Knicks 106, Rockets 99: The good, the bad, the ugly

alec burks, knicks

The New York Knicks emerged victorious on Saturday evening against the Houston Rockets, the worst team in the NBA. However, this wasn’t the simple victory they were hoping for, clawing their way to the final minutes after blowing multiple leads and trailing for a good portion of the contest.

The Knicks have struggled lately on both sides of the ball, and their defense was spotty against a team that relied on rookie Jalen Green, Eric Gordon, and Christian Wood to handle the load. It is clear New York is still dealing with a few serious problems, winning just their fourth home game of the season.

The Good:

After losing three of their last four games, it was nice to see New York finally win a game at MSG, hopefully reversing a rather disappointing trend to open the year. Their shooting was solid on the evening, connecting 42.3% from the field and 43.9% from three-point range. Julius Randle contributed 16 points and Evan Fournier 19 points, hitting 50% of his shots from deep, despite air balling a few.

Off the bench, Alec Burks posted 20 points, a season-high, shooting 6-of-7 from range and contributing five rebounds and five steals, showcasing his defensive aggression. Immanuel Quickley posted 13 points, continuing his incredible shooting, hitting 2-of-4 from three and 3-of-5 from the field.

The starters played relatively well, and head coach Tom Thibodeau finally gave Quickley more minutes, cutting into Kemba Walker’s time, who logged just 21 on the evening.

The Bad:

While the Knicks did pick up a win, they were rather inconsistent throughout the game. They were outscored in the first quarter 21–13 and once again in the third quarter 26–25. They allowed nearly every starter to post double-digit points from Houston, and two of their bench players also scored 10 points apiece.

The Knicks played solid perimeter defense, holding Houston to just 25.6% from the field, but they dominated around the rim as Wood and Green combed for 10 field goals inside.

The Ugly:

Considering the Knicks only won by seven points and barely squeaked it out at the end, this was a disappointing performance from a team that is expected to dominate clubs like Houston. The Rockets entered the game with a 1–14 record, and at home at MSG, Thibodeau’s squad needs to be winning these games by 20+ points.

It is clear the Knicks have a long way to go, and it starts with their defense. They were outrebounded by the Rockets 35–33 and especially on the offensive boards. Houston posted 13 offensive rebounds, and the Knicks recorded just four. That is a statistic that has plagued the squad all year, and one they need to find a catalyst for moving forward.

New York Giants offense should get a full force of weapons back on Monday

kadarius toney, giants

The New York Giants have a crucial Monday night matchup coming up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 3-6 Giants are beginning to turn their season around after a painfully slow start to kick off the year. Miscues, poor execution, and an abundance of injuries have held the Giants back this season. Thankfully, entering this primetime Week 11 matchup, the Giants’ offense is set to get a full force of weapons back in the lineup.

Players returning to the lineup

Wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney were NOT LISTED on today’s injury report. This is significant because these two have been appearing on the injured list consistently this season. Golladay missed time with a knee injury. Toney missed a game with an ankle injury and also dealt with a thumb injury. Entering Week 11, both of these playmakers are healthy and ready to go for the Giants. The Giants’ passing attack is receiving a couple of huge boosts.

The New York Giants’ biggest and most explosive playmaker might make his return to the lineup on Monday night. Yes, Saquon Barkley, looks set to return. Barkley has been OUT since Week 5 after suffering an ankle injury versus the Cowboys. But he is now listed as QUESTIONABLE for Monday night and there seems to be a strong possibility he will be good to go.

Andrew Thomas is not listed on the injury report because of his injured reserve designation. However, there seems to be a real chance that the second-year left tackle gets back in the lineup on Monday. Thomas would likely be listed as questionable if he could be placed on the injury report. Andrew Thomas was placed on injured reserve after Week 6 with a leg injury. The Giants have absolutely felt Andrew’s absence and are eager to get him back in the lineup. According to reporters, Andrew Thomas is indeed trending toward playing on Monday night.

While he has not missed a game due to injury, running back Devontae Booker is hobbled and placed on the injury list. Booker suffered a hip injury in the Giants’ Week 9 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. Despite being injured, Booker totaled 99 rushing yards and propelled the Giants’ offense to victory. Coming off the bye week, Booker is listed as QUESTIONABLE with this hip injury. Booker and Barkley are both questionable to play, but both seem destined to see the field in some capacity this week.

Who will miss Monday night?

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard has already been ruled OUT for Monday night with a quad injury. Shepard’s season was off to a fiery hot start before it was derailed by injuries. Shep suffered this quad injury in Week 8 and has been sidelined ever since. The Giants have not placed the receiver on injured reserve, so they must be hopeful that Sterling can make a return soon. However, Sterling Shepard will not return this week to play the Buccaneers.

Yankees News: Derek Jeter shoots back at Carlos Correa after stating he didn’t deserve Gold Glove awards

New York Yankees, Derek Jeter

It is no secret the New York Yankees are heavily involved in the shortstop market as they prepare to make a big splash in free agency. However, one of the top options, Carlos Correa, has had plenty to say about the Yankees and their former players, notably Derek Jeter, one of the team’s most beloved stars.

Correa took a surprising shot at Jeter and his career, claiming he was undeserving of some of the awards he earned over the years.

“Derek Jeter, how many Gold Gloves did he win? Five, I think he won. … Derek Jeter didn’t deserve any,” Correa said during an appearance on the “Me Gustan Los Deportes” podcast.

Correa has always been outgoing and vocal, but these unnecessary shots don’t make much sense. Correa has one Gold Glove in seven seasons, so claiming that Jeter didn’t deserve any is interesting, to say the least.

Jeter shot back at Correa for his comments, desperately trying to stifle any attempt at a hostile response.

 

“I heard about that. I didn’t think much about it; I don’t know how my name came up. My Spanish is not that good. I still haven’t seen it; I don’t know how my name was brought up, but it doesn’t even warrant a response,” Jeter said while smiling throughout. “I mean, I could go a lot of different directions but I won’t.”

Jeter won five Gold Gloves between 2004 and 2010, illustrating an elite career in the big leagues. He earned 14 All-Star appearances, making the game more often than not throughout his impressively long career. While he was never named an MVP, he was in the running on 12 different occasions, ranking 2nd at one point in 2006.

During the 2006 season, Jeter posted a .343 average with 14 homers and 97 RBIs, including a career-high 34 stolen bases. While early on in his career he suffered from errors, his defense consistently increased inefficiency year after year after the 2000 season.

New York Yankees Analysis: Will Anthony Rizzo wear the pinstripes again?

anthony rizzo, yankees

The New York Yankees traded with the Chicago Cubs for Anthony Rizzo just before the trade deadline; after he spent 10 years with the Cubs. He immediately made an impact hitting over .400 and getting two home runs in his first series with the Yankees against the Miami Marlins. Yankee fans were both amazed and thought they had another big time star player, but that performance soon deteriorated for the remainder of the season except for a few shining moments.

He ended his season with the Yankees hitting .a pedestrian .249 with only eight home runs. Rizzo is now a free agent who has made it very clear that he would like to remain in New York via a family member. He is coming off a $16 million per year contract. The problem with that figure for both Rizzo and the Yankees is that his down the stretch performance wasn’t worth that kind of money.

However, there were many pluses to acquiring Rizzo. Big time was his defense at first base which was a big upgrade from anyone else that played first in 2021. He had a lefty bat that helped the Yankees create a different look to the lineup. Also for a team that strikes out a lot; Rizzo doesn’t. He is a three time Gold Glover at first base.

The Yankees have a lot of nuts to crack this offseason, a major one is who to replace Gleyber Torres with at short, but they also need to shore up the starting rotation and get an everyday centerfielder to match up with Aaron Hicks, who can’t seem to stay healthy.  The need for production and defense at first base seldom gets the attention it deserves.

Although Luke Voit hit the most home runs in 2020; he fell flat in 2021 when he was bogged down with injuries. He hit only .239 with only eleven home runs. Voit has played in only an average of 70 games in each of his four seasons with the Yankees. Rizzo has performed better at first than any first baseman since Mark Teixeira. With Rizzo seemingly wanting to stay in pinstripes, the only question remaining is if the Yankees can come to a deal that will be acceptable to both parties.

Rizzo will be 33 years old this coming season, contract length will also be an issue for the Yankees. One thing is for sure, for Rizzo to remain in the Bronx he will have to take a huge salary reduction and for less years than he would like, otherwise the Yankees will let him walk.

New York Giants: Louis Riddick urges changes if Giants offense struggles with Bucs

New York Giants, Sterling Shepard

The New York Giants passed on NFL executive turned analyst Louis Riddick in their last GM search, but Riddick evidently hasn’t taken his eyes off the Giants. He’s argued against the franchise’s approach in their rebuild before, and now, he has some ideas about what the Giants should do if they once again struggle in a primetime game on Monday Night.

According to Riddick, the Giants need to stop selling hope and make something happen.

Louis Riddick on the state of the New York Giants

“You can sell hope until the cows come home in this league if you want,” Riddick told SNY. “But considering what this organization’s history has been and what the standard needs to be there, I get the feeling that it’s ‘Enough of that selling hope s–t. Enough. Either we’re getting it done or we’re not.’”

At the core of Riddick’s argument is the current state of the Bucs team. He claims the Giants should be able to make something happen against an injured Tampa secondary, now that most of their offensive weapons are back.

“I’m telling you, this secondary is a problem for Tampa Bay. If they cannot move the ball then it isn’t a talent issue, it’s a utilization and production/performance issue. Then you start looking at other areas as to why the hell is this happening? And then it’s up to John Mara to figure out ‘What do I need to do next?’ Because if these guys are all healthy then yeah, there’s no excuse.”

While the take is critical, many fans will agree with it. The Giants may have picked up some victories recently, but their record still leaves them at the back of the division race and there’s only so much goodwill to be won from games that don’t matter in the long run.

This is an important game, both to narrowly stay in the division race and prove the Giants can beat a good team.

If their performance is flat and the offense doesn’t take advantage of the chances presented, it’s likely much of the popular sentiment postgame will be along the same lines as Riddick’s.

3 keys for the Knicks to overcome putrid Rockets team

nerlens noel, knicks

The New York Knicks are coming off a disappointing defeat to the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night, and they will be looking to bounce back against another poor opponent in the Houston Rockets. The Rockets have lost 13 consecutive games and have been out-scored significantly in most of them.

The Knicks need to view this as a get-right game, using Houston as a trampoline to propel themselves forward against better opposition. Good teams dominate bad ones, so we will learn a lot about a New York team that is struggling to utilize their chemistry and fluidity on offense. The starters must step up and take the reins once again instead of relying on the second team to produce and supplement their deficiencies.

Three keys for the Knicks to beat the Rockets at home:

1.) Play Knicks basketball

Knicks basketball starts and ends with one thing, dominant interior defense. The Rockets have a few adequate players, one of them being Christian Wood, their center. Limiting him in the paint is essential, but the Knicks also need to score efficiently from beyond the arc. The Knicks seem to identify themselves as a live-by-the-three-pointer style of team, and if that’s going to be the case, they need to be in the top five 3-point percentage. Currently, the Knicks rank 6th in the league at 36.4%, a number that has been plummeting over the past few weeks.

The Knicks have started to settle down in attempts from range, recording 13.9 per game, good for 10th in the NBA. When they are knocking down shots at an efficient clip, their percentage usually increases, but it hasn’t been enough to beat some of the more vulnerable squads on their schedule.

Unfortunately, New York hasn’t been able to pair good three-point shooting with excellent perimeter defense, something that has improved in recent days with Immanuel Quickley playing great press, but they need more from the starting unit.

2.) Protect the paint

As stated above, limiting Christian Wood must be a priority, given his 16.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. Wood is not an elite 3-point shooter by any means, and with Nerlens Noel expected to return on Saturday night, this is a great opportunity for the Knicks to bounce back with some great defensive play.

Taj Gibson has filled the role of Noel in recent days as he heals from a right knee injury, and with Mitchell Robinson also beat up at times, the Knicks have lacked interior strength and rebounding. Noel is not only a great shot blocker, but he is a solid rebounder who gives the Knicks more second opportunities.

3.) Press-guard Jalen Green

One matchup that could be highly beneficial for the Knicks is Immanuel Quickley press-guarding Jalen Green, Houston’s star rookie. Green is averaging 14.4 points per game on 36.5% shooting from the field and 27.9% shooting from three. He has undoubtedly struggled with his shooting to open his NBA account, but he is still a quality young player the Knicks can’t underestimate.

Quickley has found his groove on defense and offense, but his ability to stay in the face of a ball-handler and press them full court has proved to be tremendous in their perimeter strategy.

I would love to see Quickley get significant minutes in this contest, showcasing what he can do on both sides of the ball.

Yankees give up on Clint Frazier and other contributors in interesting roster moves

nyy, yankees, clint frazier

The New York Yankees announced a small trade on Friday, acquiring TJ Rumfield and Joel Valdez from the Philadelphia Phillies, but they made several other interesting moves, leaving a few contributors from the 2021 season unprotected from other teams on the waiver wire.

Once promising outfielder Clint Frazier might have seen his career in pinstripes come to an end, as New York designated him for assignment and opened up a roster spot for a prospect. This allows another team to snag Frazier off the waiver wire potentially, and if he’s not, the Yankees can assign him to the minor leagues where he could become a free agent if he rejects.

Frazier is coming off a tumultuous campaign at 27-years-old, playing in just 66 games with a .186 batting average, five homers, and 15 RBIs. Clint has been wildly inconsistent throughout his career but has posted some decent numbers over smaller sample sizes, notably in 2019, when he recorded a .267 average with 12 homers and 38 RBIs.

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The former first-round selection has struggled with taking steps forward in his development, mainly due to injuries. He dealt with migraines this past season, something he suffered with in the past. After making his major league debut in 2017, Frazier has never enjoyed more than 246 plate appearances in a single season. While his defense has improved significantly, the Yankees simply need a more reliable option in the outfield, and it seems they have given up on Frazier at this point in time.

In addition to Clint, the Yankees also designated for assignment Rougned Odor and Tyler Wade, two players who featured in over 100 games this past year. Odor posted a .202 average with 15 homers and 39 RBIs, recording a 27.7% strikeout rate. Odor has some pop to his bat but is a low contact hitter and struggled with consistency. He offered a stopgap due to injuries in the infield but otherwise wasn’t very productive.

Wade, on the other hand, posted a .268 average with five RBIs and 17 stolen bases. Wade is versatile in the outfield and has excellent speed but simply doesn’t offer enough power to be in the Yankees’ lineup regularly. He was a last resort for most spots but is a valuable depth piece and situational runner on the base paths.

Because of these three moves, the Yankees were able to protect Stephen Ridings, Ron Marinaccio, Oswaldo Cabrera, Everson Pereira, and JP Sears from the Rule 5 draft.

Analyzing the Knicks’ Lineups: Should Immanuel Quickley be earning starter minutes?

Quickley, Knicks

There really isn’t a lot to say positively about the Knicks starting unit right now. They are statistically one of the worst lineups in the league, with a points minus opponent points per 100 possessions of -17.8. This is just inexcusable. For anyone that doesn’t understand the advanced stat I just threw out, let me simplify it for you: they stink.

Is There One Big Problem for These Knicks?

Here’s the thing about this rotation: You can’t fully blame any singular reason as to why they don’t play well together, but there have been some constants.

First, there’s no doubt that the loss of Reggie Bullock has hurt the lineup’s defensive prowess.

Evan Fournier has been a solid option and gives the offense much-needed spacing, don’t get me wrong. But the Frenchman’s defense has been lacking heavily. In fact, his defensive rating of 112.5 ranks as the 3rd worst on the team, with a minimum of 10 minutes per game played.

The second and most important is the subpar play of starting point guard Kemba Walker. When New York went out and acquired the veteran, not many people were too focused on the defensive repercussions the move would have because his name wasn’t Elfrid Payton. Also, Walker’s contract is reasonable, and the team had the money to sign him.

Although acquiring the former UConn star was a no-brainer, his game just hasn’t fit the needs of the Knicks. I’m not saying Kemba shouldn’t start (knowing Coach Thibs will likely give the starters more time to gel), but the players that have worked better in the offensive system and offer more on the other side of the ball should eat up more of his and Fournier’s time.

With Rose already getting his fair share of minutes, enter Immanuel Quickley.

Playing the Young Guard More

The Knicks play better when Immanuel Quickley is on the floor, period. This year, his combined +/- in all games is +86. This is third on the team to Obi Toppin and D-Rose, the latter of which has a +/- of 120 on the year, which ranks 7th in the NBA.

In his last few games, the second-year guard has shown flashes of being an elite shot- and play-maker. Yet, he still hasn’t gotten minutes with the team’s starters.

In fact, he’s played less than 30 minutes with RJ Barrett and less than 25 with Julius Randle this year. Last night against the Magic was actually one of the only times all 3 were on the court at the same time.

A quick fix to the inconsistency of the 5 in the starting unit could be to reshuffle lineups later in the game without giving the main bench guys any fewer minutes together as we saw against Orlando.

Tom Thibodeau’s reluctance to shake up his rotations has limited the options he has when either unit struggles. So, inserting Quickley in for Walker or Fournier a lot more if either is playing poorly can potentially be beneficial in multiple areas for the Knicks.

The most reasonable assumption for what New York will do is to keep the lineups the same, just as they did all of last year. However, unless the team’s starting backcourt figures it out, expect to see some changes in the future.

Yankees News: Cashman has big plans for Joey Gallo, one underrated shortstop free agent

joey gallo, yankees

If the New York Yankees didn’t make a single move this off-season, they still have enough talent on the roster to be a competitive team. Unfortunately, some of their critical role players this past year struggled offensively, putting too much weight on the shoulders of the bullpen and starting rotation.

One player who vastly underperformed was Joey Gallo, who spent 58 games with the Yankees after being traded at the deadline from the Texas Rangers. The two-time All-Star posted a putrid .160 batting average, recording 13 homers and 22 RBIs. Offensively, he was extremely inconsistent and didn’t offer much as a contact option.

General manager Brian Cashman indicated that Gallo was capable of playing at a much higher level, and they are expecting that version of him in 2022.

“He didn’t play as well as he’s capable of playing,’’ Cashman said. “It’s not easy transferring from one city to another. It’s a new experience for him. I believe he’s very talented. Hopefully the two- or three-month experience with us benefits him as he enters his free-agency walk year.”

Cashman was vague about any concern regarding Gallo, but he is convinced we will see an elevated version of the lefty slugger moving forward after he settles into New York.

“I don’t want to say there’s a concern. I think you’re gonna see a much better version of him, but that’s not saying much. He hit .190 with us,” Cashman said of Gallo, who actually hit just .160 in 58 games. “He struggled by his admission … and fact. But he’s a threat every time up at the plate and I would bet we’ll see a much improved version of him next year for us. I feel very confident in saying that because he’s that talented. I expect him to be there, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Gallo is a superb defensive player, but his offense has been streaky at times, despite earning an All-Star appearance and Gold Glove award this past season. He recorded a career-high 111 walks and 213 strikeouts, an inconceivable number that plagued the Yankees’ batting order after the acquisition.

One underrated shortstop option for the Yankees:

Names like Corey Seager and Carlos Correa are the talk of the town at the moment, but one underrated shortstop option could be available for the Yankees and at a much cheaper price point. Marcus Semien, who is capable of playing shortstop, second base, and third base, would fit the stopgap usage the Bombers are looking to inject as they wait for several young prospects to climb the farm system.

Semien is 31-years-old, coming off an elite season where he hit .265 with 45 homers and 102 RBIs. He ranked third in MVP voting, made the All-Star team, and won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. One of the more exciting attributes that Semien acquires is his clean bill of health, playing 162 games apiece in two of the last three seasons, one of which was the abbreviated 2020 campaign due to Covid.

Semien would offer a monster bat in the middle of the lineup but also the versatility to move infield positions when Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza are ready to take the next step.

New York Yankees make moves: Goodbye “Red Thunder”

New York Yankees, Clint Frazier

The New York Yankees made several roster moves on Friday, some surprising, some not. After a few years of up and down promise the Yankees designated Clint Frazier for assignment. Also hitting the assignment block was Rougned Odor, and surprisingly utility player Tyler Wade. All of these moves were made necessary to protect players from next month’s Rule 5 draft.

Any fan that’s been following Clint Frazier’s career is likely not surprised that the red haired outfielder and the Yankees  are parting ways. He was always praised for his excellent bat speed, but never reached his potential behind the plate. His defense in the outfield was up and down at best, seemingly brilliant at times but more often than not deficient.

In the shortened 2020 season, Frazier hit .267 matching his career high batting average, and due to a few spectacular plays in the field even got nominated for a Gold Glove Award. But then came 2021, when he played in only 66 games, his last on June 30. Mysterious illnesses sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Vision problems and dizziness even cut short a rehab assignment in August. Many analysts think he my never play ball again. After five failed seasons when he never played more that 69 games a season, the Yankees have given up on the young man.

Rougned Odor came over from the Rangers just before Opening Day last season, with Texas picking up his entire salary. Although he added some spark to the clubhouse, apparently the New York Yankees thought he was not good enough to be offered a 2022 salary.

The biggest surprise of the three moves is the Yankees parting ways with Tyler Wade, especially after a season that saw him play in 103 games last season, providing some of the best speed and base stealing qualities. Wade has been with the Yankees five years and had a batting average high of .268 last season. He is noted as one of the best utility players playing both in the infield and outfield. He will surely be picked up quickly by another team that needs that versatility.

In other moves the Yankees added infielder Oswaldo Cabrera, outfielder Everson Pereira, right-handers Ron Marinaccio, Stephen Ridings and lefty JP Sears to the 40-man roster. They also traded Nick Nelson and Donny Sands to the Phillies in exchange for a pair of minor leaguers. Nelson was a big disappointment relieving for the Yankees last season.

The 40-man roster addition of  Cabrera is intriguing and may give a hint to the 2022 Yankee infield. he is 22 and spent most of 2021 at Double-A Somerset, where he played second base, third and shortstop before he was moved up to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He hit well and showed some power from both sides of the plate.