Lou Lamoriello not letting the Islanders get ahead of themselves

The Islanders are looking like a lock for a third consecutive postseason appearance. Barring an unforeseen collapse in the next 14 games, the Isles should find themselves in a top-three spot in the highly-competitive MassMutual East Division. But looking beyond the games that remaining, there’s an expectation that the group g.m. Lou Lamoriello has assembled will be one of the final four, if not the last two teams remaining for the Stanley Cup.

The Isles’ GM though has a different way of looking at those things. And why not? He’s had tremendous success — three Stanley Cups, his organization having a decade long run of postseason berths — and been in this league long enough to not start thinking about the future and to just focus on the present. That’s how he wants his team to go about things following an eventful trade deadline.

“The only thing on our mind is getting ready to play two days from now and the next game,” Lamoriello said while doing a spot on NHL Network Radio yesterday afternoon. “You never go beyond that. It’s all about trying to get your team settled in right now in the reference to the new players that are here. That’s Barry (Trotz) and the coaching staff’s job to get those pieces into place that is the best for us.”

Those pieces Lamoriello was speaking of are Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac and Braydon Coburn. Palmieri and Zajac have already played in all three games since their arrival last Thursday, but Trotz has tweaked where he inserted them in the lineup. In the Isles’ OT win over the Rangers Sunday, Trotz gave Zajac first line duties with Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle; Palmieri was placed on a line with J.G. Pageau and rookie Oliver Wahlstrom, which was the team’s most dangerous unit offensively all evening.

Even with their big time moves, it’s not a shock  there’s no such approach of looking ahead for this Islander squad. Refraining from that has been an underlying key to their success under the Trotz-Lamoriello regime. It’s always been about the task at hand. That next task now being a two-gamer with the Boston Bruins, who are currently holding on to the fourth and final playoff spot in the East while the Rangers are nipping at their heels.

“We just worry about one day at a time, Lamoriello added during the interview. “Never worry about the end result. If we do things right, it has a way of taking care of itself.”

The Islanders have been doing things right for a long time now and they’ve been rewarded for it. And course, bringing a Cup back to Long Island is the ultimate reward in the end. While the latter is what the fans might be thinking about now, it’s the farthest thing on the mind of the team itself and the general manager.

Lamoriello was asked about several other topics during his 15-plus minutes on air. In particular, he heaped a ton of praise on Brock Nelson. As many remember, Nelson seemed like a lost cause before he and Trotz’s arrival. Since then, he’s been a revelation.

“Brock has consistently gotten better since the day I got here,” Lamoriello said when asked about the 30-year-old center’s game of late. “He gets all the hard matchups, and despite that he leads us in goals. He still has a certain amount he can grow and get better.”

The fourth line also came up in the conversation with Lamoriello.

“They all bring something different. When they’re going, they’re the spark plug. They drive the engine.”

This season might be trio’s final act together with Casey Cizikas being an unrestricted free agent. That aside, the Islanders’ g.m. continues to marvel at how great they are.

Daughter of former NY Jets WR Al Toon dead in apparent murder-suicide

Molly Lillard, the daughter of former New York Jets wide receiver Al Toon, was found dead Sunday in her Arizona home, according to reports. Lillard was shot in an apparent murder-suicide.

“All indications are that this was a murder-suicide,” police sources told TMZ after the initial investigation.

It is believed that Lillard’s husband, 36-year-old Royce Lillard III, is behind the shooting, according to police.

The SWAT team entered their house around 10:45 p.m. local time and found the husband dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The couple’s 8-month-old child was found inside the home and was present at the time of the shooting but was not injured.

Lillard was a standout volleyball player and played at the University of Michigan from 2010-2014.

Al Toon, a former three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Jets, has not spoken publicly on the events.

 

BREAKING: UFC books title fight between Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira

Corey Anderson

The UFC has finalized the next title fight in the light heavyweight division. Dana White told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that the promotion has booked the title fight between the champion Jan Blachowicz (28-8) and top contender Glover Teixeira (32-7).

The matchup will take place at UFC 266 on September 4th. At this time, it’s not known where UFC 266 will take place. Glover Teixeira is finally getting his second crack at the light heavyweight championship.

Teixeira’s first shot was back in 2014 when he took on Jon Jones. Jones was able to win that fight by decision and it’s been a long road for Teixeira to get back to a title shot.

Back in 2018, many were wondering what the UFC future was for Teixeira. Teixeira had gone 2-3 in five fights and he was getting ready to turn 40 years old. However, that’s when Teixeira completely turned his career around.

Starting in January of 2019, Teixeira has gone 5-0 inside the octagon. His last two wins were stoppage wins over former title challengers Thiago Santos and Anthony Smith. Teixeira has seen an incredible resurgence and now he gets his title shot at UFC 266.

Second UFC title defense for the Polish Power

Someone who can completely relate to Teixeira’s resurgence is the UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. At UFC 210, Blachowicz lost to Patrick Cummins and he was just 1-4 in five fights.

The promotion came close to cutting him, but decided to keep the Polish Power around. After that loss to Cummins, Blachowicz has gone 9-1 inside the octagon including winning five fights in a row.

Blachowicz’s comeback culminated at UFC 253 when he defeated Dominick Reyes to become the light heavyweight champion. Following that win, the promotion booked him against one of the biggest stars in the sport, Israel Adesanya.

Adesanya fought Blachowicz at UFC 259 seeking to become a two-division champion. However, Blachowicz proved to be too much and successfully defended his title. Now, Blachowicz will be seeking a second straight defense of his light heavyweight crown.

New York Yankees Report: Pitching in trouble, best to worst

New York Yankees, Domingo German

The New York Yankees lost another game last night and now sit at the bottom of the AL East. Why? The Yankee starting pitching failed again, giving up more runs than the Yankees could recover from. Another big concern for the Yankees is that the hitting hasn’t been there. But the bottom line is that the starting rotation has to be able to keep the Yankees in the game, and they just have not been able to do that. At the start of the season, the Yankees were looking for high rewards from their new starting rotation; those rewards are yet to be realized.

Gerrit Cole:

Gerrit Cole, not being as dominant compared to his 2019 season with the Houston Astros, has been our best pitcher and is likely to get even better as his history has shown. In this young season, he is 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA and striking out an amazing 29 opposition hitters in 3 games so far. Cole also has pitched notably better when being caught by Kyle Higashioka. Last season when being caught by Gary Sanchez, he had a 3.91 ERA. When “Higgy” became his personal catcher late in the season, his ERA was 1.10. That seems to be holding so far this season as well. Manager Aaron Boone although not committing to the personal catcher name, has said that Kyle will be catching many of Cole’s games.

Jordan Montgomery:

Some have complained about Montgomery’s performance, but the fact is that he is our second-best pitcher this season. He has a 1-0 record with an ERA of 3.27. If he can end the season with a 3.27 ERA, the New York Yankees will be more than happy. However, the Yankees would like to see him go deeper into games lessening the bullpen’s use. If he can stretch to seven innings a game, that would be ideal.

Corey Kluber:

The New York Yankees took the risk in the offseason of paying Corey Kluber $11 million to pitch a year for the Yankees after only pitching one inning last season for the Texas Rangers. Kluber also missed much of the 2019 season after being hit by a pitch. Kluber is a two-time Cy Young Award winner, but as of today’s start against the Blue Jay’s, he will bring his 5.68 ERA with him. Kluber had a mediocre start against the Blue Jays when he last faced them on April 3rd. In his start against the Baltimore Orioles, he was just plain bad. One has seldom seen the concentration that Kluber shows; it’s hard to believe that he can’t improve. Today will allow him to do so.

Jameson Taillon:

The New York Yankees obtained Jameson Taillon via the trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was coming back from his second Tommy John surgery. He made delivery adjustments to ease up on his elbow with the hope of becoming an even better pitcher. He has yet to show that. His ERA sits at 7.56 in two poor starts, only going 4 innings a game and putting unneeded stress on an overworked bullpen. Last night he caved in the fourth inning and put the game out of the Yankees’ reach.

Domingo German:

This writer doesn’t know what to make of Domingo German. In spring training, he was the Yankee’s best starting pitcher. He pitched for four starts with an ERA of 1.38 striking out 11.8 hitters per nine innings, allowing only one home run. Now that the regular season is here, he is an entirely different pitcher. In two games, he only went seven total innings giving up seven runs with 4 home runs. It may just be that he has to shake off the rust from not pitching for a year and a half with German. With his spring training record and his 2019 season when he went 18-4, it’s hard to believe he won’t improve.

It’s only the beginning of a 162 game season, and there is plenty of time for these pitchers to improve, but the fact that the Yankees sit at the bottom of the AL East is certainly concerning. Manager Aaron Boone in his usual cheery outlook, admits that pitching has to get “popping” soon. If Kluber, Taillon, and German don’t improve, the Yankees may have to dig into their depth early on and try out Jonathan Loaisiga, who has been near perfect, Micheal King, Deivi Garcia, or the soon returning Clarke Schmidt.

 

After submission win at UFC Vegas 23, what’s next for Mackenzie Dern?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 23, Mackenzie Dern (11-1) took on the returning Nina Nunes (10-7) on the main card. Nunes was ranked fifth in the division, but she was making her first appearance since 2019 after giving birth to her daughter last year.

Dern on the other hand had fought and won three times in the UFC in 2020. The jiu jitsu world champion was looking to pickup her fourth consecutive win on her march towards a potential shot at the strawweight title.

Over the last year, Dern has spent her time training under Jason Parillo. During that time, we’ve seen incredible improvements in her striking to go along with her world class skills on the ground.

However, she was going to have her toughest striking matchup at UFC Vegas 23. On Saturday night, Dern fought exactly how she needed to fight. With Nunes having been out for so long, Dern immediately pressed the action.

She set a vicious pace early which didn’t allow Nunes the time to get comfortable. Dern chained some big lunging punches into a takedown attempt. After Nunes defended well throughout the round, Dern was able to lockup an armbar and secure her fourth straight UFC victory.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 23?

Make no mistake about it, Mackenzie Dern is looking like she’s going to be a force in the strawweight division. Dern said that her goal was to fight for the UFC title before the end of 2021.

So after another big win, what’s next? Dern made the jump up to fifth in the strawweight rankings after this week’s update. For her next fight, I think there are a couple fights that could make sense for Dern.

The highest profile fight would be against former UFC strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). Jedrzejczyk has been enjoying life outside the cage, but once fans return, she said she’ll ready to come back.

If Dern wants to fight for the title before the year is over, Jedrzejczyk would be the opponent that could put her in that position. Another matchup the UFC could look at is a matchup with Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2).

Rodriguez is ranked one spot behind Dern in the rankings and she’s coming off of a massive win. She knocked out Amanda Ribas at UFC 257 in January. Ribas is the lone strawweight to have defeated Dern. With that, this matchup with Rodriguez also makes a ton of sense for the promotion.

Yankees’ starter acknowledges that staff ‘needs to get better’

New York Yankees, Jameson Taillon

The New York Yankees made important commitments to pitchers Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon during the offseason. The former required a one-year, $11 million contract to sign, and the latter was the result of a trade in which the Bombers gave away important prospect capital, most notably hurler Miguel Yajure.

They also needed Domingo German to return to his 2019 levels, after being suspended for the whole 2020 season. So far, the trio hasn’t been able to perform on the mound.

Only Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery have pitched well among members of the Yankees’ rotation. The former has a 1.47 ERA, a 41.4 strikeout rate and a minuscule 4.3 walk rate in 18.1 innings, while the lefty has a 3.27 ERA in 11 frames.

Three Yankees’ starters need to pick it up

Kluber, on the other hand, hasn’t found his command and has struggled to a 5.68 ERA, while Taillon has been worse, at 7.56 in 8.1 frames. German has allowed seven earned runs in seven innings.

“The good thing about this group is that we’re all pretty self-aware,” Taillon said. “We know what we need to get better at. I think the adjustments will be made, but right now we’re not getting deep enough into games. We’re not getting it done. We need to start picking it up, and I think we will.”

Taillon lost Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jays, as he conceded five runs in 3 2/3 innings. The season is extremely young, however, and neither he nor the Yankees are particularly worried at this point of the year. But it’s clear that s far, it has been a struggle.

“There were a lot of two-strike situations where [Taillon] wasn’t able to finish guys off,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told MLB.com. “I thought his stuff ticked up and I thought his fastball up was really playing, but some two-strike walks … it seemed like a lot of the damage was done with two strikes.”

WNBA: New York Liberty unveil 2021 season schedule

Jazmine Jones, New York Liberty

Just over a month remains before the New York Liberty make their full-time Brooklyn debut, as they’ll battle the Indiana Fever.

The New York Liberty received their schedule for the 2021 WNBA season, which will begin with four games on May 14. New York will battle the Indiana Fever in a Friday night showdown, tipping off at 7 p.m. ET. TV information will be released at a latter date.

This season marks the Liberty’s first campaign as full-time tenants at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which they share with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. It also marks the 25th anniversary for the Liberty, one of the three charter franchises remaining in the league that likewise celebrates its silver season (the others being the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury).

After a tough two-win season in the WNBA’s Bradenton bubble, the Liberty made several offseason moves that have positioned them as one of the more intriguing teams in the Association. A trade involving the top overall pick in Thursday’s WNBA Draft (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) saw them net former WNBA champions Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb, additions that followed the signing of former Rutgers star and reigning Most Improved Player Betnijah Laney. New York will also welcome back several rookie-turned-sophomores from their Floridian endeavor, including 2020’s top overall choice Sabrina Ionescu and WNBA All-Rookie team nominee Jazmine Jones.

The 2021 WNBA regular season will run through Sunday, September 19. A break for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo will commence on July 15 and run through August 11. Each of the league’s dozen teams will play 32 games and partake in the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup, an in-season tournament that will conclude with a championship game immediately after the Olympic pause, setting up the final push to the playoffs. Further details about the Commissioner’s Cup and a planned 2021 All-Star Game will be released at a further date.

Among the notable matchups on the Liberty ledger…

  • The Liberty will open their season with a home-and-home series against the Indiana Fever. New York undoubtedly will be seeking revenge for the 2019 opener, when Teaira McCowan’s buzzer-beater allowed the Fever to escape Westchester Counter Center with an 81-80 triumph. The teams will then meet at Bankers Life Field house for a 2 p.m. matinee matchup two days later.

 

  • Youth in revolt will be on full display on May 25, as the Liberty welcome the Dallas Wings to Brooklyn for a battle between the league’s two youngest squads. It will likely feature the first matchup between Oregon standouts Ionescu and Satou Sabally, a get-together delayed by Ionescu’s injury sustained in the early stages of last season.

 

  • The Liberty’s visit to Los Angeles is the only game scheduled for June 20 and it will likely pay tribute to the 25th anniversary of the WNBA’s first game, a 67-57 New York triumph at the Great Western Forum. It will also mark the Liberty’s first meeting with former fan favorite Amanda Zahui B, who signed with the Sparks after five metropolitan seasons.

 

  • Howard and Whitcomb will have to wait to weather the Storm, as the defending champions will visit Brooklyn for a two-part series on August 18 and 20.

 

  • In another happy return, Kia Nurse will return to New York on August 25 in the new colors of the Phoenix Mercury. Nurse, a first-round pick and All-Star in seafoam, was part of the three-team deal that sent Howard and Whitcomb out east.

 

  • The Liberty will conclude the 2021 regular season with a four-game road trip through Minnesota, Seattle, Dallas, and Connecticut before returning home to Brooklyn for their finale on September 17.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Yankees’ star infielder is currently nursing a finger injury

New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres

The New York Yankees had to play Tuesday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays without their starting shortstop, Gleyber Torres. The reason behind his absence is because he sustained an injury during Monday’s victory against the same foe.

During Monday’s tilt, the Yankees’ star jammed his ring finger while diving back into a base, and manager Aaron Boone decided to give him a day off and write Gio Urshela’s name in the shortstop position in the lineup card.

The Yankees had Gleyber Torres receive precautionary X-rays and a CT scan after the unfortunate injury in his right hand. Thankfully, there appears to be no structural damage, as both tests came out negative.

The Yankees think Torres can be back on Wednesday

Boone hopes to have Torres back in the lineup for Wednesday’s series finale vs. the pesky Blue Jays at TD BallPark in Dunedin, Fla.

“He was pretty sore [Monday] night,” Boone told MLB.com. “We had them get X-rays and a CT scan just to rule everything out. It came back clean. He’s still a little bit sore [Tuesday], but I would say that he’s probably available to us — certainly, in an emergency, but maybe even more than that.”

He wound up not playing on Tuesday night as the Yankees fell to 5-6 on the young season.

Urshela hadn’t played shortstop since 2018, but he slid over there and spelled his injured Yankees’ teammate.

“I have a lot of confidence in Gio when he has a glove on his hand and he’s standing in the infield,” Aaron Boone said. “I expect him to go out there and play the way he’s capable of, handle the routine play and contribute to a victory for us. Gio is one of the last people I worry about on the defensive side of the ball.”

Yankees News: Gary Sanchez awful base-running fuels blame from YES Network, Boone

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

So far this season, New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez is playing above expectations, however, the bar wasn’t set very high, to begin with. Sanchez is currently hitting .267 with two homers and four RBIs over nine games. His strikeout rate is sitting at 16.7%, indicating he’s making better contact and walking a bit more.

Overall, this is a solid start to his 2021 campaign, despite his defense being a tad problematic. Unfortunately, the games he has called haven’t always been efficient, as the Yankees were tortured by the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, allowing seven runs, five of which came from Jamison Taillon over the first 3.2 innings.

Sanchez, though, hurt his team significantly in the eighth inning as the Yankees were desperately trying to claw their way back into the game. After Clint Frazier singled to left field, DJ LeMahieu doubled to deep center, and Giancarlo Stanton singled to center, the Yankees needed just a bit more offensive production to draw the game close.

However, Aaron Judge flies out to right, Sanchez walked, pushing Stanton to second base, and that’s when things got problematic. Sanchez, who hesitated to run to second base, was picked off in between base-paths, ending the inning prematurely without getting any more runs on the board.

This devastating baserunning error hurt the team significantly, and the post-game show on YES really got into how bad this was.

“That’s just inexplicable,” Yankees TV analyst Jack Curry said on YES Network’s post-game show. “That cannot happen. It looks awful. That’s something that probably shouldn’t happen in a high school game and it happened in a major-league game. And it really hurt the Yankees.”

Even skipper Aaron Boone had a hard time not blaming Sanchez in his post-game comments. Ultimately, he tried to spread the blame around, not singling in on any given player, but it was quite obvious what he was trying to dictate.

“I think (Sanchez) knew that he had second base, and Giancarlo was going to third and had a little bit of a hesitation a couple of steps into his trek to third, and that kind of froze Gary,” Boone said. “It’s a ball obviously (Sanchez) could have moved up on, but it’s important not to run off the guy in front of you. But you’ve just got to be heads up and in a better position to take advantage of that.”

At the end of the day, Sanchez needs to stop making these questionable mistakes, as they are the difference between winning and losing at times. A late-game comeback could be the spark that turns around the entire team after a tough start to the 2021 season. You never know what can act as a catalyst, and making boneheaded mistakes like being caught in a pickle with two outs is unacceptable.

Report: Knicks likely to pursue Lakers’ Dennis Schroder in free agency

knicks, dennis schroder

It is no secret that the New York Knicks desperately need a starting point guard to solve a position of weakness. Currently, the team has Elfrid Payton and Derrick Rose rotating, and while they could keep Rose as a veteran option for the 2021-22 season, it is best to be thinking long-term at this point in time. It is clear that they need a solution for the future, which is why they were close to acquiring Lonzo Ball from the New Orleans Pelicans at the trade deadline before opting to remain with their current team and added draft capital instead.

However, according to Ian Begley of SNY, the Knicks are planning to pursue Lakers point guard Dennis Schroder. With the team expected to have as much as $70 million to utilize over the summer to acquire a free agent, they have plenty of money to land a player like Schroder who can offer immediate offense of production and solid defense. The 27-year-old is coming off a four-year, $70 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks before being traded to Oklahoma and then Los Angeles.

Schroder is among the players on New York’s radar as the club looks ahead to free agency, SNY has learned.

Schroder currently counts $16 million against the salary for the Lakers, but it seems as if the two sides are having trouble reaching an agreement on a contract extension, and while things could materialize in the future, it is believed that Schroder will test free agency, which will give the Knicks a fantastic opportunity to land his services.

This season, Schroder is averaging 15.3 points over 31.7 minutes on average, hitting on .432% of his shots from the field and .338 from downtown. He is an adequate shooter with upside, also posting efficient percentages from the free-throw line with a .484 success rate.

His best season to date came in 2018, when he averaged 19.4 points, before seeing an uptick in efficiency from three-point range. I believe he would be a solid add for the Knicks, with his ability to spread the ball around the floor and drive to the rim. His slim frame allows him to work his way against pick and rolls adequately, and with an influx of guards after the drafting of Immanuel Quickley, the Knicks need an established PG to take over for the future.