New York Giants: Phill Simms on Daniel Jones’ goals this season

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

It’s uncertain where the bar should be set for New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. The pressure is obviously on for the third year player, and the Giants have added a lot of talent to help him. However, given his struggles and up and down play through his first two years, many are having a hard time making a surefire prediction and figuring out just where Jones will land record wise in 2021.

While not everyone agrees on what would be an acceptable level of performance for Jones, former Giants QB Phil Simms has some idea about where the bar should be set. It’s also lower than you might think based on the amount of pressure on Jones.

“If the Giants go 8-9 and Daniel Jones plays well and you can see that he’s the guy, Giants fans will be happy,” Simms told CBS Sports. “But if they go 8-9 and he doesn’t play well, then we’re gonna have that debate. ‘Oh, should they draft a quarterback, should they do this,’ or whatever. So it’s really a fine line there. But I think if he plays well, that will make a lot of people feel good regardless of the record.”

He went on to claim that the Giants aren’t going to win the Super Bowl this year, but that they need to show progress regardless.

It’s an idea that makes sense. Showing progress is why last season is held in higher regard than the couple of seasons before it even though the Giants still missed the playoffs and ended up with a high draft pick again. But repeating the same step forward will be harder this year. The Giants aren’t starting from the bottom again, after all.

A make or break season for Jones?

It’s been called a make or break season for Daniel Jones quite a lot this year, with most assuming that his performance will play a large role in whether or not the organization stays with him in the coming years. But it’s also a dynamic that Phil Simms isn’t exactly the biggest fan of.

According to him, there’s a lot more to winning than just the quarterback.

“I don’t care who you are, you can’t get it done unless you have the right pieces – the organization, the owner, the coordinator and players – around you. But it doesn’t matter. The media, the TV media — probably more than even the print media now — it is, ‘Make or break, he’ll never win a Super Bowl. Well, how many has he won? What about the playoffs?'” Simms continued.

He said that in today’s world, we’ve narrowed things down to just looking at the head coach and the quarterback.

The Giants may be a victim of that dynamic, as a lot of focus has gone on their quarterback situation, but as other areas of the team improve and Daniel Jones remains a part of the picture, there will of course be a lot of questions about whether Jones will improve with the rest of the roster.

We’ll get those answers this season – but whether this really is a ‘make or break’ year for Jones is something that only the Giants leadership likely knows the full answer to.

Smith’s Multi Homer Game Isn’t Enough in Mets 4-3 Walk-off Loss

The series finale between the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves had an exciting start and finish. Atlanta found a way to get to Jacob deGrom in the first inning, and Freddie Freeman found a way to spoil the Mets’ ninth-inning comeback with a walk-off single. The gutsy ninth inning gave the Braves a 4-3 win and a much-needed series win.

The Braves never hit the ball out of the infield off Seth Lugo, but it was enough to scratch out a run. Guillermo Heredia ended up at second after a Lugo throwing error started the inning. Lugo tried to make a hero play as he fell to the ground to field a swinging bunt and flung it into the camera well. Pablo Sandoval moved him over with a ground out, an intentional walk to Ronald Acuna Jr., and Ender Inciarte’s walk after being down 0-2 set the table for Freeman.

He had struck out in every at-bat in the game and made sure it did not happen again. Freeman banked a first-pitch curve off Lugo’s ankle and beat Luis Guillorme‘s throw to first to get the win. Guillorme might have had a play at third base for a force but assumed Acuna Jr. would hustle on the biggest play of the game.

Getting Started Early

It is rare for a starting pitcher to strike out 14 batters and have his worst start of the season. deGrom showed us how it is possible in his dominant outing. The Braves did all of their scoring in the first inning, and it was plenty to survive against the worst scoring offense in baseball.

deGrom had gone 34 consecutive starts without allowing a run in the first inning, but the Braves had other plans. Ehire Adrianza led off with a triple, and NL RBI leader Ozzie Albies drove him in with a single. Austin Riley followed with a two-run home run which was the first first-inning home run against deGrom in almost two years. After the rough first inning, he settled in for another dominant start.

deGrom pitched seven innings, allowing three runs, striking out 14, and retiring 18 straight batters at one point. He also flirted with history again by striking out eight straight Braves. Due to his usual dominance, this was deGrom’s worst of the season but was plenty good enough to deserve a victory.

Matching Zeros

Ian Anderson was the anti-deGrom, needing just two strikeouts in his seven innings of work, and held the Mets to two runs. Pete Alonso gave the Mets an early lead with an RBI single, then Dominic Smith did the rest of the work with two home runs. His second came off Will Smith in the ninth inning to tie the game. James McCann had two hits on the night, but as usual, the Mets offense took a night off.

Luckily the loss does not hurt the Mets division lead with the Washington Nationals losing. On Friday, they begin the Subway Series in the Bronx with the New York Yankees. Taijuan Walker will start against Jordan Montgomery for the 7:05 start from Yankee Stadium.

WATCH: Knicks’ Luca Vildoza shows off ball handling and pin-point passing

luca vildoza, knicks

One of the most intriguing unknowns as the Knicks head into the off-season is foreign point guard Luca Vildoza. The Knicks signed Vildoza to a four-year, $13.6 million deal, and they are expecting a shifty and creative point guard in return.

The 25-year-old Argentinian native is preparing to face off against the USA National Team at the Olympics this year, and they will get a good look at what he can offer the organization during the 2021-22 season.

Vildoza posted an intriguing video on Thursday, showcasing his handles and pinpoint passing accuracy, shooting a laser down low to the paint.

The question is, can Luca play a prominent part in the Knicks’ future?

During his most recent season in Spain with Baskonia, he averaged 10.9 points and 3.7 assists across 23.5 minutes per game. The 6’3″, 190-pound PG is a solid pick-and-roll player who loves to have the ball in his hands, always looking to facilitate. Last year, the Knicks ranked in the 41st percentile on pick-and-roll plays, so it is clear they want to improve in that category with an adequate point guard.

Now there is the possibility that the team brings back Derrick Rose, alternatively, they could look to Vildoza to back up a prominent free agent signing like Chris Paul or a blockbuster trade for Damian Lillard.

However, the team is still trying to figure out how Luca will make an impact next season, and his performance during the Summer League and Olympics should give them a solid idea of what he brings to the table against higher competition. As a smooth shooter with solid athleticism, his most difficult task will be adjusting to the NBA game and the physicality that accompanies it.

Will the Yankees get the ‘great’ Gary Sanchez for the remainder of the 2021 season?

yankees, gary sanchez

The Yankees have been one of the most disappointing teams in all of baseball. Their offense has been lackluster and their starting rotation has failed to provide consistency. Nothing has clicked for the Bombers thus far. However, there have been some pleasant surprises in 2021. 

Gary Sanchez was one of the worst catchers during the 2020 season. He hit .147 with a .232 OBP and a .618 OPS. It was a complete disaster for the Sanchino. During the postseason, backup catcher Kyle Higashioka saw more playing time than the silver slugger. It was the lowest point in the young catcher’s career. 

Going into 2021, many wanted nothing to do with Sanchez. They wanted Cashman to send him elsewhere and commit to Higashioka going forward. The frustration around Gary was warranted. He was very very bad in 2020. However, the Yankees decided to keep him around.

During the first few months of the 2021 season, things looked the same. In late May, Sanchez was batting .186. However, with a .308 OBP at the time, things looked different. His at-bats were clearly better and even though his average was low, he was getting on base. Things didn’t seem completely hopeless.

Then came the month of June. Sanchez quickly became one of the best offensive catchers in the league. As of now, he is batting .238 with a .347 OBP and a .843 OPS. A HUGE jump from last month. In fact, since May 27th he is batting .318 with a .400 OBP and a 1.105 OPS. He also has six doubles, nine home runs, and 21 RBI’s. Gary Sanchez has quickly become an all-star catcher.

So, will it last?

Sanchez is a very streaky player. It’s tough to say whether he will continue this resurgence. However, you can tell he has made some real adjustments. He has been lifting his front foot less and driving the ball the other way. A different approach from Sanchez at the plate has been vital to his success thus far. He’s the only one that can control whether that continues.

Tune in tonight as Gary Sanchez and the Yankees take on the Angels in the final game of a four-game series!

