Malik Monk turns from past trade target to Knicks tormentor

There was a time when Malik Monk was linked to the New York Knicks as a hot trade target. But it cooled down after the organizational shakeup that saw Leon Rose take over from Steve Mills as team president.

Monk, the 11th pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, never found his solid footing in his first four years in the NBA after a college career in Kentucky that saw him form a two-headed monster with reportedly Knicks trade target De’Aaron Fox.

Despite averaging a career-high 11.7 points during his last year with the Charlotte Hornets, Monk was shocked to see his stock drop to its lowest during the offseason. He settled for the veteran’s minimum despite only being 23 years old and just entering his fifth year in the league.

“It was crazy for me because … you never see that many lottery picks that get to be unrestricted,” Monk revealed last month. “And it kind of hit me hard when nobody really wanted me beside the Lakers, so I just put fuel in my tank and just held it in until I get time to play and prove I belong for long periods of time, and that’s what I’m doing right now.”

Monk continued his breakout season on Saturday night and reminded the Knicks what they missed in the offseason. He torched the Knicks with 29 points, with 24 in the second half to fuel the Lakers’ furious second-half rally.

Monk was unstoppable in the third quarter. The former Wildcat outscored the entire Knicks, 18-13, as the Lakers stunningly came back from a 21-point first-half deficit.

Monk is proving to be the biggest bargain signing in the offseason. He’s fast becoming the Laker’s third scoring punch behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis as Russell Westbrook struggles to fit.

Over his last 21 games dating back to Christmas Day, Monk is averaging 16.5 points on 49.2 percent field goal shooting and 44.9 percent clip from behind the arc. Also proving to be a solid defender, Monk has been one of the Lakers’ bright spots. He was plus-60 during that stretch for the Lakers.

For the season, he is averaging career-highs across the board (13.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists). He has become a reliable three-point shooter topping the 40-percent clip for the second straight season on a career-high 5.6 attempts.

Monk should set himself up for a big payday in the offseason, which the Lakers couldn’t afford. There’s no reported renewed interest from the Knicks on Monk, but his performance last night against them should be noteworthy as they reshape their flailing roster.

The Lakers could offer him their mid-level exception, but a non-taxpayer mid-level exception could entice Monk to sign elsewhere. The Knicks should take a flier on him. He would fit perfectly to their young core’s timeline as a microwave scorer off the bench, especially if they successfully unload some of their veterans reportedly on the trade block.

Monk is much cheaper, younger, and more athletic than Burks and Fournier as the Knicks prepare to  allocate a big chunk of their cap space to Barrett’s looming extension and their search for a starting-caliber point guard.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Yankees: All the weekend news all in one place, check it out

New York Yankees, Gio Urshela

With the lockout still in effect for the New York Yankees and all the MLB owners and players seemingly no closer to an agreement, there is not any transaction news for the time being. However, there are some important things going on that you should be aware of. Here is a weekend roundup of the most important stories.

Prospect Jasson Dominguez is worth a lot on paper

For a couple of years now, we have been listening to all the hype surrounding outfielder prospect Jasson Dominguez, everything from being a monster at the plate to being one of the best outfielders the Yankees have seen for years. According to scouts, all of that is true.

Tops have just issued a new baseball card for the young phenom. That card sold for a record-breaking amount for any Dominguez card. At the close of business, Goldin Auctions closed the betting, netting $474,000 for the card to an unknown buyer.

The players association rejects MLB’s desire to involve the Feds

In less than a half dozen meetings between the MLB owners and players since MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred put a lockout in place, preventing any teams to make any transactions or even talking to each other. The CBA seems no closer to a resolution. Last week MLB asked for involvement from the Federal Government, stepping in the help mediate an agreement acceptable to all sides, but the players union, who must agree to the move, rejected it.

The Major League Baseball Players Association on Friday ruled out a third party intervening, one day after MLB asked for help from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

“After consultation with our executive board and taking into account a variety of factors, we have declined this request. The clearest path to a fair and timely agreement is to get back to the table. Players stand ready to negotiate.”

Players that will not be traded

The New York Yankees have made it pretty clear recently that they are not interested in trading off two of the best prospects they have had in years. Specifically, we are talking about SS Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza. If previous talks with the Oakland Athletics, when the A’s suggested that the two be included in a trade for Matt Olson, a first baseman the Yankees surely would like to have. However, the Yankees denied the request, not wanting to strip their farm system of future shortstops for the Yankee team.

Although the talks were before the lockout, it seems to set the stage for future requests outcomes when other teams want the two or even one included in any trade deal. Keep in mind with the twists and turns that will lay ahead before the season starts, anything can happen.

First baseman Freddie Freeman to be pursued by the Yankees?

There is no question that Freddie Freeman is the best first baseman free agent on the market, and the Yankees would surely like to see him in pinstripes. Freeman and the Braves have been at odds all season long on an extension, and after they won the World Series, Freeman became a free agent. Since then, the Braves have offered him a $180 million contract that he rejected.

Ever since Freeman became a free agent, the Yankees have been mentioned as a landing place for the first baseman. The Yankees could use Luke Voit at first, but that would be the least appealing with all of his injuries, even though he was the number one home run leader in 2020. 2021 wasn’t a good year for Voit at the plate or with all his lower-body injuries. They also could go after the A’s Matt Olson, but a trade from him might be too costly for the Yankees. The most likely scenario is that they will re-sign Anthony Rizzo, who has said he would like to remain in New York. But nevertheless, the Freeman rumors continue.

With the Yankees projected to have just two lefty hitters, Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks, Freeman, also a lefty, would add some pop on the left side of the base for the Yankees. Recently according to MLB Networks’ Jon Heyman, the Yankees will “make a run” after Freeman when the lockout preventing transactions is lifted.

Gio Urshela’s future unclear

Last season, Gio Urshela fell victim to the inconsistent hitting, among other things, but though his offensive performance waned, his dedication to the team never lapsed. Think of his Jeter-like into the stands in Game 162 of the regular season. Nevertheless, he didn’t hit as well as the previous season and doesn’t deserve to be handed an automatic start at third base. This is particularly true with the present turmoil in the infield that has no clear resolution. With DJ LeMahieu likely to be displaced at first and Gleyber Torres being the everyday second baseman, there might be no place for Urshela unless he is moved to shortstop or even the bench to start the season.

 

Report: Knicks receiving interest in center Mitchell Robinson at the trade deadline

mitchell robinson, knicks

With the NBA trade deadline just four days away, the New York Knicks could get involved with a last-second deal. Up to this point, teams have been relatively quiet, but moves have been in a flurry, especially with the deadline about to expire.

The Knicks have been linked to a number of teams and players, notably Jerami Grant from the Detroit Pistons, De’Aaron Fox from Sacramento, and Jalen Brunson from Dallas.

Whether or not the front office decides to make any lucrative acquisitions is yet to be seen, but there’s definitely interest to unload big contracts and add a point guard to help smooth over Derrick Rose’s loss for the next few weeks.

The Knicks have one valuable asset:

One player who has elevated his stock tremendously is center in Mitchell Robinson, who’s had a tremendous start to 2022.

According to SNY reporter Ian Begley, the Detroit Pistons are intrigued by Robinson’s services:

The Detroit Pistons are among the teams who’ve had a degree of interest in the 23-year-old, per SNY sources. Robinson would fit the team’s desire to find players on the same timeline as rookie Cade Cunningham. It’s unknown if Detroit would pursue Robinson via trade or if the club would only consider him if/when he hits free agency.

In the month of January, Robinson averaged 10.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, and connected on 82.6% of his shots from the field. Out of 13 total games, Robinson recorded six with double-digit points, including a high of 17 against the New Orleans Pelicans on January 20.

Tom Thibodeau provided a glowing review of Mitchell Robinson this season, harping on his dominance around the rim:

“The rim protection is elite. Offensively, putting pressure on the rim has been really good. Finishing through contact has been really, really good. Very pleased overall with his progress and I think there’s a lot of room for growth,” the coach said. “….He’s got gifts that are special. He can cover a lot of ground, he can be out (on the perimeter) and get back (to the paint), drop with the roller (when defending the pick-and-roll), protect the rim. Change shots (at the rim); people are always looking for him (at the rim). I think he’s gaining experience now where he can see things even earlier so I think he’ll continue to grow.”

With Robinson finally 100% healthy and enjoying continuity, his game has finally reached a productive level. He’s not at peak performance just yet, but there’s no question he would be a valuable trade piece if the Knicks elected to move him at the deadline.

There’s always the other side of the equation where the front office extends Robinson and use him as a long-term solution at center.

Giants poach tight ends coach that helped develop Mark Andrews in Baltimore

Andy Bischoff, giants

After rolling with Freddie Kitchens as the tight end coach for the New York Giants the past two seasons, the team is moving in a different direction, bringing on Andy Bischoff, formally of the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans.

According to FootballScoop, Bischoff accepted the TE spot with New York, bringing essential experience and success developing players with him. The Giants don’t have many tight ends under contract, with Evan Engram hitting free agency and Kyle Rudolph expected to be released, saving the Giants a healthy $5 million in salary space.

However, Bischoff was a key component in helping Mark Andrews become one of the best, if not the best, tight end in football.

Andrews has progressively gotten better over his four-year career in Baltimore, having his best campaign in 2021 as a first-team All-Pro member. Back in 2019, Andrews recorded his first Pro Bowl appearance, earning 852 yards and 10 touchdowns, a career-high.

Looking back at Bischoff‘s background, he served as an offensive assistant with the Ravens from 2015 through 2020. He coached with David Culley in Baltimore for two years, in which the Ravens enjoyed a 25–7 record. He played center at the University of South Dakota from 1990 to 1994. He also served as the TE coach for the Chicago Bears in 2013 and 2014, showcasing his experience at the position.

It is entirely possible the Giants look to the mid-rounds for a potential TE solution, where other teams have found success. Notable players include George Kittle and Travis Kelce.

This year, the TE class is considered thin, but there are some quality players who could be in the mix during the 2nd/3rd round. Jalen Wydermyer out of Texas A&M stands out as the 50th ranked prospect, per CBS.

Another name is Cole Turner out of Nevada and Jeremy Ruckert out of Ohio State. Ruckert, specifically, is an intriguing option at 6’5″ and 250-pounds. Ruckert is a fantastic pass catcher from the TE position, offering quarterback Daniel Jones an option off the line of scrimmage. He’s also a willing blocker, containing a bit of explosion that may not be visible until the play is underway.

Something that coaches will love about Ruckert is his motor and work ethic, putting everything he has into every block, making him a high effort and coachable player. Similar to Andrews earlier in his career, Bischoff might have the perfect knowledge to help Ruckert expand upon his receiving talents, which would give the Giants an advantage on offense.

The Knicks learned something important in devastating loss to Lakers

knicks, rj barrett

The New York Knicks fell to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night 122–115. Despite the overtime loss, they enjoyed lucrative performances from RJ Barrett and Julius Randle, who combined for 68 points, 12 assists, and 24 rebounds.

Unfortunately, LeBron James and Anthony Davis powered Los Angeles to victory, as New York showed poor second-half defense, giving up 31 points in the third quarter, scoring just 13 of their own.

The Knicks started off on fire, though, posting 42 points in the first quarter but simmering down for the rest of the game. With LeBron James making a return after missing five games with a knee issue, his presence was ultimately the difference maker between victory and a tough loss at Crypto.com Arena.

Interestingly, Barrett made it known he wanted to cover James the entire game, a daunting task for any player, let alone a  third-year guard who has been inconsistent at times this season defensively.

Barrett finished the game with 36 points, 5.0 assists, and 7.0 rebounds, shooting 40% from three point range and 13 of 28 from the field.

Defensively, he was always at a disadvantage against James, but he was potent offensively, driving to the rim and shooting efficiently over 50 minutes of play. However, Barrett went cold in overtime when it mattered most, heaving up a 23-foot jump shot that missed badly and turning the ball over with just two minutes left on the clock.

However, the Knicks learned an important lesson from this game, Barrett has become their number one scoring option, despite Randle’s solid outing. Last month, Barrett finished with 21.8 points per game and shot 43.6% from the field. He also connected on 40.2% from three-point range.

To start February, he’s averaging nearly 30 points per game over two contests, maintaining his 6.0 rebounds per game to start the new year.

Even Randle gushed about his mentality against the Lakers, despite showing the disappointment on his face after the loss.

“That’s who he is. He’s made for big moments like that.”

Compared to last season, Barrett is officially having a more productive year compared to his second season with the team. He’s averaging 17.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and shooting 35.3% from the field. His shooting percentages are down a bit, but he’s averaging more points in fewer minutes, attempting a similar number of field goals.

With rumors indicating that Julius Randall could be on the trade block, which he declined this week, Barrett has undoubtedly put on a show and showcased he can be the team’s top option if need be. However, it is fair to give Randle credit where it’s due, commanding essential attention from the opposing team’s defenders providing RJ with better opportunities to drive to the basket and find high percentage shots.

The Giants could have a shot at Kayvon Thibodeaux after latest report

kayvon thibodeaux, new york giants

The New York Giants have a ton of holes to fill in the 2022 NFL draft, which makes the concept of trading back that much more attractive. With a full rebuild underway after hiring Joe Schoen to be the team’s new general manager, collecting more draft capital seems like the most efficient strategy.

However, there are some prospects that will be tough to pass on if they drop to the 5th overall selection, let alone the 7th, both of which the Giants have at their disposal. Offensive tackles Ikem Ekwonu and Evan Neal out of Alabama both stand out as lucrative prospects that can start immediately at right tackle.

Another electrifying prospect is Oregon outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Thibodeaux is one of the most exciting pass rushers in the draft class, with elite speed and phenomenal strength combined into one athletic specimen. There are concerns regarding his work ethic and motor, though, which could drop him right into the lap of Schoen and Big Blue.

“I heard a lot about Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, including concerns that he just doesn’t play with the same fire as some other top prospects. His ceiling is high, but the floor is lower than what you want for a top-five pick.” – Todd McShay

Thibodeaux played in 10 games this past season, recording 49 total tackles and 12 tackles for loss. He also tallied 7.0 sacks and two forced fumbles. When looking at him as a pure prospect, the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses, which is why he will likely be a top-five pick.

Suppose teams begin to sour on his services. In that case, the Giants could inject a potentially elite pass rusher into their system alongside Azeez Ojulari, who had double-digit sacks as a rookie.

As per The Draft Network, Thibodeaux remains an electrifying prospect:

Kayvon Thibodeaux is a former No. 1 ESPN 100 player when entering the University of Oregon. Upon arriving, he earned countless honors and awards including the Morris Trophy and Pac-12 Championship Game MVP while also earning All-American and All-Pac-12 status in nearly every publication. Thibodeaux is a very good athlete with regards to explosion and agility. In the passing game, he has an explosive first step and demonstrates very good ability to counter if he doesn’t win with his initial move. He rushes with good instincts and feel and has shown an uncanny ability to set linemen up throughout the game. In the run game, he plays with heavy hands and does a good job holding the point of attack. He should improve the consistency in which he disengages but plays with high effort, motor, and emotional endurance.

Looking ahead, there are only a few situations where the Giants should sit still, and those revolve around Ekwonu, Neal, and Thibodeaux. Unless Aiden Hutchinson magically falls to number five, which is highly unlikely, those are the three players worth sticking around for.

Otherwise, the Giants should heavily consider moving back and collecting more capital for 2023, a strong quarterback class in case Daniel Jones flounders.

Report: Yankees entering sweepstakes for Braves star first baseman Freddie Freeman

freddie freeman, yankees

It seems as if the New York Yankees are getting further and further away from signing a big shortstop free agent to plug a position of weakness for the 2022 season and beyond. With the lockout still underway and both sides of the table struggling to put together a new economic plan, the Yankees are sitting in limbo, waiting for an opportunity to strike.

Prior to the lockout, MLB teams spent over $1 billion bringing in new talent, but the Yankees didn’t partake in the lucrative spree. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t be active during the second portion of free agency, especially with names like Carlos Correa and Freddie Freeman still on the board.

According to Jon Heyman of the MLB Network, the Yankees are expected to make a significant run at Atlanta Braves star first baseman, Freddie Freeman.

Freeman is expected to land a contract in the realm of six years, $150+ million. He rejected a five-year, $135 million deal from Atlanta, which could mean the end of their pursuit after winning a World Series and connecting with the Oakland Athletics on first baseman Matt Olson.

With reports indicating the general manager Brian Cashman is unwilling to sell his top young prospects, spending money seems like the most likely scenario. This past season, Freeman had one of the best years of his career, hitting .300 with 31 homers, 83 RBIs, and a career-low 15.4% strike-out rate.

The Yankees would love to have Freeman in their batting order, who could hit 40+ homers in Yankee Stadium after launching 38 in Atlanta back in 2019.

Freeman recorded a 45.7% hard-hit rate this past year and connected with his barrel on 11.5% of contact. His exit velocity hovered around 91.4 mph with a max of 113.6, the highest over his 11-year career in the big leagues.

The major concern for the Yankees would be regression with age, but at 32 years old, the team could depend on him to be their first baseman for six years easily. Given first basemen aren’t expected to be the most physically athletic players on the field, Freeman will have the luxury of the short right porch in Yankee Stadium and being with a team that realistically competes for playoff contention every year.

The question is, is Cashman willing to spend big on a first baseman? A position he has neglected with his checkbook in the past.