New York Giants: Mock drafts split between defense and offensive needs

New York Giants, Kyle Pitts

No one really knows who the New York Giants are going to draft. Last year, everyone more or less could guess the team was going to take a tackle. Not everyone predicted that to be Andrew Thomas, but tackle was one of the most pressing needs for the team and they addressed it through the draft. When Daniel Jones was drafted, it was foreshadowed by a flurry of pre-draft hype that raised his stock and made the pick look more likely.

We haven’t reached that kind of consensus yet for the 2021 draft. From Kyle Pitts to Gregory Rousseau to Devonta Smith, many names have been mocked to the Giants so far. And it’s not quite clear where the most pressing need is.

So far, the experts are split when it comes to their predictions.

Todd McShay, for one, believes the Giants will go defense and target pass rusher Rousseau. If the team loses Leonard Williams, that could be an important pick.

Rousseau opted out this season, but he had 15.5 sacks for the Hurricanes in 2019 and has speed and power coming around the corner. Alternatively, offensive line, wide receiver or cornerback could be areas to keep an eye on for New York.

Many believe the Giants will lose either Leonard Williams or Dalvin Tomlinson. If they do lose Williams, they’ll miss out on bringing back their sacks leader. In that case, bringing in a player that has been dominant in the ACC would be a good addition. However, there may be some concerns as Rousseau opted out of last season and it’s unknown if his previous level of play will be maintained heading into the NFL.

On the other hand, Dane Brugler of the Athletic believes the Giants will go offense and draft Kyle Pitts.

Pitts can play tight end or wide receiver and create mismatches with his size, athleticism and ball skills.

The assessment will obviously remind Giants fans of Evan Engram. Engram entered the league with similar hype around his skills at playing both positions. However, injuries and dropped passes have cost him a good reputation with many fans.

The selection of Pitts might seem redundant, unless, of course, the Giants are finally done with Engram. That may be the case, but there’s reason to have skepticism. The franchise has been plenty committed to Engram over the past years, after all.

Which direction the Giants are actually going to go in won’t be cleared up until closer to the draft. As of right now, there’s still multiple directions they could go – and there’s no consensus on the likely pick from analysts.

New York Knicks: Mitchell Robinson’s trainer shuts down rumor

New York Knicks, Mitchell Robinson

As the New York Knicks continue to delay Mitchell Robinson’s contract extension, naturally, rumors will sprout about his future with the team.

On Tuesday night, a rumor surfaced online that Robinson’s camp is not confident that the up-and-coming center will sign an extension with the Knicks.

Kris Pursiainen of the Knicks Film School and a former Sports Illustrated writer has heard from a source familiar with the situation that this might be Robinson’s last season with the Knicks.

Marcell Scott, Jr., Robinson’s trainer, quickly shut down the rumor.

“100% not true. He [Robinson] loves the direction the Knicks are heading, plus he loves New York,” Scott Jr. told Empire Sports Media in a text message. “His new agency and myself (his camp) has absolutely no issues!!!”

Robinson has recently dumped super-agent Rich Paul and joined the Wasserman group, his sixth agency in three years.

The 23-year old center is due for $1.6 million this season, a bargain deal considering his value on the court. So far, Robinson has been outplaying his contract.

Last summer, ESPN’s Front Office Insider Bobby Marks broke down the contentious issue surrounding Robinson’s contract extension that may explain why the Knicks are holding out.

“If the Knicks extend him the maximum of a projected three years, $35 million, his new salary would replace the $1.9 million cap hold for 2022. The Knicks could also amend the contract to decline his option in 2021-22 and sign him to a four-year, $50 million extension. In either scenario, New York would lose up to $10 million in cap flexibility,” Marks wrote.

“However, if there is no extension in place, the Knicks could lose him for nothing because he will become an unrestricted free agent in 2022.”

