Tag Archives: New York

The Giants: In An Awkward Place

Last week, I spoke with Earnest Christian on his “EJ Talks Football” podcast and in our ramblings concerning NFL free agency, we discussed the current position of the New York Giants.  It was a difficult spot for me because I have a hatred for this franchise that goes longer than a quarter of a century. I will not get into why I loathe this franchise so much, but I will say, the reasons have scarred me since a young boy till now.

As a fan who roots against the Giants, last year was a great season.  The Giants looked pitiful, the fans were frustrated and the season was over from the start.  But if one is to really step back and analyze where the Giants are at right  now, it  is a really, really awkward place to be.

The Giants are a team that sit with the number two pick in the NFL draft.  The Giants also have a terrible offensive line (one of the NFL’s worse), an aging quarterback in Eli Manning (whose talents have been diminishing for years and may be at a “rock-bottom” point) and a contract negotiation with stud wide-receiver Odell Beckham.

Source: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images North America

When it comes to the offensive line, there are already talks that free agent guard Andrew Norwell signing with the New York Giants is already a “done-deal.”  If this is so, this is the Giants moving in the right direction in the off-season, but it certainly cannot stop there.  Maybe the Giants look to free-agent tackle Nate Solder to help solidify a rebuild of the offensive line, or they look in the draft.  In this year’s draft, quite possibly the best player in it is Notre Dame guard Quentin Nelson.  The Giants taking Nelson number-two overall though would be doubtful, and if this was the course of action they’d want to take they would likely trade down a few spots. . .just a few.

When it comes to Eli Manning and the quarterback situation of the New York Giants, new general manager Dave Gettleman, has told the New York fans and media that Eli Manning will remain as the team’s quarterback.  This was unexpected by many considering how Eli Manning has played in the last few seasons, and also considering that this seemed like a good time to just break free, and draft a new quarterback for the future with the number-two overall pick.  Instead, the Giants have given the cringe-worthy statement of keeping the decrepit QB under-center.  If this is true this means the Giants have no interest in Josh Rosen, Josh Allen or Sam Darnold.  This doesn’t mean other teams don’t though.  The Giants can easily trade out of this spot for a mini-ransom of sorts, which is ideal for a team in their position.  Also, keeping Eli Manning in there for another year, really does no damage to the rebuilding model – if the model includes acquiring pieces to an offense that would be better for a new quarterback to control.

Source: Al Bello/Getty Images North America

Finally, we come to the Odell Beckham drama.  With a heavy emphasis on the word “drama” because that’s all Odell is.  Well to be fair, he’s also a top five wide receiver in the league, and one of the two biggest play makers in football (next to Antonio Brown).  With that being said, Odell wants to be the highest paid receiver in the league.  Oh sorry, the highest paid player in the league.  Yeah, no thanks.  This comes at a terrible time for the Giants, but this is a business.  Odell is playing his hand correctly and you can’t blame him.  The truth is, Odell is a star.  A star in New York.  That equates to bigger things than just the football field.  But in the same breath, Odell is someone who came into the league with injury issues, and last year started the season missing week one with an ankle injury and then had his season cut off due to a left ankle fracture in week five.  Odell also has the reputation of being a petulant child and a general pest.  He has a huge target on him from defenders all over the league because he tends to show boat and talk trash — BUT he is the best player on this roster. . . by far.  The question here is, do you really pay a receiver that much (we’re talking in the ball park of ($17 million a year) while rebuilding?  Even if Odell signs a deal of a realistic $14-$15 million a year – where does the sense come in for all of this?  Teams that have the wide-outs with big contracts only make noise if the rest of the team is solid – like the Steelers or the Falcons — but even then – no championships.

This is a very awkward time indeed for the New York Giants.  If I said I feel bad for them, I’d be lying through my teeth.  The petty little demon inside of me is grinning ear to ear.

By the way, we only discussed their offense and how they should go about fixing that. . .this defense gave up the second most yards in the NFL last year as well. . .so uh. . .Good Luck out there with the rebuild G-Men.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Brook Lopez: Class Act

It’s crazy to think that back in 2008 the New Jersey Nets selected Brook Lopez in the first round of the draft.  Lopez has never gotten the credit he deserved while on the Nets.  Mostly because playing for the Nets is generally a curse to those who are doomed to play for the franchise – but mostly because Lopez was consistently under-the-radar his entire career.  Maybe it’s because he’s a finesse-type center, soft-spoken, kind of doofy looking – whatever it may be, the spotlight was never on Lopez.  Even at times when it was obvious he was the best player on the Nets roster, the spotlight was always on somebody else: Kris Humphries (for all the wrong reasons), Deron Williams (for all the wrong reasons), Kevin Garnett or even Joe Johnson.

Lopez was a guy who came to work and enjoyed what he did, with whoever was around.  It’s a rare quality in people – let alone a professional athlete.   Brook Lopez somehow managed to be an  unassuming seven footer.  This, as well as his price tag which came with an injury history, is why his name has come up in trades for the last three or four seasons.  On paper trading Lopez always made sense: a finesse-center, with a big salary, lower leg issues, who can’t run the floor – seems like the type to be a welcoming issue on a good team, instead of a player it’s fan-base looked at as “holding back.”  To be fair to Lopez, he was never, holding back this team – the team, eh and Billy King, have put the Nets in a perennial moon-walk avoiding the big dance – but anyhow. . .

