Knicks’ Julius Randle takes one for the team as he eyes star-powered roster down the road

knicks, julius randle

The New York Knicks are thinking long-term with their off-season moves thus far, retaining some of their own players preparing to hit free agency and bringing in two outsiders to help bolster the squad. Adding point guard Kemba Walker and shooting guard/small forward Evan Fournier, the team has upgraded from the previous players who contained those positions.

However, one of their priorities this off-season was to extend Julius Randle, who earned his first All-Star appearance last season and is headed into the final year of a three-year, $62.1 million contract.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Knicks and star power forward Julius Randle have agreed on a four-year, $117 million extension.

Randle is earning just below $30 million per season, making him the 47th highest-paid player in the league. By most accounts, Randle settled to help his team down the road, which is a valiant thing to do in this day and age.

Ultimately, the star power forward could’ve bet on himself and earned closer to $200 million on a max extension (learned from Dennis Schroder’s mistake), but Randle wanted to get the deal done so that his team would have more financial flexibility in the future.

The contracts the front office signed this off-season are well structured, as Alec Burks, Derrick Rose, and Nerlens Noel all essentially have two-year deals with a voidable year 3, including no guaranteed money in the last year. Fournier is on a four-year, $78 million deal, which also has an out after the third season. His contract hovers around market value as well, indicating the Knicks walked away this free agency with quality players at multiple positions and still managed to retain some of their own to instill continuity.

However, in two years, when the Knicks are looking to shed a few contracts and stockpile their remaining cap space, they can look at a star player. For example, Zion Williamson will see his rookie contract end in two seasons, and while the New Orleans Pelicans can present him the qualifying offer, an alternative team could deal a massive offer sheet.

Randle’s contract opens the possibility of signing Williamson down the road, and based on the state of the Pelicans’ front office, it’s unlikely Williamson elects to stay with the organization. He always wanted to be a New York Knick, and that will be his best opportunity as they prepare their salary space for that reality.

New York Yankees: 3 Major takeaways from the Yankees big day

anthony rizzo, yankees

After two lopsided victories by both teams, the New York Yankees entered into the rubber game last night to see who wins the series. The Yankees hoped they would be victorious with Jameson Taillon on the mound for the Yankees and Matt Harvey of the Orioles trying to put down the Yankees. Instead, the Yankees ended up with a statement winning the game and the series 10-3. It was a big night for the Yankees, but it didn’t end there. All of the Yankees affiliates also won their games.

Pitcher of the month shows his stuff

The New York Yankees July Pitcher of the month, Jameson Taillon, carried his stuff into August last night. Taillon had a shaky first inning giving up 1 earned run. Another run scored on an E7 by Joey Gallo, but he was lights out from then on, holding the Baltimore Orioles to just three runs working into the seventh inning. He stuck out 10 Orioles while walking just one.

After Taillon left the game, the combination of Jonathan Loaisiga, who got the win, Clay Holmes, and Albert Abreu held the Orioles to just one hit striking out three.

The “Riz” does it again

Newly acquired first baseman Anthony Rizzo put on quite a roadshow in Miami; he hit two home runs and drove in the winning run in the Yankees’ sweep of the Miami Marlins. Now he has brought his roadshow home to Yankee Stadium. Last night he homered again in the fourth for his third homer in just six games played. It’s called “Puttin on the Riz.”

Anthony Rizzo has had an RBI in every game he has played, being the first Yankee to do that in a hundred and seventeen years. In game one, he homered; in game two, he homered. in game three, he drove in the go-ahead run. In game four, he had an RBI, in game five, an RBI, and last night his third homer. Over the 6 game span, he has had 6 RBIs while going 8 for 20.

You can’t mention Rizzo without giving an honorable mention to outfielder and DH Giancarlo Stanton. During Rizzo’s run, Stanton has had 7 RBIs; however, his RBI’s came in just two games.

It’s not just at the Stadium

The New York Yankees had a big win last night at the Stadium, winning over the Baltimore Orioles 10-3, but it was also a big day/night for the Yankee affiliates, too, as each won their game.

Scranton RailRiders beat the Worcester Red Sox 7-3. CF Estevan Florial 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 R, 2 K. 2B Andrew Velazquez 2-4, 2 R, 1 K, SB. Pitcher JP Sears 5 IP, 1 R, 6 H, 6 K — Triple-A debut. Nick Nelson pitched 3 innings of scoreless relief.

Somerset Patriots over the Bowie Baysox (Orioles) 6-2. SS Oswald Peraza 2-4, 1 R, 1 K. 1B Dermis Garcia 2-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 K, he leads the Patriots with 22 homers this season. Pitcher Hayden Wesneski 5 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 7 K, he got the win.

Hudson Valley Renegades over the Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets) 3-2. LF Pat DeMarco 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K. 2B Oliver Dunn 1-3, 1 3B, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K. Pitcher Mitch Spence 6 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 5 K, he got the win.

Tampa Tarpons over the over the Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlins) 2-1. CF Jasson Dominguez 1-3, 2 K. C Carlos Narvaez 1-3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. Pitcher Beck Way 6 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 H, 8 K, he got the win.  Minor league games are 6 inning games. Extra innings may be played under the league time and other game completion rules.

Note: Tonight at the Stadium, the Yankees start a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners. Nestor Cortes Jr. will take the mound for the Yankees and Tyler Anderson for the Mariners.

Win-Win Deal: Knicks, Julius Randle agree to a 4-yr, $117 million extension

new york knicks, julius randle

A day after securing the services of former four-time NBA All-Star Kemba Walker, the New York Knicks had another major coup.

The Knicks locked up their All-Star leader Julius Randle throughout his prime with a new four-year deal worth $117 million. The last year is a player option.

Barring any trade, Randle will be in New York until he’s 31 if he opts in to the final year of the contract.

“I love playing in New York. I want to retire as a New York Knick,” Randle said last season.

He doubled down on that by committing this summer for the long haul.

The first year of Randle’s extension starts at $23.76 million and will kick in at the 2022-23 season. It will increase 8% every year, according to ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks.

The bonuses in his original contract signed in 2019, which includes making it to the All-Star Game, getting to the playoffs, and earning a spot in the All-Defensive Team, remain.

It’s a steal for the Knicks, considering that Randle will enter the 2022-23 season as the 47th highest-paid NBA player, according to Spotrac.

It was a win-win deal for both parties.

The Knicks potentially save around $80 million as Randle could have earned as much as a $200 million maximum contract next summer if he has another All-Star year. This gives the Knicks future flexibility to improve the roster.

But Randle also saved himself from the potential risk of losing money if he regresses after a remarkable season that saw him became an NBA All-Star, win the league’s Most Improved Player award, and was named to the All-NBA Second Team.

The 26-year old forward led the Knicks to the fourth seed and their first playoffs appearance since 2013. He averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and six assists in the regular season but fizzled out in his first playoffs.

The addition of Walker and Evan Fournier should ease up the burden on Randle. But it could also mean his numbers will take a hit.

ESPN first reported the deal.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Vaccine mandates in NYC could alter the plans for UFC 268

UFC, Dana White

UFC 268 is supposed to be a massive event for the promotion. The promotion is targeting a return to Madison Square Garden for the event and they are bringing incredible fights to New York for that event.

Headlining UFC 268 is the rematch between Kamaru Usman (19-1) and Colby Covington (16-2). In addition, UFC 268 will play host to the return of Luke Rockhold as he takes on Sean Strickland. 

However, arguably the most anticipated matchup that’s been announced is the co-main event. The UFC has booked Michael Chandler (22-6) against Justin Gaethje (22-3). This is a dream fight for most fans and were supposed to see it in November.

However, a new mandate in New York City might jeopardize that fight. Michael Chandler had an Instagram Live session yesterday (from MMA Junkie) where he was very open and honest about the fact that he will not be vaccinated come the November.

