New York Giants: Kenny Golladay on recovery, chemistry with offense

new york giants, kadarius toney

It’s safe to say a fair amount of the hopes for the New York Giants offense rest on Kenny Golladay. Golladay is the team’s highest profile free agent, and the most visible part of the organization’s plan to focus on offensive weapons this offseason. The Giants prioritized bringing Golladay in over improving other areas such as the offensive line, and that decision will be judged in part by how Golladay plays in his debut season with the team.

Golladay and the Giants are unfortunately facing a challenge in that plan, however. Golladay is injured right now, and it’s unclear if he’ll be back in time for week 1. Despite that, the receiver has seemingly kept a hopeful outlook and is positive about his time with the franchise so far.

Golladay speaks on return to practice

Golladay, along with Saquon Barkley, is one of the Giants players who recently made a return to practice. He took questions on Thursday about it, and explained the reasoning behind a slower start.

“I mean, this is literally like the first day and a half I’m back out there, so it’s still fresh. I’ve still got to get my legs up under me and everything,” Golladay told reporters when asked about his explosiveness.

He also spoke about another subject that fans will be curious about: his chemistry with Daniel Jones. While Jones will have more weapons this season, injuries have largely meant that those weapons haven’t had much of a chance to build chemistry yet. According to Golladay, however, this isn’t the biggest deal.

“It’s definitely a little bump in the road, but we still have some days left. I’ve got to get just a lot of catches in,” Golladay said.

Golladay on Kadarius Toney

Ironically enough, injury may help Golladay’s chemistry with fellow receiver Kadarius Toney. Both players are on uncertain return timetables after offseason injuries. And as high profile additions, both of them have strong expectations to get back on the field for the Denver game.

“I’m just trying to keep him on a good track and trying to keep his mind clear. As a rookie, it’s kind of hard coming in with injuries,” Golladay said about the rookie.

“I dealt with it a little bit my rookie year and I know how frustrating it can be. You almost kind of want to rush it and get yourself back out there, so I kind of make sure his head is on straight and tell him everything will be alright, and we have time on our side.”

A quick return to form following injury is the bare minimum expectation for both Golladay and Toney after the Giants prioritized both players over other areas of the team. Based on the way things are panning out so far, that decision has been criticized with many pointing to the state of the offensive line as evidence the Giants should have focused elsewhere.

It’s still too early to say just how either of the new additions will fit into the offense when healthy, but it’s definitely not too soon to rule wide receiver one of the highest pressure positions on the team currently.

Smith’s Seventh Inning Gives Mets Boost in 4-3 Win to Sweep Marlins

dominic smith, mets

The New York Mets season has been riddled with tough breaks and bad bounces, but things moved in their favor against the Miami Marlins. An error from the Marlins and a ball nicking of Jesus Aguilar‘s glove in the seventh inning resulted in Dominic Smith‘s RBI single, which gave the Mets just enough to win 4-3 and sweep the Marlins. The whole game was filled with errors as both teams combined for seven errors.

The Mets had themselves a situation they had failed in for a majority of the season. Patrick Mazeika‘s single and error by Jesus Sanchez allowed Jeff McNeil to get to third base with one out. Smith ripped the ball over the first-base bag, and since Aguilar was holding on Mazeika, he reached out his glove to attempt to make a play. If Aguilar let the ball go, it would have gone foul, but instincts took over, and it allowed the Mets to steal a run.

Carlos Carrasco had a typical start for his 2021 season. Miguel Rojas ambushed him on the first pitch to give the Marlins an early run, and the fish tacked on another to make it 2-0 in the first. Carrasco once again settled in after the first inning to put together 5.1 innings allowing three runs and striking out five. Aaron Loup relinquished the lead with two walks in relief but survived the keep the game tied. The following three relievers for the Mets all had hitless outings.

Battling Back

The Mets had their work cut out for them early against Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara but were up to the task. Jonathan Villar took notes from Rojas to drill a leadoff home run on Alcantara’s first pitch. It was the first time in MLB history where both team’s leadoff hitters homered on the first pitch. Mazeika was the only Met with multiple hits and also recorded a double. Francisco Lindor only had an RBI double on the night but could have easily had a couple more hits if he was not hitting the ball at people.

The win is the fifth consecutive for the Mets, and they have an opportunity to move within four games of the first-place Atlanta Braves. On Friday, they will begin a five-game series with the Washington Nationals. Two former Long Island Ducks face-off as Rich Hill takes the mound against Sean Nolin. The first pitch from Nationals Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.

