Knicks’ Julius Randle, Derrick Rose finish in Top 10 of MVP race

New York Knicks, Derrick Rose

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle bolstered his case for an All-NBA selection after finishing eighth in the MVP voting.

Randle, who was recently named as this season’s Most Improved Player, earned a total of 20 points after receiving one third-place vote, two fourth-place votes, and nine fifth-place votes. He led the Knicks’ resurgence this season which culminated in a first-round loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Randle averaged career highs in minutes (37.6), points (24.1), rebounds (10.2), assists (6.0), 3-point percentage (41.1%), and free throw percentage (81.1%). He led the league in minutes as he carried the Knicks to their first playoff appearance in eight years.

Randle joined eventual MVP Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Rudy Gobert as the only frontcourt players inside the Top 10.

On top of that, Randle and Jokic are the only players this season who averaged at least 24 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. They joined Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Russell Westbrook in that exclusive club.

Six forwards will be selected to the three All-NBA selections. Based on the MVP voting results, Randle is a cinch to make one of those teams.

Meanwhile, Derrick Rose surprisingly finished ninth in the MVP race with a sentimental first-place vote 10 years since he became the league’s youngest MVP.

Rose, a Knicks’ mid-season acquisition, enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in his third reunion with Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau. He was a Sixth Man of the Year finalist after averaging 14.7 points and 4.2 assists off the bench in a combined 50 games with the Detroit Pistons and the Knicks this season.

League spokesman Tim Frank later clarified to New York Times’ Marc Stein that Rose’s lone first-place vote was a cumulative fan vote and did not come from a media member.

Jokic became the first Nugget and the lowest pick (No. 41 in 2014 Draft) in league history to be named MVP.

Jokic was the runaway winner after getting 91 out of the possible 100 first-place votes. He averaged career-highs in minutes (34.6), points (26.4), rebounds (10.8), assists (8.3), and free throw percentage (86.8%).

The seven-year forward Randle and six-year center Jokic shared an uncanny path to their meteoric rise this season built on incremental year-by-year development.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Orioles Destroy Mets Pitching in 10-3 Blowout Loss

The New York Mets‘ top three in their starting rotation are as good as it gets, but there are glaring holes with the pitchers that follow them. David Peterson fell victim to an onslaught from the Baltimore Orioles, led by Mets killer Maikel Franco in the 10-3 loss.

Peterson avoided his usual first-inning trouble but failed to find success in the rest of his dreadful start. He lasted just 2.2 innings allowing eight hits and four runs, and his ERA ballooned to 6.32. Peterson did not have issues putting the ball in the strike zone, allowing the O’s to make hard contact consistently. Robert Gsellman tried to keep the Mets in the game but was just as unsuccessful in long relief. Gsellman allowed four runs in 2.1 innings pitched and allowed Baltimore to put the game away.

The Orioles offense put up 16 hits, nine of them going for extra bases, and all but two starters had a multiple-hit game. Freddy Galvis led them with three hits, but Maikel Franco and Pat Valaika combined for three doubles, a home run, and six runs batted in. Bruce Zimmerman allowed the O’s to put the game away thanks to his third consecutive strong outing. He threw five innings, allowing just two runs and tying his career-high with seven strikeouts.

Alonso Does It All

Pete Alonso carried the Mets offense with a two-home run game which provided all three Mets runs. Alonso struck O’s pitching in the first and ninth inning, but there was almost nothing from the offense in the innings between. The Mets had just one hit in the seven middle innings on a night where they needed a ton of offense to win.

On Wednesday, the Mets turn to Taijuan Walker and look for a split of the series against O’s. Matt Harvey gets to face his former team for the second time this season. The first pitch from Oriole Park is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.

After another loss at UFC Vegas 28, what’s next for Walt Harris?

This past Saturday in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 28, Walt Harris (13-10, 1 NC) took on Marcin Tybura (22-6). Harris was looking to bounce back after suffering two consecutive losses in 2020.

It’s hard not to root for a guy like Walt Harris. Back in 2019, Harris was surging in the UFC‘s heavyweight division. On the heels of two consecutive knockout wins in the first minute of the first round, Harris looked like he was on the verge of contending for a title.

However, that’s when tragedy struck. Harris’ daughter was murdered in Alabama and it completely turned his world upside down. The Big Ticket contemplated hanging things up, but fought on because that’s what he said his daughter would have wanted him to do.

An emotional Walt Harris returned in May of last year to take on Alistair Overeem. In the first round, it looked like Harris was seconds away from the TKO win. However, Overeem withstood the storm and ended up finishing Harris in the second.

That loss snapped Harris’ UFC winning streak. Then, Harris was stopped at UFC 254 by Alexander Volkov. In that fight, Harris really never had any momentum. After those two losses, Harris moved his camp to Las Vegas to train at Xtreme Couture.

Harris worked alongside the UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou as he prepared for Saturday. On Saturday night, Harris looked great early. It appeared that he was on the verge of stopping Tybura. However, Tybura weathered the storm and got Harris down. Once it was there, it was all Tybura and he got the finish.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 28?

It’s hard not to feel for The Big Ticket after UFC Vegas 28. He’s on a three fight losing streak now, but in two of those fights, he looked like he was moments away from getting a finish of his own. However, he never could land that finishing blow.

The question now becomes, what’s next? Well, I think the UFC can still book Harris against a quality opponent. Again, he’s still being competitive with some top ten heavyweights, he just has a few things he needs to tighten up.

I think Harris needs a slight step back, but still should get a quality name. If I was the UFC, I would look at booking him against the winner of Greg Hardy (7-3, 1 NC) and Tai Tuivasa (11-3). Those two will square off at UFC 264.

Whoever wins that matchup will be on the fringe of the top fifteen. That is exactly where Harris’ next opponent needs to come from. He needs a quality name, but a slight step back in competition to get him back on the right track.

Could we see Logan Paul in the UFC? Dana White doesn’t dismiss the idea

Logan Paul to the UFC. That sentence sounds completely insane when you read it out loud and it feels insane just typing it out. However, if we’ve learned anything over the last year it’s that we shouldn’t dismiss anything in combat sports.

I mean who would’ve thought that Logan Paul would end up in a boxing ring against Floyd Mayweather? If I told you 12 months ago that Logan Paul would box Money Mayweather, you’d probably have laughed yourself into a coma.

Yet, on Sunday night, we saw Logan Paul get in the ring with Floyd Mayweather. We’ve seen Logan’s brother Jake knock out Ben Askren in a professional boxing match. The Paul brothers have become the talk of combat sports whether fight fans like it or not.

While Jake Paul is focusing on boxing, Logan Paul seems incredibly interested in MMA. Could we see Logan Paul in the UFC? Well, after his boxing exhibition with Mayweather, Paul said he would definitely fight in MMA if the right opportunity presented itself.

Today, TMZ Sports asked UFC president Dana White about Logan Paul and his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. When asked about the possibility of Logan Paul competing inside the octagon, White definitely didn’t dismiss it.

Logan Paul in the UFC?

The UFC president said, “There’s no doubt when you look at both of those kids (The Paul Brothers) that they take it seriously. I don’t know man (On giving Logan Paul a fight). Here’s the thing man, not to say I haven’t taken a guy in that’s 0-0 into the UFC and done those type of fights before. I don’t know, I can’t answer that.”

White closed his statements with a smile. Obviously, the guy White was referencing was former WWE superstar CM Punk. The UFC gave CM Punk two fights and he was demolished in both. Punk had no combat sports experience prior to signing on with the promotion.

The only other athlete on that level of fame that was brought in by the UFC was Brock Lesnar. Of course, Lesnar had competed once in MMA and was a division one national champion in wrestling. Not too mention, he was a freak athlete and that aided him in becoming UFC heavyweight champion.

Logan Paul has now competed in the boxing ring a few times and was a standout wrestler in the state of Ohio. I’ll tell you this, Logan Paul would beat CM Punk in an MMA fight if they were the same weight class.

Will we see Logan Paul fight in the UFC? I would lean towards no at the moment, however, I wouldn’t put it past Dana White. Love him or hate him, Dana White is a great businessman and if the right opportunity presents itself for both sides, we will see Logan Paul make the walk in the UFC.

Mets Game Preview: (6/8/21) @ Baltimore Orioles (21-38)

New York Mets, Luis Rojas

After getting Monday off, the New York Mets make a quick stop in Baltimore to face the Orioles for a short two-game series. The Mets are coming off a series split over the weekend in San Diego while the O’s took two out of three from the Cleveland Indians. The first pitch from Oriole Park is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.

The Mets are still surviving in first place despite their abundance of injuries. Jonathan Villar was limited over the weekend but will return to the leadoff spot and play third base. Villar was red hot in the last nine games he played, batting .393 with a .500 on-base percentage which jumpstarted the Mets in the leadoff spot.

After losing 14 consecutive games, the Orioles have found a way to win four out of their last five games. Trey Mancini and Cedric Mullins continue to be the lone bright spots for the O’s. Mancini leads the team with 11 home runs, and Mullins leads them with a .322 batting average. John Means (2.28 ERA) is the anomaly for an Orioles pitching staff with a 4.84 team ERA, fourth-worst in MLB.

Pitching Matchup

David Peterson looks to rebound after a dreadful start against the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he only recorded one out. Peterson has a 5.89 ERA and has struggled to find consistency at any point this season. Against the D’Backs, he allowed three hits, three walks, and five runs on 35 pitches. With very little quality starting pitching depth, Peterson will get a long leash in the rotation.

Rookie Bruce Zimmermann makes his 10th start of the season and comes off a solid start against the Minnesota Twins. He allowed just one run over 5.2 innings and striking out seven. Zimmermann has faired much better at home, where his ERA at Oriole Park is 4.21 compared to 5.79 on the road.

Report: Knicks would have interest in John Wall trade if opportunity presented itself

john wall, knicks

Let the rumor mill commence, and unsurprisingly, the current postseason hasn’t even come to a close yet. The New York Knicks have been injected right into the middle of what many hope to be a lucrative off-season full of splashy moves and exciting new players to add to an elevating roster.

Thanks to head coach Tom Thibodeau, newly named “Coach of the Year,” the likelihood of the Knicks actually landing a star player has increased tenfold compared to recent seasons when the best they could manage was mediocre talent at an overpriced rate.

Luckily, they stumbled upon Julius Randle with hopes he would blossom into a premier player, and he did just that during the regular season. However, it is clear the Knicks desperately need a long-term solution at point guard, and they will likely be connected to various players this off-season, including big names like Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, and Lonzo Ball.

Let’s add another name to the list, John Wall, who missed a big chunk of the 2021 season with a hamstring injury.

Traditionally, Wall is one of the best point guards in the NBA, having played 40 games this past season at 30 years old. He has a history of injury concerns but averaged 20.6 points, 6.9 assists, and shot .404 from the field this year. He proved that his injury last year did not completely derail his career, and the Knicks might be able to acquire him for far less than Lillard would command.

Wall is currently on a four-year, $171 million deal and will be paid $44 million next season with a player option in 2022. Considering he has only one guaranteed year left on his contract, the Knicks would have to approach this carefully, not giving up too much value for a high-priced player who seems to have significant injury issues and could leave them after just one season.

Personally, I think I would stay away from Wall, but the Knicks want to put their name in the hat with every big point guard to sput competition in free agency. The more attention they gain and hype they can build around New York, the more likely it becomes they land one of their premier targets. Wall might just be a pawn in their strategy as they try to land a king.

Three reasons why the New York Jets will be fine without Julio Jones

New York Giants, Julio Jones

Some were disappointed that the New York Jets removed themselves from the Jones sweepstakes, but adding the former Falcon wasn’t their fight.

Julio Jones will sing a new tune in the Music City. The accoladed receiver has shed his Atlanta Falcon wings and has moved on to Tennessee, where he joins a Titans squad already blessed with the offensive talents of Derrick Henry and AJ Brown. Thus ends a saga that ignited with a fateful phone call on live television by Fox Sports’ Shannon Sharpe.

In the aftermath, the eventual price for Jones has been hotly debated. Tennessee sent over two mid-round picks, one each over the next two drafts, the highest being a second-round choice in next year’s selections. It seems like a relatively low charge for one of the most accomplished receivers in recent NFL memory, one that gains some context when a hamstring injury suffered last season is taken into account.

Still, as Jones prepared to don Titans blue, fans of the 31 outliers are left with the lingering inquiry of “what if?” and “why not”?

At first glance, many New York Jets fans have every right to ask those questions. After all, if that was all it took for Jones to leave his Atlanta-based nest, the Jets could’ve spared the necessary parts to bring him in. They have an extra pick in both the first and second rounds of next year’s draft stemming from the Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold departures. One could even argue that adding Jamison Crowder (and getting back over $10 million in cap space with Jones) to the mix might’ve sweetened the deal.

But the Jets are more than capable of surviving the lack of Jones in their lives, as consolation lies all around them…

The Jones Privilege

Adding Jones has given the Titans the dreaded title of “offseason champions”, as amateurs and experts alike will probably list them as their Super Bowl champions. They likely inherit the title from the Arizona Cardinals, who were burdened with expectations after acquiring DeAndre Hopkins in a one-sided trade with Houston. Arizona began the year 6-3 but dropped five of their final seven in missing out on the playoff entirely.

Time will tell exactly how Tennessee handles the pressure, but it’s hard to be too cynical about their chances, at least on paper. The Titans are, after all, only two years removed from an appearance in the AFC title game and are coming off their first division title since 2008. They’re tied for the seventh-best record in the NFL over the last two seasons. During his unscheduled on-air conversation with Sharpe, Jones insisted he wanted to be dealt to a contender, ruling out Undisputed co-host Skip Bayless’ Dallas Cowboys…and, by process of elimination, the Jets.

Acquiring Jones is a first-world problem of sorts, a privilege bestowed to those who are the proverbial “one move away” from the Super Bowl. The Jets are a few moves away from merely fighting for a wild-card berth, never mind The Big Game. Even if they undoubtedly got better this offseason…if only because there was nowhere to go but up after the Adam Gase era…emerging from a crowded AFC pool packed to the brim with established contenders seems like a tall ask. There’s thus no use in taking the uncertainties of post-injury Jones, who turned 32 in February, not to mention the financial obligations that come with it (over a $63 million cap hit over the next three seasons).

No Co-Authorship

One of the primary focuses of this New York offseason has been establishing a new identity, leaving a signature on a new exhibit. Through the hiring of new head coach Robert Saleh, the Jets have managed to do that. The former San Francisco defensive coordinator’s mantra of “all gas, no brake” has already been quoted ad nauseam by Jets fans and Saleh’s entry has been complemented by the arrival of several touted entries who are looking to take the next steps in their respective careers (i.e. Zach Wilson, Corey Davis, and Sheldon Rankins, all of who were chosen in the first round of their respective drafts).

But if one brings Jones into the conversation, suddenly a new identity emerges. Through no fault of Jones, this latest, most hopeful iteration of the Jets’ rebuild gets boiled down to the “Julio Jones Era” and would’ve rendered a great deal of offseason work meaningless.

There’s no doubt that Jones is fully capable of responding to this challenge and will seek to silence any doubters, particularly his former employers that thought he was “only” worth a second-round choice at best. But the Jets are seeking to scribe their own NFL story and identity, as well as write a comeback story that’s a decade in the making. They don’t have the time or resources to worry about ghostwriting someone else’s.

Good Reception

Obviously, in a perfect world, the Jets snag Jones, and he, at the very least, provides some entertainment during another year of rebuilding where progress won’t always show up on the scoreboard.

But if this year is truly the latest stanza of a seemingly eternal rebuild, the Jets must do what they failed to work during last year’s nightmare: take advantage of a bittersweet and gift and turn things into a year of development.

Simply put, anyone who’s watched a minute of NFL football over the last decade knows what Jones is capable of. If this hamstring issue is the first step of the twilight of his career, it’s better for that discovery to be made on a contender rather than a team in desperate need of answers. Once it became clear that the Jets weren’t going to do anything in 2020, Gase and Co. had a prime opportunity to audition a rushing triumvirate of La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams. They instead decided to give Frank Gore a retirement tour, creating questions about the run game that lingered into the offseason.

The Jets have a group of receivers that, while talented, have yet to show they can handle the duties and burdens that comes with the status of a top target. Corey Davis worked behind Brown in Tennessee. Crowder has been a reliable slot option. There are high hopes for second-round brothers Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims. The receiving depth chart is packed to the brim with potential, but the Jets need more proven certainty to truly contend in the modern league. Rather than going with an option like Jones, who isn’t going to immediately shift the team’s fortunes in a lucrative direction, the Jets should instead focus on developing the attractive alternatives that are already in tow.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

What’s next for Augusto Sakai after UFC Vegas 28?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 28, Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-2) took on Augusto Sakai (15-3-1) in the main event. Sakai was looking to bounce back after he suffered his first UFC loss late in 2020.

Augusto Sakai started extremely well when he made his way over to the UFC. Sakai earned himself a shot with the world’s premier MMA organization after he appeared on the Brazilian version of Dana White’s Contender Series.

After getting to the UFC, Sakai started out 4-0 and that included a first round knockout over Marcin Tybura. On the heels of his perfect start, Sakai got a main spot against Alistair Overeem. The winner of that fight was supposed to inch their way closer to UFC title contention.

Sakai had some great moments in that fight and forced Overeem to use his grappling. Ultimately, Overeem got a TKO finish in that fight. Sakai was put right back into a UFC main event last Saturday against Rozenstruik and had the opportunity to bounce right back.

Unfortunately, the fight didn’t go his way. Normally, Sakai is the type of fighter who takes the center of the octagon and pushes the pace. However, it was Rozenstruik who did and at the end of the first round, Rozenstruik connected and put Sakai out at UFC Vegas 28.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 28?

After starting perfect in the UFC, Sakai has now dropped two fights in a row. That said, because of the level of the opponents, he hasn’t dropped much in the rankings. In fact, he stayed put at the ninth position after UFC Vegas 28.

With that, who should Sakai fight next? One fight I really like for Sakai next would be a matchup against Russian prospect Sergei Pavlovich (14-1). Pavlovich hasn’t competed since 2019, but he’s won back-to-back fights and he’s currently ranked 14th.

A matchup between the two would do a lot for the UFC. If Sakai wins, he’s right back on track and can fight another top ten guy. If Pavlovich gets a win over a guy like Sakai in his UFC return, he would instantly become a contender in the top ten.

Alistair Overeem signs with Glory Kickboxing

Alistair Overeem (47-19, 1 NC) is returning to his kickboxing routes. The former heavyweight champion was released by the UFC earlier this year after he suffered a TKO loss to Alexander Volkov.

That loss snapped a two-fight winning streak that had Overeem in UFC title contention. Overeem is 41 years old and was trying to make one final run at the UFC heavyweight title before he retired.

However, after Alexander Volkov defeated him in February, it was clear that a UFC title run was likely not in the cards. Overeem met with the promotion and they agreed to part ways and Overeem began shopping new homes.

Bellator openly said that they were interested in bringing in the former heavyweight champion. However, after weighing all his options, Overeem has decided to move on from MMA and return to kickboxing. ESPN’s Ariel Helwani was the first to report today that Overeem had signed a multi-fight deal with Glory Kickboxing.

Overeem to Glory Kickboxing

Overeem signed his deal and is expected to make his Glory Kickboxing debut later this year although a date has not yet been finalized. Whenever he does step into the ring, it will be his first kickboxing matchup since December of 2010.

Overeem captured the K-1 heavyweight kickboxing title that night when he stopped Peter Aerts in the first round. That was Overeem’s third win of the night which also included wins over Tyrone Spong and Gokhan Saki.

After he won the K-1 heavyweight title, Overeem shifted back to MMA when he signed with the UFC. That is where Overeem has been for the last ten years, and despite never winning the title, it’s been a great run for The Demolition Man.

It’s going to be interesting to see what Overeem has when he returns to kickboxing full time. It’s been obvious that we haven’t seen the Overeem of old in terms of his striking for a long time. Maybe shifting to just kickboxing will get him back in the groove. Either way, it should be fun to watch.

UFC getting closer to booking the return of Nick Diaz

Nick Diaz (26-9, 2 NC) is getting closer and closer to his UFC return. Back in April, Diaz met with Dana White to talk about his fighting future. Diaz was interested in returning to the octagon, but Dana White wasn’t convinced that Diaz would actually fight.

In the past, Diaz has mentioned that he was interested in returning to the UFC. However, a deal never materialized to make it happen. With that, White was cautious to believe that Diaz would actually step into an octagon in 2021.

However, the UFC president seems to be changing his turn. In speaking with UFC Arabia, White talked about the return of Nick Diaz. White not only thinks things are moving in the right direction, but he is certain Diaz will fight this year.

“You never hear me say that, ever,” White said. “You say, ‘Do you think Nick Diaz will fight this year?,’ and ‘absolutely, positively not’ is what I usually say. The matchmakers have (spoken to Diaz) and I don’t know where we’re at on it, but it’s looking promising,” White said.

Nick Diaz’s UFC Return

Assuming Nick Diaz makes his UFC return this year, the attention then turns to potential opponents. In my opinion, there are a couple of options that should be really attractive to the promotion.

One of the options is former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler (28-15, 1 NC). Like Nick Diaz, Lawler is up there in age. Lawler is 39 while Nick Diaz is 37 years old. The two of them fought extremely early in their UFC careers with Diaz getting the knockout win.

Their first fight came all the way back in 2004. Both men are extremely popular and it would be a fun fight for the long-time fans of both men. The other option for the UFC would be a much bigger fight, but it might be hard to put together.

That fight would be pairing Nick Diaz against Jorge Masvidal (35-15). Masvidal has history with Diaz’s younger brother Nate and he also has his own history with Nick. Long before Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz fought, the UFC tried to book Nick Diaz against Masvidal.

However, that fight never came together. If Nick Diaz wants to get right back in the mix, Jorge Masvidal is the way to do it. Either one of those fights would excite me as a fight fan and I would be willing to bet that it’s two matchups the UFC is looking at.