Robinson appears to enjoy the faith of the new coaching staff, particularly head coach Tom Thibodeau after a rough start during the summer. After Robinson skipped the second part of their OTA due to personal reasons, Thibodeau posited during the training camp that Robinson has to grow in two areas—professionalism and discipline.

Robinson started the preseason on the bench, but he has worked his way up to the starting unit.

When the season started, Thibodeau pivoted to using Robinson more than veteran Nerlens Noel, who was out for a significant time due to injury. Thibodeau has been effusive in his praise ever since, describing his young center as the Knicks’ defensive anchor.

“You guys haven’t seen it yet, but it’s coming,” said Thibodeau talking about Robinson’s rise unprompted after the Knicks’ big win on the road in Indiana last January 3.

In the Knicks’ stunning 7-8 start, Robinson is averaging 8.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.8 blocks, and a career-high 30 minutes of playing time. What’s striking is his much-improved discipline on the defensive end.

His shot-blocking rate may be down, but he’s been altering shots and defending the rim with better footwork. He has managed to cut down on his fouls to 2.7 compared to 3.2 and 3.3, respectively, in his first two seasons.

The way Thibodeau has talked about Robinson, it’s clear that he’s a big part of the Knicks’ future.

The inevitable would come. Robinson will get paid in his next contract. And that should come next summer.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

NASCAR news roundup (1/19/21): Multiple Daytona 500 drivers announced, tentative Speedweek schedule

Read for the latest NASCAR news.

Multiple Daytona 500 drivers announced

On Tuesday, multiple drivers announced that they would be returning to the cockpit to attempt the Daytona 500 in February. Former Daytona 500 winners Jamie McMurray and Derrike Cope will return for one-offs, while Ty Dillion will race with a new team, hoping to receive deals for more races.

McMurray will drive the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports in a car prepared by Chip Ganassi Racing. The 44-year-old last raced in the 2019 Daytona 500 after retiring from full-time racing in 2018.

Cope will race the No. 15 for Rick Ware Racing in a car built by Starcom. At 62-years-old, Cope will be the second oldest driver to compete in the Great American Race. Cope last raced in the Cup Series in 2018, and his last full-time season was in 1998.

Both McMurray and Cope are racing in chartered vehicles, meaning they are guaranteed spots in the Daytona 500.

On the other hand, Dillon will have to race his way into the Daytona 500 as his ride doesn’t have a charter. He’ll attempt to race the No. 96 Toyota for Gaunt Brothers Racing. Dillon will have Black Rifle Coffee and Bass Pro Shops on board for sponsorship.

As of right now, the Daytona 500 will be the only Cup Series event that Dillon will attempt with Gaunt Brothers Racing. The team plans to compete in Cup Series restrictor-plate races and road course races but is unsure if it’ll be with Dillion driving. Dillon continues to face a lot of uncertainty about where most of his 2021 racing will be but isn’t ruling out returning to the Camping World Truck Series or Xfinity Series.

However, rumors have indicated that Dillon may run the Busch Clash during Speedweek with 23XI Racing. Dillon is eligible for the race as he won a stage at the ROVAL in the 2020 season. A deal with 23XI Racing isn’t official.

Tentative Speedweek schedule released

According to Bob Pockrass, NASCAR released a tentative plan for practice and qualifying for Speedweek at Daytona. The Cup Series will not have practice for the Busch Clash event taking place on Tuesday, February 9th, but will have their first Daytona 500 practice on Wednesday, February 10th. Cup Series qualifying will follow that evening.

The next day will see the Daytona Duel races to set the Daytona 500 starting grid and see which unchartered cars go home. Friday will feature no Cup Series on-track events, but Saturday will have two Daytona 500 practices.

The Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series will have one practice session and a qualifying session for their races. The Truck Series will practice Thursday before the Daytona Duel races, and the Xfinity Series will practice Friday before the truck race. Qualifying days haven’t been announced for the lower two NASCAR Series.