 

UFC books Michael Chiesa – Sean Brady

The UFC has finalized a fun matchup in the welterweight division. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was the first to report this evening that the promotion has finalized a battle between ranked welterweights Michael Chiesa (17-5) and Sean Brady (14-0).

The fight will take place at a Fight Night on November 20th. This is a huge fight for Brady who will look to stay undefeated. Brady made his UFC debut back in 2019 when he took on former Ultimate Fighter winner Court McGee. That night, Brady picked up a decision win.

After that, Brady earned another decision win before finishing back-to-back fights. In his last fight, Brady took on Jake Matthews back in March at UFC 259. Brady defeated Matthews by third round arm-triangle choke to remain unbeaten.

Now, Brady is going to be getting a huge step up in competition. The UFC had been trying to book Brady against Kevin Lee. In fact, Brady was supposed to fight Kevin Lee last weekend, but Brady had to pull out of the fight. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the UFC‘s giving him an even bigger fight.

Bounce back UFC opportunity for Chiesa

The Maverick will be looking to bounce back in this fight with Sean Brady. The last time we saw Chiesa was just a few weeks ago at UFC 265. That night, Chiesa took on Vicente Luque in a huge fight for the division.

The winner of that fight was set to jump right into the title picture. Entering UFC 265, Chiesa was a perfect 4-0 in the welterweight division. A win over Luque might’ve earned Chiesa a title shot.

In the fight, Chiesa had his opportunities to win. In fact, he had Luque’s back at one point. However, Luque survived and ended up forcing a scramble. During the scramble, Chiesa made a vital mistake and left his neck out there.

In doing so, Luque locked up a choke and got the win. The UFC is giving Chiesa a step back in competition, but it’s a good reset fight. Either Chiesa resumes his climb to the top or Sean Brady proves he belongs in the discussion with the division’s elites.

After UFC Vegas 35, what’s next for Daniel Rodriguez?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 35, Daniel Rodriguez (16-2) took on Kevin Lee (18-7) on the main card. It was a massive fight for both men. For Rodriguez, he was looking for his first real signature win in the UFC.

D-Rod has been great since joining the promotion with wins over the likes of Tim Means and Mike Perry. Overall, Rodriguez was 5-1 in the UFC entering Saturday night with the lone loss coming via decision against Nicolas Dalby in a fight many thought he won.

Kevin Lee was fighting just his second fight in the welterweight division. Lee at one point challenged for the interim UFC lightweight title, ultimately falling short to Tony Ferguson. That said, many still look at Lee as an elite mixed martial artist.

The fight started out very well for Lee at UFC Vegas 35. Lee was able to land a takedown in the first round and held his own in the standup. However, the second round is where the fight would drastically change.

Rodriguez would land a massive shot near the end of the round that had Lee out on his feet. D-Rod would use his pressure in the final frame to stifle Lee and ultimately win a unanimous decision.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 35?

The fight was a massive one for Rodriguez as mentioned above. Easily, this is the biggest win of his UFC career. With the win, Rodriguez has a number by his name for the first time in his career with the promotion.

In today’s updated UFC rankings, Rodriguez came in at the 15th spot. Now that he’s a ranked welterweight, what should the promotion do with him next? Well, Rodriguez taking on Sean Brady (14-0) would’ve been a good fight. However, the UFC just booked Brady against Michael Chiesa.

In looking at the division, I like Rodriguez against Santiago Ponzinibbio (28-4). Ponzinibbio ranks just a couple of spots ahead of D-Rod and this would be a sensational fight for fans. If I’m matchmaking, that’s what I’m going with.

Mets: Details of GM Zack Scott’s arrest emerge

New York Mets

At around 4:15 am on Tuesday, police officers arrested New York Mets’ acting general manager Zack Scott, who fell asleep at the wheel of his vehicle and refused to take a breathalyzer, according to the police in White Plains, N.Y. (link to the New York Times story here).

The Mets have already placed the executive on administrative leave. He was arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated. According to Capt. James Spencer of the White Plains Police Department, “an officer spotted Scott asleep at the wheel of a 2018 Toyota Highlander at the intersection of Fisher and South Lexington Avenues on Tuesday. Spencer said Scott, 44, refused to take a breathalyzer test but failed a field sobriety test.”

