New York Giants: Patrick Graham set to interview for Vikings head coaching job

New York Giants, Patrick Graham

The New York Giants have secured Brian Daboll as their new head coach, but it’s unclear who will make up his staff. Despite Patrick Graham’s popularity within the organization, we don’t know yet if Daboll intends to keep Graham on as his defensive coordinator. Furthermore, it doesn’t look like Graham is going to stay this year if he receives a better offer.

The Jets were the interested team last year, and this year, it’s the Vikings. They aren’t the only team interested, but the Vikings are the only team other than the Giants to offer an interview for their head coach vacancy.

Graham has also interviewed for the Steelers defensive coordinator position. While it doesn’t look like Graham plans on leaving if the Giants will continue to have him as defensive coordinator, this interview makes sense. There’s no guarantee that Daboll won’t bring in his own candidate at DC, and in that case, Graham would be left looking for a new job.

It’s been reported that Daboll is interested in Don “Wink” Martindale as his defensive coordinator, but it’s too soon for anything definitive to come out on the subject.

With the players’ familiarity with Graham and his better performance in 2020 when the conditions around the defense weren’t as bad, it may be worth keeping Graham in his current role rather than seeking an outside candidate for the position. But that all depends on Graham not getting a better offer, and that might not be the case if the Vikings have real interest in Graham as head coach.

Khamzat Chimaev – Gilbert Burns being targeted for UFC 273

We appear to be getting closer to the UFC‘s biggest prospect getting the biggest test of his young career. Combate reported earlier today that superstar prospect Khamzat Chimaev (10-0) will be taking on former title challenger Gilbert Burns (20-4).

The matchup is not finalized just yet, but it appears that the fight will take place on April 9th at UFC 273. Originally, the promotion was targeting the bout for May at UFC 274 which was being targeted for Brazil. However, the promotion has scrapped those plans and the fight is moving up.

This is a massive opportunity for Gilbert Burns. The last time we saw Burns was back at UFC 264 when he took on Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. It wasn’t the most exciting fight in the world, but Burns was able to pick up the decision win. That got him back on track after he lost to Kamaru Usman.

Since moving up to the UFC’s welterweight division from lightweight, Burns is 7-1. He’s proven himself to be one of the very best in the world and he figures to be a massive test for the sport’s biggest and brightest young prospect.

UFC Crowning Moment?

Khamzat Chimaev became a star and a legend when he first appeared on UFC programming. The Chechen welterweight/middleweight fought twice in ten days during the promotion’s first trip to Fight Island. He won both of those fights by dominant stoppage.

Then he knocked out middleweight contender Gerald Meerschaert with the first punch he threw in their fight. After three quick stoppage wins, the UFC targeted him against top welterweight contender Leon Edwards. However, Covid ended up keeping Chimaev out of action for most of 2021 and that fight never happened.

Chimaev returned at UFC 267 when he took on Li Jingliang. Li was expected to be a tough test for Chimaev and he passed with flying colors. Chimaev ran through “The Leech” and now he’s a very impressive 4-0 inside the octagon. What’s remarkable is that he’s 4-0 and he’s only absorbed one significant strike during those four fights.

If Chimaev defeats Burns in April, his next fight will be for the UFC welterweight championship. Kamaru Usman is expected to defend against Leon Edwards next, but Chimaev will be right there if he can get past Burns.

FOCO launches limited Kevin Durant city jersey bobblehead after All-Star selection

A day after Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant was named one of the NBA All-Star captains anew, FOCO launched his limited 2022 City Jersey bobblehead.

Approximately eight inches in height, the handcrafted and hand-painted bobblehead features Durant in an action pose wearing the Nets’ City Edition jersey.

The Brooklyn Bridge serves as the perfect backdrop, with the retro Nets logo providing a window to the history of the Nets across the river in East Rutherford, NJ.

The alternate team logo is displayed at the base, setting the stage for the Nets’ title aspirations with Durant at the forefront. The bobblehead is individually-numbered and available for pre-order for only $65 at FOCO’s official website.

Durant, a 12-time All-Star, has been named captain for the second straight year after emerging as the leading vote-getter for the Eastern Conference.

While Durant’s availability for the mid-season classic is in question due to a sprained knee ligament, he is excited to redeem himself as GM after their 150-170 loss to Team Lebron last year.

Joining Durant as starters for the Eastern Conference are Chicago Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan, Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young, Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid and Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Nets fans can celebrate Durant’s selection with the FOCO’s limited city jersey edition bobblehead.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

 

Is this the beginning of the end for Julius Randle and Knicks? Jeff Van Gundy weighs in

knicks, julius randle

Embattled New York Knicks star Julius Randle finally spoke to reporters following Friday’s shootaround in Milwaukee after he wasn’t made available again Wednesday night in the postgame of an ugly loss in Miami.

Amid swirling rumors that he could be made available for the right return, Randle reiterated his commitment to the Knicks. He would be available to be traded by Feb. 3. But if he has his way, he would like to remain as a Knick.

“I wouldn’t change it,” Randle said via Newsday. “I still want to be a part of it. I still want to see this thing through. I still want to be a part of helping, trying to bring a championship to the Knicks.”

“So, I’m not going to be happy and be all about it when things are good and just because it’s not necessarily going the way I want it to or the team wants it to run and hide. I’m still behind this. I’m still sticking it through.”

Randle’s statement came on the heels of former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy’s damning observations about how the Knicks’ season was spiraling after an inspiring playoff run last year.

“They just need major changes,” Van Gundy said on the ESPN broadcast during Wednesday’s game between the Knicks and the Heat. “They don’t bring it on a nightly basis. I’m talking [about] the starting unit.”

“There’s been plenty of times throughout the year to show that they work well together. I just don’t know how they continue on like this. That’s the definition of insanity, which is seeing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Randle set the tone for one of the worst starting units in the league. The Knicks’ starting lineup of Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Randle, and Mitchell Robinson has a -15.4 net rating, per NBA advanced stats. The lottery-bound Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Detroit Pistons are the only teams who have worse starting lineups.

Randle has turned from an All-NBA player to one of the worst high-volume shooters in just one season.

From phenomenal to abysmal.

Magnifying his down year is his poor body language on the court, which Van Gundy criticized during the broadcast. The former Knicks coach turned TV analyst doubled down on his observations when he guested on The Michael Kay Show on Thursday.

“He doesn’t have the requisite juice right now to be the best player on a really good team,” Van Gundy said.

Van Gundy said he’s watched 35 full Knicks games this season and wasn’t only basing his observations on the embarrassing loss to the Heat alone.

Randle’s poor play on the court spilled into unnecessary off-court drama with his run-ins with the fans and the media. He was fined $25,000 for using profane language in a media interview in describing his thumbs-down sign to the crowd earlier this month. The Knicks did not make him available for the subsequent postgame interviews and received a $25,000 fine.

Van Gundy took exception to Randle’s no-show in postgame interviews and referenced Knicks legend Patrick Ewing, the star of his team in the 90s, who was always available to the media after great wins and even after heartbreaking losses.

“That’s your job as the best player. When you accept that responsibility and the money, there are things that come along with that — accepting his responsibility to go out and answer the questions that the media poses. And you don’t even have to like it. You don’t even have to like the media. That’s not even the point,” Van Gundy said.

“The point is, it’s part of your job description. And you can’t go out there after when they praise you, and after wins where you’re getting all the praise and soak it in and then not go to that same [press conferences] and take some of the heated, pointed questions that are going to come your way. You got to do both.”

Randle’s career season last year prompted the Knicks to reward the 27-year old first-time All-Star to a four-year extension worth $117 million. So far, Randle hasn’t lived up to the expectations that came with the sizable contract.

“So, when you look at Randle, I think what you have to try to determine if you’re the Knicks: is this year an aberration or was last year an aberration for [Randle]? And you never know how people react when they sign big contracts, if they feel more pressure or if they don’t feel as much pressure,” Van Gundy said. “That’s why there’s always trepidation when you’re giving out a monster contract in any sport off a one really, really great year.”

Randle is averaging 18.7 points, his lowest since the 2017-18 season. His three-point shot has fallen off 10 percent from his career-high 41-percent clip last season. Across the board, his numbers are down.

With the Randle drama weighing down on the Knicks, are they better off parting ways? When asked if this is the beginning of the end for Randle in New York, Van Gundy rattled off things that a leader does to galvanize a struggling team.

“I think it’s too early to say it’s the beginning of the end. Maybe he has it in his power. He has the power to turn it around,” Van Gundy said. “It starts with energy, intensity, and passionate play. And that means through rough times.”

“If you’re Randle like you have to, you have to inspire and unite the group. You’ve got to take responsibility and bring people with you, whatever that means. Does that mean running the floor harder, defending harder, rebounding, moving the ball quicker, whatever it takes. That’s your job as the best player to make the group that you’re starting both halves with to function better.”

Randle sounded like he listened to Van Gundy’s rants when he faced the media on Friday ahead of a tough game against the defending champion Bucks.

“It’s been hard, but like my man J. Cole says, there’s beauty in the struggle,” Randle said. “It’s a struggle. We’re trying to figure it out. But this is really where you find out what people are about. This is when you find out about the character of the guys on your team, so I’m excited about — we still got a lot of games to play, so I’m excited to see how we push forward and push past it.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Rangers: Mats Zuccarello reflects, prepares for return on Lundqvist night

Though he longer wears the Rangers’ blue uniforms, Mats Zuccarello will be on hand to partake in his close friend’s big day at MSG.

On Friday night, the New York Rangers (28-12-4) will welcome back one its longest-tenured pieces from their run of prosperity in the early 2010s. A European native, his blue Ranger sweater began with the number 3 and he became a fan favorite over several seasons at Madison Square Garden.

Of course, we’re referring to Mats Zuccarello.

It’s perhaps little coincidence that the Rangers chose the Minnesota Wild’s visit to honor legendary goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The Wild (25-10-3) currently host Zuccarello’s modern NHL endeavors after he spent his first nine professional seasons with the Blueshirts, building a sterling reputation as a passionate, unstoppable spirit that helped write some of the most storied chapters in recent Ranger history. Sam Rosen, the team’s play-by-play man, would often remind viewers that MSG attendees were not booing the Rangers, but chanting in support of “Zucc” during play.

Through his time in blue, Zuccarello also fostered a strong friendship with Lundqvist, who is set to become the 11th Ranger to have his number retired by the organization prior to Friday night’s showdown (8 p.m. ET, MSG+/NHL Network). Zuccarello spoke about that relationship as the Wild prepared to make their Manhattan arrival this week. It was a friendship that began upon Zuccarello’s NHL arrival in 2010 and opened in the most natural of hockey ways.

““He was a big player when I came in. “He needed someone to shoot on him, and I was there, so that was the first time I met him,” Zuccarello said on Thursday, per Dane Mizutani of TwinCities.com. “I really think he deserves it and his family deserves it and stuff like that. As a hockey fan I’m going to enjoy being there for a ceremony like that and then worry about the game after.”

Per Dan Rosen of NHL.com, Zuccarello also bonded quickly with Lundqvist thanks to his knowledge of the goalie’s native tongue built during his time in the Swedish Hockey League. Though the Oslo-born Zuccarello is likely renowned Norweigan skaters in league history, he became fluent during an MVP campaign in 2009-10.

Friday will mark Zuccarello’s second game at MSG as an opponent, previously earning a warm reception during Minnesota’s visit to Manhattan in November 2019. He was one of the casualties of the Rangers’ publicized rebuild that also bid farewell to names like Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, and Kevin Hayes.

Zuccarello’s trade was particularly tough on both Rangers fans and Lundqvist himself, who was visibly emotional after his close friend was dealt to Dallas in February 2019. He’d go on to partake in the Stars’ ensuing postseason run signing a five-year deal with the Wild five months after his Rangers tenure ended.

Though it wasn’t broadcast to a national audience, Zuccarello said the separation from his friend produced a similar reaction.

“It (was) special for me to see that,” Zuccarello said in Mizutani’s report. “It was really rough for me, too. You have in your mind you’re going to spend the rest of your life there. Then suddenly, in a matter of moments, I’m gone.”

Though his focus centers on getting the surging Wild, winners of three in a row, another victory, Zuccarello was more than happy to look back on the good times shared with Lundqvist, which produced six playoff appearances, including a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. He humorously referenced Lundqvist’s renowned sense of style, saying that when the goaltender rocked a suit, he was more than happy to counter with sweats.

But Zuccarello also expounded upon how Lundqvist left a lasting, positive impact on his hockey career, particularly through the way he handled the pressure of a premier role in the cutthroat world of New York sports.

“He was serious, you know. He was every day, boom, boom, boom,” he stated in Rosen’s statements. “I was kind of like the jokester. I was a little bit of a change for him, had some fun, added some jokes. I appreciated his way of being too. His wife, Therese, and I get along well. (His) kids, Charlise and Juli, I think it’s just the whole dynamic of it.”

“He embraced it and went with it and delivered. A lot of other people would have cracked, too much pressure. But he went with it. I think he loved it and it actually made him a better player, the pressure he had every day.”

Zuccarello has since gone on to play a major role for another contender in Minnesota, putting up 38 points in 32 games this season (second on the team behind Kirill Kaprizov’s 49). He won’t be the only Ranger from the Lundqvist era making his return to MSG: his former understudy, Cam Talbot, is scheduled to reassume his former spot in MSG’s nets. Talbot (16-8-1, 2.96 GAA) spent his first two NHL seasons with the Rangers and notably came up big when Lundqvist missed nearly two months with a neck injury during the team’s run to the Presidents’ Trophy in 2015.

“(There was) nothing better for a young goalie coming up like myself than to learn from one of the best to ever do it,” Talbot said of Lundqvist’s impact per Chris Miller of the Star Tribune. “He was the face of that franchise for the better part of 15 years, so there’s no one more deserving to have their number up there than him.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Yankees Top 10s: The ten most iconic moments at Yankee Stadium

New York Yankees, Mariano Rivera

In their 112-year history, the New York Yankees have had many of the best players in the game, many of which are in the Baseball Hall of Fame. But always front and center was the famed Yankee Stadium, “The house that Ruth Built.”

Today we look back in my newest Yankee top 10 articles to pick the most iconic moments at Yankee Stadium. Of course, these are arbitrary, and many will disagree with my choices. That’s okay, as there are far more stunning moments at the Stadium in the Bronx.

Opening of the new old Yankee Stadium 1923

The house that Ruth built finally became a reality when in 1923, the New York Yankees opened their own Stadium where history would be made for the next 85 years. The Yankees started as the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore in 1901. In 1903 they would move the team to New York City. The team first played at Hilltop Stadium downtown. Then they played at the Polo Grounds until 1922, when they built the new Stadium in the Bronx. During that time, Babe Ruth had become the best player in the game, filling the stands and allowing the Yankees to build their first Stadium.

Lou Gehrig makes his famous speech in 1939

Lou Gehrig was one of the finest ballplayers to ever play for any team. Although he would eventually win every accolade the game can give, luck was not on his side. In 1939 after realizing he could no longer play due to the ALS disease that was ravaging his body, he gave the most iconic speech ever spoken at any baseball field. It is still referred to be the most famous baseball speech ever. It was on July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day, when the longtime Yankee first baseman uttered the famous words at a home plate ceremony at Yankee Stadium: “For the past two weeks, you have been reading about a bad break. Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Gehrig died of the disease that now bears his name, “Lou Gehrig Disease,” on June 2, 1940.

Don Larsen has the first-ever no-hitter in World Series 1956

In a record that still stands average pitcher, Don Larsen threw the first no-hitter in history to be accomplished in a World Series game. On Monday, October 8, 1956, in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, pitcher Don Larsen of the New York Yankees threw a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League at Yankee Stadium. It was the first postseason no-hitter since Claude Grier did it in the 1926 postseason. Larsen’s perfect game is the only perfect game in the history of the World Series, it was the first perfect game of any kind thrown in 34 years and is one of only 23 perfect games in MLB history. 

Roger Maris makes history with number 61 1961

1961 was an exciting year for New York Yankee fans, it was the year of the M&M boys, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, as they fought all season long to see who would end up beating Babe Ruth’s record for 60 home runs. Near the end of the 1961 season, Mantle’s health issues allow Maris to overtake him. On October 1, 1961, Maris hit his 61st home run, hitting just one more than Babe Ruth. The more popular Mickey Mantle ended the season with 54 long balls.

Chris Chambliss causes the best kind of riot (1976)

On a cold New York Yankees autumn night on October 14, 1976, the fifth game of a winner take all ALCS game, the game would be at a standstill in the bottom of the ninth. Kansas City relief pitcher Mark Littell would be taking warm-up tosses, Yankee public address announcer Bob Sheppard was cautioning the crowd of over 58,000 about throwing debris onto the playing field. Meanwhile, Yankee first baseman Chris Chambliss waited in the cold. Finally, at 11:13 PM, Chambliss stepped into the batter’s box, and home-plate umpire Art Frantz yelled play ball. Littell would throw Chris a high fastball that Chambliss would smash over the right-field wall for a walk-off win and one of the most iconic moments in baseball history, as the Yankee fans emptied the stands and filled the fields.

Reggie Jackson becomes Mr. October (1977)

In yet another example of a Yankee moment seemingly scripted by a famous writer, Reggie Jack Jackson managed three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 Fall Classic. It caused the Yankees to win their first World Series title in fifteen years. Those home runs cemented Reggie Jackson in the history books and his place in New York Yankees lore. After the game, he was dubbed “Mr. October.”

Bobby Murcer drives in five in honor of Thurman Munson 1979

1979 was a sad year for the New York Yankees, as they lost their iconic catcher Thurman Munson to the crash of his own plane in Ohio. On the day of his funeral, the Yankees attended his funeral in Ohio under the threat of having to forfeit their game later than night. The Yankees made it back in time for the game at Yankee Stadium. During that game, Bobby Murcer managed to play in the game and be impactful under the duress of having spoken at Munson’s funeral. Manager Billy Martin suggested Bobby sit out given the circumstances, but Murcer insisted on playing in honor of his fallen friend. Bobby single-handedly erased a 4-0 Baltimore lead by hitting a 3-run shot in the 7th and a two-run walk-off single down the left-field line. New York won 5-4.

Famous Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera stands alone 2011

During 2011 Mariano Rivera recorded his 602nd save. Urged by his teammates to soak up the moment, Rivera stood alone on the mound, celebrating his place as the game’s all-time saves leader. Rivera, in his humble ways, tipped his cap to the fans, and both teams looked on. Rivera surpassed Trevor Hoffman by recording his 602nd save, dispatching all three Twins he faced. Rivera even shattered a bat with his trademark cutter, later calling the moment “priceless.” Rivera would retire with 652 saves, plus a record 42 more in the postseason. He became the first player ever to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame unanimously in 2019. He said in his acceptance speech, “I would love to be remembered as a player who was always there for others. ” In another iconic moment for “Mo” in his final game, his best friends Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter came onto the field to take the ball from Rivera, he broke down in Pettitte’s arms and was saluted by both teams as he made his final exit.

Yankee Stadium tries to heal America 2001

America and the world were still in shock after the horrible terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. The Yankees resumed their season on the road in Chicago on September 18 and did not return home until September 25, an absence of 16 days. This first game after the attacks at Yankee Stadium was dripping with emotion. Before the game, there was a 30-minute ceremony. Many in the announced crowd of 33,777 were late entering the ballpark. There was an increased police presence, and fans were screened as they entered the ballpark. They had even checked Yankees manager Joe Torre’s bags. The ceremony included the then-mayor of New York Rudy Giuliano and other prominent stars, including Bette Midler and Michael Bolton. Branford Marsalis played taps while members of the New York Police and Fire Departments stood along the baselines. Tenor Ronan Tynan offered a stirring rendition of the National Anthem. Later in the game, members of the Fire Department sang a rendition of “God Bless America.” The Yankees lost the game to the Rays, but the Boston Red Sox lost their game to Baltimore, retaining the Yankees 13 1/2 game lead in the AL East.

Derek Jeter goes out in style 2014

More than any other Yankees player, Derek Jeter had enough iconic moments in his career to fill his own top 10 moments. Still, none could duplicate Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium, not even the flip or the crash into the stands. In his final game in pinstripes, Jeter exited a winner at home, showing off his trademark inside-out swing to lace a walk-off single and sending home the deciding run in a 6-5 victory over the Orioles. Jeter raised his fists, securing a Hollywood conclusion after he had already doubled and driven in a go-ahead run earlier in the contest, only for closer David Robertson to permit three runs in the ninth. Announcer Michael Kay called the walk-off win “where fantasy meets reality.” Just one more moment when Derek Jeter rose to the occasion.

Honorable mentions:

A-Rod drives in 10 runs in one game (2005), Derek Jeter has 3,000 hits (2011), Mariano Rivera’s final gaem “exit the Sandman (2013), Yankees christen new Yankee Stadium (2009), three Grand Slams in one game (2011), Guidry strikes out 18 (1978), Babe Ruth traded to the New York Yankees (1919).

Continuing, Allie Reynolds has two no-hitters in the same season (1951), and the Yankees win their first World Series (1923). The one-handed Jim Abbott makes history with a no-hitter (1993), George Steinbrenner was honored during the All-Star game 2008. There is no question that the winningest team in all of the sports has no shortage of iconic moments for the Yankees and Yankee Stadium.

 

Bellator 273 Preview: Ryan Bader – Valentin Moldavsky

Ryan Bader

Tomorrow night in the main event of Bellator 273, Ryan Bader (28-7) returns to heavyweight to defend his title against the interim champion Valentin Moldavksy (11-1). This will be the first Bellator event of 2022.

For Moldavsky, he will finally get his chance to claim undisputed Bellator gold. The Russian heavyweight who trains under Fedor made his debut with the promotion back in 2017. Immediately, he made an impact on the Bellator heavyweight division.

He’s gone a perfect 6-0 since joining. However, no win was bigger than his last one. He took on Tim Johnson for the interim heavyweight title at Bellator 261 and won a decision. That win has set him up for this title shot against Bader.

One of the best decisions Ryan Bader has ever made was jumping to Bellator. While he was good in the UFC, he’s been a star with Bellator. Immediately after joining the promotion, he became the light heavyweight champion.

After defending that title once, he jumped into the heavyweight grand prix. He won the tournament to become Bellator heavyweight champion and then moved back down. This will be his first fight at heavyweight since 2019.

Bellator 273 Prediction

Before I get into my Bellator 273 prediction, I just want to say that I really prefer Ryan Bader at heavyweight at this stage in his career. He showed in his last few fights at light heavyweight that it’s just not for him anymore.

No weight cut is ideal for the 38 year old Bader. Now, what do I think is going to happen tomorrow night? Well, one of Bader’s biggest attributes at heavyweight is his speed. That’s one of the key reasons as to why he became the heavyweight champion.

However, he might even be at a speed disadvantage against Moldavsky at Bellator 273. The Russian is extremely quick and he trains with Vadim Nemkov who just knocked out Ryan Bader for the light heavyweight title last year.

We’ve seen Moldavsky eat some big shots and Bader’s only chance in my opinion is if he can knock him out. I don’t see Bader’s wrestling being a big factor and I don’t think he can win a point fight with the speed disadvantage.

I actually really like Valentin Moldavksy in this one. He’s the betting favorite for a reason at Bellator 273. Too many things are in his favor from the speed to the age. I think we see a new heavyweight champion tomorrow night.

Prediction: Valentin Moldavsky by TKO – Round 4

Knicks’ issues are on full display after putting veterans on the trade block

julius randle, knicks, evan fournier

The Knicks are gearing up to face off against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night, but they have far greater problems than their next opponent. New York has systemic problems within their starting five, especially with Julius Randle regressing well below his All-Star form in 2021.

Tom Thibodeau needed Randle to replicate his monster performance from last season, but he’s averaging five fewer points per game and shooting the three-point shot at a 10% discount.

Unless Julius can magically turn his year around, the Knicks are in for a long season and either an early playoff exit or missing it altogether. Currently, New York sits just outside of the play-in tournament, three games below .500 and struggling to pick up wins.

By all accounts, there could end up being a major shake-up at the trade deadline in just two weeks, and reports are indicating the team is going to be sellers.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported Thursday that the Knicks are willing to part ways with several veterans, which is a slap in the face after the front office went into the off-season with an aggressive mentality.

If the Knicks are really keen on trading away Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker, they would be throwing in the white towel and admitting they made significant mistakes in player evaluation this past off-season. Fournier signed a four-year, $73 million contract, and Walker landed a two-year, $18 million deal.

Fournier is averaging just 13.4 points per game and shooting 41.6% from the field. His lackluster defense and poor positioning have put the Knicks in a tough spot at times.

Walker is a nonexistent force on defense, currently dealing with left knee issues but playing through them to start the new year. Walker is averaging 13 points per game and shooting 38.8% from three-point range. The problem with Walker, aside from his defense, is that he’s not a floor general point guard. New York desperately needs a player who can facilitate and curate assists at a high rate, and Walker simply isn’t that player anymore.

To be quite frank, there may not be a team out there willing to part ways with any capital in exchange for Walker unless they view him as a valuable bench piece and can afford to ignore defense. Fournier’s contract is paying him an average of $18.25 million per season. That amount will likely scare suitors away.

Unless the front office is willing to part ways with several young players to acquire more established talent, the Knicks are in for a bumpy trade deadline.

Will the UFC book an interim title fight with Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic?

UFC, Jon Jones

We are just about a week removed from UFC 270, but it’s time to take a look at what could be coming next. Last weekend, Francis Ngannou (17-3) defended his heavyweight title against Ciryl Gane (10-1).

The fight was the last one on Ngannou’s current UFC contract. Ngannou also went into the fight with a torn MCL and a damaged ACL. The champion is known for his knockout power, but had to use his wrestling to pull out a decision win.

It’s been revealed this week that Ngannou will require surgery which will keep him out of action until the end of the year. His contract’s championship clause also expires at the end of the year. With that in mind, we might have seen the last of Francis Ngannou in the UFC.

Now, despite the public back-and-forth, I think a deal will ultimately get done. However, with contract negotiations up in the air and Ngannou out until the end of the year regardless, I think the UFC is going to push forward with another interim title.

Another interim UFC heavyweight champion?

It seems incredibly redundant since Ciryl Gane was just the interim champion and lost to Ngannou. The UFC made an interim title just three months after Ngannou won the title in 2021 and Ngannou had no contract issues or injuries at the time.

Throw those two factors in and I see a recipe for another interim championship. However, this potential interim title would have a lot more merit in my opinion. I think the UFC is going to look at booking Jon Jones (26-1, 1 NC) against Stipe Miocic (20-4).

The fight sells itself as the greatest of all time moving up to heavyweight to take on the greatest heavyweight of all time. You could make this the headlining fight at International Fight Week in July with the winner setup to fight Francis Ngannou potentially at the end of the year or early 2023.

Jones has been told he’s going to get a UFC title shot when he debuts at heavyweight. Stipe Miocic’s resume speaks for itself and he deserves another crack at UFC gold. Whoever wins would setup a massive fight with Ngannou.

Either we would get the trilogy involving Stipe or the Jon Jones fight we’ve always wanted. If Jones moves up and beats Stipe, the Ngannou fight becomes even bigger. If I’m the UFC, this is definitely the direction I would go.

Giants’ head coaching search boiling down to a battle of the Brians | Flores interviewing with Saints

Brian Daboll, giants

The New York Giants head coaching search is boiling down to a battle of the Brian’s.

Both Brian Daboll and Brian Flores are finalists for the job, but the Giants are taking their time reviewing each candidate in determining who is best fit to lead their franchise into the future.

Both finalists have pros and cons, ranging from a lack of head-coaching experience to plenty of experience and success taking down teams like the New England Patriots with Bill Belichick at the helm. Flores spent the last three years with the Miami Dolphins, and despite losing the first seven of eight games of the season this year, the Dolphins went on a tear and enjoyed a 9–8 record.

Flores has experience commanding a locker room and motivating players, but he is a stringent defensive mind. Patrick Graham and Flores split up in Miami because the Dolphins head coach wanted to call plays on the defensive side.

With that being the case, Graham will likely depart if Flores is hired, but there’s a bigger question regarding the finalist.

Can he retain an offensive staff?

Flores churned through offensive coordinators and position groups with Miami, and whether that was a lack of synergy with the general manager and offensive hiring or simply premature firings, it is undoubtedly a red flag.

Either way, the Giants have competition for both candidates, as Flores is expected to interview with the New Orleans Saints over the weekend, and Daboll is reportedly one of the top targets for the Dolphins head coaching vacancy.

Daboll is entirely different than Flores, offering a modern offensive mind who played an instrumental role in developing Josh Allen into an elite quarterback. Having the skill set to grow and assist a young quarterback is essential, especially since the Giants have to make a decision on Daniel Jones and may end up drafting a young player to build around.

The last time the Giants had an offensive-minded coach was Pat Shurmer, and he proved to help Daniel Jones succeed on the football field, but the ineptitude of Dave Gettleman stood in the way.

Ownership is expected to decide on the vacant head coach spot within the next two days, but they better step on the gas if they don’t want to lose their top candidates.