With the start of a new series, the New York Yankees were hoping to turn the page and put their recent losing streak behind them, as they held on to a wild card berth. Tonight the Yankees sent one of their few healthy pitchers, Jordan Montgomery, to the mound to face the New York Mets Tylor Megill in the first game of a three-game series at Citi Field in the Queens, New York. Unfortunately, it started poorly for the Yankees and only got worse. The Yankees lost 10-3 for their seventh loss in a row.
In the first inning with Tylor Megill on the mound for the Mets, DJ LeMahieu stepped to the plate and went down looking. Brett Gardner hit his fourth triple of the season down the left-field line. Aaron judge ground out to second, but Gardner scored to put the Yankees on the board first. Anthony Rizzo struck out to end the half. At the bottom, Jonathan Villar singled to left to start the half. Francisco Lindor struck out swinging. Michael Conforto got a base hit, moving Villar to second. Pete Alonso struck out. Javier Baez hit, but Villar challenged Gallo’s arm in left and was out at the home plate. New York Yankees 1 New York Mets 0.
The umpires overturned the play during the break and called the Mets safe for a tied game, bringing Montgomery back onto the mound. Jeff McNeil struck out to end the inning. Game tied at 1.
The second inning was led off by Gleyber Torres, who ground out to short. Then, Joey Gallo homered far into the right-center stands. Gary Sanchez ground out to second. Gio Urshela struck out swinging to the half, but the Yankees went ahead. At the bottom, Kevin Pillar flew out to Gardner in center. James McCann went down on strikes. Tylor Megill struck out to end the inning. New York Yankees 2 Mets 1.
Pitcher Jordan Montgomery led off the third inning by striking out. LeMahieu ground out to third. Gardner singled to center. Judge struck out to end the half. At the bottom, Villar singled to left field. Lindor walked. The runners moved up on a wild pitch. Conforto, with two on and no outs, walked to load the bases with no outs. Alonso walked to bring in a run to tie the game. Baez singled, bringing in Villar. McNeil got a drag bunt scoring Conforto. Pillar flew out to left, scoring Alonso. Baez was tagged out reaching from second. McCann doubled to left, scoring McNeil. Megill stuck out, but the Mets scored five runs in the inning. New York Mets 6 Yankees 2.
Anthony Rizzo led off the fourth inning flew out to center. Torres ground out to Lindor at short. Gallo tipped into the catcher’s glove to end the half. Villar led off the bottom and flew out to Judge. Lindor homered just left of the right-field foul pole, and that was the night for Montgomery. Joely Rodriguez faced Conforto, who singled. Alonso flew out to Gardner on the warning track. Baez doubled, scoring Conforto from first. Baez was called out, trying to reach third. Mets 8 Yankees 2.
The fifth inning was led off by Sanchez, who struck out. Urshela ground out to third. Rougie Odor pinch-hitting struck out. At the bottom, Michael King took over the pitching. McNeil singled. Pillar ground out to Urshela at third. A King wild pitch allowed McNeil to go to third. McCann ground out to end the inning. Mets 8 Yankees 2.
DJ Lemahieu led off the sixth inning by walking. Gardner grounded into a force out. Judge ground into a double play. At the bottom, Villar went down swinging. Lindor lined out directly to LeMahieu. Conforto grounded out for a quick inning for both teams. Mets 8 Yankees 2.
The seventh inning was led off by Anthony Rizzo, who struck out looking. Torres doubled off the third baseman’s glove. Gallo struck out swinging, and Gary Sanchez popped out to short. At the bottom, Alonso flew out to Judge in right. Baez singled ahead of Judge in right. A pitch hit McNeil. Pillar two on and one out was also hit by a pitch to load the bases. McCann hit into a double play, but Torres airmailed one into the stands as two Mets scored. Smith pinch-hitting for the pitcher flew out to short. New York Mets 10 New York Yankees 2.
Urshela led off the eight by flying out. Luke Voit singled to center. LeMahieu singled, moving Voit to second. Gardner flew out. Aaron Judge also flew out to end the half and strand two. At the bottom, Villar went down on strikes. Lindor walked. Conforto went down on strikes. Alonso ground out to short to end the inning. Mets 10 Yankees 2.
Anthony Rizzo came to the plate with last licks on the line for the Yankees and launched one into the right-field stands. Torres flew out to the infield. Then, Joey Gallo flew out to center. Finally, Gary Sanchez flew out to right for their seventh loss in a row.
The final score was the New York Mets 10 and the New York Yankees 3. The winning pitcher was the starter Tylor Megill, and the loser was the starter Jordan Montgomery.
Despite earlier injury scares, the New York Giants won’t have to go into their season opener without their new additions at wide receiver. Both Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney have been on the injury report during the past week leading up to the game, and missed the preseason finale, but have finally been removed from that list with days left before the opener.
Saquon Barkley (knee) is listed as questionable. So is CB Adoree Jackson (ankle)
TE Evan Engram (calf) is out.
WRs Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney and TE Kyle Rudolph good to go!
The Giants have a number of injury situations that will come down to late decisions from the coaching staff. While Golladay and Toney are confirmed as ready to play, the same isn’t true for Saquon Barkley and Adoree’ Jackson. Both players are listed as questionable, but it looks like Barkley has the better odds of playing as Joe Judge has already confirmed that it would take a setback for Barkley to not play on Sunday.
What the Giants have seen this week from Saquon Barkley has been “promising.” One more obstacle Friday but it would take a setback for him not to be ready vs. Broncos, per Joe Judge.
Evan Engram, on the other hand, is ruled out entirely with a calf injury. We’ll likely see more of Kyle Rudolph because of that, as the new veteran addition is returning to health just in time for week 1.
It remains to be seen how some players will perform coming back from injury, or what the exact role will be for the newcomers to the offense, but the the current outcome is far from the worst one possible for the Giants.
Even if both Engram and Jackson miss the season opener, having the new weapons such as Toney, Golliday, and Rudolph on the field consistently is a big step in justifying the high price the Giants spent this offseason to acquire them.
Tomorrow night, Triller is back with a boxing event that will feature legends from the combat sports world. In the co-main event, two of the more decorated UFC champions in history will battle it out as Tito Ortiz (21-12-1 MMA) takes on Anderson Silva (34-11, 1 NC).
The two former champions will be competing in boxing which will be a first for Ortiz. While Silva has experience in this arena, Tito Ortiz will be stepping into the boxing ring for the first time in his combat sports career.
The last time we saw Ortiz compete was back in 2019 when he defeated former WWE star Alberto Del Rio in a MMA match. Prior to that, Ortiz knocked out a very old Chuck Liddell in their trilogy fight. Ortiz’s last legit win was his fight before that against Chael Sonnen.
Ortiz has been vocal with his frustrations with Silva regarding this boxing match. Silva made Ortiz commit to a weight of 195 pounds. While Ortiz ultimately agreed, he missed the mark by five pounds today. That said, the match will go on.
Anderson Silva was last seen just a few months ago when he took on former boxing world champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Silva was a huge underdog but ended up outclassing Chavez Jr and cruising to a decision. Overall, Silva is now 2-1 in professional boxing.
This is such an interesting and somewhat bizarre matchup. On one hand, you can say that both men have competed in the light heavyweight division during their careers. They are both former UFC champions and they are the same age.
At the same time, Ortiz has never been known for his boxing skills. Ortiz made a career out of taking his opponents down, controlling them, and using great elbows to do damage.
In the boxing ring, he’s going to be completely relying on his hands. Anderson Silva is known as one of the greatest strikers in MMA history. Say what you want about the condition Chavez Jr was in, it’s a big deal that Silva defeated a former boxing world champion just months ago.
I don’t see any scenario where Tito Ortiz wins this matchup. I’m having a hard time believing Ortiz even lands a significant shot in this one. I see Silva putting it on him from start to finish and I expect a TKO finish in the middle rounds.
The New York Jets will be missing their most consistent offensive weapon from the last two seasons when they visit Carolina on Sunday.
New York Jets receiver Jamison Crowder will not partake in Sunday’s 2021 season opener against the Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Crowder’s absence stems from a positive test for COVID-19 and he remains on the reserve list.
Head coach Robert Saleh confirmed Crowder’s departure during his Friday statements. Saleh also said that the status of another receiver, Keelan Cole (knee), would be “down to the wire”.
“From a COVID standpoint, he’ll be out,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. Asked about the backup plan if Cole is unable to play, Saleh referred to it as “something we’ll talk about” before the team departs for Charlotte.
Crowder has been the Jets’ most consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons. He has earned a team-best 1,532 yards on 137 receptions, a dozen of which have gone for touchdowns. Each of those marks is good for the team lead over the last couple of seasons. Crowder is set to enter his third season with the Jets after inking a three-year deal in 2019. Formerly of Washington, Crowder restructured the final year of his contract to center on guaranteed money this offseason ($4.5 million).
Though the Jets could be without two of their slot targets on Sunday, Saleh had a more optimistic outlook for starting tackle Mekhi Becton. The sophomore blocker has dealt with a concussion issue over the past few weeks but is expected to be ready for the matchup with the Panthers.
“He’s had his ups and downs, obviously, dealing with Carl (Lawson) which I think a lot of people would,” Saleh said of Becton’s summer. “I thought it’s been productive for him, this is a new technique, running off the ball, the pass sets, the protections, it’s all different, where he’s not just running gap schemes and just trying to overpower people, there’s more space than he’s being put in.”
“There’s been a lot of production for him and not even worried about him, he’s going to be fine, pass setting is pass setting, so expecting him to be dominant like he has been. From a run game standpoint, he moves people, that’s what he does best. It’s going to be fun to watch him play.”
Earlier this summer, the Islanders were able to move on from Andrew Ladd with both sides needing a fresh start.
Dealt to the Arizona Coyotes, Ladd’s tenure with the organization — which will go down as a forgetful one for many after he came in as a big-ticket acquisition as a part of the now memorable, or now not so much — hyped-up free agent class of 2016, finally came to its conclusion. Ladd never lived up to the albatross of a contract he agreed to as inconsistency and constant injuries plagued his entire time with the Isles.
During that time, the team struggled to keep up their winning ways they had established just prior to the veteran forward’s arrival with back-to-back postseason appearances in 2014-15 and 2015-16. But there was something still there, which Ladd pointed out during his appearance on the Dropping The Gloves Podcast yesterday with John Scott. It was that the club had the right personnel in place to have the success they’ve earned the last three years.
Things didn’t go very well my first couple of years there, but you could tell they had the right guys,” Ladd said.
Around that period, the Islanders had seen the progression of several of their veterans — John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy — along with the influx of youth — Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech. Yet they still lacked identity as a team to win, which Ladd acknowledged.
“Sometimes they just need a different message, path. That’s when Lou (Lamoriello) and Barry (Trotz) came in.”
Once those two came in, everything changed for the Isles. The team began to win again and a culture had been put in place. The newfound prosperity the Islanders were having surprised many in the hockey world, but no one inside the Isles’ room — Ladd included — were shocked with the turnaround.
“Everyone around was surprised about the success we (that group) had, but no I don’t think anyone in that room was surprised because they knew the people and the character of that room,” he noted.
That character and the players in that room has now led the Islanders to three straight postseason appearances. Ladd though, never got to play a true role in it. And because the Isles were also in a bind this summer because of their salary cap situation, he knew the time had come for him to find a new home.
“I knew it was coming,” Ladd said. “Lou (Lamoriello) was great. One thing about Lou is he’s open and honest about what’s going on. I kind of knew the whole way they were trying to get it done.”
Ladd will now get a chance to re-vitalize his career with another struggling organization in Arizona. As a two-time Cup winner, and being part of several winning teams, he could be a very important piece for them moving forward. He was once seen that way with the Islanders.
His time with the Isles was disappointing and didn’t live up to the expectations, but he noticed quickly the organization were on their way to being good.
The New York Yankees start a critical weekend series with the crosstown New York Mets tonight. The Yankees are 2-8 in their last ten games and have just been swept by the Toronto Blue Jays in a four-game embarrassing series where they only got 8 runs in the series to the Jays 25. The Mets have been playing a bit better, going 6-4 in their last ten. They are 5 games out of first place in the NL East.
For the Yankees, this weekend series will tell if they stay in wild-card contention. As of this writing, the Yankees lost their home field advantage and slipped to the number two spot in the standings. The surging Blue Jays are now just .5 games out. Also, the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics are just 2 games out. So weekend play will be very telling.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have a commanding lead in the wild card standings in the National League, being 13 games ahead. The Mets are 5 games out, but with 22 games left to play, they still have a chance of getting a wild card berth. However, if they are swept by the Yankees this weekend, any hope for them is out the window. These two situations make it a must-win for both teams.
Tonight, September 10, 7:10 pm EDT
Tonight when the New Yor Mets take the field, Tylor Megill will be on the mound for the Mets. He is a lefty that is 2-4 with a 4.20 ERA and 78 strikeouts over 14 games. The 6′ 7″ 230 pounder started his season well, but the Mets have lost five of them over his last seven starts. No Yankee has ever faced Megill.
The New York Yankees will have Jordan Montgomery on the mound. “Monty” is 5-5 with a 3.47 ERA and a very respectable 131 strikeouts. Although Montgomery has pitched much better than his numbers suggest, he has gotten little run support in his games. If Franciso Lindor is in the lineup, Monty will have to be very careful with him as he has been successful off him to the tune of .571 in seven at-bats.
Tonight’s game will be on the YES Network, SNY, and MLBN out of market.
Saturday, September 11, 7:45 pm EDT
The New York Mets will send Taijuan Walker to the mound in the second game. Walker is a righty that is 7-9 with an ERA of 4.15 and 129 strikeouts. Walker, who was acquired in the offseason, has been spotty for the Mets. Unfortunately for the Mets, his last win came on July 3rd. At one point in the season he the Mets lost seven of his starts in a row. He didn’t get the win in his last start, but the Mets did. Walker gives up home runs, lots of them. In his career, Giancarlo Stanton has hit better off him than any other Yankee.
Corey Kluber will take the mound Saturday night for the Yankees. Kluber is 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 12 starts. Kluber, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, had not pitched in nearly two years when he signed with the Yankees when the Yankees signed him. He got off to a slow start but eventually got better to the point that he had a no-hitter on May 19th. But after a few starts, he came down with shoulder tightness and was on the IL for 3 months. In his last two starts since coming off the IL, he has been rusty. He gave up 5 earned runs in his last outing against the Angels. This game will be on the FOX Network.
Sunday, September 12, 8:08 pm EDT
Sunday evening, the Mets will have Carlos Carrasco on the mound. He is a righty with a 1-2 record and an elevated ERA of 5.88 with 32 strikeouts. The Mets acquired Carrasco in the offseason, but due to a hamstring injury, he didn’t pitch the first game until July 30th and only got his first win of the season this past Tuesday off of the Marlins. Rizzo, Gallo, and Odor have been every successful off him, all hitting over .300. Rizzo, in 4 at-bats, has three hits off him.
As of this writing, the New York Yankees have no idea or are not saying who will pitch Sunday night’s game. The normal rotation would have Jameson Taillon on the mound, but he is on the IL. After that, it could be Gerrit Cole if his hamstring issue is resolved. After that, if the Yankees trust Andrew Heaney, it could be him. But more likely, it will turn out to be a bullpen game. Sunday’s game will be on ESPN.
Bellator 268 is getting a matchup of top lightweights added to it’s main card. MMA Junkie was the first to report yesterday that the promotion had finalized and booked a lightweight contest between Benson Henderson (28-10) and Brent Primus (10-2).
Bellator 268 is scheduled to take place next month on October 16th. The event is shaping up to be a big one for the promotion as it will also feature the semifinal matchups in the Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix.
In terms of this lightweight matchup, both men will look to get back on track with wins. Brent Primus just fought in July which was his first fight in a year and a half. It did not go his way as he lost a split decision to Islam Mamedov.
That fight was just the second career loss for Primus. The first loss came back at Bellator 212 when he was defeated by Michael Chandler in their rematch. The highlight of Primus’ career came when he defeated Chandler for the Bellator lightweight title.
Primus has been with the promotion for most of his career. After starting 2-0, Bellator signed Primus who then won six in a row capped off with the win against Michael Chandler. however, since that win, he’s just 2-2 in his last four.
Bellator redemption for Smooth
It’s been quite the career overall for Benson Henderson. Henderson rose to the top of the MMA world when he became the UFC lightweight champion. This was Henderson’s second world title as he was also the WEC lightweight champion during his career.
After a successful run with the UFC, Henderson signed with Bellator when he became a free agent. Henderson had moved up to welterweight just before leaving the UFC and was immediately given a welterweight title shot in Bellator.
Henderson lost that matchup then moved down to lightweight. After defeating Patricio Pitbull, Henderson got his lone lightweight title fight against Michael Chandler. Henderson again came up short in his attempt to become Bellator champion.
The former UFC champion is now on a two-fight losing streak after having gone on a four-fight win streak. We last saw him in November when he moved up in weight to fight Jason Jackson. Again, Henderson was completely out-muscled which is why he’s moving back to lightweight.
There’s no questioning the fact that Henderson wants to capture the Bellator lightweight title before he wraps his career. If he can defeat Primus next month, he’s back on track towards getting another crack at the title.
New York Mets’ star Jacob deGrom talked to reporters on Thursday for the first time in weeks. As you can probably imagine, the health of his elbow and, specifically, his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) was a hot topic in the conversation.
DeGrom hasn’t pitched since early July with what was deemed at the time as forearm tightness. Then, it evolved to elbow inflammation, until the Mets’ president of baseball operations Sandy Alderson talked a few days ago and referred to it as a “very mild” UCL sprain that “resolved itself”.
During his brief meeting with reporters in Miami on September 9, deGrom said that his right UCL is “perfectly fine.”
“I know what we said, but my ligament is perfectly fine,” he explained, per SNY. “I’ve been throwing. I wouldn’t be throwing if I had a compromised ligament. So that’s the plan to continue to throw and build up.”
The Mets star is running out of time
DeGrom recently advanced to 120 feet in his catch progression, per Mets’ manager Luis Rojas, who added that he should be throwing off the mound soon.
While speaking about the injury, Alderson had stated that “a sprain is the lowest grade partial tear. At this point, the sprain has resolved itself. The elbow, at this point, is perfectly intact based on the MRI and the critical evaluations of our doctors. That’s just the technical term that the doctors have used.”
The pitcher is eligible to return from the injured list on September 13th, but he won’t be ready by then. A start in late-September is the most realistic scenario at this point.
When deGrom was healthy, the Mets were first in the NL East division by multiple games. Today, New York is third with a 70-70 record, 5.0 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the top spot.
Degrom, the Mets’ ace and quite possibly the best pitcher in the world, has a 1.08 ERA in 92 innings in 2021, with a mind-blowing 0.55 WHIP. Had he stayed healthy, he probably should have won his third Cy Young award.
Another day and another loss for the New York Yankees, who are swept at home by the Toronto Blue Jays with the series ending on Thursday. By a score of 6-4, starting pitcher Nestor Cortes Jr. gave his best effort, lasting 6.0 innings, giving up just two earned runs during that time span. The Yankees relief pitching was inadequate, as they allowed four runs, including two in the ninth-inning from Andrew Heaney, who has elevated his ERA to 5.86.
Overall, the bullpen has been a liability as of late, and the offense has been nonexistent, despite the team picking up nine hits. Aaron Judge had himself a solid day, recording three hits and a run, but it wasn’t enough to push the Yankees over the edge, despite homers in the ninth inning courtesy of Luke Voit and Gary Sanchez.
“We just had a horrible homestand,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s not OK. … But we’ve been through this throughout the season. We’re up against it again. We look forward to going out and turning this around tomorrow. We know it can turn just as quick as it’s gone sideways here.”
The Yankees are only a week removed from being on a 13 game winning streak, one of the longest in franchise history. Turning things around is not out of the picture, but it must be sooner rather than later as they continue to lose ground in the Wild Card standings. Having lost their last six games, the Bombers are staring the Blue Jays right in the face, sitting just 0.5 games ahead in the WC.
The season is quickly winding to an end, with just 22 games remaining, including back-to-back-to-back series against AL East opponents in Boston, Toronto, and Tampa Bay.
“It’s not a secret to anybody,” Cortes said. “We’ve had a bad stretch for the past 10 games and we want to win just as much as everybody does. I think we know where we are in the standings, and we want to win games.”
With three games coming up against the Mets in Queens, the Yankees will be relying on Jordan Montgomery to get things started off. The Mets will feature Tylor Megill on the mound, who has a 4.20 ERA this season. The Yankees are more than capable of overcoming a struggling Mets squad, in fact, their season depends on it.
More than his outstanding three-point shooting, the biggest pull for the New York Knicks to gravitate towards Quentin Grimes in the first round of the NBA Draft was his impact on winning.
“That’s what we mostly talked about in my conversations with the Knicks and their scouts,” Kelvin Sampson, the University of Houston Cougars head coach, told Empire Sports Media on the phone.
“That’s the thing that they thought they liked most about Quentin as it relates to Thibs’ (Tom Thibodeau’s) culture. There’s a lot of similarities to the Knicks culture as far as what Thibs believes in and what we believe in here. That had a lot to do in them drafting Quentin.”
Grimes already knew he would become a Knick after the team executed a pair of trades during an eventful NBA Draft Night. Before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Grimes’ name, his camp was already excited in anticipation of the announcement.
As the Knicks Draft night plan unfolded, Sampson was on the phone with the team’s general manager Scott Perry, his long-time friend.
“I just remember Scott was asking me questions and telling me what their plan was. That was prior to the 25th pick. And they were really hoping he would be there at 25. They were worried that somebody was gonna take him before them. I think a lot of those moves (trades) were built around drafting Quentin at 25,” Sampson revealed.
“Scott Perry is a professional organizational guy. He knows what he’s doing. They had a plan going in. And they executed it flawlessly.”
The Knicks kicked the can further down the road when they traded their 19th pick to Charlotte for a future first-rounder. With the belief that Grimes would still be on board in the mid-20s, they swapped picks with the Los Angeles Clippers (21st for 25th) to net an additional future second-round selection and save some salary cap space.
So after his hometown team, Houston Rockets, selected Josh Christopher with the 24th pick, the mood at Grimes’ Draft party lit up and was ready to explode.
“When their (Knicks) pick came up, we knew that he was gonna be the pick,” Sampson said, recalling that memorable night. “But you know, you want to hear your name called. You don’t want to react prior to. Quentin just broke down. He was emotional. Because of all the hard work he and his family put into that moment. You just sit back, and I was just so happy for Quentin and his family because he earned that.”
Grimes strongly believed it was his destiny to become a Knick. His perspective changed over the last two years after his initial goal of becoming a lottery pick didn’t pan out. His Houston homecoming had a lot to do with it after a disappointing freshman season with the Kansas Jayhawks.
“I feel like I was picked in the perfect spot. I feel like some people might say I was picked too low or picked too high, something like that. But that’s why I got picked in the right situation,” Grimes said during his introductory press conference. “That’s why going to New York is going to be a match made in heaven.”
Thibodeau and the Knicks front office, led by team president Leon Rose, have created an environment in New York that made players fall in love with the process of getting better by making them accountable.
Grimes went through the same process in his two-year stint with the Cougars that rejuvenated his once flailing basketball career.
“I didn’t think Quentin had hit rock bottom yet when he arrived in our program,” Sampson said.
Grimes, the no. 8 recruit in his class, was a projected lottery pick before he went to Kansas. But things didn’t go according to plan, and his stock plummeted.
During his college debut, Grimes had a spectacular shooting display with 21 points on 6-of-10 three-pointers against Michigan State. But what followed next was a season of disappointment. His offense became erratic. He could only put up single-digit scoring in 17 of his next 35 games and missed 23 of his next 28 three-point attempts. He wound up with an 8.4-point average on a 38/34/60 shooting split that dimmed his prospect of getting drafted in the first round.
“Sometimes you had to fall even further before you can go back up,” Sampson said.
When Grimes couldn’t get a first-round guarantee, he decided to return to college, but he found out that his spot at Kansas was already filled up.
That’s when Sampson scooped him up as the Cougars were looking to replace Armoni Brooks, their best three-point shooter, who decided to go pro.
Marshall Grimes, Quentin’s father, reached out to Alvin Brooks, the Cougars associate head coach at that time.
“[Quentin] is a Houston kid. He was looking for a fresh start somewhere else. We didn’t recruit him out of high school as he narrowed his list down (to the blue blood schools) very early in the process,” Sampson said. “But this time around, his family, the familiarity of Houston and the success our program was having and also the reputation of our staff has in developing guards helped us.”
In a lot of ways, Sampson is very similar to Thibodeau. Both are hard-nosed coaches. Their teams love to defend. But the most striking similarity is both coaches benefited from a coaching sabbatical that allowed them to take a step back and see the current trends that made them better coaches upon their return.
Thibodeau visited many NBA teams in between his coaching stops from Chicago to Minnesota and New York. He learned how things are being done differently.
Sampson also had the same reckoning when he was forced out of his coaching post at Indiana University in 2008 due to recruitment violations.
Sampson revitalized his coaching career during his five-year show-cause penalty with an advisory role to his friend Gregg Popovich. At San Antonio, he saw firsthand how Tony Parker enjoyed freedom in running the Spurs’ offense. He also learned various offensive schemes as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets.
When he was eligible to return to NCAA, the Cougars hired him to rehabilitate their program.
Sampson returned to NCAA a changed man. His tough defensive philosophies were still there, but his deliberate style of offense — a trademark over three decades of coaching with Montana Tech, Washington State, Oklahoma, and Indiana — was replaced by the pace and space schemes and gave freedom to his guards as much as the NBA coaches do.
Sampson led the Cougars to the first round of the NIT twice during his first three seasons, followed by a Round of 32 appearance that snapped a seven-year NCAA drought. The next year, the Kentucky Wildcats needed a late Tyler Herro three-pointer to fend off the Cougars in the Sweet 16.
Sampson resurrected Houston’s basketball program that hasn’t been relevant since the Slamma Jamma era.
Their recent success under Sampson factored heavily in Grimes’ decision. As a sweetener, the veteran coach got a ringing endorsement from former NBA MVP James Harden who played with Grimes in a pickup game in Arizona during the pre-Draft process.
Harden and Sampson forged a good relationship during their time with the Rockets. The former Rockets star texted Sampson right after the pickup game with a glowing review of Grimes.
“He told me he thought Quentin was a really good player, which we already knew. We were already recruiting him. I think James endorsed me heavily to him [as a players’ coach]. I’m sure Quentin appreciated what James said,” Sampson said.
Sampson knew he had a rough diamond in Grimes. So he worked on rounding up the edges. In his mind, Grimes’ case was psychological more than anything else.
“Quentin had to do certain things. Coming out of high school, his whole game revolved around offense,” Sampson said.
They started to work on his rebounding. There was a rebounding drill specifically made for Grimes. Sampson would put a cover on the ring, and Grimes was the only one allowed to get the rebound. So every time his teammates shoot the ball, Grimes had to fight the whole team to grab the rebound.
Under Sampson, Grimes learned to be tough and competitive. Defense became a priority. The offense came only second. But the freedom on offense allowed Grimes to flourish and become a consistent shooter.
“Once he learned how to do those things, that’s when I thought his game had started coming around. Psychologically, the challenge there was getting his confidence up. Getting him to believe in things,” Sampson said.
“I think we do a great job in our program of creating adversity, whether it is through hard work or through my ability to get kids to places where they will push themselves. I think Quentin had to learn those.”
Grimes regained his confidence through hard work and preparation. An ethos that Thibodeau also preaches to his teams.
It was not by accident that Grimes’ numbers began to shoot up. His playing time from Kansas remained the same in his first year in Houston, but he put up better numbers across the board.
The Cougars were bound for another NCAA tournament with Grimes on board until the pandemic scratched the tournament.
“We could really see progress during his sophomore year,” Sampson said. “I think Quentin was excited about that. It’s why he didn’t put his name in the [NBA] draft after his sophomore year because he realized he still had more work to do. And good for Quentin. A lot of kids would hurry to get into the pros, and they’re not ready. Quentin wasn’t ready.”
Sampson thought another year with them would be better than Grimes ending up as a late second-round selection and getting relegated to the G League.
“Psychologically, he still had to be a better rebounder, a better on-ball defender and learn how to win and impact winning. Those are all things that are part of the culture we have. Quentin bought into our culture.” Sampson said.
Grimes continued his upward trajectory in his junior year, posting career-best numbers — 17.8 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from deep on 5.9 attempts — leading the Cougars to the NCAA Final Four for the first time since 1984.
He also posted his best defensive rating per 100 possessions at 90.1, a 15-point jump from his freshman year.
Grimes made it personal to defend the opposing team’s best player. He was a big part of why the Cougars were the second-best defensive team in the NCAA last season, allowing only 58.2 points per game behind Loyola Chicago’s 56.1-point average.
“He really bought in (to our culture). He’s such a great kid. I thoroughly enjoyed coaching him. To see his progress — almost every game we played this year, he was the best player on the floor — and his confidence took off. His belief in winning grew each game,” Sampson said.
Grimes became the first Cougar to be drafted in the first round since Cadillac Anderson went 23rd in 1987.
In Grimes, the Knicks got a ready-made rookie who can contribute from day one but still has so much room for growth. His appetite for learning is insatiable.
The rookie swingman started his Knicks career poorly, just like the way he did in college. After drilling his first shot — a three-pointer — in the NBA Summer League, he would only hit four of his next 21 attempts from long distance.
But even if his shots were not falling, Grimes didn’t stop playing.
He rebounded the ball, made plays for his teammates, and played resolute defense.
Sampson was not worried, but still, he sent a text of encouragement to his former star.
“He started out like a rookie,” Sampson said. “I’m sure there were some anxiety and nerves. He was playing with a shoot-first point guard, whereas he played with a pass-first point guard in college. So he’s gonna have to be able to adjust with different styles and players, knowing that he’s not gonna be the first option. It took him a game or two to adjust, but once he did, you saw how good he is.”
Grimes finished the Summer League on a bright note. His final numbers were solid: 15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists with nearly a steal and a block per game.
Grimes shrugged off his poor shooting start and ended up with a staggering 41-percent clip on nine three-point attempts.
In a loaded Knicks team, it will be hard to replicate those numbers in the regular season. Minutes would be hard to come by for rookies. But Sampson believes Grimes can earn his way into the rotation.
“He’s a smart kid,” Sampson said. “He knew that he’s not gonna be the first option. But even if you already know that, it will take some time to adjust.”
“He’s gonna be filling in a role. If you think about the NBA, everybody is a role player. For the best guys on that team, that’s their role. For the guys who take the most shots, that’s their role. So Quentin will settle into a role. Once he does, he has to accept it. Be the best that he can be at it. Each year, try to get better. That’s the key,” Sampson added.
Grimes’ initial role could be a 3-and-D spark off the bench when the veterans ahead of him, such as Alec Burks, Evan Fournier, and RJ Barrett, go down with an injury or having off nights. But during his introductory presser, Grimes was adamant that he’s more than just a 3-and-D guy.
“If you watch [Quentin] play with the Knicks this summer and with us and also at the [Draft] Combine in Chicago, he showed that he could make plays. He is an outstanding defender and a three-point shooter. But he also can put the ball on the floor and create,” Sampson said.
“But as a rookie, he’s just gonna go get in and sacrifice and figure out what coach Thibs wants him to do and do that. If he wants him to be a and 3-and-D guy, then be that guy. If they give you the freedom to do some other things, then make sure you’re ready to do that.”
Sampson, like Thibodeau, has built a reputation as a winner everywhere he goes. Grimes has been wired like a Thibs’ guy. So there’s no doubt in Sampson’s mind that Thibodeau will be able to find a role for Grimes.
“The Knicks organization knows how to win,” Sampson said. “Thibs has been doing that longer than anybody that has been commenting or writing or talking. He knows what he’s doing. He’ll put Quentin in the best position, and more importantly, their team to succeed.”
The Knicks identified what Thibodeau wanted and needed to succeed. Their thorough scouting and sleuthing led them to Grimes, an underrated talent and a high-character guy who will put in the work and put winning above all else.
“Good players, at some point, have to embrace winning over statistics. If all you care about is statistics, then you’re not about winning. Winning is far more important than putting up stats,” Sampson said. “Coaches want to see how much you impact winning, not how many points you can score.”
That is what the Knicks saw in Grimes. The former five-star prospect overcame adversity and repaired his shattered confidence once he embraced the Cougars’ culture and learned to impact winning. Sampson unlocked his true gifts and, in the process, molded him to become a quintessential Thibs guy.