The day has finally come for Lopez to be traded.  Reports have come out that on draft day, the Lakers and Nets have agreed to a trade in which the Lakers give up D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov and the Nets give up Brook Lopez and their 27th pick in the first round.  The Lakers relieve themselves of the Mozgov contract and get in return assets – and for the Nets their big takeaway from this is acquiring D’Angelo Russell – a young player with the potential to become a very promising piece to the Nets much needed rebuild.

With Lopez now gone, the Nets have nothing but young guys trying to prove they can hand in this league, and veterans filling in spots and collecting pay-days.

Nets players went on to social media to show love to Brook Lopez as soon as the news came out.

Sean Kilpatrick posted a touching picture of him hugging Lopez during a game followed by: “First player I met once I became a Net & said do what you do best. Thanks for making sure I was always alright. Good luck in LA big fella”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson posted a video of him and Lopez reinacting theme song from the television show The Wayans Brothers, and you can tell RHJ was really hurt by this move: “Couldn’t sleep… I’ve had a lot of teammates throughout my life and I loved and embraced every single one of them. But this guy right here became a best friend, biggest critic, big brother, smart ass, goof ball, turned me into a Disney lover and more. But the one thing that always meant a lot to me is no matter what we went through on or off the court we always talked to each other. You will be truly missed “BROTHER” good luck with everything and remember “We ride together We die together……. Bad boys for life”

This is what made Brook Lopez special in the Nets community.  Sure, the Nets are on nobody’s radar – ever.  They are the worst team in the NBA today but there are two things nobody can take away from them.  One is, the re-brand is a much better look (from New Jersey to Brooklyn, new uniform, new home) and that Brook Lopez was always a class act.

Back to the trade itself.

As previously stated, for the Nets this was a small price to pay to get someone like D’Angelo Russell.  CBS Sports’ Chris Barnewell says this is good for Russell, in that he gets a “fresh start” in Brooklyn.  Russell bumped heads with Byron Scott, then had that infamous “snap chat controversy” with Nick Young – there was definitely a need for change.  Brooklyn has a bunch of young guys on the squad, but none came into the league with more potential than Russell.

It’s a shame Brook didn’t get a chance to be traded to a contender though. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Brook Lopez and I always said that he deserves better, he deserves to be on a winner.  There is no telling what the Lakers plans are with Lopez, but my guess would be to have his veteran presence in a locker room full of young guys – to help them along the way.  Or maybe, ultimately, to be used as a piece for another trade before the draft or mid-season before the trade deadline.

Regardless, it’s officially the end of an era for a franchise riddled with errors.  Lopez leaves the Nets as the team’s all-time leading scorer and one of the most over-looked stars in the last decade of New York area sports.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio



Yankees Never Deserved A-Rod

When Alex Rodriguez was in front of the media on a Sunday morning, the world took notice.  Hero or villain; love him or hate him – the world wanted to see what A-Rod’s announcement was about.  In the end of it all, viewers came away with an “awkward goodbye” from Alex.  The whole situation had the feeling of an “ultimatum” instead of an “agreement.”   Seriously though, if a player was able to stand upright and be only four home-runs short of the seven-hundred mark, he shouldn’t be retiring.  A lot of the language was cryptic from A-Rod and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, and it was obvious. . .


New York radio and social media as a whole were taking their own stabs at the situation.  The end of a career, although some may say tainted – Alex Rodriguez was as polarizing as a sports super star could ever be.   A good looking, talented guy, getting paid ridiculous amounts of dollars to play baseball – the target has been on his back since 2000.  That was when he decided to chase the money and sign with the lowly Texas Rangers franchise because they signed him to a ten year, two-hundred and two million dollar contract.  Hey, lowly or not, that’s a ridiculous amount of paper.

As Alex Rodriguez continued to hammer his numbers into the record books, the hatred for him grew.  People saw him as a player who could hamstring an organization and a player who would put up gaudy numbers in a losing career.

When the Yankees traded for Alex and his price-tag, he saw it as a road to redemption.  He could continue to put up numbers with a franchise thats known for it’s “Championship or bust” mantra.  Alex Rodriguez, who already netted two Gold Glove awards while in Texas was bound to go down in history as the greatest short stop of all-time, but to satisfy his (at the time) good friend Derek Jeter, Alex took up the task of learning to play third base, although he was clearly the better short stop of the two. . . Never the less, A-Rod picked up the technique to play the “hot corner” for the betterment of the organization and to satisfy the hands that were already at the table. . .

Again A-Rod continued to pound out numbers at a Hall of Fame rate.  He gave them an MVP season in 2007, in which he put up his best numbers and was signed to another lucrative ten year contract in this time.

In 2009, rumors started circulating about Alex not being a “clean” player – but New Yorkers quickly stopped dissecting those rumors because they won the World Series in 2009.  Not only did they win the World Series, they won it mostly because of Alex Rodriguez.  Alex’s on-base-percentage was .500, slugging percentage was .808 (those two stats combined gave him a ridiculous OPS of 1.308, 19 hits, 18 rbis and six homeruns. . . For a guy who was infamously known for “disappearing” in the playoffs, he gave the Yankees one of the best playoff performances of all time in 2009.


