MLB News: Atlanta Braves win their ticket to the NLCS

The New York Yankees postseason ended with the loss in the wild card game against the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox have conquered the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS and will face the Houston Astros for the second time in five years in the ALCS after the Astros beat the Chicago White Sox 10-1 earlier today. The Atlanta Braves were up two games to one and could clinch a berth in the NLCS with a win tonight.

As in previous years, the Atlanta Braves have been one of the most successful baseball teams.  The Braves led the NL East by 6.5 games ahead of Joe Girardi’s Philadelphia Phillies. The New York Yankees’ claim to fame is that they won 3 of 4 against the Braves and both games at the Braves home park. Going into nights game

The Braves are playing the Milwaukee Brewers in the divisional series. Game one was Friday when the Brewers squeaked out a one-run lead in the 2-1 contest. Corbin Burns bested the Braves Charlie Morton. Rowdy Tellez’s two-run homer in the seventh inning sealed the deal for the Brewers.

Game two was Saturday, with the Atlanta Braves shutting out the Brewers 3-0. The game was a pitcher’s duel through the first four-inning, but the Braves scored all three game runs in the bottom of the fifth.

In Game three yesterday, the Braves did it again, shutting them out 3-0. Joc Pederson put his name in the history book in the game, only the third player to hit two pinch-hit homers in the same postseason.

Game four: Tonight’s game was at Truist Park In Atlanta. Eric Lauer was on the mound for the Brewers and Charlie Morton for the Braves. The first three innings of the game were scoreless. At the top of the fourth, the Brewers scored two runs, but in the bottom, the Braves answered with two runs of their own, tying up the game at two runs apiece.

In the fourth, the Braves sent Huascar Ynoa to the mound. With one on and one out, Rowdy Tellez homered into the trees in center to give the Brewers the two-run lead, as 51 years Brewer’s announcer Bob Uecker made the call. At the bottom, Braves came back with a run when Albies scored on a Joc Pederson single with the bases loaded. Travis d’Anaud followed with a single driving in another run and tying the game at four. Braves 4 Brewers 4.

The fifth the Brave’s fourth pitcher A.J. Minter took to the mound, shut down the Brewers. The Braves were also scoreless in the sixth. In the sixth, the Brewers were scoreless. The Braves threatened with men on the corners and two outs in the bottom, but the Brewers changed pitchers, and the Braves stranded two keeping the game tied.

In the seventh inning, with MInter still on the mound, Christain Yelich struck out swinging. The Braves brought in a new pitcher Luke Jackson who shut down the Brewers. At the bottom, the game remained tied at 4. At the eighth, with Tyler Matzke on the mound for the Braves, he put down the Brewers 1-2-3. At the bottom, Josh Hader on the mound for Brewers allowed Freddie Freeman a homer over the left-field wall for the Braves lead in the game. Braves 5 Brewers 4.

In the top of the ninth with Will Smith on the mound, he put down the Brewers for the Brave win and trip to the NLCS. The final score was the Braves 5 and the Brewers 4. The Braves will face either the San Francisco Giants or the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS on Saturday, October 16th.

No ‘MotorCade’ in the Garden: Cunningham will sit out Knicks-Pistons game

After two impressive preseason victories, the New York Knicks will head into Wednesday’s game as the overwhelming favorites when they host the Cade Cunningham-less Detroit Pistons.

Cunningham, the No.1 overall pick, has yet to see action for the Pistons in the preseason after suffering a mild ankle injury during the training camp.

Pistons coach Dwayne Casey earlier said there’s no timetable on Cunningham’s return. And it remains that way heading into a preseason matchup against the rampaging Knicks.

“We’re not gonna rush Cade back,” Casey said after Tuesday’s practice. “When he comes back, it doesn’t mean he’s ready to go & throw him out there and see what happens. He’s too valuable for us. Whatever it is, we’ll sit down with his team, the medical team, myself, and Troy (Weaver) & map out a plan.”

The Pistons will be missing seven players, including Killian Hayes, who is out due to concussion protocol. Saddiq Bey (ankle) and Rudy McGruder (hip) are questionable, while Hamidou Diallo is probable.

