New York Knicks first round mock: Jack of all trades is the solution

New York Knicks, Deni Avdija

With the NBA draft coming up, it is only fair to begin formulating mock drafts for the New York Knicks. They could go several different directions in this draft with holes all over.

This has been one of the more interesting draft periods in recent memory, mainly due to the effects of COVID-19. With just days away until the Knicks find out who their selection will be with the 8th pick, they have turned to a virtual setting to decipher which players might fit their mold and culture. Relying on film studies primarily, things have been a bit tumultuous the past few months in terms of working out prospects.

The Knicks have a number of different holes they are trying to fill on their roster, and one player stands out as a potential gem on the wing.

The New York Knicks get lucky:

There are a number of different prospects the Knicks are looking at, but one of the best on the board is Deni Avdija, who represents one of the highest upside players in this draft class.

At 6-foot-9 and 210 pounds, Avdija is a small forward from Israel. His best traits are his passing, ballhandling, jump shot, and leadership abilities. Intangibly, Avdija offers plenty for the Knicks or whatever team takes a chance on him, but his potential is what makes him so intriguing.

Most mock drafts have Deni being selected before the eighth pick, but nothing is impossible, and the Knicks could even elect to move up a few slots and acquire him. He has solid size for a wing, and his versatility as a shooting guard and power forward makes him adaptable.

He is simply a jack of all trades that has the potential for above-average defensive play and is also a fantastic shooter from the floor. He’s capable of connecting from downtown and going on a hot streak’s. His primary issue is consistency, and doesn’t have the length you desire from a player of his size.

This past season with Maccabi Tel Aviv, Avdija averaged 13 points with 2.7 assists and one block per game. He hosted a .526 field goal percentage and .353 percentage from downtown. He’s not the best free-throw shooter by any means, but it’s something he can work on at the NBA level.

As a two-way player with upside, Avdija should be one of the Knicks’ top targets on the board, and if he falls into their lap, we should expect them to take the Israeli national without hesitation.

New York Islanders: The Fisherman jerseys will not be brought back

new york islanders hockey player watching the crowd

The New York Islanders have been plagued throughout their history for one reason. Those damn Fisherman jerseys. The ugliest and worst jerseys of the last millennia. Not one person who played on the Island liked those jerseys. Nevertheless, there was hope for some fans that the New York Islanders would have the Fisherman’s come back. This “hope” is completely gone now. The Reverse Retro jerseys will not be the Fisherman.

The jerseys come out on Monday, but this rumor has already been put to bed. Peter Schwartz’s inside source says that Lamoriello wasn’t going to let them play in Fisherman’s. Lamoriello didn’t even want Reverse Retro jerseys, and the final design is very conservative. So what is the final design?

1980 Jerseys

I’m actually not surprised if the Isles go this route with their jerseys. This was the year that the Islanders used in the AdidasHockey Reverse Retro video. It’s a very simple and clean design. The fans have a soft spot for this jersey and the year. It’s a throwback that everyone can appreciate. The jerseys are a bit lighter than what the Isles will end up doing, but it will mainly be based around this design. The main patch is definitely my favorite part.

2001 Jerseys

These dark jerseys are nothing short of sexy. This jersey just screams Alexei Yashin. This also matches more of what the AdidasHockey Reverse Retro video showed for the Islanders. I think the darker jersey’s suites the tone of the season a bit more. The Islanders need to be the supervillains of the league, and that dark blue almost purple gives off of a supervillain feel.

2007 Jerseys

These are my favorite jerseys by far. It’s actually not even close. They keep the supervillain feel and add a bit more orange to the sleeves. I think the orange makes these jerseys close to perfect. If the Isles do bring this jersey back, everyone will be happy. I think the final product will be a mix of these jerseys and the 1980 jerseys.

Three stars from the Buffalo Bills’ Sunday loss at Arizona

The Buffalo Bills’ visit to Arizona ended in heartbreak, but several players still managed to stand out in defeat.

Wide Right. No Goal. Hail Murray?

Kyler Murray’s 43-yard desperation heave landed in the arms of DeAndre Hopkins with two seconds remaining, allowing the Arizona Cardinals to steal a 32-30 victory from the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo (7-3) previously took a lead on a 21-yard scoring hookup between Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs with 34 seconds remaining before Murray had time to work his miracle. The game was overall a struggle for Allen, who threw two interceptions in the second half after the Bills had taken a 23-9 lead. Hopkins earned 127 yards on seven receptions for the victorious Cardinals (6-3).

3rd Star: WR Isaiah McKenzie

McKenzie had a special job at practice this week, donning a late Halloween costume to portray Kyler Murray on the Buffalo scout team this week. It appears that McKenzie was still in character on Sunday, partaking in a Buffalo trick play that accounted for their first points of the ball game. His throw back to Allen after taking a pass behind the line of scrimmage gave the Bills a 7-3 lead after Arizona opened the game with a field. It was the first throw McKenzie launched in his professional career.

2nd Star: K Tyler Bass

Had it not been for a certain play at the end of the game, Tyler might’ve ended the day outscoring Kyler.

The rookie’s status at kicker might’ve been in jeopardy after starting the season 6-of-9, but he has been one of the hottest kickers in football with 13 conversions on his last 16 attempts. Entering Sunday’s action, Bass was only 1-of-3 from field goals of at least 50 yards, but he successfully booted a trio of attempts from such distance on Sunday, including a jaw-dropping, career-best, 58-yard launch that gave the Bills a 16-9 lead at the end of the first half. His first field goal was a single-doink off the right upright from 54 yards away. The Buffalo offense has shown little trouble getting to midfield, so if Bass can establish himself as a legitimate deep threat, the possibilities could be endless.

1st Star: WR Cole Beasley

Sunday’s game was a struggle for Allen, who made several ill-advised throws and mostly dealt with strong pressure on Stefon Diggs, at least until what many thought was the game-winning touchdown. But the lead-up to some of the Bills’ biggest second-half moments came through Beasley, who broke through the Arizona defense at several crucial points.

Beasley tied a career-best with 11 receptions (set less than a month ago in East Rutherford against the Jets) and fell three yards short of his personal best in that category. Three of his four receptions (32 yards) on the final push to the end zone led to Buffalo first downs, including a stunning one-handed grab deep in Buffalo territory that gave the Bills the momentum they needed. Alas, Beasley couldn’t play defense on the Cardinals’ memorable trek, but it was clear from the performances of he and John Brown (6 receptions, 72 yards before leaving the game with an injury) that Buffalo’s receiving threats go far beyond the mere prescience of Diggs.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Report: Brooklyn on top of James Harden’s wishlist but Nets divided on the idea

The Brooklyn Nets have emerged as the preferred top destination for Houston Rockets’ superstar James Harden, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Ramona Shelburne, and Zach Lowe.

However, the Nets and the Rockets have yet to engage in a trade discussion as everything has been player-driven so far.

Harden and Durant reportedly have talked about a possible reunion as the Rockets’ superstar is mulling over his future in Houston. But Ian Begley of SNY also reported that not all the Nets players contacted are receptive to the idea of trading for Harden.

Harden’s future with the Rockets alongside Russell Westbrook came into question earlier this week on the heels of the sweeping changes in the organization.

Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey, the two architects of the small-ball Rockets featuring Harden, have left the team following their Western Conference semifinals defeat at the hands of the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Morey has since joined the Philadelphia 76ers as team president while D’Antoni accepted an assistant coaching role under his former player and first-time coach Steve Nash, in Brooklyn.

The Rockets have maintained that they intend to contend with Harden. But things could quickly escalate if Harden would demand a trade.

The 31-year old Harden has led the Rockets to the active longest playoff streak — eight seasons in a row — since he was acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he was the third star to the Durant-Westbrook tandem.

The Nets have the ability trade for Harden with a chest of young assets (Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jarrett Allen) and draft capital (they own all their first-round picks starting next season). Harden is owed $131.5 million over the next three seasons, including a $46.9 million player option in 2022-23.

Westbrook, meanwhile, has been linked to several trade rumors, including the Nets’ crosstown rival New York Knicks, but nothing is imminent at this point.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Giants sign K Graham Gano to three-year extension

New York Giants, Graham Gano

Coming fresh off of a clutch win over Philadelphia, the New York Giants have signed their kicker Graham Gano to a contract extension. Graham Gano was signed this offseason to replace Aldrick Rosas after he found himself in some legal trouble. The Giants signed Gano to a one-year deal and he has exceeded all expectations.

The Giants signed Gano to a three-year extension worth $14 million in new money and $9.5 million fully guaranteed, according to Ian Rapoport. New York rewarded their kicker who has been as consistent as possible throughout the 2020 NFL season.

Through 10 games, Gano has made 21 field goals on 22 attempts. He was also the Week 9 NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. In today’s huge victory over the Eagles, Gano was perfect, making 2/2 field goal attempts and 3/3 on extra points. His longest field goal was a clutch 44-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Whenever the Giants need a field goal to be made, Gano has delivered for the team this season. New York has locked in their kicker position through the 2023 season, hoping to see Gano maintain this high level of consistency as he enters his mid-thirties.

According to Giants.com, on Oct. 11 in Dallas, Gano set a Giants’ record with three field goals of 50 or more yards. That gave him four long field goals for the year, tying the franchise’s single-season record. He has been arguably the MVP of the New York Giants this season, making this a well-deserved contract extension.

New York Giants: 3 massive positives in win over Philadelphia

New York Giants, Wayne Gallman

The New York Giants overcame the Philadelphia Eagles 27-17 in week 10. To keep their NFC East divisional hopes alive, the Giants are now 3-7 and have three wins against divisional opponents. This was a massive victory for a team that lost just three weeks ago to the Eagles in the final moments, but a 10 point win this week says a lot about this team’s development.

Considering the Eagles had three additional players to work with an offense, including Jalen Reagor, Alshon Jeffery, and Miles Sanders, the Giants, still manage to hold them to just 17 points. Carson Wentz threw for 208 yards and zero touchdowns, while the running game was a bit more successful, totaling 156 yards and two scores. The Giants flipped the script on their defense, allowing the Eagles to get some running momentum but kept them honest in the passing game.

Three massive positives in New York Giants win over Philadelphia:

1.) Giants finally overcome Eagles after four years of losses

Before the Giants secured their victory on Sunday afternoon, the last time they had beaten the Eagles was back in 2016. In fact, it was also in the month of November, thanks to Eli Manning and a fantastic offensive performance. However, Daniel Jones looked stellar in the victory, playing his cleanest game of the season and keeping the ball safe at all times.

This one could be considered a turning point for Big Blue, who have struggled to finish games this season. The last three losses were by a six-point margin, and winning by 10 points today shows how far they’ve come in such a short period of time.

2.) Daniel Jones finishes with zero turnovers

On the season, Daniel Jones has thrown nine interceptions and fumbled the ball seven times, but he hasn’t turned the ball over in two weeks, showing how much he’s developed in the category.

He’s finally seeing the field and protecting the ball when incoming defenders are close by. In addition, he’s accepting the fact that sacks are OK, and throwing the ball off his back foot and taking unnecessary risks hurts his team. Protecting the ball and the offensive line’s improvement has proven to be significant in his growth, and the Giants have won their past two games because of it.

3.) Offensive line showing improvement

One unit that has taken exponential steps forward the past few weeks is the offensive line. With Shane Lemieux filling in for Will Hernandez, who tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago, the running game has been far more effective. Against the Eagles this week, the Giants ran for 151 yards. Quarterback Daniel Jones carried the ball nine times for 64 yards and one touchdown. Reserve running back Wayne Gallman carried the ball 18 times for 53 yards and two scores.

Overall, the progression in the trenches has proven to be the difference-maker the past two weeks. Playing against two solid defensive fronts in Washington and Philadelphia, this young unit is beginning to show that they can be relied upon in the future. Considering three rookies are playing on the line, the Giants can feel confident moving forward in their development.

Yankees news/rumors: Why the Yankees could be in trouble this offseason

New York Yankees, Yankees, Brian Cashman

Trouble could be brewing for the New York Yankees this off-season, simply based on other teams’ aggressiveness and the emergence of the New York Mets in the market.

The Mets and new owner Steve Cohen have committed to making a splash in free agency and trying to turn around the franchise. Cohen publicly stated that his goal isn’t to make money, but simply to make the Mets great.

In turn, a great team will turn more profit, that is a basic fundamental of business, so Cohen knows exactly what he’s doing. As the richest owner in the MLB after acquiring the team from the Wilpons, I expect him to be aggressive in free agency, something the Yankees normally aren’t used to from the Mets.

However, the Yankees lost the most money of any team in the MLB this past season due to COVID-19. While I don’t think it will strap them of cash significantly, there will be other big players in the market. More than usual, some might say.

The Yankees have about $52 million opening up from the departure of James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and JA Happ. They could elect to bring back one of the three on a cheaper deal, but that has yet to be established. They also have about $20 million opening up from Jacoby Ellsbury’s dud of a contract.

Another team that will pose a challenge for some free agents is the Toronto Blue Jays. Being in the same division doesn’t bode well for the Yankees, who are normally extremely aggressive in acquiring top talent.

According to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, GM Ross Atkins of the Blue Jays stated that his team is looking to make “significant” moves this offseason.

“What we’re focusing on is the impact being larger earlier in the market at this point. If we were to move earlier, that the impact would be significant and that doesn’t take us out of significant impact later.

“We’ll continue to have opportunities to move the needle further,” he continued. “We just always have to balance that, what that means for us to have a substantial impact over the course of the off-season. Earlier in this off-season, what we’ll be focused on is bigger impact, at the same time thinking about opportunities that could present themselves later.”

There are a few moves the Yankees can make to retain their status as a big player this off-season. Of course, they will always remain at the top of the league in spending, having breached the $210 million luxury tax threshold this past season.

They need to find a way to retain DJ LeMahieu, which I believe they will do, and sign a No. 2 pitcher behind Gerrit Cole, who can provide consistent performances. The Yankees fell off significantly this past season after Cole, and their bullpen was a mess at times with under-performers.

If I were to hedge my bets, I would say they find a way to keep LeMahieu in pinstripes, sign a No. 2 pitcher and a solid bullpen piece. They will go no further, staying away from the Francisco Lindor trade talks and big catcher moves.

I think Yankee fan will be pleased just with the retention of LeMahieu, who means more to the team than any other talent.

New York Giants injuries, updates: Golden Tate and Isaac Yiadom trends, Shane Lemieux usage

New York Giants, Golden Tate

The New York Giants are preparing face off against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 10, a contest that has playoff implications as the NFC East is still up for grabs.

At 3-4-1, the Eagles are atop the NFC East in first place, despite having a -19 point differential. Their offense has been lackluster, and quarterback Carson Wentz continues to make mistakes in-game. The Giants, however, are dead last in the division with a -51 point differential, as their offense flounders, but their defense has played above their weight class.

Ultimately, the Giants are underdogs in this contest, as they have been nearly every week a season. Philadelphia is gaining back several players, including receiver Alshon Jeffery and starting running back Miles Sanders. They also saw rookie pass-catcher Jalen Reagor return in week nine against the Dallas Cowboys, in which they won 23-9.

As for the Giants, they have several players on the injury report, and former starting left guard will Hernandez will also be factored into the offense.

The New York Giants could be without Golden Tate:

Late in the week, receiver Golden Tate went down with a knee injury — thankfully, it was not too serious. There’s still hope that he can play against the Eagles, a game that the Giants need all hands on deck and everyone to play at their best.

So far this season, Tate has seen his reps dwindle every passing week. He has 226 yards and two touchdowns, with a 75.9% catch rate. He has been solid when targeted downfield but simply isn’t that effective in the run game. The Giants want to be a run-first team, so his inability to block at a high-level hurts them in the category.

I anticipate the Giants looking more toward rookie Austin Mack, who is ferocious in his style and attacks in the running game. His big frame also helps seal the edge, especially with Jason Garrett’s outside zone-blocking scheme.

As for cornerback, Isaac Yiadom also picked up an injury this week (calf). The anticipation is that he will be ready to play, a position the Giants have struggled immensely at this year. If he is unavailable, the Giants might have to move Julian Love to CB2 or depend on Logan Ryan to pick up the slack.

Changes in the trenches:

Rookie guard Shane Lemieux, on the other hand, will start the game in place of Will Hernandez, who is active and ready to play if called upon. The Giants this week indicated they would be utilizing a rotation on the OL, giving some of their younger players an opportunity to showcase their abilities.

Giants vs. Eagles: The three major keys for the Giants to come up with the win

New York Giants, Evan Engram

This is the biggest game for both teams up to this point. The Philadelphia Eagles are in first place with a 3-4-1 record, and the New York Giants are in third place with a 2-7 record. The Giants can split the series against the Eagles if they can do a few things correctly. The three major keys for the Giants this weekend will include Daniel Jones, Evan Engram, and Isaac Yiadom.

Daniel Jones needs to protect the ball

The New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has to be on target this weekend. Jones can not afford to force a turnover against the Eagles. DJ was not perfect last week, but he did not force a turnover. DJ fumbled twice in the game. The first fumble ended up going out of bounds, and the second fumble DJ jumped on to retain possession.

If Daniel Jones can protect the ball and throw the ball away when he has to, then the Giants can control the game on offense and with field position.

Last week’s game against Washington was the first time this season that DJ did not turn the ball over, the Giants came out on top. DJ and the entire offense needs to do the same thing as they did last week to have the best chance to win this game.

Evan Engram needs to catch the ball

The New York Giants tight end Evan Engram has been consistently dropping passes week in and week out. The last time the Giants and the Eagles played each other this season, Engram dropped a ball on third down that would have sealed the game for the Giants. The Giants were forced to punt and gave the ball back to Carson Wentz and the Eagles. The Eagles ended up winning this game against the Giants. What is in the past is in the past. All Giants fans hope for is that Engram can hold on to the ball, especially on third down.

Engram is a miss-match for most linebackers in the NFL, and DJ knows that. DJ just needs to find ways to get the ball into Engram’s hands in open space.

Isaac Yiadom needs to step up

In last week’s game against Washington, Isaac Yiadom allowed a perfect passer rating to Alex Smith when passes were thrown to Yiadom’s side of the field. If the New York Giants want to beat the Eagles this weekend, this simply can not happen this weekend. Wentz will attack Yiadom every time he gets.

The way that James Bradberry has been playing this season, Yiadom is going to see a lot of attention week in and week out, which isn’t going to change this weekend.

Outcome if all goes well

This is a lot to ask for, but if the Giants are able to pull this off against the Eagles, they could find themselves in a rhythm. On offense, DJ has to play a clean game, and Engram needs to catch the catchable balls. On defense, Yiadom will see the ball thrown his way a bunch this weekend. He needs to play just good for the Giants to come out with a big win and compete in the NFC East once again!

New York Yankees News/Rumors: Does slugger Aaron Judge have a future with the Yankees? (video)

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

For the New York Yankees, on April 27, 1992, an African American biracial baby was adopted by Wayne and Patty Judge a day after he was born; that baby was Aaron Judge. When Judge was old enough to understand, his parents told him he was adopted. In high school in California, Judge was a multi-sport star who eventually choose baseball as his sport.

Judge was heavily recruited by teams like Notre Dame, Stanford, and ULCA as a tight end, but Judge wanted to play baseball. He was selected in the 2010 draft by Oakland but wanted to attend college instead. He played for Fresno State, where he was named a Freshman All-American. In 2012 he won the TD Ameritrade College home run, Derby. During the summer of 2012, he played for the Brewster White Caps of the Cape Cod League. This is where I may have seen him play and when he was drafted #1 by the New York Yankees.

Judge quickly worked his way through the New York Yankees minor league system, and In 2016 Aaron Judge made his major league debut in August of the year. In his first at-bat, he hit a home run. He also hit a homer in his second game, becoming the only player to do that since 1980. But again, Judge found himself on the DL, this time with a right oblique strain, the same injury that has caused him not to play in 2015.

For the New York Yankees, right fielder Aaron Judge in 2017 quickly became the Yankees’ face as he had a historic season and was projected to become the Yankee Captain of the future. Just as historic as that season was, so has been his precipitous drop to be in a conversation to be used as a trading piece, as his performance has never come close to that 2017 season.

Seldom do Yankees fans talk about that season anymore; they usually talk about how he is so often injured and has to be replaced in the field and lineup. Judge has had injury after injury, not all his fault, but his huge size and musculature have been criticized as often as admired and as a cause for his frequent injuries.

In 2018, Judge did not play in 50 games as injuries plagued his season; he dropped from 52 home runs to only 27, which is still good. But he also dropped from 114 RBI’s to just 67, which is not good from a player that is supposed to be a star. In 2019 he played in even fewer games (102). He struck out 141 times, and his RBI’s continued to drop to just 55. Unfortunately for the Yankees and Judge, his 2020 season was even worse; he played in less than half the games, with only 22 RBI’s. In 2017 he walked 127 times, only 10 times this past season.

The New York Yankees brass, and the Yankee fans, began to wonder if the once most favorite player would ever be healthy enough to become that star they once thought he would be. It has actually gotten so bad that there has been scuttlebutt on the Internet that he might be considered a trading piece to help the Yankees get a premium type pitcher to help the Yankees solve their pitching ills. As the video below shows, Judge can still have power and is heralded for the monster home runs. But the bottom line is that the club needs players that can stay on the field and impact the team’s success.

2017 saw Judge have his historic season. He finished the season second in the voting in the AL MVP behind Altuve of the Astros (since then, we have learned that Altuve may have cheated his way to that award). During the 2017-18 offseason, he underwent shoulder surgery to repair cartilage. The disturbing injury concerns mounted.

Still, Judge was receiving accolades; the Yankees even set up a special spot for fans, the Judge’s chambers. But for all the fanfare, there are some cracks in the armor. Judge, mostly due to his size and musculature, is subject to injury. He also is subject to the strikeout. He became the first MLB player to record eight strikeouts in a doubleheader. It’s the most in a doubleheader since strikeouts for hitters were first recorded in 1910.

Judge started the New York Yankees 2019 season off strong with a .288 batting average, five home runs, and 11 RBI’s in 20 games played. However, on April 20, Judge suffered an oblique strain while hitting a single in the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals. He was immediately placed on the IL without a timetable on when he’d be back. He ended up missing two months of the season.

2020 didn’t start well either. Judge came to spring training with a sore shoulder from a diving catch at the end of the 2019 season. That ended up be a collapsed lung and fractured rib that was going to cause him to miss the beginning of the season. As it turned out, the shortened season allowed him to be ready to play when the season started on July 23. Judge got off to a fiery start hitting 9 home runs in just 11 games. But then the injury bug hit again when he got a calf strain running the bases at Tampa.

Judge returned from the injury on August 26th; after more than two weeks in the IL, Judge never hit another home run in the regular season. Long story short, Judge drove in only 22 runs in the entire season. Brett Gardner got more hits than Judge.  Judge hit 9 home runs; Luke Voit hit 22. DJ LeMahieu scored 41 runs, Judge only 23, just ahead of Gary Sanchez. This past season solidly put DJ LeMahieu as the most popular Yankee and not Aaron Judge.

The not so secret path to success for Aaron Judge is his ability to stay healthy. There is no question that Judge has talent as immense as his body, but if he can’t stay on the field, that talent goes to waste. With the unthinkable talk of using him as a trading piece, this next season will be telling for Judge. If he stays healthy the whole season and has a great season, he may find himself with a contract extension. If he has another season of injuries and no impact on the season, Yankee fans may see him on that trading block with his value greatly reduced. Neither the Yankees nor any team will want a player that can’t stay healthy.

As quickly as the memory of his historic 2017 is fading away, so is his future with the New York Yankees.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.