The calendar is about to turn toward 2017, and new resolutions are abound. And when it comes to the sports world, it’s no different, as many of New York’s sports teams and players could use the turn of a new page.
None of New York’s teams were able to bring the city a major sports championship during this calendar year, but there’s still hope on the horizon in 2017 with the Knicks and Giants heading toward the playoffs. 2017 can be very promising and exciting, even for the bad teams — particularly for teams like the Brooklyn Nets, who finally appear to have direction and have eschewed the quick-fix route; the Yankees’ aptly-named Baby Bombers; the Jets getting a high draft pick, preferably a franchise quarterback; and a hopefully healthy Mets rotation.
At the very least, though, the New York sports scene didn’t lack in interesting headlines, and will work hard in providing promise going forward:
1. Farewell, Coach
Legendary Giants head coach Tom Coughlin either retired or was quietly and respectfully ousted by management following the team’s third-straight losing season. Two rings be damned, as Coughlin was shown the door on Jan. 4, and held his “retirement” news conference the following day. The move left a usually stoic Eli Manning shaken and the Giants dealing with rare uncertainty. But in stepped offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who has aptly steered Big Blue to an impressive 10-4 mark to date.
Resolution: The Giants are on the brink of the playoffs, while Coughlin is rumored to be in the mix to go back to Jacksonville and coach the team he previously directed before heading north.
2. Hall of a guy
Mets legendary catcher Mike Piazza finally made the Hall of Fame — on his fourth try — to forever etch his place among the all-time greats. Piazza was the backbone to some great Mets teams and New Yorkers who root for the orange and blue will always have a soft spot in their hearts for the franchise’s greatest catcher.
Resolution: Regardless of the murmurs about performance-enhancing drugs, the rumors about Piazza were never founded. Any dissenters can now hush, as Piazza will forever have his name in the discussion of the best catchers ever, not named Johnny Bench.
3. New Nets
The Brooklyn Nets underwent a facelift to start 2016, as they fired head coach Lionel Hollins and reassigned general manager Billy King on Jan. 11. Just a few weeks later, they hired Sean Marks, who was a rising star in the San Antonio Spurs’ front office. Marks then hired former Atlanta Hawks and Knicks assistant Kenny Atkinson as the new head coach. Atkinson will prove to be a prudent move by a new-look Nets franchise that will build the old-fashioned way — like the Spurs — through shrewd drafting and keen under-the-radar signings.
Resolution: The plan is for the Nets to be patient and hope Marks’ vision eventually pays off. No more quick-fixes that mortgage the future for a franchise that was once seen as an up-and-coming riser but is now a downtrodden outfit.
4. Fish fried
Knicks team president Phil Jackson relieved head coach Derek Fisher of his duties on Feb. 8. Fisher, whose personal issues such as dating Matt Barnes’ estranged wife, along with his failures as a the Knicks’ coach (40-96), led to his ouster in New York. It was somewhat a surprising move by Jackson who thought fondly of Fisher, and who was well-versed in the triangle offense from his time as Jackson’s point guard on multiple Los Angeles Lakers title-winning teams. The Knicks had appeared to be on the right track under Fisher when they were 22-22, but then they fell apart, losing nine of their next 10. The end was then near.
Resolution: Kurt Rambis (9-19) stepped in as interim coach, but gave way to Jeff Hornacek, who appears to have the Knicks on the fast track to the postseason for the first time in years.
5. Knicks get frisky
The man nicknamed “Horny” was a surprise selection, considering Jackson indicated he wanted a coach that he already had an established relationship with and who had experience running his beloved triangle offense. The initial panic among Knicks fans was that Jackson would remove the interim tag on Rambis and make him the lead man. But in June, the Knicks surprised everyone when they hired the former Phoenix Suns head coach — following a secret dinner between him and Jackson.
Resolution: Hornacek was a candidate who seemingly didn’t meet either of Jackson’s top criteria, but the move has paid off so far. The Knicks (16-14) are currently the fifth-seed in the Eastern Conference standings and have the look of a legitimate threat.
6. New-look Knicks
Hornacek wasn’t the only surprise addition, as the Knicks retooled its roster with nine new faces. None, though, brought the buzz and anticipation that point guard Derrick Rose did following his offseason trade from his hometown Chicago Bulls. He’s not the face of the franchise, but with his addition, it gives the Knicks its first legit star name at the position since an aging Jason Kidd — and prior to that a veteran Chauncey Billups. And beyond a name cache, a relatively healthy Rose has been a great fit in Hornacek’s uptempo offense, as he’s getting open looks for stars Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.
Resolution: Rose wasn’t the only new face to hopefully make an impact, as he joins Brandon Jennings, Willy Hernangomez and Rose’s former Bulls teammate Joakim Noah. With the exception of Noah, who’s been in and out of the lineup with injuries, each have made significant impacts on a nightly basis. And if the Knicks are to be conference contenders, the new faces will be every bit as important as their franchise leaders.
7. Big spenders
The Giants began the 2016 free agency period in March with almost $56 million in available cap space, and for once, general manager Jerry Reese opened the wallet and did some serious shopping. Big Blue was desperate to turn around its fortunes from a year ago when the defense was historically bad and ranked last in the league. Reese inked cornerback Janoris Jenkins, defensive tackle Damon Harrison and defensive end Olivier Vernon. Those three contracts accounted for nearly $200 million, but have all paid huge dividends. The Giants defense is currently ranked 15th in the NFL, and Jenkins, Harrison and Vernon all made strong cases for Pro Bowl consideration.
Resolution: The Giants are gearing for a playoff run, and it’s been on the strength of its stout defense. The offense may feature Manning and Odell Beckham Jr., but it’s been uneven all season. So, it’ll be the defense that’ll determine how long the season is prolonged.
8. Out with the old
The Major League Baseball trade deadline featured the Yankees making a few prudent moves, with the eye on the future. Reliever Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran were all traded by the Aug. 1 deadline, and Alex Rodriguez was effectively forced into retirement. Chapman, it should be noted, has returned to the Bronx via free agency. The Yanks then restocked the farm system, called up Gary Sanchez, who turned into an instant fan favorite — and who also re-energized the lineup with his hitting. His excellence at the plate put the Bombers back in the playoff picture. The 24-year-old catcher, who struggled at times in the minors and didn’t show much of anything during two prior short stints in the Bronx, batted .299 with 20 home runs and 42 RBI in just 53 games after being called up at the beginning of August. He’s now the centerpiece of the Yankees’ rebuilding efforts. Sanchez finished second behind Detroit Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Resolution: The future seems bright for the Bombers, as Sanchez and company made them realize that stocking the farm system and not always shelling out big-money contracts to free agents is another way for a team to win these days. Acquiring premier prospects like Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield will also give them a quick boost back into contention.
9. What a ride
Jets’ fans went on a tremendous ride in 2016, although not the kind of thrilling adventure roller coasters usually provide. Geno Smith entered the offseason workouts as the No. 1 and looked as if he was actually poised for a good year. Of course, Ryan Fitzpatrick was still engaged in a contractual standoff with the front office. When the veteran agreed to a one-year, $12 million deal as training camp started, Smith was the odd man out. A career journeyman, Fitzpatrick couldn’t duplicate his 2015 campaign and failed miserably this season, as he was benched twice and was a turnover machine. He steered the Jets to a 3-9 mark to start the season and gave way to Bryce Petty.
Resolution: The Jets will wind down its season on Sunday, and after that it’ll almost certainly be a Fitzpatrick-less future for Gang Green, as they figure out if Petty is their guy or if they need to use another high draft choice on a signal caller.
10. Say your prayers
What year-ending list could survive without the mere mention of Tim Tebow? The former Heisman Trophy winner, first-round pick and playoff-winning quarterback flamed out of the NFL, so naturally he’d try his hand at professional baseball. Tebow was invited to the Arizona Fall League in September and soon found out that he was in over his head.
Resolution: The Tebow news was a great promotional stunt, but nothing to take seriously. Even general manager Sandy Alderson, who signed Tebow, laughed at the idea of him being invited to spring training. But the move also kind of overshadowed a successful Mets season that culminated in a playoff berth. The Amazins were hit with an unimaginable number of key season-ending injuries, including Matt Harvey, David Wright, Jacob de Grom, Wilmer Flores, Neil Walker and Steven Matz. But despite all that went wrong, the Mets rallied over the final month of the season to earn the top National League wild-card spot — just the second time in franchise history they’ve reached the postseason in back-to-back years. The Giants, however, ended the dream, but if their stars return to form, the Mets won’t need any fabricated intervention to stay relevant in 2017.