of the Knicks. Bryan gets 2 points for saying that the key for the Knicks is defense. Brandon gets 1 point for saying that Melo can’t do it all by himself.
2. Last week we had a question about the NL, and this week, it’s the AL. The Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Angels and Tigers all have championship aspirations. Who’s your favorite and why?
AW: I hate to jump on the spend-a-lot, win-a-lot bandwagon (God knows it killed my Mets for years), but I think I give the Angels the edge this year. Last year they were right on the verge of making the playoffs at 86-76, but I think their additions from this offseason should put them over the top. They made the splashiest move by snagging Albert Pujols from the Cardinals, and then proceeded to take the division-rival Rangers’ best pitcher in C.J. Wilson. I’m tempted to say the Tigers could take the AL with their new one-two punch of Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, but I think the Angels can top that with the combination of Pujols, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and others in the middle of the lineup. Pujols also brings a huge postseason presence to the team, which is just one of those intangible things that the great players have and that teams yearn for. Also, the Angels’ pitching looks to be the strongest it has ever been, with arguably the best top-four pitchers in the majors (yes, even better than the Phillies) with Jered Weaver, Wilson, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana at the head of the rotation. Basically, they have all of the fixings for a deep postseason run.
BG: We live in a society where we judge things by the recent past, and that’s exactly how I am going to answer this question. I think the Angels — who didn’t just make a splash, but dove into the deep end of free agency — have the best team in the American League right now. First baseman Albert Pujols may be on the decline, but I’ll take a bad day from Pujols over a great day for most first basemen in the league. The Angels’ offense did not catch anyone’s eye last year, but with Pujols in the middle of the lineup, everyone just got a little bit better. Then there’s the defensive side of things. Free agent signee C.J. Wilson will join a staff that already included Jared Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana. With those guys in the front end and Jordan Walden closing things out, the Angels will be hard to score on.
BB: When it comes to the American League, if you want to win you have to be able to pitch. All of the teams competing to represent the American League can hit, so to pick a team based purely on hitting wouldn’t work out to well come October when it’s all about pitching. Out of all of the teams in the American League the team with the best pitching staff from starter to closer is the New York Yankees. When looking at the starting pitching staff, they might not have the best starting five in the American League, but when you add the fact that they have the greatest closer in the history of baseball along with a very solid bullpen, the Yankees will be very tough to beat come October. Besides having great pitching, the Yankees also have the best lineup from one to nine, which will help the pitching a little bit in October. The biggest competition to the Yankees in October is themselves, but as long as the hitters don’t go ice cold they’ll have a great chance to win another World Series.
CM: Alex gets 3 points by saying how the Angels’ lineup is just a bit better than that of the Tigers. Brandon gets 2 points for saying how the Angels’ pitching staff is going to be dominant. Bryan gets 1 point because I have trouble agreeing that the Yankees are both the best hitting and best pitching team in the American League.
3. The voting continues for who will be placed on the cover of Madden ’13. Of the remaining players in the voting, who would you like to see on the cover and why?
AW: This is really tough, because I don’t know whether to say the player I like the least or the player I like the most, because of the infamous Madden cover jinx. Pretty much every player that has been on the cover of Madden has suffered either an injury-plagued season or one of the worst statistical seasons of their career (the exception being Drew Brees on Madden ’11). That being said, I’m going to say I want either Rob Gronkowski or Patrick Willis on the cover. Gronkowski is just a douche, and he plays for the Patriots (who I’m still bitter at for the ‘01 Super Bowl). So a bad season for him would be great. As for Willis, the 49ers are the biggest threat to my Rams maybe, MAYBE making the playoffs next year, and so to have him stink it up this year would be very helpful. As for who I think most deserves the cover, that has to be either Victor Cruz or Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. Those two really broke out in a big way last year. But I’m going to pull the spite card this year and say Gronk or Willis (hoping more for a bad season than an injury, since injuries are bad to wish on anyone).
BG: All I know is that it better not be Darrelle Revis because if he gets hurt I will burn every single copy of Madden that I can find. With that said, I think Calvin Johnson should be on the cover of Madden. I will never wish injury upon any player — although it’d be nice to not have to deal with Rob Gronkowski — so my pick is not based on that aspect. I just think that right now Calvin Johnson is on top of his game and on top of the league in terms of elite talent. The cover should be reserved for one of the game’s most elite and consistent players, and Johnson fits right into that category.
BB: When trying to decide who I want to win the Madden cover vote, it comes down to whether I want to choose based on someone I don’t like and hope the Madden curse lives on, or someone I like and hope the Madden curse doesn’t hit that person. I’m going to go with the latter and choose Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is the best player in the NFL right now, and as much as I would like to pick Gronkowski and hope he gets hurt for the year so the Jets don’t have to worry about him, I think it’s about time to put someone on the cover who should be able to break the curse. Rodgers has no history of injuries and just genuinely seems like a nice guy. You never saw him complain when he was waiting behind Favre to get his chance, and since taking over has emerged as the best QB in football right now. I think Rodgers being put on the cover will finally break the Madden curse.
CM: Brandon gets 3 points for pointing out how Calvin Johnson is at the top of the league. Bryan gets 2 points for saying how Rodgers could break the curse. Alex gets 1 point for letting his hatred of Gronk and his division rivals get the best of him.
Alex wins this week’s AtD, 7 – 6 – 5.
“I’m a boss.” — Alex