The Mets’ GM was booked and later released, per Spencer.

On Thursday morning, the executive pleaded not guilty to a first-offense D.W.I. charge.

The Mets expressed their disappointment with the events. “We are surprised and deeply disappointed to learn this morning about an alleged D.U.I. involving Zack Scott,” they said.

“We take this matter very seriously. Zack will not be traveling with the team for our upcoming road trip while we learn more and determine next steps,” they stated.

A rough year for Mets’ executives

Per the New York Times, Scott was attending a fund raising event by Mets’ owner Steve Cohen. A team official said the gathering was done by 9:00 pm, and he was found asleep in his car several hours later.

The Mets have had to endure several scandals this season. First, Jared Porter, hired to be the general manager in late 2020, was dismissed after it was revealed he sent unsolicited messages and pictures to a female back in 2016.

Then, former Mets’ manager Mickey Callaway was suspended for sexual harassment allegations by several women in a period spanning five years.

Most recently, Mets’ player started a rift with fans over the constant booing due to bad performance.

New York Jets’ surprise departures send an intriguing message

The New York Jets may have nothing to lose in 2021, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not going to hold their players accountable.

The start of September is a time to confront some uncomfortable truths, many often centered around regrets from the dying summer.

That’s hasn’t been the problem for the New York Jets; they have accomplished a lot over the past three months, as they’ve won the faith of their long-suffering fanbase back through a busy offseason and respectable preseason showings. But a harsh reality lingers: the only reason the Jets will be playing deeper into January is the mere extension of the NFL’s regular season to 17 games.

Gang Green’s dire immediate forecast isn’t an indictment of general manager Joe Douglas’ time at the helm (even if his first draft looks a little iffy with Jabari Zuniga and James Morgan already gone). It’s rather living proof of just how far the last days of Mike Maccagnan’s oversight and Adam Gase’s doomed two-year tenure set the team back in an AFC landscape packed with worthy, established contenders…one of whom resides in their own division and the state represented in the New York Jets moniker.

But that shouldn’t preclude the Jets from embarking on a year of maturation, 18 weeks of de facto field research and development of its current roster. Barring a winless disaster, this season is going to be an improvement over last year’s two-win horror show. There are opportunities to grow and evolve on the football field. If they manage to shock the football world and pick up an upset win or two along the way (i.e. the matchups against the indirectly aforementioned Buffalo Bills), even better.

Frankly, it’s not much different from the Jets’ 2020 outlook. But Douglas and his front office compatriots have set them up in a far more desireable situation. The hire of head Robert Saleh has been unanimously appreciated in both domestic and abroad circles, in contrast to Gase’s arrival cheered only by the hot take artists. In the best-case scenario, Sam Darnold’s eventual final season as the Jets’ franchise quarterback was equipped with first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman), New England antiques (Chris Hogan), and undrafted journeymen with rushing relics of football past behind him (Le’Veon Bell, Frank Gore). Douglas’ offseason negotiations have situated Zach Wilson with valuable weaponry that doubled as playoff staples in recent postseasons (Corey Davis, Tevin Coleman, Tyler Kroft). Each team was/is macabrely blessed with a sense of having nothing to lose in the immediate future, but there’s a clear difference between the Jets’ two most preseason auras.

jets, bless austin

But that doesn’t mean that the Jets are going to sit idly by while this season plays out. The team’s most recent departures serve as a warning that just because there’s nothing to lose, it doesn’t mean that players won’t be held accountable for their on-field output…or lack thereof.

This week’s initial reveal of 53-man rosters has been no roadblock for the Jets’ continued insistence on tinkering their lineup as the countdown to Sept. 12’s opener in Carolina (1 p.m. ET, CBS) enters single digits. New York has continued to try and fill the Carl Lawson-sized hole created by the injury bug, signing waiver wire defenders Tim Ward and Quincy Williams (ex-Cleveland safety Sheldrick Redwine doesn’t appear to be far behind). They’re replacing some familiar faces, rare remnants of the Maccagnan era. Those leftovers are vanishing from the Jets’ ledgers faster and in higher volume than Thanos and his army after Tony Stark’s sacrifice.

The most prominent of the departures have been two recent staples at the top of the Jets’ depth chart: tight end Chris Herndon was dealt to Minnesota during the purge down to 53 men while cornerback Bless Austin was outright released. Austin had been penciled in as the Jets’ starting cornerback for months while Herndon was one of the closest things the Jets had to a staple: only two players (Marcus Maye and Thomas Hennessy) had longer green metropolitan tenures than Herndon, who was set to enter his fourth year with the team.

