Friday, July 27, 2012

J-Speaks: Linsanity Leaves New York for Clutch City

Nine months ago, New York let alone the nation did not know the name Jeremy Lin. He was a free agent guard out of Harvard University who was just trying to make it in the NBA. He had been cut twice by the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets. On Dec. 27, 2011 he was claimed off waivers to be the back up point guard to Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby. In his first game action of the season, he made a loud introduction to the NBA nation with a 25-point seven assist performance in a come from behind 99-92 win over the then cross town rival New Jersey Nets. From that point on the Knicks went from an underachieving team to back in playoff contention and Lin would be the toast of New York and the nation. When their team became whole again with the return of the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, Lin would not be their for the postseason because of knee surgery. From that point, his future was up in the air. While he was a restricted free agent, the question was would the Knicks match any offer that he got from any other suitors. Last week that question was answered.

In the late part of Tuesday July 17, the Jeremy Lin era came to an end when the Knicks did not match the 3-year $25.1 million offer sheet from the Rockets. Lin returned to the team that cut him back on Dec. 24, 2011

The first year of the contract will pay the former Harvard grad $5 million and the second year will pay $5.2 million and the third year will pay about $14.89 million.

The Knicks announced their decision about Lin at about 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday night, 90 minutes before the deadline.

Lin told Sports that he “preferred New York, but my main goal in free agency was to go to a team that had plans for me and wanted me.”

One of the big questions out of the gate is how can a player, who again was a restricted free agent and the Knicks had a serious crack at resigning him, who breathed life back in the Garden and showed signs of being one of those needles in a hay stack type of players be gone in an instant.

The first place to start is with the Rockets. They are the ones who changed the original terms of the contract which was a 3-year $19.5 million deal that paid $9.3 million in the final season of the contract.

On top of that, the Knicks signed in free agency veteran floor general Jason Kidd and in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers acquires point guard Raymond Felton. If that were not enough, the team also signs 35-year-old Argentine guard Pablo Prigioni.

It is hard to fathom that this man who is just the 13th athlete to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated two issues in succession and the first from a New York professional team, who was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World and who on the court averaged in 25 starts 18.2 ppg and 7.7 apg could be gone just like that. This is especially tough considering that just a week ago, head coach Mike Woodson, who replaced head coach Mike D’Antoni in the middle of last season, said he “absolutely expected Lin to return to the team. He even said that Lin would be the starting point guard going into training camp.

You also have to consider this. The New York Knicks in the last few seasons, particularly in the James Dolan era, they have had no problem spending money and paying players more than what they are worth.

So it is hard to believe that the Knicks would not take on the nearly $15 million they would have to pay in the third year of Lin’s contract and the $28 million luxury-tax penalty which is part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that was signed this past season, though it probably did play a major factor.

What probably had more legs to this story about the worth of Lin more than anything is when Anthony called the Lin’s offer sheet from the Rockets “ridiculous” and when guard/forward J.R. Smith told Sports that if Lin returned to the team his contract would have caused division, jealousy and chemistry issues in the locker room.

Let’s remember though, this Asian American sensation is the reason the Knicks even had a shot at the postseason to begin with. He again brought life back to Madison Square Garden. Also during that time, the team was without both Anthony and Stoudemire because of injury.

When he went against the best the NBA had to offer he delivered in a huge way.

In his first career start on Feb. 6, he scored 28 points and dished out eight assists in a 99-88 victory versus the Utah Jazz.

Four days later he scored a career-high 38 points in a 92-85 win versus the Los Angeles Lakers. He outscored the great Kobe Bryant 38 to 34.

On Valentines’s Day, he showed a lot of love to Knicks fans and broke the hearts of the Toronto Raptors when he capped his 27-point night with a game-winning three-pointer from the top of the key that gave the team a 90-87 win.

After the game D’Antoni told the press, “I’m glad it went like this so we can calm Lin-sanity down.”