In 2011, the City That Never Sleeps, started getting colder towards A-Rod.  His home run totals were decreasing, bat speed had slowed down and whenever things went wrong for the Bronx Bombers it was always the fault of Rodriguez.  The Yankees built a team of “Super-Men” but it seemingly would always fall on A-Rod.

Sure, the years followed with his admittance of using performance enhancing drugs and his one year suspension.  The Yankees organization and many of it’s fans were out-casting Rodriguez.  Corny people would say “its not the Yankee way,” “he’s a cheater” or even degrade his character with profanities – this was odd.  Odd because this is a fan base that still favors admitted P.E.D user Andy Petitte, and still holds a torch up high for the beer chugging womanizer that was Babe Ruth and even the alcoholic, narcissist Mickey Mantle (who wasn’t even liked by his own son).

Fans are insane.  We forget our own flaws while judging the flaws of others.  But fans are so insane that they NEVER forget the GOOD that a player has done for his or her franchise.  Except this time.  Yankees fans found it more to their liking to gang-up on a player who was already hated by the masses.  Keep in mind, he only added to that hatred when he joined your team (the MOST hated franchise in baseball – next to Philadelphia), gave up playing short stop and all the accolades that would’ve come with finishing his career at that position, gave you his greatest season in 2007 and a remarkable run in 2009 which gave you the last post season success the franchise has seen.

Alex could’ve put these numbers up and been loved anywhere else.  Bonds was and is still adored in San Francisco and even Ryan Braun (who was truly the biggest piece of scum when it comes to P.E.D scandals) still gets an applause when he bats for the Brewers.


Hopefully someone will take on Rodriguez just long enough so that he can get his home-run total to 700.   That would mean the world to Alex – and oddly enough it would mean just the same to feel appreciated in New York.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Joe Budden Reintroduces Himself

When the name Joe Budden comes up in most hip hop conversations, the words “one-hit-wonder,” are usually associated with him.  If not for his 2003 hit record “Pump It Up” most wouldn’t know who Budden is.  Unless of course you know of him on VH1’s “Love and Hip Hop” and his very public relationships with Ester, Tahiry and Kaylin.  To the underground faithful – or just the Joe Budden fans – though, Budden is considered to be one of hip hop’s true great lyricists.  He has built a dedicated following without the use of mainstream radio due to his independent and mix=tape releases.  Budden’s style has been considered “emo” as he wears his emotions on his sleeve, goes in depth about the pitfalls of his life and does so with brilliant word-play.   With all that being said, Budden has been in the game for over a decade and doesn’t scratch the surface of what is considered to be a “rap superstar.”

Budden has maintained consistency in his product and a little more than a year ago, began his podcast “I’ll Name This Podcast Later.”  The podcast has proven to be successful and at times controversial.  He (along with his podcast partners Marissa Mendez and Rory) have been the subject of social media attacks from other artists such as Meek Mill but it doesn’t stop the show’s continued fan support.   Most recently, Budden was very hard on Drake, an artist who Budden has openly been a fan of on his podcast.  Budden was less-than-enthused with Drake’s last project “Views” and even went as far as saying: “I think that that kid on that album that I heard sounds real fucking uninspired.”  What this did was inspire a slight jab from Drake aimed at the direction of Budden in a snippet of a track released on social media where Drake  mutters the words “pump, pump, pump it up.”   Budden didn’t take this as a “diss” and publicly shrugged it off.  .  .


Then Drake released “4 PM in Calabasas” and Joe Budden combed through the lyrics of this song like a detective thirsty for some evidence:  “All of a sudden I got people showing how much they truly resent me/They whole demeanor just spells envy/they tryna tempt me.”

Budden laid low for a little while and then released a six minute verbal assault on Drake disguised as a song called “Making a Murderer, Pt.1”

The track, produced by Araab Muzik, supplied hip hop with enough ammo to burn through the next couple of weeks, as Budden took slight jabs at Meek Mill and Jay-Z (very slight but if you look back there is actually history there as well) – but the focus is clearly on Drake : “I’m a wordsmith for reall, you thought Quentin was bad/You made me proud, lad, but it seems my child mad/ With all the clout that he grabbed, theres still doubts from his dad.”  Budden has acknowledged before that Drake was a fan of Budden’s and even has ran with some of Budden’s style in the past. . .


Joe Budden truly peppered enough quote-a-bles on this track, I could’ve printed out all the lyrics to the song and the reader would have gotten the point, but these gems should suffice in getting the point across: ” You’re so indirect, shit wasn’t real clear/Either Jimmy actin’ or he really miss a wheelchair. . . .i figure he’s close to his death to know the reaper/in fitted sweats with old sneakers, the flow ether/gassed cause he KO’d Omeeka/no, Joe’s deeper. . .Your words ain’t sayin a thing/I kilogram without weighing a thing/ nigga you baitin’ a king.”  And for those that didn’t get that “kilogram” line – think about it – Kilogram / Kill-a-Graham / Drake’s real name is Aubrey Graham – the boy Budden got lyrics. . .

Now, should Drake respond?  For the sake of hip-hop, yes he should – but in truth, Drake’s best action – career-wise – is to ignore it.  On the grand scheme of things, Budden isn’t in the same stratosphere as Drake.  If Drake ignores “Making A Murderer, Pt. 1” it will be as if the track never existed.   Drake is that big of an artist.


Drake’s fans have taken to social media and have attacked Budden for trying to re-ignite his career by dissing Drake.  There might be some truth to that, but in reality, Budden is a rapper.  This is what rappers do (or at least used to do.)  He isn’t hiding behind subliminal lines or staying off of social media – he never has.  This is what he is.  Other Drake fans have said that the diss-track is altogether weak – which is obviously a blinded opinion.

Budden has done what needed to be done.  Today’s rap artists seem to be too comfortable.  Jump-Off-Joey has just shook the foundation from the top of the totem-pole and people are getting nervous.  Drake has a lot to lose if he comes out flat with a rebuttal record or loses this battle with Budden altogether.  For Budden, he has nothing to lose.  He has already gained a bunch of new listeners though who have been shut-off from the music he’s created over the last few years.


In hip hop, “the battle” is a good-thing.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NY Sports Today, Pt. 4: The MLB

New York Mets:


The Metropolitans find themselves in an unfamiliar space.  They – not the Yankees – are the best team in New York, and their are lofty expectations that come with that claim.   Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated has called the New York Mets’ pitching rotation to be “the best in baseball.”  When your biggest problem is NOT knowing who your “number one” pitcher is – and all of them have “the goods” – your problems are pretty awesome.  Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey and Jacob DeGrom lead the charge with veteran Bartolo Colon and (a-hopefully-ready by mid-season) Zack Wheeler rounding out a possible six man rotation.  The Mets pitching staff is their lifeline and it should be enough to carry them into the playoffs.  David Wright’s spine didn’t agree with him last year and was limited to less than forty games during the regular season, but looked pretty good in the post-season and in spring training this year.  If right can give them consistent production at the third base spot, the Mets will have that corner of the infield in good hands. It showed on one-too-many occasions last year, how much his glove was missed at the “hot corner.”  The Mets re-signed Yoenis Cespedes to a big deal, and they better hope this isn’t a case of a “sucker them in deal.”  Cespedes’ bat was a much needed addition to the Mets’ offense and he helped lead the charge into the playoffs from the Summer and on.  Mets fans are weary of the showboat though (if anybody caught his opening day lackluster drop in left field, that should be enough reason to justify that worry.)  Curtis Granderson is a fan favorite with one of the most vicious swings in baseball.  His stat line is confusing though – he strikes out a lot, but it seems when he’s not striking out, he’s getting on base or driving in a run.  The Mets have a century to go before ever being mentioned in the same breath with the New York Yankees, but this is their moment and it’s now or never for the blue and orange boys out of Queens.


New York Yankees:


Some will say that last year proved one can never count the New York Yankees out, the others will say – they got lucky.  You’re kind of right if you’re on either side of the argument.  The Yankees are the most recognizable sports franchise in America and for good reason.  The legacy alone, strikes fear into competition and if “hate” truly concealed “jealousy” – the Yankees are swimming among weaker human emotions as they hold their numerous banners high in the greatest city in the world – New York. But last year – was pretty lucky if we’re being honest.  The resurgence of a forgotten Mark Texiera and a public relations nightmare in Alex Rodriguez, ended up being the most important pieces to this line up.  Texiera had an on-base-percentage of .357, a slugging percentage of .548 and 100 hits last season.  A-Rod blasted 33 homers with 131 RBI, a year after being suspended for PED use.  The Yankees know they’d be hard pressed depending on their veterans for the same kind of production again so they signed former Chicago Cub, Starlin Castro.  The Yankees will most likely try to find a places for their big young bats  Greg Bird and Aaron Judge.  Both of these kids display some raw power at the plate and if the vets struggle, it won’t take long for these kids to be put into place.  The Yankees starting pitching is a bit nerve racking and inconsistent, which is why the Yankees were thrilled that they had guys for the 7th, 8th and 9th innings to close games in Andrew  Miller, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman – but a domestic incident resulted in a 30 game suspension for Chapman, which resulted in Miller getting the closer spot – and now Miller is pitching through a wrist injury to start the season.  The Yankees had a nice start to the season last year and burned out towards the end.  The same may happen again – and that’s thinking positively.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

N.Y. Sports Today, Pt.3: The NHL

N.Y. Sports Today, Pt.3: The NHL

So here is an attempt at talking about hockey.  New York hockey for that matter.  In last week’s NFL piece, I went off on how sports writers never acknowledge the Buffalo Bills as part of the New York sports world.  This week I’m pulling my “hypocrisy card” and will only mention the Buffalo Sabres eight words before the period in this sentence.  There’s just no need for it, nobody cares and at the end of the day, it’s the NHL, so nobody really cares.  We do have the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders in the city though and both teams are looking to make runs in the playoffs.

The Islanders:


The franchise has taken it’s name-sake for granted and decided to no longer play their games in Long Island.  Now they play in Brooklyn’ Barclays Center, which holds fewer seats, which is fine because there are fewer hockey fans in Brooklyn anyhow. The move has not been a popular one with it’s loyal fan-base and it’s players.  The team apparently still holds practices in the Syosset section of Long Island because they don’t want to pay rent (or even look for) a practice facility in Brooklyn.  In the players’ defense – driving back and forth from Brooklyn to Long Island is a mobile death-sentence of sorts.  The Islanders’ best player John Tavares has 52 total points with 24 goals.  Tavares is a talented player and at 25 years old, was thought to be part of the future of the Islanders but it’s come up recently that he’s “fed up” with the team and somewhere down the line he expects to work a trade that will get him to Toronto.  Even more intriguing about him wanting to play in Toronto is the apparent “team up” he wants to happen there with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos.  Regardless of what Tavares wants in his future, he’s currently playing for a team that he has yet to lead out of the first round of the playoffs.  As reported by Justin Weiss of EliteSportsNY, it’s been Tavares and defense men Nick Leddy (24 years of age) who have been “leading this team for the last couple of weeks.”  Weiss adds that the Isles wouldn’t be anywhere near as good if not for their penalty kill unit which is tops in the NHL.   It’s tough being a second fiddle team in New York.  All the Islanders have to do is ask the NBA franchise they share the building with, it’s all too familiar a story for them as well.

The Rangers:


Currently, the Rangers are hoping they can get Rick Nash and the NHL’s best goalie Henrik Lundqvist back on the ice by the weekend.  Nash has been nursing a bone bruise for about two months and Lundqvist is trying to return after being struck in the throat a week ago.  Lundqvist’s injury was alarming for the fact that Henrik missed significant time last season with a vascular neck injury.  While the Washington Capitals are running away with the Metropolitan division, the Rangers are on par with the Atlantic Division leading Tampa Bay Lightning, who the Rangers lost to in the playoffs last season.  Now, in his tenth year, center Derick Brassard is having his best season yet, with a team leading 24 goals scored and 26 assists.  Not to be outdone is teammate Matt Zuccarello who in his fifth year is on pace to having his best season with 22 goals and 29 assists.  If these two can continue to do their damage to opponents with Nash in the lineup than the Rangers should go deep again. Chris Wengert of ESNY wrote about the shaken confidence of J.T. Miller, who as he put it “followed up a hot streak, with a disappearing act.”  Miller has been demoted to the fourth line, which means the 24 year old may see little to no time come playoffs.   Of course, it’s barely about goals-scored with the Rangers, it’s always been about Henrik Lundqvist.  If the playoffs started today, the Rangers would face off against the cross-town rival Islanders, who have owned the Rangers, beating them the three times they’ve squared off this season.   Put quite simply, the Rangers are in “win now” mode while the Islanders have nice young squad – for now.


G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NY Sports Today, Pt.2: The NFL

Can NGSCSports.Com be the first website that recognizes the Buffalo Bills as a New York sports franchise?  Why is it that the Bills, the only football team that actually plays football in the state of New York is forgotten, while the Giants and Jets play in New Jersey and that’s all one hears about?  New York is weird when it comes to football.  The Giants are the main attraction, the Jets are the freak show and the Bills are somewhere between forgotten and disrespected.  Here is a look at New York’s football squads right now.

The New  York Giants:


Definitely a top five when in comes to spoiled and obnoxious fan bases.  They go toe to toe with their rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles fans and their feeling of self-entitlement is nauseating.   Currently the Giants are in a “flux” as they have parted ways with head coach Tom Coughlin who coached this franchise to two (ridiculously lucky) Super Bowl wins.  The Giants have a super star in Odell Beckham Jr. at wide receiver.  He is no doubt explosive and one of the best play-makers in the league, but he is also an overly emotional moron, who puts his “gimmick” ahead of the team more times than not.  With the emergence of Beckham, the Giants should and will probably cut ties with fan favorite Victor Cruz, who just can’t stay healthy anymore so it makes no sense to cut him a big check.  Eli Manning is entering his thirteenth season as quarterback of the New York Giants and his “mystique” in New York is greater than the actual performance.  He has a career touchdown to interception ratio of 3:2 but that stat seems to be ignored by the masses for whatever reason (that reason being his last name).  New Yorkers don’t want to acknowledge the truth which is the Giants are quietly rebuilding and a mediocre rate, which is a shame because as the NFC East has proven recently, it’s anybody’s division. . . minus the Giants.

The New York Jets:


Just when you think the Jets got something cooking, they drop the frying pan.  On their foot.  If there is any team in the league with a small window and the “win now” mentality, it should be the New York Jets.  The Jets have a perfect blend of veterans, talent and youth to win games in this league.  Funny thing with the Jets is that they find themselves currently in a very “Jets-like, situation.”  Ryan Fitzpatrick quarterbacked the Jets last year over failed 2013 draft pick Geno Smith.  This was Fitzpatrick’s sixth team since 2005 and he excelled under rookie head coach Todd Bowles.  Fitzpatrick often was looked upon as a guy who can flash incredible consistency but then quickly turn into a “limited talent.”  With that being said, he broke the franchise record for most touchdowns in a season with 31.  So how is this situation “Jets-like,” you ask?  Because, Fitzy is turning 34 in November and because of the current quarterback market, his price range has gone from “bargain-basement” to somewhere in the $10 million a year ballpark.   The Jets are kind of hand-cuffed and need to figure out a way to make their cap space work but that’s because they are in “win-now” mode.  Did you catch that?  Ryan Fitzpatrick puts the Jets “back” in “win-now” mode.  Only the Jets, folks!

