I will be on the road on Friday, but I still wanted to have some Free Kicks this week.  It’s a pretty quiet news week for Baltimore sports fans.  Jeremy Accardo wasn’t even a big enough Orioles signing to merit much analysis on BSR.  Accardo is a flier, but I would be surprised if he is anything but a marginal pitcher who pitches primarily in Norfolk and makes a few appearances at Camden Yards this season.  He could regain his 2007 form, but there is a reason he was available on a one-year deal.  Not likely.  Ravens fans are almost resigned to a loss to New Orleans after their escape against Houston, and to be honest I don’t see them pulling off the upset.  No, the Ravens aren’t playing like an elite team, but the only reason they are so frustrating for Ravens fans is that they know this team has the personnel to be elite.  However, even if Baltimore loses this week they should be in good shape for the playoffs.  Let’s line up for the kick on this oh-so-special Thursday edition…

Knicks Impress in Late Loss to Celtics

In 2008 when Danilo Gallinari was drafted by the Knicks in the first round, I wondered whether the league had learned anything from the J.J. Reddick Experience- that is, that if you are going to draft a jump shooter early in the first round, be sure he has a second move.  Gallinari isn’t going to be taking Tim Duncan to the hole anytime soon, but he had that second move on display when he passed up contested jumpers to fight to the basket against the Celtics.  It was altogether unexpected by the Celtics defense who clearly hadn’t prepared for a second scoring option behind Amar’e Stoudemire.  Stoudemire, for his part, wasn’t going quietly, and nearly won the game at the buzzer had his three pointer been released just a tenth of a second earlier.  The Achilles heel for the Knicks of course was the inability to control the paint, where Kevin Garnett was allowed multiple opportunities in each offensive possession. 

The Knicks, through all their darkest times, have generally brought in a decent core of role players who would fit well on most NBA teams.  The problem has always been that they paid too much for them and the team lacked a fiery leader who was capable of taking over a game.  They once gambled that Stephon Marbury was that guy- not so much.  I won’t say that Stoudemire is one of the game’s elite players.  But he believes in the Knicks and has allowed his teammates to play to their ability rather than be dragged down in the culture of losing.  When the best player on the team has his coach’s back, a basketball team does not spiral out of control.  Mike D’Antoni is too good a coach to stay down for long, even in New York.  The Knicks aren’t back yet, but they aren’t far off.

Favre Sits

I know the streak ended back on Monday, but I have to say something about Brett Favre’s incredible 297 game run.  Even in his worst seasons he was never really in danger of being benched for performance, and rarely stayed out of the discussions for the best passers in the NFL.  Last year, at the age of 40 he had one of his best seasons, a testament to his durability and desire to play.  It is that same desire that has given him so much unfavorable attention over the past few years, as he desperately wanted a reason to keep going and play again.  I have gone on the record as saying that I don’t find it outlandish to think that Favre genuinely couldn’t decide whether to try and play again, and as long as he was given an opening to delay the decision he would.  All of his retirements aside, his talent over such a long stretch of time is truly remarkable in a time where even Tom Brady has been sidelined for a season.  When we look back on Brett Favre’s career I hope we think about a great quarterback, not one who was over-covered by ESPN or couldn’t decide when to walk away.  It was watching Brett Favre play that first got me excited about football as a kid.  That is how I want to remember number 4.

Harbaugh Spending Too Much Time Reading Newspapers

Okay, so generally I keep this to non-Baltimore sports, but I have to take note of this.  When Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh took on the national media in their (generally fair) criticism of the Ravens, I normally wouldn’t pay much attention.  Coachspeak is about as insightful as a political stump speech, but this time I had to perk my ears up.  Why?  Because it came on the heels of telling fans they should look into rooting for another team if they aren’t happy with the Ravens’ performance.  I am starting to wonder whether Harbaugh should be spending less time reading newspapers, blogs (including this one, I won’t be offended John), and listening to talk radio and more time making sure his offense can get an extra first down in the fourth quarter.  Generally when you hear coaches going after the media or unhappy fans it is a sign that the team is struggling or they are heading out the door.  That isn’t happening in Baltimore.  So why does he care?  Coach Harbaugh might want to get a slightly thicker skin, because this has been a pattern throughout his brief tenure with the team.  He has done a solid job with the Ravens since he was hired, and I like him as a coach (there are certainly a lot worse ones still employed), but he could afford to spend a bit of time away from the internet.