The beat would still go on and it just kept getting better as before a national television audience on Sunday afternoon Feb. 19, Lin scored 28 points, dished out 14 assists in a career-high 45 minutes as the Knicks came from behind to defeat the Dallas Mavericks 104-97 to improve to a 7-1 record with Lin in the starting lineup.

In the midst of the Knicks rise from the ashes, Lin made some history. He became the first player in NBA history to score at least 20 points and pass for seven assists in his first seven starts.

Unfortunately when you are on a role like Lin was, eventually you come back down to reality.

In his second go around with Deron Williams and the Nets, Williams scored 38 points in the Nets 100-92 win.

At the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat, Lin scored just eight points, dishing out just three assists and going 1 for 11 from the field in a 102-88 loss.

On Mar. 24, Lin would be forced to leave the Knicks contest against the Detroit Pistons because of soreness in his left knee. He would not play for the remainder of that week.

Seven days later, his season would be over as the team announced that their savior of the season would need surgery to repair a tear in the meniscus of his left knee.

While he did appear close to returning for the playoffs, declaring himself “85 percent” healthy, he did not feel at all comfortable playing so he was a spectator as the Knicks lost to the Heat in the first-round 4-1.

In his 35 appearances of the 2011-12 NBA campaign Lin averaged 14.6 ppg, 6.2 apg and 3.5 turnovers per contest.

The question now is where do the Rockets and Knicks go from here?

According to Felton, he is very eager to return to the form that he was in his first go around with the Knicks where he averaged career highs of 17.1 ppg, nine assists and 1.8 steals per contest in 54 games before being involved in the Anthony trade that brought him to the “Big Apple” and sent Felton to the Denver Nuggets.

“I wish him the best of luck,” Felton said in reference to Lin during an interview with the MSG Network during a Knicks‘ summer league broadcast.

“I’m not here to get into, ‘He’s getting way too much money.’ I hear a lot of people are saying this and saying that. I feel like if you can go get the money, go get it. So I’m not going to be the one who says that. But at the same time, I’m a competitor. I’m a point guard just like he is. So do I think I’m better? Of course I’m going to say that. I think I’m better than any point guard. There’s nothing personal between me and Jeremy. I know everybody is going to try to make it that way, and if it ends up being that way, then so be it. I’ll be ready for the challenge.”

At his introductory press conference last Thursday, Lin reiterated how he never thought that he would see himself anywhere else but in New York, but that when the 2012-13 season starts he will be wearing a new jersey number, No. 7 and he will be with the team that cut him on Christmas Eve and paved his way to the Knicks and the rest is history.

“Coming into free agency, I didn’t expect to be anywhere besides New York,” Lin said last Thursday.

“But after I came and visited… I wouldn’t have signed an offer sheet with Houston if I wasn’t excited about playing here as well. I’m so thankful to New York and the Knicks for this past year and the way the fans rooted for us. I’m thankful for what they did for me. Now I’m excited and focused on what I can do to help this organization move forward.

Lin also addressed how he felt about the recent comments made by Anthony and Smith about his new contract.

“I love Carmelo and J.R.,” Lin said. “I never had any issues with them…They were very supportive and they were great teammates last year.”

Jeremy Lin did a number of things a year ago. He made his dream of playing in the NBA a reality. He breathed life back into the basketball team in the “city that never sleeps.” He had a setback that did not allow him or the nation to see how he would do in the second season. He used an opportunity to increase his earnings in the future, thanks to the economic skills he learned as an economics major at Harvard and now has given himself a nice three-year contract and a chance to continue his dream of playing basketball and to continue to make an impact on Asian in the United States.

For the Knicks their future, which is all about winning a title will be lead by a point guard in Raymond Felton who will be trying to get back to the form that had him being considered an all-star two seasons ago. A point guard in Jason Kidd who can bring stability whether as a starter or coming off the bench and a Argentine guard in Pablo Prigioni who we really do not know how he will be used.

