New York Giants: Nick Gates injury could threaten career, says Joe Judge

New York Giants, Nick Gates

It’s still the early season, but it looks like the New York Giants already experienced their biggest injury of the year. That injury is the one that sidelined center Nick Gates, who was announced as a captain this season only to fracture his leg weeks later in the loss to Washington. Gates is obviously out for the season, but his future beyond this year remains an unknown.

That’s not something that head coach Joe Judge is willing to dance around and avoid. When asked about the injury by reporters, Judge couldn’t bring himself to deny the possibility of the injury threatening Gates’ career.

“I’d be lying, from my perspective, if I said no. I know there’s comparisons to other players, these things are all different. I know he’s going to have the best medical care possible… So we’re confident he’s going to be able to come back. My fear, for any guy who has something like this, is yes, it can be career-ending,” Judge said.

Gates underwent surgery the day after his injury, but that only marks the beginning of a long recovery process. It’s the next step in an up-and-down career that saw Gates enter the league as an undrafted free agent before becoming a solid starter in 2020 and a team captain in 2021.

This isn’t the first time Gates has dealt with injury problems. He spent his rookie season on the injured reserve, which is part of why his rise seemingly came out of nowhere after an uneventful start to his career. But his time on the injured reserve as a rookie wasn’t due to as major an injury as this.

Gates will have no shortage of encouragement from the fans and from teammates as he recovers from the worst Giants injury in recent memory, but at the end of the day, it’s impossible to put a date on when he could come back.

It’s too early to project that, and the only option for the Giants offensive line right now is to keep moving forward without knowing when one of their leaders could return to the mix.

New York Yankees Recap: Bronx Bombers return as Yankees take game one from from the Red Sox

yankees, gerrit cole

Tonight the New York Yankees entered one of their most critical series of the season in an effort to hold on to a wild-card berth in the postseason. The New York Yankees opened a three-game series with their traditional age-long rivals Boston Red Sox, at Fenway Park in Boston. The Yankees put ace Gerrit Cole on the mound to face one of the Red Sox’s most successful pitchers Nathan Eovaldi in that effort. The effort came up big as the Yankees beat the Red Sox 8-3.

DJ LeMahieu started out the game against Eovaldi and singled to right field. Anthony Rizzo followed with a back-to-back single to right. Aaron Judge with two on and no outs bounced one off the center-field wall for a double scoring DJ LeMahieu. Giancarlo Stanton followed by getting an RBI ground out scoring Rizzo. Joey Gallo with Judge on third flew out to left with Judge remaining at third. Gleyber Torres singled scoring Judge from third. Gio Urshela line drove to second to end the half. New York Yankees 3 Red Sox.

At the bottom against Gerrit Cole, Kiki Hernandez walked to lead off the Sox half. Kyle Schwarber reached on a force out. Xander Bogaerts hit into a  6-4-3 double play to end the inning scoreless for the Red Sox. Yankees 3 Red Sox 0.

The second inning was led off by Brett Gardner who lined out to far-right. Kyle Higashioka lined out to short. LeMahieu ground out to short for a 1-2-3 bounce back inning for Eovaldi. At the bottom, Rafael Devers ground out to the shift for out number one. JD Martinez walked. Alex Verdugo struck out on a 100 mph fastball. Hunter Renfroe went down on strikes to keep the Red Sox scoreless.

Anthony Rizzo led off the third inning by doubling off the green monster. Aaron Judge walked. Stanton with two on and no outs hit a three-run home run into the Red Sox bullpen to tack on three Yankee runs. Gallo singled to right. Torres flew out to left for the first out. Urshela ground out. Gardner walked knocking Eovaldi out of the game. Higashioka faced the new Sox pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura with two on and two outs and popped out to the infield, three Sox converged but no one caught the ball, Gallo scored. Red Sox fans were stunned. LeMahieu walked loading the bases for Rizzo who struck out swinging but the Yankees tacked on another run. New York Yankees 7 Red Sox 0.

At the bottom of the inning with Cole having a 7 run lead, Christian Vazquez lined out to Torres at second. Jose Iglesias flew out to Judge in right. Hernandez walked. Schwarber went down on strikes for another scoreless inning for the Red Sox. Yankees 7 Sox 0.

The fourth inning was led off by Aaron Judge who flew out to left. Stanton got a long single off the green monster. Gallo flew out, and Torres lined out. The Red Sox were scoreless in the bottom. The fifth inning was scoreless for both teams. Yankees 7 Red Sox 0.

The Yankees were scoreless in the top of the sixth inning. Then, in the bottom with two on base, Rafael Devers hit a three-run homer off of Cole, making it New York 7 and Boston 3.

In the top of the seventh, Gleyber Torres hit a home run off the top of the left-center wall. Urshela singled. Brett Gardner singled. Higahioka flew out to center field. LeMahieu flew out to the center-field wall. Rizzo lined out to second base, but the Yankees tacked on another run. At the bottom, Clay Holmes took over for Gerrit Cole, facing Renfroe, who grounded out to third base. Vazquez lined out to Rizzo at first. Iglesias beat out an infield pop-up. Hernandez singled. Bobby Dalbec pinch-hitting for Schwarber faced new Yankee pitcher Wandy Peralta and stuck out. New York Yankees 8 Boston Red Sox 3.

The eighth inning was led off by Aaron Judge, who went down looking. Stanton flew out to the Pesky pole. Gallo flew out to the left-center wall as the Yankees went down 1-2-3. At the bottom of the eighth, Bogaerts ground out to Torres at second. Devers ground out to Urshela at short. Martinez walked. Verdugo gound out to Torres to end the inning. New York Yankees 8 Boston Red Sox 3.

Gleyber Torres, who homered in the seventh, led off the top of the ninth by singling to left as he went 3 or 5 in the game. Torres was caught out stealing second. Urshela struck out swinging. Gardner went down looking. With the last licks on the line for the Red Sox, Renfroe came to bat against Chad Green and struck out swinging in the bottom of the night. Vazquez walked. Travis Shaw pinch hit for Iglesias and stuck out. Hernandez flew out to Judge to win game one for the Yankees.

The final score was the New York Yankees 8 and the Boston Red Sox 3. The winning pitcher was Gerrit Cole, and the loser was Nathan Eovaldi.

 

 

Lack of OL depth putting New York Giants in compromised position

New York Giants, Nick Gates

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

The team made some lowkey moves towards the end of the preseason, though. The Giants traded for Ben Bredeson and Billy Price right before the start of the regular season. These two players have now been thrust into the starting lineup due to a couple of crucial injuries among the Giants’ starters.

Left guard Shane Lemieux is done for the year with a knee injury while center Nick Gates is also for the year with a leg fracture. The Giants are now starting newly-acquired backup players that do not fully understand the playbook, putting their offense in a compromised position.

The battered Giants offensive line

Ben Bredeson and Billy Price are now starting on the Giants’ offensive line. This is a development that occurred far too early this season. In Week Two, these two linemen did not perform up to adequate standards.

Billy Price struggled tremendously in pass protection for the Giants last week. He filled in at center, getting the start at the position after Nick Gates moved to left guard. Now, with Gates done for the year, Price will continue to man the center position. This development is concerning considering Billy Price currently has a PFF pass-blocking grade of 8.7 with an overall grade of 28.1, making him by far the lowest graded center in the NFL through two weeks. Price has allowed 5 pressures on only 69 offensive snaps, a staggering total.

Left guard Ben Bredeson has not been much better, either. With injuries to Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux, the Giants should expect to see Bredeson in the lineup for the rest of the season (barring any unforeseen midseason acquisitions). Bredeson has earned a 28.6 PFF pass-blocking grade on 100 total snaps this season.

The Giants’ offensive line has given up 6 sacks in the first two games of the season. If the team wants Daniel Jones to play at a high level as he did on Thursday night for the rest of the season, they are going to need to improve the pass protection in front of him. The lack of depth upfront for the Giants has exposed their biggest weakness and put the team in a compromised position. Now, the offense’s success rests on the shoulders of its quarterback.

Knicks fully vaccinated, take cautious approach on Mitchell Robinson

knicks, mitchell robinson

New York Knicks GM Scott Perry announced Friday that the entire team, including their coaching staff, are fully vaccinated.

It is an important first step for the Knicks as they look forward to building on their surprising playoff run last season.

“This was all internally driven, and a lot of credit goes to our players, our medical staff,” Perry said via News Daily. “It is something that we’ve been on top of really the entire year.”

“They took this thing very seriously and took the responsibility to get that done. So, we’re very proud of that fact, and we’re gonna move forward,” Perry added during a media briefing with team president Leon Rose and head coach Tom Thibodeau.

New York is one of the two NBA markets that require home teams to show proof of vaccination to access indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment and playing venues. San Francisco, where the Golden State Warriors play, is the other market that has the same health and safety protocols.

The Knicks’ announcement came after the Brooklyn Nets said that they have a couple of players who are still unvaccinated. But Nets GM Sean Marks noted that they are expected to meet the NBA and the state requirements before the season starts.

Fox Sports reported Thursday that Kyrie Irving is one of the Nets players who have yet to receive a vaccine. However, Irving was also seen seated courtside at the Staples Center, a section that requires a vaccination pass, earlier this month in a WNBA game.

The vaccination protocol, along with the continued threat of the COVID-19, will again be a swing factor in the upcoming NBA season.

As of Thursday, the NBA said the league is 90 percent vaccinated.

Last season, many playoff teams missed multiple players at one point due to the COVID-19 protocols that put a huge dent in their campaign. Fortunately, the Knicks dodged that, although Derrick Rose and Alec Burks have contracted the virus at different stages of the season.

The Knicks, except for Mitchell Robinson, are ready to plunge into what is expected a competitive training camp starting next week.

Robinson, who put on some serious weight and looked brolic in the offseason, will not be rushed to come back from his broken foot injury though he’s medically cleared. The Knicks are taking a cautious approach after the young center suffered two injuries that required surgeries last season.

“We love Mitchell Robinson and look forward to seeing him play,” said Rose via New York Post.

Rose spoke to the media for the first time since Thibodeau’s introductory presser or exactly after 421 days.

“We’re following what our medical people say and not going to rush it and going step by step,” Thibodeau said via New York Post. “That’s the great value of having Taj [Gibson] and Nerlens Noel. We love the depth at that position. (We’re) excited about season and not going to rush.”

With this development, Nerlens Noel could continue to start with Taj Gibson backing him up as Robinson will be eased back into the rotation.

This will be a critical year for Robinson contract-wise as he will become a restricted free agent if the Knicks don’t extend him. The former second-round pick is eligible to sign a contract extension up to a maximum of four years, $53 million. But the Knicks want to see first how he looks on the court after two serious injuries.

“Mitchell was just starting to take off when he got hurt,’’ Thibodeau added.“This summer, he’s put in a lot of time, conditioning-wise, strength training. He’s a big part of what we’re going to do.”

So the waiting game continues, which the Knicks can afford to do owing to their depth.

Thibodeau and his staff will also have a decision to make on Luca Vildoza whether the team will guarantee his contract on or before opening night.

Vildoza is back in New York after suffering a foot injury during the NBA Summer League, just a week after his Olympic stint.

Thibodeau will have 17 active bodies at his disposal in next week’s training camp, with Robinson not expected to participate in full-court, 5-on-5 drills.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

UFC 266 Preview: Valentina Shevchenko – Lauren Murphy

Tomorrow night in the co-main event of UFC 266, we will see a battle for the women’s flyweight title. The undisputed queen Valentina Shevchenko (21-3) is back to defend her crown against a very hungry challenger in “Lucky” Lauren Murphy (15-4).

There is a very good argument for Valentina Shevchenko being the best pound for pound fighter in terms of skillset on the UFC roster. This includes both women and men. She is tremendous wherever the fight goes and she’s become so dominant that it’s impressive when she loses a round.

Overall, Shevchenko is a perfect 7-0 at 125 pounds in the UFC. Every time we see her fight, she seems to improve which should be terrifying for fellow flyweights. However, a flyweight that is not intimidated is the challenger, Lauren Murphy.

Lauren Murphy has quite the inspiring story. She didn’t grow up a martial artist, but just decided that she wanted to compete and she dedicated her life to it. After starting her UFC career 2-4, Murphy has won five straight fights to earn this shot against Valentina Shevchenko.

UFC 266 Prediction

There is one thing I can guarantee in this fight and that’s that Lauren Murphy is not going to stop trying. Murphy is a gamer and she worked incredibly hard to get this shot at UFC 266. We’ve seen her show good grappling and striking during her run with the UFC.

Murphy does a lot of things well that would make her a threat to most. However, there is not a single thing that she does better than Valentina Shevchenko. Pick out any aspect of MMA and Valentina Shevchenko is better at it than Lauren Murphy.

I’m not trying to be disrespectful or Murphy, but it’s just reality. Valentina Shevchenko is truly something special and I believe she is going to put on another special performance at UFC 266. I think Murphy is tough enough to last throughout the fight, but she’s not good enough to win here. This will be a very one-sided fight.

Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko by Unanimous Decision

New York Rangers broadcaster Joe Micheletti shares his thoughts on this year’s team

New York Rangers broadcaster Joe Micheletti is excited about the direction of this year’s team.  He shared his thoughts on a few players along with head coach Gerard Gallant.

The New York Rangers are about to start their 95th season in the NHL. This season the team has a new head coach, some great young players, the reigning Norris Trophy winner, and veterans that a poised to get the team back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

On the team taking the next step this season

“I’m really excited to see the continued growth of these young players. For the Rangers to take the next step, these young players that we’ve seen over the last couple of seasons will have to take the next step as well. I’m excited to see Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil, Igor Shesterkin, K’Andre Miller, and reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox. These are all players that have a really important role on this team. And if they keep improving, then you start to think that this team is ready to surprise some people. With the additions in the offseason, Mika [Zibanejad] rebounding, and the continued growth of these young players, this Rangers team has a chance to be special.”

On new Head Coach Gerard Gallant

“I’ve known him for many years. He’s a really high-quality person and coach. That’s what players over the years will definitely say about him too. He’s direct, he expects you to play hard and the players love playing for him.”

On defenseman Adam Fox

“It’s such a thrill to sit back and watch him play every time he’s on the ice. I think he is as a mistake-free player that there is in the league and he makes it look so simple. After winning the Norris Trophy, I’m excited to see him come back and play.”

On the free-agent signing of Barclay Goodrow

“His addition is so important as you get a player that’s won back-to-back Stanley Cups and he knows what it takes to win and how to win. He has a great work ethic, game in and game out. And not only is he a versatile player, but he’s definitely going to help the young guys and show them what it takes to win in this league.”

Quotes courtesy of MSG Networks

Sam Rosen Is back for his 38th Season

Sam Rosen, the recipient of the 2016 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame,
returns for his 38th season as the play-by-play voice of the Rangers, alongside analyst Joe Micheletti,
back for his 16th season. Host John Giannone will be joined in studio by former Rangers goalie and Emmy
Award-winning studio analyst Steve Valiquette for the network’s pregame, postgame, and intermission
coverage. Host and reporter Michelle Gingras will provide in-game analysis, while also conducting player
interviews throughout the pregame, postgame, and each intermission.

MSG Networks, the television home of the New York Rangers, today announced the team’s telecast schedule for the upcoming 2021-22 NHL season, which will include a total of 69 regular-season games and all six preseason games. The team opens their preseason at home versus the New York Islanders on Sunday, September 26 at 7:00 pm ET on MSG Network. The team’s first regular-season telecast will be on Thursday, October 14th when the Rangers take on the  Dallas Stars at home, with coverage getting underway at 6:30 pm ET on MSG Network.

 

 

New York Yankee Legends: Jim Abbott, the most amazing no-hitter in baseball (video)

Jim Abbott

The New York Yankees have had some amazing pitchers over the years. However, major League Baseball has only one baseball player like Jim Abbott. Not only did he have a no-hitter, but he did it with only one hand. This month is the 28th anniversary of that September 4, 1993 feat the put him in the history books forever.

In the last 28 years since Abbott’s no-no, there have been only 4 no-hitters, all by pitchers with two hands. Dwight Gooden (1996), David Wells (1998 perfect), David Cone (1999 perfect), and the final one this year by Corey Kluber on May 19, 2021.

Jim Abbott’s Major League career lasted a decade. It began in California and ended in Milwaukee. Along the way, he totaled 87 wins, a 4.25 ERA, 888 strikeouts, and a no-hitter. He began his journey as a rookie for the Angels in 1989, tossed that no-no as a member of the Yankees, continued to beat the odds with the White Sox. Then, for a curtain call, he tallied both his career hits and knocked in all three of his career RBIs as a member of the ’99 Milwaukee Brewers roughly a month before his remarkable career ended.

His signature moment in baseball came during the 1989 season when he had a no-hitter with the Yankees, but that was not what made him remarkable. He is the only pitcher in the history of baseball to have only one hand. Most pitchers only dream of throwing a no-hitter; Jim Abbott did it and with only one hand. Abbott, a southpaw, was born in Flint, Michigan, in 1967. His left arm was longer than his right, which ended in a wrist that resembled a balled-up fist to which no fingers were attached. He became more aware of the limb difference in grade school when he endured teasing on the playground and awkward glances in class. Undaunted, he was thrilled when his dad bought him his first glove—a cheap plastic one from the drug store, but still, a baseball glove. Father and son set about playing catch, with a bit of problem-solving involved.

When Jim began school, he was fitted with a mechanical hand made of fiberglass and metal. But he hated the prosthesis, which he called a “hook,” because it frightened some of his classmates and made him self-conscious. Eventually, his parents stopped making him wear it. At 11, Jim joined a Little League team and threw a no-hitter in the first game he pitched. Despite his early success, most people figured the competition would soon pass him by. In fact, at every step, from Little League on, he kept hearing that his playing days would probably end at that level. But at each new level, Jim proved his doubters wrong. When he entered high school at Flint Central, his new coach doubted Jim would defend his position adequately. But Jim actually fielded well enough to play first base and the outfield when he wasn’t pitching.

As a sophomore pitcher for the University of Michigan in 1987, he was named the best amateur athlete and the top amateur baseball player in the nation. He became the first U.S. pitcher to beat the Cuban national team in Cuba in 25 years. As a junior, he garnered a gold medal as a 1988 U.S. Olympic baseball team member, crowning his amateur career by beating Japan in the final game in Seoul, South Korea. In his first season in professional baseball, he won a spot in the starting rotation of the pennant-contending Angels. He was not only the only major leaguer with a major disability, but Abbott never spent a day in the minor leagues.

In December 1992, Abbott was traded to the New York Yankees for three minor-league prospects when the Angels couldn’t sign him to a long-term agreement. The Yankees, who hadn’t participated in a postseason game in more than a decade, were hungry for a pennant going into the 1993 season. However, Abbott’s time with the Yankees would be frustrating as he was often the butt of George Steinbrenner’s scorn. During his time with the New York Yankees, Abbott was only mediocre as a pitcher, and as Abbott spent a lot of time working with disabled children and his charities, Steinbrenner thought he should be 100% focused on baseball.

On September 4, 1993, the New York Yankee Stadium fans were treated to one of the most awe-inspiring triumphs in sports history. Abbott bested a potent Indians lineup that featured Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle, and Manny Ramirez and surrendered no hits over nine historic innings. His masterpiece remains an inspiration today as the only no-hitter by a one-hander.

There will never be another Jim Abbott. This unlikely sports hero was an Olympic medalist, a member of the no-hitter club, and a (mostly) effective professional athlete for a decade. But, metaphorically speaking, he accomplished all these amazing things with one hand tied behind his back. And he saved his last great baseball moment for the Milwaukee Brewers.

In 1999 Abbott joined the Brewers of the National League. Abbott would now be required to hit as well as pitch. On June 15th of the year, he would be ninth in the lineup. On the pitcher’s first pitch to him, he would blast a line drive to center to drive in a run—just another amazing accomplishment from an amazing man. In baseball, there are lefties and righties, but only one one-hander.

The great Jim Abbott, for his major-league career, Jim Abbott won 87 games and lost 108 with a 4.25 earned run average. Yet, he had as much impact as any player who played the game, giving renewed hope to thousands with disabilities. He once estimated that he had at least one scheduled meeting with a disabled child during every road series of his career. He today still is a speaker and advocate for the disabled, particularly children.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Gda6XZDx6c

UFC 266 Preview: Jairzinho Rozenstruik – Curtis Blaydes

Tomorrow night on the main card of UFC 266, we will see a big time showdown in the heavyweight division. Two of the very best in the world will go head-to-head as “Bigi Boy” Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-2) takes on Curtis “Razor” Blaydes (14-3).

The two top UFC heavyweights are looking to pickup a big win that could put them in title contention. If you want to look at one of the very best heavyweights in the world who hasn’t fought for a title, look no further than Curtis Blaydes.

Blaydes joined the UFC back in 2016 making his debut against Francis Ngannou. While he lost that night, he’s gone 9-2 since then with the promotion. His two losses coming to Ngannou for the second time and Derrick Lewis.

Rozenstruik is in a very similar position as Blaydes. He’s one of the very best and he’s only lost to the very best. Bigi Boy has lost twice in the UFC and one was to the current interim heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane and the other was to the undisputed champion Francis Ngannou.

The last time we saw Rozenstruik was back in June when he took on Augusto Sakai. Rozenstruik looked great in that fight and scored a knockout just at the end of the first round.

UFC 266 Prediction

The fighting style of Rozenstruik is going to tell us a lot about how this fight is going to go on Saturday night. We’ve seen Rozenstruik fight incredibly tentative at times and that causes him to fall behind.

Now, he’s had punching power to bail him out, but you never want to fight from behind. Blaydes is one of the better wrestlers in the UFC and I’m expecting a very heavy wrestling attack from him on Saturday.

He fell a little too much in love with his hands over his past few fights and it cost him dearly the last time he fought. I don’t expect that from him at UFC 266 against a decorated striker like Rozenstruik.

Blaydes will hold his own on the feet, but I think his wrestling will get him the win here. Might not be sexy to watch, but I’m expecting him to be very effective.

Prediction: Curtis Blaydes by Unanimous Decision

Yankees: Gio Urshela’s plate discipline has eroded

New York Yankees, Gio Urshela

The 2021 New York Yankees have had unexpected stars and bitter disappointments when we compare specific players to their pre-season expectations. One of those established veterans with a mediocre season is third baseman Gio Urshela.

Urshela plays good defense at the hot corner, and that is valuable. However, his .264/.299/.416 line has left a lot to be desired: he has been a below-average hitter as evidenced by his 95 wRC+, and has just 13 home runs in 408 plate appearances.

His offensive performance has been slightly disappointing considering the fact that he hit over .290 and had a wRC+ over 130 in the last two seasons. His contact quality isn’t the best, but there is another issue damaging his profile: plate discipline.

The Yankees’ third baseman has a 4.7 percent walk rate, his lowest since 2018, and a career-high 25.2 percent strikeout rate. His previous high in that last department was 21.7 percent three seasons ago.

The Yankees’ third baseman needs to increase the walks and cut the Ks

Urshela has been chasing a lot of balls outside of the zone, at 39.7 percent, and his 76.8 percent contact rate is his lowest since 2018. He has been swinging and missing a lot, too: his 12.5 percent swinging strike rate (SwStr%) is the highest it has been since that 2018 season in which he was a below-average hitter, before making the changes that made him productive in 2019 and 2020.

There is absolutely no doubt that the Yankees, if they want to secure a place in the 2021 postseason, need the best version of Urshela to lengthen the lineup. He has been better in his past seven games, with a .346/.346/.500 line.

However, over that timeframe, he also has a 0/5 BB/K ratio. If he is going to improve and become a reliable offensive contributor, like he was in 2019 and 2020, he will need to take a few more walks and cut down the strikeouts.

Just how great was the Knicks’ defense under Tom Thibodeau during 2020-21 season?

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

One category the New York Knicks excelled in last year was defensive performance, and it wasn’t just one specific subsection; it was as a whole. If there’s anything that had coach Tom Thibodeau does well, it is create a unit of players that is capable of playing high-level defense and limiting opposing teams. That is the primary reason Thibodeau has commanded so much respect from executives and players around the NBA.

Keeping Thibs as the primary coach will only facilitate more efficiency and aggressiveness from a Knicks team filled with veteran experience and youth. However, the improvements of several players last season were a catalyst behind his style of play. The elevation of Julius Randle and RJ Barrett played a significant role. Adding Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker this off-season will put more pressure on opposing teams, forcing them to take more 3-PT shots, a category the team thrived in limiting success.

However, comparing the team’s defensive efficiency from last year to 2019 paints a bright picture of the transition.

Here’s how the Knicks performed last season compared to the 2019-20 season:

Opponents Points Rank:

2019 – 18th

2020 – 1st

Opponents Field Goal %:

2019 – 27th

2020 – 1st

Opponents 3-PT %:

2019 – 28th

2020 – 1st

Defensive Rating:

2019 – 23rd

2020 – 4th

The Knicks managed to secure the 4th Seed in the Eastern Conference despite having multiple weaknesses on the roster and a lack of depth at some positions. Losing Mitchell Robinson for the majority of the season and forcing Randle and Barrett to play a crazy amount of minutes isn’t a recipe for success. Mitigating fatigue over the course of a long 82-game season is essential, which is why the Knicks will likely rely on reserve players like Alec Burks, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, and Miles McBride.

One Lowkey move the front office made was to add players in the draft who were defensively stout. Grimes is known for his aggressive defense in Houston, as well as his shooting prowess. McBride is a sleight of hand specialist with the biggest hand size and wingspan of any point guard in the most recent draft class.

Theoretically, if the Knicks can maintain their defensive production and increase their scoring, they should have an even more successful season in year two under Thibodeau.