Movers and shakers in sports

NBA players, Adrian Wojnarowski, Odell Beckham Jr., Matt Harvey and Madison Bumgarner make the news.

Item: NBA players continue to be power brokers

In what has become the norm, the NBA players dictate what goes on in the NBA than the general managers. They tell their brethren what to do in teaming up with each other for a big-market team. They earned that right with what they bring to the team and the league performance wise and most importantly, revenue wise. After all, the NBA has always been the players’ league, not the governors that own NBA teams.

LeBron James pulled a power play by getting Anthony Davis to join him with the Los Angeles Lakers while bailing out on the New Orleans Pelicans in the process. Kawhi Leonard convinced Paul George to leave Russell Westbrook and the Thunder to join him in fielding a super team with the Los Angeles Clippers while destroying the Thunder in the process of not only trading George, but trading Westbrook to the Houston Rockets. Kevin Durant had Kyrie Irving’s ear all season long in a plot to join forces, and as a result, he put the bug in Irving’s head to leave the Celtics in the middle of the season, which all but ruined the Celtics’ season, and now those two signed with the Nets with Durant playing in the 2020-2021 season after dealing with an Achilles’ injury in this year’s NBA Finals.

While small-market general managers and governors hate this development, no one can deny that it creates interest in the NBA. Not only is the league relevant in the regular season, but it’s relevant in the offseason. It gets people talking and watching the NBA 24/7/365, and that’s why the league is up there with the National Football League for most eyeballs on the set and butts in the seats.

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It’s no wonder NBA commissioner Adam Silver endorses it.

Expect this to continue for a long time, and the NBA governors can’t stop it no matter how much they try.

In a way, players controlling what the governors should do is what we call just deserts.

The players put the own in the once-term owners.

Item: Adrian Wojnarowski brings the news

NBA fans wait for the latest “Woj Bomb” on Twitter as in ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeting the latest news on the NBA whether it’s a trade or a free agent signing. He always gets the scoop. It’s a credit to his work as a reporter and his relationship with the agents and teams that he gets the scoop for breaking news.

I remembered reading Woj going back to his days as the Bergen Record sports columnist. His columns were entertaining, insightful and irreverent then. His best work came during the Nets’ NBA Finals run from 2002 and 2003. He also wrote books about basketball such as The Miracle of St. Anthony in covering St. Anthony’s head coach Bob Hurley Sr.’s high school basketball team in Jersey City. I knew he was set for bigger and better things. When he graduated from the Bergen Record to cover the NBA for Yahoo! Sports, he became a star right away with his work covering the league.

Still, no one thought Wojnarowski would be the star he is today in breaking news for ESPN. He earned a lucrative deal by ESPN for his work at Yahoo! Sports in covering the NBA and getting breaking news. He is influential in the sports world for his work.

Good for him. He earned this celebrity status and a huge following.

His success shows there’s something about working hard at a craft. It offers respect and trust from others.

Item: Odell Beckham Jr. not over the Giants

In an interview with GQ magazine recently, Odell Beckham Jr. went off on the Giants for trading him to the Cleveland Browns. He mentioned he was miserable with the Giants last season. He also said he was unfairly blamed for the team’s problems. He cited the Giants traded him to make an example out of him.

Here’s the kicker: He complained he only had seven targets when in reality, he was targeted 11 times in the ill-fated wild-card playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, which the Giants lost 38-13. Never mind he dropped three catchable passes that could have been the difference in the game early on. Who can blame Eli Manning for only targeting him eleven times?  If anything, the Giants quarterback did his team a disservice throwing to Beckham. It’s not Manning’s responsibility to give him touches in a playoff game. His job is to win, not make Beckham happy by padding his stats.

Just reading his quotes, the Giants did the right thing dumping him more than ever. He was never changing despite claiming he would change. His actions spoke louder than words. He was a pain in the posterior this past season that Giants head coach Pat Shurmur had enough of him. He would be a problem child if the Giants offense centered on Saquon Barkley, and in fact, he started to behave like one as the season went on. His quotes in GQ illustrates he was never growing up.

For Beckham to say he was why the Giants were relevant nationally and locally, it says all we need to know about him. It’s all about him, not the team. As long as he got his numbers, it was all good and the Giants would benefit from it. He was all about himself, not the team. As long as he was on primetime, it was all good. He promoted himself over his teammates.

It’s also laughable that he made the Giants brand. The Giants were a brand before he got here through four Super Bowl championships, and they will be a brand again when they start winning without him. 

Beckham received more than his 15 minutes of fame for his acrobatic catch against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday NIght Football as a rookie in a game the Giants lost 31-28, and fame got into his head. He became more of a diva that was focused on making one-hand catches and creating a brand for himself rather than winning games.

Maybe he’s bitter at the Giants for trading him to Cleveland since no one will notice who he is now that he is in the Siberia of the NFL. Why else would he be taking to someone from GQ?

It’s not the Giants’ problem anymore. It’s his since he can’t seem to move on.

Item: What’s next for Matt Harvey?

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim designated Matt Harvey for assignment last week. It means his Angels days are over.

It was a matter of when, not if the Angels released Harvey. The former Met had nothing on his fastball, and he struggled to get out of the inning when he made starts for the Angels. It did not come easy for him like it used to be when he was a Met. 

The truth is Harvey was done as soon as he was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome in 2016. His arm gave up on him, and he couldn’t blaze anyone out with his fastball anymore. It was telling when then-Reds manager Jim Riggleman never trusted him to go five innings last season in his brief stay with the Reds. That should have been a sign he had nothing. Remarkably, the Angels thought they could fix him, and they were happy enough to pay him $11 million.

Harvey’s best days are behind him, and it’s hard to believe any MLB team wants to take a chance on him when he failed with the Reds and Angels. 

His days in Major League Baseball could be coming to an end. It’s sad because he could have been a Hall of Famer based on what he did in his first few years as a Met. He was one of the best pitchers in the league at the time. He overwhelmed hitters with his fastball. He brought respect back to the Mets. He was a must-see TV to the point everyone loved saying “HAPPY HARVEY DAY!” when he started. It became an event when he was on the mound because he was so good. Think Pedro Martinez of 1999 when Harvey was coming out.

Harvey’s critics love to come up with this narrative that his ego doomed him, but in reality, injuries cost him his greatness.

Item: All World Series contenders have their eyes on Madison Bumgarner

Madison Bumgarner is a free agent after this season, and he spent most of his career with the San Francisco Giants. He may leave the Giants on his own as a free agent after this season to pitch for a World Series contender.

This puts Giants general manager Farhan Zaidi in a tough spot. He knows he has to replenish the Giants farm system and speed up the Giants’ rebuilding process, but on the other hand, he has to trade a long-time Giant who played a role in giving that franchise three World Series championships. Trading a fan favorite who has so much equity is a hard sell to Giants fans, even if he likely leaves the Giants to greener pastures. It does not make it any easier the Giants are right there in the NL Wild-Card race in what will be future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy’s final season as the Giants manager. They won 17 of their last 21 games, so they may be inclined to keep him.

So many teams will vie for his service if the Giants trade him. They know he makes a difference for a team that goes from a pretender to a contender. His postseason track record speaks for itself, and his epic performance in relief in Game 7 says it all. He still has it. He can be what Justin Verlander was for the Houston Astros in being the difference maker that help them win the World Series in 2017.

This puts pressure on Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to do whatever it takes to get him. The Yankees can win the World Series this year with that lineup, starting rotation and bullpen. What they lack is a starter that can be a difference maker. They need to find their Cliff Lee and Verlander, and that guy is Bumgarner. They must pay the price to do whatever it takes to get him. It’s been 10 years since they won a championship, and it’s been eight years and counting since we celebrated a championship from a pro sports team in this town. For a proud sports town like New York, it’s eternity, and it’s unacceptable. 

The time is right to make that one power move.

Maybe the Yankees can get by without Bumgarner, but why risk it? Go for the sure thing and head to October knowing they are the overwhelming favorite to win it all. Make an offer the Giants can’t refuse, even if it means they are forced to tear it down despite making a run for a wild-card spot.

It shouldn’t be this hard. There’s nothing to think about. 

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