One team is building for the future in the Houston Rockets. The other in the New York Knicks is trying to win now. Who will be on top. Only time will tell. The best part is, we will have the next three years to see it all unfold.

Information, quotations and statistics are courtesy of 7/18/12 4 p.m. edition of ESPN 2’s “Numbers Never Lie” with Michael Smith, Hugh Douglas and Jalen Rose; Wednesday, 7/18/12 edition of Newsday, article entitled “Knicks Say So Long to Lin” by Al Iannazzone; Friday, 7/20/12 edition of Newsday, article entitled “Felton: I’m Better” by Roderick Boone;;

J-Speaks: Television Icon Twice Over, Comedian, TV Producer and Singer Passes

There are very few people in show business that can say that they played two iconic roles that have become a staple of American television. This man can say that in spades. He was not only a great in front of the camera, he made a solid name for himself behind it. He can also say that he is in rare air in receiving a top honor from the U.S. government. On top of that he managed he had a great success as a singer. He did it all and did so exceptionally well. That is what made July 3 that much more of a sad day.

On Tuesday, July 3 of the aforementioned date is when Andy Samuel Griffith, star of the iconic television show “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Matlock” passed away from a heart attack at about 7 a.m. at his home on Roanoke Island in in Dare County, NC, which is in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

The 86-year-old Griffith had his wife of 29 years Cindi Knight by his side. He is also survived by his daughter adoptive daughter Dixie Nan.

“Andy was a person of incredibly strong Christian faith and was prepared for the day he would be called home to his Lord,” Knight said in a statement two Tuesdays ago.

Griffith had been married twice before. First two Barbara Bray Edwards from 1949-1972. They adopted a son who they named Andrew Samuel Griffith Jr., who was born in 1957 and was known as Sam Griffith and they also adopted aforementioned Dixie. Samuel, who became a real-estate developer died in 1996 after years of alcoholism.

Griffith’s second marriage was to Greek actress Solica Cassuto. They were married from 1973-81.

Within five hours of his passing, Griffith was put to rest in the Griffith Family Cemetery on Roanoke Island.

Born on June 1, 1926, the same birth date as icon Marilyn Monroe, in Mount Airy, NC to Carl Lee Griffith and his wife Geneva Nunn, Griffith spent the first years of his life living with relatives until his parents could afford to purchase a home. He slept those early months of life in dresser drawers. When he was three, Carl started working as a carpenter and earned enough to purchase a home in Mount Airy’s “blue-collar” southside.

When he began school he quickly realized that he was different from the other students. He was a shy student at first, but when he found a way to make his fellow peers laugh, he started to open up and come into his own.

At Mount Airy High School, Griffith cultivated an interest in the arts and was a frequent participant in the school’s drama program.

He had a growing love for music, particularly swing music.

Griffith was raised Baptist and the person he looked up to was Ed Mickey, Grace Moravian Church’s minister, who was the leader of the brass band and who taught Griffith to sing and play the trombone.

Griffith’s first brush with opportunity came when he was offered a role in The Lost Colony by Paul Green. The play is still performed today on Roanoke Island. Griffith performed as a cast member playing a variety of roles for several years before landing the role of Sir Walter Raleigh, the namesake of the capital of North Carolina.

After graduating from Mount Airy High in 1944, Griffith attended the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill, NC.

At UNC, Griffith was president of the UNC chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, which is claimed to be the oldest fraternity for men in music in the United States.

He also played roles in several student operettas, which include The Chimes of Normandy (1946) and W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s The Gondoliers (1945), The Mikado (1948) and H.M.S. Pinafore (1949).

After graduating from UNC with a bachelors of music degree in 1949, Griffith taught Music and Drama for a few years at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, NC. One of the students that he taught was radio newscaster for National Public Radio (NPR) and official judge and scorekeeper of the weekly news quiz show Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! Carl Kasell.

Griffith in the early part of his acting career was as a monologist where he delivered long stories like What it Was, Was Football. It was told from a rural backwoodsman’s point of view trying to come to the conclusion of what was happening in a football game. It was released as a single in 1953 on the Colonial Label. It turned out to be a big hit for Griffith as it reached the No. 9 spot on the charts in 1954.

