Waived New York Giants corner Ballentine picked up by Jets

New York Giants, Corey Ballentine

The New York Giants couldn’t find space for Corey Ballentine with Will Hernandez making his return from the COVID-19 list, but it didn’t take long for another team to make a spot for the cornerback. That team happens to be the crosstown neighbor of the Giants, the New York Jets.

The Jets have picked Ballentine up from waivers after the Giants moved on from him to make space for the comeback of Hernandez. This is Ballentine’s second season in the league, and the cornerback has had more playing time this year after only getting a couple of starts last season. However, he hasn’t been a consistent main player for the Giants as he’s only played in roughly 62% of the snaps during his appearances this season.

James Bradberry has locked down the number one cornerback spot as an elite player and the remaining spots have largely been taken up by other players. Isaac Yiadom and Darnay Holmes and others are ahead of Ballentine in the rotation, contributing to his exit from the team.

He also served as a special teams player but didn’t have exceptional numbers as a return man and has fallen out of favor in that role too.

Ballentine came into the league with some fame, as despite being a sixth round draft pick, he was injured in a shooting that also killed college teammate Dwane Simmons. He made it past the adversity to play for the Giants in the NFL, and after departing the franchise, will have another chance to make it while playing for the other occupant of MetLife Stadium.

Battle of the unbeatens at Bellator 252

Tomorrow night Bellator 252 hosts a number of fantastic fights. For obvious reasons, a lot of the attention is on the headliner between Patricio Pitbull and Pedro Carvalho. Aaron Pico is also on the Bellator card tomorrow night.

However, there is a fantastic matchup in the welterweight division which really deserves a lot of attention. The fight pairs two top contenders against each other, and both of these fighters happen to be undefeated entering Bellator 252.

That welterweight contest is between Yaroslav Amosov (24-0) and Logan Storley (11-0). Both of these welterweights are looking to take one step closer to securing a shot at Bellator welterweight champion, Douglas Lima.

Storley will be making his seventh appearance inside of Bellator. Storley has gone through every opponent that the promotion has put in front of him including Joaquin Buckley who became a sensation after his highlight knockout in the UFC.

A six-time state champion in wrestling, Storley has used his dominance on the mat to secure his perfect record. There aren’t many people Storley will enter the cage against who will bring his level of ground skills. However, Amosov is one of those fighters.

Bellator 252 Prediction

If you want to find a fighter who displays dominance, look no further than Yaroslav Amosov. 24 men have stepped across from him and all 24 have lost. Out of those 24 victories, only five of them have gone to the scorecards.

Amosov is a world champion in Sambo. He’s extremely good when it comes to his grappling and he displayed those skills against a top wrestler like Ed Ruth. On top of his skills on the mat, Amosov also has really decent striking.

This is a really tough matchup for a guy like Logan Storley. He’s got incredible wrestling credentials, but he’s going up against a guy who might be better on the mat. On top of that, Amosov is going to have the striking advantage.

When it comes to a prediction for Bellator 252, I’m definitely leaning towards Amosov. I just see there being more ways for him to win this fight. I think Storley will keep it competitive, but Amosov just has too many tools in the toolbox.

Prediction: Yaroslav Amosov by Unanimous Decision

Knicks’ potential target Fred Van Vleet wants to get paid in a lead role

New York Knicks, Fred Van Fleet

Let the Fred Van Vleet bidding war begins.

The New York Knicks‘ potential free-agent target has indicated that he will go where he feels he is most valued.

Appearing on J.J. Redick’s The Old Man and the Three podcast, Van Vleet never shied away from the biggest question he will face in the coming weeks.

“I’ve never been shy about it. I’ve never talked about it publicly, but I’ll share it with you guys. I’m trying to get paid, man. I’m not shy about that,” Van Vleet said.

“I don’t have to tell people that I value winning. Look at my story, do your research. I’ve never been on a losing team in my entire life. That’s what I’m about. That’s just what it is. I won a championship, and now it’s time to cash out on 26 [years old], but I feel like I’m on the verge of blossoming even more in a lead role and with more responsibility… At the end of the day, it’s not purely numbers, but the numbers do play a big part, and I just want to feel my value reciprocated from the other end.”

Van Vleet’s rise from an undrafted player is one of the most compelling stories in the NBA.

He played a pivotal role in the Toronto Raptors’ championship run in 2019. His stellar play last season also helped them to reach the Eastern Conference semifinals despite the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

Van Vleet is coming off a career season where he averaged 17.6 points, 6.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and led the league in deflections with 4.2 per game. He also shot just a shade under 40 percent from the deep.

The Knicks, hunting for a lead guard, have the cap space to make a splash in the free agency.

But the Detroit Pistons and the Phoenix Suns, if the Chris Paul trade does not materialize, are expected to crowd them and the Raptors for Van Vleet’s services.

The Raptors could offer him a staggered four year, $70-million deal to maintain cap flexibility for 2021. But it appears they would need to shell out more to retain their unrestricted free agent.

ESPN’s front office insider Bobby Marks estimates that Van Vleet would fetch around $18-20 million in the free agency. Before the pandemic, when the economy was healthy, Marks said one team told him that Van Vleet could be worth $25-30 million.

Without the league’s superstars in the free agency, Van Vleet is considered the top prize.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

MLB News: Cy Young Awards announced, AL Shane Bieber and NL Trevor Bauer win

Tonight at 6 pm, MLB announced the 2020 Cy Young awards.  The American League award went to the Indian’s Shane Bieber, and the National League award went to the Red’s Trevor Bauer. The awards were announced on MLB.com. In both cases, they are first-time recipients of the award.

The American League finalist were the Indians Shane Bieber, the Twins Kenta Maeda, and Blue Jays Hyun Jin Ryu. Bieber was the odds on favorite.

Bieber finished with eight wins, 122 strikeouts, and a 1.63 ERA to walk away from the 2020 season as the first MLB pitching Triple Crown winner (not just for his respective league) since Johan Santana in 2006. Bieber also led all qualified starters in fWAR (3.2), FIP (2.07), and strikeouts per nine innings (14.20). The 25-year-old’s strikeout rate of 41.1 percent was the highest by a qualified starting pitcher in a season.

Maeda pitched about as effectively and consistently as the Twins could have hoped in the shortened season, and that’s why his 0.75 WHIP was the second-best mark by a qualified pitcher in MLB’s Modern Era (since 1900), trailing only Martínez (0.74 WHIP) in 2000 and sitting one spot ahead of Johnson (0.78) in 1913. He never allowed more than three runs or six hits, all while completing at least five innings each time out.

The Blue Jays signed Ryu to be a true ace, and that’s exactly what the veteran lefty delivered. Pitching to a 2.69 ERA with peripheral numbers that fell in line with his excellent career stats, Ryu was there to stop losing streaks and extend winning streaks, giving the Blue Jays something they desperately needed, especially in a season where their rotation was hit hard by injuries and inconsistent performances.

The National League was a different story; before the award was announced, experts could have thrown the three baseball cards up in the air, and the odds out would have won. If anyone could be given the edge, it would have been Trevor Bauer.

If Bauer was to win, he would be the first Reds pitcher to take home the NL Cy Young Award. While history is not on his side, Bauer’s 2020 season shows why he is a leading candidate to claim the honor. Bauer, 29, led the NL in ERA (1.73), WHIP (0.79), opponents’ batting average (.159), opponents’ BABIP (.215),  ERA +(276), hits per nine innings (5.06), and shutouts (2). He ranked second in strikeouts (100) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.3). Whether he won or didn’t, he will be the most sought-after free agent this offseason.

If Jacob deGrom were to win the Cy Young this year, it would be his third year in a row. The prized pitcher had a bunch of bad luck this season. All of his starts were against premier teams, and he lost out on any postseason performance that propelled him to his previous wins.

Yu Darvish’s 2020 Cy Young candidacy actually began last year. After a tough first half in 2019 for the Cubs, he turned it around and became the Cubs ace. Darvish won eight of his 12 starts, turned in a 2.01 ERA, and ended with 93 strikeouts against 14 walks in 76 innings, giving him a better strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.64) than Bauer (5.88) or deGrom (5.78). And with Darvish and Kyle Hendricks leading Chicago’s rotation, the offense-starved Cubs won the division after missing the playoffs last year.

The money was on Bauer or Darvish, with no tri-peat for deGrom.




New York Giants: K Graham Gano wins NFC Week 9 Special Teams Player of the Week

New York Giants, Graham Gano

The New York Giants are coming off of a clutch victory against the Washington Football Team. This victory improved New York’s record to 2-7, keeping them in the hunt to win the division.

One of the deciding factors in this game: special teams. The Giants’ special teams unit was excellent on Sunday, as it truly has been all season. New head coach Joe Judge is a former special teams coordinator, so many expected to see the Giants’ already solid special teams unit get even better. So far, it certainly has, and one of the main reasons why is the Giants’ new kicker, Graham Gano.

Graham Gano was signed by the Giants after former starting kicker Aldrick Rosas was released due to legal issues. This has turned out to be an excellent signing as Gano has been one of the Giants’ best players this season. In the team’s Week 9 victory, Graham Gano was stellar and earned himself the honor of being the NFC’s Week 9 Special Teams Player of the Week.

Graham Gano Stats and Highlights

In the New York Giants’ Week 9 victory over Washington, Graham Gano was perfect, hitting all three of his field-goal attempts while also going a perfect two for two on point-after tries, scoring a total of 11 points for the Giants. Gano was perfect on Sunday as he has been for much of the Giants’ 2020 season.

Through nine weeks, Graham Gano has kicked 20 field goals, connecting on 19 of them for an impeccable 95% field goal percentage. He has also gone made perfect 100% of his PAT’s (13/13). This top-tier season is extra impressive when considering the fact that Gano missed the entirety of the 2019 NFL season with an injury.

In his comeback 2020 campaign, Gano has looked like the same player he was before his injury. Graham truly has not missed a step. Some might have considered Gano a risky signing since he was coming off of a pretty significant injury. But it has been an indisputably excellent signing by Dave Gettleman, Joe Judge, and Thomas McGaughey.

Nets Rumor: James Harden names Brooklyn as one of 3 potential destinations if Rockets blow it up

Could James Harden be the third star that the Brooklyn Nets covet?

With all the unrest in Houston brought by the sweeping changes in the coaching staff and front office, Rockets’ superstars Harden and Russell Westbrook have reportedly expressed concern about the franchise’s direction, per ESPN.

Adding more fuel to the fire, Kendrick Perkins said on The Jump on Wednesday that Harden isn’t picking up the phone calls of the members of the Rockets’ organization.

Five Reasons Sports Network’s Clutch NBA reported shortly after that Harden already has a list in mind on where he wants to go next if the Rockets decide to go in another direction.

The 31-year old Harden has $131.5 million left in his contract, including a $46.9 million player option in 2022-23.

Nets’ possible package for Harden

ESPN’s front office insider Bobby Marks also named the Nets as one of the five teams who have the combination of draft capital and tradeable contracts that can satisfy Rockets’ possible asking price. The four other teams are Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, and the 76ers where Daryl Morey, the former Rockets general manager, has indicated that he will trade for Harden if he is made available.

The Nets, according to Marks, can dangle a package composed of Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, Taurean Prince, and future draft picks.

The Nets have internally discussed last season on how to acquire a third star, acknowledging that their championship window has arrived with the acquisition of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

They were previously linked to Bradley Beal and Jrue Holiday, but nothing concrete came out of it.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks interview with Obi Toppin went ‘very well’

New York Knicks, Obi Toppin

With the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, the New York Knicks have several directions they can go. Whether it involves trading up to acquire a better prospect or staying where they are, they have to find a home run player who can elevate the state of the team immediately.

That is where Dayton star Obi Toppin comes into play. At 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, the 22-year-old forward is a bit old for a lottery draft pick, but he averaged 20 points and 6.4 defensive rebounds last season with Dayton. He has been in contact with the Knicks and experienced a good interview with them.

“I spoke with the Knicks,” Toppin said on an NBA Zoom call Wednesday. “I had an interview with them. It went very well. They have a great organization. It would be great to go home but there’s a lot of other teams that are in front of them that are great too.”

Toppin, who is from Ossining, New York, attended Mount Zion Prep high school before taking his talents to Dayton, Ohio. He spent just two years playing collegiate basketball before committing to the NBA draft and considering his age, this was the perfect time to strike.

“I would love to get picked by a place that best fits me,” Toppin said. “Going to a place where people are going to help me develop and get better and make sure I’m going to be great one day and be a Hall of Famer and Player of the Year, an MVP. That’s where I want to go, to the team that’s going to help me prepare most for me to be great and win lot of games.”

The Knicks could use more scoring forwards who also have the ability to record blocks and defend adequately. Toppin can do a multitude of different things at a high-level, and developing him would give the Knicks a fantastic player to utilize immediately. With reports indicating they could be in the market for a big contract player, including Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook, this off-season is gearing up to be an interesting one.

New York Yankees FA target, Kevin Gausman, accepts Giants’ qualifying offer

Kevin Gausman, New York Yankees

One of the New York Yankees targets in the free agent pitching market is off the board. First reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Kevin Gausman has decided to accept the qualifying offer from the San Francisco Giants.

Gausman’s decision comes on the heels of Marcus Stroman also accepting his qualifying offer from the New York Mets. With those two decisions, two potential targets for the Yankees are off the board.

There was no word on the potential interest in terms of the Yankees and Marcus Stroman. However, there were some rumors that the Yankees were intrigued and interested in Gausman who had a fantastic year for the Giants.

Gausman was a pitcher that the Yankees were also interested in back at the August trade deadline. However, a deal never materialized and Gausman stayed with the Giants. It was reported that Gausman had multiple year deals on the table.

However, in the end, the Giants starting pitcher decided it would be best to stick with San Francisco for another year. Perhaps hoping there will be more money in the FA market after a somewhat normal 2021 MLB season.

Yankees Options From Here

Gausman was definitely someone that the Yankees were interested in for the back end of the rotation. Of course, the Yankees are also talking and thinking about bringing back Masahiro Tanaka on a short-term deal.

Tanaka has only been with the Yankees since he made the jump to the majors seven years ago. In addition to the interest in Tanaka, the bombers are said to be interested in potentially bringing in Charlie Morton on a one or two year deal.

Despite Stroman and Gausman being taken off the board, there are still options for the Yankees. The top prize is Trevor Bauer, however, early reports seem to indidicate that the Yankees won’t spend the money required to get a guy like Bauer.

Expect the Yankees to look at a couple of pitchers to fill out their rotation. It was reported today that bringing back Tanaka wouldn’t take the bombers out of the running for a guy like Charlie Morton. It’ll all come down to the dollars at the end of the day.

Larry Greer reunites with Tom Thibodeau, brother Andy in New York Knicks

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

The New York Knicks have added Larry Greer as an advance scout, per The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov.

Greer is set to join his brother Andy under Tom Thibodeau’s staff after working with the Phoenix Suns last season.

The Greer brothers and Dice Yoshimoto have all previously worked together under Thibodeau in Minnesota.

In a Q&A with The Athletic last year, Larry Greer described himself as a utility man, doing a little bit of different things for Suns’ head coach Monty Williams.

“My role has always been as an advance scout,” Greer said. “That’s gathering as much information on the opponent, from the play calls to the little things that you might see (such as) they do this well, they don’t do this well, and kind of spoon-feeding it to the players so that they understand.”

“What I think one of my strengths is I can translate our opponents’ information into language that our players and coaches would know. As we’re watching a game, my experience being a scout is once the opponent calls a play, I can translate it to our guys into what our (similar) play is, to help them give them that split second of maybe helping them defensively.”

Larry Greer was let go by the Suns before the NBA resumed last season in Orlando Bubble.

He will bring over three decades of coaching and scouting experience to the Knicks. Before the Timberwolves and the Suns’ gig, he also worked as an advance scout for the Houston Rockets (2005-07), Portland Trail Blazers (advance scout from 2007-2010; assistant coach from 2010-12) where he worked with Williams.

In between his stints with the Timberwolves and the Suns, he also served as an Arizona State assistant coach. Before the NBA, he had worked as an assistant coach at Brandeis Judges (1989-1992), Boston University Terriers (199495, 2002-03), and Wright State Raiders (2003-05).

The Knicks are still planning to add more player development coaches to their staff.

A name to keep an eye on is Rick Brunson, a former Knick who was Leon Rose’s first client as an agent.

Brunson, whose son Jalen is currently playing for the Dallas Mavericks, has also previously worked with Thibodeau as an assistant coach in Minnesota.

Brunson recently stepped down from his post as Camden High head coach after one season with the Panthers.

Noted player development coach Royal Ivey, who was with the Knicks for the last two years, has moved on to the Brooklyn Nets, where he is reunited with his former Texas Longhorn teammate and good friend, Kevin Durant.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New Jersey native, NBA legend Tommy Heinsohn passes away at 86

Heinsohn was born in Jersey City and starred for Saint Michael’s School before building a legendary NBA career in Boston.

The Boston Celtics announced the passing of team legend Tommy Heinsohn earlier this week at the age of 86.

Heinsohn is best known for his role in the Celtics’ glory years, winning ten NBA championships as a player and a coach. He partook in nine seasons (1956-65) as a player on the team’s hallowed parquet floor, winning a title in all but one of those seasons. Upon the retirement of former teammate and player-coach Bill Russell in 1969, Heinsohn returned to Boston as the team’s head coach, winning two more titles. He is one of two NBA inductees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to be honored as both a player and coach, joining Lenny Wilkens.

Prior to his tours in Boston, Heinsohn, a native of Jersey City, was a star at St. Michael’s School in nearby Union City. He would earn 28 points a game, All-American honors, and scholarship offers from numerous prominent schools. The College of Holy Cross in Worcester, MA would foreshadow his New England basketball endeavors. Heinsohn would depart as the men’s program’s all-time leading scorer and helped the team to an NIT championship in 1954.

More recently, Heinsohn gained further fame as the television voice of the Celtics. Serving as an analyst, Heinsohn was routinely paired with play-by-play man Mike Gorman since 1981, the two forming one of the longest broadcasting tandems through several iterations of what is now NBC Sports Boston. Through this role, Heinsohn is the only person to serve in an official capacity with the Celtics for each of their NBA-record 17 championships. During broadcasts, Heinsohn was known for his unapologetic favoritism toward the Celtics and would routinely award “Tommy Points” to players giving extra effort.

Numerous tributes from the basketball world have emerged in Heinsohn’s honor since his passing.

“We were rookies together and friends for life,” Russell said in a tweet, including a photo of he and Heinsohn celebrating with then-Celtics head coach Red Auerbach. “In life there are a limited number of true friends, today I lost one. RIP Heiny.”

Active NBA free agent Isaiah Thomas, who most recently played for the Washington Wizards last season, recalled that Heinsohn would affectionately refer to him as “the little guy” and shared a post commemorating Heinsohn’s enthusiastic reaction to Thomas breaking 50 points in a December 2016 win over Miami. A frequent earner of Tommy Points, Thomas said that he “(w)ill miss his voice and everything he brought to the game especially Celtics basketball”.

Heinsohn is survived by two sons (Paul and David), and one daughter (Donna).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags