Knicks 92, Pacers 84: Elite defense and a splash of Immanuel Quickley snap losing streak

immanuel quickley, knicks

The New York Knicks were full of energy and excitement against the Pacers on Monday night following the weekend off after two consecutive losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets last week.

New York has been inconsistent with their play, especially the starters, who were relatively quiet once again against Indiana in the win (92-84). The second team proved to be resilient, compensating for lack of production from some of the starters, as Derrick Rose contributed 14 points and Immanuel Quickley 16.

Starting point guard Kemba Walker contributed 16 points, shooting 8-of-11 from the field. RJ Barrett splashed a three-pointer with just seconds left on the clock to give his team a considerable advantage, virtually putting the game to bed. Julius Randle only posted 11 points but picked up 11 rebounds and five assists in the win. Mitchell Robinson added three blocks over 16 minutes, with Taj Gibson playing the majority of the game, earning 29 minutes.

The Knicks played their brand of defense on Monday:

Elite defense helped the Knicks in this contest, holding the Pacers to just 37.2% from the field and a measly 21.6% from three-point land. Big man Myles Turner scored just three points, hitting one shot the entire game.

In addition, the Knicks outrebounded Indiana 46–44 and also picked up 22 assists compared to 16. The catalyst in this win was Quickley, who played 23 minutes, more than Kemba Walker and just slightly less than Evan Fournier at 24. Quickley hit all four of his three-point attempts and connected on five total field goals, adding five rebounds, two of which were offensive.

It is fantastic to see the second-year guard getting momentum as the season progresses, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Tom Thibodeau continues to use him in a more prominent role given his consistency in the last few games. A special shoutout to Obi Toppin, who only scored three points but was active on the defensive side and picked up four rebounds. His energy was contagious.

New York Giants: “Several” NFL coaches shared Joe Judge’s headset woes

New York Giants, Joe Judge

Following their loss to the Chiefs, the New York Giants ended up in the middle of a weird little controversy. The subject was the team’s headsets, which according to Joe Judge, didn’t do their job well enough.

The league has said that there isn’t an issue with the equipment and that the problems were due to user error, but it looks like this story might be more than just a head coach mistakenly blaming the tech for his own mistakes.

It’s not an isolated issue, according to a report from CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora. Several sources from around the league have given their own stories on the performance of the headsets, and it’s not quite a glowing review.

Headset problems are “not just a Joe Judge thing”

Several coaching sources said the new game day belt packs have antennas that attach to frequencies or wireless locations that seem to short out or fail to stay connected, which disrupts their ability to communicate with their staff. “This is pretty widespread,” said one NFL source who has discussed the matter with several head coaches. “It’s not just a Joe Judge thing.” Another coaching source said: “The new belt packs are an issue.”

The “belt pack” here refers to part of the current communications equipment used by the league. The league has made changes to this equipment recently and has admitted to having to troubleshoot problems. But until now, the problem was mainly associated with Joe Judge and some chose to dismiss it as excuses from a coach who just lost a game.

Now that there’s more of a spotlight on this issue, though, it’s very possible that the league will put more attention into fixing it. It’s a bad look for the league, after all, when teams are at a disadvantage for a sideline issue rather than because of their on-the-field play.

UFC booking headliner between Thiago Santos and Magomed Ankalaev

The UFC is close to finalizing a big time headliner in their light heavyweight division for the first part of 2021. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was the first to report this afternoon that the UFC was closing in on booking a headliner between former title challenger Thiago Santos (22-9) and Magomed Ankalaev (16-1).

The matchup is expected to headline a UFC Fight Night on March 12th. Santos will be headlining his second consecutive card and he will be looking to pick up his second consecutive win. The last time we saw Santos was last month when he headlined against Johnny Walker.

Santos was able to win a decision that night. The win snapped a three fight losing streak that dated back to his UFC title shot against Jon Jones. During that loss to Jones, Santos completely tore his knee apart.

Since returning from that knee injury, Santos hasn’t looked like the same fighter. However, he looked better in this last performance against Walker. Now, he gets the tough task of taking on the surging Magomed Ankalaev.

UFC’s Ankalaev the real deal?

When Magomed Ankalaev makes the walk on March 19th, he’s going to be searching for his ninth consecutive win in the light heavyweight division. His winning streak started after an odd fight with Paul Craig where he lost in the final seconds of the fight by submission.

Outside of that, Ankalaev has been flawless inside the octagon. in his last performance, he took on former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 267. Ankalaev completely outclassed Oezdemir on his way to winning a decision.

The UFC has been gradually brining Ankalaev along as they see a ton of potential in the Russian light heavyweight. Now, he’s going to get the biggest test of his career when he takes on the tough Thiago Santos.

If Ankalaev can dominate Santos the way he’s dominated others, he’s going to shoot straight to the top of the division. This win could put Ankalaev squarely in the title picture at 205.

New York Giants: Saquon Barkley seems to be close to a return

New York Giants, Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants have been without their star running back Saquon Barkley since Week Five. In the first quarter of the Giants’ fifth game of the season, Barkley suffered an ankle sprain that has kept him sidelined for five weeks. The Giants are on a bye this week preparing for a Monday night matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Seemingly, Saquon Barkley has a good chance to return for this game.

Saquon Barkley’s career has been derailed by injuries through three seasons. After tearing his ACL in 2020, Saquon bounced back and started as the Giants’ running back in Week One of this season. Again, though, the Giants running back suffered an injury that has kept him sidelined for over a month. Saquon’s stay on the side might soon come to an end, though.

According to reporters, Saquon Barkley looks like he is close to making a return. Barkley looked “explosive and comfortable” doing drills in practice today.

Saquon Barkley’s participation in practice was highlighted by other Giants players’ lack of participation. Left tackle Andrew Thomas worked on the side with trainers today while Saquon practiced and impressed the coaches and media.

Saquon Barkley’s impact upon return

It seems like, barring any setbacks, Saquon Barkley will return to the Giants’ starting lineup on Monday night. The Giants’ 2018 first-round pick is known to be one of the most explosive playmakers in the NFL when healthy. Getting Barkley back on the field would provide a huge boost to the Giants’ middling offense.

Devontae Booker has been playing well in place of Saquon Barkley. Last week, the Giants’ backup totaled 99 rushing yards in the team’s upset victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.

Considering Saquon is returning from a significant injury, in addition to the fact that Devontae Booker has been running the ball well, the Giants could roll into Monday night with a split backfield. Saquon is electric with the ball in his hands, but Booker has done a good job churning out ugly yards on the ground. The two could form a nice fire and ice duo in the backfield to finish the season for New York.

Report: Yankees settle on former Mets skipper as new third base coach

yankees, New York Mets, Luis Rojas

After firing Phil Nevins after the conclusion of the 2021 season, the New York Yankees began the search for a new third-base coach. Extending Skipper Aaron Boone was a priority, and obviously, he was heavily involved in selecting his new assistants.

The Yankees announced on Monday afternoon they had settled on former Mets skipper Luis Rojas as their next third base coach.

HOT NEWS:

-Mock trade for star 1B Matt Olson

-Yankees speak with Freddie Freeman’s reps

Per the Yankees PR team:

Rojas, 40, joins the Yankees’ Major League staff after spending the last 16 years with the New York Mets organization (2006-21), including the last two seasons as the club’s manager (2020-21). During that span, the Mets went 103-119 (.464) in 222 games.

Rojas was the sixth Dominican-born manager in Major League history. His father, Felipe Alou, was the first when he managed the Montreal Expos (1992-2001) and San Francisco Giants (2003-06) after his 17-season Major League career. Luis and Felipe were the sixth father-son duo to both serve as Major League managers, joining Buddy and David Bell, Aaron and Bob Boone, Connie and Earle Mack, George and Dick Sisler, and Bob and Joel Skinner. His brother, Moises Alou, also played 17 seasons in the Majors with seven different teams.

Rojas was integral in the Mets’ player development process and club-house culture, spending 16 years with the organization. Unfortunately, his time as a manager was cut short due to poor performances in the last two seasons. Injuries plagued the Mets’ pitching rotation last season, and Rojas was unfortunately unable to supplement losses with the talent on hand.

However, Rojas is a baseball-first coach and will bring plenty of essential experience with him to the Bronx.

What do you think of the new hire? Comment here!

New York Rangers game in Ottawa on Saturday has been postponed (Report)

The COVID-19 outbreak that has attacked the Ottawa Senators will result in the New York Rangers game on Saturday afternoon be postponed.

The New York Rangers will not have to play back-to back games this weekend since it is being reported that their game in Ottawa will be postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak that has hit the Senators team.

Currently there are 10 players and associate coach Jack Capuano in COVID-19 protocol.  The NHL is expected to announce the they will also postponed games against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night in Newark and  their game against Nashville on Thursday.

Cancelled Practice added to Postponements

The Senators were forced to cancel their fourth consecutive practice after the team had more positive results  Monday.

Former New York Rangers and current Senator Michael Del Zotto spoke of the uncertainty and worry that has been a factor every day since the outbreak hit the club last week.

“Some guys have symptoms and some don’t so I’m not going to get into details,” Del Zotto said Sunday night. “But when you’re coming to the rink you’re almost crossing your fingers every single day hoping you get through with a negative. It’s been unfortunate and a good learning experience for everyone.”

“We”re just trying to keep every one safe, not just the players, but also our families. It’s also a great opportunity for guys to learn the mental side of the game and to be prepared for what’s out of your control. We’re trying to learn from the on-ice stuff but the off-ice stuff as well.”  – Bruce Garrioch, Ottawasun.com.

The Senator.s have now had seven straight days where they’ve had positive test results for COVID-19. Winger Drake Batherson was the latest player added to COVID-19 protocol  joining Austin Watson, Nick Golden, Josh Brown, Connor Brown, Dylan Gambrell, Matt Murray, Nikita Zaitsev, Victor Mete and Alex Formenton along with associate coach Jack Capuano .

At the moment there has been no make up date for the Rangers postponed game Saturday.  The Senators hope to be able to go on a four game road trip that begins in Colorado on Monday night.

What to make of the UFC’s strawweight title picture

Just over a week ago at UFC 268, Rose Namajunas (11-4) defended her strawweight title against the former champion Zhang Weili (21-3). The two had met earlier this year with Namajunas scoring a first round knockout.

Given the way the first fight ended, the UFC decided to run things back immediately given how dominant Weili had been. The second fight was what fans expected from the first fight. The fight was razor close.

Weili did a great job through the first half of the fight. If the fight was a three round fight, she would’ve won going away. However, Namajunas came on strong in the championship rounds and won a split decision.

Now, the UFC is left with figuring out who is next for Namajunas. While the answer seems incredibly obvious to most of us, the promotion is hedging against the obvious choice.

Who will get the next UFC title shot?

The obvious choice would be having Rose Namajunas fight Carla Esparza (18-6) next. Esparza has won five fights in a row and she’s the next in line according to the UFC rankings. She also has history with Namajunas.

Thug Rose and Esparza squared off for the inaugural UFC strawweight title with Esparza getting the win. All of these things paint the obvious picture that Esparza should be next. However, Dana White seems hesitant to make this fight.

The UFC President said after UFC 268 that there are other options outside of Esparza and he said that it wasn’t a good idea to wait for a title shot. Esparza was seemingly next in line after Namajunas knocked out Weili, but the promotion booked the rematch instead.

Other options?

If the UFC decides to look past Esparza again, there are a couple of options on the table. Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2) would be a name to watch. However, this would infuriate the masses because Esparza has defeated her during her winning streak.

An option that I think the UFC is leaning towards is the trilogy with Jessica Andrade (22-9). Andrade knocked Namajunas out with a slam to take the strawweight title from her in their first fight. In their second fight, Namajunas edged Andrade by split decision.

Andrade moved up to flyweight after the loss to Namajunas. She’s gone 2-1 with two first round stoppages and a lopsided defeat against Valentina Shevchenko. After her last fight, she said that she wanted to move back down to strawweight to fight the winner of Namajunas and Weili.

Unfortunately for Carla Esparza, I think the UFC is leaning towards going with Jessica Andrade. However, it’s still a fluid situation and something to watch over the next month or so.

Report: Yankees meet with elite free agent first-baseman, could they offer a monster deal?

freddie freeman, yankees

The New York Yankees are doing their due diligence with all the top lefty free agent and trade candidates at first base. While there’s still potential general manager Brian Cashman will retain Anthony Rizzo on an extension, the Yankees have been thoroughly engaged in potential trade talks with the Oakland Athletics for Matt Olson.

However, a surprise target has entered the fold, Atlanta Braves star infielder Freddie Freeman. While the Braves are keen on retaining him after winning the World Series, Freeman is seeking a deal that could range from 5 to 6 years and $135-200M.

If Freeman seeking a long-term deal at that price tag, which he is, the Braves may be forced to let him walk.

HOT NEWS: Mock trade for star 1B Matt Olson

The Yankees could target Freeman, but they’d have to settle elsewhere:

Freeman is coming off an elite season with Atlanta, hitting .300 with 31 homers and 83 RBIs. He also contributed 120 runs and a 14.1% strikeout rate. Freeman is the gold standard at first base, contributing solid defense and an elite bat.

At Yankee Stadium, he’s a candidate to hit 40 home runs with a short right porch. He contributed 122 singles, 25 doubles, and two triples this past season, recording a 45.7% hard-hit rate. At 32-years-old, Freeman is hitting his stride and will likely continue raking at 6’5″ and 220 pounds.

Considering Freeman as a free agent, the Yankees wouldn’t have to deal any players to Atlanta in exchange. There’s no question he will earn a monster contract paying him upward of $30 million per season, but he is worth every penny when looking at his reliability in the health department and production in both the regular and postseason. The problem is, the Bombers are already on the hook for multiple big-money players and a mega-deal for Aaron Judge waiting in the wings. They likely can’t afford to sign a premium first baseman and top shortstop.

Do you think the Yankees should go after Freddie Freeman? Why or why not? Comment here!

For Teven Jenkins, 2021 is now an evaluation process

teven jenkins, bears

On Monday morning, as the Chicago Bears returned to Halas Hall, head coach Matt Nagy announced the team would be activating the 21-day window for offensive tackle Teven Jenkins to return to practice. Jenkins, who’s been sidelined since training camp due to back surgery was the 39th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

After spending fours at Oklahoma State as a key piece of the Cowboys’ offensive line, the Bears traded up 13 spots to nab Jenkins and solidify the left side of the offensive line. As Jenkins gets ready to return to practice, the Bears will take a number of precautions, including easing Jenkins back into practice.

With eight games left in the 2021 season, the Bears’ best hope is Jenkins gets enough playing time to get acclimated to the NFL game, including understanding how to handle bigger, stronger, and faster defensive lineman.

“We’ll have to really get him in here and see where he’s at,” said Bears head coach Matt Nagy on Monday morning. “It’s been a while since Teven’s put the pads on so we’ll start there but that’ll be exciting for us to see.”

The goal for the Bears is simple: See what Jenkins can and can’t do. After spending his final college season as a right tackle, the Bears opted to move Jenkins to the left side of the offensive line, hoping his size and strength would make him an ideal pass blocker to protect rookie quarterback Justin Fields.

“Where he’s at, I know he’s really anxious and excited to get out there,” Nagy said. “As far as the sides, that stuff that we’ll work through with him but it’s always a positive when you have somebody especially when you draft a guy like we did early in the draft and for him to be able to do what he has to do now to get back to this point.”

After overhauling the offensive line during the offseason, Jenkins’ return to action comes at a time when the Bears need an additional boost. Currently, in the middle of a four-game losing streak, Fields has played well enough to keep the Bears in the last two games but the offensive line hasn’t been a major difference-maker. With Jenkins’ addition, maybe that can change.

ESM EXCLUSIVE: Liberty All-Star Betnijah Laney on NYC, charity, and the future

betnijah Laney, liberty

ESM sat down with New York Liberty All-Star Betnijah Laney, a metropolitan basketball star in more ways than one.

An All-Star’s work is never done, especially in New York. Fortunately, Betnijah Laney wouldn’t have it any other way.

Few WNBA stars have opened the 2020s on a higher note than Laney, a Rutgers alumna who’s back in the tri-state area to make an impact both on and off the court. The former endeavors have netted her the league’s Most Improved Player Award with the Atlanta Dream during the Association’s historic season in the Bradenton bubble. After going from the bubble to Brooklyn, Laney earned her first career All-Star appearance and helped push the Liberty to its first playoff appearance since 2017. She ended the year as the team’s leading scorer (16.8 points per game, 10th-best in the league) and also set a new career-best average in assists (5.2).

Laney, a Delaware native, has remained in the New York area with the WNBA offseason fully underway. She’s taken the time to further immerse herself in the Brooklyn community. Last week, Laney repped the Liberty in a battle against food insecurity, uniting with Empire BlueCross BlueShield, iHeartMedia, and Heart of America to open a custom-built food pantry at Walter Weaver Elementary School (P.S. 398).

Following the ceremony, Laney sat down with ESM to discuss her time in the city, her life on and off the court, and what lies ahead of the bearers of seafoam…

Photo by Allison Joseph/@shotsbyalliej

Q: What drew you to a project like this here, to be willing the represent the team on such an endeavor?

A: Just knowing that we, as a team, will be able to help the community, to be able to give back, to underserved communities, it just really means a lot to me. Coming up, it was something that my mother always instilled in me: to give back where I can. She’s been doing that for as long as I can remember, since before I was born, just giving back to the community. She’s always made sure that I put in the same thing, the same work and effort. So when I was afforded the opportunity to do this, I was all-in, all on board. So I’m just really happy.

Q: With the team back in the proper New York City area, having moved to Brooklyn from Westchester County, what does it mean to reconnect with the city and potentially inspire new fans in the process?

A: I think it’s just more about serving our community. Being back in Brooklyn, that makes it r really easy for us. It’s great for our new community to see us and know that we’re not just athletes, we’re not just basketball players, we’re not just here to do that. We’re here to help and to give back and make a difference, to continue to inspire people, continue to help people grow in a positive direction. I think it’s more so about that.

Q: You’ve remained in the NYC area since the Liberty’s season ended. Without the burdens of practices and games, it appears you’ve taken advantage of what the city has to offer. What are your impressions of the city and how comfortable are you with NYC as your new home both as an athlete and activist?

A: I love it. I grew up coming to Brooklyn in particular, I had a great aunt who lived here, we would come up here for the holidays and everything. Although she’s she’s not around to see me I know that she’d be really proud of me and what I’m doing.

This offseason just really presents me with the opportunity to be able to give back to this community. Without the pressure of having practice and games, there’s no time to put in that off-court work.

Q: As a league, the WNBA reach unprecedented heights in popularity and viewership this year. As one of the faces of the New York franchise, what’s going to be the key to establishing a larger Liberty footprint in a city that truly appreciates basketball?

A: I think just us continuing to grow, continuing to stay true to who we are, just taking on that Brooklyn, that New York identity, and get some wins. That’s what people want to see and that’s our goal. I think that that with this time, with a few players that are in market who are continuing to work to get better, and then the players that are overseas playing their game, I just truly believe that, when we all come back and reconvene, we’ll be a force to be reckoned with. I think that that’s what the city wants us to be.

Q: Do you have any international plans for the WNBA offseason? If not, what do you want to work on at home?

A: I don’t have an international plans. But, on the court, I just want to continue to grow, to continue to get better in every area of my game. I want to continue to increase my percentages, do different things to continue to grow, to help myself along with my team to get to that ultimate goal.

Off the court, I’d love to continue my community work. This is what I’m here for: to just continue to give back, to make an impact in the community, to just be a positive role model for people to look up to inspire others.

Q: This city is know for its diversity and its causes. Is there any particular cause or off-court endeavor that stands out to you, a place or issue where you’d like to and truly believe you can make a positive impact?

A: My passion has always been kids. Once I finish playing, maybe even while I’m playing, I’d like to apply myself and work with them, particularly those in underserved communities, because those that’s where you need the most building, the strongest foundation. Anything that’s dealing with kids, where I can help kids, continue to foster them into growing, healthy adults being that someone that they can look up to. That’s what drives me.

Q: The arrival of you, Natasha Howard, Sami Whitcomb, and others, as well as the move to Barclays Center, was meant to provide this team some stability. Yet, you overcame several obstacles, including weather and NBA playoff reschedulings to make a playoff push. What can you say about the resiliency of the 2021 Liberty?

A: I think it just shows just how strong we are, that we are capable of weathering storms, and coming out better for it. Exceeding expectations. I think that we did that this year, especially coming off the 2-20 season (in 2020). To be able to do that, and turn it around and make it to the playoffs, I don’t think a lot of people foresaw that coming. We just want to keep pushing, we want to just continue to get better. That’s our goal, and our focus going in going into these next year is to just be better than we were last year.

Photo by Allison Joseph/@shotsbyalliej

Q: You recently celebrated your 28th birthday. It was a year of change, a year of triumph. What did you learn about yourself, both as a ball player and as a human being?

A: Through everything that I’ve been through, I think that I’m stronger. Whatever I put my mind to, I can I can do. I’m just going to continue to get better, continue to want to be better in just every facet of my life.

Q: What have the conversations been like amongst the Liberty this offseason and what can fans expect on the road ahead?

A: We’re really excited. We’ve already talked about different things that we want to do for next year. We were excited seeing the results of the WNBA finals and talking about how that’s our goal, that’s where we want to be. This offseason, we have to make sure that we’re all doing everything that we can to get there.

We’ve had our players do really, really well overseas. Jocelyn (Willoughby) is coming back, she just started jogging, which is really good to see. The people that are here, still in the market are continuing to work to get better. As long as everyone’s doing their part, and we come back and we really are exhibiting everything that we’ve worked on, I think we’re in really good shape.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags