“Dreary start for the Nets”

By Lloyd Carroll

      “The only reason that I decided to come to Brooklyn was to win an NBA championship!” future Hall of Fame forward Kevin Garnett declared to the press at Nets media day on September 30. For humorous emphasis, he pronounced “only” as “ooooonly.” He was speaking as well for his fellow ex-Celtics, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, who came to Brooklyn in the big trade that occurred in last June.

      Based on what we’ve seen during the first three weeks the Nets look to be far from a lock to be eligible for the NBA playoffs let alone win a championship. Garnett seems to be a shell of himself as he has had trouble putting the ball in the basket while rookie head coach Jason Kidd has gingerly limited his playing minutes. The same can be said of Pierce and Terry. While it is understandable why Kidd wants to be careful with how he utilizes his older players to avoid injury, they will not shake off the rust unless they start playing more minutes.

     Surly point guard Deron Williams has been a player with a big name but not much of a big game since he came to the Nets over two years ago. In fairness to Williams, he keeps reinjuring his ankle and that has limited his effectiveness on the court.

    Forward Reggie Evans was an unsung hero from last year’s Nets team who seemingly grabbed every rebound and loose ball that was in his vicinity. The Nets’ acquisition of the aforementioned Celtics greats, combined with Jason Kidd’s desire to play rookie big man Mason Plumlee, have made Evans a forgotten man on the bench. That may also be the main reason why the Nets have a losing record and are getting out-rebounded by opposing teams.

     Evans was one of the many athletes taking part in the annual Starlight Children’s Foundation Sports Auction fund-raiser last Monday. Starlight’s mission is to brighten the lives of chronically ill children. Reggie took the high road and did not bemoan his lack of playing time. He believed that it would be just a matter of time until the team would jell and praised Jason Kidd for creating more rebounding drills during team practices.

    Madison Square Garden CEO James “JD” Dolan was absolutely correct to express his outrage to Knicks head coach Mike Woodson about their lethargic play after they were humiliated on national television by the San Antonio Spurs a week ago Sunday.

    The media loves to pick on Dolan but no one can say that he doesn’t care.  My only criticism of JD is his recent limiting of the on-court minutes of the very talented Knicks City Dancers. Taking frustration out on them because of the basketball team’s failures is unfair to the Garden’s paying customers.

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      The Jets have had trouble winning in Buffalo going back to the days when Joe Namath was calling signals for Gang Green. All of the goodwill that the Jets generated by defeating the New Orleans Saints before the bye week quickly dissipated as the Bills thoroughly picked apart the Jets 37-14. Rookie Bills QB EJ Manuel looked like the second coming of Jim Kelly while his counterpart, Jets first-year signal caller Geno Smith, made Jets fans nostalgic for Mark Sanchez.

     Things don’t get easier for the Jets this Sunday as they travel down to Baltimore to play the always tough Ravens. One member of the Jets PR staff told me at the team’s annual Taste of the NFL two weeks ago that raised money to fight hunger in the New York area that he believed that the last time that the Jets won in Baltimore the Colts were still playing there. It will be interesting to see whether newly acquired safety, veteran Pro Bowl player Ed Reed, who played the vast majority of his career for the Ravens, will give the Jets an edge that they did not have previously.

     2012 Jets first round draft choice, defensive end Quentin Coples, was also in attendance at the Starlight Foundation event and admitted that it was conceivable that the Jets could be flat coming off the bye week in Buffalo. “Even if we lose in Buffalo and even in Baltimore it won’t be the end of the world. I believe that we will make the playoffs,” he told me.

     Carl Banks, the longtime Giants defensive end who is currently a broadcaster for the team and has served as an executive for both the Jets and Giants, has carved out a lucrative career in the apparel industry with his GIII clothing company. Last year GIII revived the Starter brand and this year it has brought back the classic baseball satin jacket that was very popular in the 1980s and early ‘90s. Banks was making a personal appearance at a Manhattan Sports Authority last week to promote GIII’s licensing agreement with the NFL where he was modeling a Giants jacket.

     Few people can provide the perspective into anything relating to pro football that Carl Banks can. I asked him his opinion about the bullying controversy involving the Miami Dolphins. “The culture in NFL locker rooms is unique. Having said that, I have never heard of anything remotely similar to the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin incident. Normally players have enough sense to police themselves but that wasn’t the case here.”

      Unlike most current and former players who seem to be attacking the “victim,” Martin, for violating the sanctity of the locker room by leaving the team and going public with the harassment that he endured, Banks was a bit more sympathetic to him. He wondered however why he did not contact NFL security and questioned whether he really wants to play pro football.

      Banks also felt that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross would have no choice but to fire every team executive when the season is over. “If something like this had happened inside his real estate operations a lot of heads would have rolled by now,” he said.

      The Sports Business Journal’s annual Sports Media & Technology conference always attracts a plethora of movers and shakers in the sports world. Ted Leonis, the owner of the NBA’s Washington Wizards (whose president and general manager is former Forest Hills High School hoops star Ernie Grunfeld) and the NHL’s Washington Capitals, was the featured speaker at this year’s symposium.   

      Leonsis made billions in technology but told the audience that what makes the sports business special to him is “the irrational exuberance of the customer.” “When a fan’s favorite team wins it gives a tremendous psychic uplift. Then again losing a Game 7 of a playoff series is akin to death. It is far worse than when one of my companies misses a quarterly earnings report and the stock price plummets,” Leonsis said in all seriousness.

     The Major League Baseball general managers’ meeting in Orlando last week merely sets the stage for the big trades and free agent signings that will take place in that central Florida city during the Baseball Winter Meetings that runs from December 9-12.

     The only big news out of the preliminary Orlando meeting was that the Phillies signed outfielder Marlon Byrd to a two-year, $16 million contract. Byrd revived his career with the Mets who signed him to a $700,000 minor league contract this past spring. Marlon started his career with the Phillies.

     I was amused to read how many Mets fans are getting antsy that their team has not done anything yet to improve their roster. This is premature concern to say the least. If nothing significant has been done a month from now then there is ample cause for complaint.

     The Mets have used their former closer John Franco for a lot of community affairs work over the years. Franco, a St. John’s University alum, is an affable guy and he clearly enjoys chatting with people and giving his time to charities. In the past two weeks he represented the Mets at the Starlight Children’s Foundation and at the annual Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association dinner that raises money for amateur baseball programs around the country.

     Strangely enough, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has not used Franco as a talent evaluator in spite of his having played 20 years in the majors. While having respected stat evaluators on your staff such as Paul De Poedesta and JP Ricciardi is certainly a plus there is no reason not to use John Franco’s vast knowledge and his instincts for talent. John has indicated to me in the past that he would relish the challenge.

     “Rush,” a film about the 1970s rivalry between Formula 1 racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) did not do well at the box office despite praise from critics. It may enjoy better business when it is released on DVD. The film has had an influence on the eyewear industry as one of Safilo’s biggest sellers this fall have been the Carrera aviator sunglasses that Lauda wears in the film.

     NASCAR chairman Brian France contributed $50,000 to help wounded members of the  military at the recent Stand Up for Heroes benefit that was held at Madison Square Garden during the recent New York Comedy Festival. Madison Square Garden CEO James Dolan deserves kudos for yet again donating the Garden for a worthy cause.

     London’s O2 Arena where the Brooklyn Nets will play a couple of games this January ironically beat out the Barclays Center for honors as the best concert arena at the 2013 Billboard Touring Awards that were held at Manhattan’s Roosevelt Hotel last week.

     The Village Voice, long the arbiter of what is hip in our area, has finally discovered Queens as it will hold its Holiday Spirits tasting event at Long Island City’s Studio Square on December 5.

     Whenever a color suddenly becomes ubiquitous in the fashion industry the cliche is to say that color is “the new black.” To borrow that analogy, the caramel flavor known as dulce de leche may be the new chocolate. Earlier this year Bosco introduced dulce de leche to its line of syrups and Pepperidge Farms will shortly be making dulce de leche Milano cookies.

     I finally felt that I officially joined the 21st century when I traded in my flip phone for a Samsung SIII smartphone a couple of weeks ago. The one downside is that smartphones use up battery juice a lot faster than their flip counterparts. If you don’t want to walk around with a bulky charger Rayovac’s Phone Boost and Portable 2-Hour Charger are small devices that fit in your pocket. It is a good idea to have them with you when you drive in case of a roadside emergency. Rayovac showed them to the media at Unveiled, the annual New York preview of the Consumer Electronics Show that takes place in Las Vegas each January.