Julius Randle Could Be Key To Entire NBA Offseason

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The Los Angeles Lakers are the darling of the NBA rumor mill right now. They have been linked to Kawhi Leonard and are rumored to be aggressive in trading for the San Antonio Spurs’ star. Leonard would be the first domino to fall and LeBron James could be following with Paul George still a possibility as well. Right now the NBA offseason seems to center on what the Lakers can do but there is a potential wrench in the works that could derail the Lakers’ hopes this offseason.

Julius Randle was given a qualifying offer from the Lakers making the 23-year-old power forward a restricted free agent. The Lakers will have the right to match any offer to Randle. It is very possible that a team in need of an athletic power forward could make an offer to Randle and put the Lakers between a rock and a hard place. The Brooklyn Nets, if they can free up some space would be an intriguing option for Randle. The Nets have been aggressive in the past with restricted free agents and could be again.

Would the Lakers risk losing Randle? Can they afford to match an offer to him if they believe they are getting Leonard and James or George? These are tough decisions that have to be made out in Los Angeles but if Randle isn’t traded to San Antonio in a deal for Leonard then he could be gone from the Lakers.

There are a hundred thousand different scenarios that could play out this summer. A team in need of a young, athletic power forward could put the heat on the Lakers. Or, Randle could be dealt and sign a long-term deal with his new team. Those are just two possibilities but a team making an offer to Randle could alter the entire landscape of the NBA offseason. The Lakers are hoping to move fast on a Leonard trade but San Antonio has no reason to rush and are believed to be looking for an Eastern Conference team to make a deal with.

The NBA offseason promises to be interesting but the one player that could change everything is Julius Randle and there are a few teams that could try to pry Randle, the 2014 seventh overall selection, away. Here is to hoping a team like the Nets, Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks, or Phoenix Suns makes things a little more interesting.

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Collectors Still Vulnerable To Fraud After Eli Manning Settlement

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New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning settled his memorabilia fraud case just before it was slated to go to trial on Monday. Details of the deal were not disclosed and all parties, including the Giants, released a statement stating that settling was not an admission of wrongdoing. Manning was accused of conspiring to defraud memorabilia collectors by selling equipment that he never actually wore. That equipment would then show up for sale at Steiner Sports.

This case is the perfect example of what a hazardous road collectors face when collecting game-used memorabilia. I should point out that this is in no way an indictment of any of the parties involved. Since Manning was not convicted I can’t say he was guilty. Steiner Sports, a fairly reputable dealer, could only depend on Eli’s word that the equipment they were being given was in fact game-used. It is a slippery slope and the only real loser is the person who shells out hundreds dollars and ends up with a jersey that a player never actually wore in a game.

This isn’t an isolated incident. In 2012, sports memorabilia dealer Bradley Wells pleaded guilty to selling fraudulent game-used items to trading card manufacturers. Wells told the FBI that Upper Deck, Topps, and Panini America knew they were purchasing items that Wells himself had doctored to appear game-used. Those jerseys would then be cut up and pieces inserted into trading cards. There have been several instances where jersey swatches feature Mitchell and Ness logos or an interesting case where a Whitey Ford jersey card featured a Majestic logo. Majestic didn’t begin business until 15 years after Ford retired.

There have been countless stories of athletes using another party to fulfill their autograph quota for trading card companies. Lonzo Ball, who was a hot commodity in the sports card world right after he was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, has had several different looking autographs appear on cards. Many have speculated that LaVar Ball signed cards with his son’s name.

Collectors are the only ones who lose out. They spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars expecting major companies to vet the products they are peddling. When things go wrong, like the several cases of wrongly labeled game-worn cards, there are no consequences. The worst that might happen is a little social media backlash. However, thanks to exclusive rights deals that card companies have with different sports there is no competition. Card companies have a monopoly on the sport.

The exclusive rights has limited the amount of product, which has solved the oversaturation of the market that almost ruined the hobby in the 1990s. However, it might actually be harming the hobby as well. Topps, which has an exclusive rights contract with Major League Baseball, is the only company that can produce trading cards that feature MLB logos. Panini does offer baseball cards, notably through the Donruss label, but do not feature logos or team names. Panini has exclusive rights with the NBA, NFL, and NHL. Collectors have no way to voice their displeasure with their wallets unless they stop collecting. That is a huge problem.

The different sports leagues, players, and card manufacturers can continue defrauding collectors, whether intentionally or unintentionally, with little or no repercussions aside from paying out some money. The FBI has prosecuted some individuals in the past but those were smaller dealers who were faking autographs. The major companies and the sports leagues have escaped any real harm.

Collecting in this day and age is difficult. Prices have increased but the pitfalls have grown as well when they should shrink. Collectors should be able to purchase cards and memorabilia without worrying about being ripped off. At least not by the companies, players, and leagues we expect to hold a high standard. The reality is they are all no different from the guy who fakes an autograph and puts it up on eBay. When they get caught they apologize, pay the person who complained under the table, and move on. The sports memorabilia industry is a multi-billion industry and is hardly regulated at all. Only the FBI steps in from time to time and prosecutes individuals defrauding collectors. It isn’t enough.

