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Saturday, February 04, 2006

New York Teams and Trading Wives

Within the past month, the New York Mets traded pitcher Kris Benson to Baltimore. Benson, a part of the Mets' solid rotation, was roughly a #3 or #4 pitcher. Workmanlike, quiet, put him out there and he could give you quality starts more often than not. Not a headline grabber, not the career of a Tommy Glavine or the career and stuff of Pedro Martinez.

His wife, Anna, was and is another story. You can click here to read a bit about Anna, but suffice it to say for as bland as her husband's persona seemed to be, Anna's was anything but. She loves attention, speaks what's on her mind, and in the city that gave the world Howard Stern, well, she fit right in. Outspoken, she said a bunch of things, including something insulting about Carlos Delgado when the Mets acquired him in a trade from the Marlins. That comment might have been the last straw -- fairly quickly, her husband found himself in Baltimore.

The joke in NYC is that the Mets wished they could have kept Benson and traded his wife, but, alas, the world doesn't work that way (even if one-time Yankees pitchers Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson swapped wives about thirty-five years ago).

In Anna Benson, the Mets had a players' wife who was/is, well, forward. In Antonio Davis, the Knicks had a forward with a wife who was/is, well, tougher than some of the players.

Enter the Knicks, veteran and well-respected center Antonio Davis, who, for what it's worth, is also the head of the players union. About a month ago his wife Kendra, apparently one not to shrink away from conflict, got into a tussle with a Bulls' fan in Chicago. As it turned out, Kendra has had her public spats before. Now, in fairness, Kendra is not Anna Benson and not a publicity seeker, but she has had more than one conflict. What was bad about what happened in Chicago is that the normally mild-mannered husband climbed into the stands (a particular NBA no-no after the Pistons-Pacers debacle of a year ago) to defend her honor.

Instant five-game suspension. Instant bad publicity. Then reporters dig. And they find other information, such as Mrs. Davis is a lightning rod of sorts too. Totally different from Anna Benson, but with issues.

Now, the Knicks don't have the promise that the Mets do. Many baseball cognoscenti are forecasting that the Metropolitans will end the Braves fourteen-year run atop the NL East (I wouldn't bet on it just yet), while the Knicks are languishing in pro hoops' second division. How bad is it? Not only do the Knicks have the poster-child in me-first, shoot-first players in Stephon Marbury, as well as a bloated payroll, and a lightning rod of a head of hoops ops in Isiah Thomas, but they traded the blending Davis for Jalen Rose and a first-round pick. In the crazy world of NBA contracts, Davis's contract expires after this season and Rose has an option for $16.9 million next season. In the case of two teams going nowhere (Toronto and New York), Toronto frees up about $10 million in salary cap money while the Knicks' are so over the cap that you could field two NBA teams competitively for what they're paying players.

But Jalen Rose? Larry Brown is quoted as saying that Rose is just what the Knicks need, that the Knicks need ballhandlers, that Rose's game hasn't dropped off. Stephone Marbury welcomed the trade.

What is everyone smoking? Since when is Jalen Rose the answer to anyone's ills? Since when has he been labeled as a Rasheed Wallace-type of outstanding team player whom his teammates love and who helps his team win titles? Asking Marbury and Rose to co-exist just doesn't seem possible at all. Jalen Rose isn't the therapy the Knicks need. In fact, he'll probably create all sorts of new issues for Larry Brown, who needs to remember that he's a coach, not a sorcerer.

Okay, so the Knicks got rid of Kendra Davis and got a first-round pick to boot. Fair enough, but how eager was Toronto to peddle rose and his salary? So eager that they gave up a first-round pick. What does that say about the NBA? About Rose?

Rose is 33; Davis is 37. Neither seems to be the answer for any NBA team at this point in his career. The Raptors got rid of a problem player and problem contract and freed up cap room. The Knicks got rid of Kendra Davis.

Goodbye Anna Benson. Goodbye Kendra Davis.

Hello Jalen Rose, to join Stephon Marbury.

Who says the circus doesn't play in NYC all year-round?

And George Steinbrenner has even't bellowed yet, as the Lion of Baseball must still be in hibernation.


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