New York Jets, Chris Herndon
Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

At first glance, the 2021 Jets provided the perfect environment for Herndon and Austin to work through. A team with nothing to lose could’ve granted the young veterans a chance to gain some football clarity and reclaim the narrative on their professional careers. Each had shown flashes of NFL brilliance before: Herndon is just three years removed from being one of the NFL’s most illustrious rookie receivers (11th overall with 502 yards and leading all freshman tight ends with 39 receptions) and Austin developed a reputation as a strong hitter, fighting his way back from injuries at Rutgers into a starting opportunity in an NFL lineup.

But the Jets have once again made it clear that, in writing their own story of redemption, they don’t have the time or effort to co-author anyone else’s. There are some low-profile exceptions (i.e. late arrival Shaq Lawson) but the team is making it clear that if a player isn’t contributing toward the pavement of the path back to gridiron redemption, they don’t have a place in New York.

Herndon’s previous heroics, overshadowed by injuries, a suspension, and general inconsistency, held no value in the Jets’ current plans. Austin seemed born to succeed as a metropolitan difference-maker as a Queens native and Rutgers alum. Such a cinematic set-up went by the wayside.

It’s also not like the Jets have replacement readily available in Herndon and Austin’s respective roles. Kroft has been a reliable red zone prescience (which the Jets learned the easy way this preseason) but hasn’t TE1 duties since 2017. The Jets’ official cornerback depth chart, as of press time, literally has a blank space where Austin’s name once stood. Draft weekend Saturday arrivals Brandin Echols (6th round) and Isaiah Dunn (undrafted) sit behind it.

Both Douglas and Saleh expressed gratitude toward Herndon and Austin. Per notes from the Jets, Douglas said Minnesota aggressively sought a tight end after losing Irv Smith for the year while each concurred that they wanted some of their younger defenders to take on bigger responsibilities. But these departures offering a lingering sense that no New York veteran is safe. Sure, there might be some exceptions…it’s highly unlikely that they’ll give up on, say, Corey Davis, after a single season. But letting go of two key pieces less than two weeks before kickoff weekend is an interesting, if not necessary, method of starting a new era.

The 2021 New York Jets serve as a football laboratory whose experiments could change the pigskin world. They’re in a classic spot where they don’t have anything, so there’s nothing to lose. But the farewells of Herndon and Austin prove, for the betterment of the team, that that’s only going to apply from an organizational standpoint.

They’ve tried everything else. What’s one more trip to the drawing board?

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

UFC: Mike Perry and Kevin Lee angling to fight each other

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 35, we saw a fun showdown in the welterweight division. Former interim lightweight title challenger Kevin Lee (18-7) moved back up to 170 pounds to take on the surging prospect Daniel Rodriguez (16-2).

In the first round at UFC Vegas 35, Kevin Lee was looking really good. He was able to get a takedown and had a lot of control in the round. This was Lee’s first fight since March of 2020.

Lee has dealt with a number of injuries that have kept him out of the octagon consistently over the past couple of years. In the second round, Lee’s inactivity might have really hurt him.

Rodriguez started to plot forward with a ton of pressure and Lee started to crumble. D-Rod hurt him badly and almost ended up finishing the fight in the second round. In the third round, Lee had more success, but was still outworked by Rodriguez.

Ultimately, all three judges gave the fight to Rodriguez at UFC Vegas 35. With the loss, Lee dropped to 2-5 in his last seven UFC appearances.

UFC interested in Lee – Perry?

A few years ago, Kevin Lee had a ton of momentum. On the heels of a massive submission win in a headliner against Michael Chiesa, the UFC gave him an interim title fight. He did well in that fight, but ultimately gassed out and lost.

That loss has sent Lee’s career spiraling downwards. Now, on this recent stretch, the UFC has to get creative with what to do with him next. He doesn’t need a newcomer and he also doesn’t need to fight someone in the rankings.

Kevin Lee needs an entertaining opponent that he can have a fun fight against. That is where Mike Perry (14-8) enters the picture. Platinum Perry is one of the most charismatic and polarizing figures in the UFC.

At one point in his UFC career, Perry looked like he was going to be a title challenger. However, he’s just 3-7 in his last ten fights. After Lee’s fight on Saturday, Perry said he wasn’t impressed on Twitter.

