How Derrick Rose is blooming in the Garden of Knicks

knicks, derrick rose

New York Knicks backup point guard Derrick Rose turned 33 Monday, and he’s blooming in a different way in the Garden that has looked like a basketball paradise for most of last season.

After a tumultuous first stint with the Knicks in 2016, Rose’s game withered, and he was already out of the league until Tom Thibodeau came rushing to resurrect his career in Minnesota in 2018. Thibodeau watered and nurtured his game in a different role. Rose bloomed as a second unit leader of a young Timberwolves team.

Thibodeau brought him in the middle of last season to New York to reprise that role and instantly catapulted the Knicks’ bench into the league’s upper echelon. But his return to New York was initially met with some skepticism as the city has fallen in love with last year’s rookie Immanuel Quickley’s floaters and long bombs.

“People were kind of worried about me coming in stunting Quick’s growth,” Rose said during the NBA media day. “Coming in, I just wanted them to play free and understand that if they get the ball, they don’t have to look for me. I’ll find a way to do my thing while I’m on the floor or try to affect the game in my little way without hurting or stunting someone’s growth.”

So the first thing Rose did was set the record straight with Quickley when he approached him and Obi Toppin on his first team dinner with the team. Rose’s leadership pushed the Knicks rookies to flourish in the second unit, especially Toppin, and raised the team’s ceiling. Quickley’s game did not significantly drop as the naysayers have feared.

Quickley averaged 11.2 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 42 games since the Knicks acquired Rose in February, according to Stat Muse. It was on par with his production in 21 games before the Rose trade: 12.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists.

Per tracking data, Rose was second, tied with Nerlens Noel, behind Toppin in the list of Knicks players who passed the ball frequently to Quickley last season. Rose was also second behind Julius Randle when it came to teammates who assisted the rookie guard with his shots.

While Rose tried to blend in, for the most part, he rose to the occasion in the playoffs when Elfrid Payton was unplayable, when Randle was shackled, and when Quickley’s game shrunk in the big stage.

When the Knicks needed a leader, the former MVP took over. Rose was the Knicks’ best player on the floor in their return to the NBA playoffs.

After Thibodeau handed him the keys to the Knicks backcourt during the playoffs — where he pushed himself and stamped his class — that was pivotal in avoiding an embarrassing sweep to the young but bold Atlanta Hawks, Rose said he’s ready to return to his old role.

Once the Knicks’ weakest link, the point guard rotation instantly becomes one of their strongest suits after Rose re-signed for another three years and former four-time All-Star Kemba Walker arrived in a relatively cheap two-year deal this summer.

Rose is handing the backcourt keys over to a newcomer but a player who’s earned his respect, a proud son of New York who was raised under the bright lights of the city’s playgrounds and the Garden.

Rose ended the debate on the Knicks’ starting point guard right on the first day of training camp. Walker appreciated the gesture.

“For me, I’ve always been a huge D Rose fan regardless if I’m starting or not starting. Whatever, like it, doesn’t even matter. I just want to win. And to have a guy like him — a former MVP, a guy who’s been through it all — to be on the same team with him is really special for me,” Walker said.

“D Rose is one of the biggest reasons why I came here, and I wanted to be around him. I wanted to get a chance to see how he prepares himself every day. You know, just really to the chance to pick his brain as best as I can.”

Walker hopes to learn from Rose how he took care of his body following long bouts with knee issues that almost ended his career prematurely.

Rose and Walker are of the same breed of dynamic point guards, yet they operate from the point of attack in contrasting styles. Miles McBride, the defensive-minded point guard out of West Virginia, is trying to pick up each of their strengths and roll it into one.

“[They are helping me by] Just reading the game. In college, I didn’t run as many pick-and-roll (plays), so I’m trying to learn that. Their pace coming off [the point of attack] is a lot different. Obviously, Derrick is a lot more explosive than Kemba. Kemba likes to use angles a lot more. So just learning kind of two different and trying to mash it into one,” McBride said.

Quickley had an extensive dry run as a point guard in the NBA Summer League, an insurance policy if ever Rose’s 33-year old body and Walker’s 31-year old knees break down during the course of a long season that is returning to its regular 82-game schedule.

Like McBride, Quickley is enthusiastic about continuing learning from Rose and soaks in Walker’s wisdom and experience.

“Two veteran guys. Two people that I can learn from competing with and just really pick their brains. All-Star, MVP, talking about high-caliber [players] that have been at the top of the league, still at the top of the league. So just in terms of play, how to be a pro, I feel like I can learn a lot from those two,” Quickley said during the NBA media day.

Thibodeau’s gift is his ability to create a team of leaders. It’s a staple of Thibodeau wherever he goes.

Thibodeau produced the league’s youngest MVP in Rose, a Defensive Player of the Year in Joakim Noah, a perennial All-Star in Butler, a two-time All-Star in Luol Deng, and several veteran leaders like Taj Gibson. Karl-Anthony Towns became an All-Star despite the reports that he resented Thibodeau’s hard coaching. Even Zach LaVine, who only played one season for Thibodeau in Minnesota, credited him for his development as one of the rising stars in the league. Last season, Randle became a first-time All-Star.

Thibodeau accelerated the Timberwolves timeline and ended a 13-year playoff drought with the leadership of his trusted veterans (Jimmy Butler, Rose, and Gibson).

He recreated that last year with Rose and Gibson lending experience to a Knicks young core that broke an eight-year playoff spell. This year won’t be any different.

Thibodeau had this knack of extending his coaching ropes to the young players through the veterans.

“The two guys have really been Kemba and D-Rose,” Grimes said. “They both helped me for sure just going in drills, telling me what to expect, competing every day in training camp, how it’s going to be during the season, just little things to do recovery-wise. Just having two big-time veterans like that, it’s going to be really good for my development for sure.”

Rose had gone a long way with Thibodeau. Throughout his time with him from Chicago to Minnesota and now New York, Rose grew from a timid dynamic scorer and playmaker to a vocal leader. Going into his first full season with the Knicks in his second go-round, the 33-year old veteran guard wanted to grow more in a leadership role.

“Just being a vet, being vocal, I would say, that’s the key point,” Rose said of his role. “Making sure that I’m steady talking and growing as a leader on the team, being the OG. Being honest with everyone that’s on the team.”

“That’s building a relationship with everybody. Just making sure I have a personal relationship with them, so I can be honest whenever I approach them about certain things on the floor or whatever I see.”

Rose is content and comfortable with his role over a decade since becoming the league’s youngest MVP at 22.

John Calipari relayed a story during their time in Memphis back in February that encapsulated Rose’s selflessness.

”[Derrick] would never take a picture unless his teammates were with him. He didn’t want the stuff by himself,” Calipari told Empire Sports Media when the Knicks re-acquired Rose.

Thibodeau continues to experience that humility to this day.

“For the guys that have been around him, and you guys will get to know him better as we go along here, he’s always been that way,” Thibodeau said last week.

“He was totally selfless and happy for his teammates. His teammates have always loved him. He’s always cared about them, and so he’s always been a team-first guy. He’ll do whatever you ask of him, and that’s what makes him special.”

The Knicks will have two of the most selfless leaders at the backcourt next season. The hope is Thibodeau can lean on Rose and Walker when the lights are at their brightest toward next summer.

Rose has the opportunity this season to join Bill Walton as the only NBA player to transform into a Sixth Man of the Year after becoming the league’s MVP. But that will only come as a bonus, not the goal.

“The team and winning have always been first for [Derrick]. Kemba is that type of guy too. I think his teammates will love playing with him,” Rose said. “Derrick has always been happy for his teammates when they’ve done well as he is for himself. So if someone has a big game, he’s the first guy to congratulate him, and he understands how important that is.”

”A truly great player not only brings the best out of himself, but he also brings the best out of the group, and Derrick has always been that guy.”

Rose reinvented his game to stay afloat in the league that has evolved dramatically since his 2011 MVP run. But at the core of his transformative journey is being true to himself and avoiding the pitfalls of becoming full of himself.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Giants: Daniel Jones thriving off deep passing attack

new york giants, daniel jones

The New York Giants just earned their first win of the 2021 season. In thrilling fashion, the Giants pulled off an overtime upset over the New Orleans Saints to improve their record to 1-3. Quarterback Daniel Jones had a career game that propelled the team to victory.

Daniel Jones threw for a single-game career-high 402 passing yards against the Saints on Sunday. Much of Jones’s yardage was gained on deep passes, 15 or 20+ yards downfield. The Giants opened up their offense, calling more deep passing plays, allowing Danny to deliver some big-time dimes.

Daniel Jones thriving off deep passing attack

Through the first three weeks of the 2021 season, Daniel Jones attempted only 7 passes of 20+ yards downfield (about 2.3 attempts per game). Fans and analysts have criticized Jason Garrett’s offensive scheme for being too “dink-and-dunk” and not taking enough shots downfield. Garrett and Jones heard the criticisms and opened the offense up on Sunday.

In the Giants’ Week Four victory, Daniel Jones threw 5 passes of 20+ yards downfield, far more than he has been throwing on average this season. Jones lit it up on these attempts, going 2/5 with 106 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 irrelevant interception (the hail mary attempt at the end of the first half).

Even while scaling the threshold back, the Giants were throwing the ball further downfield than the rest of the NFL on Sunday. Daniel Jones had 9 completions on throws 10+ yards downfield in Week 4, the most among all quarterbacks (PFF).

On passes 15+ yards downfield, Daniel Jones was surgical. The Giants’ quarterback was 8 of 11 for 229 and 2 touchdowns on throws of 15+ air yards (Jordan Raanan ESPN). The downfield passing attack is letting Daniel Jones breakout.

New York Giants fans might be discouraged by their team’s 1-3 start to the season. Week Four was a step in the right direction, but by no means does it make the Giants a Super Bowl contender. Despite this lowly record, the Giants have reasons for optimism. The biggest reason for optimism: Daniel Jones.

Daniel Jones is developing into a franchise quarterback. Through four weeks of the 2021 season, Jones looks like one of the best signal-callers in the NFL. If the Giants are going to turn things around, it’s going to be because of Daniel Jones.

New York Giants: Advanced statistic shows Kenny Golladay’s improvement across weeks

new york giants, kenny golladay

The New York Giants signed Kenny Golladay this offseason to be their number one receiver. In fact, the Giants were confident enough in getting value from Golladay that they signed him to a $72 million dollar contract despite having other pressing needs such as strengthening the lines. Through the first few games of the season, Golladay didn’t really look like a player that was being paid such a large amount.

However, that started to change against the Saints when the wide receiver recorded his best statline of the season. Golladay caught 6 of 7 passes targeted his way and recorded 116 receiving yards, setting season highs in both statistics.

Furthermore, the advanced stats tell a good story. A lack of separation was a complaint about Golladay’s performance in the opening weeks of the season, but statistics show an improvement in that area.

Some of the shift is likely because of changes to playcalling and placing Golladay in more situations to break away. Golladay was also on the field more against New Orleans, playing 92% of the snaps for the Giants.

Another factor is recovering from injury. Golladay came into the season fighting with a hamstring injury, which could have kept him out for the opener. While he did end up playing, and has played in every game so far, it definitely appears Golladay wasn’t at 100% for the first few games.

With Golladay clearly improving week to week, however, we can expect to see more chemistry build between him and Daniel Jones in the coming games. And if Golladay can continue to play like he did against New Orleans, many in the fanbase will feel better about the money spent to acquire him.

NASCAR: Bubba Wallace earns first Cup Series victory at Talladega

Wallace earned a historic triumph when rain brought an early end to the middle portion of the NASCAR Cup Series’ quarterfinal playoff round.

Bubba Wallace disrupted the NASCAR Cup Series playoff picture in historic fashion on Monday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway’s YellaWood 500.

As the leader when NASCAR called the race due to inclement weather at lap 117 of 188, Wallace earned the first win of his Cup Series career. He becomes the first African-American driver to win an event at NASCAR’s premier level since the late Wendell Scott in 1963. Wallace, four days away from his 28th birthday, also secured the first win for the No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota. The new team is owned and operated by Wallace’s fellow Cup competitor Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan.

Rain disrupted the Cup Series postseason proceedings, pushing a Sunday event to Monday. The precipitation refused to let up, originally causing an 18-minute delay at lap 74. Once the race reached its midway point (lap 94), it became an official event.

After reaching the landmark under threatening skies, drivers knew that the race could be stopped at any point. Wallace took the lead from Kurt Busch at lap 113 and led what became the last five laps of the race. The event never went green again after a multi-car wreck took out William Byron, Matt DiBenedetto, and Ryan Preece. An ill-fated attempt to dry the track was made, but the weather eventually became too much to bear, leading NASCAR to call a lid on the race weekend.

Wallace’s historic triumph completed a trifecta of first-time winners at Talladega over the past three days, as Tate Fogelman and Brandon Brown each earned their respective first wins in the Camping World Truck and Xfinity circuits.

Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, and Christopher Bell rounded out the top five. Points leader Kyle Larson was relegated to a 37th-place finish after his car was damaged in Justin Allgaier’s spin at lap 56, shortly before Chris Buescher took home the first and only stage win.

Bubba’s Big One

One could’ve said that Wallace earning his first Cup Series victory at Talladega was far too cinematic to ever come true. Not only is he a Mobile native but Talladega was the site of last summer’s show of driver solidarity after a rope fashioned into what was originally construed as a noose was found in the garage area. While an FBI investigation determined that there was no hate crime, drivers nonetheless stood alongside Wallace, pushing his car to the front of the starting line during pre-race ceremonies. 

Wallace, however, foresaw a fruitful visit to the superspeedway after promising results both there and Daytona. He led 16 laps during April’s visit to Talladega and wound up in the runner-up spot at Daytona’s regular season finale in August.

“I was sitting there reading over our notes, looking at our previous race here in the spring. I was like, man, our first stage average was pretty damn good,” Wallace recalled. I think we were like fourth on average. After that, we were like 15th to 20th second and in the third stage we ended up I think 18th or so.”

“It made me think about Daytona. We led some laps in Daytona in the summer, even at the 500. We lead some races early on, then kind of survived and get a good finish…For some reason, I had a feeling we were going to win. This was on Friday. I was like, we’re going to go win. (My wife) Amanda said we were going to win. I had a buddy of mine, Mamba, I told him I’m going to go out and win. I got it documented.”

Wallace went head-to-head with Kurt Busch, who will join him at 23XI next season in the No. 45 Toyota, and his team owner trying to work with one of his own teammates. With Hamlin’s semifinal status assured thanks to a win at Las Vegas last weekend, his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was pushing the No. 20 Camry of Christopher Bell to the lead. Bell could’ve likewise earned a ticket to the semifinals with a win, which would’ve been his first since the second event of the season at the Daytona road course in February.

Though Hamlin missed out on a JGR jackpot (Bell sits 27 points out of the final transfer spot), he was proud of what Wallace was able to accomplish, saying that watching the No. 23 team earn the victory was like “watching your kid succeed at whatever they’re doing”. Hamlin was pleased with the way Wallace applied lessons learned at prior visits to Talladega and Daytona.

“He made some big changes from Daytona (in February) and Talladega (in April) to Daytona (in August). I mentioned to him this week,” Hamlin, the eventual seventh-place finisher, said. I’ve just seen a transition with him, his willingness to take in information and apply it. I think this is not going to be the last time you’re going to be hearing about his name on a superspeedway. He’s very gifted at them. He has very, very good instincts.”

Shake Your Bootie

Monday marked not only Wallace’s first win in his Cup Series career but it was marked first such triumph for his crew chief Robert “Bootie” Barker.

Barker had not visited victory lane since 2003 while overseeing the endeavors of another No. 23 car, that of Scott Wimmer’s at Bill Davis Racing. The pair won four races en route to a third-place finish in the Busch (now Xfinity) Series standings the year prior, but Barker, despite developing a strong reputation across the sport, was still seeking his first win in 483 Cup Series starts. Barker originally joined 23XI in a behind-the-scenes role but was asked to return to the pit box three races ago, replacing Mike Wheeler (now 23XI’s Director of Race Competition). Barker’s last work as a crew chief came in 2018 with Riley Herbst’s ARCA team.