All qualifying sessions will be single-car runs, and all practice sessions will be 50 minutes in length.

Josh Bilicki to drive full-time in 2021

Rick Ware Racing announced that Josh Bilicki would drive the No. 52 car full-time in 2021.

Bilicki made 22 Cup Series starts in 2020, splitting races between Rick Ware Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing. His best finish was 25th in the summer Kansas race.

Bilicki also made seven starts in the Xfinity Series last season, with his best finish being 12th at the Daytona Road Course.

Nashville Cup Series race has a sponsor

The NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway on June 20th has a sponsor and a name: The Ally 400. Ally has a multi-year deal to sponsor the race, which has a four year deal with NASCAR. With the track 1.33 miles in length, the race will be around 300 laps.

All three of NASCAR’s premier series are expected to run races at Nashville with full attendance. However, track and health officials will make decisions to cut capacity dependent on the COVID-19 situation. With temporary grandstands, the track can seat up to 40,000 people.

Two drivers announce part-time sponsorship

Cole Custer and Quinn Houff have announced part-time sponsorship for 2021.

Dixie Vodka, sponsor of the Homestead Cup Series race in February, will sponsor Custer at the Daytona Road Course and Nashville Superspeedway.

Body product company Mane ‘n Tail will sponsor Houff at the Daytona 500 and multiple other undecided races.

ARCA driver fined over video

ARCA driver Taylor Gray was fined $1,000 by the series and placed on probation for the 2021 season after recording and posting a video of him driving a car at Daytona International Superspeedway on Friday.

The 15-year-old tested a car at the ARCA open testing this past weekend in Daytona, where he filmed a cell phone video from inside the car on the track. He’s too young to race at Daytona but is old enough to test cars.

The video of the incident is attached below:

 

The New York Giants need to upgrade their backup quarterback position in 2021

New York Giants, Colt McCoy

The New York Giants are entering their third season with quarterback Daniel Jones expected to be their starter. Jones was a shocking selection at sixth overall in 2019, but he has exceeded most expectations that fans set out for him. His rookie season was filled with plenty of ups and downs, and while he showed improvement in some areas, his second season also came with a plethora of struggles.

Daniel managed to improve his turnover problem that plagued his rookie season this year, but this issue has not been completely fixed just yet. Jones has flashed a lot of great potential, but he needs to be more consistent in 2021. This will be his third season playing quarterback in the NFL, a crucial stepping stone for young signal-callers. Giants fans are expecting to see a year-three breakout in 2021.

But the Giants cannot afford to put all their eggs in one basket. Daniel Jones is absolutely their starting quarterback. However, this is a quarterback who has missed four games due to injury in two years. Jones has had a bit of bad luck in the NFL, but injuries have been a recurring problem since college.

The New York Giants possess an excellent defense. Their offense is set to improve next season as well as the team has vowed to add playmakers this offseason. New York cannot allow those talents to go to waste in the event that Daniel Jones goes down with another injury in 2021. The Giants have to invest in their backup quarterback position to provide additional security to their team.

Backup quarterback options

In 2020, the Giants rolled on with Colt McCoy as their backup quarterback. Colt was asked to start in place of Daniel Jones twice this season. While Colt McCoy was not atrocious, he was not a quarterback that would propel a team to victory. Rather, McCoy was a quarterback that would keep the team from plummeting into a loss. He was not good, but he was good enough in some instances.

The Giants could certainly do better at the backup quarterback position though. Many teams around the league have started to invest more into their second-string quarterbacks. The Giants, having a starting quarterback with at least some kind of knack for getting injured, need to do the same this offseason.

Jacoby Brissett

One quarterback the Giants should consider in free agency is Jacoby Brissett. The 28-year-old Brissett is a quarterback with legitimate experience as a starter, and a decent one at that. Jacoby spent two seasons as the starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts and two seasons as the Colts’ backup within the last four years. In 2019, Jacoby started fifteen games, going 7-8, passing for 2942 yards and 18 touchdowns with only 6 intercpetions.

This touchdown to interception ratio is impressive and is the reason Brissett is such an attractive option as a backup quarterback. Jacoby might not light up the scoreboard, but he will move the football with efficiency and rarely put the ball in harm’s way.

Nick Mullens

The Giants could also consider Nick Mullens for their backup quarterback position. Mullens has been the backup quarterback for the San Fransisco 49ers since 2018. But with Jimmy Garoppolo suffering through numerous injuries over the past few years, Nick Mullens has enjoyed extended playing time.

At only 25-years-old, Nick Mullens is a young backup quarterback that still has some room to grow. Mullens has started 16 games in the last three years and has occasionally put together some big-time performances. Nick Mullens is a little less careful with the football, though, throwing 25 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in 16 starts. But Nick is a quarterback with a great attitude that is always healthy and available, ready to give average quarterback play to a team in need.

Less proven options

The Giants could also take a chance on some younger, less experienced options. Names like Josh Rosen and Joshua Dobbs stand out as young quarterbacks who failed to reach their potential in difficult situations. I would like to see New York invest in a more proven commodity for additional security, but these younger options could provide a high ceiling for New York’s backup position.

Additionally, one last name to keep an eye on is Colin Kaepernick. Colin has not played football in the NFL since 2016, but he has expressed interest in making a return to the league. Of course, Kaepernick was once a proven quality starter in the NFL, taking the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012. But his four-year absence football leaves plenty of question marks surrounding the former 49ers’ starter. Colin is a quarterback for teams to consider though, once again, in 2021, if he still has the desire to return to the league.

4 running backs the New York Giants could consider in free agency

New York Giants, Mike Davis

When New York Giants‘ star running back Saquon Barkley went down with a torn ACL in Week 2, reserve back, Wayne Gallman was forced to take a larger role. This was after Devonta Freeman was signed off the street and picked up a few injuries that held him out for the remainder of the season.

For the most part, the Wayne Train took a few games to get going, but when he was on, he was on. Gallman had some help from Morris as well, but the former Clemson star was the lead back when Barkley and Freeman went down with injuries. They ripped off eight 100-yard performances over the next nine games. They even put together a four-game winning streak.

The Giants know now, Barkley is not immortal. They need to get more of a solid plan at the running back. Gallman, Morris, and Lewis are free agents come in March, and the Giants will be seeking some veteran running back help behind Barkley this offseason.

Here are four veterans the New York Giants should consider signing this offseason:

Mike Davis

With the Carolina Panthers’ star running back Christian McCaffrey dealing with injuries this past season, Mike Davis was the top back for Carolina this past season. The 27-year-old is a versatile back who can catch passes out of the backfield as well as running through the tackles. Davis ran for 642 yards and had 373 receiving yards on 59 catches. Davis could be a solid and cheap running back for Barkley next season.

Jamaal Williams

The Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams is strictly a complimentary back to Aaron Jones, that is exactly what the Giants need for Barkley. Williams is a reliable runner, averaging 4.2 yards per carry on the ground. He could also be used in the passing game as well if needed. With Green Bay drafting A.J Dillon in the second-round this past draft, they will have to part ways with Williams this offseason.

James White

Logan Ryan did he say he would try to recruit players to New York — could James White be one of them? White has been a productive back, through the air or on the ground. White would be the perfect third-down back and compliment Barkley really well. White could help New York in the red zone for the fact he is an excellent receiver. He would be a fine addition for whatever team he chooses to play for next season.

Malcolm Brown

Malcolm Brown reminds me of Jamaal Williams, a complimentary back to Cam Akers. Brown is a very effective runner through the tackles. This past season, he became more effective through the air, which he has not been through the years. That will expand his value this offseason, with teams knowing he can be used in the passing game.

 

New York Mets won’t hire a new general manager in the short-term after Porter’s dismissal

The New York Mets had to deal with an unexpected situation on Tuesday. Late on Monday night, ESPN ran an article detailing offensive, sexually-explicit messages and pictures that the now-former general manager Jared Porter sent to a female reporter back when he was with the Chicago Cubs in 2016.

As a result of the scandal and given the disturbing nature of the accusations, and the fact that Porter himself admitted he sent the photos, the Mets had no choice but to fire the executive after just 37 days in charge.

Mets president Sandy Alderson said Tuesday that the club does not plan to hire a new GM in the short term. That means he will probably make the calls when it comes to baseball operations, and that assistant GM Zack Scott will have more on his plate.

“I’m very confident in the group that we have that we can move forward and move forward effectively,” Alderson told reporters via Zoom on Tuesday afternoon.

The Mets took care of the situation

The story was published on Monday, near midnight. Steve Cohen took to his Twitter account on Tuesday morning, saying that Porter was no longer a member of the New York Mets.

“There is always a risk to hiring…. It’s hard to know anyone inside and out today. The question is, ‘Should we have known?'” Alderson said. The New York Mets president added that he was “shocked…. Eventually that gives way to disappointment and a little anger.”

“When I came here, my goal was to put a good team on the field and change the culture. We’re not going to be able to do that, change the culture, unless we have very strict and well understood approach to these situations. They’re not going to be tolerated,” the executive explained.

Porter was seen as one of the top young executives in the game when the Mets gave him the general manager job. His future is now uncertain.

Conor McGregor hit with multimillion-dollar lawsuit to kick off UFC 257’s Fight Week

Conor McGregor, UFC

This upcoming Saturday at UFC 257, Conor McGregor (22-4) will be making his return to the octagon. McGregor is headlining the first PPV of 2021 against Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) in a rematch from their original fight that took place over six years ago.

It seems that everything has gone smooth in McGregor’s preparation for his UFC return. He seems more focused than ever and he seems to be in the best shape he’s ever been in leading up to the fight.

McGregor has been through a lot over the past few years. In reality, he’s brought a lot of negative attention onto himself with his actions. Whether it was throwing a dolly threw a bus window or punching an old man in a pub in Dublin, McGregor has made some questionable decisions.

That said, the last year has been smooth for McGregor. He fought at UFC 246 to kickoff 2020 and won in 40 seconds. After that, he had some public spats with the UFC that caused a brief retirement. However, nothing extremely negative happened outside the cage.

Instead, McGregor appeared to still be training despite his self-proclaimed retirement. Just when you thought we were in the clear of all the outside drama, news broke today that McGregor has been hit with a multimillion-dollar law suit over events that took place in 2018.

Will this impact UFC 257?

ESPN reported today that a suit was filed against McGregor in the High Court of Dublin. The lawsuit is a personal injury lawsuit that has been filed by a woman in Dublin. McGregor and an associate are both listed as defendants in the case.

It is worth noting that the UFC star was already investigated for this alleged incident. After collecting evidence and doing a series of interviews, the UFC star was not charged of any crime.

Of course, just because McGregor wasn’t charged doesn’t mean that the woman cannot pursue damages. That said, it appears that it will be an uphill battle for the woman and her mother who have filed the lawsuits against McGregor.

You already know that there is a high-level legal team that will start to handle this. However, one has to wonder if it will be in the back of his mind as he prepares this week. Then again, maybe McGregor will be able to block it out and just focus on the fight in front of him.

The story behind Fred from Fresh Meadows: A Knicks Memoir

What started as a diversion during the COVID-19 pandemic grew into a passion.

That’s how the fascinating book Fred From Fresh Meadows: A Knicks Memoir took a life on its own.

Fred Cantor, the author of the book, is a New Yorker and a retired lawyer. The New York Knicks have been such a big part of his life that he thought of writing about his favorite team at the height of the global pandemic last year.

Without Knicks basketball for most of last year, Cantor killed time by remembering the team that captured his imagination when he was just Fred, the kid from Fresh Meadows, Queens.

“The book started out as a personal project to transport me from the pandemic. I am 67 with underlying health conditions, so I have been essentially confined to home since the beginning of March. I enjoy online historical research and writing—and the Knicks are obviously a major passion of mine—so this proved to be a project that occupied my time in a major way; the day would fly by and I would forget what was going on around us,” Cantor told Empire Sports Media.

Book for a Cause

As Cantor put all those memories together spanning six decades of Knicks’ fandom, he thought he has something that will resonate with a broader audience. Positive feedback from his old friends, some of whom are published writers, was all he needed to publish his memoir into a book. And it’s not just an ordinary book because all of its proceeds will go to the John Starks Foundation, whose mission is to provide “monetary grants to NY tri-state and Tulsa area college-bound high school seniors who demonstrate academic excellence, financial need and a commitment to community service.”

This is not the first time that Cantor has been involved with a creative project for a cause. He was also the co-author of a photo history book on Fresh Meadows that is part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America Series. They earmarked 100% of their authors’ royalties to go to the Queens Library Foundation to benefit the local Fresh Meadows library branch.

For this Knicks memoir, he went with a charity that is close to the team’s heart.

“I chose the John Starks Foundation because I wholeheartedly believe in its mission of helping college-bound students in financial need, and naturally I was a big fan of John’s play and work ethic when he was with the Knicks during their successful run in the 1990s,” Cantor said.

A Walk Down The Memory Lane

The From Fresh Meadows: A Knicks Memoir was released in November last year in partnership with The Strickland Press.

The book puts readers into a time machine where Cantor entertainingly walked with them down the memory lane. He masterfully weaved his personal life’s twists and turns with the Knicks’ highs and lows—from the drafting of Art Heyman and “Here Comes Willis!” game to Linsanity and the insanity of being a Knicks fan.

To this day, Cantor is still in possession of his first basketball heroes and Knicks’ memorabilia from his childhood years.

“I still have the faded autographs (in pencil) of Art Heyman, Wilt Chamberlain, and Jerry Lucas side by side from the 1963 Maurice Stokes Benefit Game and I still have the autographs (in pen) of Jerry Lucas and Walt Bellamy side by side from the Maurice Stokes Benefit Game that happened in 1964 or 1965,” Cantor said.

“I have kept a variety of memorabilia over the years—not that I thought it was going to be worth something; it was really for sentimental reasons.  But, when we sold our house in 2017 and downsized, I did get rid of a bunch of sports-related stuff, including a number of old programs.  But I still have a couple of programs from the 1960s and the 1973 NBA Finals program, among others,” he added.

Most Memorable Knicks Moment

Cantor’s sharp recollection coupled with obsessive-compulsive attention to detail is what makes this book a must-have for old Knicks fans who want to relive the team’s past glory and even for young Knicks fans who want to dive into the franchise’s history.

“I wrote the first draft in roughly six weeks (including doing revisions as I completed that draft). But naturally, I worked on further editing in the weeks and months after that as well as fact-checking, which included even watching tapes of old games (and I continued doing minor edits leading up to the publication in late November),” Cantor recalled.

When asked what’s his favorite Knicks moment, Cantor had a tough time choosing, but he ultimately went with the franchise’s first championship.

The 1970 NBA championship holds a special place in Cantor’s heart. He still vividly recalls where he was and how the Knicks won the pivotal Game 5 that set up the iconic Willis Reed’s Game 7 moment.

“I would probably have to go with the end of Game 5 against the Lakers in the 1970 Finals when the Knicks capped off a remarkable comeback after Willis was injured and the team fell behind by 16 points (in the pre-three-point era). I listened to that game on the radio in my bedroom—I can picture it like it was yesterday—and the entire season was on the line. To borrow from “The Maltese Falcon,” it was “the stuff that dreams are made of,” Cantor said.

Written By A Fan For The Fans

Sports fans, not only Knicks fans, can relate and will go through a roller-coaster ride of emotions reading Cantor’s journey as a fan.

Oftentimes, we read sports books through the lens of the writers who cover the sports and through the eyes of the athletes. But it’s rare to find a book from a fan’s perspective—how a team and its interesting personalities impact their fans’ lives.

The Knicks may not have been relevant for years, but don’t tell that to their fans who dissect even team staff’s most random hiring.

Cantor remained a Knicks fan through thick and thin. He is the best representation of the Knicks’ fanatics, considered the most loyal fanbase in the NBA.

“My memoir is intended to capture the perspective of the regular fan—in this case, one who has remained passionate through six decades—and how the team has influenced my life in a variety of ways. In other words, I was looking to, in essence, represent the everyday fan; it’s the type of book I had been wanting to read but hadn’t seen before,” Cantor said.

“I would like to impart to younger fans that I have witnessed my share of losing records—especially during the period the Knicks missed the playoffs 7 years in a row when I was growing up—but I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel now (just as there was back then when younger players developed and blossomed)” he added.

Déjà vu?

Cantor endured seven years without Knicks playoff basketball as a kid from 1959 to 1966. In 1967, the Knicks finished fourth in the Eastern Conference and went on to lose to their Atlantic division rival Boston Celtics in the conference semis.

The Knicks have been in the same rut in the last seven years.

Will history repeat itself?

Cantor and the Knicks’ fan base may be looking at Knicks president Leon Rose and his head coach, Tom Thibodeau, as the men who hold the torch that will guide these Knicks out of the dark tunnel.

Despite a quiet offseason, the Knicks have been one of the revelations and feel-good stories to start the season.

“I have great faith in the current Front Office. I applauded their hiring of Thibs and I fully supported their choices in the most recent draft. Equally important, they seem committed to developing the younger players—and I absolutely think that is the way to go,” Cantor said.

The Knicks’ 7-8 start has been auspicious. Cantor hopes to see The Garden rock again like it used to be during his time.

“When the pandemic is way in the rearview mirror, I hope to one day see a Knicks game at the Garden again,” said Cantor whose brother’s older son has a share of season tickets.

Perhaps another colorful chapter is waiting to be written.

The From Fresh Meadows: A Knicks Memoir is available at Amazon.com for only $15.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

NASCAR: Ty Dillon earns Gaunt Brothers’ No. 96 for Daytona

Dillon will join his younger brother Austin at NASCAR’s premier event, piloting the No. 96 Toyota for Gaunt Brothers Racing.

The Daytona 500 will continue to get a double dose of Dillon.

Toyota Racing Development and Gaunt Brothers Racing announced that Ty Dillon will pilot the latter’s No. 96 Camry at the 2021 Daytona 500 on February 14 (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox). Bass Pro Shops and Black Rife Coffee will provide sponsorship. Dillon, 28, is the younger brother of 2018 Daytona 500 winner Austin and grandson of championship team owner Richard Childress.

“Gaunt Brothers Racing has given me a great opportunity to compete in the Daytona 500 and I couldn’t be happier,” Ty Dillon said in a Toyota-issued statement. “I love superspeedway races and the Daytona 500 is the biggest of them all. Toyota has certainly proven itself in our sport and in the Daytona 500. I’m looking forward to racing with them and reuniting with Bass Pro Shops and Black Rifle Coffee Company.”

Dillon has spent the past four seasons driving for the single-car squad at Germain Racing, which ceased operations at the end of the 2020 season. He piloted their No. 13 car to half of its dozen top-ten finishes, with his best posting being a third-place spot at last fall’s Talladega event. During the 2019 season, Dillon gave Germain its first two stage wins and added another this season.

The more recent tally earned him eligibility in the Busch Clash, the exhibition race held prior to the 500-mile main event. It’s possible Dillon could partake in the Clash with 23XI Racing, the newly formed team headed by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin, which is also under Toyota’s umbrella, but nothing has been solidified.

Dillon previously earned four wins on the NASCAR Xfinity and Truck series levels, posting a runner-up finish during the latter’s 2013 campaign. He has run well at Daytona’s Cup offerings, earning three top-ten finishes in his last five visits to the oval, including a fourth-place posting in the 400-mile summer event in 2019.

Gaunt Brothers Racing recently wrapped up its first full-time season with Daniel Suarez behind the wheel of their No. 96, with their best finishes being a pair of 18th-place postings at Bristol and Kansas. Suarez and GBR announced that they would part ways in September, with the former driving the No. 99 Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing this season.

“The best way to get a good start to your season is to have a good finish in the Daytona 500,” said Marty Gaunt, president, Gaunt Brothers Racing in the statement “We’ve got a talented driver in Ty Dillon with a strong TRD engine plugged into the best equipment available. Together with Toyota, Bass Pro Shops and Black Rifle Coffee Company, we’re ready to compete and surprise some people.”

Dillon isn’t the only respected name of the circuit making his return to the Cup Series at Daytona. Not only is 2010 winner Jamie McMurray set to run the race in a Spire Motorsports machine, but Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports announced that Derrike Cope plans to run the event in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 15 Chevrolet. Cope, 62, was the upset winner of the 1990 edition. At 62, Cope would be the second oldest driver to ever compete in the Daytona 500, behind only Mark Thompson in 2018.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Miles Austin, Taylor Embree headed to New York Jets staff (Report)

Austin and Embree are the latest names reported to be joining Robert Saleh’s new staff with the New York Jets.

With Robert Saleh’s New York Jets contract officially signed, his staff reportedly continues to grow.

Former receivers Miles Austin and Taylor Embree are coming to the metropolitan area, according to Peter Schrager of NFL Network (Schrager has also called Jets preseason games in recent summers). Austin will take over the receivers’ coach spot, while Embree will take over as the running backs coach.

Austin, 36, would return to New Jersey after a 10-year career primarily spent with the Dallas Cowboys. A native of Summit and alum of Garfield High School and Monmouth University, Austin led the NFL in receiving yardage during his breakout season in 2009, earning 1,320 en route to Dallas’ NFC East title. His 250 receiving yards in a win over Kansas City from that season still stands as a Cowboys record. Following his eight seasons in Dallas, which included a pair of Pro Bowl appearances (2009-10), Austin played two final seasons with Cleveland and Philadelphia. Injuries marred the final parts of his career, as Austin managed to play a full 16-game season only once after his final five campaigns.

Following his playing career, Austin rejoined the Cowboys, this time working in their scouting department. He would later spend a year alongside Saleh in 2019 as an offensive quality control coach with San Franciso, joining him in Super Bowl LIV. Austin left the team prior to the 2020 season. In the interim, Austin went back to Monmouth and earned his degree in political science. He previously departed Long Branch as the program’s all-time leader in receiving yards and was the first former Hawk to appear in a regular season NFL game.

Embree, 32, likewise worked with Saleh during his years with the 49ers, spending three seasons as an offensive quality control coach. He was likewise part of the 49ers group that went to the most recent Super Bowl, ironically falling to the Kansas City Chiefs, with whom he worked as a defensive assistant. More recently, Embree served as the tight ends coach at Colorado University under Karl Dorrell, his former head coach at UCLA. The Buffaloes went 4-1 in a shortened season and advanced to the Alamo Bowl, their first postseason appearance since 2016.

During his time with the Bruins, Embree earned 1,776 yards on 137 receptions over a four-year career. The 531 yards he earned during his rookie campaign were a program record for a true freshman. He later partook in the San Diego Chargers’ training camp proceedings during the summer of 2013.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags