Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere fake trading card investigated by Quebec Police

Alexis Lafrenière

New York Rangers first-round draft pick Alexis Lafreniere is making news in an unusual way. Quebec police are investigating reports of fake trading cards of the Blueshirt prospect that are showing up on websites.

Sportsnet is reporting that organizers of the Quebec International Peewee Hockey Tournament are warning against fake Alexis Lafreniere cards.

The Quebec police have indicated that the fraudulent cards have been seen on eBay selling for $100. Tournament officials periodically look surf through websites to make sure cards with their official logo to make sure they are authentic.  Officials found the Lafreniere cards from 2013 with the official tournement logo on them.

These cards are never were made nor exists.

“The Quebec International Peewee Hockey Tournament has never produced an Alexis Lafreniere card,” tournament general manager Patrick Dom said in a statement as was reported by the .”

Lafreniere was the first overall pick in this year’s NHL draft by the Blueshirts. He led Canada to a gold medal at the 2020 world junior hockey championship in the Czech Republic and played junior hockey for the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Tournament officials and the Quebec police want fans to be aware of these fake cards as the popularity of Lafreneiere will continue to grow this season once he makes his professional NHL debut with the Rangers sometime in mid to late January.

Fantastic Four: Tom Thibodeau lists most conditioned Knicks

Run, Knicks, run!

That’s how Tom Thibodeau plans to roll out his young and athletic New York Knicks beginning in the preseason.

The Knicks will face the Detroit Pistons on the road Friday at 7 p.m. E.T.

“I would assume that’s the plan. Every day we do a lot of transition drills, guys getting up and down. Everybody work super hard to get into shape to play that way. That’s the plan, so let’s see if we can execute tomorrow,” Dennis Smith Jr. said on zoom call Thursday after the Knicks wrapped up their short training camp.

The Knicks were tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic for 23rd place in pace at 100.9 last season. The Milwaukee Bucks led the league at 107.2.

Thibodeau never cracked the top-15 during his two seasons with a young Minnesota team. But to his defense, he surrounded Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins with veterans and played to their strengths, especially when Jimmy Butler came aboard.

This Knicks team is far different than what he had in Minnesota. So he’s playing the hand that has been dealt to him.

Tough cookies, fit rookies

To be able to sustain an up-tempo game, they need to be in their best shape. Thibodeau was pleased, especially with four players who showed up for the training camp fit and ready to go.

“Our two young guys, obviously they have a lot to learn, but in terms of commitment and conditioning, they’re really, really impressive,” said Thibodeau referring to his rookies Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley.

Both rookies benefited from the extended period of preparation for the Draft and the short turnaround time.

Toppin and Quickley will have their first taste of NBA action Friday night as they will mix it up against fellow rookies Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey, and Isaiah Stewart of Detroit.

For them, this amounts to their summer league.

“I didn’t think the speed of the game would be too much faster, but it’s actually been a lot faster,” Quickley said. “I feel like Kentucky, they do a great job of preparing, but until you get out there and experience a full practice and going up and down really fast, there’s really nothing like it. I think the speed of the game has been the biggest jump, and I feel like I’m making a great jump. Every single day I feel like I’m getting better.”

Quickley could be in for a rude awakening on Friday when he and Toppin will experience the intensity, albeit watered down, of a real NBA game.

It will be a good gauge for both Thibodeau and Pistons coach Dwayne Casey on how their rookies and newcomers will fit into what they’re trying to do.

“The college game is very different from the NBA game. So there’s an adjustment period that you go through,” Thibodeau said.

There will be rookie jitters for sure. But Toppin and Quickley have sounded confident throughout the camp. The Knicks fans are anxious to watch them walk the talk.

Big bets on vets

It will be exactly nine months since the Knicks last played an NBA game. Among the holdovers and veterans, two Knicks have impressed Thibodeau with their conditioning.

“I would say the vets who stood out the most were actually two – I would say, Julius, who’s in great shape, and Kevin Knox is in really good shape as well,” Thibodeau said.

Both forwards have chips on their shoulders. Randle will be in his second season with the team, hoping to become a better leader. Knox, meanwhile, is aching to bounce back after a lackluster sophomore season.

Despite being the most conditioned Knicks, they will not necessarily garner the most minutes. Thibodeau will use the preseason games to experiment on different combinations for his regular-season rotations.

“We’ve been mixing and matching, and we’re still evaluating. I’m gonna meet with the coaches,” Thibodeau said.

“Obviously, there will be a larger rotation in this first game. But we’ll use it for preseason games and probably some games into the regular season as well before we settle in for our final rotation.”

While the Knicks rotation will be unpredictable, one thing is sure.

Run, Knicks, run!

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

UFC has a new target date for Chimaev – Edwards per Dana White

The UFC currently has a new date targeted for the highly anticipated matchup between Khamzat Chimaev (9-0) and Leon Edwards (18-3). Dana White told TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter that the promotion is targeting Wednesday, January 20th on Fight Island.

This is absolutely huge for UFC fans. Dana White has been saying that he was hoping for an international fight week on Fight Island. If this fight comes together, the UFC is in for one helluva stretch to kickoff the new year.

The first card of 2021 is headlined by Max Holloway – Calvin Kattar on January 16th. The UFC‘s plan is to have Chimaev – Edwards be the mid-week fight that transitions to UFC 257. Of course, that card is headlined by Conor McGregor – Dustin Poirier.

If this comes together, that might be the best seven day fight period in the history of the UFC. They had a week like this back in July, but I don’t know if it would beat this one considering the star power on these cards.

Originally, Edwards and Chimaev were set to headline UFC Vegas 17 next Saturday night. However, Edwards came down with COVID-19 and was forced to pull out of the fight. The promotion has stayed with keeping this fight together as opposed to rebooking Chimaev.

UFC’s 2021 Start

As mentioned, if this fight gets finalized, the UFC couldn’t start out better in 2021. They are currently targeting to have fans be able to attend these events, however, nothing is finalized at the moment.

Edwards and Chimaev is a massive fight for the UFC‘s welterweight division. If Edwards wins, he would have won nine fights in a row and would clearly be the top contender in the welterweight division.

However, if Chimaev wins, he will solidify himself as the UFC‘s next star. Chimaev came out of no where in 2020 and he currently has more hype behind him than we’ve seen in a very long time.

This fight is not finalized and a lot will come down to the condition of Leon Edwards. However, if all goes as planned, it should be a very fun start to 2021 for fight fans.

BREAKING: Buffalo Bills sign GM Brandon Beane to multi-year extension

After ending the longest playoff drought in Buffalo Bills history, Beane has been locked up through a multi-year extension.

The Buffalo Bills announced on Friday that they have signed general manager Brandon Beane to a multi-year extension. Beane has been with the team since 2017.

“Brandon is an outstanding leader, and he has brought a great level of stability throughout our organization. One of the things we appreciate and respect about Brandon is that he is very thorough in his decision-making process,” Bills owners Kim and Terry Pegula said in a statement on the team website penned by Maddy Glab. “No decision he makes comes without a great deal of study and research. We appreciate his strong communication skills, and he works extremely well with us, with Sean, and with all levels of the organization. We are happy to extend his contract and to have Brandon and Sean leading our football team for many years to come.”

In his first season at the helm, Beane helped end the Bills’ franchise-long playoff drought at 17 seasons. The team has now been to the postseason in two of the past three years and is currently on pace to earn its first division title since 1995. Buffalo won 10 games for the first time since 1995 during the last campaign.

Head coach Sean McDermott offered his praises after news of Beane’s extension emerged. The two previously collaborated in Carolina, where Beane served in a variety of front office roles. McDermott served as the Panthers’ defensive coordinator for the final six years of Beane’s watch and was brought over when the latter came to Buffalo.

“I think for most GMs to have that experience on the business side of the football end of things, I really can’t envision myself working with anybody else but Brandon moving forward,” McDermott said in Glab’s statement. “For coaches, as I mentioned earlier, it’s one thing to be a good coach and develop players. But if you’re not being fed good players, it’s almost like drinking from a dry hose. That’s a hard thing to sustain over the course of time. So being fed good players, being fed players that match what we’re looking for, Brandon has done a phenomenal job. I can’t envision myself working with any other GM.”

Among Beane’s most notable Buffalo moves is the selection of quarterback Josh Allen with the seventh overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft and a trade that brought former Minnesota Viking Stefon Diggs to Buffalo. Allen is on pace for career-highs in his third season and has also garnered MVP consideration. Diggs currently leads the NFL with 90 receptions.

The Bills (9-3) return to action on Sunday night, as they battle the Pittsburgh Steelers at home (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). In another sign of how far they’ve come under Beane’s watch, Sunday will mark the first time a Sunday night game has been staged in Orchard Park since 2007.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

UFC looking to book Islam Makhachev – Drew Dober (Report)

The UFC is currently working on finalizing a big time matchup in the lightweight division. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto is reporting that the promotion is currently looking to book Islam Makhachev (18-1) against Drew Dober (23-9, 1 NC).

Per Okamoto, a date for the potential UFC fight has not been settled on. However, there is a possibility that the fight takes place in early March. We originally were supposed to see Makhachev fight just a few weeks ago.

Originally, Makhachev was set to fight former UFC lightweight champion, Rafael Dos Anjos. However, Makhachev got staff infection and had to pull out of the fight. That was a big opportunity for the Russian.

Makhachev hails from Dagestan and he’s one of the primary training partners of lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. Like Nurmagomedov, Makhachev divides his time between Eagles MMA and AKA here in the United States.

With all of the recent retirements from AKA fighters, Makhachev is looked at as the next potential AKA UFC champion. The Russian will enter the octagon against Dober on a six-fight winning streak.

UFC Lightweight Matchup

However, Makhachev will not have an easy time with this next UFC matchup. Drew Dober has shown that he’s a handful in the lightweight division. Going back to 2017, Dober has only lost once inside the octagon.

He’s worked his way into the UFC‘s top 15 on the heels of three straight wins. All three of those wins have been knockouts within two rounds. However, he did slip up against Beneil Dariush in March of 2019.

Outside of that loss, Dober has looked sensational inside the octagon. Of his last six victories, only two of them have gone to the scorecards. This is going to be a big test for the Russian, Makhachev.

Both of these men are ranked inside the UFC‘s top 15. This is a fantastic matchup to gauge just where both of these men are at in their careers. A win for either should guarantee them a top ten opponent in their next fight.

UFC: Michael Chandler is in camp, but who is he fighting?

Michael Chandler

Earlier this year, the UFC made headlines when they signed top lightweight, Michael Chandler (21-5). Chandler had been a Bellator champion on a number of occasions. He was always considered to be one of the best in the world.

However, with him fighting outside the UFC, there have always been questions on just how good he is. Chandler wanted to prove himself and see for himself just how good he is which is why he took a deal with the UFC.

He recently stated the the UFC was not offering him the most money. However, they provided the best competition which is what meant the most to Chandler. Originally, Chandler was supposed to make his debut at UFC 254 against either Tony Ferguson or Dustin Poirier.

The UFC tried to make a fight between Ferguson and Poirier, but after that fell through, they tried booking either against Chandler. A fight never materialized between Chandler and either of those top contenders.

Instead, Chandler still flew out to Fight Island, but as the backup for the UFC 254 main event. Chandler said it was his way of showing the UFC and the world that he is willing to take anything that they throw at him.

Recently, Chandler posted on Instagram that he was starting up his fight camp. He has aspirations to fight on the UFC 257 card which features the rematch between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. So, who is Chandler training for?

Chandler at UFC 257?

Based on Michael Chandler being in camp, the safe assumption is that the plan is for Chandler to fight in January. With that in mind, there are a couple of potential opponents for Chandler to face at UFC 257.

The front-runner in my opinion is Justin Gaethje (22-3). Gaethje is the top ranked lightweight in the UFC and the former interim champion. Gaethje said he needs to get a win before fighting for the title again, and Chandler needs an opponent.

Chandler has openly expressed his desire to fight Justin Gaethje. Another opportunity would be Dan Hooker (20-9). Hooker is currently ranked fifth in the division and he said that he wanted to send Chandler back to the B-Leagues.

The UFC could also turnaround either Tony Ferguson or Charles Oliveira if one of them wins without taking too much damage this weekend. No matter what, Chandler’s first opponent will be a top five lightweight. We should know sooner than later who that opponent is.

New York Mets and James McCann are reportedly “at the five-yard line”

New York Yankees, Yankees, James McCann

The New York Mets are very close to securing their starting catcher. After deciding not to trigger Wilson Ramos’ club option for 2021, they went after the big fish in free agency: J.T. Realmuto and James McCann. While the former is said to be looking for $200 million (he probably won’t get that much but is expected to command more than $100 million) the latter is viewed as the second-best catching option in the market.

While it is not a done deal yet, the New York Mets are about to sign McCann to a four-year deal, according to Andy Martino of SNY. If he agrees to go to Queens, he would slide ahead of Tomas Nido as the starting catcher in New York.

Ever since they took over the Mets, new owner Steve Cohen and president Sandy Alderson have made it clear that they want to compete and make the club relevant again. So far, the only major signing has been reliever Trevor May, but they have been connected to other top-tier free agents such as pitchers Trevor Bauer and Liam Hendriks and center fielder George Springer.

If he signs, he will be a quality addition for the Mets

As of the end of Wednesday, a deal remained close between McCann and the Mets, per a Martino report on early Thursday. He says that everything could still fall apart, but that the negotiations were at the five-yard line on Wednesday night and it “won’t take much” to get a deal done “soon.”

The main stumbling block was the four years, but the Mets made it clear that they are willing to go there. A deal could be announced soon despite the reported interest of the Los Angeles Angels.

McCann is an asset on offense and defense. In the shortened 2020 season, McCann slashed .289/.360/.536 with a .378 wOBA and a 144 wRC+. It’s very likely that his true talent level is closer to what he achieved in 2019 (.273/.328/.460, .333 wOBA, 109 wRC+) but in any case, he’s now an above-average offensive performer in addition to his good glove and framing skills.

New York Yankees News: The pitching starved Yankees lose three more players

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone, Brian Cashman

The New York Yankees lost three more players today in the Rule 5 draft. Jonathan Holder went to Joe Girardi’s Philadelphia Phillies, Trevor Stephan went to the Cleveland Indians, and the Boston Red Sox picked up Garrett Whitlock, two of which are minor-league pitchers. With each passing day, the Yankees have fewer and fewer pitchers in both the Major and Minor Leagues.

The Yankees, so far, with only hours left to the baseball Winter Meetings Yankees have done nothing to repair a pitching rotation that is lacking Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J. A Happ, leaving ace Gerrit Cole with only baby bombers with little pitching experience in the Majors.

The Yankees will have Luis Severino coming back from Tommy John surgery. They may have Domingo German coming back should the Yankee owner believe he is a changed man after his year-long suspension for breaking the MLB’s domestic violence protocol. However, with both, they haven’t pitched in the majors for two years and one year, respectively. The Yankees really don’t know what to expect from either of them.

The Yankees need a number two or three starter, regardless of the two that will be returning, especially at the beginning of the 2021 season when Severino definitely won’t be available.

Before the Rule 5 draft, the New York Yankees did protect right-handers Roansy Contreras, Yoendrys Gomez, and Alexander Vizcaíno, being better prospects than the pitchers lost today. They also protected outfielder Oswald Peraza for being grabbed in today’s draft.

In the last few weeks, the Yankees have lost several free agents they were considering, most notably, Charlie Morton and Kevin Gausman, among others. They also lost a trade target, Lance Lynn, to the White Sox. There are sure to be other free agents out there that will be signed by teams today, before the end of the Winter Meetings; whether the Yankees will be involved in any of those moves remains to be seen.

New York Jets: Denzel Mims out Sunday against Seahawks

The New York Jets will be traveling to Seattle Sunday to play the Seahawks. However, they will be without rookie wideout Denzel Mims.

Mims is currently dealing with a “family emergency” that has kept him out of practice the past few days, after flying home to Texas. He won’t be eligible to play due to COVID-19 protocol, but the situation has nothing to do with the virus, as Adam Gase spoke about it yesterday.

Mims has been a consistent target during his first six games, totaling at least 40 receiving yards in each one:

  • 4 receptions, 42 yards
  • 2 receptions, 42 yards
  • 4 receptions, 62 yards
  • 3 receptions, 71 yards
  • 4 receptions, 67 yards
  • 2 receptions, 40 yards

Expect Braxton Berrios to be next in line for more targets from Sam Darnold when they face Jamal Adams and the Seahawks.

UFC: Justin Gaethje says he needs a win before another title shot

There might not be many in the business more likeable than Justin Gaethje (22-3). The former interim UFC lightweight champion just tells it like it is and he’s never afraid to be brutally honest even at his own expense.

We haven’t seen or heard much from Gaethje since his failed attempt to capture undisputed gold at UFC 254. That night, Gaethje took on Khabib Nurmagomedov. Gaethje was looked at as the most dangerous challenger to Khabib’s reign.

However, Khabib continued to show just how special he is dominating the fight and submitting Gaethje in the second round. Now, the former interim champion is ready to get back on the horse to try to capture UFC gold.

In an interview with The Schmo, Gaethje talked about what he wants to do next. “McGregor and Poirier are fighting soon, I would love to fight the winner of that. I wholeheartedly believe that you should be coming off a win to fight for a belt. So my job now is to get a win,” Gaethje said.

The Schmo followed up asking if Gaethje wants to wait for the winner of that fight. Gaethje replied, “I want to fight for the belt. If it’s the winner of that fight (who will be fighting for a belt), then in turn, I would have to beat somebody first.”

What’s the UFC’s plan for Gaethje?

You have to love the honesty from Justin Gaethje. He’s not sitting there demanding a UFC title shot despite the fact that he’s the top ranked lightweight in the division. He truly believes he has to win again before fighting for the belt.

So what should the UFC do with Gaethje? I think there are two very clear options for the promotion and Gaethje. I think the top option is for Gaethje to face Michael Chandler in January at UFC 257 as the co-main event.

Chandler has said he’s already in training camp and wants to fight on the McGregor – Poirier card. If the UFC pairs Gaethje with Chandler that night, you can see a little lightweight tournament forming for the championship.

The other option for Gaethje would be Dan Hooker. Hooker has expressed interest in fighting Gaethje and Hooker is also a top ranked lightweight. I think this should be the secondary option, but it’s another good one.

What we do know is that Gaethje wants to fight and win again before getting his next UFC title shot. I think we will get some clarity on the Justin Gaethje front sooner than later. I expect him to have a fight in January or February.