The Buffalo Bills:


Speaking of the Jets, you had to love the narrative last season.  The Jets fire Rex Ryan as head coach, Ryan goes to Buffalo, Ryan beats the Jets twice by the same score of 22-17.  Ultimately destroying the Jets chances of a playoff birth.  But this is no longer about “Gang Green” this is about the only real New York NFL franchise, the Buffalo Bills.  The Bills were disappointed last year, but for a franchise that’s claim to fame is going to four straight Super Bowls and losing all four – it’s safe to say, being disappointed is the norm for upstate New York. The Bills are already making moves in the off-season and have released defensive end Mario Williams, which frees up about $13 million in cap space and they’ll be looking to spread that money around on the defense (expect Cromartie to get with Rex Ryan).  The Bills offense really isn’t too bad, and it’s safe to say Tyrod Taylor impressed some folks last year (albeit, expectations for him weren’t so great anyway).   The Bills are an average team, which their 8-8 record shows, but lost 5 of those eight by single digits, proving one less mistake here or an extra yard there, might have made a world of difference for this squad.  This is the NFL though, where nobody will cry for you if you lose, especially if your head coach is Rex Ryan, who most folks just don’t take serious anyway. . .

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

NY Sports Today, Pt. One: The NBA

New York is pretty much the center of the universe.  Us citizens in New York acknowledge that fact and we ride with it.  Even those who aren’t from the great city of NY – when they compare our city to any other, it usually ends in a defeated mutter: “. . . but nothing is like New York.”   Yes, it’s the city all others love to hate and for good reason.  We stick our noses in the air,  and we are all in a rush because we all have somewhere to go or someone to meet.  Another reason this city is the one most love to hate, is because of it’s sports fans.  Personally, I get it.  Growing up in New York, I grew away from the fan bases of all the metropolitan franchises and mainly because the fans were just awful.   It’s not the fans’ fault though.  They grew up in the city that the world revolves around, so why wouldn’t the sports world revolve around their teams as well?

For the next few weeks I’ll be breaking down exactly where the professional franchises in this great city are in respect to the leagues they’re in.  This week we’ll tackle the NBA.  Here is where on one side you have a team that’s holding on to some imaginary greatness in the Knicks, and on the other side is one of the more forgotten professional franchises in the Brooklyn Nets, who are (unfortunately) the only team I care about in this great city. . .

The New York Knicks:


Since the start of the new millennium, the New York Knicks have been a downtrodden franchise, who have been the focal point of frustration for most New Yorkers. Some blame Donnie Walsh.  Others blame Mike D’Antoni or Isiah Thomas.  The truth is, it was a cluster of stupid mistakes combined with ill-timed trades that had the Knicks in a perpetual state of hopelessness.  Since appointing Phil Jackson as the team president, the fan base has gone through  many ups and downs, in what is now – just about two years.  Phil Jackson hasn’t done much to re-ignite hope in the fan base until (let’s be honest) he got lucky and drafted Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth pick in the draft.  Why, lucky?  Because, in all truth he wanted Towns or Okafor – everyone did.  When he drafted the 7-footer out of Latvia, nobody knew what to expect.  And in true New York Knicks fashion – their fans expected the worse.  Much to their delight Porzingis has shown enough flashes in his rookie season that Knicks fans are comfortable moving forward with him.


Things don’t get easier for the Knicks though.  Phil Jackson’s first choice as head coach, Derek Fisher was released this year and he has been replaced by Kurt Rambis.  Rambis, by resume or sheer looks is not the guy Knicks fans want.  To complicate things even further with the Knicks this year is they don’t know what/who they are.  They should be a team looking to groom it’s young star in Porzingis and even give more playing time to the youngsters Langston Galloway and rookie Jerian Grant but it seems like Jackson and Rambis want to “push for the playoffs.”  For what?  To get swept by the Cavs in the first round?  What does that do for you?  As it stands right now the Knicks are the 12th seed.  Last time I looked this wasn’t the NCAA Championship Tournament so being a 12th seed does you no good here.  In the Knicks’ weak attempt at trying for the playoffs, they are consistly playing with a back court of Aaron Affalo and Jose Calderon – those are two guys you couldn’t package in a deal even if you threw in all the Beatles masters and the sword of Gryffindor.

So, when it comes to the Knicks they have this one piece to build with in Porzingis.  A fading star in Carmelo Anthony.  And three interesting role players.  Oh and they’re all being coached by a guy who looks like this:


and when he played, he looked like this:


Someone needs to tell Phil Jackson to pump the brakes.

The Brooklyn Nets


If there was ever a “wrong” team to root for – it might be this one.  You have to search high and low to find true Nets fans in New York.  Unfortunately for me, I see one in the mirror everyday (albeit it’s not a horrible sight, but I digress. . .).   When Mikhail Prokhorov bought the Nets in 2009, he brought with it a re-branding, a fresh start and an excitement rarely seen by this fan-base.   That lasted all but 3 years.  Give Prokhorov credit though, it’s not like he didn’t try.  He wasn’t shy with his money (as he had the most expensive and over-paid back court in the history of the NBA with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson) and he was quick to pull the trigger on a trade to bring Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn (which resulted in the NETS giving the Celtics every first round pick from now until I’m in my 40’s.)   “The Mad Russian” tried to bully his way into the league and he realized the err of his ways.  This brings us to the present day where the NETS are the fourth worst team in the NBA.  Put that into perspective they have only 15 wins, which is currently only one game better than the Phoenix Suns – a team that fights with itself on the bench.

