Knicks 121, Spurs 109: RJ Barrett explodes to break out of dunk with 3-PT barrage

rj barrett, knicks

The New York Knicks overcame the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday evening by a score of 112-109. After losing three consecutive games, it was clear that the Knicks had a newfound sense of urgency, dragging their record back to .500 on the season. However, it was several individual performances and a dominant outing from RJ Barrett who willed them to victory.

The third-year guard posted 32 points on the evening, connecting on 11-of-20 shots from the field and 7-of-8 from three point range. Barrett has struggled as of late, shooting just 29% from three-point range in the month of November and 36% from the field.

December has already started off far better, playing 39 minutes against the Spurs, his highest number since November 8 against Philadelphia. His 87.5% success rate from downtown was exactly what he needed to get back into form. He also contributed five rebounds, two assists, and two steals on the evening, leading the Knicks to victory.

However, I would be remiss not to mention the contributions of Alec Burks, who recorded 18 points, Julius Randle, who posted 15, eight assists, and seven rebounds, but also Mitchell Robinson‘s dominance in the paint.

Robinson had been criticized lately for his lack of stamina but played 22 minutes off the bench, as Thibodeau rolled with Nerlens Noel as the primary starter, a shift in strategy that clearly paid off. Tom Thibodeau said of Robinson’s reaction to being relegated to the bench, “cartwheels.”

Robinson recorded double-digit points with 11, 14 rebounds, three blocks, and two assists in the win.

Clearly, Robinson needed a bit of a push to exert maximum effort, and being relegated to the bench may have been a catalyst. This was the first time since November 17 where Robinson posted 10 or more points, and 14 rebounds were his highest since the double-overtime victory against the Boston Celtics on opening night.

This was a clear offensive master-class from New York, as they shot 47.4% from deep and 47.3% from the field, recording just 10 turnovers, 23 assists, and 52 rebounds. While the Spurs shot 38.7% from deep, the Knicks needed this offensive performance to get back on track. They will look ahead to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, a team that has lost four of their last five games.

New York Giants: Joe Judge has different messages for team and media

new york giants, joe judge

Time might be running short for New York Giants head coach Joe Judge to gain more popular support. After a promising first season, many have lowered their opinion of the Giants head coach this year due to the team’s poor performance and Judge’s own lackluster responses that show no sign of righting the ship soon. The response from Judge to the Giants’ loss in Miami on Sunday is one of the best examples of that dynamic.

“There was a lot of things that I saw today in the way we played, a lot of things that are moving in the right direction, a lot of things I’m very pleased with in terms of how we competed,” Judge said, among other things, following the loss. That’s despite the offense only putting up 9 points and failing to find the end zone.

There’s few positives to take away from the recent loss, and some are tired of hearing the same responses from Judge regardless of what happens on the field. The statement brought criticism from Mike Francesa, who called Judge a babbling fool for his comments.

Like Francesa or not, his criticism sums up how a lot of people feel right now. And barring a dramatic shift, there won’t be much popular support for the Giants to bring back Judge for another year come the offseason.

With that being said, Judge has come out with a defense of himself and claims his actual speeches to the team aren’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Joe Judge talks about differences in addressing team and media

“Look, I approach my comments publicly very differently than when I talk to the team behind closed doors. I’m someone who’s very big on honesty and being very transparent with the team,” Judge told reporters on Monday. “I talk all the time about the truth is on the tape, so when we talk as a team, we talk every week, regardless of what the result of the previous game was, of things we did well that we can build on and things we have to correct. We go through that very, very bluntly and openly as a team and make sure everyone’s on the same page.”

Of course, that response is somewhat expected. No NFL coach gives the same answers to the media and their own team.

But in Judge’s case, the difference stands out because of just how far from reality Judge’s statements to the media seem. It often feels like the result on the field has no effect on the statement we hear from Judge afterwards, and that the same positive statements are given no matter what.

Coaches generally want to avoid throwing players under the bus in public, but there is a balance to reach and a point where not doing so comes off as tolerating the poor play. The Giants seem to be past that point already.

What can we learn from this? Don’t take Judge’s press conferences too seriously, apparently. Judge has basically admitted that his responses to the media, for better or worse, don’t reflect much about his actual message to the team.

He’s made it clear that he’s the kind of coach that will avoid going after his players too specifically in public for mistakes, but at this point, it has to be asked whether the players deserve such restraint.

What does the UFC do with Nate Diaz?

The UFC is currently in a unique spot with one of their biggest stars. Nate Diaz (20-13) is currently looking for a fight and he cannot seem to get one locked down despite the promotion exploring a variety of options.

Diaz has one fight left on his UFC contract and the promotion is trying to decide what to do with that fight. Most recently, the promotion has tried to offer Diaz a fight with superstar prospect Khamzat Chimaev (10-0).

Chimaev is coming off of another massive win at UFC 267 where he completely destroyed Li Jingliang in the first round. The Chechen welterweight has finished every opponent he’s faced in four fights and he’s only absorbed one significant strike.

The UFC is struggling to find Chimaev an opponent for his next fight as well. Given the star power of Diaz, the promotion wanted to pair him with Chimaev to make Chimaev an even bigger star should he defeat the fan favorite, Nate Diaz.

However, Diaz isn’t interested. Diaz told TMZ that he wouldn’t fight a rookie like Chimaev but he would fight anyone in the top ten of the UFC‘s welterweight division. With that, who should the promotion pair him with?

Options for Diaz’s next UFC fight

The option that I like the most is a matchup with top contender Vicente Luque. It’s clear now that Leon Edwards is likely going to get the next shot against Kamaru Usman. With that, Luque is going to need to take another fight before getting a title shot of his own.

The UFC approached Luque about fighting his teammate Gilbert Burns. However, Luque wasn’t interested in that matchup given their relationship. I think the promotion is likely going to book Chimaev against Burns next.

With that, the opening is there for Luque to fight Diaz next and this is a fight that both men have verbally expressed interest in. However, the UFC hasn’t moved in that direction as of yet.

The only other fight to watch out for would be the BMF rematch with Jorge Masvidal. The UFC tried to make this fight last year but ultimately pivoted when they tried to book Masvidal against Covington.

That said, the word is that the UFC is fully planning on booking Masvidal against Covington now that both are coming off losses. All that being said, I think Vicente Luque – Nate Diaz is going to be Diaz’s last fight on his current UFC deal.

New York Rangers Vs. Chicago Blackhawks Gameday Preview 12/7/2021

rangers, nhl

On the tails of a comeback victory in front of a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd on Saturday night, the New York Rangers play the second game of a home and home series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Rangers are looking to continue their recent winning ways, having won 6 straight, and 10 of their last 11. With 10 of those victories being won by one goal. The Rangers have figured out how to keep a late lead after struggling with it earlier in the season. Their 6-game win streak is the longest streak for the Rangers since a 6-game stretch in 2017.

New York Rangers Game Day Notes

– Adam Fox is expected to be in the lineup tonight after he took a maintenance day yesterday and didn’t practice. He has a six-game assist streak going in which he has notched eight assists.

Artemi Panarin is looking to become the 49th player in NHL history to score 500 points in 457 games or less. This feat is even more impressive, considering Panarin was never even drafted.

– Alexander Georgiev is in net again tonight for the Rangers after an impressive showing against the Blackhawks on Saturday night.

– Marc-Andre Fleury is making his 900th NHL appearance tonight. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner is currently sitting at 499 career wins. His next win will give him 500 victories, joining an elite group of just two other goalies to achieve at least 500 victories. Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy.

New York Yankees: Radical differences suggest a long lockout

The New York Yankees failed to improve the team before the lockout, and they can expect to wait a long time to make those improvements. Most analysts believe the lock will last until the start of spring training, assuming the players are not locked out of the training facilities, endangering the beginning of the 2022 season.

By now, most of you know that Major League Baseball is in its first work stoppage since the 1994-95, that’s 26 years since the players went on strike in the middle of the 94 season. Last Wednesday night at 11:59 p.m. ET, the 2017-21 collective bargaining agreement expired, meaning MLB and the MLB Players’ Association do not have a contract in place to conduct business. This time, it’s not a strike but an owner-imposed lockout instituted just minutes after the present expiration.

What all of this means to the 2022 season is unknown right now, but we do know, is that all MLB business came to an immediate halt. Players and owners can’t even talk to each other until a new deal is signed. But it goes beyond that; the no talk and no contact goes includes managers, coaches, and even rehab trainers. Here are a few other events that could be impacted.

Along with the transaction freeze, the MLB Winter Meetings scheduled for December 6-9, typically the busiest week of the offseason, have been canceled. The Rule 5 draft that is scheduled for December 10 is likely to happen still. There is precedent for this, as the draft went on during the last work stoppage. But the final decision is unclear. The draft is when teams can select unprotected minor leaguers from other teams. Those selected must be included on the procuring team’s 40 man rosters, automatically making them a member of the Players Union.

January 14, 2022, is the arbitration salary filing deadline. You can look for this to occur as arbitration is between the players and the arbitrator and the owners and the arbitrator. The players and owners don’t actually talk to each other. However, pushing the deadline back is not out of the question.

January 15, 2022, is the first day that teams can sign international free agents. It could go on as scheduled during the lockout as the owners are not dealing with major league players. However, that does not mean that date couldn’t be pushed back too. MLB has been wanting an International Draft for years, and the upcoming CBA could change those rules. If a CBA can not be accomplished before spring training, it could push back the signing date indefinitely. The Yankees were expected to sign number one international prospect Rodrick Arias.

On January 20, 2022, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce their class of 2022 as voted upon by the Baseball Writer’s Association. This will go on as expected.
That brings us to the start of Spring training in February, when pitchers and catchers are to report. If this is no CBA in place, they won’t be allowed on the training facilities, and the start of spring training and the regular 2022 season could be impacted. As it looks right now, most baseball analysts do not expect an agreement until the heat really turns up at the beginning of February. Why? Because the two sides are far apart on the issues, and neither seems to be willing to negotiate in good faith.

Rather than get into all the issues causing the lockout, let’s just say it’s about money, the players want more, particularly at the beginning of their careers, and the owners want to keep that money. That’s not to say there aren’t other issues causing disagreement, but money is the big one. The players feel the owners have pretty much had their way in the last few agreements and are determined not to let that happen again. With heals dug in, there is no telling how long the stoppage will last, or even if there will be a 2022 season.

If these issues are to be resolved, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and Player’s Union leader Tony Clark and going to have to put their heads together and hammer out what is best for both sides. What the fans want will not be in the equation. For the Yankees, with much work yet to do, they would like to see an agreement made sooner than later.

Knicks: Thibodeau’s next lineup shakeup might be Noel for Robinson

Myles Turner, Nikola Vucevic, and Nikola Jokic have shot a combined 19 of 35 from deep against the New York Knicks this season. The Knicks’ defense, especially Mitchell Robinson’s, has been vulnerable to pick and pop bigs to start the season.

As Tom Thibodeau hinted at another lineup shakeup three games after Kemba Walker was yanked out of the rotation, it’s increasingly likely it will involve Robinson. But Thibodeau isn’t pinning down the blame on Robinson for their defensive deficiencies against stretch bigs.

“The interesting thing is there were stretches that I thought he moved really well. I think the conditioning aspect is still something that he’s working on. There have been some really good moments and some moments that haven’t been as good as we would like, but that could be said for our whole team,” Thibodeau said.

Per Cleaning the Glass, the Knicks starting lineup since Alec Burks replaced Kemba Walker has an efficiency differential (the difference between points scored per possession and points allowed per possession) of -10.5, a marked improvement from -15.9 when Walker was still a starter. But when Noel replaced Robinson in that group, the Knicks had a +13.1 efficiency differential.

Projected to be eased into the rotation after his prolonged absence from a broken foot injury, Robinson admirably stepped into the starting lineup immediately to start the season as Noel battled an assortment of injuries.

With Noel healthy again, it appears Thibodeau will revert to his original plan.

“I’m getting tired real quick,” Robinson said after Tuesday’s shootaround in San Antonio. “I run for about six or seven minutes, and then boom — I’m gassed. So it’s something I need to work on really bad.”

Thibodeau said he’s still mulling about lineup change and still figuring out his recalibrated team. He’s hopeful it will work out like last year when they started slow and peaked in the second half of the season.

“[I’m] Just thinking about everything,” Thibodeau said. “Like I said, we just want to go step by step, practice well, and have a good shootaround. Be ready to play. We got to get going.”

Robinson, though, sounded like he’s resigned to the fact that he’s coming off the bench in the foreseeable future after multiple Knicks beat reporters on hand in San Antonio have noted that Noel was wearing starters’ practice kit during Tuesday’s shootaround.

“Well, for me, it’s not really different [coming off the bench]. Either way, you could play,” he said. “Let’s see how it goes. I just have to continue to work.”

While Noel played splendidly during the Knicks’ late push last season to snatch the fourth seed in the East, Thibodeau noted that Robinson was playing great before he got hurt.

“The fact of the matter is he was out so long,” Thibodeau said. “Basically, he got cleared right before we started training camp, and even then, he couldn’t do the entire practice. So, it’s been a work in progress.”

Robinson ramped up his conditioning activity during the summer by doing pool and bike exercises and spending more time in the gym. But without the benefit of physical contact scrimmage during the training camp, he ballooned to 280 lbs. with unwanted muscle. Robinson said he’s shed 15 lbs since the summer and now weighs 265 lbs.

“You can go to a pool, you could be on a bike, you can do all that stuff, but it’s not the same as body on body. There’s a physicality to it. It’s a lot different,” Thibodeau said. “He’s doing a lot of extra [physical conditioning activities] right now, which is good. He’ll get there.”

Robinson is frustrated with his lack of stamina. It will take time before he can get back to peak conditioning. A backup role should ease the pressure as he works his way back.

“I wish I could jump right into it and be who I was before the injury,” Robinson said. “Basically, I’m just gonna work and get back to my old self.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Yankees: Baseball went to war, December 7, 1941

For the New York Yankees and every other American, today marks the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, when over 2,400 Americans lost their lives in an unprovoked attack by the Japanese, which marked the beginning of World War II.

It was a quiet Sunday morning at 8 am when 100’s of Japanese planes descended onto Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor is a U.S. naval base just west of downtown Honolulu, Hawaii. Although relations with Japan had been deteriorating, the attack was a complete surprise.

The Japanese managed to destroy almost 20 American vessels and more than 300 planes. The attack killed military as well as civilians. It caused then-President Franklin Roosevelt to call the attack “a date which will live in infamy.” President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan, which it did, and the rest is history.

One of the battleships to be destroyed was the USS Arizona. At 8:10, a 1,800-pound bomb smashed through the deck of the battleship USS Arizona and landed in her forward ammunition magazine. The ship exploded and sank with more than 1,000 men trapped inside. To date, only The Arizona and The Utah have been repaired. The Arizona serves as a monument to those that died in the Pearl Harbor attack.

Luckily for the United States battleships were no longer the go-to vessel in fighting wars, the aircraft carrier was, and none of the aircraft carriers were there on that disastrous morning. Those carriers and the fighting men and women of the U.S. military, as we all know were eventually victorious over the Japanese.

The war affected every bit of American life, including the lives of baseball players, that took up the call and served in the forces, many in the prime of their careers. New York Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Ralph Houk, Buddy Hassett, Hank Bauer, Yogi Berra, and Jerry Coleman all served our country. All totaled over 500 MLB players served in World War II. Most resumed their careers after the war, with DiMaggio, Berra, and Rizutto making it all the way to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

EmpireSportMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam

Yankees receive awful off-season grade from CBS, so far

New York Yankees, Yankees, Brian Cashman

The New York Yankees are not on the list of CBS Sports teams that have made moves to improve their teams this offseason. R. J. Anderson of CBS Sports graded the Yankees “F” in their review of the moves made by all MLB teams so far this offseason. However, what should be most disturbing for Yankee fans is that every other team in the AL East rated better, with both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays scoring an A. Even the lowly Orioles scored better than the Yankees.

After a disappointing season and an even more disappointing loss in the Wild Card game against the Red Sox, the Yankee front office was talking big. They suggested that the checkbook was open, and the Yankees would be making big moves to improve the team for the 2022 season. General Brian Cashman made it known in no uncertain terms that the Yankees would be going after a big-name shortstop, a number two starter, and help in center field. Instead, what we got was nothing. The only news was that the Yankees might shun a top shortstop while waiting for prospects to develop.

Last week, much to fans’ disappointment, the owners and players couldn’t come to an agreement before the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) expired. A work stoppage was put in place even before Commissioner Rob Manfred had time to exhale. He locked out the players. All 30 team owners unanimously voted to put the lockout in place. That lockout means the hot stove is dead because owners and players, coaches, agents can’t even talk to each other until a new agreement is signed. No trades, no acquisitions, nothing!

It might be an exaggeration, but as of the lockout, most of the best players were already offered contracts leaving the Yankees with crumbs once the lockout is over. Apparently, CBS Sports graded the Yankees with a big fat “F” for their progress in repairing the team for the 2022 season. Here is a look at what other AL East rivals have done so far.

The Tampa Bay Rays rated A:

The Tampa Bay Rays have acted like the Yankees of old. First, the Rays GM Erik Neander scooped up starting pitcher Corey Kluber from the Yankees. The Rays that seem to make the right decisions at the right time saw something in Kluber that the Yankees didn’t as they failed to offer him a contract. The Rays also picked up Brooks Raley, giving Tampa Bay a much stronger bullpen and adding a tremendous left-hander who will be high on their list of relievers.

The Rays also reached an agreement with the young star Wander Franco, giving him a long-term extension. If the club exercises its club option for 2033 and incentives are reached, the 11-year deal could be worth $223 million for Franco. Once the lockout is over, look for the Rays to trade off Tyler Glasnow, who they did quite well without in 2021, and Kevin Kiermaier. If the Yankees get off their hands, they may look at that one once the lockout is lifted.

The Toronto Blue Jays rated A:

Although less active than the Rays, the Toronto Blue Jays have made some nice moves this postseason so far. This postseason they have successfully extended the contract of pitcher Jose Berrios. Last season, he was 12-9 in 32 starts for a 3.52 ERA. The Yankees faced Berrios twice last season, with him winning both games. In another big move, the Jays signed one of the Yankee pitching targets, Kevin Gausman, who will solidify the Jays’ rotation for several years to come. The Jays are also expecting Yimi Garcia to shine in the bullpen.

The Boston Red Sox rated C:

The Red Sox, like the Yankees, lost a key pitcher in Eduardo Rodriguez that the Detroit Tigers signed. However, with the Rays, Chaim Bloom has already signed two former Rays pitchers. He also signed the Mariners pitcher, former Yankee James Paxton. All three of the acquired pitchers have issues. Signing Jackie Bradley after his career-worst season is indeed questionable. It doesn’t seem the Red Sox are behaving as a team that almost reached the World Series.

The Baltimore Orioles D:

Talking about the Baltimore Orioles is almost a joke after losing 66% of their games in the last three seasons. So far in the offseason, the O’s have picked up Rougned Odor that the Yankees felt didn’t deserve to stay with the team, and pitcher Jordan Lyles and his 5.12 ERA. Lyles will be the most expensive player on the O’s at $6 million. Their projected opening day payroll is about $40 million. Expect more of the same from the Orioles.

2 Knicks players who deserve more playing time moving forward

obi toppin, knicks

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has already indicated that he is mulling over potential changes moving forward. After benching Kemba Walker and making a few lineup shifts, the Knicks are still losing games without much resilience. Currently, on a three-game losing streak, the Knicks will look to take down the San Antonio Spurs, who have won four of their last five games, just barely dropping to the Phoenix Suns on Monday night.

San Antonio’s starting team is playing well, and they have a strong bench that offers plenty of value when they are called upon. The Knicks simply need more energy, a factor that has lacked this season of times, as players have indicated so.

One way they can spark a bit more effort is by utilizing some of their young reserve players and increasing their minutes, notably two who have performed well lately.

Two players who deserve more playing time for the Knicks:

1.) Obi Toppin

If the Knicks are looking for a better transition offense and more energy, calling on Obi Toppin would be a sufficient move. Toppin has played 19+ minutes in the last two games, offering a combined 12 rebounds and 15 points. While his offensive game is still developing, especially as a shooter, he was one of the only Knick players to record a positive +/- against Denver.

Toppin’s minutes have been sporadic this season, but he is seeing a slight increase lately with the struggles of the starting team. The Knicks need more energy, but Toppin needs a point guard who understands his game and can help him thrive in transition. Pairing Obi with Immanuel Quickley would be a benefit since Quickley‘s aggressive mindset puts Toppin in a position to make electrifying plays.

The problem is that Toppin’s defense can be spotty at times, but his effort certainly stands out from the rest.

2.) Quentin Grimes

Another player who could help the Knicks tremendously is Quentin Grimes. He has also seen an uptick in minutes lately. Grimes featured in 12 minutes against Denver, posting six points and playing aggressive on-ball defense.

Having Grimes lockdown one of the Spurs’ top scoring guards would be ideal during portions of the game. His energy is contagious, and giving him more opportunities to score might also be beneficial. Grimes shot 50% from three-point range against Denver, hitting 2-of-4 attempts.

The Knicks need a bit more 3-and-D style players in the lineup, and Grimes offers that plus fantastic perimeter defense. He is a bit small at 6’4″, 210 pounds, since San Antonio utilizes two small forwards and center, but having him lock down the perimeter with another guard is ideal.

Mets reportedly interview Brad Ausmus and reach out to Astros for Joe Espada

Simeon Woods-Richardson

The New York Mets are still looking for a replacement for former manager Luis Rojas. Since there is currently a lockout and the team can’t sign or trade for anyone, the organization is exclusively focused on the search for a new skipper.

In recent days, it was reported that veteran Buck Showalter was “high in the list” for the Mets. Now, we also know, thanks to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, that Brad Ausmus interviewed for the opening.

SNY reporter Andy Martino had reported that Ausmus was a candidate and would be interviewing. The former major league catcher has several years of experience as a manager: he led the Detroit Tigers from 2014 to 2017, and then took over the Los Angeles Angels (under Mets’ current general manager Billy Eppler, when he worked in the west coast team) in 2019.

Ausmus had a 386-422 record as an MLB manager, with a .478 winning percentage. He made the Division Series with the Tigers in 2014, but was swept.

Two additional manager candidates for the Mets

According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the Mets are also interested in Joe Espada as a potential manager candidate, and have already asked permission to the Houston Astros to interview him. He is their bench coach at the moment.

Additionally, the Mets have also formally requested permission from the Tampa Bay Rays to interview their bench coach Matt Quatraro for the position, according to Olney.

Showalter is seen as an old-school manager, while Quatraro and Espada are regarded as good managerial prospects in a modern way. Ausmus started off his manager career well in 2014, but hasn’t enjoyed too much success since and hasn’t worked since 2019.

The Mets declined to extend Rojas after two disappointing seasons in which they finished with a record under .500. He is now the third base coach of the New York Yankees.