UFC books Alexander Gustafsson – Paul Craig

Alexander Gustafsson, UFC

The UFC has finalized a big time contest in the light heavyweight division. First reported by Front Kick, the promotion has finalized a light heavyweight contest between former title challenger Alexander Gustafsson (18-7) and Paul Craig (15-4-1).

The matchup will take place at a UFC Fight Night on September 4th. That Fight Night is currently scheduled to take place in London which will be the UFC‘s first trip to Europe since the pandemic.

Paul Craig will be looking to keep the momentum going when he takes on the former title challenger in September. Craig last fought a few weeks ago at UFC 263 when he took on the surging prospect Jamahal Hill.

Before the fight, Craig said that he wanted to test the jiu jitsu of Hill. In the first round, Craig pulled guard and immediately started attacking submissions. Eventually he locked in an armbar and dislocated the elbow of Jamahal Hill.

Due to the referee’s incompetence, the fight was stopped by TKO instead of submission. That win at UFC 263 was the third straight win for Craig who now ranks 12th in the light heavyweight division. Another statement win in September will likely move him into the top ten.

UFC Redemption for The Mauler

If there’s anyone that needs a little UFC redemption, it’s Alexander Gustafsson. Gustafsson will be making his first appearance since last July when he moved up to heavyweight to fight former UFC champion Fabricio Werdum.

Werdum was able to take Gustafsson down and submit him in the first round. It was the third straight loss for Gustafsson. The Swede has not been very active over the last few years. Dating back to 2016, Gustafsson has been fighting on average once a year.

In 2016 and 2017, Gustafsson picked up wins over Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz. Those two men are fighting at UFC 267 for the light heavyweight title. After those two wins, Gustafsson got a shot against Jon Jones and lost by TKO.

Then he lost to Anthony Smith before fighting Werdum last year. Gustafsson is returning to the UFC’s light heavyweight division and he needs a win in the worst way. If he can defeat Craig, he will be right back in the top ten of the light heavyweight division. However, if he loses, it could be the end of Gustafsson’s run in the UFC.

Knicks’ Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin named to USA Select Team

new york knicks, immanuel quickley, obi toppin

New York Knicks‘ young duo of Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin will be getting summer reps against the Team USA in Las Vegas later this month.

Quickley and Toppin are part of the young USA Select Team that will help the Olympics roster train for the Tokyo Summer Games.

Joining them are Detroit’s Saddiq Bey Isaiah Stewart, Minnesota’ Anthony Edwards and Naz Reid, Charlotte’s Miles Bridges, and PJ Washington, Miami’s Tyler Herro, Sacramento’s Tyrese Haliburton, San Antonio’s Keldon Johnson, Chicago’s Patrick Williams, and Cleveland’s Darius Garland. Rounding up the young squad are journeymen Josh Magette, who mostly played in Europe, Dakota Mathias, who last signed with Philadelphia in 2020 as a two-way player, and Cam Reynolds, who last signed a 10-day contract with Houston this season.

Quickley proved to be a steal for the Knicks at the 25th pick in the last NBA Draft. Quickley averaged 11.4 points off the bench while shooting 38.9 percent of his 3s in 19.4 minutes off the bench. He also added 2.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists on his way to being named to the All-NBA Rookie Second Team.

Toppin, the Knicks’ lottery pick at No. 8, had less exposure playing behind the league’s Most Improved Player Julius Randle. The Brooklyn native averaged only 4.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench. But Toppin showed much more promise during the playoffs, where he looked better than Randle in his limited minutes on the floor. He averaged 6.4 points and 2.4 rebounds in 13 minutes with a much-improved shooting split of 52/33/83.

It will be interesting to see how Toppin will be used by the Team USA Select coach Erik Spoelstra. Assisting Spoelstra will be Gonzaga head coach Mark Few and Dallas Mavericks’ assistant coach Jamahl Mosley.

The USA Select Team will train daily with the Olympics-bound Team USA led by Kevin Durant, Dame Lillard, and Bradley Beal, from July 6 to 9 at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center.

Meanwhile, NBC Sports will air Team USA’s five exhibition matches in Las Vegas on NBCSN and Olympic Channel starting against Nigeria on July 10 at 7 p.m. Team USA will also face Argentina, who will feature newly-signed Knicks guard Luca Vildoza on July 13.