There are still no protections for collectors. There is no oversight, except by the companies themselves and that isn’t good enough anymore. Not when time and time again major companies have either made mistakes or willingly scammed collectors. Not when athletes are committing fraud. Oversight on a massive level is necessary and companies should lose exclusive rights licenses when they are found to be defrauding consumers. Imagine the outrage if this occurred in another multi-billion industry that was more mainstream than sports card and memorabilia collecting. It would be front page news everywhere.

The Manning case is just the latest example. It won’t be the last. Collectors will continue to buy because they want to build their collections or invest for the future. They will have to navigate minefields in an industry where even a perceived nice guy like Eli Manning might be ripping you off. Sadly, things aren’t going to change any time soon either. Navigating the minefield is still hazardous to collectors.

The Future of the New York Knicks Doesn’t Seem Different From the Past

David Fizdale

The newest head coach of the New York Knicks, David Fizdale, has been making the rounds doing a publicity tour around the city. His tour seems like it is accompanied by some talking points from Knicks management about how they are committed to the rebuild and are in it for the long haul. It is almost like they are preparing the Knicks’ faithful for a couple of years of more terrible basketball. But don’t worry, this time we won’t blame the coach.

This public relations tour, which Jeff Hornacek did just a couple of years ago, seems sadder this time. This has nothing to do with Fizdale himself but rather the tired storyline from the Knicks who are promising things will be different soon. They swear it this time. Fizdale isn’t going to be held accountable for the poor basketball they are going to showcase next season. And there will most likely be bad basketball.

Kristaps Porzingis is a very good basketball player. However, he has never played a full season of basketball and seems to be fairly prone to getting banged up at this point. Maybe he is just trying to do too much. Maybe he is injury prone. He will miss at least the first month of the season as he rehabs from his torn ACL and the Knicks have been oddly quiet about locking up their best player. Porzingis has already shown he is unhappy with the state of the Knicks last offseason when he skipped the exit interviews and put the dysfunction of the Phil Jackson-led Knicks on full display. Will he sign an extension? Will the Knicks even offer one?

It has been almost two decades since the Knicks were a relevant team. If the roadmap being suggested by management is to be believed it certainly will take them past the twenty-year mark. This team is one their 12th head coach since Jeff Van Gundy abruptly resigned in 2001. They have played exactly 25 playoff games since 2001. They have won seven of them. One playoff series win in 17 years. Of all the big-name free agents in the NBA over the years only Amare Stoudemire has taken up the challenge of trying to build something at Madison Square Garden.

This time management swears they know what they are doing. They are pushing Fizdale around the New York City talk circuit and talking about a plan to rebuild the right way to prove it. The problem is Knicks fans have been hearing similar things for almost twenty years. The Knicks have whiffed in the draft, with Porzingis being the one exception and the jury is out on Frank Ntilikina. Tim Hardaway, Jr. is technically a Knicks draft pick but he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks for the rights to Jerian Grant before signing a huge deal with the Knicks as a free agent before last season.

There are some major questions facing the Knicks. Will Porzingis sign on to at least a couple of years of losing basketball? Will the years of terrible cap management allow the Knicks to pursue a true star player? Will one even want to come to Madison Square Garden? Will Fizdale keep the peace with his players through the losing and media scrutiny? Will Steve Mills be able to identify talent in the draft?

Maybe the future will be different. Maybe it will be more of the same. Management hasn’t done anything in the past to make a Knicks fan confident that the future will be different. The reality is the plan will rest on the draft lottery, something the Knicks haven’t had much luck with, when they have had first round picks, in the past. But, that is the reality right now. Terrible basketball with the hope of potential mediocrity and the hope of the lottery. That is the Knicks’ future which is really no different than the last 17 years. The only thing that really seems to change with the Knicks is their head coach. Good luck, David Fizdale.

New York Knicks Must Get Next Head Coach Right

New-York Knicks in the Madison Square Garden

The New York Knicks fired head coach Jeff Hornacek early Thursday morning, something most people around the NBA expected. Sadly, for Knicks fans, this is just one more offseason where uncertainty will reign and there is, at this moment, little hope the franchise will begin to turn things around.

Since the 2001-2002 season, the Knicks have cycled through 11 different head coaches and have exactly seven playoff wins during that span. It should be noted that all seven of those playoff wins came under the immortal Mike Woodson during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. They have won exactly one playoff series since the 2001-02 season.

The Knicks have been searching for stability since Jeff Van Gundy resigned 19 games into the 2001-02 season. Coaches with extensive and successful track records have come and gone. So too have those without much on their coaching resume. The Knicks have not been able to find a winning formula for a myriad of reasons, none of which matters now. The Knicks’ future begins now and team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry must make their mark on this team and find the perfect fit for this franchise.

However, why should fans have any confidence in the Knicks to find that right coach? They have had Hall of Famers in Larry Brown and Lenny Wilkens fail. Phil Jackson’s magic ran out and he went through three men at the position during his short and confusing tenure. Stability isn’t a word Knicks’ fans are familiar with anymore.

If Mills and Perry fail to find the right coach this time around it could doom the Knicks for another five or more years. Mills and Perry have to get this right as they try to erase the Phil Jackson era once and for all from Madison Square Garden. As history has shown, it isn’t easy to turn this franchise around regardless of who the players are, who is in the front office, and who is head coach. Knicks’ fans can only hope this time it works out.