Lee responded saying he’d be down to fight in December. In all honesty, it’s a fight that makes a lot of sense. Would you be interested in the UFC booking Kevin Lee against Mike Perry?

Full Circle: Monta Ellis trains with Joe Abunassar for NBA comeback

A year before Impact Basketball was born, Joe Abunassar took a trip to Jackson, Mississippi, to see the city’s top high school prospect.

Abunassar was one of the first few people who saw and nurtured Monta Ellis’ basketball gifts.

Ellis, the 2005’s Mr. Basketball USA, a McDonald’s All-American and a two-time 4A state champion in Mississippi, packed his bags and stayed with Abunassar at the famed IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, to prepare for the 2005 NBA Draft. 

A few months later, the former Lanier High School star became the 40th pick, and it was just a matter of time before he showed the NBA what Abunassar saw in him. 

More than a decade and a half after their first meeting, Ellis and Abunassar were back on the court again, just like the old times.

“He was in shocked that my kids are now in college,” Abunassar told Empire Sports Media on a zoom call. “When Monta first came to me, they were three and four, two, four years old. We spent a lot of time just catching up.”

Dagger Basketball Agency’s Derrius Nelson, Ellis’ business manager, reunited the 13-year NBA veteran with the trainer who helped him jump straight to the NBA from high school in the hopes that they could rekindle that magic again.

The 35-year old Ellis is attempting to make an NBA comeback, and after spending a week at Impact Basketball, teams have started to call Abunassar to check if the 2007 NBA Most Improved Player still has some juice left. The top NBA trainer said he’d fielded phone calls from four to five teams asking how Ellis did. He will send out tapes of the workout to several NBA teams.

According to a league source, the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets are two of those teams who are interested in bringing him for a workout.

“Most of the teams who knew he was here was simply asking me what do I think, how was Monta,” Abunassar said.

“I think what teams are doing now are figuring out when and where they will bring him in. My goal is just to get him to a place where he could work out. They can make their own decision because the thought of being away for 3 to 4 years is a little different but when you see him in the gym and see the things that he’d been doing here then maybe it’s a little bit closer to maybe this is something that will be good to our team.”

After some catching up, they buckled down to work. Ellis proved to Abunassar that he still has a lot left in his tank.

“The basketball part was easy. We just got into court and we have this good chemistry. He has a lot of respect for me and it goes both ways. I respect how he approached his career and really how far he’s come from the young guy in Jackson that I used to have to get on a little bit to work,” Abunassar said.

The NBA trainer was impressed by how to fit Ellis was, considering that he hasn’t played competitive basketball in a long time.

“His fitness level was very good. From a trainer’s perspective, the years that he didn’t play actually saved his legs a little bit. So talking about how old he is, you have to kinda subtract those years he didn’t put a wear and tear on his body,” said Abunassar. He is at the fitness level that I expect what a veteran (player) would have this time of the summer. Certainly not ready to play 82 games but you know they can’t be that but just give them the right time. But his body is lean and fast, his conditioning was very, very good. Of course, I pushed him to go at a higher level every day knowing that we have three to four weeks left before training camp begins so that he could gain a little bit more of what we would call basketball fitness.

A fresh and reinvigorated Ellis worked out with several NBA players in Abunassar’s gym, including Dallas Mavericks’ Josh Green and Memphis Grizzlies’ lottery pick Ziaire Williams.

Abunassar saw Ellis still has it all after watching him score the ball in a myriad of ways — handoff, playing off the pick and roll, playing fast, playing off angles — in simulation drills against the defense in NBA speed. They mixed individual drills — shooting, running, sprinting, ball handling — with live-action playing 5 on 5, some 3 on 3, and 2 on 2.

“There’s not much teaching at this stage of his career. It’s just really about getting in reps, getting him back to the things he’s really good at doing,” Abunassar said of the workout.

“You know, the NBA is simplified with attacking hand off, dribble hand off series, off closeouts and transitions other than the two or three guys maximum on each team who handles the ball so much like the Chris Pauls, the James Hardens, Luca Doncics. When Monta comes back, I don’t expect him to be the primary ball handler. So we worked out that a lot – attacking closeouts and making 3s and just doing it efficiently and doing it with the NBA speed and defense.”

After one of their daily workouts, Ellis and Abunassar just sat on the baseline and talked for about an hour, reflecting on how the game has changed since he left and how far he’s come in his career. They talked about what teams are looking for at this stage of his career, goals, family, and son, who is into basketball and one day will also train with Abunassar.

Ellis has fully embraced the reality that his days as primary ball handler and scorer are over.

“Nowadays, a team would rather take 19-20 years old who have a chance to be good than a 33-year old who is good. It’s just the way teams are building their rosters. It’s something I tell guys that when you come back, you have to come back as a different guy,” Abunassar said. “You’re not the same guy when you left. Figure out what the team needs. Figure out what win games. You look at some of the teams who picked up key veterans like PJ Tucker last year. Guys like that who are a key piece to a championship team or a winning team. Just figure out exactly what you can provide.”

“So, let’s say Monta, who was a high-level scorer, goes to Dallas or to whatever team that is stacked, I’m just picking a team [to illustrate]. But to have guys like Doncic who scores a lot and Tim Hardaway Jr., so it’s not like he’s gonna come in and be the top two scorers. And secondly is to get your body to elite shape. That’s always the biggest concern for teams. Can their bodies withstand the long season or just good for 20 games?”

Ellis proved he can still handle the rigors of an NBA lifestyle. Abunassar marveled at his warrior mentality and work ethic, which didn’t slow down all these years.

“It’s interesting that during his third or fourth day that he was here, he’s received a lot of pounding to his body and he’s little fatigued. Monta was able to power through the workouts and pushed through while some of the young guys folded up. That’s just a different mentality. He wouldn’t have done what he did in the NBA without that approach,” Abunassar said.

That mentality has pushed Ellis to turn from a second-round pick whose size and position was a big question mark to the Most Improved Player of the Year during his sophomore year. He became one of the most exciting scorers in the league peaking at 25.5 points per game during the 2009-10 season. He also transformed from an explosive scorer to a dynamic playmaker with two seasons averaging 6.0 assists per game. In six of his 13 seasons, he averaged more than five assists per game.

What Abunassar saw last week was a better version of Ellis.

“I think what we proved when he was here last week is that he still has the ability to score the ball at a high level. Obviously, he’s older and more mature. Maybe a little more experienced, more efficient. He was a great scorer back in his prime years. What he showed here is he still has that ability to score the ball in a very efficient manner. I think the biggest bonus is the experience, the maturity, the professionalism and the understanding of all the little things that some of the young guys don’t understand yet,” Abunassar said.

Ellis has embraced being an NBA veteran sharing his wisdom and tricks of the trade to the younger guys during his week-long training. Abunassar said Ellis talked to the younger players and gave them tips on how to play and attack angles, among other things.

“I think his influence on the young guys are terrific as well. Every team is looking for a good veteran. Guys who understand their roles and guys who could come up in big games and guys who could put in 15 points in 15 minutes. That’s something Monta can do,” Abunassar said.

In an earlier interview, Ellis said he’s in the best shape of his life both physically and mentally, two things that he failed to put together during his last stop in Indiana.

“I think if he can get into a camp and show what he can still do, he has a great chance,” Abunassar said.  “The good thing about Monta is he’s not doing it for the money. He wants to play. He’s willing to go in and let teams see him on how he looks. People forgot how good Monta was – how he could score the ball, how efficient he was. His approach and attitude, his passion for the game.”

That was on full display to the younger NBA players who were in Abunassar’s gym last week. Ellis not only loves the game but also the grind behind it.

“One of his comments before he left was how much is your willingness to the training part of it,” Abunassar said. “I think that is critical because everybody loves playing game. But how much do they love about the work that’s gonna have to go into it in to get back to the fitness level and get their body right. He told me that he missed the work more than anything. He really enjoys the process.”

Time flew so fast. Abunassar’s kids have grown so much. His Impact Basketball is now 15 years old. Ellis is no longer the 18-year old skinny, naive kid Abunassar met in one of his training trips around the country. He’s now a 35-year battle-scarred veteran on and off the court. But some things never change.

“It’s really a pleasant experience to have him back. He’s always been. He’s always been one of my favorite guys – that simple Jackson, Mississippi Monta Ellis who is not complicated and who loves basketball,” Abunassar said. “We have a lot in common.”

Abunassar is more than a trainer to Ellis. They are kindred spirits. Ellis’ basketball career has come full circle with Abunassar. They are hoping their second partnership could forge another path to the NBA.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Mets Game Preview (9/2/21) vs. Miami Marlins (55-78)

mets, pete alonso

After torrential rains across the east coast postponed Wednesday’s game, the New York Mets and Miami Marlins will play the final game of their series today. Over the last 24 hours, the Mets had to deal with another off-the-field issue as acting GM Zach Scott was arrested on a DWI on Tuesday morning. The first pitch from Citi Field is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.

Less than a month after Scott calls out the team for failing to produce and keep themselves healthy, Scott was found sleeping in his car at 4:17 A.M. after a night of drinking. After the whole thumbs-down fiasco, the team has another incident they will need to put behind them. Luckily they have been very resilient, winning four in a row. It has called them to move within five games of the first-place Atlanta Braves.

The Marlins are coming off a rough doubleheader loss, and the bullpen desperately needed the day off. Jesus Aguilar has been the only consistent bat to worry about in the Marlins lineup. He leads the NL with 92 RBIs to go along with 22 homers and 23 doubles.

Pitching Matchup

Carlos Carrasco gets the start for the Mets and has started to pitch to expectations over his last couple of starts. In his last outing against the San Francisco Giants, Carrasco went seven innings allowing two runs and recorded seven strikeouts. After stumbling in the first inning, Carrasco did not allow a run for the rest of his start.

The Marlins have not announced a starter as of 1:30 p.m. ET.

3 bold Knicks predictions for the 2021-22 regular season

new york knicks, rj barrett

The New York Knicks are entering the 2021-22 season with elevated expectations and plenty of talent to justify their goals. After earning the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks are looking to make an even deeper run this upcoming season, and signing Evan Fournier, and Kemba Walker should back up that assessment.

Let’s take a look at three bold predictions they could see several young players make an even bigger impact.

Three bold predictions for the Knicks next season:

1.) RJ Barrett will lead the team in 3-PT percentage

Last season, second-year shooting guard RJ Barrett ended up being one of the team’s best three-point shooters. He finished the season, hitting on 40% of his shots from three after connecting on 32% during his rookie campaign in 2019. Attempting 4.3 shots from range per game, he connected on 1.7, posting 17.6 total points. His corner three-point shot was lethal for a team that desperately needed him to improve from beyond on the rim.

Barrett ranked fifth on the team among players who averaged 10+ minutes per contest. He sat behind Alec Berks, Julius Randle, Derrick Rose, and Reggie Bullock. He was only 1.4% away from being the team’s top three-point shooter, and that is a goal he’s looking to accomplish this upcoming season. Working on his shot creation and shooting fundamentals, Barrett leading the team in that category, would see his value skyrocket at 21 years old.

2.) Immanuel Quickley will average 15+ points per game

Second air player Immanuel Quickley had himself a solid Summer League running point, averaging 20.2 points per game over 33.5 minutes. Quickley averaged 11.4 points last season over 19.4 minutes per game, and both of those statistics could see an increase next season. Shooting nearly 40% from the field and 39% from three-point range, Quickley proved he is an offensive weapon that is only hitting his stride at the NBA level.

However, during the Summer League, he only shot 33.7% and 24% from three. The sample size is extremely small over just five games, but he’s more than capable of averaging 15+ points per game, especially as Tom Thibodeau will look to get him involved.

Some might say Quickley scoring 15+ points isn’t a bold take, but the Knicks have a lot of mouths to feed this season, especially with the retention of Alec Burks and the signing of Kemba Walker. I wouldn’t forget about the drafting of Quentin Grimes either, who will earn minutes at shooting guard.

3.) Mitchell Robinson will win DPOY of the year

There’s nobody that believes in Mitchell Robinson more than himself and the front office, as he’s been vocal on social media propagating his hard work this off-season. Increasing his size and muscle mass, Robinson is optimistic he can win Defensive Player of the Year. As a lanky center who can guard the perimeter, Robinson is capable of being a star defensive player, but his primary struggle is remaining healthy. Robinson has never played over 66 games in a season, playing in just 31 last year with a broken foot and hand.

If he can remain consistent in the health category, Robinson can easily become one of the league’s most feared defenders. Improving his physicality in the paint will also give him more success against bigger, more imposing power forward and scoring centers. During his rookie year, Robinson blocked a career-high 2.4 shots per game. He will be looking to resurrect that version of himself — coincidentally, Mitch also played the most game of his career in that season. Momentum has proved to be a catalyst for his success.