Knicks: Luca Vildoza likely to play in Summer League as Argentina nears elimination

knicks, luca vildoza

As Argentina’s Olympic medal hopes fade, the chances of Luca Vildoza getting summer reps with the New York Knicks are increasing.

Argentina dropped its second straight game — an 81-71 loss to Spain on Thursday in a rematch of the 2019 FIBA  World Cup Finals.

The loss put the Argentines in a precarious situation. They have to win big against host Japan in their final group stage game and hope they end up with one of the top two third-place records.

Vildoza didn’t start against Spain but played the bulk of his minutes in the second half.

The 25-year old Vildoza finished with five points in 16 minutes as Denver Nuggets’ point guard Facundo Campazzo’s backup. He struggled from the field (2 of 6), missing five of his six three-point attempts. But he added two rebounds and two assists, including a nice pick and roll action with the ageless Luis Scola that ended with an open three-pointer cutting Spain’s lead to a single-digit.

Vildoza had 11 points, five assists, three rebounds, and three steals in Argentina’s opening loss to Slovenia. In two Olympic games thus far, he averages 8.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals. But he’s only shooting 35.7 percent from the field and, worse, only hit 1 of 8 three-pointers so far.

Argentina plays Japan on Sunday, and a loss would automatically eliminate them from contention, giving Vildoza a whole week before making his debut with the Knicks in the NBA Summer League. The Knicks will open their Summer League campaign against the Toronto Raptors on Aug. 8 (See the full Knicks schedule here).

The Knicks will use the Summer League games and the training camp to evaluate Vildoza’s play and fit with their roster before they guarantee his salary next season. Vildoza signed a partially guaranteed four-year, $13.6 million deal last May.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

 

New York Rangers, Filip Chytil agree to terms on a 2-year contract

Filip Chytil, New York Rangers

New York Rangers President and General Manager Chris Drury announced today that the team has agreed to terms with restricted free agent forward Filip Chytil on a two-year contract.

The New York Rangers had a pretty quiet first day of free agency on Wednesday. On Thursday afternoon the team announced they have agreed to a new two-year contract with restricted free agent center Filip Chytil.

The deal has an AAV of $2.3 million per season.

Chytil, 21, skated in 42 games with the Rangers this past season, registering eight goals and 14 assists for 22 points, along with a plus-nine rating and 10 penalty minutes. He established career-highs in several categories in 2020-21, including assists, points per game (0.52), assists per game (0.33), and plus/minus rating (plus-nine). Chytil registered all of his 22 points this past season at even strength/5-on-5. He ranked sixth among NHL centers (min. 20 games played) in points per 60 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5 (2.60; only trailing Connor McDavid, Jason Spezza, Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon, and Leon Draisaitl), as well as sixth among NHL centers (min. 20 games played) in assists per 60 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5 (1.65; only trailing McDavid, MacKinnon, Spezza, Evgeni Malkin, and Draisaitl) this past season. The Rangers posted a 14-3-3 record in games which Chytil tallied a point in 2020-21.

The 6-2, 206-pounder has skated in 186 career NHL games over parts of four seasons (2017-18 – 2020-21), all with the Rangers, registering 34 goals and 37 assists for 71 points, along with 32 penalty minutes. Among players who were selected in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Chytil ranks third in goals, ranks fourth in games played, and ranks eighth in points. He is the only player who has worn jersey No. 72 in a regular-season or playoff game with the Rangers in franchise history. Over the last two seasons (2019-20 and 2020-21), the Blueshirts have posted a 28-7-5 record in the 40 games in which Chytil has registered a point. He has skated in three career postseason games with the Rangers.

The Kromeriz, Czech Republic native was selected by the Rangers in the first round, 21st overall, of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. (Per NYR PR Department)

Leading to a bigger deal

It is unclear if this signing is a prelude to a bigger trade in the upcoming days or if it is a seal to fortify the club at the center position for the next two seasons.

The rumors of the club trying to make a trade for Buffalos’ Jack Eichel continue to run rampant. Time will tell where things shake out and what the true meaning of this signing is.

BREAKING: Zach Wilson, New York Jets agree to rookie contract (Report)

zach wilson, new york jets

The next generation of New York Jets football can officially begin, as Zach Wilson has reportedly signed his rookie contract.

Gang Green has coughed up the green.

Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, the New York Jets have agreed to terms of a rookie contract with second overall pick Zach Wilson. Schefter’s report reveals that the BYU alum will receive a fully guaranteed four-year deal at $35.1 million, which includes a $22.9 million signing bonus.

Wilson is expected to partake in the Jets’ Friday activities after missing the first two sessions, leaving his primary passing duties to Mike White and James Morgan. His Instagram story hinted that he was still in his home state of California during the holdout, but Schefter said that Wilson arrived in New Jersey today, having taken a red eye flight from Los Angeles.

The holdup in Wilson’s New York arrival was reportedly due to language in his contract, namely in offsets that would soothe New York’s financial blow if he was released prior to the deal’s expiration. Under this deal, Wilson will receive his signing bonus within 15 days, while the Jets get their desired offsets.

With Wilson’s signing, every first-round pick from the 2021 NFL Draft has been signed.

During his absence, Wilson remained a topic of conversation as the Jets convened for camp. While head coach Robert Saleh regularly expressed faith that general manager Joe Douglas would facilitate a deal, he stressed how important the lost training camp reps would be for Wilson.

“It’s more of a concern for the kid. Every rep is important. So my concern is that it’s two days (off) too many already for him,” Saleh said in video from SNY. “This young man’s got a chance to do something special around here that hasn’t been done in a while and every rep matters for him.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING: Amanda Nunes tests positive for COVID-19; Out of UFC 265

UFC 265 has taken a hit today by losing the co-main event of the evening. ESPN reported today that the promotion’s two-division champion and the greatest female fighter of all time, Amanda Nunes (21-4), has tested positive for COVID-19.

Nunes was set to make her return to the bantamweight division to defend her UFC title against Julianna Pena (10-4). These two have some serious bad blood and many were looking forward to the fight.

However, the fight is going to be delayed. The UFC‘s chief business officer Hunter Campbell told ESPN that the plan is for the promotion to rebook the fight once Nunes is healthy and ready to go.

At this time there is no word on how Nunes is said to be doing after testing positive. However, given the language from Campbell, my guess is that she’s experiencing symptoms from COVID.

For now, it would appear that the new co-main event of UFC 265 will be the bantamweight contest between Jose Aldo and Pedro Munhoz.

Plans for the UFC title fight

As Campbell said, the UFC is fully planning on rebooking this fight when Nunes is ready to go. However, we really don’t have any idea of when that will be. We’ve seen some fighters be ready just two weeks after a positive test.

However, we’ve also seen some fighters experience symptoms that kept them out for extended periods of time. Khamzat Chimaev and Alexander Volkanovski are two that stick out.

Volkanovski was set to defend his UFC title against Brian Ortega in March, but after a positive COVID test, that fight was scrapped. Those two will now fight in September. In reality, September might be the target date for the Nunes – Pena title fight.

Another possibility could be November. At the beginning of November, the UFC is returning to New York for UFC 268 which is headlined by Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington. Don’t be surprised if you see this bantamweight title end up at MSG.

A quiet first day of free agency for the Islanders shouldn’t surprise anyone by now

Day one of NHL Free Agency yesterday ended without a sound from the Islanders.

While every other club was announcing deals left and right, the Isles remained radio silent on all fronts. There were reports hours before the opening bell rang at noon that the team had signed free agent forward Zach Parise and re-signed forward Kyle Palmieri. Those deals weren’t filed with the league nor were there any announcements made. They could be made today.

Beyond those, nothing. Nada.

All day long, nothing leaked about who the Islanders might be targeting either. Even the insiders were stumped about what g.m. Lou Lamoriello and Co. were up to. The best probably came from NHL.com’s Dan Rosen who tweeted, “Does anybody know what Lou Lamoriello is doing? Does anybody ever know? The Islanders have been very Lou-like quiet today. Doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything. Linked with Parise, Palmieri, Cizikas. We’ll see.”

To say Islanders fans were frustrated with this would be an understatement. This summer has already seen the departures of Nick Leddy, Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd. The difference was, two of the three transactions — which came fast and furious — was surprising to be frank.

Now, no news coming out yesterday could be received as either a positive or negative depending on your preference.  But this method of silence shouldn’t be seen as something entirely new based on how Lamoriello has operated since taking things over. Under his watch, the Islanders have always kept all their handlings under wraps for the sole purpose of not giving any indication to other clubs what they might be doing.

It’s what’s become to be known as “Lou’s cone of silence”. Nobody says or leaks anything to anybody. Lamoriello has used this model everywhere he’s been in his career. This is particularly seen most during free agency.

Going through each of the past summers, the Islanders have always been late to the party when announcing their key acquisitions. In 2018 the team didn’t make the signings of Leo Komarov and Valterri Filppula official till at night on the day free agency started. There had been nothing of note from anybody that day regarding who the Isles were looking at. It did come out around the time those two deals were completed the Isles were talking with the Sabres to possibly acquire center Ryan O’Reilly, which ultimately never fell through. They also didn’t announce goalie Robin Lehner’s deal till the second day with the market open for business.

A year later, the re-signing of captain Anders Lee and deal struck with free agent goalie Semyon Varlamov also came several hours after most of the teams in the league made signings.

Lamoriello has always acknowledged that if you have time, you use it. And it’s clear that he uses every single second he has based on what’s stated in the graf above.

As frustrating as that method may seem, it’s usually benefitted the Islanders for the most part.

The value they’ve gotten out of the names listed above by waiting things out has led to tremendous success both in the regular season and the postseason. So obviously Lamoriello’s got a plan and lets things be as they may until he decides to execute it.

There’s still plenty of work to be done by the Lou and his cohorts — re-signing Casey Cizikas, getting new deals done for Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier and Ilya Sorokin — but all of it not coming the first day of free agency shouldn’t have people worrying. For a good amount of time, they’ve been about easing their way into that crucial phase of the offseason. It’s why things were so quiet yesterday and it’s something that should be thought of as normal now when it comes to the organization.

Go back a few years prior and ask anybody associated with or outside the Islanders whether Adam Pelech be considered an option to represent Team Canada in any Olympic scenario, and that person might look at you like you had three heads.

Now? They might praise you for such forward thinking.

During TSN’s Free Agent Frenzy yesterday, some of those on the panel took a minute to give their projected lineups for both Canada and the USA if the NHL does have its players participate in next year’s Winter Games in China. Analyst Mike Johnson put out his lineup with Pelech actually being one of the two Islanders on Canada along with Mathew Barzal.

Pelech over the past few seasons has been recognized as one of the league’s best defensive d-man. It’s a long shot he gets the nod to go play for his country, but the fact he’s even mentioned as a possibility shows how far he’s come in such a short period of time.

 

 

 

The New York Giants’ lack of OL depth could prove to be costly this season

New York Giants, Shane Lemeiux

The New York Giants are only on their second day of practice in 2021’s training camp. Already, the Giants are dealing with some injury scares. Starting left guard Shane Lemieux was carted off of the practice field today. This injury scare once again sheds light on the Giants’ lack of depth on the offensive line and how it could cost them in a major way this season.

The New York Giants offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL

The Giants had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season. In 2020, according to ESPN, the Giants’ pass-block win rate ranked dead-last in the NFL at 46%. Their run-block win rate ranked 18th at 70%, which is about average or slightly below. Despite this, the team made no major moves to upgrade their offensive line in the 2021 offseason.

A peculiar offseason strategy

2021’s free agency period saw the New York Giants spend big on both sides of the ball. New York made multiple splash signings, like Kenny Golladay, Kyle Rudolph, and Adoree’ Jackson. The team filled some gaping holes on their roster, yet ignored the glaringly obvious weakness that is their offensive line. The only acquisitions the Giants made on the offensive line were iOL Zach Fulton (who many believe will play a backup role), and a couple of undrafted free agents. The Giants had numerous opportunities to sign or draft starting-caliber offensive line talent and passed up every single chance they were given.

This leaves the New York Giants in murky water during the first week of training camp. As we wait for an update on Shane Lemieux, the conversation about the Giants’ offensive line is sparked once again. Though Lemieux struggled incredibly in his rookie season (ranking 80/80 in PFF grades for guards in 2020), he was still a projected starter entering his second season with plenty of upsides. Shane Lemieux worked hard this offseason, even showing up to voluntary workouts before 6 a.m. to get some extra work before practice.

Hoping for the best and preparing for the worst

Hopefully, Shane Lemieux was dealing with a minor injury that looked worse from a distance than it truly is. However, if that is not the case, the Giants are in a scary situation. The Giants lost their best starting offensive lineman (Kevin Zeitler) this offseason and brought no one in to replace him. They are rolling into 2021 with basically the same unit that gave up 50 sacks (T-2nd most in the NFL) last season. Some fans might not view Shane Lemieux as a big potential loss to the lineup, but the Giants do not have much depth on their roster at that position, to begin with, so any injury on the offensive line could break their season to pieces.

Report: Knicks in trade talks for Magic’s Terrence Ross; Lakers offered Kyle Kuzma

terrence ross, knicks

The New York Knicks‘ phone lines are busy exploring all their options ahead of tonight’s NBA Draft — from trading up into the lottery and swapping their picks for a veteran.

Chris Duarte remains the trade-up target for the Knicks, according to several reports. At the same time, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer added that they are also in trade talks to acquire veteran guard Terrence Ross from Orlando Magic. Ian Begley of SNY was the first to note Ross’s involvement in trade discussions with several teams.

“League sources say the Knicks are involved in trade talks for Magic guard Terrence Ross. They would also like to move up in the draft, possibly to select Chris Duarte,” O’Connor wrote.

Ross is owed $24 million over the next two years and is due for a $12.5 million salary next season. With the Knicks having an ample cap space this summer, they can just absorb Ross’s salary in exchange for picks. The 30-year old guard is coming off his finest season, averaging a career-best 15.6 points and 2.3 assists. He shot 34 percent on 5.7 three-point attempts.

Ross torched the Knicks last season with a pair of explosive games. He had 19 points on 4-of-8 three-pointers and three assists in their first meeting back in January. He came back with a 30-point outing on 5-of-6 shooting from deep in their second meeting that he laced up with six rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks.

The Knicks are looking to add more shooting and veteran presence at the wings with Alec Burks, and Reggie Bullock set to become free agents.

Meanwhile, the Indiana Pacers balked at the Knicks’ offer to trade up for their 13th pick in the lottery with their eyes on Oregon swingman Chris Duarte, per J. Michael of Indy Star.

“The New York Knicks have cap space and have expressed interest in jumping up from Nos. 19 and 21 for a shot at Duarte. They’re open to part with players on their roster to get it done but they don’t have a desirable group,” according to the Indy Star report.

Kevin Knox, who is still on a rookie contract with a cap-friendly $5.8 million owed next season, used to be high on the Pacers’ list, but that has dipped after the former lottery pick failed to carve out a meaningful role under coach Tom Thibodeau last season. Suffice to say that there’s no clear pathway for the Knicks to move up to the Pacers’ spot in the lottery.

“A little more than a season ago, Kevin Knox generated some interest from the Pacers, league sources said at the time, but that never went anywhere and he has since fallen off. With their cap space, the Knicks are able to absorb any undesirable contracts to make a deal but the Pacers don’t have any,” the report added.

Interestingly, according to the same Indy Star report, the Knicks were one of the teams who received a call from the Los Angeles Lakers involving Kyle Kuzma.

“They offered Kyle Kuzma to Indiana for a pick swap that was declined (also have offered him to Utah, Minnesota, Cleveland, New York, and likely others),” the report said.

It is not clear if the Knicks-Lakers discussion gained traction. But it seems that talks are dead now as the Lakers have reportedly pivoted and stepped up their efforts to land Sacramento Kings’ Buddy Hield with a package centered on Kuzma.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Assessing Robert Quinn’s role with the Chicago Bears in 2021

Heading into 2021, the Chicago Bears seem to have a problem on their hands: What to do with 11th-year veteran Robert Quinn, who signed a five-year $70M deal in free agency last offseason. Quinn’s first season would disappoint with just two sacks and six quarterback hits in 13 starts.

Much of Quinn’s struggles were attributed to health, however, the Bears know how good Quinn, who had 80.5 sacks prior to joining Chicago, can be. Heading into 2021, the Bears appear to have different plans to utilize a player many label a pure pass rusher.

“Robert is a guy that has played in this league a long time and he’s had a lot of good seasons, times where he’s lead the NFL in sacks and he has his way of doing things,” said head coach Matt Nagy via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “And so, I think that’s where you’re going to see Coach Desai really try to use Robert in the way that Robert’s used to being used.”

Quinn has traditionally been labeled as a player who’s an ideal fit in a 4-3 defense as a defensive end with his hand in the dirt. Throughout much of last season, Quinn was solely an outside linebacker, requiring him to be a standup pass rusher.

“Everyone is on the same page, and we understand what I need and what the team needs from me,” Quinn said via Adam Hoge of NBC Sports Chicago. “I’ll just leave it at that. They know where I’m best at, and we’ll just keep it there.”

For Chicago to maximize the investment that was made, Quinn should see additional reps with his hand in the dirt, specifically being a defensive end. Chicago can afford to utilize Quinn in this manner for two reasons. First, the Bears added veteran Jeremiah Attaochu but also feature second-year player Trevis Gipson, who many expect to take a major jump going into 2021.

Quinn’s performance will be one to monitor throughout the duration of training camp but the Bears also need to acknowledge that Quinn needs to have a defined role in order to truly be successful, despite his limitations that were on display throughout last season.

Former GM calls Gallo a ‘perfect fit’ for the Yankees, encourages Bombers to get a reliever

yankees, joey gallo

Wednesday night was a busy one for the Yankees. After a few hiccups that changed the original deal (one that brought reliever John King and had the Bombers sending six prospects), New York ended up trading four prospects to the Texas Rangers for outfielder Joey Gallo and bullpen arm Joely Rodriguez.

Speaking on SNY (link to NJ Advance MEdia article here), former New York Mets’ general manager Jim Duquette expressed his approval for the Yankees’ move, and went so far as calling it a “perfect fit.” Indeed, Gallo’s light-tower power will definitely play in Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch, and his on-base abilities will fit nicely in the lineup.

Duquette says that the four prospects the Yankees sent, none of them in the preseason’s top 10 list, was a “small” cost.

The Yankees should get another bullpen arm

Speaking about what he thinks the Yankees should do next, here is what Duquette said:

“They’re going for this, obviously, even if it’s for the Wild Card. I’d like to see them find themselves another bullpen arm at some point. I know they picked one up the other day that I kind of like from the Pirates, (Clay) Holmes. He gets righties out. But I’d like to see another bullpen piece of some kind or maybe it’s a back-end starter. The rotation is thin and it’s getting healthy, hopefully, here over the next couple of weeks for them. But I still think they need another pitcher or two moving forward. They’re up against the luxury tax. They don’t have a lot of room there. … It’s not going to be easy to do. But I do think their next move is going to be some kind of bullpen piece.”

There are lots of relievers potentially available near the deadline: Ian Kennedy, Jose Cisnero, Richard Rodriguez, Daniel Bard, Joakim Soria, Taylor Rogers (currently injured), Craig Kimbrel, and more.

About Gallo, Duquette also provided his insight and talked about his fit with the Yankees.

“I think it’s a small cost for a guy like Joey Gallo. He’s got a high strikeout — we’ve seen that. But the power is real. This is a 40-home run bat to go in the middle of the lineup, and since the change in the illegal substances that the pitchers haven’t been able to use, his numbers have gone up significiantly, especially on the four-seam fastball and his home run rates. He’s a really good athlete and, oh, they finally got a left-handed bat to go in the middle of that lineup to break up all the right-handed bats. He can play all the positions in the outfield. He’s a good enough athlete that you would occasionally play him in center. He’s really a perfect fit for the Yankees. It’s one of those you wish you were able to do sooner. It’s getting close to the deadline so these deals finally get consummated.”

Yankees’ trade for Joey Gallo is even better than meets the eye, as luxury tax is saved

yankees, joey gallo

The New York Yankees finalized a big trade with the Texas Rangers on Wednesday evening, adding big lefty slugger Joey Gallo to the lineup. The trade will likely become official on Thursday after the MLB approves, but the Bombers not only added a big player, they also had the majority of his contract paid for this season.

In exchange for Gallo and relief pitcher Joely Rodriguez, the Yankees offered up Ezekiel Duran, Trevor Hauver, Glen Otto and Josh Smith. With the Yankees dipping into their farm system to acquire established players, there was a chance the Rule 5 draft would’ve seen alternative clubs steal them regardless during the winter meetings.

However, the Yanks now have a starting outfielder at 27 years old. The former first round draft pick in 2012 is on a one-year, $6.2 million deal. Prior to the acquisition, the Yankees sat just $4 million below the $210 million luxury tax threshold. This is why Texas will be paying the majority of his remaining deal this season, allowing the Yankees to stay below that number.

Adding a bit more financial wiggle room, that has inserted the Yankees back into the mix for Colorado Rockies star shortstop Trevor Story. The financial portion of this deal is great for New York, who traded away players that will likely never see the big leagues anyway.

They have plenty of farm talent to work with, but as they desperately try to make the postseason, they’re banking their future on it. Considering that Gallo is only on a one-year contract and is preparing to hit arbitration for the third time in 2022, the Yankees will have to find a way to extend him or let him walk in two seasons.

In addition to adding Gallo, Rodriguez is an experienced veteran, having spent the last two seasons in the MLB with Texas. This season, he hosts a 5.93 ERA over 31 games, but posted a 2.13 ERA over 12 games last year during the abbreviated 2020 season. Hopefully, wearing the pinstripes and joining a relatively-winning team will spur better performances.

Cashman traded away Justin Wilson and Luis Cessa to the Cincinnati Reds this past week, so the team is likely in the market for another relief pitcher. Essentially, they replaced Wilson and Cessa with Rodriguez and Clay Holmes from Pittsburgh.