The Nets have hired Sean Marks to be the team’s new general manager.  This got the fan base excited because he comes from the San Antonio Spurs offices and he waived Andrea Bargnani right away.   Marks has his work cut out for him though.  There are no draft picks to speak of and the entire roster from top to bottom needs to be reworked.  The NETS should’ve traded Thaddeus Young at the trade deadline because his stock will most likely never be higher than it is right now.  And although everybody loves him, it’s time to part ways with Brook Lopez.  Besides the injury bug that always haunts him, it’s the fact that the NBA is moving in a different direction.  Big men like Lopez still have a place in this league, but not on a team like the NETS that really can’t do anything to protect his weaknesses as a player.  Joe Johnson should’ve found a spot on a playoff team at the trade deadline, but that didn’t happen either.


The good thing about being a NETS fan is that you really don’t expect much. . . ever.  So Sean Marks has more than enough time to put something together, and if he doesn’t – oh well, we’re the NETS. . .

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“Top Five Dead Or Alive” Album Review

Jadakiss has been calling himself “top five dead or alive” for some time now.  The funny thing about it is, nobody in hip hop has challenged him.  Nobody even questions it.  Fans and peers alike are all aware of the talent possessed by the Yonkers, New York representative.  He has mastered the “slick talk” as a rapper and his punchlines are among some of the most quotable in hip hop history.  Still. . . there has always been a question with Jada: “Why isn’t he bigger than he is?”  It’s a valid question and it’s usually answered with a shake of the head accompanied by a response like “He’s too hood.”  It might be a cop out answer, but there is some truth to it.  There is not a rapper from the old school or new school, who would (or should) test Jada on the mic.  This is why he has anointed himself as “Top Five D.O.A.”


Jadakiss’ theme is simple: He’s better than you and he challenges your street cred to match his.  On “First 48” he sets the tone for what’s to come over a soulful sample laid out by Ty Fiffe: “Yea they love to hear the don speak/That’s because my dialog ain’t in arms reach/Nah, I ain’t with the coward ‘ish/First the skinny jeans, now they wearin’ blouses/ Don’t ever confuse wireless for powerless.”

Swizz Beatz reunites with his Ruff Ryders brethern on “You Don’t Eat” and “Jason.”  Both tracks give Jada’s raspy tone a nice back drop as Swizz has never lost touch with his street-production.  “You Don’t Eat” shows Jadakiss in his usual defiant nature, telling people how he is a legend in the game, and has been looked over for unknown reasons.   Jada has a way of sounding aggressive on tracks without having to get rowdy and still be able to throw in a slick bar here and there “I put an end to you I save all the small talk for the interludes.”  It’s  true mark of an O.G. – of the rap game and the street.   “Jason” has some layers and depth to it although the intro verse by Swizz is a bit out of place. . . Jadakiss touches on the violence in communities today, especially from police towards minorities (Kiss cleverly utters “I can’t breathe” over the hook of the song in ode to Eric Garner.)   The song isn’t a shot towards the police, it’s more a message to the listener as in – you have to protect yourself and better your pride because nothing is promised and there are people who are plotting on your demise.  Even if the path chosen is one that is frowned upon.


On “Y.O.” you can picture Jadakiss on a corner talking to the younger cats on his block, schooling them on the harsh realities of what a life on the streets can lead to: “learned how to clap before he knew how to stack/ now he doing thirty something years in the max. . . Drop on the jux you can give him a quick call/But kicking it with him is like talking to a brick wall/Comes from a good fam so his books stay right/He only 23 he got a chance to see daylight.

Jada flexes hard on “You Can See” which features Future on the hook: “Top 5 DOA, niggas know he don’t play/I can sell a ki a day, guess it’s in my DNA/Comfortable with being at the top, that’s where he gon’ stay. .. I’m the general of the block, I’m a lead the way/Either way, call me Paul – as long as Peter pay.”  Jadakiss has an undeniable truth to his diction and one can easily tell by how easily the street metaphors and lingo flow out of him, that he’s a man who lives by what he says.

The album takes a few steps back with the boring “Man in the Mirror” and the disappointing appearances by LOX member Styles P on “Rain” and “Synergy.”  It might not even be the fault of Styles, the beat on “Rain” is nothing more than a loop with some nonsensical noise in the hook while the beat to “Synergy” is actually over powering.  It’s tough to make out what either rapper is saying as the highs in the beat are almost screeching, never making it an easy listen.  Lil Wayne appears on “Kill” but the song would’ve been better off as just a Jadakiss solo because the apparent decline of Weezy is evident. . .


There are other collaborations on the album that actually don’t fall flat.  “So High” is Jada’s “weed song” on this album and who else to feature on that topic than Wiz Khalifa who fits on the track perfectly and actually balances out the song well with Jadakiss.   “Realest in the Game” features Sheek Louch and Young Buck and the only issue with the song is trying to figure out which of them bodied the track best.

Kiss has been pretty consistent in dropping albums, but he ends this one the best with “One More Mile to Go.”  Here Jada is telling listeners to simply never give up and fight off feelings of self-doubt.    He spits bars that anyone can relate to : “Ain’t scared to die, but you thinking ’bout a coffin/And quitting ain’t an option but you think about it often/Saying to yourself, how this ain’t fair/You got the strength but the energy, just ain’t there.” 

It’s fitting that Jadakiss ends this album talking about perseverance because that’s been a key component in his life and career.  Top five dead or alive is a high claim but one that hasn’t been argued – at least not to his face and Jadakiss gives people a lot of reasons to not argue it. . . or get in his face.

Rating 7.5

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio



Beating Vegas: Entry Twelve

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: Consider yourself lucky to  have an even split in rivalry week, this week it doesn’t get much easier.   During championship week, the games are played at “neutral” destinations, and some teams are playing for their playoff lives.

North Carolina (+4) vs Clemson (game to be played at Bank of America Stadium)

To get into the College Football Playoff, North Carolina would need a win against #1 ranked Clemson, and a ton of teams in front of them to completely fall apart.  First things first though for the Tar Heels, and that’s a chance to knock off the best team in the country, Clemson.  There are two things that separate the two teams, and only two things: 1. Clemson is undefeated while UNC has one loss to South Carolina; and 2. UNC’s one real weakness comes with their run defense.  The Tar Heels give up 208 yards a game on the ground to the opposition but at least have a pass defense that is formidable and they will have to be at their best against quarterback Deshaun Watson.  Watson throws at a 70% completion percentage and has thrown for 27 touchdowns on the year.  He is not in a class all by himself though.  UNC’s Marquise Williams throws at a 65% completion rate and is just as much a dual threat as Watson.  Week to week, Clemson looks like a team that plays down to the level of their competition and the next week they seem like they’re playing on a whole other level.  This week, they are playing against a tough and aggressive Tar Heels squad that knows even a bowl game after beating Clemson, won’t be as exciting as actually beating Clemson.

The Pick: North Carolina +4


Michigan State (-3) vs  Iowa (game to be played at Lucas Oil Stadium)


The knocks against Iowa all year is that they haven’t “played anybody good” and the knock against Michigan State is that they haven’t played “up to their expectations.”  For whatever faults these teams possess, they did enough to find themselves in the Big 10 Championship Game.  It’s simple enough, whoever wins becomes Big 10 Champ and earns a birth in the college football playoff.  Michigan State has had a problem “putting teams away” and it’s quite baffling.  The only assumption one can make is that they take their opponents lightly and basically sleep walk during games.  There is NFL talent throughout the roster, most notably at quarterback with Connor Cook.   Cook is expected to be a first round pick in the upcoming draft and games like these is when he’ll need to shine the most.   He has 24 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions but his 57.6 completion percentage shows, he tends to be inconsistent at times.   Iowa’s defense has been good this year, but once again – considering the level of competition, it’s to be taken with a grain of salt.  They won by single digit margins against the two better offenses they faced in Indiana and Nebraska.  This Michigan State team knows that the talent in the Big 10 is on the rise, and with things not looking to get any easier with rivals Michigan and Ohio State in the near future, their time is now.


The Pick: Michigan State -3


Florida (+17) vs Alabama (game to be played in the Georgia Dome)


The Florida Gator defense has been the talk of the town.  They allow only  15.5 points per game and have speed in their secondary that goes almost unmatched.  The Gator offense has been more reliant on their defense then themselves as they muster 25 points a game, but haven’t gone over the 30 point mark since that early win in October against Ole Miss.  Quarterback Will Grier’s suspension has really put his team in a bad position on the offensive side of things, as Treon Harris has minimalized the chance for the Gators to display a balanced offense.  Harris’ 53% completion percentage forces the Gators to stick to the ground.  Harris’ athleticism is over-rated as well, because as the team’s second leading rusher the QB is averaging less than three yards a carry. . . Honestly, as good as the Gators are on defense, the Crimson Tide are just better. They allow one fewer point than Florida does on defense and  running against ‘Bama has been nearly impossible as teams average 2.5 yards a carry and less than 80 yards a game against them.  This is the team that held LSU’s Leornard Fournette to  31 yards and less than 2 yards a carry in their 30-16 victory over the Tigers.  And unlike Florida, ‘Bama has a very balanced offense that gets it done through the air and also by ways of the ground with their running back, Heisman hopeful, Derrick Henry.   Most will see the big number and go with the team getting the points, but in truth, Alabama is primed for a big win going into the College Football playoff.  Florida will struggle getting first downs, let alone touchdowns, while Alabama will find a way.

The Pick: Alabama -17


If you must: When looking at the Baylor vs Texas line, the +21 going to the Longhorns is too juicy to pass up.  The Baylor Bears are going into this game with their third string quarterback and that’s the least of their woes.  This is a team that was destroying everything in it’s path and looking forward to a Championship run – that is all gone.  For the Longhorns though, this is their championship game.  They may not win, but they’ll put up a tough fight to not be blown out.

BONUS pick:  This one is just too easy to lay off of.  Take the Jets at -2 against their hometown rival New York Giants.  The Jets are a team that are becoming scarier and scarier as the playoffs approach.  At full health this is one of the tougher teams on both sides of the ball, and they seem to be rolling right now.  Fitzpatrick is the only wildcard here, but he has weapons around him – too many for the Giants to handle.  Eli will be under pressure the entire game and this is a secondary that is loving the opportunity to play against Odell Beckum Jr.  This one could get ugly and could be the easiest win of the week.


Teaser of the Week: (Four Gamer) Bowling Green +1, Jets +10, Patriots +2.5, Michigan State +9

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio