Why the New York Giants aren’t bringing back DeAndre Baker

New York Giants, DeAndre Baker

The DeAndre Baker legal case is finally over, and it looks like the former New York Giants cornerback will walk away a free man. The case had a lot of twists and turns, of course. First it looked like Baker might be innocent and that it might be a misunderstanding. Then it looked like he could get put away for a long time. And then there was enough uncertainty for the Giants to move on from the player.

However, now that it’s all said and done, it doesn’t look like the Giants are interested in bringing Baker back.

Baker has received interest from the Chiefs, Bengals, 49ers, and Jaguars – but not from the Giants. That’s significant considering how the Giants moved up to get an extra first round pick to draft him in the first place. Baker only received one season with the Giants after they used an extra first round pick to get him in the first place. And he won’t get a second one from the looks of things.

The big question for many fans will be why that’s the case.

The reasoning behind the Giants’ decision

The real reason why the Giants aren’t bringing back DeAndre Baker? There’s not much room to just add another corner to the rotation right now, and the team is happy with who they already have playing around top corner James Bradberry in the secondary.

That lack of space for more corners recently saw Corey Ballentine released from the team and picked up by the Jets. The spot that would have belonged to Baker had he not been released due to legal trouble has been taken over by Isaac Yiadom, who has been in the mix the last few games as a permanent member of the secondary. His share of the snaps on defense has risen since joining the team this offseason and it doesn’t look like the spot will be given up in the immediate future.

Especially not for a player like Baker who was a problem for the Giants even before his legal case.

The Giants don’t want to take a chance on Baker

It’s easy to forget about some of the troubles Baker had before, now that much of the recent talk about him has shifted towards the legal troubles. But even if you take those out of the discussion, you’re still left with the picture of a player that was on the brink. This would be a season where Baker needed to either perform better or lose his spot.

While it did look like he would improve more from some of his earlier games, the Giants weren’t willing to bet on that by bringing him back. Baker had a number of problems. There were reports during his rookie season of him not paying attention in meetings and he received widespread criticism for not putting in enough effort on the field.

He could have turned things around as a second year player. But giving him a chance requires giving him a roster spot. Right now, the team just doesn’t have one of those to give to a player that already has a history of these problems, even if he does still have a chance to get better.

With this route, they risk looking worse as a franchise if Baker immediately improves and looks better while playing for another team. But they don’t risk throwing a wrench into an improving team by reintroducing a problem player of the past.

New York Yankees: Gio Urshela has proven he belongs

New York Yankees, Gio Urshela

After opportunities with the Cleveland Indians and the Toronto Blue Jays, Gio Urshela was shipped off to the New York Yankees for cash considerations. Little did those teams know that Urshela would turn into a star in New York.

The Yankees started off the 2019 season injury-plagued, and it included third-baseman Miguel Andujar going on the IL. They turned to Urshela in mid-April, and he immediately made a massive impact. He hit .345 in April with one home run, six runs batted in, and a .909 OPS.

Urshela’s hot April led to him batting .314 on the season with 21 home runs and 74 RBIs. He added an .889 OPS and 132 OPS+.

Since he hadn’t ever had that good of a season before, many people figured his success was a fluke. He’d always been known as a defensive player, but never held an average above .233 before.

In 2020, he proved the haters wrong.

Playing 43 games in the COVID-19 shortened season, Urshela bat .298 with 6 home runs and 30 RBIs. He added an .858 OPS as well as a 136 OPS+. Urshela also provided heroics, hitting a grand slam in game two of the Wild Card Series to send the Yankees to the ALDS. Additionally, he was a Gold Glove award finalist at third-base.

With his fantastic play over the past two seasons, Urshela has proven that he’s no fluke. His play has put Miguel Andujar out of a job. Right now, Andujar is playing in the Dominican Republic to try and get his game back on track. But, Urshela may have played Andujar out of New York.

Hopefully, Urshela will continue to be the Yankees third-baseman for a long time and keep up his strong performance.

New York Liberty: Teresa Weatherspoon earns a promotion in New Orleans

New York Liberty legend Teresa Weatherspoon will serve as a full-time assistant coach under Stan Van Gundy.

Teresa Weatherspoon and a Van Gundy indirectly united to create hardwood magic at the turn of the century in the Big Apple. That magic is on its way to the Big Easy.

The New Orleans Pelicans announced a series of adjustments to their coaching staff on Monday, headlined by the promotion of Weatherspoon, who will take a full-time assistant coach position with the NBA franchise. She will work under newly-minted head coach Stan Van Gundy, the brother of former New York Knicks boss Jeff, whose New York tenure (1996-2001) overlapped with Weatherspoon’s glory days.

Weatherspoon, 54, joined the team last season as a player development coach and spent her time between the Pelicans and the Erie BayHawks, their G League affiliate. Now, Weatherspoon becomes the eighth woman to serve on an NBA bench, joining fellow Liberty legend and longtime San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon.

Weatherspoon partook in the first seven seasons of Liberty basketball (1997-2003), appearing in five WNBA All-Star Games and three WNBA Finals. She is perhaps best known for launching the most famous shot in WNBA history, a desperation three-pointer from beyond half-court that allowed the Liberty to steal a Finals win from the Houston Comets in the 1999 championship series. Weatherspoon also earned the first two WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Awards and currently ranks 12th all-time in assists (1,338) and 21st in steals (465). Induction into the Naismith Memorial Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame awaited Weatherspoon last season. She has since been named to the WNBA’s anniversary teams in 2011 and 2016.

Weatherspoon retired after a single season in Los Angeles in 2004. Since then, she has been involved in several coaching positions, including a variety of front office and player development roles with the Liberty in the six seasons before receiving the call from New Orleans. She also served as the head coach at her alma mater of Louisiana Tech for five-plus seasons (2009-14), taking them to a pair of NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournaments (2010, 2011).

Another New Orleans hire with a local connection is Beno Udrih, The two-time NBA champion and former first-round pick spent part of last year’s shortened G League campaign with the Knicks’ affiliate in Westchester as an assistant, his first coaching position.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Report: James Harden badly wants Nets trade, rejects Rockets’ massive extension offer

James Harden is pulling an Anthony Davis act as the Houston Rockets superstar is ‘singularly focused on a trade to the Brooklyn Nets‘, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Harden is taking a page from Davis and Klutch Sports’ playbook, which forced the New Orleans Pelicans to trade him to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019. One year later, Davis won a championship.

Harden reportedly made his intentions clear to the Rockets’ new management, led by first-time general manager Rafael Stone, when he rejected a two-year, $103 million extension that could have locked him in Houston for the next five years.

Harden believes his window to win a title with the Rockets ended when they parted ways with long-time general manager Daryl Morey and coach Mike D’Antoni.

The idea of forming a super team in Brooklyn came to shape in recent weeks. Harden had conversations with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving that ramped up his decision. The Rockets, however, made it known to the Nets and the rest of the league that they expect a massive haul in return for their franchise player.

“That means young players, draft picks and salary-cap relief,” Wojnarowski said on Monday night’s edition of ESPN’s Sports Center.

With three years left in Harden’s contract, including a player option on the third year, the Rockets plan to play this out and create a bidding war if the situation is no longer salvageable.

It appears Harden has already made up his mind.

The 31-year old superstar hopes to have his next two years contending for the title with the Nets before he can opt-out and decide what to do next with his career.

His contract fits the timeline of Durant and Irving with the Nets. Durant and Irving have three years left, a player option in the third year, in their respective contracts.

Harden played with Durant in Oklahoma City before he got traded to the Rockets in 2012. On the other hand, he played with Irving at Team USA.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Giants’ dominant third-down defense was the key to victory in Week 10

The New York Giants finally beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday for the first time since 2016. At 3-7, the Giants have entered the race to win the NFC, which has collectively struggled all season long. But the Giants are improving at a key moment in the season, playing behind and excellent defense that has kept New York in games.

All season long, Patrick Graham and the Giants’ defense has performed above its weight class. Entering the season, the defensive personnel looked like it could be a problem in 2020. But so far, there have been some serious bright spots and standout performers on the defensive side of the ball.

James Bradberry has been excellent all season long and continued his phenomenal season against Philadelphia on Sunday. Over the last two weeks, Bradberry has allowed just three receptions for 21 total yards. Bradberry has been dominant in his first season with Big Blue.

But the biggest surprise for the Giants defense, and the most rewarding treasure that New York found this offseason, is defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Graham has been clever all season with disguised blitzes and coverages. He has also managed to get the absolute most out of each and every single one of his playres and positions, despite having an obvious lacking of talent in certain areas. Patrick Graham’s excellence was shown in full effect on Sunday, as the New York Giants shut Philadelphia down on third downs.

The Giants’ Third Down Defense in Week 10

The New York Giants’ defense was dominant on third down in Week 10. Philadelphia was 0-9 on their third down attempts this Sunday. The Giants’ defense made clutch stop after clutch stop to clip the wings of the dirty birds.

This has been a consistent theme in recent weeks for the Giants. In the last four games the Giants’ opponents are converting 26 percent of their third downs. This is serious improvement from 54 percent rate in the first 6 games (via Dan Duggan).

The Giants have shown improvement week to week this season on both sides of the football. Last week, New York forced five total turnovers. This week they allowed zero third down conversions. It is hard to lose football games when the defense is playing at that high of a level. The Giants will need to continue to perform at this level over the final stretch of the season if they want to seriously push for a playoff spot.

Patrick Ewing fan Isaiah Stewart’s toughness is made for New York Knicks

Nba draft prospect Isaiah Stewart’s game evokes a throwback feel. He plays a lot like former New York Knicks‘ franchise big man Patrick Ewing at the post.

In Stewart’s lone season with the Washington Huskies, the 6-foot-9 forward/center from upstate Rochester routinely beats his man with fundamentally sound footwork that usually ends up with a monster slam, a leaner on the glass, a baby hook, or a smooth turnaround jumper.

Shades of Ewing, right?

Because Stewart grew up idolizing the Knicks Hall of Fame center.

“The reason why I wear 33 is because of Patrick Ewing. Growing up, he’s the player I used to watch a lot. I was always on youtube, arguing with other people about Patrick Ewing,” Stewart said on a zoom call with reporters.

His Jamaican heritage is the ties that bind him with Ewing. He’s heard Ewing’s exploits from his father, Dela Stewart, a Jamaican who emigrated to the United States in the 1970s originally in Florida for farm work and later on moved to Rochester, New York, for construction work.

Stewart’s affinity to Ewing grew even bigger when a family friend and area youth coach in Rochester, Dr. Michael Maloney, a Georgetown graduate, introduced him to the Knicks legend.

Although Stewart ultimately decided to take his talents to the Huskies because of his close relationship with coach Mike Hopkins, who’s been scouting him since his freshman year at McQuaid Jesuit High School, he said it was a tough decision.

“It was hard for me to say no to Georgetown, especially with Patrick Ewing recruiting me. Him having that Jamaican background, and my dad is Jamaican, they connected pretty easily. That was a great visit, and he was recruiting me hard,” Stewart recalled. “I definitely considered Georgetown.”

He made waves as a 6-foot-7 freshman in Rochester that registered back-to-back 40-point games. That put him on the scouts’ radar ever since.

After two seasons at McQuaid, Stewart transferred to La Lumiere School in Indiana, where he blossomed into a consensus five-star recruit and a top-five player in the 2019 class.

As La Lumiere’s double-double machine (18.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks) that powered the prestigious prep program to a 30-1 record, Stewart won the Naismith Prep Player of the Year, Mr. USA Basketball awards. He played in all top high school camps (McDonald’s All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic, and Nike Hoop Summit).

Even as a college freshman, Stewart’s 7-foot-4 wingspan and his 250-lb frame was an imposing presence under Hopkins’ zone. He averaged 17.0 points on 57 percent field goal shooting, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks to earn All-Pac-12 selection.

If this was the late 80s or 90s, Stewart should be a surefire lottery pick.

But times have changed. The NBA game has evolved.

And Stewart, just a 19-year old kid with a grown man’s body, found the global pandemic an opportunity to expand his game and hopefully rise in the NBA teams’ boards as the Draft Day approaches.

“Shooting has been one of my main focuses. I’ve come a long way to that,” said Stewart, who shot 25 percent from deep in college.

Stewart played a traditional big man role under Hopkins and only attempted 20 triples in 32 games, making five of them.

Ewing may have strongly influenced his game, but Stewart said he’s been watching a lot of today’s NBA big men too as he prepares for the next level.

“With today’s generation of people at my position, some of the guys I’ve been watching a lot are Bam Adebayo, Montrezl Harrell, guys that feel like the same mold as me,” Stewart said.

If he can combine Adebayo’s playmaking skills with Harrell’s brute power, Stewart can thrive in the modern NBA.

“People know I bring, at the end of the day, my motor — hard work, run the floor, rebounding, and just doing the little things that may not show up in the stats sheet. To put my game in a nutshell, I’m the person who just does anything it takes to win. But the one thing that I think I’ll show you is my shooting ability,” Stewart said. “That will surprise a lot of people.”

Mostly mocked from mid to late first round, Stewart has both interviewed with the New York teams — the Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets though he declined to reveal which teams he had an in-personal workout with.

Stewart is an option and could be a steal at No. 27 if he’s still available and if the Knicks decide to use their eighth pick at drafting a point guard.

“I think that will be great—definitely a lot of Knicks fans from Rochester. With New York not being that far away from Rochester, I’m sure if the Knicks draft me at [No.] 27, I’ll have a lot of fans come up here and support me. That will be great,” Stewart said.

He sees no problem playing alongside Knicks’ current big man Mitchell Robinson, claiming his toughness is tailor-made for New York.

“[I can fit] easily [with] my physicality right away. In order for you to play in New York, you have to be tough. That’s who I am,” Stewart said. “I feel like I can play next to a big with me getting to shoot the ball and stretch the floor.”

But regardless of who picks him, he said they would get an NBA-ready player.

“I expect to be impactful and be able to go from Day One,” Stewart said.

Like Ewing did in New York.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks lose out on Chris Paul, but one free agent could fit the bill perfectly

New York Knicks, Fred Van Fleet

Several blockbuster moves were made right off the bat, with trading opening up across the NBA on Monday afternoon. Star point guard Chris Paul was traded to the Phoenix Suns, leaving Russell Westbrook as the next big thing on the market. Paul, who is making over $40 million per season, was also linked to the Knicks, who were reportedly open to consuming a contract of his size.

Missing out on Paul is not necessarily a bad thing, as the Knicks should look to pay less and acquire more talent than aging veterans. The reality is, New York is not ready to win now, and making a big splash move like acquiring Chris Paul would only hurt their cap space and further put their schematics in question.

However, there are still rumors that state the Knicks are interested in Westbrook, despite reports indicating that the market is relatively barren for the All-Star point guard.

As an offensive focal point, teams have to plan around Westbrook as he demands the ball. He averaged 27.2 points per game this past season and has reached the All-Star game nine times out of the last 10 years. He still at the top of his game and would make any team better, but his desire to have the ball in his hands at all times can be a negative factor.

The next might want to go with a younger option with room to grow, which is where Fred VanVleet enters the picture.

What would the New York Knicks be getting in VanVleet?

The Toronto Raptor is headed into free agency at 25 years old — he will be 26 next year and is just reaching the pinnacle of his abilities. In 2019-20, he averaged 17.6 points per game, 6.6 assists, and 3.4 rebounds. It was his best season to date, and the development he showed must spark the interest of the Knicks, who could use a full-time point guard with stellar defensive abilities.

Vanvleet is the cream of the crop when it comes to unrestricted free agents, and considering he’s coming off another improved season, there should be plenty of interest around him.

The Knicks might have to cough up $20 million per season to land him in free agency, but it would be far less than $40 million they would cough up for Chris Paul every year. Free is younger and offers stellar defense with developing offense, which are two factors the Knicks are looking for.

New York Mets are reportedly interested in slugger Marcell Ozuna

New York Mets

The New York Mets continue to check all the boxes when it comes to monitoring the free agent market. It seems like the new regime, led by owner Steve Cohen and president Sandy Alderson, is doing their due dilligence in analyzing every possible option to improve the roster for the 2021 season.

According to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, the New York Mets are one of the teams showing interest in free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who spent the last season with the Atlanta Braves.

Last week, Jon Heyman of MLB Network had said that Ozuna had been drawing interest from as many as 10 teams since the World Series ended. Now, we know for sure that one of those clubs is the Mets.

The Mets don’t have an urgent need for a corner outfielder, given that Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith are all under contract. However, adding a bat like Ozuna should always be worthy consideration for a club that wants to compete now.

While he is no elite defender, Ozuna can rake. As a right-handed hitter who destroys left-handed pitching (1.330 OPS against them in 2020) he would fit in nicely in the Mets’ lineup.

Another slugger for the Mets?

Ozuna hit .338/.431/.636 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI over 60 regular-season games for the Braves in 2020. Imagining a lineup with Ozuna, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Smith, Davis, Brandon Nimmo, Robinson Cano, Conforto and others is a fun scenario for Mets’ fans, although at least one of those names would lose everyday at-bats.

The Mets have specific needs in the catcher and starting pitching positions, so signing Ozuna may not be viewed as a priority. But it could be possible.

Ozuna, who finished sixth in the Most Valuable Player voting this season, is presumably looking for a long-term contract, and he clearly deserves one. Will the Mets be willing to give him one?

New York Jets add to offensive line through waivers

New York Jets

The New York Jets have claimed former Minnesota Viking Pat Elflein, who was released from his NFC North squad on Saturday.

The New York Jets have called for reinforcement to their offensive line as they return from their bye week, claiming veteran blocker Pat Elflein off the waivers list.

Elflein, 26, has worked as a center and guard on both sides. The interior lineman was chosen in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings (70th overall). He went on to partake in 44 games with Minnesota, starting all but one, though injuries have reduced him to a single game this season, starting at right guard and sharing snapping duties with Garrett Bradbury in the Vikings’ opening weekend loss to Green Bay.

A thumb injury suffered in practice has since kept him sidelined. Elflein was placed on injured reserve short after the ailment. He was activated last Friday but was placed on waivers the next day.

The Jets (0-9) are currently working with offseason free agents signees veterans Connor McGovern and Josh Andrews at center while Alex Lewis and Greg Van Roten respectively flank the left and right interior roles. Their offense is coming off a season-high output of 322 yards in their last tilt, a 30-27 last-second defeat last Monday night against the New England Patriots. The latest defeat came with a bit of a hefty casualty on the offensive line, as starting tackle and first-round pick Mekhi Becton left in the first half with a chest injury and did not return.

New York will once again roll out Joe Flacco at quarterback in their next contest on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS) as head coach Adam Gase said that Sam Darnold was still nursing a shoulder injury, per notes provided by the team.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Brewers listening to offers on Josh Hader; Will the New York Yankees pursue?

New York Yankees, Josha Hader

If there’s one thing we know about the New York Yankees it’s that they love to stack their bullpen. The bombers have boasted one of the best bullpens in baseball over the last few seasons. However, that’s gotten them no where.

Last year, the Yankees were hurt by the loss of Tommy Kahnle and the poor performance of Adam Ottavino. Zack Britton and Chad Green had very good years overall for the Bombers. Aroldis Chapman was solid as well, but definitely appeared shaky at times.

Last year after the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole, there were rumors circulating around the bombers being interested in Josh Hader. Hader is a two-time Hoffman award winner and widely considered one of the best arms in the game.

The Brewers were interested in fielding offers, but nothing ever got close. However, the Yankees were in on those talks for Hader. Well, it’s the offseason again, and the Brewers are once again interested in dealing their star reliever.

Robert Murray of Fansided reported today that the Brewers to intend on fielding offers for Josh Hader. The Brewers are looking for some offensive help in the package that they could get back for Hader.

Will the Yankees make an offer?

If Hader can be had for a reasonable price, I would fully expect the Yankees to be in on the talks. We have already heard that the Yankees are unlikely to spend the money to make drastic upgrades to the starting rotation.

If they are not going to make big upgrades with the rotation, they can always fall back on upgrading the bullpen. Hader would be a dynamite addition to the Yankees bullpen that already includes Chapman, Britton, and Green.

Those four alone would cause massive problems for anyone that would run into the Yankees. Adam Ottavino has the chance to bounce back as a fifth option, but there’s already been rumors around the Yankees looking to unload his contract.

Getting Hader would not come cheap for the Yankees. If I was to guess, Miguel Andujar would likely be the centerpiece of a deal. Clint Frazier is virtually untouchable after securing the left field starting job, but Andujar has no place on the roster. 

Another name that could be in the talks is Gary Sanchez. The bombers have been in talks with Yadier Molina which signals that they might be ready to move on from Sanchez. Perhaps the Brewers would be interested in trying to revive Gary Sanchez.

I would say that a deal between the two is not likely at the moment given Cashman’s stingyness when it comes to deals and the Brewers asking price. However, given the previous interest, I would fully expect the Yankees to be involved in talks.