New York Giants scouted Pitt-UNC game, Joe Judge says not to read into it

new york giants, joe judge

Pittsburgh versus North Carolina was a notable game for NFL scouts. The ACC matchup featured two of the top 2022 quarteback prospects, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett and UNC’s Sam Howell. The New York Giants were among the NFL teams represented in attendance, as assistant GM Kevin Abrams was there to scout players.

However, Giants head coach Joe Judge says not to read too much into it. When asked on Monday if the Giants were doing their due diligence on quarterbacks, Judge claimed there were other players the Giants were checking up on.

“There’s a lot more than just quarterbacks that were in that game. We look at a lot of players. That was one of the more notable games last week during the bye week for our guys to get out and watch different players,” Judge told the media. “In terms of our responsibility, it’s our job to know everyone who’s available on the street, through these transactions and the draft next year, through free agency.”

“I wouldn’t read too much into that,” Judge concluded with.

Were the Giants scouting for a quarterback?

The quarterback class coming out next year has no clear number one player, like Trevor Lawrence this year. But Pickett is currently considered the best by Todd McShay and Mel Kiper. He’s generally projected to go around the 15 to 20s range in the first round, slightly lower than where the Giants are likely to pick.

With that being said, it’s pretty clear the Giants are committed to Daniel Jones right now. At least, the current administration is.

Let’s face it; whether you’re a fan or detractor of Jones, there’s little chance of the Giants moving on from him while Dave Gettleman is still the GM. The current front office has put a lot of trust in Jones being the one to lead the Giants out of their rebuild, and Gettleman getting fired seems more likely than that trust running out.

Abrams probably wasn’t making that scouting trip because of Pickett, or Howell for that matter. If the Giants had a different GM this season, that might be a different story. Obviously, though, that’s not the case.

And that might be a good thing. Neither Pickett nor Howell is a Joe Burrow or a Trevor Lawrence. Arguably, neither player is even as solid of a prospect as Mac Jones was coming out of Alabama this year.

Even if you want the Giants to eventually make a change at quarterback, this doesn’t look like the class to do it. The front office probably feels the same way, and this scouting trip was probably just checking out mid to late round prospects and potential undrafted free agents.

When fate meets faith: Knicks’ Quickley rises as big-time shotmaker

Quickley, Knicks

Immanuel Quickley ran to the corner. He received the pass. Set his feet squarely on the floor. Then a quick release. His follow-through stayed in the same position until the ball touched the net—poetry in motion.

Quickley’s corner 3 gave Kentucky its first lead of the second half, 58-57, against eventual NBA top overall pick Anthony Edwards and Georgia. It was the first meeting between the two SEC schools in January last year, 10 months ahead of the NBA Draft. Quickley’s big shot fueled the Wildcats win over the Bulldogs and perhaps his wild journey to the New York Knicks.

After the game, Dice Yoshimoto, who was Georgia’s director of basketball strategy and video at that time, quickly called Tom Thibodeau.

“Watch this kid, Quickley,” Thibodeau said of his conversation with Yoshimoto last year. “He’s like all the small guards that we had in Chicago. He said he had saved every big shot for Kentucky.”

At that time, Thibodeau was out of the league. He was still looking for his next NBA job. Still, that did not stop Thibodeau from following Quickley’s rise to becoming SEC’s Player of the Year under John Calipari at Kentucky. He called William Wesley (World Wide Wes), a powerful behind-the-scenes NBA power broker and a close friend of Calipari, to learn more about Quickley.

“Wes gave me the background on him. And so I continued [ watching him]. I don’t know where I was going to be, but he was someone who was on our radar,” Thibodeau said.

Five months after that phone call, Thibodeau and Wesley found themselves together in New York, tasked to help their close friend Leon Rose rebuild the Knicks franchise. Two months later, Yoshimoto rejoined Thibodeau in his staff. Kenny Payne, Calipari’s top assistant at Kentucky, also joined the Knicks, bringing a wealth of inside intel on Quickley.

Calipari had a glowing recommendation of Quickley ahead of the NBA Draft.

“Immanuel Quickley was the Player of the Year in our league. He’s right up there with the hardest workers spending the most time in the gym, most committed players that I’ve ever had,” Calipari told Empire Sports Media via Zoom call one month before the 2020 NBA Draft. “You better give him a second, third, or fourth look before you pass on him because he’s another one.”

“He spaces the court because he’s making threes. It’s what everybody knows. It’s where the league is going right now? You better be able to make threes. If you can’t, you better have some unbelievable talent; you better have ESP or something like that if you can’t shoot. The game has changed,” Calipari added.

Thibodeau didn’t need more convincing. It did the opposite as it took away some of the Knicks’ advantage on Quickley. Rival teams scampered to get a hold of the quick-rising prospect.

Quickley met with all NBA teams except the Portland Trail Blazers, who shipped their first-round pick for Robert Covington. The Knicks were one of the six teams who interviewed Quickley twice.

“As far as the Knicks are concerned, I think they know more about him more than anybody team in the NBA,” Jide Sodipo, Quickley’s trainer, told Empire Sports Media ahead of the draft.

It proved prescient.

Upon Thibodeau’s recommendation to get a shooter, Wesley reportedly pressed Rose and other front-office members to get Quickley on draft night. Some major sports outlets nitpicked that pick as a reach, but Quickley proved them wrong. He turned out to be a revelation in his rookie year.

On Monday night, it came full circle for Yoshimoto as Quickley did precisely the same play that made him text Thibodeau on that fateful night in January last year.

Quickley’s go-ahead corner 3 with 5:03 left fueled a gut-check 92-84 win over the Indiana Pacers that snapped their two-game losing skid.

Quickley tied Kemba Walker with a team-high 16 points on 4 of 4 three-pointers, each shot a big one.

He was in middle school when Walker had his Cardiac Kemba moment at Madison Square Garden.

The energy and the vibe of that shot and the celebration never left his mind. Quickley always dreamed of hitting big shots on the Garden floor. That’s one of the reasons why Quickley hops up and down the length of the floor in celebration of every big shot he makes.

“It’s just fun playing in the Garden. I ain’t gonna lie. The energy is just crazy,” Quickley said.

The shifty guard quickly became a fan-favorite in New York ever since his signature floater and a long three-pointer became a New York staple as a rookie.

So when Quickley hit the sophomore wall early this season, it was jarring to read a quarter of the #Knicks Twitter crucifying him. In his first nine games, Quickley’s shooting had regressed. He managed to make only 7 of his first 31 three-pointers. It wasn’t what everyone was expecting.

Quickley’s faith was tested. But he was unmoved and unafraid.

“I don’t really look at it as a slow start,” Quickely said. “I look at it as the ball wasn’t just going in and it’s eventually going to go in. The numbers are always going to fall in the place where they are supposed to.”

The early shooting slump did not deter Quickley. Instead, it drove him to work harder and cling to his faith tighter.

“Quick has to be the guy that’s in the gym the most out of everybody.” his teammate RJ Barrett said recently.

The Knicks’ Tarrytown practice facility became an extension of Quickley’s place, just 10 minutes away.

Quickley has always been a relentless worker who possesses a faith that is bigger than his trials. He got those two success-defining traits from his mother, Nitrease Quickley, the former Morgan State sharpshooter and currently a vice principal in Harford County, Md., and his father, Marcellous Quickley, a Christian pastor.

“If you just stick with it, you keep doing and keep working on all the things that you’re supposed to and keep your faith first, everything gonna falls into place,” Quickley said.

True enough, his shots began to fall. Over his last five games, Quickley’s numbers have risen to 13.0 points on a 49/56/92 shooting split, 2.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and only a single turnover in 21.5 minutes off the bench. He had connected on 14 of 25 3s. The last two were much needed by a struggling Knicks team on the brink. The first one tied the game at 74 against the Pacers and the second one, the go-ahead 3, lifted the Knicks over the hump.

“I think we all had a high sense of urgency. Coach [Thibodeau] stressed in the shootaround that we needed this one to get back on the right track,” Quickley said.

Quickley hitting big shot after big shot is nothing new to him and to people who know him. It’s the reason why Yoshimoto was so high on him. And it’s the same reason why Thibodeau and Wesley pushed for him in the draft.

“They (coaches and teammates) always give me a lot of confidence. Obviously, my faith is a big part of who I am so that gives me a lot of confidence when I’m on the floor, and then also I think playing at Kentucky where pretty much every game is a big game. So, it’s a combination of all that stuff,” Quickley said.

The former Nitrease Hamilton was Quickley’s first coach. She watched her son hit his first big shot when he was an eight, nine years old skinny kid. Since that moment, Quickley fell in love with the game.

“I hit a walk-off, stepback three for the game,” Quickley recalled. “Everybody was holding me up high. I’ll never forget that shot. It’s like a dream.”

Quickley is living his dream.

It was his fate to land on this Knicks team. It was his faith that guided him to navigate a difficult start to his sophomore season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Yankees favored to sign Justin Verlander? Decision could come soon

Verlander

New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that the team would focus on upgrading shortstop along with examining first base, centerfield, and pitching this offseason. It’s clear that the Yanks intend to be very active this offseason.

This week is supposed to be an action-packed week for the front office. Tomorrow, we have the deadline for players who were extended qualifying offers. Later this week, we also have the 40-Man roster deadline which will force the Yankees to make some moves.

Right now, it appears that they are looking at making a bigger trade this week that would send multiple prospects back for one player. Brian Hoch mentioned this possibility on Jomboy’s Talkin’ Yanks podcast today. That said, the Yankees appear to be focused on pitching this week.

Earlier today, we saw the news that the Angels were signing Noah Syndergaard to a one-year deal. According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees were monitoring the Syndergaard situation but it’s not known whether or not they made an offer.

However, there is one starter who they appear to be locked in on and there is mutual interest. That pitcher would be former Cy Young award winner, Justin Verlander. At the moment, Verlander appears to be the top pitching target for the Yanks.

Yankees favorites for Verlander?

ESPN’s Jeff Passan alluded to this yesterday in saying that the Yankees might be the favorites to land Justin Verlander. The Yanks had multiple scouts in attendance to watch Verlander throw his bullpen session and they came away very impressed with what they saw.

There are rumors going around now that the Yankees are talking about a potential two-year deal with the former Cy Young winner. Verlander will be 39 years old by the time the season starts, but he’s made it clear that he intends to pitch for several more years if his arm holds up.

The Yankees seem serious about signing Verlander and Verlander appears very interested in New York. A decision could come as soon as tonight if not tomorrow, but the expectation is that we will know where Verlander is going regardless by the end of the week.

Now, one thing to keep in mind is what Noah Syndergaard signed for today. The deal he got surprised many in the industry and if he’s commanding that kind of premium, Justin Verlander is going to want more. Given the tight rope the Yankees are trying to walk, that could perhaps force them to balk at the price.

If that were to happen, I would expect New York to shift towards acquiring pitching via trades with the premiums on free agents being so high. This should be a fun week for Yankees fan and don’t be surprised if at some point you see that Verlander is going to be wearing pinstripes.

Yankees’ Aaron Boone ignores Carlos Correa hate, provides glowing endorsement

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone

If there were any way a potential free-agent acquisition for the New York Yankees could plummet his stock, it would be to insult Derek Jeter. While fans are up in arms over Carlos Correa’s latest comments, indicating that Jeter didn’t deserve to win any of his five Gold Glove awards, management doesn’t seem phased by his words.

General manager Brian Cashman brushed off Correa’s statement, professing he is a talented player; the Yankees will be considering him this off-season as a potential solution at shortstop. However, Cashman wasn’t the only one to endorse Correa despite his ill-advised words.

Skipper Aaron Boone, who recently signed a three-year extension with the team, came to Correa’s defense, mentioning his development and that he is entering the prime of his career.

“Great player. I think he’s in the prime of his career, entering the prime of his career, and part of what is a very special shortstop class. He’s really developed into a leader with the Astros.”

The Yankees are heavily involved in the short-stop market, as they are also connected with Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Cashman could go a bevy of different directions, but Boone indicated that youngsters Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe will be playing a part in their decision.

“There’s no question that factors in because we do feel like with Peraza and Volpe, we have two future impact big-league players… That’s all part of the equation.”
If the team is hoping that Peraza and Volpe will be available to fill the shortstop position, Seager might be the more clear-cut option. Correa is a bonafide shortstop that likely wouldn’t take too well to transitioning to the hot corner in the future, but most believe Seager is willing to make that transition after a few seasons. If the Yankees want a player who’s a bit more flexible and adds a bit of diversity to the batting order, Seager is their guy.
Seager is coming off a season where he hit .306 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs over 95 games. As an above-average offensive and defensive player, the only concern is his health history. However, Correa also has his fair share of issues in that category, so Cashman would simply be picking the lesser of two evils.

New York Rangers: F Sammy Blais out for 6-8 months

Blais was injured in the New York Rangers’ Sunday win over New Jersey and will miss the rest of the season.

The New York Rangers announced that Sammy Blais will be placed on injured reserve with a knee injury that will take 6-8 months to recover from.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post added that Blais tore his ACL during Sunday’s 4-3 win over the New Jersey Devils and will miss the remainder of the season. Blais was forced to leave the game after his skates were clipped by Devils defenseman P.K. Subban. He needed assistance to leave the ice and put no weight on his right leg upon his departure.

Blais was in the midst of his first season with the Rangers after four years with the St. Louis Blues. He is perhaps best known as the Rangers’ yield in the trade that sent Pavel Buchnevich out to the midwest, which also netted the Rangers a second-round pick. This season ends with four points, all assists, in 14 games for Blais, who also tallied 17 penalty minutes and a plus/minus of +3 (the latter mark tied for the team-high).

In Blais’ departure, the Rangers recalled Greg McKegg from AHL Hartford. McKegg has appeared in eight games for New York this season, winning 47 percent of his faceoffs (24-of-51).

With Blais out, the Rangers (9-3-3) return to action on Tuesday night at home against the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET, MSG).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Knicks facing big-man issues with Noel and Robinson injured

mitchell robinson, knicks

The New York Knicks have been relatively healthy this season, despite the center position where they’ve been dealing with a few issues. Veteran center Nerlens Noel missed the first few games of the season due to a sore knee, and after twisting it quite violently several games ago, he hasn’t made a return since. Noel looked like his normal self upon his return, guarding the perimeter valiantly and providing elite defense in the paint.

The Knicks signed Noel to a three-year extension this past off-season. He averaged 1.8 steals, 1.3 blocks, and 6.8 rebounds in four games before going down once again. The team has relied heavily on Mitchell Robinson to pick up the slack, coming off a fractured foot in which required months of rehabilitation.

However, Robinson left Monday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers prematurely due to a sore left ankle. Head coach Tom Thibodeau seems to think it isn’t anything severe but more precautionary, which would be an excellent development for the team.

“We’ll see where he’s at,’’ Tom Thibodeau said. “Don’t think it’s serious.’’

Despite Robinson escaping without any significant damage, he could miss the team’s next game against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday at 7:30 PM.

The Magic are off to a tough start this year but earned their first win of the season against New York several weeks ago. This might be the best game for Robinson to miss, as he works his way through the pain and begins to leave his foot injury behind. Thibodeau indicated he is still dealing with a bit of discomfort, so he is a work in progress.

“He’s still working his way through it,’’ Thibodeau said. “Obviously he was out a long period of time. He’s a work in progress in terms of conditioning. He’s banged up a little bit. That’s all normal. If you’re a pro athlete, that’s what happens.’’

In the meantime, expect Taj Gibson to earn ample playing time, as he featured in 29 minutes against Indiana in the win.

Gibson is a reliable veteran who exerts maximum effort. While his rebounding can be spotty at times, his perimeter defense and aggression give him substantial value as a reserve. Thibodeau may try to develop a few player combinations to try and mask the loss of Noel and Robinson in the short term, potentially pairing Julius Randle with Obi Toppin to maximize their height.

However, it is not out of the question that rookie Jericho Sims could earn more minutes, given his athleticism. His defensive position has been relatively poor this season, but that was expected given his lack of experience.

Mets lose pitcher Noah Syndergaard to this West Coast team

New York Mets, Noah Syndergaard

The New York Mets’ rotation plans for 2022 took a hit on Tuesday, when Noah Syndergaard accepted a one-year, $21 million contract offer from the Los Angeles Angels, thus rejecting New York’s $18.4 million qualifying offer.

The expectation all along was for Syndergaard to stay with the Mets in 2022, and then enter the market and pursue a long-term deal. But the Angels, led by general manager Perry Minasian, entered the equation and offered a better one-year deal to lure him to California.

The pact is still pending a physical, but it is expected to be a formality. The pitcher returned from a long absence related to Tommy John surgery and pitched a couple of games down the stretch, albeit only throwing fastball and changeups due to doctor recommendations.

He is expected to be able to use his full arsenal in 2022, though, so the Angels are getting a high-upside pitcher for just one year, minimizing the risk. The Mets, meanwhile, will get Los Angeles’ second-highest draft pick as compensation.

The Mets will miss Syndergaard

When healthy, ‘Thor’ is a dynamic talent. Still young at 29, he averaged 98 mph on his heater from 2015-19 with the Mets, and had a 3.31 ERA during that time. Over that span, he received Rookie of the Year votes (in 2015) and Cy Young votes.

Syndergaard boasts a complete arsenal, and can miss bats with four pitches: his high-90s fastball, a changeup, a curveball, and a slider. He will try to help the Angels get to the postseason for the first time since 2014, and he will have a formidable offense behind him, led by Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.

The loss of Syndergaard (even though he was technically a free agent) is particularly painful for the Mets, since they are now down to Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, David Peterson, and Tylor Megill as rotation depth.

What’s next for Yair Rodriguez after UFC Vegas 42?

Yair Rodriguez

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 42, we saw a featherweight showdown between two of the best in the world. Former undisputed champion Max Holloway (23-6) was back as he took on the returning Yair Rodriguez (13-3, 1 NC).

It was the first time that Rodriguez had fought in over two years so you could say the UFC was throwing him into the fire. Back in January, Holloway put on his best career performance when he dismantled Calvin Kattar on Fight Island.

Given the layoff and how Holloway looked, nobody was giving Rodriguez a chance. Despite being ranked in the top five, Rodriguez was a massive underdog. Holloway could be found as a -800 favorite which is insane to think about given how talented Rodriguez is.

However, nobody really knew what to expect. Well, Rodriguez showed up in a big way at UFC Vegas 42. From the opening bell, he went right after Holloway. He landed brutal calf kicks and big combinations up top. He even seemingly hurt the former champion a couple of times.

However, the champion showed great resolve and came on strong as the fight went on. In the end, Holloway did enough late and fought hard to win a decision, but the fight couldn’t have been closer in my opinion.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 42?

Yes, Yair Rodriguez did not get his hand raised this past weekend. However, he didn’t walk out of UFC Vegas 42 a loser. In fact, his stock rose in my opinion given the way that he fought the former champion.

Given the way his last fight went, what should the UFC do next. In my opinion, there are two fights that I think would be perfect for Rodriguez. The first fight is against “T-City” Brian Ortega (15-2).

Ortega only has two losses and both of those came in UFC title shots. There’s no doubting that Ortega is the third best featherweight in the world. Rodriguez is near the top as well and he proved that on Saturday night.

I think that once these two heal up after the wars they’ve had, a showdown in the spring would be a sensational fight. Another wildcard option would be Zabit Magomedsharipov (18-1).

It’s now been over two years since Zabit has last fought in the UFC. However, when he was fighting, he was being looked at as a world champion. Him and Rodriguez have been paired together a couple of times and the fight has always fallen through.

Zabit’s management has said that he’s getting ready to come back. Whenever he’s ready, I think a fight between him and Rodriguez would present an interesting new challenger for whoever is the featherweight champion at the time.

Did Cyborg’s performance at Bellator 271 sway Kayla Harrison?

MMA, PFL

This past weekend at Bellator 271, one of the greatest female fighters of all time returned to defend her featherweight crown. Cris Cyborg (25-2) headlined the event when she took on Ireland’s Sinead Kavanagh (7-5).

Of course, Cyborg was a massive betting favorite and nobody really gave Kavanagh a shot at Bellator 271. In fact, the biggest storyline of the main event was more about who was sitting front and center to watch the event.

Kayla Harrison (12-0) is the hottest free agent in the sport right now. The two-time PFL champion and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist was there to watch Cyborg as Harrison is currently trying to figure out where she wants to go next.

Cyborg’s job was to make Harrison interested in fighting her. Harrison is someone who always wants to take on the best and maybe that fueled Cyborg. In her last few Bellator appearances, Cyborg has been much more calculated and measured than we’ve seen her in the past.

However, all of that went out the window at Bellator 271. Cyborg ran through Sinead Kavanagh and threw caution to the wind. The champion was able to land a clean right hand just over a minute in that knocked Kavanagh out.

Harrison to Bellator?

Kayla Harrison got the free agent treatment at Bellator 271. She was shown at the broadcast and Big John McCarthy asked Cyborg about Harrison in her post-fight interview. During the question, the camera panned to the two-time PFL champion who had a big smile on her face.

To me, the race for Harrison is going to come down to PFL and Bellator. I don’t see the UFC getting involved at a high level due to the fact that there’s only one real top fight for Harrison right now. That fight would be with Amanda Nunes who is her teammate and close friend.

With that, I think Harrison is zeroing in on PFL and Bellator. PFL has made her a star and they are going to do everything they can to keep her. However, the competitor in her might want to jump over to Bellator to take on the likes of Cris Cyborg.

From the beginning, I’ve favored Bellator in her free agency. I think they can pay her a very good wage and I think the competition is there. However, this is something that is extremely fluid and until Harrison signs, I wouldn’t be shocked by anything.

Yankees: Carlos Correa takes shot at Derek Jeter for Gold Gloves he ‘didn’t deserve’

derek jeter, carlos correa, yankees

As if the Yankees needed another reason to hate Carlos Correa after that cheating scandal with the Houston Astros, he proceeded to say how “Derek Jeter didn’t deserve any of the gold gloves he won.”

Correa is one of the top shortstops in baseball and is in line for a massive contract extension, which could possibly land with the Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman. Cashman isn’t exactly the biggest fan of Jeter after years of turmoil, so Correa’s comments likely won’t impact his status within the organization. However, among the fans, he’s quickly losing stock or whatever he had left of it.

Correa finished the most recent season with a .279 batting average, 26 homers, and 92 RBIs. His career-low 18.1% strikeout rate and 26.3 offensive WAR would be a welcome sight for Yankee fans, despite his comments about one of the team’s most prolific players in its history.

Some might ask how Yankee fans can still want Correa after what he said about Jeter? Ultimately it boils down to production. Jeter is a thing of the past, and while beloved by every fan, Correa could be the missing piece to a World Series appearance, which would erase any ill feelings toward the Astros star.

Of course, the team has plenty of options at shortstop this off-season, including Corey Seager, who would be a solid acquisition given his lefty bat and ability to translate to third base. Eventually, the Yankees want to elevate Anthony Volpe to take over SS full-time, and Seager can move to that hot corner, where they can maximize his skill set without any bad blood.

However, with a potential lockout impending, the Yankees might make a move sooner rather than later, prior to December 1. The expectation is that both Seager and Marcus Semien will sign before that date, but Correa could wait until after the lockout finishes to sign a monster deal.