Knicks snap 3 game win streak against Pistons, look ahead to 76ers

New York Kicks, Allonzo Trier

The New York Knicks visited Blake Griffin and the Detroit Pistons in an Eastern Conference stinker, that finished in a 115-108 blowout win for the Pistons. You read that right, this game was a blowout for Detroit despite the seven point final result.

For the first time in my lifetime, I look forward to the New York Knicks Head Coach press conference because David Fizdale is not shy about being blunt with the fans and media, who of course are ready to pounce with every misstep. He put it perfectly last night, stating that the Knicks played well for about 17 points… and that was pretty much it.

The New York Knicks looked as awful as they have all season and the box score does not tell the full story of the game. The game was tied at 17-17, when Trier and Knox check into the game, as the first wave off the bench, to try and hold the Pistons who were rallying back in the 1st quarter, but to no avail. The Pistons stormed out of the first quarter with momentum from a 17-4 run and never looked back. Although the 1st quarter ended at 24-19, the Knicks were shooting a putrid 26% from the field. But of course it did not stop there, the Knicks ended the game shooting under 40%… yikes.

The most frustrating aspect of this game was not only that Andre Drummond had 2 fouls and was on the bench in foul trouble mid-way through the 1st quarter, the All-Star center was a non-factor, besides on the boards, for most of the game. Still, that was not enough for the Knicks to capitalize, as they were never close in this game (outside of the 1st quarter) until their signature almost comeback comeback in the 4th quarter. The signature almost comeback comeback is what I like to call that 8 minute stretch in the 4th quarter where the Knicks communicate on defense, make high basketball IQ decisions, and make their baskets… and just as you feel that momentum on the Knicks side stemming from overcoming a typical 3rd quarter deficit… three or four bad plays cost the Knicks the game and you’re going back to looking at NBA Lottery odds and looking forward to March Madness. Poetically, the Duke matchup vs. Indiana tipped off just as this dud of an NBA game came to a close, where the basketball gods once again send that glimmer of hope into the eyes of every Knicks fan across the world in the image of Zion, Barrett, and Reddish.

Allonzo Trier with 24 points and Trey Burke getting to the free throw line at key points were sparks off the bench for the New York Knicks offensively. If you love free-throws, this was the game for you, as there were 77 free throws attempted by both teams combined. Hard to watch.

Yes… I buried the lead… because the most important thing everyone learned after last game is Damyean Dotson needs minutes. The second round pick from Houston showed that he’s a professional and belongs in the NBA, as Dot came off the bench and put up 17 points on 3 for 3 from three point land and shot 6 for 8 from the field, in a slow game where the Knicks ended shooting under 40%… I know I said that already. But… 39.6% is unacceptable and that is with a 4th quarter rally to cushion that percentage.

We also learned that Mitchell Robinson is still a raw basketball player going for pump fakes and fouling out in the 3rd quarter after playing just 16 minutes, but there is also some positives with the young rookie showing his presence in the paint with four 1st quarter rebounds. Two starters Vonleh, who continues to show his versatility on the court, and Hezonja, also fouled out of this game. The Knicks must communicate better on defense and use their feet get to defender’s spot before they do.

Preview verses Philly

Although the odds are stacked against the Knicks (literally, they’re twelve point underdogs and if you put $100 on them to win, can net you +755), New York has no excuse not to make this game competitive. The 76ers have won 10 out of their last 11 home games, however, they are ranked 26th in defensive rating since Jimmy Butler joined the team. The Knicks must keep pace with the 76ers who love to run-and-gun down the court, whereas the Knicks are near the bottom of the league in the analytical pace statistic.

Knicks have won only one out of their four back-back matchups this season; lost by 2 to Celtics (home) , Lost by 1 to the Bulls in OT (home), Blown out by Magic (home), however the Knicks beat the Boston Celtics by 4 on road. For the most part, the Knicks are competitive on the second half of their back-to-backs, and that is certainly an accomplishment for the youngest team in the NBA– with credit going to Coach Fizdale.

The 76ers are 5-2 with Butler, including games that came down to the wire with the Nets, Suns, Pelicans, and Jazz, and losses coming against the Cavaliers and Magic. I expect the Knicks to revel in their underdog role and keep the game competitive against the 76ers. I would not be surprised if the Knicks pull out a gritty win against the I-95 rivals, which does not bode well for the TankCity Knicks fans. To them I say, do not worry, historically the Knicks stop playing NBA basketball after the Christmas game.

New York Giants: Kyle Lauletta Isn’t The Guaranteed QB2 Just Yet

Everyone expects rookie New York Giants quarterback Kyle Lauletta to play if for whatever reason Eli Manning heads to the bench this season. The general idea is that the Giants will eventually further evaluate Lauletta with some regular season playing time after taking him in the fourth round of the draft earlier this year, but even as the team gets further and further away from realistically challenging for the playoffs, that hasn’t happened yet.

Manning has already been named the starter for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears. Beyond that one, there’s four games left in the season and just about everyone is wondering when, or if, the rookie from Richmond will play. It seemed before, after all, like the Chicago game would be a good time to make a switch at quarterback because it’s the first game since the Giants lost their chance at running the table through the end of the season.

At three games back, their playoff chances are all but dead in the water after the Philadelphia loss.

But if there is a change at quarterback, there’s no hard guarantee that it will be Lauletta who moves into the starting spot. Not if Pat Shurmur’s comments on Monday mean anything, anyway.

“Why are you jumping over Tanney? I think what you try to do is win each game. You make a decision based on winning the game. And you make your decisions based on putting the best team on the field that gives you a chance to win the game,” Shurmur said.

Alex Tanney is typically considered the third string quarterback, and the 31-year-old is in his first season with the Giants after stints with a number of other teams. Tanney spent much of his time on practice squads but managed to stay on the Titans from 2015 to 2017 before making the Giants roster in early September.

Tanney hasn’t played in the regular season this year and is largely inexperienced overall when it comes to getting time in games. It’s the reason why it seems unlikely that he actually starts, and more likely that this is Pat Shurmur giving a generic question to the media members who continue to ask about the starting quarterback situation and the chances of Lauletta playing.

Of course, the expectation that Lauletta will start this season may be unrealistic in itself. Lauletta wasn’t drafted high enough to have these kinds of expectations and there is a very real chance that it’s Manning who finishes out the year as the starter. In what could be his farewell season as starter, it’s not a certainty that the coaching staff will bench him for a mid round draft pick that looked good but not great during the preseason.

Whatever the case, we’ll have to wait to find out who ends the season as starter. It’s already confirmed that Manning will play against Chicago, for better or worse coming off of a decent game in the loss to Philadelphia last Sunday.

The Most Glaring Positive From A Lost New York Giants Season

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

We could discuss the royalty that New York Giants‘ Saquon Barkley has become among the fan-base and media world, but despite the silver lining that he is, the most positive aspect of the season isn’t physical, but rather imaginative. Barkley has already surpassed the 1,000 all-purpose yards mark, and we could make the educated guess that he leads the race for Rookie of The Year.

At the end of an all too regularly depressing day following a Giants loss, the only positive thought that crosses my mind is potential. Potential to turn the organization around and establish a direction and ideology that connects the players and coaches. Finding a seamless method of communication to help establish trust and perspective.

These points are usually tasked to the leaders on the team; players like Alec Ogletree, Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley… But, not Eli Manning.

Manning is a humble sort, patiently waiting for an opportunity to show his leadership through example, but not words. The issue is, the examples he’s shown have been inconsistent, messy, and often lack mental processing. This is in regard to his performance so far in 2018, of course. His off-the-field demeanor is world class, even exemplary for any professional in the NFL.

In this day and age, a team would rather have a personality like Baker Mayfield’s than one of Manning’s. If you can manage to secure a player that’s outspoken and humble, then you’re one of the few lucky ones.

The primary positive for the New York Giants:

Now, I didn’t intent for this to be a Manning rant, but I just keep coming back to the same conclusion. One of the weakest positions on the Giants is at quarterback, and it cannot be avoided any longer. Whether it be 4th round pick Kyle Lauletta who comes to the rescue, or Alex Tanney, a player that head coach Pat Shurmur believes shouldn’t be slept on, somebody has to right the ship.

Every passing loss is painful and frustrating, but if it gets New York a player like Oregon’s QB Justin Herbert, or even Ohio States’ DE Nick Bosa, we have won the battle. The war is a lifetime event, but every battle won is a step closer to planting your flag on the hill above 31 other teams. While having a high pick in the draft is never a good thing, all it takes is one player to change the course of a franchise, and the Giants have already found their conductor in Saquon Barkley.

 

 

Why The New York Yankees Should Make A Run At Bryce Harper

The New York Yankees are expected to make a serious run at a super-star this offseason, and Bryce Harper might fit the bill. Here’s a look at what he would bring to the the team and if he could be inserted seamlessly into a lineup full of talent.

Bryce Harper: OF

2018 Stats (WSH):

.249 AVG, 34 HR, 100 RBI, .393 OBP, .496 SLG, .889 OPS, 1.3 WAR

Harper comes off what some would consider a down year, both for him and the Nationals, who finished third in the NL East in 2018. Despite that, the former Rookie of the Year and MVP enters his first free agency looking to get paid handsomely.

Harper’s reported starting point on a deal is ten years worth $350 million. That would put him over Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton for the most lucrative contract in sports history. That may not be the final offer, but Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, may certainly get his 26-year-old client as close to such a deal as possible.

Harper would be a fantastic addition to any team for his age alone. Having been called up to the majors at 19, whoever signs him will not have to worry about decline by age for a long time. For the Yankees, Harper would fulfill a huge offensive need; left-handed power. Imagine a lineup that consists of Aaron Judge, Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Harper alone.

He would also be a substantial upgrade regarding hitting with RISP. In 2018, Harper hit .290/.458/.524 in those situations. In comparison, the Yankees as a team hit .253/.342/.442 in those same scenarios.

There would be questions if such a deal were to happen. The Yankees entered 2018 with an outfield that consisted of Judge, Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Clint Frazier as options. With injuries to Ellsbury, Frazier, and Judge, along with an offensively ineffective Gardner, the outfield went from a logjam to one where the Yankees started the likes of Shane Robinson and Neil Walker. Harper would most likely have to play some left field and DH as part of a DH rotation between him, Judge, Stanton, and occasionally Sanchez among others

Contract Prediction: 7-8 years, $290 million.

Would The New York Giants Be Wise To Extend Landon Collins Long-Term?

New York Giants' Landon Collins

The New York Giants have plenty of tough decisions to make when the 2018 season ends. One of these decisions is whether they make Landon Collins one of the richest safeties in the NFL or if they decide to look elsewhere for another safety.

At a first glance, this looks right considering Collins is only 24 years old and has a First-Team All-Pro season to his name along with 2 pro-bowl appearances in his four campaigns with the Giants.

Landon Collins’ Numbers With The New York Giants:

Almost through 4 NFL seasons, the Giants’ strong-safety has over 400 tackles, averaging over 100 tackles per season. He also has 21 tackles for a loss, along with 4 sacks and 10 quarterback hits.

While the numbers sound amazing when he’s defending the running game, he hasn’t created much of an impact against the passing game. Collins has only intercepted eight passes in his four seasons, five of which all came in 2016 during his All-Pro season. Having three interceptions in the other three seasons isn’t encouraging and he’s still looking for his first interception of the 2018 season. Success at the safety position isn’t purely measured by interception totals but these numbers are very low for a safety.

Landon Collins’ Role:

When looking at Landon Collins’ stats they look more like stats of a linebacker with an amazing amount of tackles on a consistent basis along with sacks and quarterback hits. This is because Collins rarely plays outside of the tackle box which essentially makes him an extra linebacker.

When James Bettcher was asked how he will cover tight ends in his defense, he replied with, “One of the answers is Landon,” but he hasn’t shut tight ends down on a consistent basis by any means. Linebackers are also assigned with covering tight ends throughout the NFL so that doesn’t separate Landon from linebackers in any way.

The main assignment that would separate Collins from comparable linebackers would be down-field coverage, and this is something we have very rarely seen from him. Landon is an amazing NFL safety and a force against the running game, but he does not have the complete skill-set of a “do-it-all” safety.

The Free Agent Market:

The top-paid safeties in the NFL currently are players who are proficient against both the running game and the passing game.

Here’s a list of the highest paid safeties:

Eric Berry Avg./Year $13,000,000

Reshad Jones Avg./Year $12,000,000

Lamarcus Joyner Avg./Year $11,287,000

Harrison Smith Avg./Year $10,250,000

Earl Thomas Avg./Year $10,000,000

Earl Thomas and Lamarcus Joyner don’t provide much run-defense but they are not asked to since they are primarily center-field safeties for their teams which are more valuable than box-safeties.

Signing Landon Collins would most likely require at least $10,000,000 per year but the Giants wouldn’t get the same return on their investment as the teams who signed safeties who can defend both the running game and the passing game well.

The Roster:

The New York Giants aren’t projected to have an abundance of salary-cap space to make a major signing with only $6,363,978 in free money currently – that’s without any large contracts ending in 2018.

Not only is the salary cap an issue, but the Giants have a decent option behind Landon Collins in Michael Thomas. Ironically enough, he has more interceptions than Landon Collins (1) and has played well in a limited role this year.

The Verdict:

If the Giants really plan on offering a long-term deal to a safety they’d be better off making an offer to Lamarcus Joyner if the Rams can’t reach a deal with him. Joyner is a free safety which is harder to replace than a strong safety and he would be a massive upgrade over Curtis Riley who has struggled mightily for the Giants in 2018.

Landon Collins is a fantastic player, but when it comes to free agency, teams almost never get what they pay for. In this case, a team will pay him as an all-around safety only to get a limited return on their investment.