Chandler said that he was not anti-vax and that he would consider taking the vaccine once it’s FDA approved. I can assure you that Chandler is not the only fighter in the UFC who is not vaccinated and I guarantee he’s not the only one on the card that won’t be.

New York City announced new mandates that requires vaccination proof to do just about anything indoors. With this new mandate coming down, the UFC 268 location might be in jeopardy.

UFC 268 Backup Plans

Dana White has always said that the UFC will never force their athletes to do anything. In regards to forcing vaccinations, White said to TSN, “I would never tell another human being what to do with their body. If you want to get vaccinated, that’s up to you. That’s your choice. You’re never going to hear me say I’m going to force people to get vaccinated. Never gonna happen.”

I can guarantee White isn’t going to change his position and I guarantee the UFC fighters who don’t want the vaccine will not get it. That said, this card is in a lot of trouble in terms of the location.

It’s worth noting that the location has not been announced for UFC 268. While it’s widely known that it’s supposed to take place at MSG, the promotion hasn’t officially announced anything yet.

Dana White has been operating through the fluid waters of this pandemic for well over a year. The UFC knows how to deal with situations like this and I can assure you that they’re already working on a new location. This will definitely be something to watch over the coming weeks.

How the Knicks replaced Elfrid Payton’s minutes in genius fashion

knicks, kemba walker

The New York Knicks had several goals this off-season, but none were bigger than upgrading the point guard position. After selecting Miles McBride out of West Virginia with the 36th overall selection in the 2021 NBA draft, the front office looked forward to free agency to find veteran leadership.

One of their first moves after free agency commenced on Monday evening was to bring back point guard Derrick Rose. The veteran is preparing to turn 33-years-old in two months but was one of the more impactful players for the Knicks last season.

Upon his acquisition, head coach Tom Thibodeau played Rose 26.8 minutes per game on average. He scored 14.9 points, 4.2 assists, and shot nearly 49% from the field. He also hit a career-high 41% from three.

Rose acted as a pure floor general, spreading the ball and leading the offense with vision and efficiency. However, his presence wasn’t enough for the front office; they wanted a bigger name who could share minutes and mitigate fatigue over the course of a long campaign.

In addition to Derrick, they targeted former Boston Celtics PG Kemba Walker. Walker finalized a buyout from the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday and immediately joined the ranks in New York, looking to revive his career in his hometown. As a Bronx native, Walker is 31-years-old and played in 43 games last year before injury got the best of him.

Walker averaged 19.3 points, 4.9 assists, and shot 42% from the field. He is a high-clip three-point shooter as well, connecting on 36% over 8.2 attempts per game. However, the 2020-21 season represented one of his down years, considering he’s earned four All-Star appearances over the last five seasons.

During his most productive campaign in 2018, Walker averaged 25.6 points, 5.9 assists and shot 43.4% from the field over 82 games. His unique athleticism and burst gave him an edge over defenders, but his knees have taken a beating the last few seasons. The Knicks don’t want to rely on him as their primary option, so he will replace Elfrid Payton’s 23.6 minutes per game.

Payton was allowed to walk this off-season after a one-year, $5 million deal came to an end. He logged 10.1 points, 3.2 assists, and shot 43% from the field. He was borderline useless as a three-point shooter and was quickly replaced after the acquisition of Rose. The Knicks hoped he could provide some value during the postseason to help give Rose time to rest on the bench, but he simply couldn’t handle the load.

Fast forward to present day, and the Knicks have a point guard room consisting of Rose, Walker, McBride, and Luca Vildoza. Some might even categorize Immanuel Quickley as a PG, but he fits the role of a shooting guard moving forward.

The best part about the team’s moves is the contracts they handed out. Rose is essentially on a two-year, $20 million deal, as the third season is not guaranteed. Walker is set to earn just $8 million per year over two seasons, representing an absolute steal if he can remain healthy. Keep in mind, Walker is only one year moved from an All-Star appearance, and if he can return the form, the Knicks could find themselves pushing even further in the post-season next year.

Giants’ Matt Peart gunning for starting job, but it boils down to one category

New York Giants, Matt Peart

The New York Giants have an unresolved position at right tackle, with second-year player Matt Peart and veteran Nate Solder expected to battle it out for the starting job.

Peart, who enjoyed 150 total snaps last year on the offensive line is looking to take a step forward in his progression. He worked diligently this off-season to lean out and add more muscle mass, helping him physically. However, everything boils down to the fundamentals at some point. If Peart can approve his pass-blocking snaps and technique, he could find himself starting in 2021 opposite Andrew Thomas, the fourth overall pick last year. Peart earned a 46.6 pass-blocking grade in 2020, per PFF.

“I’m just happy to be out there,” Peart said on Tuesday. “Like I said, every day is a new opportunity to work on our craft and get better. I just think of it as a blessing now to be able to be out here, just to be with my brothers, to be with the family again. It just felt good to be with my guys.”

Head coach Joe Judge spoke highly of Peart, who showed up to work and put his best foot forward despite negative variables impacting his season. The University of Connecticut product contracted COVID-19, which hurt his stamina and set him back during the second half of the year.

“What we saw last year was competitiveness, very coachable player and daily improvement. Obviously, he showed up. The first action he got last year was versus Washington in that first game we had. It was kind of on short notice. He jumped on in there, we threw him in there on the edge and he held up pretty well for us. And as we went forward, he gave us confidence to mix him through and we had a three-tackle rotation, and he kept getting better week by week,” Judge said. “He had a setback with injury at the end of last year that kind of took a little playing time away from him because he couldn’t go out there and give 100 percent, but we had confidence in him every game last year to put him out there when he was healthy.”

The Giants’ confidence in him at such an early point his career brews optimism, and his off-season work should only boost their evaluation.
When asked how he spent the off-season improving, Peart mentioned his increase in physical size and athleticism.

“I probably just leaned up a little more, got more muscle mass, cut more fat. But like I said, grinding the offseason program, getting bigger and stronger.”

If the Giants find themselves with two sophomore tackles starting and playing at an adequate level, they will be in good shape financially. Having both starting tackles on a rookie contract allows the team to spend elsewhere, giving them a nice cushion in the salary category. Depending on how Peart performs during the preseason, there’s a great chance he earns the first crack at the starting job come Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. However, I wouldn’t rule out Solder giving him a run for his money.

The Becton/Lawson relationship can shape the New York Jets’ future

A relationship that spans both sides of the line of scrimmage could eventually lead to the New York Jets’ ultimate salvation.

After the chaos and fractures of the Adam Gase era, the New York Jets could use any semblance of unity going into a new era.

Ironically, however, it’s a daily training camp battle…one could even describe it as a war…that could lead to Gang Green’s long-sought salvation.

Mekhi Becton was one of the rare, consistent silver linings of the Jets’ woebegone 2020 season. He more than justified management’s faith in passing on several elite receiving talents in the virtual draft, bring clarity to a blocking situation that was long neglected. Upgrading the offensive line is a job that nobody wants to do, but remains drastically vital.

In essence, the Jets bought themselves plenty of flashy, expensive gifts from both the veteran and rookie markets, personified as metaphorical luxury sedans for the driveway. (i.e. Le’Veon Bell, Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, Trumaine Johnson). But in that process, they ignored the mold damage in the basement that would bring the entire structure down entirely. No matter who lined up under center, he was going to need protection. Becton did what he could to end the Sam Darnold era on the right note and earned the right to be the anchor of the age of Zach Wilson.

“He truly cares and he truly wants to help. I think he is a player that is going to help us long-term,” Joe Douglas said of his first pick as the Jets’ general manager back in November, per team reporter Ethan Greenberg. “We’re excited about working with him every day because you’re talking about a young man that loves football. He’s very smart, he’s tough as nails and has a rare size and athleticism.”

“He’s just scratching the surface of what he can do physically. There’s a lot of desire from him to want to be the best player that he can be, so we’ve made it our mission to sort of bend over backward to try to help him reach his goals.”

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

Becton’s short-term reward? A daily summer battle with one of the NFL’s most promising pressure artists.

The emergence of Carl Lawson, as has been discussed all offseason, isn’t visible through conventional numbers. That makes it perhaps all the more appropriate that he and the Jets found each other through a $45 million contract that lured him away from Cincinnati. The Jets’ silver linings and aspiring NFL staples (like Becton who, frankly, has little if any conventional numbers to fall back on as an offensive lineman) were likewise removed from the mainstream NFL conversation. Lawson instead made his mark through lesser celebrated stats like quarterback knockdowns and “sacks created“, tying for the league lead in the former with Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt.

Granted the most expensive contract of the Jets’ busy offseason, Lawson is expected to be a difference-maker in the team’s return to football relevancy. So far, he’s living up to the hype in an admittedly minuscule sample size.

“He hasn’t been stopped yet,” fellow incoming defensive lineman and Georgia high school football competitor Sheldon Rankins said of Lawson, per team reporter Jack Bell. “It’s what I expect having known him dating back to high school.”

Much like the stigma Becton has to beat on the offensive line, Lawson is also looking to end some dubious New York pass-rushing history: no Jet has earned at least 10 sacks in a season since Muhammad Wilkerson tallied a dozen in 2015.

With the Jets preparing for what’s projected to be a developmental season that can nonetheless yield positives, fans have reveled in the intense clash of a different brand of New York giants. Their get-togethers are part of new head coach Robert Saleh’s demand for increased intensity in the trenches, where he believes games are still decided. 

“On the interior where those guys are getting true genuine work, (we’re getting) some one-on-one’s going…it’s going to be exciting to see those guys progress,” Saleh said as padded practices got underway, per notes from the Jets. “The thing that you’ll hear us talk about, you can never have enough good O-linemen and D-linemen…The game still is won in the trenches.”

To that end, Saleh has added himself to the list of those who can’t enough of their antics. It’s one training camp fight he’ll refuse to break up.

“It’s like the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of size,” Saleh said. “Carl is not going to see a man that big, and Mekhi is not going to see a man that small and sawed-off, and as strong as he is. For those guys to get that work, they’re making each other strain in different ways that they’ll see all season.”

carl lawson, new york jets

Training camp battles and later in-season injury woes failed to afford Becton consistent competition in his first New York practices. This year’s battles against Lawson, a new kind of crossover summer blockbuster, have proven both humbling and beneficial.

“He’s got a lot of speed and power. He does, like, this power spin that’s really tough. He’s a great rusher,” Becton said in another report from Dennis Waszak of the Associated Press. “It’s helping me a whole lot because I can get my losses out of the way right now.”

Lawson, described as “slippery” by Becton, hasn’t spoken publicly at the New York podium since the Jets strapped their pads on. His play has instead spoken for him, impressing teammates, coaches, and Florham Park visitors alike. New defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich once again cited advanced numbers and labeled him an “obsessed” student of the game.

“The general public is obviously, very caught up in sacks, and quarterback disruption, the statistical part of (pass) rushing. He doesn’t always check those boxes, but he’s been a guy that’s got historic win rates,” Ulbrich said in notes from Jets. “His obsession with this game, now to see him up close, as far as his stance, the timing of his hands and his feet, the distance from the tackles foot, the way he studies the tackle set, the way he studies the offense.”

Etched in the Jets’ left tackle spot for the foreseeable future, Becton perhaps never expected that one of his biggest obstacles, if not the biggest obstacle, in keeping his quarterback safe would emerge from his own locker room.

But Becton wouldn’t have it any other way. He believes these civil wars will help New York improve both immediately and in the future ahead.

“Iron sharpens iron,” Becton labeled his battles with Lawson, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “He gets me better and I’m getting him better. It helps me a whole lot.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags