LaVine La Vida Loca: Bulls’ gunner hits dagger in heartbreaking Knicks loss

Around this time last year, Zach LaVine mused about Tom Thibodeau, his former coach in Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Look, I understand the business of basketball,’’ LaVine told Chicago Sun-Times in February last year. “Yeah, he traded me, but for that one season, he did coach me. He gave me an opportunity. He put the ball in the hands of a 20, 21-year-old kid and said, ‘Go hoop.’ That’s bigger than the business of basketball.”

On Monday night, in Thibodeau’s return to the city that gave him his first break as head coach, LaVine showed the confidence his former coach has instilled in him.

LaVine scored 10 points in the final quarter, including the dagger three-pointer that sealed Chicago Bull’s 110-102 victory over his former coach and the New York Knicks.

The Knicks ran into a series of costly turnover, defensive breakdown, and wide-open miss in the final minute that cost Thibodeau a victory over his former team.

Thibodeau’s record against the Bulls since his unceremonious firing in 2015 is now 3-2 following the tough loss.

And LaVine, who Thibodeau unleashed with a 37-minute average playing time during his first coaching year in Minnesota, played a significant role.

An Immanuel Quickley long-range bomb with 3:32 left gave the Knicks their first lead, 95-94, since the first half.

Both teams went toe-to-toe until Coby White answered Alec Burk’s triple with his own to give the Bull’s a three-point cushion, 103-100, inside the final 42.4 seconds.

Julius Randle’s fifth turnover set up LaVine’s dagger that extended the Bulls’ lead, 106-100, with 22 seconds left.

RJ Barrett missed a wide-open corner three off a timeout while LaVine iced the game at the line sending the Knicks (9-13) to their second straight loss.

The Knicks’ defense was able to contain Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen in the fourth quarter. But they had no answer to LaVine, who is reportedly on the Knicks’ radar as the trade deadline approaches, according to Ian Begley of SNY.

Markkanen led the Bulls with 30 points, all coming through the first three quarters. LaVine added 21 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and beyond the arc (3-for-6).

Thibodeau lamented the Knicks’ defensive breakdown that led to LaVine’s killer three-pointer down the stretch.

“The issue with LaVine and the pick and roll, and in some cases, with Markkanen, it’s gonna make you react to the ball particularly late. Like with Zach that we saw at the end when we had a breakdown that left him open,” Thibodeau said during his postgame interview. “He’s a great shooter, a phenomenal shooter. He’s a 50/90/40 guy.”

The Knicks were able to limit LaVine to just 11 points in the first three quarters.

But they couldn’t stop him when it mattered.

The Knicks battled back from a double-digit deficit early in the second half but looked spent in the second night of a back-to-back schedule.

The three-point shooting remained a concern for the Knicks, who ranked last in the league. They shot a paltry 6-for-29 from deep, and they were 2-for-15 in the first half. But thanks to their 17 free throws, they were only down by four, 59-55, at the break.

Randle played his usual all-around game (21 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists), but his last turnover on a spin move would make him lose sleep tonight.

Burks came off the bench with 18 points, while Quickley had another solid outing (16 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists in 31 minutes).

Nerlens Noel was also a massive part of the second unit that kept the Knicks in the game. He got the lion’s share of minutes at center with eight points, seven boards, and a game-high five shot blocks in 28 minutes. Mitchell Robinson, who picked up three quick fouls, played only 21 minutes and produced nine points and eight rebounds.

Barrett, who the Knicks and Thibodeau hope would develop into a go-to-wing like LaVine, struggled for 14 points on 7-of-17 shooting, including 0-for-3 from deep.

The Knicks will have a chance to avenge this loss in their rematch on Wednesday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Giants almost officially priced out of Deshaun Watson trade

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will be on the move this offseason, but not to the New York Giants. The team is priced out of a deal for him thanks to the high demands of the Texans. And while those demands seem to be a rumor so far, there’s no way the Giants can make a deal happen if they’re true.

We’ve seen some trade ideas that would send Watson to the Giants, from ones that could actually happen to those that seem to be from the realm of fantasy. But these demands look impossible for the Giants to fill, even moreso than some of the wild ideas such as sending three first round picks and Saquon Barkley to the Texans.

Many teams will be ruled out by the Texans’ demands

The Texans wanting two first round picks and two second round ones is already enough to scare off many teams, but two young defensive starters may just rule out most of the suitors for Watson. It should especially rule out the Giants, who don’t have the kind of depth to just ship off two young starters on defense as well as draft picks that will have a big impact on the future of their team.

It looks like the Jets might be in the market for Watson given these criteria. The Jets have less room to fall compared to the Giants, who have started to turn things around after hiring Joe Judge. Giving up talent wouldn’t hurt them as much. However, a rebuilding team like the Jets may also be scared off by the draft pick requirement. Those picks will likely play a big role in their future plans, after all.

At the end of the day, it’s easy to see why the Texans want so much for Watson – but don’t be shocked if no one takes the deal.

The New York Rangers overcome a turbulent weekend to defeat the Pens

New York Rangers, Chris Kreider

You could have understood if the New York Rangers were distracted by the previous 48 hours. But instead, they set the distractions aside and defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins by the score of 3-1.

The win came after a tough weekend following the altercation between Tony DeAngelo and Alexandar Georgiev after the Ranger’s overtime loss last Saturday night.

Before the game, general manager Jeff Gorton told the media via a Zoom Conference that DeAngelo has played his final game for the New York Rangers despite going unclaimed on waivers. The decision came after a warning from the organization about his behavior and the “incident” he was involved in.

In addition to not having DeAngelo, the Rangers were also without Colin Blackwell, who will miss 7-10 days, as well as Kaapo Kakko, who was placed on the league’s COVID protocol list.

Igor Shesterkin started in net and made 25 saves in the victory.

However, the save of the night may have made by K’Andre Miller, who sacrificed his body to block a Pierre-Olivier Joseph shot that seemed destined for the back of the net.

Artemi Panarin had a goal and two assists but it was Chris Kreider’s power-play goal at 11:10 of the third period that proved to be the game-winner. Kevin Rooney’s goal opened the scoring for the Rangers.

It was Kreider’s 161st goal with the Rangers, the second-most by an American-born player in team history behind Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch.

Head coach David Quinn was very pleased with the effort, especially under the trying situation. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of our group.” Quinn said in his post-game Zoom conference “It has been a very difficult 24 to 36 hours. The way we kind of came together, with the first period being shaky, we were kind of feeling our way through, I thought we were fortunate to get out being down only 1-0, but other than that we got back to doing some of the things that we were doing well in the early part of the season. It is amazing what you can accomplish if you play as one.”

The Rangers may be down another defenseman as Brendan Smith left the game in the first period after a collision with Penguins forward Brandon Tanev. Smith did not return with what was reported as an upper-body injury.

Both the Rangers and the Penguins will have games postponed against the New Jersey Devils, who have had multiple players placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.

The Ranger’s next game will be against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at MSG.

 

 

 

 

Why Caleb Farley could be attractive to the New York Giants at eleven overall

New York Giants, Caleb Farley

The New York Giants are in need of help on offense. Many fans and analysts project that the Giants will take a wide receiver with the eleventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to solve their offensive problems. But there are certain scenarios where the Giants could go defense at eleven overall.

If the Giants do go defense at eleven overall, there are a few prospects that could entice them. But one intriguing player could be a surprising, but exciting selection with the eleventh pick. Caleb Farley, an uber-athletic cornerback out of Virginia Tech, is an electric prospect that has risen up draft boards in recent weeks.

Caleb Farley is an elite athlete and impressive prospect

Caleb Farley is such a unique cornerback prospect. He stands tall at six feet two inches and has a well-built frame of 197 pounds. Farley started his football career as a quarterback in high school and began his collegiate career at wide receiver before transitioning to the defensive side of the ball in 2018.

That position switch paid great dividends for Caleb and his career. Farley broke onto the scene as a cornerback with elite physical traits in 2019. Not only is he tall and strong, but Farley is also extremely athletic. He once said in an interview that he ran a 4.25s forty-yard-dash in high school, but no one believed him so he told everyone he ran a 4.35s forty.

Regardless of what he ran in high school, Caleb Farley is still blazing fast. He is projected to run a forty-yard-dash time around 4.35s. Caleb was also “reportedly clocked at over 24 miles per hour on GPS trackers during the Notre Dame game last season,” per Pro Football Focus.

Caleb Farley put his elite athleticism into effect with advanced technique as a cornerback in college. He has clean footwork and the ability to mirror wide receivers’ routes. Farley was also very productive, recording six interceptions over the last two seasons. Combining his technique with his incredible makeup speed makes it increasingly difficult for wide receivers to beat him over top.

The Giants run a very versatile defense. Patrick Graham calls a lot of disguised zone coverage blitzes but also relies on sticky press-man coverage in key situations. Caleb Farley would fit right into this defense with his experience playing plenty of zone coverage with West Virginia and his elite man-coverage traits that were always on full display in college.

Caleb Farley is a flawed cornerback with a high ceiling

Caleb Farley is by no means a perfect prospect. In fact, there are some glaring weaknesses that could scare teams away from drafting him in the top ten-to-fifteen. Caleb suffered a non-contact ACL tear in 2017 and also missed the final two games of the 2019 season due to back spasms, showing somewhat of an injury history.

Additionally, Farley is being projected as a press-man coverage cornerback in the NFL because of his traits. However, according to Pro Football Focus, Caleb Farley had only 58 press-man coverage snaps in his collegiate career. He is inexperienced in playing the defensive role that he is expected to flourish in at the next level.

Regardless of his injury history and inexperience, Farley is still one of the most intriguing defensive prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft. Caleb is a superb athlete that has all of the traits to be an elite cornerback in the NFL. He projects nicely as a press-man cornerback but will need to refine his skills to achieve success in the pros.

If the New York Giants draft Caleb Farley, he will benefit from playing alongside James Bradberry within Patrick Graham’s complex defensive scheme. Farley would be covering secondary receivers on this roster. Patrick Graham would also be able to put Farley in a position to succeed with disguised coverages that allowed young cornerbacks like Darnay Holmes and Isaac Yiadom to make plays in 2020. Fans might hope to see the Giants draft a wide receiver at eleven overall, but the selection of Caleb Farley would be one to excite fans long-term and fill a major need on defense with an elite athletic prospect.

UFC books short-notice fight between Bobby Green and Jim Miller

UFC 258 has added a very solid lightweight contest to it’s card. MMA Junkie was first to report this afternoon that the promotion has booked a fight between “King” Bobby Green (27-11-1) and Jim “A-10” Miller (32-15, 1 NC).

The news of this fight between lightweight veterans comes on the heels of learning that the co-main between Chris Weidman and Uriah Hall is off. No word yet on if this fight will end up on the UFC 258 main card.

Jim Miller is as tough as they come and he’s been with the UFC since 2008. Miller just keeps on going at 37 years old and competed inside the octagon three times during 2020. However, Miller only went 1-2 in those three fights.

That 1-2 stretch followed a 2019 that saw Miller go 2-0 inside the octagon. While not at the top of the division, Miller has still proved that he’s a tough out in the UFC‘s lightweight division. We last saw him at UFC 252 when he lost a decision to Vinc Pichel.

UFC Resurgence for The King

Heading into 2020, Bobby Green didn’t know if he was going to compete in the UFC anymore. Green was flirting with retirement after several decisions had gone against him and he had gone 1-5-1 in his previous seven fights.

The King decided to take a fight in the middle of the year against veteran Clay Guida. Green was able to pickup a decision win. He then followed that fight up with two additional wins to put him on a three-fight win streak.

Green decided to take one more fight inside the octagon in 2020 against Thiago Moises. That night, Green came up short and his UFC winning streak was halted at three. However, going 3-1 in 2020 has motivated Green to try and climb back up the ranks.

It’s amazing that these two veterans have never crossed paths despite their lengthy runs with the promotion. Well, we will finally get to see the two of them square off at UFC 258 in what promises to be a very fun matchup at 155.

The New York Yankees likely won’t have a true starting left fielder in 2021

New York Yankees, Clint Frazier

With Spring Training inching closer, the New York Yankees have just one question mark remaining. Despite having one of the most productive off-seasons across the league, the team still doesn’t know who’ll play left field in 2021. The Yankees reportedly tried to snag Michael Brantley in free-agency to fill the position, but he returned to the Houston Astros on a two-year deal. Marcell Ozuna remains on the market, but it’s unlikely the Yankees have space to sign him.

That being said, the Yankees may not have a true starting left fielder in 2021. The team has Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman on the roster in 2021 and will likely re-sign Brett Gardner to a short-term deal. New York has three options for left field, but neither of the three may play every day.

Frazier finally began to piece things together last season, batting .267 with a .905 OPS and a 149 OPS+. His defense made massive strides, even becoming a Gold Glove Award finalist.

Tauchman wasn’t bad in 2020 either, except that his power really lacked. His OBP was just shy of .350, but his slugging was just .305. He had six extra-base hits in 95 at-bats.

Gardner is the veteran player the Yankees need in the clubhouse, but his play has fallen-off significantly over the past couple of seasons. His defense remains reliable, but he bat just .223 with a .747 OPS in 2020.

It could come down to the handedness of the pitcher the Yankees are facing each night. Frazier and Tauchman are both solid against lefties, while Gardner struggles. Frazier’s OPS against lefties is .818, while Tauchman’s is .763 with a .371 OBP.

However, against righties, Frazier’s splits are the best of the three. With a .260 average and a .802 OPS, he bests both Gardner and Tauchman, who both have an OPS below .770.

Each of the three left fielders have their strengths and weaknesses, so it’ll be interesting to see who gets the most playing time. A lot of nights, it may be whoever is the hottest or whoever has the best stats against a given pitcher.

This is all assuming that the Yankees re-sign Brett Gardner, which seems inevitable at this point. However, if the team changes course and decides to let the 13-year veteran walk, the left field situation will be a completely different story.

Alistair Overeem wants to capture UFC gold then immediately retire

This weekend at UFC Vegas 18, Alistair Overeem (47-18, 1 NC) will continue down his final run inside the octagon. The Demolition Man turns 41 in May and he knows that his time as a UFC heavyweight is coming to an end.

Overeem headlines this weekend’s upcoming card against Alexander Volkov (32-8). Both men currently rank inside the UFC’s top six at heavyweight and a win for either man puts them one step closer to a title shot.

Overeem had his first professional MMA fight back in 1999. His career has taken him all over the world and he’s competed in virtually every major MMA organization there’s ever been. He’s also won many world titles all across the globe.

Overeem was the heavyweight champion in Dream and Strikeforce. In addition to that, Overeem was the K-1 World Grand Prix Champion in kickboxing. One of only two fighters ever to have the distinction of a kickboxing and MMA world title simultaneously.

The one thing that has eluded Overeem is the UFC heavyweight title. Overeem came over to the UFC in 2011 as the Strikeforce heavyweight champion. He debuted by finishing Brock Lesnar in the first round. However, he later failed a drug test before his first UFC title shot and was suspended.

Upon his return, Overeem lost two straight. Overeem was able to climb the ladder and earned himself a title shot at UFC 203 against Stipe Miocic. The Demolition Man was finished in the first round after some early success.

One final UFC title run

Throughout his UFC career, Overeem has come close to the title. However, up to this point, he’s never been able to capture the title. This is the only thing missing from Overeem’s career and he’s made it clear that if he accomplishes his goal, he’s done.

In a recent interview with MMA Junkie, Overeem said, “I would retire immediately (after winning the UFC title). There’s nothing to prove at that point.” He’s also alluded to the fact that if his championship window closes, he will walk away from the sport.

With that in mind, every time Alistair Overeem walks into the octagon from here on out, it could be for the final time. If Overeem wins at UFC Vegas 18, he’s likely only one more win away from a title shot.

However, if Overeem falters and Volkov wins, we might see the last of The Demolition Man. Overeem has had an incredible career, however, it would feel somewhat incomplete if he’s never able to get UFC gold. He’s got a steep mountain in front of him and it’ll be fascinating to see if he can reach the summit.

New York Mets acquire young starter Jordan Yamamoto

New York Mets

The New York Mets made yet another move with the 2021 season in mind, trading for a young starter with MLB experience. The organization informed that they have acquired Jordan Yamamoto from the Miami Marlins, in exchange for minor league infielder Federico Polanco.

To make room for Yamamoto on the 40-man roster, the New York Mets decided to designate infielder Robel García for assignment.

Yamamoto is a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher that profiles as a back-of-the-rotation arm. He had been designated for assignment by the Marlins a few days ago.

The Mets are taking a chance on the young pitcher hoping that he can show the form that made him a revelation in 2019. That year, he had a 4.46 ERA (39 earned runs/78.2 innings) and 82 strikeouts in 15 starts with Miami.

He was, according to a release from the Mets, third in MLB among pitchers with a minimum of 15 starts with a .191 opponent batting average and a 6.18 hits per nine innings ratio behind Justin Verlander (.172, 5.53) and Gerrit Cole (.186, 6.02).

The Mets are adding more depth

The Mets, with the move, want to shore up their upper-minors pitching depth and have Yamamoto serve as an option should one (or more) of the MLB rotation options suffer an injury.

Despite his good 2019, Yamamoto was bad in 2020, with a 18.26 ERA and a 11.93 FIP in 11.1 innings. His best years are ahead of him, though, and the Mets are taking a chance on him in exchange for the 19-year-old Polanco, who has hit .244 (110–450) with 20 doubles and 50 RBI in two minor league seasons.

The Mets, despite adding several starters during the offseason, could still make another splash or two in the following weeks, as they have been connected with top-tier free agent Trevor Bauer. They brought back Marcus Stroman and traded for Carlos Carrasco, yet they may not be done improving the pitching staff.

Former Yankees’ postseason hero Raul Ibanez will join MLB’s office

New York Yankees

Major League Baseball is hiring former outfielder Raul Ibanez, who had a stint with the New York Yankees, to advise the league regarding several topics.

Ibanez hit 19 home runs in 130 games in the 2012 season. He was working with the Los Angeles Dodgers when the league contacted him about the role he will now fulfil.

The ex outfielder had his best season in 2009 with the Philadelphia Phillies, a campaign that culminated with a defeat to the Yankees in the World Series.

What will the ex Yankees’ slugger do?

MLB Communications detailed Ibanez’s new job, per NJ Advance Media:

“Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. announced today that Major League Baseball has named longtime baseball operations executive Michael Hill and former All-Star Raul Ibañez as Senior Vice Presidents of On-Field Operations. Hill and Ibañez, who will report to Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Morgan Sword, will serve in key roles overseeing umpiring, discipline and other on-field issues. In addition, MLB has hired former Major League manager Bo Porter and former Major League players Joe Martinez and Rajai Davis to roles in its Baseball Operations Department.”

Hill was one of the candidates to fill the general manager position of the Yankees’ crosstown rivals, the New York Mets, but he lost to Jared Porter.

The league stated that Hill “will oversee MLB’s umpiring and on-field discipline at both the Major and Minor league levels. Hill’s 27-year front office career includes 18 years with the Miami Marlins franchise, with seven seasons (2014-2020) as President of Baseball Operations and the previous six as General Manager (2008-2013).”

Ibanez, who Yankees’ fans remember fondly after he had a pinch-hit, game-tying homer in the ninth inning and a game-winning dinger in the 12th inning of Game Three of the 2012 Division Series vs. the Baltimore Orioles, will “work on issues related to rules, equipment and on-field technology. He will also contribute to MLB’s initiatives in scouting and amateur baseball.”

New York Rangers: Not just just a simple thing to cut Tony DeAngelo

After the news that the New York Ranger‘s troubled defenseman Tony DeAngelo has cleared waivers, the question now becomes what to do 25-year-old lightning rod.

So the Rangers have the next move in dealing with DeAngelo. Pierre LeBrun has reported that the Rangers are still determining the next steps for DeAngelo now that he has cleared waivers and that they are working closely on it with his agent, Pat Brisson.

While many feel they should just release him, it is not quite that simple. First of all, there is the issue of that pesky salary cap.

There is a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that allows for a player’s contract to be terminated based on conduct, it is not sure if the Rangers would win a case if DeAngelo and the NHLPA decide to challenge the Ranger’s actions.

However, because of DeAngelo’s age, he is 25 and doesn’t turn 26 until October, the Rangers could buy out DeAngelo’s contract in June for one-third of the cost, not the regular two-thirds.

The Rangers re-signed DeAngelo to a two-year, $9.6-million contract carrying a cap hit of $4.8 million this season and next. That would mean a buyout would cost $883,333 each of the next two seasons, with a cap hit of $383,333 in 2021-22 and $883,333 in 2022-23, according to CapFriendly.com

The next possibility would be to trade DeAngelo, which is harder to do because of his behavior history. As Elliot Friedman of Sportsnet.ca pointed out, “The thing about this is that you really have to do a deep dive to make sure that you want to do this” and also pointed out that “any team that does it (take DeAngelo) there’s gonna be heat. And are teams going to take that heat?”

It is not like DeAngelo can go anywhere in North American and hot have his behavior issues follow him, as his exploits have been well-documented since he had the incidents while playing in juniors.

A trade will be a little more likely if the Rangers were willing to take on some of his cap hit.

While it is possible, the Rangers could send him to Hartford, but it does not seem plausible that the Rangers would want him around their prospects.

If they do, and DeAngelo refuses to report, that would be cause for a suspension or a termination of his contract.

The “odds-on-favorite” solutions seem to be to place him on the taxi-squad and/or pay him to sit at home for an unspecified period of time. Maybe a “time-out” would give DeAngelo and the Rangers some time to work things out that could benefit all parties.