When we go back and look at the stories and news of the past week, there in the background, among trades, regular-season games, an All-Star game, the combine and the beginning of spring training, was a theme. If we look closely enough at three events that took place last Friday night, we see that a trio of good guys in sports was honored. Before the New Jersey Devils game in Newark, their longtime play-by-play man, Mike "Doc" Emrick was given his own night. When perusing the broadcast booths in all sports around the country, Emrick stood out like a sore thumb, with all the blowhards, nonstop jabberers, self-promoting signature-callers, smug know-it-alls, homers, ill-informed guys-who-shouldn't-be-in-this-line-of-work and just flat-out annoying announcers. Emrick's good-guyness couldn't help but be noticed because it was natural and was not at all self-serving. And he somehow always came up with the perfect word or the perfect way to describe what he was watching. Luckily, we still get to enjoy his calls on NBC.
Also on Friday night, Linsanity invaded All-Star Weekend, as Jeremy Lin (briefly) played in the Rising Stars Game, and was given his own press conference. But when we cut through all the hysteria and hoopla, what is the best part of the Jeremy Lin Story (besides all the games the New York Knicks have won since he's been their point guard)? His humble attitude and egoless reaction to the whole circus-like atmosphere that he's been thrust into. He's quick to credit his teammates, and he laughs and shrugs off the mania that surrounds him. There's no reality-show, look-at-me nonsense to him. His life story has now been dissected, and when trying to dig up dirt on him, everyone comes up empty. There is no dirt. The story behind the good guy is that he's a good guy. And what's wrong with rooting for a good guy now and then? As he said last weekend, "I want to be able to be the same person 10 years down the road as I am now. If I'm changing, I want you guys to be the first to let me know."
The saddest part of last Friday night was the memorial service that was held for Gary Carter. The clean-living Hall of Fame catcher was almost alone (along with Mookie Wilson and Tim Teufel and maybe one or two others) in the 1980s New York Mets clubhouse that was filled with miscreants and hard-partying ne'er-do-wells. Carter was a shining example of goodness among the self-labeled Scum Bunch. The worst thing that could be said about Carter was that maybe he smiled just a little too much and wasn't shy whenever a camera was around. Smiled too much? If that's the worst thing that can be said about a person, that's not bad. "Hall of Fame player and Hall of Fame person" has been the common talking point since his tragic death. Darryl Strawberry summed him up best: "The character he displayed in the clubhouse represented us more than anything. When you looked at the bunch we had, a lot of us were young, wild and crazy. The Kid was the most stable one in the clubhouse. It's a very sad time for all of us because we know that we were champions because of Carter coming over, that was the missing piece. He took us to another level."
Three good guys. And now on to the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
All-Stars & Hall of Famers: There were Knicks and New Jersey Nets all over All-Star Weekend down in Orlando. Landry Fields fared the best in the Rising Stars Game, scoring 16 points, while MarShon Brooks scored eight and Lin only two in a nine-minute cameo. Deron Williams lost out to Tony Parker in the skills challenge, while Anthony Morrow, sporting a throwback Drazen Petrovic jersey, couldn't make it out of the first round in the three-point shooting contest. In the game itself, which the West won, 152-149, Carmelo Amthony scored 19 points and pulled down nine rebounds, while Williams came close to being the star of the game, missing a three that would have tied the game and sent it to overtime. He poured in 20 points, with four rebounds. And the Basketball Hall of Fame finalists were announced this week, and a handful have some ties to the Knicks and Nets: Bernard King, Bill Fitch, Rick Pitino, Don Nelson and Maurice Cheeks.
Deadline Deals: The New York Rangers stayed away from Rick Nash and didn't feel the need to make any drastic changes to their roster, only making two minor moves, sending Wojtek Wolski to the Florida Panthers for a 2013 third-round draft pick and defenseman Mike Vernace, and acquiring 6'8" defenseman John Scott from the Blackhawks for a fifth-round draft pick. Scott gives the team another fighter to go along with Brandon Prust and Mike Rupp, and will also help if they get into a jump-ball situation with Zdeno Chara and the Bruins. The Devils made one big trade while being able to stay within their double secret payroll budget, getting defenseman Marek Zidlicky from the Wild for Kurtis Foster, Nick Palmieri, Stephane Villeux, a second round 2012 pick and a conditional 2013 third-round pick. And the New York Islanders unloaded veterans Brian Rolston and Mike Mottau on the Bruins for prospects Mark Cantin and Yannick Riendeau.
The Games on the Court: The Knicks turned what was looking like a disheartening loss into a blowout celebration on Wednesday, in their 120-103 romp over the Cavaliers. It was a full team effort, with six Knicks scoring in double figures, and Steve Novak and the second unit putting on a show for the Garden crowd. They don't need Linsanity, just Linsistency (ok, enough with the puns), and that's what they got. Jeremy Lin scored 19 points with 13 assists and only one turnover, and just as encouraging was Baron Davis' eight assists. Tyson Chandler hauled in 15 rebounds, Carmelo Anthony scored 22 points, Iman Shumpert made three steals and along with Jared Jeffries sparked the defense, Novak drained five three-pointers and on down the line. With everybody finally healthy, there's a way for them all to contribute. On Tuesday, the Nets upset the Dallas Mavericks, 93-92, with Brook Lopez scoring a whopping 38 points, along with hitting the game-winning free throws. Can we be in for a case of Lopanity? DeShawn Stevenson also came up big, blanketing Jason Kidd at the end forcing the Dallas point guard into a bad shot. The Nets have now won consecutive road games against the Bulls, Knicks and Mavericks.
The Games on the Ice: After hitting a sloppy, complacent speed bump in their season with three losses in four games (including a 4-3 shootout loss to the Islanders on Friday), the Rangers bounced back with an overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres, thanks to Ryan Callahan's game-winner, which was the 100th goal of his career, a 2-0 blanking of the Devils and a 3-2 win over the Hurricanes on Thursday, all of which helped them extend their Eastern Conference lead. Callahan missed Thursday's game, though, with a bruised foot from a (what else?) blocked shot, while John Tortorella continues to insist on accountability as he benched Brandon Dubinksy for the last two periods after the forward took a not-so-smart unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. New Jersey is going in the opposite direction, losing to the Canucks, 2-1, on Doc Emrick Night on Friday, falling to the Lightning, 4-3, on Sunday, getting shut out by the Rangers on Monday and faling to the Bruins in overtime on Thursday (though the winning/losing goal was controversial and possibly shouldn't have counted). And the Islanders were also in a losing mode after their exciting victory over the Rangers on Friday, getting beat by the Senators, 5-2, on Sunday, losing in nightmarish fashion to the Capitals in overtime on Tuesday, blowing a late 2-0 lead, and getting hammered by the Flyers, 6-3, on Thursday.
Spring Training: Things are very quiet in the New York Yankees' camp -- so low-key, in fact, that Hal Steinbrenner stated he wants to lower the payroll going forward to a more luxury-tax-friendly $189 million, which is not very Bronx Zoo-like. Sure, Andy Pettitte made an appearance as an instructor, Joba Chamberlain threw off a mound for the first time and Joe Girardi announced that only CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda have rotation spots locked up, but all the fun and hoopla is with the Boston Red Sox and Bobby Valentine now, as the new Sox manager took some shots at Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter to spice up the rivalry. It's going to be a fun year -- maybe Valentine will pull out another disguise this season. How about a tribute to Bill Belichick with a hoodie and a scowl on his face? As for the Mets, so far, so good with the Johan Santana Watch, as he faced batters for the first time on Thursday, Ruben Tejada finally showed up (though he was actually on time but not on time enough) and Fred Wilpon uttered the most discouraging statement that Met fans could hear, after he joked about his financial situation by pulling out a batch of five-dollar bills: "Fans shouldn't be concerned about us owning the franchise, because we intend to own the franchise for a very long time. Whether they're happy about that right now, I don't know."
Notes From Gang Green: Former New York Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress declared that he wants to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, which sounds about right, and GM Mike Tannenbaum once again gave Mark Sanchez a lukewarm endorsement: "I expect Mark Sanchez to be our quarterback next year, but when we have opportunities to improve our team that's what we're going to do."
And that's the New York week that was.