See the full telecast schedule below:

USA Basketball Men’s National Team Games
Date Coverage Network Time ET
July 10 USA vs. Nigeria NBCSN 8 p.m.
July 12 USA vs. Australia NBCSN 8 p.m.
July 13 USA vs. Argentina NBCSN 6 p.m.
July 16 USA vs. Australia NBCSN 6 p.m.
July 18 USA vs. Spain NBCSN 9 p.m.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Yankees’ Hal Steinbrenner speaks about 2021 season for the Bombers: ‘It’s aggravating; maddening’

New York Yankees, Hal Steinbrenner

New York Yankees’ president and managing partner Hal Steinbrenner, like most fans, is extremely frustrated about the team’s current performance. They are 41-39 and currently out of the playoff picture, and are coming off a heartbreaking loss against the Los Angeles Angels.

“It’s aggravating, maddening,” Steinbrenner said Thursday, just a few hours after the Yankees blew a four-run lead in the ninth inning in spectacular fashion.

However, while frustrated, Steinbrenner won’t pull one of his father’s moves: he won’t blow it all up and fire everybody. In fact, he said he still supports general manager Brian Cashman, skipper Aaron Boone, and the whole coaching staff.

“Brian and I have been doing this a lot of years together. He’s very intelligent. We communicate very well. There’s not much that happens without him running it by me first. He knows that’s the way I want it. I thought he’s done a good job.”

He won’t blow up the Yankees

About the Yankees’ coaching staff, Steinbrenner had this to say, per NJ Advance Media: “Look, everybody on the coaching staff has dealt with these players in the past. We’ve had some great offenses and some great teams, so nobody’s working harder than the coaches. The most important thing to me always in given year is that the players respect the coaches, believe in the coaches, and that’s absolutely the case here.”

It’s the first time that Steinbrenner speaks with the media during the 2021 season.

The Yankees are 8 ½ games out of first place in the AL East and have dropped all six games against their arch-rivals, the Boston Red Sox, and are 5-8 versus the Tampa Bay Rays.

“Am I mad at what I see? Absolutely,” Steinbrenner said. “I’m aggravated, frustrated angry, but that’s not going to push me into a knee-jerk decision to get rid of somebody that the players respect, want to play for, want to win for.”

New York Yankee Breaking News: Yankees add center field depth with Locastro

The New York Yankees, without Aaron Hicks, have been rotating Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, and even Tyler Wade to cover center field. Today Linsay Adler of The Atlantic announced this afternoon that the Yankees are acquiring right-handed outfielder Tim Locastro from the Diamondbacks for AA pitcher Keegan Curtis. Adds speed and a center field defensive option to the Yankees’ roster.

Tim Locastro is a good defender and adds depth to the outfield. He, like Tyler Wade, is not a great offensive addition. He has been in the minor leagues since 2013 when the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in the 38th round. Most recently, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he was hitting .178, making this a low-level trade. Like Tyler Wade, he is a speedster.

Locastro boasts an elite sprint speed of 30.9 feet per second. He broke the MLB record, and back in April, he was given second base as a memento of the feat. He grew up two hours from the Hall of Fame in Auburn, New York. In recognition, his spikes will be on display in the Hall of Fame museum.

Curtis began the 2021 campaign with Double-A Somerset, and he recorded a 3.94 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 16 innings across 12 relief appearances. The 25-year-old will likely head to the Double-A level to begin his time with the Diamondbacks.

Amid trade rumors, Knicks’ RJ Barrett plays unselfish in Canada’s rout of China

As trade rumors swirl around, New York Knicks‘ swingman RJ Barrett continues to help Canada in its quest to return to the Olympics since his father, Rowan, and his godfather, Steve Nash, starred for the Canadian side in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

“Last time we made the Olympics, my dad was wearing 9, and now I’m wearing it,” Barrett said. “It feels right.”

Canada moved two wins away from its mission after pummeling China, 109-79, Wednesday night to sweep the group stage in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament right on their home soil in Victoria, B.C.

“I haven’t been home in a while,” Barrett said. “This, with Canada on your chest, there’s no other feeling like it.”

A couple of hours before tip-off, there’s a report coming out from New York that the Knicks are interested in packaging Barrett in a potential deal for a star like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal.

Barrett brushed that off aside and proceeded to spearhead Canada’s balanced attack.

Against China’s tall frontline anchored by former NBA player, 7-foot-1 Zhou Qi, Barrett’s shots were not falling inside. He shot 3-of-10 from the field in the opening half but still managed to squeeze in 10 points to lead Canada’s offense. With his attacks to the rim hotly contested, Barrett helped spread up the offense with three assists.

Canada opened up a double-digit lead it never relinquished.

Barrett finished the game with 16 points behind Andrew Wiggins’ 20 points. But he dished out five of Canada’s 30 assists in a display of unselfish plays that will be key in clinching a spot in the Tokyo Olympics next month.

He was tied with backup point guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker for the second-most assists in the game behind their starting playmaker Cory Joseph who issued seven.

More importantly, Barrett found his range from the outside, hitting 3-of-7 after going 1-for-6 in their close win against Greece in the opener.

The 21-year old Barrett is now averaging 19.0 points behind Wiggin’s 21.5-point average and is also the team’s second-best playmaker with a 4.0-assists average tied with Alexander-Walker. Joseph’s 6.5-assists average leads the team.

Aside from his quest to bring Canada back to the Olympics, Barrett is using this tournament to stay sharp for the grind ahead. He plans to link up with his trainer Drew Hanlen, who also trains Beal, later in the summer. And their goal is to add a three-point shot off the dribble and on the move after he’s become a better catch-and-shoot player this season.

Trade or no trade, Barrett is sticking to his schedule and path to NBA stardom.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Scott Mayfield made huge strides in the playoffs for the Islanders

At one point during these past playoffs for the Islanders, a lot of the talk was about d-man Scott Mayfield. Now just six days since the team’s postseason run ended, the talk is still about him.

With the expansion draft coming in a few weeks, the Isles have some tough decisions ahead of them to keep the core intact after they reached a second consecutive Eastern Conference final. One of those difficult determinations will be to protect or expose Mayfield, who is the type of player — still considered young at 28-years-old and with a bargain of a contract — that might be a very viable option for the expansion Seattle Kraken.

No one would fault Seattle g.m. Ron Francis if he plucked Mayfield away from the Island especially after the outstanding postseason he just had.

“Mayfield has been a key part of this team for the past few years in the shutdown role that he plays,” said teammate Ryan Pulock during the series with Tampa Bay.

Pulock isn’t just blowing smoke either — Mayfield was a tour de force for the Islanders from the moment the playoffs began.

His performance in the first round against the Penguins — at one point during that series he was leading the team in points — was an underlying factor in the Isles advancing to the second round. Against Boston, Mayfield threw his weight around and helped shut down Taylor Hall, whom the Islanders decided to pass up on at the deadline and was supposed to help edge the series in the Bruins’ favor. Then versus Tampa, he did commendable work on the penalty kill and scored the tying goal in Game 6 to help the Isles force overtime.

Mayfield ended the postseason with a +12 rating in 19 games, which was the best among the team. Some look at plus-minus as a useless stat, but that number proves the rangy d-man was on the ice for way for when the Isles were at their best.

“I think personally I had a pretty good playoffs,” Mayfield said during the club’s exit meetings on Sunday. “The biggest thing for me is that we’re not happy losing in the semifinals. I’m definitely happy with the way I played and the team played. But we wanted more.”

Mayfield’s strong play might have also saved his spot for the future as an Islander. The regular season wasn’t a good one for him in particular, as he struggled to find chemistry with Nick Leddy on the team’s second d-pair. The metrics for that duo during the 56-game sprint was a concern going into the playoffs and many thought it would be a reason the Isles wouldn’t go far.

That was not nearly the case.

The Islanders got as far as they did because of players like Mayfield stepping up, among many other things.

Leddy on the other hand struggled and looked worn down. Not saying that could play a factor in whether g.m. Lou Lamoriello protects Mayfield over Leddy, but it should be taken into consideration when the team’s list is made.

If Mayfield does remain in blue and orange a few weeks from today, this postseason will be huge momentum wise for him going into next season. The strides he made were definitely unexpected but proved he was a critical piece of the Islanders’ overall success.