Working with Wallace required little reconditioning for Barker, who was familiar with his new driver. Barker was attracted to the sheer number of resources available to him at 23XI…and that included its original driver.

“I enjoy the situation I’m in. I enjoy working with Bubba. I feel like he has a lot of upside (and) a lot of potential,” Barker said of Wallace. “My main focus was to make sure the team, the strength of the team, was brought to bear. In other words, I didn’t do anything to inhibit us, make no mistakes, put us in a position to succeed has been my main focus. I knew Bubba could get it done. I knew we had the stuff and the people to support him to knock it out.”

Though it wasn’t their first win, Wallace and Barker’s collaboration ended one of the more dubious, hidden losing streaks in NASCAR history. Primary sponsor McDonald’s, which first entered the sport in 1973, sent a car to victory lane for the first since Jimmy Spencer’s July 1994 triumph, also at Talladega.

Hendrick Horrors

23XI became the first team to win a Cup Series race in its debut season since Hendrick Motorsports, who has sent four representatives in the Round of 12. If anyone wanted the rains to stop, it was that cursed quartet, whose best finishing Chevrolet was Chase Elliott’s No. 9 in 18th.

Larson wound up four laps down in 37th after his No. 5 Chevrolet clipped Allgaier’s spinning No. 77, ruining his handling for the rest of the afternoon. His position only partly improved thanks to his teammate Alex Bowman dropping to 38th after he was involved in a hard wreck that also took out Tyler Reddick. Byron’s unfortunate involvement in DiBenedetto and Preece’s incident doomed him to 36th.

While Larson’s prior endeavors built him a solid cushion (his lead above the cutoff is down to 22 points but he’s second place behind only Hamlin), Byron (44 points back) and Bowman (52) are in undeniable must-win situations if they plan on keeping their championship dreams alive.

Up Next

The NASCAR Cup Series’ Round of 12 concludes next Sunday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the track’s famous “Roval” (part-oval, part-road course) will host the event that determines the eight-driver semifinal lineup (2 p.m. ET, NBC). Returning to the Roval is music to Elliott’s ears: the defending series champion has won each of the last two visits. Elliott is currently the last driver eligible for the semifinal round, as his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet leads its new rival, 2014 Cup champion Kevin Harvick, by eight points.

For full results, click here

For full standings, click here

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

UFC books Charles Oliveira – Dustin Poirier

dustin poirier, ufc

The fight that’s been rumored for a while is officially signed. We now know that UFC 269 on December 11th will be headlined by the lightweight title fight between the champion Charles Oliveira (31-8, 1 NC) and Dustin Poirier (28-6, 1 NC).

Poirier confirmed that the fight was signed last night on Twitter and the news has been confirmed by MMA Fighting. This matchup has been in the UFC’s plans for over a month, but the fight just became final over the weekend.

Oliveira will be looking to defend his title for the first time when these two meet. He’s riding a very impressive nine-fight winning streak heading into UFC 269. That winning streak culminated by in May when he became the lightweight champion.

The two best lightweights in the UFC was considered to be Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier. With a vacated lightweight title, the UFC wanted these two to fight earlier this year. However, Poirier opted for a fight with Conor McGregor.

The UFC then switched to Oliveira against Michael Chandler. Chandler dominated the opening round almost finishing Oliveira. However, Oliveira came right out in the second round and scored a finish to become the new UFC lightweight champion.

UFC Fighter of the Year?

Dustin Poirier has the chance in December to cap off the greatest year that a combat sports athlete can have. The Diamond got the chance to fight Conor McGregor twice which netted him the biggest paydays of his career.

Poirier walked away with his hand raised both times and saw his star power rise through the roof. Now, he has the chance to do the one thing he hasn’t done which is become the undisputed UFC lightweight champion.

Poirier has tasted UFC gold before when he became the interim lightweight champion. However, he fell short in his attempt to become the undisputed champion. Now, Poirier has his chance to live out his dream and became the undisputed UFC lightweight champion.

After falling short at UFC Vegas 38, what’s next for Johnny Walker?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 38, we saw a showdown of top light heavyweights. Former title challenger Thiago Santos (22-9) returned as he took on Johnny Walker (18-6).

Walker was competing in his first UFC main event on Saturday. Santos was looking to snap his two-fight losing streak and get back on track. He hadn’t looked like the same fighter since he returned from his serious knee injury a year ago.

I really didn’t know what to expect from either man heading into UFC Vegas 38. Walker was always a wild man and Santos has been very tentative as of late. With the difference in activity level, I was leaning towards Walker.

To my surprise, Santos looked really good on Saturday. He did a good job with beating Walker to the punch and he landed some really clean shots throughout the fight. Walker also held his own and did a good job of landing on Santos.

The fact lacked the action I was expecting at UFC Vegas 38. I think that most expected a wild fight that would end in a finish, but that’s not what we got. In the end, Santos walked away with a decision after taking three of the five rounds.

What’s next for Johnny Walker after UFC Vegas 38?

Even in a loss, I think we can take a lot away from Walker’s performance at UFC Vegas 38. To me, this was the first time that he fought with poise and had a mature look to his fighting style. That said, he didn’t land enough or have big enough spots to get the win.

However, I don’t think he’s going to be hurt too much by this loss. With that, what should the UFC do with him next? There are several options out there, but one of the options I like is a fight with Paul Craig (15-4-1).

Craig ranks just behind Walker in the rankings currently and he’s riding a current streak that has him 4-0-1 in his last five. To me, this is a really good matchup to see who’s ready for a more serious contender inside the UFC’s top ten. A good measuring fight for both men in my opinion.

Is MVP – Lima 3 the fight to make after Bellator 267?

This past weekend in the headliner of Bellator 267, we saw the rematch between Michael “Venom” Page (20-1) and Douglas Lima (32-10). This rematch was a couple of years in the making after the two first met back at Bellator 221 for the welterweight title.

That night, Lima became the first man to defeat MVP when he knocked him out in the second round. Outside of that loss, Page has been perfect inside the Bellator cage and really, nobody has given him much trouble.

Last Friday, Lima proved once again that he’s a very difficult matchup for MVP. MVP tried using his slick striking on the outside, but a lot of his attacks were ineffective. Lima did a fantastic job of using counters and he also was able to get the fight to the ground.

Now, both men did have their moments which made the fight very close. However, I was in agreement with the majority that watched the fight in thinking that Lima had won the fight two rounds to one.

However, when the cards were read at Bellator 267, MVP was given a split decision. Of course, many were pointing to the potential home cooking of the judges given the location of the fight. I don’t think it was a robbery, but I don’t think the right man won.

Should Bellator book the trilogy?

After Bellator 267, the only fight for both men that makes sense to me is the trilogy bout. Lima said before the fight that he considered it to be a title eliminator with the winner taking on Yaroslav Amosov (26-0).

If Lima had been given the decision, I think that would be the fight for Bellator to make given the fact that Amosov just dethroned Lima. However, with Page getting the razor close decision win, I don’t think we saw enough clarity for a title shot to be given.

Would Page be worthy of a title shot? In my opinion, yes. If Bellator went in that direction, you certainly couldn’t blame the promotion. However, after these first two fights between Lima and Page, the right thing to do is book the trilogy to settle the score once and for all.

Yankees News, 10/4: Gio Urshela escapes serious injury, loss of DJ LeMahieu stings, who will start in Wild Card?

Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees will take on the Boston Red Sox away on Tuesday evening in the Wild Card. After scratching out a victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in the final moments on Sunday afternoon, the Yankees secured their destiny, which will hopefully result in a more lengthy post-season experience.

Tied up 0-0 in the bottom of the ninth-inning, Aaron Judge hit an infield single off the pitcher’s mound, driving in Tyler Wade to finish off Tampa Bay after a deadlock. The pitching staff performed amazingly, allowing just five hits and no runs, striking out nine batters. The Yankees only had four hits on the evening, three of which came in the ninth to secure a victory.

However, the real work starts now, as the Yankees prepare to take on Boston at Fenway in a do or die game.

On the mound, the Bombers will feature Gerrit Cole, their star pitcher and ace. This season, Cole hosts a 3.23 ERA, recording a 12.06 strikeout rate per nine and 43.1% ground ball rate, the highest since his 2017 season with a Pittsburgh Pirates. However, his last few outings have been a bit tumultuous, giving up 15 runs over his last three performances.

The Yankees need the best version of Cole against Boston, who pitched on Sept. 24 against them at Fenway, giving up three earned runs over 6.0 innings. While it wasn’t a bad outing, we’ve seen better from the Yankees’ star pitcher, who is currently in the race for a Cy Young Award.

Ultimately, it will boil down to the bullpen, who will likely have to finish off the last four innings or so. Boston has a potent offense, sweeping the Washington Nationals this week but losing two against the Baltimore Orioles in the prior series.

One player the Yankees will undoubtedly be missing is DJ LeMahieu, who was placed on the injured list with a sports hernia, ending his season prematurely. In his absence, the Yankees featured Gleyber Torres as their lead-off hitter, recording a hit and walk in the victory over Tampa Bay.

To supplement the loss of DJ, the Yankees started Rougned Odor at 3B, eventually bringing in Andrew Velazquez at shortstop after Gio Urshela was forced to leave the game due to injury.

“I feel really good, just a little sore,” said Urshela, who admitted he initially thought he was seriously hurt. “When I opened my eyes, I saw my glove and the ball was inside. I just tried to show it to Angel.”

New York Yankees walk off to Fenway and the Wild Card, what you need to know

Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees entered yesterday’s last game of the season at Yankee Stadium with the hope of salvaging a game from the Tampa Bay Rays and holding onto a berth in the wild card one game winner takes all game. They did that and in a dramatic walk-off fashion. It was an extraordinary game that, in a way, was a microcosm of the entire season played out in a few hours.

It’s no secret that the Yankees have had a roller-coaster season. They have had periods of great pitching and periods of dismal pitching. They have had prolonged droughts of no hitting at all for what was supposed to be one of the most potent lineups in baseball. Yesterday was no different; the Yankee pitching was superb, but the guys from the Bronx just couldn’t hit the ball. It was so extreme that the Yankees had only two hits in the game in a scoreless contest until the bottom of the ninth inning.

At the bottom of the ninth, Odor led off and singled up the middle. He was pinch-run by Tyler Wade. Gleyber Torres flew out to right with Wade going to second. Anthony Rizzo singled with Wade going to third and Rizzo going to second on the throw. With Aaron Judge coming up, the Rays went to Kittredge. Judge hit a ground ball to second, but the speedy Tyler Wade flashed to home with a sliding Yankees one-run walk-off win. Judge and Wade showed their worth as they have all season long, but this time it was significant as the Yankees secured a wild card berth.

On Tuesday, the Yankees will play their long-time rival Red Sox at Fenway Park. They are playing the wild card game at Fenway because they have identical 92-70 records, eight games behind the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. When there is a tie, the team with the best record off the opposing team during the season gets the home-field advantage. The Yankees have put their rocky season behind them and are just happy to have one more chance to get to the divisional series.

Tuesday, October 5, 8:08 pm EDT – The Wild Card Game!

The Boston Red Sox will send Nathan Eovaldi to the mound to hold down the Yankees. Eovaldi is a former Yankee pitcher (2015-16, 23-11). After the 2016 season, Eovaldi would have Tommy John surgery and would not pitch during the 2017 season, after which he would become a free agent. On November 23, 2016, the Yankees released him.  He signed a two-year contract with the Rays although he didn’t pitch in 2017, he did have ten starts in 2018 with an ERA of 4.26. But on July 25th, he was traded to the Red Sox.

With the Red, Sox Eovaldi has been 20-15 with an ERA of 4.11. This season he is 11-9 with an ERA of 3.75. The Yankees and Eovaldi have met in the postseason once before. In 2018 in game three of the divisional series, he pitched seven innings in the 16-1 Yankee loss, the Yankees’ most lopsided loss in their postseason history. The New York Yankees are hoping for a better result when they meet up Tuesday night.

Eovaldi is coming off a September 29th win over the Baltimore Orioles when he gave up only four hits in a scoreless effort, striking out 7. Still, on the 24th, he lasted only 2.2 innings against the Yankees giving up seven earned runs in the Yankee win. Over the 2021 season, Eovaldi has a 2-4 record against the Yankees.

Eovaldi will face the New York Yankees ace, Gerrit Cole. Cole is the Yankees winningest pitcher with a 16-8 record, an ERA of 3.23, and an incredible 243 strikeouts. Cole came to the Yankees when, in December of 2019, GM Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone, and pitching great Andy Pettitte traveled to Califonia and lured him to the Yankees with a box of wine and $324 million. This after pitching 35-10 for the Houston Astros.

So far, with the Yankees, he is 23-11 with a 3.11 ERA in two seasons. Cole has pitched to the Red Sox four times this season, with the Yankees losing two of those games. Cole is coming off a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays when he gave up five runs in six innings of work.

On paper, the New York Yankees have an excellent chance of winning this game, but there is a concern. Although Cole has won a lot of games, his winning percentage was best earlier in the season. It got to the point that when Cole took the mound, the Yankees were nearly assured of a win. Unfortunately, that is no longer true. Cole had struggled at times during September when he lost as many games as he has won. His innings pitched is down, as is his strikeout rate. In addition, he seemed to have tired as the season progressed.

The Yankees hope he will be at his best tomorrow and go deep into the game. If he doesn’t, the Yankee bullpen is rested and ready. The Yankees have more options in the bullpen than the Red Sox. In a winner-take-all game, the Yankees will pull out all the stops to get into the divisional series with the Tampa Bay Rays.

For those that want to attend the game at Fenway, you had better act quickly, all the good seats are gone, and the standing room only starts at $210. It might be better to watch the 8:08 pm game on television. It will be nationally televised on ESPN. Every Yankee fan will be glued to their TVs in another nail-biter that Yankee fans have come to expect.




Knicks eye big step forward in one important shooting category

knicks, julius randle

The New York Knicks are trying to adapt their game to the modern NBA, which involves shooting high percentage three-pointers. With a focus on defense, head coach Tom Thibodeau is preparing to add the next element to his team, which surprisingly ended up a top-five team in three-point efficiency during the 2020-21 season.

Last year, the Knicks finished at 39.2% in three-point percentage but only attempted 30 per game, a number that fell far below the Brooklyn Nets and LA Clippers, who finished at 36.1% and 34.7%, respectively (the two teams who shot even better).

The goal this upcoming season is to remain consistent but also increase their attempts per game, taking the right shots instead of just heaving up prayers like the Cleveland Cavaliers did, finishing a league-worst 33.6% from beyond the arc.

“We want the right 3s,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought our percentage was a reflection of taking the right ones. Like I don’t want to take random ones where we don’t have floor balance and we can’t get back. So to get the defense to collapse, to attack it before it’s set where we have a numerical advantage, but to take the right ones. So try to get away from the long two.”

The Knicks found pockets of success last year to help them secure the 4th Seed in the Eastern Conference. Specifically, RJ Barrett found a home in the corner, hitting three-point shots, and Julius Randle saw his percentage increase nearly 14% from 27.7% to 41.1%. Almost the entire team saw increases in their efficiency from three-point range, and now they’re adding an even more lethal scorer in Evan Fournier. Last year, the Knicks deployed Reggie Bullock in the shooting guard spot, and now Fournier will take over after averaging 17.1 points and hitting on 41.3% of his shots from deep last season.

If that wasn’t enough, they also acquired Kemba Walker, who blows Elfrid Payton out of the water in every scoring category. When Walker is playing well, he’s capable of hitting around 38% of his three-point attempts, but he is a high clip shooter, shooting 8.2 attempts per game last season.

The team is being built around a 3-and-D mentality, but they still have their bulldozers capable of attacking the paint efficiently in Randle, Barrett, Walker, and Derrick Rose. A nicely curated squad full of different players with different skill sets will contribute instantly toward a season with elevated expectations. Theoretically, after upgrading the point guard and shooting guard spots, they should be in line to take another step forward. Making more three-point attempts per game while hovering around the 39% success rate mark would be tremendous.