New York Giants: Ryan Lewis becomes latest offseason waiver

New York Giants, Ryan Lewis

The New York Giants have improved in the secondary since last season, and because of that, they’ve moved on from one cornerback that they don’t see the need for anymore. The player in this case is Ryan Lewis, who joined the roster in 2020 as a member of the practice squad. The Giants would later bring him up to the active roster for the game against Chicago before sending him back down.

Lewis would make it back to the active roster during the same month but ultimately his season was interrupted by injury as he was placed on the IR list in November. Now, the team is making the decision to make him one of their offseason waivers after adding another cornerback to the current group in Adoree’ Jackson.

Lewis, a former college player with the University of Pittsburgh, came into the league as an undrafted free agent and played for a number of teams before making it to the Giants. He had stints with the Cardinals, Patriots, Colts, Eagles, Dolphins, and Washington.

He’d end up playing five games for the Giants and racking up 13 tackles and one pass breakup during his time last year. Not the worst numbers in the world for someone that started off in the practice squad.

Ultimately, though, the Giants don’t see Lewis as a player worth taking into the next season after the team has added others such as Adoree’ Jackson, Joshua Kalu, and expects to get Sam Beal back. One thing’s for certain, and that’s the secondary looking a little different going into 2021.

Julius Randle outduels Zion Williamson as Knicks win season-high 4 in a row

Julius Randle outdueled Zion Williamson in the showdown between All-Star forwards.

Randle hit three triples in the opening quarter that set the tone for the New York Knicks‘ 116-106 win over Williamson and the Pelicans Wednesday night at the Smoothie Center in New Orleans.

The Knicks notched their season-high fourth straight victory leaning on Randle’s seventh 30-point performance of the season and Alec Burks’ fourth-quarter explosion on offense. But it was their collective effort on defense that propelled them to improve to 29-27 and move up to sixth in the bunched-up Eastern Conference.

Williamson still got away with 25 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists but only had four points in the final 19 minutes. He went 1-of-4 from the field in the pivotal fourth quarter, where the Knicks completely took control of the game.

Williamson didn’t score his first basket until the final 2:36 of the first quarter.

Randle drew help from Taj Gibson, who started for late scratch Nerlens Noel (sore right ankle), and Norvel Pelle in packing the paint and made life hard for Williamson.

Pelle skied high to block Williamson in the second quarter, but the sophomore forward built like a tank quickly returned the favor in the next play. Williamson was in the zone in the middle quarters.

But come crunch time, the last year’s top overall pick couldn’t deliver in the face of the Knicks’ physical and swarming defense.

“You know Zion is a handful. So, we had to throw as many bodies as we can and get out and recover to the shooters,” Randle said.

“My teammates did a great job showing up, throwing bodies, and giving me help. And then just made the extra effort— the second effort plays—in getting out to the shooters and making it hard for him.”

New Orleans struggled with only six three-pointers out of 28 tries as the Pelicans saw their three-game win streak came to an end.

Brandon Ingram paced the Pelicans with 28 points on 22 shots.

The Knicks, led by Randle’s five threes, shot 51.5 percent (17-33) from the outside. They are undefeated (9-0) when they shot at least 50 percent from beyond the arc.

Randle had his second straight 30-point game—curiously against his former team’s—with 32 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Then Burks’ 14-point outburst in the fourth quarter put the game beyond reach.

Burks finished with 21 points to pick up the slack, with RJ Barrett struggling for the second straight game. Barrett had a quiet six points on 2-of-10 shooting.

Randle and Burks combined for 21 points in the decisive fourth quarter, where the Knicks pulled away from a tight four-point game. They built several double-digit leads, but the Pelicans kept on fighting.

New Orleans cut a New York dozen lead into half, 109-103.

Burks then buried a clutch three with 2:05 left that sucked the life out of the Pelicans and gave a jolt of energy to Knicks owner James Dolan, who cheered from the sideline beside team president Leon Rose and senior advisor William Wesley in his first road trip this season.

The 35-year old Gibson turned in an inspiring performance in an emergency start with eight points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. Pelle played solid in 13 spot-up minutes contributing four points, three boards, a steal, and a swat.

Randle is looking to continue his hot-shooting and extend the Knicks’ winning streak as he heads home to Dallas. They will face the Mavericks, who tripped Memphis Grizzlies on Luka Doncic’s game-winner.

Randle is eager to redeem himself from his lackluster 14-point performance, his lowest scoring output this month, during their 99-86 loss to the Mavericks last April 2. His big game tonight against Williamson should give him the much-needed confidence.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

What’s next for Nina Nunes after her loss at UFC Vegas 23?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 23, Nina Nunes (10-7) returned to the octagon for the first time since 2019. Waiting for her was the surging strawweight contender and BJJ world champion, Mackenzie Dern (11-1).

Heading into UFC Vegas 23, the key for Nunes was keeping the fight standing. While Dern has made a ton of improvements in her striking, the general thought was that if the fight was on the feet, Nunes would have the advantage.

I also thought it would be important for Nunes to stay patient. When you’ve been out for a lengthy amount of time, it takes a couple of minutes to get adjusted to being back in the fire. So for Nunes, it was going to be key to not rush things in the cage.

On the flip side, Dern needed to push the pace at UFC Vegas 23. She needed to be in Nunes’ face to not let her get comfortable and that is exactly what she did. Her aggressive nature allowed her to land some good shots and get a takedown in the first round.

Once Dern had the fight on the ground, she was in full control. I will say, I was impressed with how Nunes defended for the majority of the round. However, in the end it didn’t matter. Dern locked up an armbar late in the round and took the victory at UFC Vegas 23.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 23?

As mentioned, this was Nina Nunes’ first fight since mid-2019. After taking last year off to give birth to her daughter, it was a lot to ask of her to take on someone like Mackenzie Dern in her UFC return.

Now that she’s got this first fight under her belt, I think she could get a quality opponent in her second fight back. There is one fight that I’m looking at for her next which seems like a very quality matchup.

For her next bout, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the UFC book her against Tecia Torres (12-5). Torres has won back-to-back fights which has put her tenth in the UFC rankings. Even with the loss, Nunes is seventh. Torres wants a step up in the rankings and Nunes needs a quality opponent. The matchup makes sense.

New York Giants could land a solid linebacker prospect by trading down in round one

The 2021 NFL Draft will take place in just two short weeks. The New York Giants are preparing for an exciting draft that they perfectly prepared for through an impressive free agency period. New York addressed most of its major needs in free agency, signing Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson to big contracts.

Now the Giants are in a position to add the best player to their roster regardless of positional needs. One intriguing option for the Giants to consider is trading down from the eleventh overall pick. Dave Gettleman has never traded back in a draft before, but this could be the year that changes. Gettleman and Co. nearly traded down last year. They called teams shopping the fourth overall pick but found no buyers. They also had a deal in place to trade down in the second round but opted to stick and pick once they saw Xavier McKinney fall in their lap.

Trading down is a strategy that many teams have been taking advantage of to rebuild their rosters in recent years. The Colts, Dolphins, and Eagles are some teams that have reaped the benefits of trading down recently. Trading down allows teams to accumulate more draft capital and address multiple positions of need in a single draft class while preparing for the future.

If the Giants decide to trade down this year, there is a plethora of defensive talent to target in the back end of the first round. There are a few intriguing linebacker prospects that would make sense for the Giants in the second half of round one.

Linebacker prospects for the Giants to target in a trade-down

Micah Parsons is the top linebacker prospect in this year’s class and a potential target for the Giants at eleven. But Parsons comes with his risks and might not even make it to eleven overall. The second tier of linebacker prospects in this year’s class features plenty of solid options, though.

Zaven Collins

Zaven Collins out of Tulsa is a linebacker prospect with a playing style similar to Micah Parsons. Collins is an excellent pass-rushing off-ball linebacker with sideline-to-sideline speed to make plays against the run. This archetype of linebacker fits perfectly in Patrick Graham’s defensive scheme. Graham loves to use linebackers on stunts and quarterback spies.

Collins is a big-bodied (6’4 7/8″, 259 pounds) off-ball linebacker that compares well to Anthony Barr of the Minnesota Vikings. Zaven is also decent in pass coverage as well, giving him all the traits to succeed at the NFL level.

Over eight games in 2020, Zaven Collins racked up 54 total tackles including 7.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. He even added 4 interceptions, including 2 pick-sixes, and he forced 2 fumbles. Zaven Collins was a true playmaker for Tulsa’s defense in his final collegiate season.

Jamin Davis

Another intriguing linebacker prospect for the Giants to consider if they trade to the back end of the first round is Jamin Davis out of Kentucky. Jamin Davis is a player whose draft stock has risen tremendously leading up to April. According to Next Gen Stats, Jamin Davis has a 99 overall athleticism score, explaining that Davis has the “athletic traits that best translate to pro success for linebackers.”

Jamin Davis is another linebacker prospect with an incredible blend of size, speed, and athleticism. Davis comes in at 6-4, 234 pounds with a 42″ vertical and 4.41s 40 time.

Kentucky’s Jamin Davis is similar to Zaven Collins in that he is a rangy linebacker with solid skills defending the run. He totaled 102 tackles through 10 games in 2020 with 4 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Davis also added 3 interceptions to his resumé in 2020, including 1 pick-six.

Jamin Davis is flying up draft boards. His name was little-known just two months ago but now he is a firm second-round prospect that could even slip into the back end of the first round. Davis could be another intriguing player to add a new dynamic layer to Patrick Graham’s defense in a trade-down scenario.

Why Aaron Hicks should remain the Yankees’ three hitter

New York Yankees, Aaron Hicks

The Yankees have solidified Aaron Hicks as the number three batter in the lineup. Since early in the 2020 season, Aaron Boone and the coaching staff have been adamant about batting Hicks third. However, since the start of the 2021 season, Hicks hasn’t been able to produce. This has fans questioning why Hicks is batting third. Boone acknowledged it but noted that it’s too early to make a switch. Personally, I think he’s right.

Why should Hicks be there?

The Yankees are only one week into the season, and it’s not uncommon that players get off to a slow start. It’s clear that Hicks isn’t seeing the ball well. He’s struck out seven times in eighteen plate appearances and just hasn’t looked good. However, that doesn’t mean Boone needs to pull the trigger so soon. Especially since he’s had so much success batting third in the past. 

In 2020, Hicks hit third in 32 games. Out of those 32 games, Hicks managed to get on base at least once in 28 of them. That means that in those games, Hicks had a .361 on-base percentage. 

So far this year, Hicks has been batting behind LeMahieu and Judge. Last year, LeMahieu had an OBP of .421, and Judge had an OBP of .336. That means that your first three batters all have an above-average on-base percentage. From that standpoint, Hicks fits perfectly. His speed and ability to get on base are perfect for the Yankees lineup. He’s able to extend innings and give power hitters like Stanton, Voit, and Sanchez, a chance to do something big. Not to mention, his switch-hitting ability always gives him the advantage against pitchers.

Hicks is too good of a hitter to be batting any lower. Basing this decision on his production so far this year is extremely unfair. The sample size is too small. Right now, his strikeout percentage stands at 38.9%. However, if you look at his career, it’s only 21%. That’s the third-lowest on the team behind LeMahieu (14.7%) and Urshela (17.7%). It goes to show that we need to see more. If Hicks keeps striking out as frequently, Boone should move him. However, I’m almost positive this number will eventually flatten out. 

To wrap things up, I think Hicks will remain the three-hitter for the foreseeable future. Until his struggles become more consistent, I think Boone will keep him there. To me, it’s the perfect spot for him if he plays the way he normally does. 

Tune in on Friday to see Aaron Hicks and the Yankees as they begin a three-game set against the Rays!

Tony Ferguson on former UFC champ Khabib: ‘Quit running… Sign on the dotted line’

Tony Ferguson, UFC

Years from now, UFC fans are still going to be talking about one of the greatest lightweight matchups that never happened. That matchup would be the matchup between former UFC champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0), and former interim champion, Tony Ferguson (25-5).

For years, Ferguson and Khabib were linked to each other. They were looked at as the two best lightweights in the UFC, but their paths never crossed inside the octagon despite the promotion trying multiple times to book the fight.

The UFC booked Nurmagomedov – Ferguson five total times over the last few years. Every time that the fight was booked it fell through. There was weight cutting issues, injuries, and then a global pandemic to top it all off.

They were last scheduled to meet at UFC 249. However, when the pandemic shut travel down, Ferguson took on Justin Gaethje for the interim title. Gaethje defeated Ferguson and fought Nurmagomedov on Fight Island in October.

After Khabib defeated Gaethje at UFC 254, he announced his retirement in the cage. Last month, the retirement was made official and he relinquished his lightweight title. That lightweight title is up for grabs next month at UFC 262.

That same night, Tony Ferguson is scheduled to take on Beneil Dariush. Ferguson is looking to snap a two-fight losing streak. However, even with that going on, Ferguson is still focused on Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Would Khabib come back to the UFC?

Ferguson appeared on Ariel Helwani’s MMA show today where he talked about his desire to face the former UFC lightweight champion.

“I’m getting closer to Khabib and that’s the only fight that his pops wanted for him and that’s the only fight that they agreed to still. But he’s going to watch, man. They’re gonna try to get as much film on me as they possibly can. Quit being a bitch. Quit running and sign on the dotted line, Khabib”

Perhaps if Ferguson can reel off several wins in a row, the former UFC champion would come back. Khabib’s teammate Daniel Cormier said last month that if someone were to ever defeat Islam Makhachev that Khabib would potentially consider coming back.

Makhachev is another training partner of Khabib’s and a lifelong friend. If Ferguson wins his next matchup, perhaps the UFC pairs him up with Makhachev. Who knows, maybe Ferguson – Khabib isn’t dead. It could just be on life support.

New York Yankees Recap: Aaron Judge hits two homers as Jays take 2 of 3 from the Yankees

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

The New York Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays met up in Dunedin, Florida, at TD Stadium for a three-game set rubber game. The New York Yankees won the first game and the Jays the second. On the mound for the Yankees was Corey Kluber and for the Jays Ross Stripling. Both pitchers had rough starts to their seasons. Kluber’s ERA is 5.68, and Striplings 7.56. Both pitchers were hoping for a win, especially Kluber, as the Yankees were at the AL East’s bottom. It was 82 degrees and bright and sunny for the start of the game.

The New York Yankees put together a rather unusual lineup that was without DJ LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton. Possibly this was done to shake things up a bit and get the guys hitting. Aaron Hicks led off the first-facing TJ Zeuch, a last-minute replacement. Hicks flew out to far center. Aaron Judge homered to left to give the Yankees the early lead. Gardner ground out to first. In the game, Gary Sanchez struck out, but the Yankees picked up a game-leading run. Corey Kluber faced Marcus Semiem at the bottom of the inning; he struck out. Bo Bichette singled. Vlad Guerrero Jr. at the plate Bichette stole second base. Vlad ground out to third, but Bichette went to third. Randal Grichuk singled. Cavan Biggio struck out to get Kluber out of trouble. Kluber did throw 23 pitches in the inning. Yankees 1 and Jays 0.

Gleyber Torres led off the second inning and walked. Jay Bruce hit into a double play. Gio Urshela flew out to left center. At the bottom, Gurriel Jr. ground out. Tellez singled. Kirk homered to left, driving in two runs. Palacios ground out. Semien struck out, but the Jays picked up two runs. Jays 2 Yankees 1.

Odor led off the third by flying out to left. Higashioka hit the ball hard, but it was caught right at the left-field wall. Hicks ground out. At the bottom, Bichette homered to right-center. Guerrero Jr. singled up the middle. Grichuk flew out to Judge in right. Biggio walked. Gurriel Jr. ground out, and Tellez struck out to end the inning. Jays 3 Yankees 1.

Aaron Judge got his second home run a monster shot to center as the Yankees closed the gap. Brett Gardner walked. Sanchez popped out to left. Torres doubled to the right-field wall. Bruce struck out. Urshela singled, driving in two runners for the Yankee lead in the game. Odor flew out to left, but the Yankees took the lead. Kirk led off the bottom, grounding out. Palacios was hit by a pitch, Kluber’s second. Semiem singled, and Palacios got to second on an error. Bichette hit into 4-6-3 double play ending the inning. Yankees 4 Jays 3.

With Trent Thornton on the mound, Higashioka ground out to third. Hicks ground out to second. Judge, with two homers in the game, ground out to Biggio to end the half. Jonathan Loaisiga took over for Kluber at the bottom. Guerrero Jr. lofted one to center for an out. Grichuk flew out to Judge. Biggio hit one past Judge; Biggio tried to make it into an inside-the-park home run but got caught into a run-down and was tagged out to end the inning. Yankees 4 Jays 3.

Gardner led off the sixth by flying out to center. Sanchez singled to center. Torres walked. Bruce hit into another double play. Lourds Gurriel Jr. led off the bottom of the inning by singling to Judge. Tellez singled to center. Kirk, with two on and no outs, got hit by a pitch loading the bases. Palacios singled, but they threw out Gurriel Jr. at the plate. Semien at the plate, Higgy had a passed ball allowing Tellez to go home and tied the game. Semien popped out to Gardner. Bichette ground out to short, but the Jays tied the game. Yankees 4 Jays 4.

Gio Urshela led off the seventh grounding out. Odor popped out to the infield. Higashioka struck out. At the bottom, Guerrero Jr. led off, hitting a base hit off Darren O’Day. Grichuk ground out to first, but Guerrero Jr. took second. Biggio struck out. Gurriel Jr. flew out to center, and O’Day had a quick inning. Score tied at 4.

At the top of the eighth, Aaron Hicks ground out. Judge singled to left. Gardner hit into the force as they get Judge out a second. Sanchez popped out to foul territory in right ending the half. Tellez against Justin Wilson ground out. Kirk struck out swinging. Palacios singled up the middle. Semien flew out to Gardner. Tied at 4.

Wit Rafael Dolis on the mound, the Yankees tried to break the tie. Torres ground out to third. Bruce struck out. Urshela flew out to left to bring it too the bottom of the ninth. Bo Bichette hit a walk-off home run to win the game for the Blue Jays. Final score Blue Jays 5 New York Yankees 4. The winning pitcher was Rafael Dolis; the loser was Chad Green.

 

 

 

FOCO set to release limited edition Knicks bobbleheads

The New York Knicks are an exciting team once again, thanks largely to the triumvirate of first-time All-Star Julius Randle, rising sophomore RJ Barrett and rookie sensation Immanuel Quickley.

Their efforts, along with Tom Thibodeau’s culture or accountability, have changed the moribund franchise’s narrative.

FOCO, the leading manufacturer of sports and entertainment merchandise, are immortalizing the Knicks’ trio with a limited edition of their bobbleheads.

The officially licensed 8-inch bobbleheads feature an arena jumbotron backdrop with a bold Knicks logo display.

Each player stands on a Madison Square Garden-inspired base with their names emblazoned on it, so everyone knows who are the faces of the Knicks franchise.

FOCO said they are only releasing 144 bobbleheads of each player. They added that each bobblehead is individually numbered out of 144.

Handcrafted and handpainted, FOCO tried their best to get the correct details, including the signature braids of Randle and Quickley and Barrett’s clean-cut fro.

They are priced at $50 each and are now available for pre-order at FOCO’s official website.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

One Championship’s Eddie Alvarez to box Oscar De La Hoya?

Last week, Eddie Alvarez (30-8, 1 NC) made his third appearance under the One Championship banner. In the promotion’s debut on primetime US television, The Underground King took on Iuri Lapicus in the opening matchup.

Alvarez was looking to pickup a win that would set him up with a shot at the One lightweight championship. The Underground King has said that capturing a title in One would make him feel like the greatest lightweight of all time.

However, Alvarez is going to have to wait a little longer on that shot at the One title. Last week he was disqualified after landing several shots to the back of the head of his opponent.

Alvarez now has to sit on the sidelines and watch everything play out. One‘s lightweight champion, Christian Lee (14-3), defends his title tonight on TNT. After tonight’s fight, Lee is expected to take some time off as his wife is expecting a child.

With that, Alvarez might be on the shelf for a bit. However, he doesn’t plan on being inactive. The One lightweight is actually in ‘serious talks’ about a boxing matchup with boxing legend, Oscar De La Hoya.

One vs Boxing

Alvarez told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani that De La Hoya’s camp had reached out about boxing the One Championship lightweight. De La Hoya announced just a few weeks ago that he would be making his return to boxing. 

Oscar De La Hoya hasn’t boxed in almost thirteen years and he is 48 years old. However, De La Hoya feels the competitive itch again and it looks like he has his eyes set on a potential matchup with an MMA fighter.

Alvarez isn’t some run of the mill fighter here. Were talking about a former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion. Had Alvarez won last week, he would be for sure challenging for the One lightweight title soon.

However, with no clarity on the One title situation and no timeline on his next bout, Alvarez is interested in the boxing matchup. Talks are still early, but according to the former MMA world champion, they are serious. This will definitely be something to watch over the coming weeks.

Yankees get Gleyber Torres back; bat Aaron Hicks in the leadoff spot for series finale

New York Yankees, Aaron Hicks

The New York Yankees announced their lineup for the series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays, to be played at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Fla. Starting at 1:07 pm. Manager Aaron Boone is making quite a few changes to his usual lineup for the contest.

The Yankees are getting Gleyber Torres back in the lineup, as he missed Tuesday’s game with a jammed right ring finger that he suffered on Monday while diving into a base. He underwent a CT scan and X-rays to dismiss any structural damage.

However, the Yankees’ skipper had stated on Tuesday that he hoped to have Torres back for the finale, and he got his wish.

Yankees’ second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who is the regular leadoff hitter, is sitting today, with Rougned Odor taking his place at the keystone. That means center fielder Aaron Hicks, long viewed by some as the ideal leadoff hitter by virtue of his elite eye at the plate, will hit first against the Jays on Wednesday.

The Yankees’ lineup experiment

Regular designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton is also sitting, as Gary Sanchez will occupy the DH spot. Boone wants to involve Yankees’ backup catcher Kyle Higashioka more, after his two-homer performance on Monday to give the Bombers a win.

Another noteworthy development is that lefty-hitting outfielder Brett Gardner is hitting third in the lineup, right between Aaron Judge and Sanchez, as a way to break up the right-handed hitters.

The struggling Jay Bruce, who was appointed as the Yankees’ first baseman from the moment Luke Voit injured his knee in spring training, appears in the sixth spot of the order, ahead of third baseman Gio Urshela.

Corey Kluber, who has struggled to a 5.68 ERA so far in the 2021 season, will take the hill.

Here is the full Yankees’ lineup:

CF Aaron Hicks

RF Aaron Judge

LF Brett Gardner

DH Gary Sanchez

SS Gleyber Torres

1B Jay Bruce

3B Gio Urshela

2B Rougned Odor

C Kyle Higashioka