Without Cunningham, the Pistons have split their first two games.

On the other hand, the Knicks are already in mid-season form. Buoyed up by hot outside shooting, the Knicks have picked up easy wins in their first two preseason assignments with an average 19.5-point margin.

The Knicks are averaging 17.5 made three-pointers, the second-best mark in the preseason behind the Golden State Warriors’ 21.5 per game.

While the other teams in the East are missing their key players due to injuries and COVID-19 protocols, the Knicks are relatively healthy.

In addition to the Pistons’ situation, elsewhere around the league, the Boston Celtics are missing Al Horford and Jaylen Brown, who tested positive for COVID-19. Gordon Hayward of the Charlotte Hornets also entered the health and safety protocols. Philadelphia 76ers have yet to resolve the Ben Simmons saga, although the disgruntled star showed up Monday at Wells Fargo Center before the 76ers-Brooklyn Nets preseason game. The Nets have also announced earlier today that they are keeping Kyrie Irving away from the team until he gets the vaccine in accordance with New York’s mandate.

“That’s the beauty of sports,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said after Tuesday’s practice. “When you think about it, it’s like you go into a season and you don’t know how it’s going to unfold.”

“Things can change very quickly in this league. They can go from being bad to going really well very quickly and they can do the opposite. So, you could be sailing along smoothly, and then all of a sudden, you can get derailed by one injury. And so, that’s part of sports. The idea is to practice, improve and play your best down the stretch. And then you let the chips fall where they may once you get there.”

Only Mitchell Robinson is listed out for the Knicks. But he’s progressing in his recovery timeline, participating in some contact drills at practice after more than six months since undergoing surgery to repair a fractured foot.

Nerlens Noel, who missed the first two preseason games due to soreness on his right knee, has practiced in the last two days. His status for Wednesday’s game is questionable.

“I think it’s more of a hamstring than knee (issue),” Nerlens Noel said after Tuesday’s practice. “But making sure we tread lightly, making sure there are no setbacks. The most important part of the season is [Games] 1 through 82 so I’m going to lock it in.”

Julius Randle will also be back after skipping the Knicks’ road win in Washington over the weekend after his wife Kendra delivered their second child Friday night.

If Noel remains unavailable, Taj Gibson will again start with rookie Jericho Sims backing him up. The backup bigs were outstanding in their first two outings.

Taj Gibson is norming 11. points and 6.0 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. Sims, who is on a two-way contract, has impressed Thibodeau. The rookie big man out of Texas is averaging 9.5 rebounds (seventh in the league during preseason) and 1.5 steals (fourth among centers) to go with 7.5 points.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

MLB News: Houston Astros dominate to meet the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS

The New York Yankees postseason ended with the loss in the wild card game against the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox have conquered the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS and will face the winner of today’s Astros White Sox game. Going into the game the Houston Astros are ahead in the series two games to one. A win today would send the Astros to the ALCS. The Astros won the game 10-1, dominating their rivals from the north.

Here is how the Houston Astros won their chance to face the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

In Game one, Lance McCullers Jr. bested the White Sox Lance Lynn. The Astros got a few small ball runs, and then Michael Brantly got a two-run dinger helping the cause. Yordan Alverez sealed the deal with a solo shot for the Astro’s sixth run in the 6-1 win.

Friday night’s Game two was more of a contest as the White Sox scored four runs to the Astros 9. The White Sox struck first in the first inning, but the Astros got it back in the second. Tim Anderson of the Sox tied a baseball record getting 12 hits in his first five postseason games. However, the tide turned for the Sox when the Astros Yuli Guirrel got a two-run homer. Two-run homers followed that by both Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker.

Game three: With their backs against the wall, the White Sox faced elimination, but they rose to the occasion and won 12-6. Dylan Cease allowed the Astros to score three runs before being taken out of the game. Kopech replaced him, giving up another three runs. But the combo of Tepera, Bummer, Kimbrel, and Hendriks kept the Astros hitless from the fourth inning on. Meanwhile, the White got to work and tacked on six additional runs off Astro’s pitching.

In the bottom of the fourth, Leury Garcia hit a three-run homer to left, giving the White Sox the lead in the game. The eighth inning sealed the deal. Andrew Vaughn doubled driving in a run. Garcia, after already hitting a three-run homer, drove in another run in the eighth. With men on the corners, Tim Anderson would double driving in Vaughn as the game’s final run. Sox 12 Astros 6, forcing a game four.

Game four: Today, the pitchers were Lance McCullers Jr. for the Astros and Carlos Rodon for the White Sox. Jake Meyers left the game in the second inning after crashing into the wall robbing the Sox of a homer. But the Chicago White Sox got on the board first when Gavin Sheets homered off McCullers Jr. in the bottom of the second inning. But that lead would not last long as the Astros came roaring back in the third and fourth.

In the third, Carlos Correa got a two-run double to left field at Guarantee Park. In the fourth, Alex Bregman would get his two-run double into the centerfield gap scoring Martin Maldonado and Jose Altuve; Bregman scored, extending the Astro lead to 5-1. With Tepera, the fourth Sox pitcher on the mound, he held down the Astros. The fifth inning was scoreless for both teams.

The Astros, in the sixth inning, put a McCormick on second, ending Tepera’s day. Against new Sox pitcher Aaron Bummer, Brantley doubled, scoring McCormick driving in another Astros run. In the bottom, the White Sox were scoreless. Astros 6 White Sox 1.

The seventh with Bummer still in for the Sox silenced the Astros. The White Sox didn’t do any better. In the eighth, Altuve scared the Sox with a double on a Sox throwing error to first. He then stole third. Brantley singled, scoring Altuve for another Astros run. Brantley stole second. Alverez walked, but Correa ground out, but the Astros tacked on another run. The eight ended the Astros 7 White Sox 1.

In the ninth, the Houston Astros tacked on another three runs including a Jose Altuve homer that the White Sox could not recover from. The final score was the Astros 10 and the White Sox 1. The Astros won their ticket to the ALCS for the fifth time in the last five years.

AL Championship series:

The Boston Red Sox will face the Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series on Friday, October 15th.


Mets: Examining Aaron Loup’s historically great season

Simeon Woods-Richardson

The New York Mets signed left-handed reliever Aaron Loup late in the offseason, to a one-year, $3 million pact. Normally these kinds of deals are for veteran relievers that will complete the roster, which is exactly what Loup represented: a weapon that would help the team retire tough lefties without being a liability against righties, but by no means a closer or high-powered bullpen ace.

Fast forward to the end of the regular season, and we can now say that Loup was as effective as most of the league’s best closers, if not more. He finished with a brilliant 0.95 ERA in 56.2 frames, in which he also struck out 26.1 percent of the hitters he faced while walking just 7.3 percent.

According to the New York Daily News, only 13 pitches have thrown at least 50 innings in a season with an ERA lower than 1.00. Zack Britton, Dennis Eckersley, Jonathan Papelbon, Wade Davis, Fernando Rodney, and Blake Treinen are some of the names. The Mets’ Loup is now a member of the list.

Loup’s 2.45 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) was also an excellent figure, and proof that his year was not a fluke.

A premier arm in the Mets’ bullpen

In a Mets’ bullpen with Seth Lugo, Trevor May, Dellin Betances, Robert Gsellman, Miguel Castro, Drew Smith, Jeurys Familia, and others, Loup had the second-highest WAR (Fangraphs’ version) with 1.6. Only Edwin Diaz, the team closer, had more, and Loup’s was the fourth-highest in the club.

After the season he just had, it’s safe to say that the 33-year-old southpaw earned himself quite a payday. Relievers, more than ever, are wanted all around the league, especially those capable of retiring both lefties and righties, striking out people, and putting the ball on the ground (he did it 50.4 percent of the time).

Will the Mets be interested in retaining his services? They should, and depending on the price tag, they will. The pitcher himself is interested in returning.

“I’d love to come back,” Loup stated recently. “I’ve had a blast playing here. I’ve had fun with the guys all year long and I’ve had a great year, so I see no reason not to.”

Will the Mets’ re-sign him for 2022?

GM Sean Marks explains how Nets arrive at the decision on Kyrie Irving’s situation

Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving

The Brooklyn Nets have had enough of the Kyrie Irving questions.

Less than 24 hours after a tough preseason loss to their Eastern Conference rival Philadelphia 76ers that were missing seven players, including Ben Simmons, the Nets officially put to rest Irving’s status with the team.

“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement. “Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently, the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability.”

“It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice. Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of the organization must pull in the same direction. We are excited for the start of the season and look forward to a successful campaign that will make the borough of Brooklyn proud.”

A strongly-worded statement sent a clear message to Irving: get vaccinated or stay away from the team.

Under the current mandate in New York, Irving, if he remains unvaccinated, would be ineligible to play for Brooklyn in their 41 homes games and two road games against the New York Knicks. The Nets don’t want a part-time player.

While Marks said it was a collaborative process involving the players and Irving and his people, he and team governor Joe Tsai ultimately made the tough decision.

“It’s what’s best for the organization at this point in time,” Marks said. “We had everything on the board. We look at everything. When you make a decision like this, it’s one that you don’t want to do hastily. Again involve all the parties. Think about all the variety of outcomes. I think we all know what are our objectives this year and how a decision like this may be able to affect that.”

The Nets made the tough decision of losing a player of Irving’s caliber in a season where they are the overwhelming favorites. Irving’s absence or even his presence on away games makes their title hopes combustible.

The mercurial guard has left the Nets with no choice but to put their foot down.

“Kyrie made it clear that he has a choice in this matter. And it’s ultimately going to be up to him where he [would go from here], what decides. We respect the fact that he has a choice and he can make his own right to choose. And again, what’s best for the organization is the path that we’re taking.”

“Without a doubt, losing a player of Kyrie’s caliber hurts from a talent perspective. No question. I’m not going to deny that but at the end of the day, our focus — our coaches’ focus, our organization’s focus — needs to be on those players that are going to be involved here and participating fully.”

Marks clarified that Irving would only lose out paychecks on their home games. Irving stands to lose roughly $380,000 per game that could reach up to $17 million.

When asked how Irving received the decision, Marks doesn’t want to second guess his star player’s feelings right now. He said he would let Irving and his teammates address the decision in their own words and at the right time.

The Nets general manager hopes that the decision will somehow put the issue to rest, and they move on with the season.

“We have goals and aspirations to go and achieve out there. I don’t think we want to be focused entirely on an individual that is not with the team right now,” Marks said.

Will it be the case? The media won’t stop asking questions about Irving’s whereabouts and updates.

Will Irving finally relent and get the vaccine? Will the Nets trade their superstar guard? These would be the subsequent speculations that will bug the team.

Marks hopes it would not reach a point of no return where he would have to pull the trigger on a trade involving Irving.

“This is pretty raw, pretty fresh. We’ve got to let the dust settle. The hope is we have Kyrie back,” said Marks but with a caveat. “We’ll welcome him back in open arms under a different set of circumstances. So we need to wait and see how that transpires.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Former Yankees’ star defends Aaron Boone and takes shots at analytics

New York Yankees, Alex Rodriguez

In the past few hours, rumors about the New York Yankees keeping manager Aaron Boone and offering him a new contract are starting to grow. He still has believers inside the organization and one of them, apparently, is Hal Steinbrenner.

A former Yankees’ star, Alex Rodriguez, seems to believe in him, too. The 2009 postseason hero and longtime member of the Bombers offered his thoughts about the situation on The Herd, with Colin Cowherd, and defended the current skipper.

“I would give him a three-year extension. Aaron Boone did a fantastic job. If anyone thinks Aaron Boone has anything to do with the Yankees’ failures, they’re wrong. I met with the front office, and they said, ‘We had a Wild Card Game. We had 30 people around the table making the lineup.’ What do you need 30 people, analytics people? What are you, a hedge fund? You making a $2 billion bet? You’re making a lineup. You think Joe Torre had 30 people? I’m not saying it was the Yankees. But it was a team like the Yankees. It’s too much thinking. You take half the IQ, you’re going to throw it in the ocean,” he stated (link to NJ Advance Media article here).

The former Yankees’ slugger is a known traditionalist

A-Rod, who bid to own the New York Mets before the team was awarded to Steve Cohen, has become famous for his anti-analytics takes.

“Go back to Manny Ramirez. Just plays baseball. See ball, hit ball. You gotta be able to compete. You gotta be athletic. You gotta play defense. It’s not softball. You don’t put a right fielder in left field and a shortstop at second. (Derek) Jeter was shortstop. I played third. (Robinson) Cano. (Mark) Teixeira. Everybody knew where they were every place. You go to work every day, you’re here. Imagine Monday, you’re here. Joe, you’re here on Tuesday. Wednesday you’re here. That’s what baseball is. You know your spot.”

Boone’s contract with the Yankees is up after the World Series, and a sizable portion of the fans want him out. He does have supporters, though.

He has a very good regular season record, but ever since he took over in 2018, he has failed to advance to the World Series.

Is A-Rod right about Boone and analytics?

Three things the New York Jets did right in their pre-bye slate

John Franklin-Myers, jets

The 2021 New York Jets’ early victories go beyond the single tally they’ve earned on the scoreboard so far.

Fresh off a visit to London that was anything but a vacation, the 2021 New York Jets embark on a new holiday: their bye week.

The Jets (1-4) are one of four teams that will take Week 6 off, setting off the NFL’s bye week slates and countless roster adjustments in fantasy football. New York returns to action on Oct. 24 against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Traditional pessimism has surrounded the one-win Jets: rookie quarterback Zach Wilson has thrown a league-worst nine interceptions, the usage…or lack thereof…of young guns Denzel Mims and Elijah Moore has stirred debate, and the playoffs already seem to be a pipe dream. At one win, the Jets have little hope in catching the mighty Buffalo Bills at the top of the AFC East and are two games behind the wild card logjam currently headlined by Cincinnati, Las Vegas, and Denver.

ESM, however, has sifted through the gridiron malarkey to find three silver linings over the first five games…

Coupling the Q Train

It didn’t take long for Quincy Williams to erase the crude, mere moniker of “Quinnen’s brother”.

The third-year linebacker was one of the Jets’ final preseason additions, coming aboard after he was among Jacksonville’s last camp cuts. He was almost immediately thrust into a starting role after fellow newcomer Jarrad Davis was injured during a postseason contest.

Despite missing opening weekend, Quincy currently ranks second on the team in tackles (31) behind only the reawakened C.J. Mosley. He has gone semi-viral for some punishing hits, three of which have forced fumbles (tied for the league lead with Terrance Mitchell of Houston).

Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich believes that Quincy Williams needs a little bit of professional grooming and nurturing before he becomes an NFL mainstay. Having said that, Ulbrich is happy that he’s doing so in New York.

“I really look at him as a guy who could be one of the top ‘backers in the NFL, if he wants to be and he’s committed to it and he stays healthy,” Ulbrich said of the elder Williams after he tallied 12 tackles (two for a loss with one sack) against Tennessee, per notes from the Jets. “Is he perfect? Not close. He has so much more room to grow. But we’re just excited by what he can become.”

Ulbrich believes that reuniting Williams with his brother, recreating a pairing seen at Wenonah High Schoo in Birmingham, could lead to a sense of accountability that helps him reach unprecedented levels. The pair united for 3.5 takedowns of Ryan Tannehill in the aforementioned win over the Titans, becoming the first fraternal duo to record sacks in the same NFL game.

“He has speed, he has aggressiveness, he’s got explosiveness that’s different and unique and really uncommon in a lot of ways,” Ulbrich continued. “So now it’s just harnessing it within the scheme and fine-tuning it and cleaning up the details and tightening up his technique.”

Locking up JFT to the NYJ

A common criticism of the Joe Douglas era has been the general manager’s relative failure to lock up the Jets’ defensive assets long-term: further reminiscence on Jamal Adams’ final days in green is unnecessary but the Jets may have a Marcus Maye situation to deal with sooner rather than later.

But Douglas has appeared to have found another diamond in the camp-cut rough in John Franklin-Myers, who’s working through his third year in green after the Los Angeles Rams bid him farewell in the summer of 2019.

Franklin-Myers hinted at bigger contributions when he took on a larger role in 2020 after the Jets purged some of their defensive veterans after an in-season fire sale. He has since picked up the pass-rushing slack after touted acquisition Carl Lawson was lost for the season. Perhaps most famous for earning a sack of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, Franklin-Myers has been a consistent backfield invader and currently ranks as the Jets’ best-graded player on Pro Football Focus. These efforts and more have earned the Stephen F. Austin alum a contract extension that will keep him in green through 2025 and comes with over $30 million guaranteed.

Franklin-Myers’ windfall further establishes a new defensive outline for the Jets’ defense, one that is now poised to win through the time-honored green tradition of pressuring the quarterback. Lawson’s season-long medical absence has now done nothing to derail that plan.

“JFM is a stud,” head coach Robert Saleh said shortly before the Jets’ British excursion, per notes from the team. “We felt he could be a really great fit for our system and what we ask out of our defensive line and he has done nothing but work, work, work. He’s been a tremendous leader and then you see his play on the football field. He’s absolutely dominant at times.”

Debate can be staged over the talent from abroad that Douglas has called upon. Veteran members of the renovated offensive line, for example, have yet to make a true difference. But Douglas has assembled a strong group of young leaders in perusing other team’s summer bargain bins: Quincy Williams and Franklin-Myers have united with Shaq Lawson to produce respectable results on defense while former Detroit draft pick Ty Johnson has been a consistent contributor on offense over the last two seasons.

Welcoming the Trojan Horse

It’s still not fair to fully assess the Adams trade; Call it a cop-out, but grading a deal whose pieces have still not been fully revealed is foolhardy.

Having said that, it’s certainly acceptable to say the needle of the trade is starting to inch toward the Jets: Adams has become the face of the 2-3 Seahawks’ defensive woes, troubles that are allowing an NFL-worst 451 yards per game. His coverage has weakened and he has yet to tally a sack after setting the NFL record for defensive backs last season. Such struggles currently position Seattle’s 2022 first-round pick (the last asset due to be sent to the Jets) in the 12th position, and that’s before they lost franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to a lengthy injury, which passes the offensive reins to former Jets savior Geno Smith.

The yields of the Adams trade could well become trivia answers amongst Jets fans for years to come. While one (cornerback Bradley McDougald) is already gone, New York has seemed to have made the most out of the first of two imported opening-round draft picks, having traded the original Seattle selection to Minnesota in a ride up the draft board. New York then used the 14th overall pick to take interior blocker Alijah Vera-Tucker out of USC.

Vera-Tucker missed most of the summer preparation with an injury but hasn’t lost a step in the early going. NFL Network/Fox Sports analyst Brian Baldinger offered a particularly glowing review of Vera-Tucker’s showing against Atlanta, claiming he “dances like Fred Astaire”. PFF graded Vera-Tucker’s British business trip as the best performance from a Sunday offensive lineman. This all becomes before Vera-Tucker has been able to spend extensive time alongside Mekhi Becton, who has been out since kickoff weekend.

The Jets’ offensive endeavors in the pre-bye slate have left much to be desired. But Douglas’ long-gestating plan to build the wall in front of the fledgling New York backfield is slowly paying off.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Knicks bring back controversial guard Myles Powell after waiving Tyler Hall

Former Seton Hall star Myles Powell is back with the New York Knicks as the 20th man on the roster.

The team announced Powell’s signing Tuesday after waiving Tyler Hall. Though terms of the deal were not disclosed, Powell will likely compete for the remaining two-way spot in the roster. Rookie Jericho Sims, the 58th overall pick, is currently slotted in the Knicks’ first two-way slot.

After going undrafted last year, Powell signed a training camp deal with the Knicks but did not make the active lineup. He was relegated to the Knicks’ G League affiliate club in Westchester.

In the G League bubble last season, the 6-foot-2 Powell averaged 17.8 points, 3.8 assists, and 3.4 rebounds in 13 games, including three starts. His impressive G League play earned him a two-way contract with the eventual NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks, but he never saw action.

The Trenton, NJ native was named the 2019-20 Big East Player of the Year and finished his impressive college run as Seton Hall’s third all-time leading scorer. However, the undersized star shooting guard couldn’t parlay his sterling college resume into an NBA career.

In July, he sued his Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard and Tony Testa, a staff member, for misdiagnosing a knee injury during his senior year. He blamed the incident for his unsuccessful NBA Draft, causing severe physical and financial consequences damage.

The suit alleged NBA teams discovered that the ankle injury which bothered Powell in his last year with Seton Hall was actually a lateral meniscus tear to his right knee. Powell continued to play well with the injury but with the help of pain killer medication injected by Testa.

The school responded to the lawsuit by filing a motion to dismiss it in August.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Giants: Kadarius Toney named PFF’s rookie of the week

new york giants, kadarius toney

Despite his game ending with an ejection, New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney is getting new recognition from around the league after his week 5 performance. Toney had a breakout game and exploded for 189 yards on 10 receptions, which was enough to get him noticed by Pro Football Focus and named to their team of the week. Not only that, but Toney was also named their rookie of the week for week 5.

Rookie of the Week: WR Kadarius Toney, New York Giants

Toney was a featured piece of the Giants offense against the Dallas Cowboys, generating 13 targets on 24 routes. The former Florida Gator took advantage of the opportunity by producing a 93.3 receiving grade and averaging 7.88 yards per route run — both of which are top-five single-game marks among rookie wide receivers since 2010.

Toney’s combination of balance, agility and explosiveness makes him almost impossible to tackle. The first-year pass-catcher shed three tackles on 10 catches and averaged 8.9 yards after the catch per reception.

It’s the second straight game where Toney has elevated his performance after a quiet start to the season. Much of that has to do with receiving a higher usage in the offense. Toney only played in 8% of offensive snaps in week 1 and 28% in week 2, leading to the impression that he hadn’t broken into the rotation. While Toney played more in week 3, he was only able to manage getting 3 targets.

But in the last two weeks, Toney was targeted 9 and 13 times respectively. His usage is likely to remain high, considering the other injuries the Giants have at the wide receiver position. The team has already been missing Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton since week 4, and now Kenny Golladay is included in the mix of injured receivers.

It’s not a good situation for the Giants as a whole. But with that being said, we may be witnessing the rise of a new star and that situation only accelerates the timeline for the Giants beginning to rely on Toney.

After falling short at UFC Vegas 39, what’s next for Mackenzie Dern?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 39, we saw a pivotal matchup in the strawweight division. Top contenders battled it out as Mackenzie Dern (11-2) took on Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2).

Heading into the matchup, the path to victory seemed relatively clear for both ladies. For Dern, she was going to need to get the fight to the ground. She arguably has the best jiu-jitsu out of any female fighter in the UFC.

She has improved striking, but Rodriguez is so much more seasoned on the feet. Rodriguez needed to keep the fight standing where she was going to have a massive advantage, especially from range.

One of the things that concerned me about Dern going into the fight was her takedowns. Despite all of her submission wins, Dern is not effective at all with her takedowns. Coming into UFC Vegas 39, she was only succeeding at a 10% clip.

While the fight did touch the mat a few times on Saturday, Dern’s inability to take the fight down ended up being her downfall. Rodriguez controlled most of the fight on the feet and survived the grappling exchanges to win a decision.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 39?

For Dern, this fight is a reset. The surging contender had won four fights in a row and she was looking to become the star that the UFC believes she can be. As mentioned, she’s becoming more well-rounded, but she’s still a little too one-dimensional.

With the loss, Dern falls to 6-2 in eight fights in the UFC. She’s still one of the better strawweights in the world, but she has to continue to improve her striking and she definitely needs to improve her offensive wrestling.

If Dern can become a fighter who’s dangerous with takedowns, she can easily become a world champion. Now that her winning streak is snapped, who should be next for Mackenzie Dern?

Well, one fighter I like for Dern is a little down the rankings in Tecia Torres (13-5). Torres is just inside the top ten and she’s won three fights in a row. She’s been begging the UFC for a top contender and I think Dern fits the bill.

She showed great striking in her last fight, but she’s been known throughout her career for her wrestling. It would be an interesting stylistic matchup and it would be fun to see how both ladies would approach it. For Dern, it would be the slight step back she needs while still taking on a tough customer.