Karl-Anthony Towns pokes fun at Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau after playing 43 mins in playoff win

The New York Knicks did not make the playoffs, but they continue to be part of the basketball conversation.

After the sighting of Knicks executives in Dallas during the series opener between the Mavericks and the Utah Jazz made social media rounds, it was Tom Thibodeau’s turn to get the spotlight.

Minnesota’s All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns referenced his former coach, Thibodeau, after playing a game-high 43 minutes in the Timberwolves’ huge 130-117 upset of no. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series.

A reporter asked Towns, who produced 29 points and 13 rebounds if he’s comfortable playing in the mid-40s.

When was the last time I played 43 [minutes]? I know when it was — Thibs,” Towns said with a chuckle. “So, I’m prepared for it. I’m prepared for it.”

Thibodeau earned a bad rep for running his players to the ground because of his penchant for leaving his starters late in blown-out games that led to injuries to his stars from Derrick Rose to RJ Barrett most recently. But while Towns played his most minutes in his two seasons under Thibodeau (37.0 minutes per game in 2016-17 and 35.6 minutes the following year), he was dead wrong in implying that it was the last time he played 43 minutes.

Towns had also played 43 minutes earlier this season, ironically, against the Grizzlies last Nov. 8, 2021. He also had a pair of 42-minute games this season in Charlotte (Feb. 15) and New Orleans (Jan. 11). He finished the regular-season averaging 33.5 minutes per game, his lowest since the 2018-19 season.

Towns was right, though, in giving credit to Thibodeau for preparing him to play longer minutes.

During his time in Minnesota, Thibodeau defended giving out long minutes to his key players.

“I think every team is different,” Thibodeau said in 2018. “If you have younger players, you’re going to play them a little bit more. If you have guys in their mid-30s, you’re probably going to pull back on it.”

Thibodeau explained that main players will always get more minutes and will always be based on matchups.

“I think people sometimes get caught up in the wrong stuff,” Thibodeau added in the January 2018 interview. “The most important thing is winning.”

Towns’ season-high-tying 43 minutes against the Grizzlies led to winning basketball. He has a funny way of saying Thibodeau was right all along.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

How early should the New York Giants consider drafting a tight end?

jeremy ruckert, jets, ohio state

The New York Giants have a glaring hole on offense. In 2021, Evan Engram was the team’s starting tight end with Kyle Rudolph playing as the second man in the lineup. Behind Rudolph and Engram was Kaden Smith. All three of these tight ends are no longer on the New York Giants roster. The Giants need to draft a tight end in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. But how early should the Giants consider drafting a tight end?

How early should the New York Giants consider drafting a tight end?

The Giants have greater needs than the tight end position in the 2022 NFL Draft. New York needs to add talent to their offensive line and pass-rushing department, first and foremost. But with the nine draft picks that the Giants possess across the seven rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft, they need to target a tight end. There are a number of talented tight end prospects available in the middle rounds of this year’s draft class.

There are not many high-end tight end prospects in this year’s class (not that the Giants need to target a high-end prospect at that position). Only two tight end prospects rank in PFF’s top-100 on their Big Board this year. The Draft Network has five tight ends ranked in their top-100 prospects. But in all likelihood, the Giants will consider it to be too rich to draft a tight end with a pick inside the top-100.

The Giants are likely to wait until the middle-to-late rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft to draft a tight end. Joe Schoen helped the Buffalo Bills find Dawson Knox in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Buffalo Bills’ roster was in a similar position to that of the Giants’ current roster. Schoen and the Bills fixed their tight end problem by drafting Dawson Knox in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Knox has been the starter ever since, catching 9 touchdown passes in 2021.

When the Giants decide to draft a tight end, it will likely be in round three or later. Some prospects that they could target include the likes of Jeremy Ruckert (Ohio State), Trey McBride (Colorado State), and Charlie Kolar (Iowa State). All of these prospects are projected to be drafted in the middle rounds. Keep an eye on them when the New York Giants are on the clock.

The Yankees could trade one of their promising young players if struggles continue

gleyber torres, yankees

Whether it be a bad omen or the baseball gods demanding reparations for the Yankees‘ past success, developing home-grown talent has been challenging to come by over the past few seasons. While the team has plenty of exciting young prospects climbing the system, they’ve failed miserably to turn their promising players into legitimate stars, given they recently traded Gary Sanchez away to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for stop-gap solutions.

General manager Brian Cashman may be approaching a time where trading Gleyber Torres is a possibility, given he’s fallen off tremendously since his stellar rookie and sophomore seasons.

Torres hit .271 back in 2018 with 24 homers, backing it up with a .278 average and 38 homers in 2019 — All-Star caliber numbers. However, ever since the Covid-abbreviated 2020 season, Torres has been a shell of his former self. He clearly lacks confidence at the plate, and he’s not hitting the ball with the same gusto he once possessed. His barrel rate has dropped a whole percent, if not more, compared to his first two seasons (9.2% –> 7.8% in 2021).

That didn’t stop the Yankees’ hitting coach from making a claim that Torres was back to his old self this spring.

“I think he’s back to where he was a few years ago, when he was using the whole field,” hitting coach Dillon Lawson said several weeks ago. “He’s done fine the past couple years going to right-center, but the way he’s going to right-center right now is with authority. And it’s not in a way that limits him to the pull side. That’s stuff from ’18 and ’19.”

So far this year, Torres is hitting .161 with one homer. He’s currently on a four-game hitless streak, leaving little to no offensive impression on a team that just lost two out of three games against the Baltimore Orioles.

At some point, the Yankees need to make a decision on Gleyber’s future. He’s showed some prowess defensively at 2nd base, but that isn’t nearly enough to retain his job as a starter, given DJ LeMahieu is a far better defender and could replace his value in seconds.

There’s a debate to be had that Torres could lose his starting job early in the season if he continues to falter at this rate. He currently hosts a 25% strikeout rate, his highest since 2018. While the season is young, there’s a big sample size suggesting that Torres may be overrated, and trading him could be the best course of action, especially if Cashman finds himself in need of pitching support later on in the season.

Mike Francesa dreams about game-changing stud hitting leadoff for the Yankees: Is it possible?

cedric mullins, yankees

The New York Yankees rank 25th in MLB (out of 30 teams) with just 30 runs scored. Their offensive performance has been, for the lack of a better word, frustrating. The hitters are slashing .229/.311/.366 so far.

Former WFAN host Mike Francesa is dreaming about a specific player who, according to him, could jumpstart the Yankees offense: Baltimore Orioles Cedric Mullins.

Mullins, the only 30-30 hitter in the majors last year, hurt the Yankees with important hits over the weekend. He is a dynamic force at the top of the Orioles, and while he is yet to hit the ground running (he is slashing .167/.231/.361 with a 71), he already has two homers, a steal, and his customary great defense in center field to speak for himself.

Is Mullins to the Yankees possible?

On Saturday, Francesa tweeted the following: “If I could place a player, within reason, in the Yankee lineup. It would be Mullins in CF, batting leadoff. Perfect fit,” he said. And it really is a good fit: he plays center field and is a superb offensive player, even if he somewhat outperformed his peripherals last year.

In 2021, he slashed .291/.360/.518 with 30 homers, 30 stolen bases, and 91 runs. Yes, his xwOBA (.344) was significantly lower than his actual wOBA (.372), but he was a fine player, and took a step forward mainly by making mechanical adjustments and ditching the idea of being a switch-hitter.

A trade is possible, but extremely unlikely, though. Mullins is a piece to build around, as he has four years of cheap team control remaining, and Baltimore finally has some young studs that could come over to the bigs and start developing: Grayson Rodriguez, DL Hall, and catching prospect Adley Rutschman, not to mention useful players already in their big league roster, such as John Means, Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander, and others.

For the Yankees to get the O’s attention, they would have to offer a huge package of prospects and assets, and so far, the Bombers have shown an unwillingness to discuss Anthony Volpe and Jasson Dominguez.

So, while Mullins is a good fit for the Yankees, he is highly unlikely to be deal to the Bronx.

Dana White targeting UFC bout between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic

UFC, Dana White

For the last couple of years, we’ve been wondering when Jon Jones (26-1, 1 NC) would return to the UFC. A couple of years ago, there was an angle to make the fight between Jon Jones and Francis Ngannou. However, the fight never came together.

Jones had a bit of a falling out with the UFC after that. Then, Jones vacated the light heavyweight title and focused on moving up to heavyweight. The UFC and Jones seemed to be on good terms leading up to the title fight with Francis Ngannou and Stipe Miocic.

However, after Ngannou won the title by knockout, Dana White had some choice comments regarding Jones’ interest in the fight. Once again, this caused a bit of a fall out between the UFC and Jones. However, Jones remained focused and intent on fighting at heavyweight.

While most wanted to see him in 2021, the calendar turned over without a Bones fight. In January, Francis Ngannou defended his title successfully against Ciryl Gane. However, Ngannou required knee surgery after the fight and won’t fight until the end of the year at the earliest.

Interim UFC Heavyweight Title Fight

This injury has opened the doors to a fight that Dana White wants to make. The fight he wants to make would pit the greatest of all time against the greatest heavyweight in UFC history. White told TMZ that he wants to make Jon Jones – Stipe Miocic (20-4) happen this summer.

The UFC president said it’s the fight to make and their goal is to make it happen. It’s the perfect fight for the promotion. Obviously, it gets Jon Jones back in the octagon where he’s needed. It gives Stipe Miocic the opportunity to regain a piece of the heavyweight title.

This fight would also setup a huge seller against Ngannou regardless of the winner. If Jon Jones wins, it sets up arguably the biggest fight in the history of the promotion. If Stipe Miocic wins, it sets up the trilogy between the two men to see who is truly the best in the UFC.

The word is that the UFC is really pushing for this to headline one of the July PPVs. My guess is that they would love to get it done for International Fight Week. The fight isn’t done, but this is definitely something to watch over the coming weeks.

Corey Anderson’s bad luck continued at Bellator 277

Corey Anderson

This past Friday night in the co-main event of Bellator 277, we saw what was supposed to be the conclusion of the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix. Vadim Nemkov (15-2, 1 NC) was defending his title against Corey Anderson (16-5, 1 NC).

The fight started out well for the champion. Nemkov was doing a good job of using his kicks and speed to evade the big strikes of Corey Anderson. While the round was close, I had Nemkov taking the first round.

However, in the second round, Corey Anderson really started to take over. Anderson was able to use his wrestling and his power to change the trajectory of the fight. He looked confident and determined after the second round while Nemkov showed signs of concern.

In the third round, it was more of the same. It looked like Corey Anderson was going to cash that $1 million check and be crowned Bellator light heavyweight champion. However, everything changed in the final seconds of the round.

With about ten seconds left in the round, Anderson went to throw an elbow from guard. However, he missed and there was a clash of heads. The clash forced open a massive cut over the eye of the Bellator light heavyweight champion. Immediately the doctor waved off the fight and it was declared a No Contest.

What’s next after Bellator 277?

There is no doubt in my mind that Corey Anderson would have gone on to win at Bellator 277 had that headbutt not happened. However, it did happen and Nemkov remains the champion while the Grand Prix remains unresolved.

Now, they’ll have to run it back at a future date with everything on the line once again. This No Contest result is just another break of bad luck for Corey Anderson. In 2019, Anderson looked poised for a UFC title shot.

However, after the fight was given to Dominick Reyes, Anderson was forced to take a fight with Jan Blachowicz. He was knocked out in that fight then suffered some health setbacks. These setbacks caused him to ask for his release and led to him signing with Bellator.

Now, he finally climbed that ladder to become a world champion and it was taken away by accident. I expect Anderson to be the favorite whenever Bellator rebooks the title fight, but Nemkov isn’t going to roll over and he’s going to be well prepared.

Yankees made strange relief pitcher demotion right before loss to Baltimore

jp sears, yankees

The New York Yankees fell 5–0 to the Baltimore Orioles in the final game of a three-game series on Sunday afternoon. However, before the game began, field manager Aaron Boone made a roster change, sending young relief pitcher JP Sears down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, elevating outfielder Tim Locastro to get to start in left.

Locastro, who offers phenomenal speed in the outfield and on the base paths, made an astounding catch late in the game to save a run. Locastro spent last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Yankees, hitting a collective .180 with two homers and seven RBIs. Back in 2020, Locastro posted his best season, hitting .290 over 33 games.

However, giving Joey Gallo a rest day seems to be the reason behind the shift, despite Boone calling upon the big slugger to help get the Yankees on the board late in the game. Gallo, unfortunately, was unable to get anything done, lining out to shortstop against the shift.

The corresponding move for Locastro’s call-up was JP Sears, who enjoyed his first major league action last week. Sears has just two innings of action under his belt, featuring against the Toronto Blue Jays last week and Orioles on Saturday, giving up two hits and one walk, but escaping without giving up a run. Sears picked up his first win of the season and career, representing an exciting mark.

At just 26 years old, Sears will undoubtedly get elevated to the active roster once again since the Yankees have been dipping into their bullpen frequently this season with their starters unable to go further than five innings on average. In Triple-A last year, Sears posted a 2.87 ERA, 10.97 strikeouts per nine, and a solid 41.5% ground ball percentage.

The hope is that Sears can offer the Yankees another great lefty arm in the bullpen. They could’ve used him against Rougned Odor, who hit a two-run single and the eighth inning to break a 0–0 tie. Boone’s decision-making this season has been a bit spotty and inconsistent, which has been one of his biggest knocks over the past few years.

After big win at UFC Vegas 51, what’s next for Belal Muhammad?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 51, we saw a battle between two of the best welterweights in the world. Sixth ranked Belal Muhammad (21-3, 1 NC) was looking to avenge a loss against fifth ranked Vicente Luque (21-8-1).

Both men were looking to take another step towards a UFC title shot on Saturday night. When they first fought back in 2016, Vicente Luque was able to score a first round knockout. However, it was evident from the opening bell that this was not the same Belal Muhammad that lost six years ago.

Luque opened the first round well with decent pressure and looked to work the jab. However, it was Belal Muhammad who was being more effective with his footwork on the outside and was doing a decent job of landing shots.

Then, Muhammad was able to land the takedown which was a story of the fight. In the majority of rounds at UFC Vegas 51, Muhammad was able to get Luque to the mat which is something previous opponents have struggled with.

Luque tried to come on strong in the final round, but Muhammad was holding his own in the striking. In fact, you could say he was even getting the better of the exchanges. In the end, all three judges awarded the decision win to Belal Muhammad at UFC Vegas 51.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 51?

This was a massive win for Belal Muhammad who moved to 7-0, 1 NC in his last eight fights. The lone no contest came against top contender Leon Edwards when Muhammad was accidentally poked in the eye in their main event fight.

Without a doubt, this was the biggest win of Muhammad’s UFC career. After the fight was over, there was one name on the mind of Muhammad. That name was former interim welterweight champion Colby Covington.

While that’s the fight Muhammad wants, I’m not sure that’s the fight the UFC will give him. The current plan if all goes well is to have Covington face off with Khamzat Chimaev in a title eliminator. Leon Edwards is going to be fighting Kamaru Usman for the title sometime this summer.

With that, everyone but one man is booked in front of Muhammad. That one man is former title challenger and best friend to Vicente Luque, Gilbert Burns. Burns just fought Chimaev at UFC 273 and lost a very close decision.

Some believe that Burns won the fight and his stock didn’t take a single hit. To me, this is the perfect fight for Belal Muhammad and I think it’s the fight that will get booked next.

After suffering first career loss at Bellator 277, what’s next for AJ McKee?

AJ McKee

This past Friday night in the main event of Bellator 277, we saw a rematch for the featherweight title. AJ McKee (18-1) was looking to defend his title against the most decorated fighter in Bellator history Patricio Pitbull (33-5).

The two men fought last July at Bellator 263 and McKee ran through Pitbull and stopped him in the first. McKee is a homegrown star and he was cashing in after knocking off the great Patricio Pitbull. However, he needed to beat him for a second time to really further his legacy.

This fight was much different than the first. Bellator 277’s main event went all five rounds and it showed that Pitbull and McKee are very close in terms of their overall skillset. From the opening bell, I wasn’t a huge fan of the way that McKee came out.

He looked incredibly aggressive like he wanted to finish Pitbull in the first again. Instead of letting things come to him, he was trying to force everything. Meanwhile, Pitbull was calm and collected while picking his shots. Doing this allowed him to bag rounds.

In the later rounds, McKee got more creative with his wrestling and showed how good his top game was. However, he needed to do it sooner. In the end, all three judges gave a decision win to Patricio Pitbull at Bellator 277 and gave McKee his first professional loss.

What’s next after Bellator 277?

This loss deals a huge blow to the plans of the former Bellator champion. McKee openly talked about the fact that he was fighting on his champion’s clause on Friday night. Had he won, he would’ve only had two more fights before free agency.

He openly talked about wanting to make seven figures and one day becoming UFC champion. Well, after losing at Bellator 277, all of the things he had in mind are going to have to wait. So, what is next for McKee?

After the fight, he said that he was done with the featherweight division. Siting difficult weight cuts, McKee said his next fight is going to be at 155 pounds. Personally, I would have loved to see Bellator do the trilogy with Pitbull, but Pitbull doesn’t seem interested in fighting at 155.

That being said, perhaps a fight with Patricky Pitbull could be next. The brother of Patricio is currently the Bellator lightweight champion. Not sure if McKee would get an immediate title shot, but that fight is there. I would personally do that because McKee is still one of the bigger stars in the promotion.

Giants News: Writing is on the wall for James Bradberry as he plans to skip all voluntary workouts

New York Giants, James Bradberry

With the 2022 NFL Draft quickly approaching, the New York Giants are running out of time to open up enough salary space to sign their rookie class. While they don’t have to ink them to their contracts immediately, the Giants will have to be wary of their cap space, which currently sits at $6.8 million. The team needs about $10 million more for the rookies and a little cushion for the 2022 regular season.

One of the most obvious ways they can clear enough cap space is by trading or cutting cornerback James Bradberry, who’s coming off a relatively down season compared to his 2020 gem.

Last year, Bradberry allowed 729 yards and eight touchdowns, a significant downturn compared to the 454 yards and three touchdowns he allowed during his first season with a Giants.

If the Giants do decide to part ways with the veteran defensive back, they would save about $11.7 million in salary space, a number they desperately need at this point in time.

Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com stated that James Bradberry isn’t expected to attend voluntary workouts as the Giants try to shop him:

But until Bradberry — who didn’t report for the start of voluntary offseason workouts and isn’t expected to — is dumped, the Giants don’t even have enough cap space to sign their draft class.

The Giants have time to trade Bradberry, but not too much:

There are plenty of players who don’t attend voluntary workouts, but Bradberry usually isn’t one of them. Bradberry has stayed away from the team and is waiting patiently for their move, indicating he likely will be traded if new general manager Joe Schoen can find a partner.

The primary issue is finding a team willing to pick up his salary hit and offer draft capital as compensation. The Kansas City Chiefs are reportedly interested in Bradberry’s services, and with Stephon Gilmore signing with the Indianapolis Colts, there is an absolute need for premium corners on the market.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Bradberry was a draft-day trade, especially if a prospective team loses out on the opportunity to draft a preferred corner. The Giants could gain in a bit of leverage in the situation, so they might be waiting patiently to find the best offer available.