He then starred in Ira Levin’s one-hour teleplay version of No Time for Sergeants (March 1955) on The United States Steel Hour. It was a story about a country boy in the United States Air Force.

Griffith’s role was expanded when Levin made the teleplay into a full-length show for Broadway in New York, NY in October of 1955.

Griffith’s role earned him a “Distinguished Supporting or Featured Dramatic Actor” nomination at the 1956 Tony Awards, in which he lost out to Ed Begley. He did win the 1956 Theatre World Award, which is a prize given for debut roles on Broadway.

Two years later Griffith reprised his role for the film version of No Time for Sergeants, which also featured a future cast mate Don Knotts, who played the role of a corporal in charge of manual-dexterity tests.

Griffith’s first big break came when he is stared in the 1957 Warner Bros. Picture A Face in the Crowd, where he portrayed a “country boy” that was manipulative and power-hungry hobo who became a television host that used his show as a gateway to political power.

One of the lines Griffith’s character said in the movie was, “I’m not just an entertainer, I’m an influence. A wheeler and dealer of opinion. A force!”

In 1960, Griffith made his second appearance on television portraying a county sheriff, who also was a justice for the peace and the editor of the local newspaper in an episode of Make Room for Daddy, starring Danny Thomas.

In the episode Thomas’ character is stopped for speeding in a little town.

This episode turned into the backdoor pilot for the show that ran 1960-68 and made Griffith into a household name.

The Andy Griffith Show debut on the CBS television network on Oct. 3, 1960.

The show took place in the fictional town of Mayberry, NC, a place that almost resembled the town in which Griffith grew up in.

He used his wisdom, whit and sense of humor to raise his son Opie Taylor, played by actor and director Ron Howard and to lead the fictional quintessential town.

The show also starred Knotts, who played the role of Deputy Barney Fife, Taylor’s best friend, partner and cousin.

The iconic series that opened with a catchy whistled theme where Griffith character heading to the fishing hole with his Howard’s character by his side did very well and rocketed Griffith to the top of the show business world during TV’s so-called golden age.

Griffith’s aw-shucks charm wise words is the reason why many television critics call The Andy Griffith Show one of the top four or five sitcoms of all-time.

President Barack Obama who grew up watching Griffith on television in a statement in the July 4th edition of the New York Daily News called him, “a performer of extraordinary talent.

President Obama also stated, “Andy was beloved by generations of fans and revered by entertainers who followed in his footsteps. He brought us characters from Sheriff Andy Griffith to Ben Matlock, and in the process, warmed the hearts of Americans everywhere.”

Howard, who we first came to know as Opie and then as Richie Cunningham on Happy Days and now as a great movie and television director tweeted on the day Griffith passed, “His pursuit of excellence and the joy he took in creating served generations & shaped my life. I’m forever grateful.”

In saying what he was trying to do with this great show, Griffith once said (courtesy of Archives of American Television), “We didn’t know that when we started it that it was gonna last that long or influence so many people. We were just trying to do a good show.”

One big way that Griffith, who worked on the development of each script of each show, said that this show had a lasting impression on the American public is that he would walk through airports for many years and hear that whistle theme song, which was composed by Earle Hagen and Herbert W. Spencer.

Griffith said that he loved playing this character because he was straight and that we as an audience got a chance to now only see the show but be in it at the same time.

Griffith also said that while he wasn’t always as wise or as nice as his character that “Andy Taylor was the best part of my mind. The best part of me.”

Griffith left at the height of the show in 1968 and started his own production company Andy Griffith Enterprises in 1972.

After rehabilitating from leg paralysis from Guillain-Barre syndrome in 1986, Griffith returned to the small screen as the main character in the legal drama Matlock.

For nine seasons on NBC and ABC, Griffith portrayed Ben Matlock, a savvy Southern breed Harvard educated, sear suckered suited, guitar playing, crime fighting county lawyer in Atlanta, GA who always won his cases.

The show also starred Nancy Stafford, who played Michelle Thomas (1987-92) and Clarence Gilyard, Jr., who played Conrad McMasters (1989-93). Both Thomas and Gilyard, Jr. said that they are big fans of Griffith. The show also starred Linda Purl Kene Holliday, Julie Sommars, Kari Lizer, Brynn Thayer, Daniel Roebuck and Carol Huston.

While the show was nominated for four Emmy Awards, Griffith was never nominated. He was also never nominated for an Emmy on The Andy Griffith Show.

He did however win a People’s Choice Award for Matlock in 1987.

Knotts, who has won five Emmys once said the nominators didn’t think Griffith was acting. He made it look easy.

In Season 6 of Matlock, Griffith while playing the lead character also served as unofficial director, executive producer and writer for the show.

After Matlock, Griffith went back to the thing that he loved the most and was really good at before his acting career took off, music.

In recent years, he recorded successful albums of classic Christian hymns for Sparrow Records.

His most successful album was the 1996 release I Love to Tell The Story: 25 Timeless Hymns, which went certified platinum by the RIAA.

Among other albums he created include Sings Favorite Old-Time Songs (1997), Wit & Wisdom of Andy Griffith (1998), The Christmas Guest (2003), Bound for the Promise Land: The Best of Andy Griffith Hymns (2005) and Pickin’ and Grinnin:’ The Best of Andy Griffith (2005).

Four years ago, country singing superstar Brad Paisley had Griffith appear with him in his music video “Waitin’ on a Woman.”

In the years that followed, Griffith has been celebrated for his work and how it has impacted the lives of many.

In Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy they annually celebrate The Andy Griffith Show by celebrating “Mayberry Days,” which was the name of the fictional town on the show and a statue of the characters Andy and Opie was constructed in Pullen Park in Raleigh, NC in 2003 and there is also the Andy Griffith Playhouse in Mount Airy.

In 1999, Griffith was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame with fellow artists Lulu Roman, Barbara Mandrell, David L. Cook, Gary S. Paxton, Jimmy Snow, Loretta Lynn and Jody Miller.

In 2002, an 11-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 52 that passes through Mount Airy was dedicated as the Andy Griffith Parkway.

On Nov. 9, 2005, Griffith received the highest American honor as he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.

In 2007, Griffith was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Griffith prior to his death got involved in a big way in politics.

In Oct. 2008, he appeared with Howard in a reprisal of their Mayberry roles on The Andy Griffith Show in an online video Ron Howard’s Call to Action that was posted to the comedy video website Funny or Die. It was a video that was a message of endorsing and encouraging people to vote for then Senator Obama (D-IL) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE).

In 2010, he also starred in advertisements about Medicare.

There are very few entertainers that can say that they did it all in their careers. Andy Griffith was a jack of all trades. He stretched his career from nightclubs to radio, to television, to movies and to music. Along the way he brought along co-stars like Howard and Knotts, who passed away on Feb. 24, 2006, made great names for themselves after The Andy Griffith Show.

In fact Griffith traveled to Los Angeles, CA to visit Knotts at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center before he passed away from lung cancer.

There are very few that can come from humble beginnings and make an impact on the world that can last a lifetime. Andy Griffith came from humble beginnings and made and impact on all of us through his acting, music and heart felt spirit.

Information and quotations are courtesy of 7/3/12 5 p.m. edition of WCBS 2 News with Maurice DuBois and Kristine Johnson, report from Dana Tyler; 7/3/12 6:30 p.m. edition of ABC “World News’ with Diane Sawyer (substitute: David Muir); 7/3/12 6:30 p.m. edition of “CBS Evening News” with Scott Pelley, report from Bill Whittaker; 7/3/12 11 p.m. edition of WABC “Eyewitness News” with Bill Ritter and Sade Baderinwa;;;;