NFL executives rate New York Giants poorly in new NFC rankings

new york giants

This season, it looks like the odds are stacked against the New York Giants. While additions during the offseason have been a cause for optimism, some of that optimism is going away for parts of the fanbase after a winless preseason and continuing problems with the offensive line. The national media, which hasn’t had much faith in the Giants all offseason, has also observed these problems.

A combination of things has led to the Giants typically being placed in the bottom echelon of the league in overall ranking lists, and it wasn’t a change when five NFL executives worked with The Athletic to create a list of the top teams in the NFC. On this list, the Giants narrowly avoided finishing in last place but still picked up far from a flattering score.

They were ranked the number fifteen team in the NFC, placing them second to last.

NFL executives bearish on the New York Giants

The Giants have won the NFC East three times in the past 20 seasons and not since 2011. Their nine-season run without a division title is their longest since a 22-season gap from 1964-1985. They were 11th in the conference last season, spent big in free agency and didn’t get a vote higher than 13th in this poll, despite a weak division and a defense that can be difficult to play against.

“Their defense has a chance, but without Saquon Barkley, an offense built around Daniel Jones does not,” a voter said. “They do a lot of things with weird special teams formations that take up practice time, but their season is riding on some of the basics, like whether they can protect the quarterback.”

Of course, the Giants are set to get Saquon Barkley back this season. However, it remains to be seen what state Barkley is in after tearing his ACL last season.

The results in ACL recoveries vary wildly, and it’s unknown if the Giants will be able to rely on Barkley as the most reliable weapon in their offense. And while it looks like Barkley will be back for week 1, there’s a chance that his return is delayed.

Placing the Giants as the second worst team in the NFC is ultimately a take that assumes their offseason additions don’t pan out. While that take does lean on the pessimistic side, it’s also hard to dispute it based on just the information we have now.

With offseason injuries keeping us from seeing much of the biggest additions to the offense, like Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay, it’s hard to judge at all where the offense will be week 1 – and whether or not those new weapons will be enough to make up for problems in other areas once the regular season rolls around.

No Shortcuts: Ex-Knick Pete Mickeal owes legendary Euroleague career to Tom Thibodeau

Knicks, rom thibodeau, Pete mickeal

Pete Mickeal was dejected. Even after a solid showing in the NBA Shaw Summer Pro League in Boston, Mickeal still couldn’t make the cut.

Jeff Van Gundy, then New York Knicks head coach, told him to wait for his turn. The Knicks, coming off an NBA Finals appearance in the previous season, were loaded at the wings with Latrell Sprewell, Allan Houston, and Glen Rice.

Mickeal, an All-American honorable mention in his senior year, already felt embarrassed when he ended up as the last pick of the 2000 NBA Draft after a productive two-year stint with the Cincinnati Bearcats, one of the best teams in the country at that time.

The Dallas Mavericks used the 58th pick on him but quickly shipped him to New York along with Erick Strickland for John Wallace and Donnell Harvey.

So the news of being relegated to the reserve list was another dampener.

It was Tom Thibodeau, a Van Gundy assistant at that time, who kept his spirits up.

“I was disappointed, and Thibs was always positive, and he said, ‘Listen, man! Just keep working.’ And I would work with Thibs that year,” Mickeal told Empire Sports Media on the phone.

Thibodeau and Mickeal forged a good relationship as they were inseparable that year. Mickeal became Thibodeau’s project. They hit the weight room early in the morning before other Knicks players showed up in their old practice facility in SUNY-Purchase.

“Then he takes me to the court and worked me out hard. So once practice comes, I’m really, really ready to go. And after the two-hour practice, Thibs will work me out again. He was always positive. He said, ‘Keep the right mentality. Don’t worry about not playing. Just work your ass off.’ That’s all I remember him saying,” Mickeal recalled.

That laid the groundwork for Mickeal to flourish in a legendary career overseas. His NBA career never took off, but thanks to another Summer League stint under Thibodeau, other doors opened for him.

“You always take a little piece of every coach you had during your career, and you take that mentality as a player, so I was fortunate to have a coach like Thibs,” Mickeal said. “I played for Thibs in the Summer League for two years. Those games helped me get attention in Europe. I was averaging 18 pts per game, and Thibs played me for 30-35 mins per game. So I had a chance to show what I can really do.”

Mickeal spent 15 years overseas playing in the Philippines, Korea, Greece, Spain, and Argentina, where at the tail end of his career, he faced a young Luca Vildoza.

“I knew Vildoza was good. I know his agent very well. And he’s played for the coach that’s most similar to Thibs in Europe. His name is Dusko Ivanovic,” Mickeal said.

Ivanovic, a multi-titled Euroleague, and Liga ACB champion coach, was Vildoza’s mentor in Baskonia.

“He and Thibs have the same mentality when it comes to coaching,” Mickael said. “They are coaches who you have to play defense, or you won’t play. So (Vildoza) played for tough coaches. He can play. If he’s healthy and he gets a chance, let’s see what happens.”

Mickeal won a dozen Liga ACB crowns and a Euroleague title, making him the winningest American player in Europe.

When his legendary overseas career was over, Thibodeau again gave him the opportunity to return to the NBA.

Mickeal reached out to Thibodeau, the head coach and Minnesota Timberwolves team president at that time.

“Right now, we don’t have a coaching opening, but we got something that you might like it better,” Mickeal said, recalling his conversation with Thibodeau. “It turned out to be true. I love being in the front office. I love scouting.”

It was like 2000 all over again, albeit the coaching and the development were off the court. Mickeal absorbed everything like a sponge as he got his feet wet into the NBA front office.

“Working for Thibs is great being your first job coming out of playing. It will really teach you the work ethic you need to be a great scout. Because the type of work you do when Thibs is your boss is tripled compared to any other team,” Mickeal said.

His familiarity with Euroleague players and NBA players playing overseas helped him seal the deal. The job taught him to become innovative and go the extra mile to get the intel on the players. He scouted not only in Europe but also players in the NBA, G League, and even in Asia. He was in meetings with coaches and other front office staff that made him appreciate how rosters are constructed in the NBA.

Nerlens Noel was one of the players he scouted extensively when the beanpole center was still playing in Oklahoma City Thunder. The former lottery pick has been on Thibodeau’s radar as far back as 2018. So he was not surprised the Knicks targeted Noel last summer.

“Obviously, I’ve been in the front office, so I can appreciate why teams are put together the way they are, like Nerlens Noel, for example. When I scouted him when he was with OKC, I’ve always liked him. I’ve always thought he’s a really good backup center,” Mickeal said.

“It’s very difficult to find a backup center that can give you rebounds and points every game and can switch screens who can move his feet well on the perimeter. It isn’t easy with all the switching the NBA does. And his body type fits today’s NBA. He’s got the long, slender body type, but he’s got a huge wingspan. So that really helps in deflection and playing straight-up defense with your hands in the air, showing your length. That’s difficult to find in the NBA — a mobile backup center,” Mickeal said. “I thought they did a great job in finding a guy like that. And the contract they got him for, I thought that was great.”

After Noel’s solid play last season, the Knicks locked him up to a $32 million, three-year contract this summer, with the last year as a club option making it a team-friendly deal.

Noel’s scouting report was just one of the hundreds Thibodeau received each week when Mickeal was scouting for the Timberwolves.

“We write all these (scouting) reports each game, and a hundred reports are coming in each week, and the guys in the office told me that I make this list, and Thibs read every single report every week. And I was like, okay, he’s the coach, and he’s reading all these reports? That story sums him up,” Mickeal said.

”He reads the reports every scout has written, and he was also in the meetings that I was in, and he’s coaching at the same time. That’s a level of commitment that’s unearthly. It’s not normal. But that’s a great tribute to him because everything he got in his career was through hard work.”

Thibodeau has made a career transforming losing teams into playoff contenders. He made solid rotation pieces out of fringe players. He developed All-Stars and All-NBA players at every stop. Derrick Rose became the league’s youngest MVP under his helm and resurrected his career in Minnesota.

“Thibs’ player development is underrated. They’re not giving him the credit he deserves. They always say Thibs plays his guys too many minutes,” Mickeal said. “But the truth is he’s developing players.”

Mickeal himself largely benefited from Thibodeau’s developmental coaching on and off the court. He parlayed Thibodeau’s teachings into a successful overseas career and later on as a scout and now as a sports agent.

After two years with the Timberwolves, Mickeal moved on to scout for the Washington Wizards until he decided not to return last year and bet on himself. He put up the Miami-based Mickeal Sports Group, a sports agency specializing in sending American players to Euroleague and identifying young NBA prospects around Europe.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to get into the sports agent business,” Mickael said.

Mickeal prepared himself for his post-playing career by getting directly involved in all negotiations of his playing contracts from 2008 until he retired. While he thought coaching would have been great, he was grateful Thibodeau steered him towards the front office, which equipped him with the additional skill set and network necessary to set up his dream sports agency.

“Thibs gave me that opportunity to start with. Then I branched out from there. It worked out really well. It’s a really good business which I want to do for the rest of my career. I work with a lot of smart, analytics people. We got a marketing firm behind me, and we’ve hired some really, really experienced agents. After one year, it’s already exceeded expectations,” Mickeal said.

Mickeal is a Thibodeau lifer who, unlike the Derrick Roses, Jimmy Butlers, Taj Gibsons, never found success in the NBA. But he’s earned a seat at Thibodeau’s table because of his motto: being the hardest working guy in the room.

“I didn’t have long experience with him like other players have, but the short time that I’ve been with him, I can honestly say he doesn’t take shortcuts. If you work the way he works, he’ll give you the respect,” Mickeal said.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Derek Brunson dominates and submits Darren Till at UFC Vegas 36

Derek Brunson

In the headliner of UFC Vegas 36, we saw a battle of top ten middleweights. Derek Brunson (22-7) was looking to continue his winning streak as he took on the popular Darren Till (18-3-1).

Brunson was looking for his fifth straight win in the UFC today. His career really started to turn around when he made the move to Sanford MMA a couple of years ago.

Back in 2018, Brunson was knocked out by Israel Adesanya. However, since that knockout loss, Brunson has rattled off four consecutive wins including wins over Ian Heinisch, Edmen Shahbazyan, and Kevin Holland.

Standing in his way today was Darren Till. A few years ago, Till was unbeaten and looked like he was going to be a UFC welterweight champion. He got his shot at the 170 pound title in 2018. However, since that fight, he’s just 1-3.

After a knockout loss to Jorge Masvidal, Till moved up to middleweight. He won his first fight against Kelvin Gastelum, but lost a decision to Robert Whittaker last July. He’s been out win injuries since then which has caused the longest layoff in his UFC career.

UFC Vegas 36 Recap

Round 1

The UFC Vegas 36 main event started with a touch of the gloves. Immediate pressure from Darren Till who was looking for his strikes. Sharp left up the middle lands for Till and it forces a sloppy shot from Brunson.

Till shrugs him off and they’re back to striking. Brunson biting hard on the feints of Till early and he eats another crisp left hand. 1-2 down the middle for Till forces a Derek Brunson takedown attempt and Brunson gets Till down.

Brunson immediately works to half guard and starts working on some elbows. Heavy top pressure here from Derek Brunson who’s doing a good job of holding Till down. Big shots land for Brunson. Brunson postures up and blasts Till with more big shots.

Huge elbow lands from Brunson on a damaged eye of Darren Till. Brunson is all over Till here. After a few more big shots, Till is able to force a scramble and he gets back up. The round comes to a close and it’s 1-0 Brunson at UFC Vegas 36.

Round 2

Entering the second here at UFC Vegas 36 and Darren Till has to keep the fight standing. The second round starts with a sloppy shot from Brunson and Till is able to defend. Looping left from Till misses and Brunson uses it to get a body lock.

He tries hard, but Till is able to defend the takedown nicely at first. The two settle into a clinch along the cage. Till separates, but Brunson immediately shoots again. Again, Till is able to defend the takedown and the two separate.

Nice uppercut lands for Derek Brunson and he chains it into a takedown attempt and is once again able to get Till down. Brunson settles into the half guard, but in this round there’s not a lot of ground strikes being thrown.

The referee looks like he might be looking at standing this up and Brunson throws an elbow to stay active. The control of Brunson has been dominating so far through two rounds. The round comes to a close and it’s easily 2-0 Brunson at UFC Vegas 36.

Round 3

Entering the third here at UFC Vegas 36 and it’s starting to look like Till needs a miracle. Till tries to open with strikes, but he’s really far out of range. Nice left lands for Till, but it didn’t appear to land enough to hurt Brunson.

Low kick lands for Till and when Brunson goes for a clinch, he lands a knee. Brunson tries to push forward, but Till keeps him away. Another good knee lands for Till. Till hurts Brunson and he’s wobbly.

Till pushes forward, but he’s a bit off-balance. He’s overaggressive and Brunson gets a takedown. Till tries to scramble and Brunson ends up in mount. When Till tries to move, Brunson takes his back. Almost immediately he locks in a rear naked choke and Till taps.

Derek Brunson def. Darren Till by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) – Round 3

New York Yankees Recap: Yankees no-hit through 6 lose to the O’s, Chapman taking the loss

aroldis chapman, yankees

Today, the New York Yankees had their second game with the Baltimore Orioles in a matinee event at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Last night the Yankees won the first game in an exciting 11th inning walk-off win. Today, the Yankees would try to have an easier time with Jordan Montgomery on the mound for the Yankees facing the Orioles Chris Ellis. It was a perfect weather day at the Stadium. No wind, 75 degrees, and not a cloud in the sky. The weather was the only thing that was perfect. The Yankees were no-hit through 6 innings; they clawed their way back to tie the game at three in the eight, but Aroldis Chapman failed the hold, and the Orioles won 4-3.

In the first inning, “Monty” faced the O’s Cedric Mullins, who ground out to Velazquez at short. Ryan Mountcastle went down on strikes. Austin Hays ground out to Rizzo at first for a 1-2-3 inning for Montgomery to start the game. At the bottom, with Ellis on the mound for the O’s DJ LeMahieu led off and flew out to the warning track in right. Joey Gallo lined into the shift for out number two. Aaron Judge doubled to left field. Giancarlo Stanton flew out to left to end the inning. No Score.

At the top of the second, Trey Mancini led off by singling near Judge in right. Ramon Urias singled up the middle, with Gardner holding Mancini at second. Pedro Severino, with two on and no outs, popped out to Rizzo at first. Jorge Mateo popped out. Ryan McKenna flew out to Gardner in center to get out of trouble. Anthony Rizzo led off at the bottom and struck out swinging. Brett Gardner popped out to third. Kyle Higashioka worked a walk. “Higgy” stole second. Andrew Velazquez lined out to second. No score.

Jahmai Jones led off the third inning by going down looking. Mullins ground out to LeMahieu. Mountcastle ground out softly to short to end the half. At the bottom, Tyler Wade led off and drag bunt to the pitcher. LeMahieu tapped out to first. Gallo went down on strikes for a 1-2-3 inning for Ellis. No score.

The fourth inning was led off by Hays, who went down on strikes. Mancini singled up the middle. Urias flew out to Gardner in center. Severino doubled down the left-field line moving Mancini to third base. Mateo walked on a wild pitch that got away from Higgy with Mancini scoring. McKenna struck out, but the Orioles took the lead. At the bottom, Aaron Judge hit one to center field wall that Mullins caught. Stanton flew out to the warning track at right. Rizzo ground out to short right for another 1-2-3 inning for Ellis. Orioles 1 Yankees 0.

The fifth inning was led off by Jones, who singled on a bobbled play by Velazquez. Mullins singled to left with Jones moving to second. Mountcastle struck out swinging. Hays tapped to first with Montgomery getting the assist, but the runners moved up on the play. Mancini, with two outs and a man on second and third, Montgomery loaded the bases ending his day on the mound. Urias faced the new Yankee pitcher Clay Holmes and struck out with Holmes getting out a jam with three inherited runners left on base. At the bottom, Gardner popped out to the infield. Higashioka walked for the second time in the game. Velazquez ground out. Higgy went to second on a wild pitch. Tyler Wade walked. LeMahieu, with two outs and two on, popped out to first to strand two walked Yankees. Ellis had no-hit the Yankees through five innings. Orioles 1 Yankees 0.

Pedro Severino led off the sixth inning against Holmes and struck out. Jorge Mateo struck out. McKenna struck out. Holmes struck out every batter he faced since bailing out Montgomery. At the bottom, with Ellis out of the game, Gallo faced Tanner Scott and ground out to first. Judge struck out when he couldn’t hold up. Stanton struck out for a 1-2-3 inning for Tanner Scott. The Yankees were being no-hit through six. Orioles 1 Yankees 0.

Wandy Peralta was on the mound to start the seventh and allowed a double to Jones. Mullins hit an RBI double past Rizzo, scoring Jones. Mountcastle ground out to a diving Velazquez, saving a run for the first out of the inning, holding Mullins at third. Hays tapped back to Peralta, but Mullins scored a Peralta toss that didn’t give Higgy a chance to tag out Mullins. Hays reached. Mancini singled to right as Hays advanced to second. Urias, with two outs and still only one out, Boone called on Lucas Luetge to replace Peralta. Urias walked to load the bases. Severino struck out. With the bases loaded and this time with two outs, Mateo flew out to Judge to end the half, but the Orioles picked up another two runs.

At the bottom, Rizzo reached on an E4. Gardner walked, ending Tanner Scott’s day. Gary Sanchez pinch hit for Higashioka and against new pitcher Marcos Diplan with two on and no outs and flew out to center, moving Rizzo to third. Torres was brought in to pinch-hit for Velazquez and hit a base hit, scoring Rizzo from third base. Luke Voit came in to pinch-hit for Wade and hit into a double play to end the inning. Baltimore Orioles 3 and the New York Yankees 1.

Ryan McKenna led off the eighth and flew out to Gardner in center. Jones flew out to Judge in right. Mullins flew out for a 1-2-3 inning for Lucas Luetge. At the bottom, the Orioles faced the top of the Yankees lineup. LeMahieu got an infield/bunt single. Joey Gallo faced the new O’s pitcher Jorge Lopez and homed to the right-field stands to tie the game up at 3 apiece. Aaron Judge struck out as he couldn’t hold up. Stanton went down on strikes. Rizzo faced yet another O’s pitcher Cole Sulser and flew out to right to end the inning. New York Yankees 3 Orioles 3.

Mountcastle led the ninth inning with closer Aroldis Chapman on the mound for the Yankees; he reached on a wild pitch. Hays got a base hit to left, moving Mountcastle to second. Mancini, with two on and no outs, walked, loading the bases. Urias went down on strikes. Severino got a sac fly to left, scoring Mountcastle. Mateo struck out, but Chapman failed to hold the Orioles. Baltimore Orioles 4 New York Yankees 3.

At the bottom of the ninth and last licks for the Yankees, Brett Gardner went up against Sulser and ground out to first. Sanchez popped out to second for the second out. With Gleyber Torres as the Yankee’s last hope, he struck out swinging to end the game. The final score was the Baltimore Orioles 4 and the New York Yankees 3. The winning pitcher was Cole Sulser, and the loser was Aroldis Chapman.

 

Mets’ ace Jacob deGrom is reportedly not close to returning

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom

Despite the news that his latest MRI showed significant improvement on a recent elbow inflammation diagnosis, New York Mets’ ace Jacob deGrom is not particularly close to making a return to action.

The Mets are currently streaking, winning their last six games and cutting their deficit in the division to just four games. They also got back to .500 on Friday night, taking their record to 67-67.

Yet, they are unlikely to have their ace back for at least a couple more weeks, if not more. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, when asked Friday where he was at in his road back from right elbow inflammation, the pitcher replied: “I’m in Washington.”

Playful geographical jokes aside (the Mets are currently playing a weekend series in the nation’s capital), there is just not too much certainty about the star’s timeline to return to a major league mound.

The Mets’ star pitcher is improving, but is running out of time

DiComo did explain that a Mets official said that deGrom, despite feeling better, “is likely about 10 days away from advancing to bullpen sessions. He has been throwing off flat ground from 75 feet and must extend that to 120 before making it to the slope of a mound. That process should take deGrom into the third week of September; from there, he must throw multiple bullpen sessions and face live batters before he can even consider appearing in a game for the first time since July 7.”

In other words, the Mets are running out of time to get their star pitcher back. At this point, any realistic scenario of him coming back before the last week of the season is hard to imagine.

The Mets official, therefore, doesn’t expect to see deGrom for anything more than an outing or two near the end of the season. And if he experiences any kind of setback, the team will likely just shut him down, especially if they are out of the hunt by then.

Mets win sixth straight, get back to .500 and regain hope

Yes, the New York Mets have been bad in the second half, relinquishing a division lead they held onto for months. Yes, as of Saturday morning, they would still be out of the playoffs if the season ended today. But they sure have been playing better as of late and, after defeating the Washington Nationals 6-2 on Friday night, have gotten back to playing .500 ball.

The Mets’ 67-67 record is now good enough for them to be 4.0 games behind the Atlanta Braves after they lost on Friday. The Braves are 3-7 in their last 10 games and New York has won six straight contests. After looking dead a week and a half ago, there is now hope in Queens.

The Mets are within four games of the division lead for the first time since August 16.

“As you can imagine, it’s great,” first baseman Pete Alonso said to MLB.com about the postgame clubhouse mood. “It’s awesome to rip off six in a row, especially against teams in the division. We’re just really happy with how we’ve performed, and we’re really looking forward to the rest of the season.”

The Mets hung on for the victory

Mets’ closer Edwin Diaz blew a save in the ninth by allowing two runs. However, Alonso had a crucial run-scoring single in the tenth, a hit that started a four-run rally.

Despite the blip in the ninth, it was a good night overall for the Mets. Starting pitcher Rich Hill hurled six shutout innings to give his offense the best possible chance to win the ballgame, which they ultimately did.

“I feel like we’re playing good, clean baseball, and the wins show that,” Alonso said. “I’m really excited for this last month.”

After going 2-11 in their 13-game stretch against the Dodgers and Giants, the Mets are still alive by winning their last six.

“The most important part of how we’ve been playing is just how together and how united we’ve been,” Jonathan Villar said through an interpreter, “just to continue going out there and to continue battling so we can get the results that we want.”

NASCAR Cup Series at Darlington: Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Southern 500

After a thrilling Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series travels to Darlington, South Carolina for the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. The race will kick off the highly-anticipated Cup Series playoffs.

With the United States of America celebrating Labor Day on Monday, September 6, this weekend’s Cup Series race is a rare Sunday night race. The event is expected to go green at 6:18 p.m. EST on Sunday with coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN.

The Southern 500 is NASCAR’s second-longest race of the season; only the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is longer. Sunday’s event is scheduled for 367 laps and 501.3 miles with stage breaks at laps 115 and 230.

Coming off back-to-back wins in the final two races of the regular season, Ryan Blaney holds the pole position for Sunday’s Southern 500. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin starts beside Blaney in second with Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, and Alex Bowman rounding out the top-5. Regular-season champion Kyle Larson will start sixth. The 16 playoff drivers are the top-16 starters in each of the three Round of 16 races.

Sunday’s entire Cup Series starting lineup is below

Starting Position Driver Car Number Team
1 Ryan Blaney 12 Penske
2 Denny Hamlin 11 Gibbs
3 Kurt Busch 1 Ganassi
4 Chase Elliott 9 Hendrick
5 Alex Bowman 48 Hendrick
6 Kyle Larson 5 Hendrick
7 Tyler Reddick 8 Richard Childress
8 Aric Almirola 10 Stewart-Haas
9 Kevin Harvick 4 Stewart-Haas
10 Martin Truex Jr. 19 Gibbs
11 Joey Logano 22 Penske
12 Kyle Busch 18 Gibbs
13 Christopher Bell 20 Gibbs
14 William Byron 24 Hendrick
15 Michael McDowell 34 Front Row
16 Brad Keselowski 2 Penske
17 Bubba Wallace 23 23XI
18 Ryan Preece 37 JTG Daugherty
19 Ryan Newman 6 Roush Fenway
20 Justin Haley 77 Spire
21 Austin Dillon 3 Richard Childress
22 Erik Jones 43 Richard Petty
23 Ross Chastain 42 Ganassi
24 Chase Briscoe 14 Stewart-Haas
25 Corey LaJoie 7 Spire
26 Daniel Suarez 99 TrackHouse
27 BJ McLeod 78 Live Fast
28 Josh Bilicki 52 Rick Ware
29 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 47 Roush Fenway
30 Matt DiBenedetto 21 Wood Brothers
31 Cole Custer 41 Stewart-Haas
32 Anthony Alfredo 38 Front Row
33 Cody Ware 51 Rick Ware
34 Chris Buescher 17 Roush Fenway
35 Joey Gase 15 Rick Ware
36 James Davison 53 Rick Ware
37 Quin Houff 00 StarCom

 

Knicks News, 9/4: Watch Obi Toppin workout video, Kemba Walker hits Yankee Stadium

New York Knicks, Obi Toppin

It might be considered the off-season for the NBA and New York Knicks players, but their youngsters continue to work diligently to improve their game ahead of the 2021-22 season.

This week, second-year guard Immanuel Quickley was working on his shot creation and ability to drive to the rim, but fellow teammate Obi Toppin was working on his game as well.

Toppin, who underwhelmed during his rookie season, averaging 4.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, and hitting 50% of his shots from the field, is looking to improve his isolation moves and shooting prowess. His Summer League performance was far more promising, averaging 21 points over 35.1 minutes per game. He hit on 44.5% of his shots from the field and 34.3% from three-point range, indicating a 4% increase compared to his final numbers from last season. He also connected on 89% of his free-throw attempts, hauling in 8.3 rebounds, and picked up 1.3 steals per game.

With elevated numbers, Toppin is eyeing a more significant impact in the season ahead, mitigating fatigue for All-Star power forward Julius Randle. In fact, the Knicks could easily try to get both Toppin and Randle on the court at the same time, using the veteran as a small center and allowing Obi to operate out of the power forward spot.

His work ethic is one of the best on the team, representing one of the major reasons the Knicks elected to draft him eighth overall in 2020.

While Toppin spent his week training, new teammate Kemba Walker is getting back to his roots in New York. The Bronx native made a trip to Yankee stadium with rapper ABOOGIEWITDAHOODIE.

Walker, who is enjoying his old stomping grounds, signed a two-year, $17.9 million deal with the Knicks this offseason. After a tough season with the Boston Celtics, where he only featured in 43 games, the Knicks managed to snag him off the market on a fantastic deal that could elevate their team to a serious contender.

If Kemba can remain healthy and productive, the Knicks could have themselves one of the best point guard duos in the league. While both Walker and Derrick Rose have their fair share of issues, playing off one another and mitigating fatigue over an 82-game season could pay off in dividends.

Yankees News, 9/4: Gio Urshela escapes injury, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton power Yanks past Baltimore

gio urshela, yankees

The New York Yankees escaped Friday’s game against the Baltimore orioles with a victory in 11 innings. With Baltimore scoring in the top of the 10th, the Bombers bounced right back, with DJ LeMahieu hitting a single to right field, driving in Tyler Wade from second base.

Tying up the ball game, the Yankees recorded a double play in the top of the 11th as Ryan Mountcastle had a big lead off second base in a line drive to shortstop to end the game. However, this was a battle for a team that should’ve easily beaten a poor Baltimore squad. Thankfully, the pairing of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton once again lifted the Yanks. They combined for three hits and two RBIs, including Stanton’s walk-off single that drove Judge in from second base.

While manager Aaron Boone will be happy about the win, the Yankees turn around on Saturday afternoon with Jordan Montgomery on the mound. Baltimore will feature Chris Ellis as the starter. He has only pitched 11.2 innings this year — the Yankees have a great opportunity to gain some essential momentum as the regular season starts to wind down to an end.

Luckily, the Bombers escaped a potentially serious injury with Gio Urshela, after falling on his hand against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday. Urshela enjoyed negative MRI results, indicating he will be day-to-day in his return to the top team.

“Not much there, so that was encouraging,” Boone said before Friday’s win over Baltimore.

Urshela has missed a bit of time this season, playing in just 90 games. He’s hitting .263 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs, representing one of the Yankees’ most consistent hitters and best defensive players. In the meantime, Rougned Odor has featured on the hot corner as a supplement, but the team is patiently waiting to the return of Gio, who has the spot all but locked down.

Who poses the greatest threat to the Brooklyn Nets’ Championship hopes?

Brooklyn Nets

Despite coming up short once again in the playoffs last season, the Brooklyn Nets grew a lot stronger over the course of 2021. Even with all of the turnover and injury setbacks their lineup endured, the Nets found a way to play elite basketball, win games, and develop the chemistry a team needs to succeed at the highest level.

This feat was accomplished in a variety of ways, starting first and foremost with their Big 3 in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. Whether they play all together or not, these three superstars proved just how unprecedented their impact is with their unique and highly gifted array of skills they offer individually.

However, outside of the superstardom that comes with their Big 3, the Nets put in a lot of time and energy to assemble a core unit of role players that can provide the essential ingredients of success this teams needs to win a championship.

This summer, the Nets decided to build on that by not only capitalizing on a good draft, selecting bright rookies like Cameron Thomas and Kessler Edwards while trading for Day’Ron Sharpe. But they also signed playmaking point guard Patty Mills, acquired defensive experts in James Johnson and DeAndre’ Bembry, and over this past week alone, signed Paul Millsap, brought back LaMarcus Aldridge to a one-year deal, and traded DeAndre Jordan to the Pistons for Jahil Okafor and Sekou Doumbouya.

With just about all of the talent and depth they need, the Nets have emerged as the favorites to win the NBA Finals in 2022. But despite such, the road to get there won’t be an easy one as a handful of Eastern Conference teams look to establish their own legacy with championship glory.

Without further ado, here are the Top 3 Eastern Conference teams that pose as the greatest threat to the Nets title hopes this season:

3. Miami Heat:

As shocking as it might seem, the Miami Heat are a playoff underdog this season. Similar to that of the Nets, the Heat grew much stronger over the offseason, adding key players to bolster a lackluster offense and reinforce their Top 5 defense.

At the forefront of their new acquisitions is veteran point guard Kyle Lowry, a sharp two-way player that brings scoring versatility and playmaking creativity to a Heat guard unit that lacked both last season.

Following his final year in Toronto, where he posted 17.2 ppg, 7.3 apg, 5.4 rpg, and 1.0 spg to top it off, Lowry doesn’t bring the flashiest numbers but provides enough offensive prowess and defensive edge on the perimeter that make him a really nice fit in Miami.

In addition, the Heat added two stretch power forwards in P.J. Tucker and Markief Morris, injecting stout three-point shooting and lock-down defense into their rotation as well. With Victor Oladipo looking to make a big comeback, be it off the bench or as a starter, the Heat pose a lot of tough matchup concerns defensively for the Nets, particularly along the perimeter.

The Nets can certainly take down the Heat in six games or less, but a lot rests on their offensive efficiency to overcome the Heat’s defensive fortitude and offensive balance from the wing and inside. This Heat team is well-coached, has a plenty of veteran experience, contains depth filled with youth, athleticism, and potential, and possesses a level of grit and unselfishness to succeed at the highest level.

And following a rough playoff exit against the Bucks last season, the Heat are seeking redemption and should not be overlooked.

2. Atlanta Hawks:

At number two is the Atlanta Hawks, and for a good reason. After sealing the 5th seed in the East with a stout 41-31 record to show for, the Hawks surpassed postseason expectations with a remarkable playoff performance that eventually came to an end in the Conference Finals against the Bucks.

From their walking-highlight-reel point guard in Trae Young, to the versatile and athletic heroics of John Collins, to the rebounding and defensive proficiency from Clint Capella, the Hawks have a tough and imposing big three that comes along with a lethal offensive supporting cast.

Whether it’s Kevin Huerter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams, DeAndre Hunter, or Cam Reddish, the Hawks are stacked with shooters and depth that can certainly contend with just about any offense in the league, including the Nets themselves.

That said, the Hawks are certainly not as defensively durable as other Eastern Conference teams, which is an advantage the Nets could certainly exploit with their very own big three.

However, the Hawks found a way to shut down the Knicks in five games, scrape by the 76ers in seven games, and just fell short to the Bucks in six. And considering how young and well-balanced their team is offensively, the Hawks are a major threat to any Eastern Conference contender as they strive to accomplish their first Finals appearance since 1961.

1. Milwaukee Bucks:

Outside of the fact that they are the defending champs, the Milwaukee Bucks have proven just how elite they can be on both sides of the ball. Spearheaded by their athletic, freak-of-nature-of-a-superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo, both Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday played influential roles with assisting their best player in achieving the Bucks’ second championship title in 50 years.

But what tops off the greatness of this team really comes down to the role players the Bucks have that insert their dominance with passion and embrace their responsibilities for the pure sake of winning. Be it Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, Donte DiVincenzo, Bobby Portis, or Jeff Teague, each one of these players have become integral for the success of this team, making for the Nets toughest opponent this season.

Though Durant nearly took down the Bucks single-handedly in a seven-game series last season, the dynamic of the Nets’ offense will significantly differ come this next postseason with the consistent presence of a healthy Irving and Harden in the mix, posing new challenges for the Nets against much better defensive teams like the Bucks.

With Harden and Irving lacking the defensive grit and resilience on the perimeter, interior defenders such as Durant, Claxton, Griffin, Millsap and Aldridge will constantly need to crash on driving guards while attempting to close out on drifting forwards in and outside of the paint in the process. That’s simply not easy for any defender to manage, and this concern makes for the biggest test towards this team’s ambitions.

Though the Nets could upend the Bucks’ playoff hopes in a six or seven-game series, the defending champions have tasted what it’s like to win a ring. And with the hunger for another championship run, along with all of the talent they bring to the table as is, the Nets’ greatest foe in the East is none other than the Milwaukee Bucks.