<![CDATA[NBC New York - Sports]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.com en-us Sat, 29 Nov 2014 03:46:20 -0500 Sat, 29 Nov 2014 03:46:20 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[It's Hard for Knicks and Nets Fans to be Thankful]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 13:06:55 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/derek+fisher.jpg

I know perfectly well that this is the time of the year to give thanks, but our two NBA teams have been making that concept exceedingly difficult for fans of either team. Let us count the ways:

1. The Knicks are 4-12 heading into tonight’s game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City and probably won’t have Carmelo Anthony for the second straight game because of back spasms.

It’s bad enough that Derek Fisher is going to have to try to win without his one true star and the only Knick's player other teams have to double team. But the Thunder, also 4-12, could have Russell Westbrook back in the lineup for the first time since breaking his right hand on Oct. 30 in the Thunder’s second game of the season.

There is also talk that reigning MVP Kevin Durant will be ready to play after breaking his foot on Oct. 12 in pre-season. But it seems there’s a better chance that the Knicks will see Westbrook and that’s nothing to be thankful for. The Knicks’ point guards are walking liabilities at the defensive end of the floor and that will only be magnified if they have to try to defend one of the NBA’s top athletes.

Either way, it could be a real Black Friday for the Knicks as they conclude their holiday trek through Texas and Oklahoma.

2. Phil Jackson can help out during the team’s second straight poor start to the season, right? Well, not exactly.

The team’s $60-million president returned to his home base of Playa Del Rey, California, for the holiday. Lest anyone think that the Zen Master was just getting a little R&R in the nice 80-degree weather, he sent out a tweet in which he wanted to set the record straight. Sounding a little perturbed by the idea that he was trying to get away from all of the losing, he stated for the record that his visit was to have medical tests performed.

Jackson might need a second knee replacement surgery and has a difficult time getting around. He also is of no mind to see the team play on the road, so much so that he has yet to see his team play away from the Garden.

3. The Knicks’ schedule doesn’t get any easier when they return home this weekend, with the Heat, Nets and Cavaliers coming to the Garden. True, it’s not exactly having to play the Grizzlies, Warriors and Blazers _ the top teams out West _ but it’s still going to be a challenge, especially if Anthony can’t take the court.

The Knicks have yet to face the LeBron-less Heat this season, but they were embarrassed by the Nets, 110-99, a few weeks back. They did shock the Cavs in LeBron James’ first game back in Cleveland since jumping back to the Cavs last summer as a free agent. But how many miracles can Fisher expect in one season against the best player on the planet?

4. The Nets almost suffered the ultimate indignity when they were taken down to the final minute before finally beating back the winless Sixers on Thanksgiving eve. Against a team with hardly any scoring options, the Nets looked old and slow, but emerged with the victory against the NBA’s only remaining winless team when their resident fossil, Kevin Garnett, drained a clutch jumper in the last 33 seconds. Despite the win, the Nets came away from the game admitting they still have a long way to go. But they can be thankful that they get to play the dreadful Sixers three more times this season.

5. Even Mikhail Prokhorov can’t be very happy with his team’s 6-8 start. The stats don’t lie: The Nets are 6-2 against teams with sub-.500 records and 0-6 against teams with winning marks. Here’s who they’ve beaten: The Thunder twice, the Knicks, Magic, Sixers and Pistons. Combined, those teams are 17-61.

6. Nets coach Lionel Hollins can’t be thankful for the next stretch of games, even if he does get to face the Knicks in the Garden on Tuesday, when Anthony still might be sidelined with his back injury. Starting Sunday when the Bulls come to Barclays Center, the Nets over the next 11 days have to run a difficult gauntlet of teams, with dates against the Spurs, Hawks, Cavs and Bulls again, out in Chicago.

7. Hollins came to the Nets after leading the Grizzlies to their first ever Western Conference Finals. But he’s already come to the realization that he won’t be able to have the same kind of hard-nosed team that was among the league’s premier defensive clubs. As he put it, “I can’t play the way I would totally like to play because that’s not the personality of this team.’’

8. Not that he’ll help at the defensive end, where so many of their troubles start, but the Knicks still don’t know when Andrea Bargnani is going to make his season debut.

9. Anthony reveals in a soon-to-be released documentary, "Carmelo Anthony: Made in NY", that he seriously thought at one point last summer that he’d be leaving the Knicks to join the Bulls. As Anthony reveals, during his visits to Houston, Dallas, Chicago and L.A. last summer when he was a free agent, “It was a perfect set-up and perfect fit for me in Chicago. But also I had to think about just living in Chicago. Do I want to live in Chicago? Do I want to take everything I created in New York and move all of that?’’ He hasn’t created enough winning since he’s called the Garden home, that’s for sure. But maybe one day Knicks fans will be thankful that he wore the blue and orange.

10. Even New Yorkers who don’t play for the Knicks or Nets are having it rough during this Thanksgiving holiday period. Lance Stephenson hasn’t gotten off the bench in either of the Charlotte Hornets’ last two fourth quarters, and Sebastian Telfair, another Brooklyn product, was waived by the Thunder the day before Thanksgiving. At least Stephenson still has a job, for which he should be thankful.

Longtime New York columnist Mitch Lawrence continues to write about pro basketball, as he’s done for the last 21 years. His columns for NBCNewYork.com on the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and the NBA, along with other major sports, will appear twice weekly. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch _ Lawrence.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Coughlin, Former Jags Coach, Returns to Jacksonville]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 12:14:33 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/4594822461.jpg

You probably won’t be able to read this article until they fix the Internet, which Odell Beckham Jr. broke last week when our nation flocked to social media to OMG en masse after his one-handed catch against the Cowboys on Sunday night.

That game was on national television, so Beckham had the perfect stage to impress a whole slew of people. This Sunday’s game against the Jaguars is going to be on television in the Jacksonville and New York City markets, whose potential audiences have roughly 73 better things to do than watch the 1-10 Jaguars host the 3-8 Giants in the Tom Coughlin Bowl.

Yup, the former Jaguars coach returns to the city where he got his first NFL head coaching job. None of the players he had are still with the Jaguars, a franchise which also has a different ownership group than it had during Coughlin’s tenure. In short, Coughlin might recognize a couple faces among the fans – like that one rabid Jaguar fan, or that other big Jacksonville rooter – but it’s unlikely he’s going to get a hero’s welcome. Which is too bad, because Coughlin is a direct tie to the team’s greatest seasons.

He led the team to the AFC Championship Game in its second year in 1996, helped end the NFL careers of both Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson when the Jags trounced the Dolphins 62-7 in the 1999 playoffs, and led the Titans 14-10 at halftime at home in that year’s AFC Championship Game before the 14-2 Jaguars were outscored 23-0 in the second half. At home. In the AFC Championship Game.

Yeah, I doubt we’ll see many highlights of that game on the jumbotron, although it’s the biggest home game in Jaguars history. This home game? Just one more thing that stands between the Jaguars and the potential No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Still, the Jags have plenty of things to be hopeful for in the long term. First-year quarterback Blake Bortles has the look of a franchise guy, the wideouts – led by rookies Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns – are promising, and fan expectations have nowhere to go but up.

If I’m a Jaguars fan (thankfully, just a hypothetical), I’m pretty excited about the future, at least in comparison with the present and the past.

For the Giants, this was the portion of the schedule they’d been looking forward to. With games against Jacksonville, Tennessee, Washington and St. Louis, the underbelly of the Giants’ 2014 season was supposed to provide the late-season surge that could carry them into the playoffs.

But the team enters this Jacksonville game on a six-game losing streak, the longest in the NFL after the Raiders beat the Chiefs to snap their streak. Any time you’ve lost more consecutive games than the Raiders, you’re in bad shape.

But if I’m a Giants fan, I’m pretty excited about the future, too. Beckham is a transcendent talent, the secondary is talented when healthy, and because of injuries a lot of second- and third-string players are getting valuable playing time, which will benefit the team down the line.

But if the past few weeks were must-wins for the Giants’ 2014 playoff hopes – now dashed, of course – this week’s game against the 1-10 Jaguars is a must-win for Tom Coughlin’s 2015 employment hopes.

The Giants are a patient franchise, not given to the knee-jerk reactions that straddle franchises like the Redskins and Raiders. But the Giants are looking at a fifth season in six without making the playoffs. And though they used that lone playoff season to win a Super Bowl, “The Feast-or-Famine Franchise” is not a particularly dignified nickname.

But that’s what they are; the handle fits.

If nothing else, the Giants like to fashion themselves as a dignified franchise. It can come off as condescending and off-putting, but it’s a real thing. And losing to the 1-10 Jaguars would be the height of indignity in the Tom Coughlin era.

So while the Tom Coughlin Bowl might not mean much to fans of either franchise, it might mean a whole lot to its namesake.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants and Jets on Track to Make History]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 12:13:26 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/giants+helmet.JPG

If you haven’t been following the 3-8 Giants and the 2-9 Jets closely this season, you might be excused for missing the teams’ combined bid for New York football history. If the season ended today (and man, wouldn’t that be a blessing to both fan bases), the five combined wins would be the lowest such total since the NFL expanded to a 16-game season in 1978.

Did you know you might be witnessing history? You’re welcome.

Since 1978, the lowest combined win total for the two teams came in 1996, when the 6-10 Giants and the 1-15 Jets splashed the back pages of New York newspapers with seven total wins. The next worst win total came the year before, when 5-11 Giants and the 3-13 Jets combined for eight victories, a total they also accomplished in 1980.

I’m not merely taking the opportunity to bash the two franchises during a down year (OK, way down). It should be noted that there have been years since 1978 when both teams were very good (and in one team’s case, even won a Super Bowl or four).

But more often than not the two teams have never been on both sides of the see-saw at the same time. They’ve both reached the playoffs in the same season just five teams since 1978, the last time in 2006.

Apparently spoiling the concessionaires who get to watch both teams at the Meadowlands has never been a going concern.

In the Giants’ five Super Bowl runs, the Jets were also in the playoffs just once, in 1986, when the Jets went 10-6, won their playoff opener against the Chiefs, and then lost to the Browns in overtime in the divisional round.

Was 1986 the best year for New York football? Probably. The combined win total (24) is the most in the 16-game era. The Giants won the Super Bowl, and the Jets started out 10-1; but they lost their last five games, and limped into the playoffs with a negative point differential, which is very Jets-like.

When the Jets had their best team in the 16-game era, the 12-4 team from 1998 that had a positive point differential of 150 points, the Giants had 8 wins. Even when the Jets are great, the Giants have traditionally been average, never awful.

The biggest disparity in wins (to the Jets favor) came in 2004 and 1983, when Jets won four more games than the Giants. Conversely, the G-Men had eight more wins than the Jets in 1989 and seven more wins in 1990.

Here are the combined win totals since 1978, with the dual playoff years in bold and some additional comments below.

2013 -15
2012 -15
2011- 17
2010 -21
2009 - 17
2008 - 21
2007 - 14
2006 - 18
2005 - 15
2004 - 16
2003 - 10
2002 - 19
2001 - 17
2000 - 21
1999 - 15
1998 - 20
1997 - 19
1996 - 7
1995 - 8
1994 - 15
1993 - 19
1992 - 10
1991 - 16
1990 - 19
1989 - 16
1988 - 18
1987 - 12
1986 - 24
1985 - 21

1984 - 16
1983 - 10
1982 - 10 *strike year
1981 - 19
1980 - 8
1979 - 14
1978 - 14

It’s notable that the teams won 10 games in the strike-shortened 1982 season, which only comes in tied for fourth in the most win-starved years in New York football history.

Also notable? The last time both teams had new head coaches was in 1997 (Bill Parcells and Jim Fassel), or the year after the teams combined for seven wins and the worst season in New York football history.

Does that portend pink slips for Tom Coughlin or Rex Ryan? For both?

Safe to say, if the combined win total doesn’t creep any higher than five, New York professional football will be getting its first complete head coaching overhaul in nearly 20 years.

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<![CDATA[Thanksgiving Day Football Roundup]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 01:49:46 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP906300269122.jpg

The Thanksgiving holiday is best defined by the three F's: family, food, and football. NFL fans got their fill this Thursday with three contentious games —each between division rivals, and all of the teams battling for a playoff spot.

SEAHAWKS 19, 49ERS 3

Richard Sherman set up the only touchdown with another key defensive play in this heated rivalry, then made a second interception with the 49ers driving late, and the Seattle Seahawks ended a five-game losing streak on San Francisco's home field with a 19-3 win Thursday night.

Steven Hauschka kicked four field goals and the Seahawks' stout defense held Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree in check as Seattle (8-4) overcame 14 penalties for 105 yards, including an offensive pass interference that negated a touchdown.

Russell Wilson passed for 236 yards and thoroughly outplayed Kaepernick, who had one of his worst performances for the 49ers (7-5).

After his second pick, Sherman looked at those fans still remaining in half-empty stadium on a Thanksgiving night and gave them the hush sign with his pointer finger to his mouth, then waved goodbye. The Seahawks won by the identical score they beat first-place Arizona five days earlier.

Kaepernick was 16 for 29 for 121 yards.

EAGLES 33, COWBOYS 10

LeSean McCoy ran for 159 yards and a touchdown, Mark Sanchez had his first scoring run in almost three years and Philadelphia beat Dallas in a battle of NFC East co-leaders.

The Eagles (9-3) opened with quick drives of 80 and 88 yards for touchdowns. They took sole possession of the division lead with four games remaining, including a rematch in less than three weeks.

Tony Romo looked ragged in the first quick turnaround for his surgically repaired back as the Cowboys (8-4) lost their third straight home game.

McCoy, who led the NFL with 1,604 yards last season, had his fourth 100-yard game in the past seven after going without one the first five weeks and secured his fourth 1,000-yard season since 2010.

Although his deficit to Dallas' DeMarco Murray in the rushing race is probably insurmountable, McCoy outgained Murray, who was held under 100 yards for just the second time this season.

McCoy averaged 6.4 yards on 25 carries on the same field where he clinched the rushing title last December while the Eagles beat the Cowboys in a playoffs-or-bust finale. Murray finished with 73 yards and Dallas' only touchdown on 20 carries.

Making his fourth start since Nick Foles was sidelined by a broken collarbone, Sanchez was 9 of 11 for 99 yards in the first quarter. That included a 27-yard scoring pass to Jordan Matthews when Sanchez hit the rookie in stride on a crossing route for a 14-0 lead. Sanchez finished 20 of 29 for 217 yards with a touchdown.

LIONS 34, BEARS 17

Calvin Johnson caught 11 passes for 146 yards and two first-half touchdowns and Detroit beat Chicago to boost its postseason hopes.

After losing at Arizona and New England and falling out of first place in the NFC North, the Lions (8-4) spotted Chicago a 14-3 first-quarter lead before rallying with relative ease in the second.

Joique Bell ran for two touchdowns for the Lions, and Jay Cutler threw two scoring passes for Chicago (5-7). Detroit's Matthew Stafford went 34 of 45 for 390 yards with the two touchdown passes to Johnson.

Detroit had not scored this many points since a 35-14 win over the New York Giants in the season opener.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Roundup: Thanksgiving Day ]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 02:22:06 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP906300269122.jpg NFL Roundup: Thanksgiving Day

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Knicks' Anthony Can't Be "Bulletproof' Flat on His Back]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:12:01 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Knicks+Bulls+1029+1.jpg

This is no way for Carmelo Anthony to get his bulletproof legacy.

Anthony is suffering from back spasms and doesn’t figure to be able to play tonight in Dallas or Friday night in Oklahoma City when the Knicks conclude their three-game road trip.

For the Knicks’ scoring star, the setback couldn’t have come at a worse time, for the team or himself.
Anthony’s injury came on the heels of a recent story in ESPN The Magazine that went into great detail about how Anthony is now in the midst of trying to be more than a basketball player. He wants to grow his off-court brand and has enlisted all kinds of people to help him get there. And to top it off, he’s told those folks, “what I really want is a bulletproof legacy.’’

Whatever you’re paying those people, ‘Melo, you’re throwing away your money.

Because here’s the thing that Anthony needs to remember about how he’ll be viewed, long after he takes off his No. 7 Knicks jersey for the final time. He’ll determine his legacy by what he does on the court for
Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher. If he wants to be known for “being a visionary, for being truly great," as he stated in the ESPN story, it all starts on the basketball court.

Winning trumps everything. Winning a title in New York will make him bulletproof.

But all these grand plans won’t mean a thing if he can’t dispel the notion that he’s a wonderful, talented regular-season scorer who always comes up short in the playoffs.

But everything is on hold now after Anthony came down with a bad back in Houston when the Knicks couldn’t stop James Harden down the stretch.

Afterward, Amar’e Stoudemire told everyone within earshot that the favorable treatment Harden got from the refs was as if, “an angel came down, calling calls for him.’’

But that same angel was nowhere near the Knicks bench, not when they saw Anthony suffer the kind of injury that could wreck a season and even a rebuilding plan.

This past summer Jackson had the opportunity to take the Knicks down to the studs by passing on Anthony, letting him walk away. But the Zen Master knows that as much of a ball-stopper as Anthony has always been -- the antithesis of a Triangle-friendly player, as you’ll ever find -- he would still be better off in the short term with ‘Melo because few can put the ball in the basket like him.

So Anthony’s “Melo Over America’’ free agency tour turned out to be just a tease. The Rockets were one team he passed on and they seem to be doing just fine without him.

The Mavs were another team ‘Melo visited, to listen to their recruiting pitch. But they’ve also been more than OK with Mike Woodson’s old sparring partner, Tyson Chandler, settling right back in with Dirk Nowitzki, and reminding people of what the two of them accomplished in 2011 when the Mavs stunned LeBron James and the Heat to win the title.

The Bulls, the other team that offered Anthony something the Knicks could not -- the chance to go deep in the playoffs right away and perhaps contend for the title in 2015 -- have their own problems. Namely, getting Derrick Rose to stay on the court.

So it doesn’t look like anyone is really missing ‘Melo now, save the Lakers.

But the Knicks will sure miss him now.

“We have to figure out a way to make up that 27, 28 points a game and his presence, not just his scoring,’’ J.R. Smith told reporters after the team practiced on Tuesday in Dallas. “His presence in the locker room and presence on the court.’’

Anthony’s presence, so far, has not meant much, as far as the team’s record goes. They’ve lost 11 of their first 15 games, going for the first 13 games without Jose Calderon, their top playmaker.
But Knick fans should be concerned, above and beyond the early struggles, and not just because
Anthony has had some problems with a knee and now with this back injury. They should really be concerned that Anthony seems to be more consumed with what he creates off the court than what he does on it.

Who goes and hires branding experts, anyway? But whoever these people are, they’ve told him what he wants to hear, that he should want to become “a cultural icon, a taste-maker.’’

Frankly, Anthony needs to stop thinking about those grandiose plans and start concentrating on getting this Knicks season turned around, before they lose so much ground that they won’t be able to make the playoffs.

But it’s difficult to turn anything around when your team is out on the floor and you’re back in the locker room, getting treatment.

You can’t get a bulletproof legacy flat on your back, on the trainers table.

Longtime New York columnist Mitch Lawrence continues to write about pro basketball, as he’s done for the last 21 years. His columns for NBCNewYork.com on the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and the NBA, along with other major sports, will appear twice weekly. Follow him on Twitter 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[No, This Isn't a Misprint: Geno Should Get Another Shot]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:22:59 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/Jets-Bills-1027006.jpg

Two months ago, I said the Jets should bench Geno Smith and start Michael Vick. This wasn’t exactly a Woodward and Bernstein-type scoop. In fact, it would’ve been about as surprising as if I’d said the Broncos should sit Peyton Manning and play Brock Osweiler (Osweiler, don’t grab your helmet again, this is just a hypothetical).

At the time, Gang Green was 1-3, and needed to win the vast majority of their remaining games to secure a playoff spot -- and save Rex Ryan’s job -- and Vick clearly couldn’t have played any worse than Smith. Ryan continued to start Smith for the next four weeks, by which time the QB and his teammates had stamped out even the slightest hope of postseason play.

Would things have been different if Vick started those games? Could any QB consistently win when the Jets’ was pass defense was so ineffective that it could best be termed the Geno Smith of defensive backfields?

Anyway, that’s all in the past. The Jets’ present, meanwhile, is downright ugly, and the short-term future is basically unbearable (if you didn’t think the long-term future was bright, against a veritable mountain range of evidence to the contrary, you would’ve given up on being a Jets fan long ago). Could things get any worse if Ryan gave Smith the starting job back for the remaining five weeks?

Yes, I understand how poorly Smith has played to date, and no, I don’t put much stock in the fact that he looked competent in his brief run on Monday night in Detroit. Not exactly high-pressure territory when you come in down 28 with 10 minutes left on game clock.

Vick is clearly better than Smith at the moment. Maybe he leads the team to 1 or 2 more wins than Smith would. What does that too, besides hurt their draft position? We know what Vick is, and we know for certain he’s not the long-term answer for Gang Green.

Is Smith? Probably not. But why not find out for sure over the next five games? Not long ago, the Jets thought enough of Smith to make him the 39th pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. And history shows that plenty of eventual star QBs were terrible in their first year or two.

The Jets’ season is effectively done. So is Ryan, and probably GM John Idzik as well. Is Smith? There’s only one way to find out. Besides, when you’ve lost as much as Gang Green has, what else can there possibly be to lose? 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[This Just In: Bills Petition NFL to Play Jets Every Week]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:13:47 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/jets+bills3.jpg

Well, Jets fans, we’ve finally found what it takes to make Geno Smith play effectively at quarterback: spot the other team a 28-point lead. Smith performed reasonably well after relieving a banged-up Michael Vick with just under five minutes left in the third quarter of Gang Green’s 38-3 loss, completing 10 of his 12 passes.

Of course, Smith was no Kyle Orton. The Jets made the journeyman QB look like Joe Montana Monday night at Detroit’s Ford Field. Orton connected with his targets on all but eight of his 32 throws, and half of his incompletions were drops by heralded rookie Sammy Watkins and his fellow receivers. Watkins torched the Jets when the two teams met earlier this season, but he inflicted no such damage in the second match-up. He didn’t need to, since the Jets DBs were busy turning Bills second-year WR Robert Woods into Jerry Rice.

Speaking of all-time greats, it appeared as though Buffalo had a defensive line full of Reggie Whites. The Jets simply couldn’t block the Bills’ oncoming pass rushers, who finished the night with seven sacks to push their league-high up to 46 with five games still left in the season. Gang Green couldn’t even block a backup running back. Reserve Anthony Dixon not only finished with a game-high 54 rushing yards, but also blocked a Ryan Quigley punt that teammate Manny Lawson returned for a touchdown to effectively end the contest with 25 minutes still left on the game clock.

To say the Jets bring out the best in the Bills would be the understatement of the 2014 NFL season. Against all other opponents, Buffalo has averaged an anemic 17 points a game. In two games against the Jets this year, they’re at over 40 per.

Meanwhile, Buffalo brings out, well, the Jets in the Jets, who certainly lived up to their putrid 2-9 record last night. Even their few standout performers, such as defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, were ineffective -- to say nothing of an offensive line that apparently had already taken off for Thanksgiving. And for all the talk about how playing indoors on artificial turf would give the Jets’ playmakers an edge, Vick suddenly looked his age in Detroit, while I’m not even sure Percy Harvin made the trip. Can you imagine how upset he is if he’s in Buffalo right now?

The Bills were thought to be at a disadvantage in surrendering a precious home game for a neutral field nearly 300 miles from Buffalo. But I think coach Doug Marrone and his somehow-still-in-playoff-hunt team would gladly play at Ford Field -- preferably against the Jets -- every week.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Beckham's One-Handed TD Catch Really the Greatest?]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 20:41:31 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/459482246.jpg

The football was hurtling past Odell Beckham Jr. when the Giants rookie squeezed it with his right hand, stopping its momentum before cupping it safely over his blue jersey.

He did this while stretching parallel to the turf. In the air.

And for good measure, he was interfered with by Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr, who tumbled helplessly out of bounds as Beckham's momentum carried him over the goal line for a 43-yard touchdown and a 14-3 Giants lead.

The play was reviewed because Beckham did things in midair that are simply not believable to the naked eye. The officials had to see it again.

We all did.

It was quite possibly the greatest catch ever seen on a football field, according Beckham’s Giants teammate Victor Cruz. And LeBron James. And well, for the rest of the Twitter world.

"I guess I gotta thank my mom for the long fingers," said Beckham, after what can only be described as a breakout performance. If he was on the radar of NFL fans heading into Sunday, then a 146-yard two-touchdown night puts him on the league’s map of superstars. He just became an overnight sensation.

But greatest is a pretty hefty label. Watching on Long Island, physics professor Chang Kee Jung didn’t think of it that way until Monday morning, when he started analyzing the catch in his office at Stony Brook University, where he teaches a sports physics class.

“It’s just ridiculous,” said Jung, noting that a football spirals through the air rotating at a speed somewhere between 400 and 500 rpm. 

“He was catching the ball in the body of the football.”

It’s that fact which Jung believes separates this catch from others, like David Tyree in the Super Bowl. Where most one-handed grabs are made by cupping the nose of the football, in this case, as Beckham reached back for the ball with his right hand, he could only get three fingers on the ball. Improbably, that was enough to stop the momentum of a ball travelling as fast as 50 mph.

“Everything has to be just right,” said Jung.

Beckham says Eli Manning’s throw was a perfect spiral in exactly the right spot. Of course, had he not been interfered with, it’s likely a catch in his chest and a routine 43-yard touchdown.

“He practices that one-handed snag,” said Manning, who pointed out the one flaw in the whole “Greatest Catch” theory.

The Giants didn’t win the game.

“I hope it’s not the greatest catch of all time,” said Beckham, echoing his quarterback’s frustration with losing to the Cowboys. “I hope I can make more.”

The feeling seems to be mutual.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero From Giants' Loss to Cowboys]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:38:29 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/4594822461.jpg

Hero: Odell Beckham Jr.

The Giants’ 2014 season is not going to end in Arizona on the first Sunday in February. With Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, New York’s sixth straight loss, the 3-8 Giants can at best finish 8-8, which might have been good enough to win the division -- ya know, if the Giants played in the NFC South.

Are the Giants officially eliminated from postseason contention? No. But no fan in his or her right mind is clinging to the hopes of making the playoffs. And given the chorus of cheers that went up at MetLife Stadium Sunday night when the referees ruled the Giants had come up short on fourth down to essentially end the game, most Giants fans had already thrown in the towel and sold their tickets to Cowboys fans.

But at least the Giants have something to look forward to, and that’s watching Odell Beckham Jr. play for their team, hopefully for a long time.

By now you’ve likely seen the catch that Beckham made, which ranks roughly No. 1 in the history of the world. We saw the flags come in, and we saw Beckham hit the ground, but the camera angle was so far away that we couldn’t see what happened to the ball. Only when he stood up did I turn to my nephew and ask, “Did he just catch that?”

Replays and additional camera angles confirmed the sublime. It was unreal.

That’s why we watch sports, to see and experience a moment of transcendent play like that. Here’s to many more from Beckham in the coming years.

Nero: NFL rules

Every major sport has its shortcomings involving the rulebook. Baseball has the “neighborhood rule,” which allows middle infielders to be within shouting distance of second base on force plays and is designed to protect them from baser runners barreling down the baseline; basketball often allows its players to take more than two steps after picking up their dribble; soccer has no effective way to protect against flopping; and hockey still allows people to commit felonies that would get an average person sent to prison.

Football? It has numerous rules that defy common sense. For example, the rule that doesn’t allow referees to infer the obvious, as displayed last night when Giants running back Andre Williams obviously fumbled the ball near the goal line before he hit the ground. Because the play was not ruled a fumble on the field, referees needed incontrovertible evidence that Williams had fumbled in order to turn over the call.

Williams was tackled in a scrum and it wasn’t immediately clear that he had coughed it up before he was down, but anyone with a modicum of common sense could deduce that he had in fact fumbled. But the referees didn’t feel they were 100 percent certain, so they hid behind the safe, incorrect call. On the next play, Williams scored a touchdown and the Giants were ahead 21-10.

So yeah, the Giants lost by three points, but it should have been by more.

Zero: Giants’ pass rush on final Cowboys drive.

If you can’t get to a quarterback with the front four (and the Giants couldn’t, especially on the last drive), then it makes sense to send extra rushers. Instead Perry Fewell’s defense sat back and didn’t blitz on the deciding pass play, even though Tony Romo has broken bones in his back and is limited in his mobility.

Romo had seven-and-a-half seconds to throw on one play on the last drive, which should have been the clue that the Giants’ pass rush wasn’t getting it done. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jets Aim to Turn Over New Leaf Against Bills]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 10:35:47 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/Jets-Bills-1027002.jpg

Remember all those times you swore you’d never pay to see the Jets, especially in lost seasons like this one? Well, now you don’t have to.

Tickets to tonight’s rescheduled game vs. the Bills are free. Of course, you’ll need either a plane ticket to Detroit or the willingness to make the 600-mile drive from the New York metro area. And, to answer the obvious question, unfortunately the beer isn’t free too.

The game at Ford Field is said to be a sellout (not sure how they can call it that when nothing was actually sold), and it will be interesting to see the composition of the crowd. Buffalo is a mere 250 miles from Ford Field, and while no one has voluntarily visited Detroit in decades, the Motor City will probably look like Tahiti to Buffalonians who have spent the past week shoveling snow taller than they are and, with warmer temperatures, are now awaiting a flood. The locusts are expected tomorrow.

A size able amount of local fans will likely be on hand tonight—did I mention tickets are free?—and that turnout may result in an advantage for the Jets.

Detroit fans aren’t too happy with Buffalo defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who rubbed it in earlier in the season when he asked his charges to carry him off the field following a Bills win over the Lions. Note to Schwartz, who must have felt like he was unjustly axed in Detroit after losing 6 of his last 7 games as the Lions’ head coach in 2013: if you need to ask your players to do something like that instead of them doing so on their own, you may not be a match for Knute Rockne in the inspirational leadership department. What do the Lion defenders have to do next, watch videos from Schwartz’s last family vacation?

Unlike Gang Green, the Bills still have something significant to play for, as, at 5-5, they have a slim shot at the postseason with six games to go. Their defense remains stalwart, and their pass rush is fierce, with the team’s 39 sacks tops in the NFL.

Their offense, meanwhile, remains a mess. Buffalo has scored just 18 offensive touchdowns in their 10 games, and five of those came in the first match-up against the Jets, who in that game essentially turned the ball over on every other down.

With Michael Vick as the starting QB, the Jets are taking better care of the ball. If they can continue that trend tonight, they can turn back the Bills. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Best of NFL: Week 12]]> Sun, 23 Nov 2014 22:20:52 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/459467122.jpg Don't miss the most dramatic images from the twelfth week of the 2014 NFL season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants' Odell Beckham Jr. on Sunday Spotlight]]> Sun, 23 Nov 2014 12:55:36 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP747099438720.jpg New York Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has had a stand-out first season, and recalls that he has always been ready for the Sunday spotlight.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Buffalo Bills Hitch Rides Aboard Snowmobiles]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:53:34 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/KRAIG+URBIK1.JPG

Up to seven feet of snow wasn't going to stop the Buffalo Bills from flying out to Detroit for Monday’s game against the Jets — even if some players needed a novel way to get to the Bills’ stadium and a bus to the airport.

“Just texted with a Bills player who was picked up on a snowmobile to head to his game,” tweeted Albert Breer, national reporter for the NFL Network. “So in 10 years of covering the NFL, that’s a first.”

The game was supposed to have been played in Buffalo on Sunday, but was moved to Detroit because of the deadly storm.

The blizzard dropped 85 inches of snow on Buffalo, enough to bury Snookie, Jim Kelly and even Yao Ming.

On The MMQB, Peter King describes the planning that went into the "snowmobile rescues."

"I have covered the NFL for 30 years, and I must say I have never heard an NFL executive say he hoped a snowmobile would come up big for his team in advance of a game with big playoff implications," he wrote.



Photo Credit: EMILY URBIK
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<![CDATA[Jose Canseco Pranks Everyone with Finger Hoax]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:56:59 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP565783519558.jpg

Looks like Jose Canseco gave everyone the finger. 

The former Major League Baseball player took to Twitter at the end of October to announce that he had shot off his middle digit and had it reattached during surgery. Last week, Canseco claimed that the mangled finger fell off during a poker tournament because it had been “very loose” and “smelling really bad.” He also said he would be selling the thumb and gun that shot it off on eBay a few days later.

“Maybe I will make it a package the chrome 45 caliber Remington with the finger both for sale a package deal," he tweeted on Nov. 17.

But despite continuing to post on social media about the plan, Canseco reportedly will not be selling his appendage to the highest bidder—it was all just a prank.

When TMZ reporters followed up about the details of the unique eBay sale, Canseco finally admitted it was all a hoax, the site reported. He said he thought of the whole plan when he saw a fake finger in a Halloween store. 

What remains true, NBC Sports reports, is that the prankster did shoot off his finger but had it successfully reconnected with surgery.



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Much Has Changed Since Giants Last Faced Cowboys]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:54:38 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/458696810.jpg

A lot has changed since the Giants and Cowboys squared off in Week Seven, when Dallas won 31-21. We went to the polls and exercised our right to vote (or not), we watched as Philip Rivers went from an MVP candidate back to being a candidate for quarterback of the San Diego Chargers, and we saw far too many people dressed as Ray Rice for Halloween.

What else has changed between then and now? Let’s take a look:

Then: The Giants had a one-game losing streak.
Now: The Giants have a five-game losing streak.

Then: Cowboys backup running back Joseph Randle had just been arrested for shoplifting boxer briefs and cologne.
Now: Randle ostensibly smells nice and has proper support.

Then: The Cowboys were 5-1 after winning five games in a row and everyone in Dallas was making plans to attend the Super Bowl in February.
Now: The Cowboys are 7-3 after losing to Washington and Arizona, beating Jacksonville in London, and somehow making it through their bye week without anyone getting arrested.

Then: Half of the fans at AT&T were blinded in the second half because Cowboys owner Jerry Jones decided to leave the blinds up at his billion dollar storage shed as the sun set in the west.
Now: Those fans are probably still blind.

Then: DeMarco Murray was on pace to break the single-season record for most rushing yards and attempts.
Now: Murray is slacking and is only on pace for 1,973 yards rushing and 390 attempts, shy of the records set by Eric Dickerson (2,105) and the worn-out carcass of Larry Johnson (416).

Then: Murray became the first running back to surpass 100 yards rushing in the first seven games of a season, rolling over the Giants with 128 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries.
Now: Murray will probably roll over the Giants again, using this game alone to pass both Dickerson and Johnson for those all-time records.

Then: The Giants looked like a playoff team and no one was talking about firing Tom Coughlin.
Now: Nothing to see here, move along.

Then: The nation was in the midst of an Ebola panic, and in advance of the trip to Dallas
Giants doctors prepped the team about how to protect themselves against the virus.
Now: The nation has moved on and is panicking about immigration.

Then: Victor Cruz had just been lost for the season with a knee injury.
Now: Not a single one of his teammates has honored him by dancing the salsa after scoring a touchdown.

Then: Emerging star Larry Donnell was working with fans to come up with a proper nickname.
Now: Fans just hope he can catch a single meaningful pass again.

Then: Odell Beckham Jr. scored two touchdowns against the Cowboys.
Now: He’ll have to have similar success if the Giants are to have any shot in this game.

Then: The Giants’ defense couldn’t stop the Cowboys’ offense in the second half.
Now: The Giants' defense probably won't be able to stop the Cowboys' offense at all.

Then: Eli Manning was making fans forget about his propensity for throwing killer interceptions.
Now: The old Eli is back, baby!



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Sixers Are a Lost Cause]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 10:39:51 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/76ers1.jpg

By getting smoked in most of their losses, the 0-11 Philadelphia 76ers are inviting all kinds of questions, none of them being very good.

Two of the big ones are:

1. Will the Sixers set the NBA record for a season’s worth of futility? The league’s all-time low for wins in a season is nine, by the 1972-73 Sixers.

2. Would Kentucky, the best college team in the United States, boasting nine McDonald’s All-Americans and coming off a 32-point thrashing of Kansas, defeat the Sixers if they met on the court?

Answers to those questions figure to be on everyone’s mind in the Garden on Saturday night when the Sixers rumble up the New Jersey Turnpike to play the Knicks for the first time this season.

The Sixers play the 7-5 Suns tonight in Philly, so there’s a very good chance they’ll still be looking for their first victory of the season on Saturday.

The Sixers are as bad as their record indicates. Maybe worse. They’ve been losing by an average of almost 17 points per game, far and away the largest margin for any of the 30 NBA teams.

Then again, no team is younger or more inexperienced in the entire NBA. The Sixers’ roster has an average age younger than 24 and only 1.5 seasons of NBA experience.

It’s gotten to the point where teams are circling the Sixers on their schedule because it’s the one team no one wants to lose to.

“You don’t want to be that guy, or, in this case, you don’t want to be that team,” Celtics playmaker Rajon Rondo told reporters after the Celtics escaped Philly the other night with a 101-90 win. “So we’re glad this is over and we avoided being the first team they were able to get a win on.’’

There’s no telling when the Sixers will finally break through. Just a friendly reminder, the record for the longest losing streak to start a season came in 2009-10, when the Nets lost their first 18 games.

The Sixers have a chance to break that record, as they continue losing at an alarming rate. It’s all part of their master plan to rebuild the team with the highest draft picks possible. But even as they tank away, losing as much as they can, they still have yet to win the draft lottery and come away with the No. 1 overall pick.

“I don’t know if they have five NBA-quality players on their roster,’’ one veteran NBA personnel man told me this week. “They’ve taken tanking to a new low. It’s like they’re thumbing their nose at the rules. No one will be surprised if they don't win nine games.’’

But they’re still playing by the rules, even if it hardly looks good for the franchise or the NBA. As bad as things are, they lost in Houston by only one point, and two of their recent home losses, to Orlando and Chicago, were by a combined five points. So coach Brett Brown has them playing hard. But lacking proven talent, they ended the week ranked last in shooting (40.2 percent) and free throw shooting (64.3 percent).

"I've got no complaints with what we do," Brown told reporters after the loss to Boston. "They bang out good days. It's just, they're not getting rewarded in the win column. That's the judgment most people look at, which is fair. It's pro sports."

There is a college twist to the Sixers' abysmal start. Everyone wants to know whether Kentucky’s juggernaut could beat Philly. Just the other day the undefeated Wildcats manhandled Kansas on a neutral court, holding the Jayhawks to 40 points on 19 percent shooting in a 72-40 romp.

On Thursday, Jeff Sherman of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, tweeted that if the Sixers played Kentucky, he’d still make the Sixers a whopping 17-point favorite.

What does Wildcats coach John Calipari have to say? While he’s amassed more talent, size, length and athleticism than any other college program, he admits that they’re still only college kids.

The Sixers, meanwhile, are pros. As Calipari reminded everyone when he tweeted, "If we played ANY NBA team, we would get buried. ANY.’’

Even the lowly Sixers? Former Kentucky player Eric Bledsoe, now starring for the Phoenix Suns, said on Sirius XM Radio that if there were a seven-game series between the two teams, “I would definitely take Kentucky. I think Philly would maybe probably get one game."

But the Sixers’ Tony Wroten, who has been in the NBA since 2012, with Memphis and Philadelphia, told Philly reporters that there would be a different outcome.

“They can’t beat us,’’ Wroten said, and then referring to Bledsoe, “He’s crazy.’’

But seeing how bad the Sixers are, maybe not as crazy as one would think.

Longtime New York columnist Mitch Lawrence continues to write about pro basketball, as he’s done for the last 21 years. His columns for NBCNewYork.com on the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and the NBA, along with other major sports, will appear twice weekly. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch _ Lawrence.  



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Reminder: Eli Manning Is a Future Hall of Famer]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:00:32 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/457509652.jpg

There are a lot of things I don’t know. Who is less likeable, Jameis Winston or Nick Saban? Why are Notre Dame fans who didn’t attend the school more obnoxious than fans who did?

I don’t know, these are all questions I am incapable of answering.

But there are other things I know for certain: I will never look at “The Cosby Show” the same way again; Thanksgiving is the greatest American holiday; and Eli Manning is a future Hall of Famer. It’s sometimes easy to forget that, especially after Manning lays an egg like he did with last Sunday’s five interception outing against the 49ers.

Manning, in short, was terrible. It’s not often a team can overcome four interceptions and be in a position to win the game, much less against a great defense like that of San Francisco. But the Giants had a shot after Manning connected with Odell Beckham Jr. on a beautiful sideline completion that put the Giants at the 4-yard line late in the fourth quarter, trailing 16-10.

Beckham’s circus catch seemed to give New York all the momentum they needed to overcome San Francisco and steal a game they had no business winning. But then Manning, who has won two Super Bowl MVPs on teams that were big underdogs, missed on three straight fade routes and then capped the game with his fifth completion to the other team.

Brutal. Backbreaking. Just the opposite of the signature plays he made in winning two Super Bowls.
Two -- that’s as many as John Elway, Dan Marino and Shane Falco combined. Am I saying he’s on the same level as Elway, Marino or Falco? No, no, maybe. But the fact remains that no one who has won two Super Bowl MVPs is not in the Hall of Fame.

Jim Plunkett? Two Super Bowl wins, one Super Bowl MVP, and not in the Hall of Fame (or currently en route).

Bob Griese? Two Super Bowl wins, no Super Bowl MVPs, career passer rating of 77.1, and a face model for a bust in Canton, Ohio.

Eli Manning >> Bob Griese.

This is a golden era for NFL quarterbacks. Thanks to relaxed rules that have opened up offenses, any quarterback with a working arm can now throw for more than 5,000 yards. This has skewed stats, but the fact remains that these quarterbacks are going to Canton when their careers are over: Rodgers, Brady, Peyton, Brees, Roethlisberger and Eli Manning.

Eli is never mentioned among the league’s elite QBs, which makes sense because he’s not elite. Are Big Ben and Eli the statistical equivalents of the other four mentioned? Of course not. But if their careers ended tomorrow, all six of them would be bound for Canton. Rodgers, Brady, Peyton and Brees because they’re elite passers who won titles; Eli and Big Ben because they’re winners.

That’s the standard for the NFL Hall of Fame. Need proof? Look at how many Steelers are enshrined, some of whom are there because they performed best on the biggest stage, but who otherwise had pedestrian career numbers. Cough * Lynn Swann.

So, yeah, Eli Manning, three-time NFL leader in interceptions and possessor of an 81.5 career passer rating, is a future Hall of Famer.

Does he deserve to be? Who said anything about “deserve”? He’ll make the Hall of Fame because he’s a Manning who won two Super Bowl MVPs in the nation’s largest media market.

No matter how you define “fame,” he has a "hall" of a lot of it.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Seahawks RB Lynch Finds Lost Wallet, Returns it to Fan]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 12:59:15 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/LynchWallet1120_MP41_1200x675_361350211519.jpg Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawyn Lynch found a lost wallet and personally returned it to a fan's home.]]> <![CDATA[Memo to Jets: Beware of QB Busts]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:00:00 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/454405308.jpg

David Klingler. Heath Shuler. Akili Smith. Joey Harrington. JaMarcus Russell.

No, these aren’t the answers to a Jeopardy category called “Crappy Quarterbacks.” They’re just a few of the many underwhelming signal-callers that have were chosen at or near the top of the first round of past NFL Drafts.

When it comes to the Jets and next spring’s draft, two things appear certain: 1) Gang Green will have a very high first-round pick, likely in the top five and a lock for the top 10; and 2) Nearly everyone on the planet (OK, that may be just a bit of an exaggeration) will be calling for whoever is running the team five months from now to select a quarterback with that pick.

Such a move will surely be tempting for a franchise that’s sorely in need of a dynamic talent to lead it and hasn’t had an elite player at the most important position in pro sports in more than 40 years. But given the fact that QBs drafted in the top 10 have had a spotty record of success over the past few decades, and that teams drafting that high usually have far more than one big hole to fill, it may not be the way to go.

Over the 20 drafts from 1991-2010, 27 QBs were top 10 draft picks. Many were successful. 13 made at least one Pro Bowl (big disclaimer here: Kerry Collins, Trent Dilfer and Vince Young were among those who received that “honor”), including a guy named Peyton Manning. However, 13 also failed to become solid NFL starters, including a guy named Ryan Leaf.

Several of the mock drafts I’ve seen have Florida State QB Jameis Winston joining Gang Green as a top five pick. Call me crazy -- I do write three columns a week about the Jets, after all -- but I think that they may win enough games to fall to a draft slot where they’ll have little chance to get Winston.

But say they do have that chance. Should they take it? Winston’s ability is undeniable. He’s got the size, arm and athleticism to be a star. And while his character comes with a giant question mark, no one seems to doubt that the kid is a winner. Hard to call him anything but that when, remarkably, he hasn’t lost a single game in nearly two years at FSU.

Winston may well be a Hall of Famer one day. He may also be a bust. There have been far more of the latter than the former among QBs drafted with high first-round picks.

With Geno Smith all but a forgotten man just two years into his NFL career and Michael Vick well into his 30s, the Jets surely need to find a QB of the future. But, at 2-8, they need to find a lot of things. Plus, there’s always the second round. Just ask Drew Brees. Or Colin Kaepernick. Or Brett Favre. (Just don’t ask Browning Nagle, Kellen Clemens, or, yes, Geno Smith.) 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jason Collins, NBA's First Openly Gay Player, Retires]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 12:15:43 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Jason-Collins-Brooklyn-Nets.jpg

Jason Collins, the NBA's first openly gay player, announced his retirement on Wednesday.

The 35-year-old Collins played 22 games with the Brooklyn Nets last season, but was not on the roster this season.

He announced his retirement in a first-person story for Sports Illustrated, saying it has "been 18 exhilarating months" since he came out as the first openly gay man in one of the four major North American professional leagues.

He started his career with the New Jersey Nets in 2001 and rejoined the franchise in Brooklyn in February. The Brooklyn team included several of his former teammates, including former coach Jason Kidd.

Collins thanked Kidd for his support, "considering all the speculation about problems I might face within the locker room." He said he's "happy to have helped put those canards to rest." 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[After Failed Power Play in Brooklyn, Kidd Might Have Last Laugh]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 11:37:38 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/174*120/AP871194581188.jpg

Remember Jason Kidd as the slick-passing franchise icon who took your team to two consecutive Finals, Nets fans, and cheer him. Or, remember him as the rotten scoundrel who tried to pull off a power play five months ago and instead got himself exiled to Milwaukee, and boo him.

Either way, Jason Kidd might have the last laugh.

Kidd returns to Brooklyn Wednesday to send his 6-5 Bucks into battle against his old team, which is enduring an ugly 4-6 start during Lionel Hollins’ first season as head coach.

Kidd gets no medals here for his attempt in June to seize Nets’ GM Billy King’s powers. He overstepped his bounds and got what he asked for -- a one-way ticket to the NBA’s Palookaville, when the Nets did the right thing and rebuffed his demand for more power.

So off he went to Milwaukee, where close friend Marc Lasry is a co-owner, for a couple of second-round draft picks to coach a rebuilding team. No stranger to bad endings during his Hall of Fame playing career, Kidd has his team in a better place now than the Nets, albeit in a job where the expectations are far lower than they are in Barclays Center.

So this isn’t to say that the Bucks are going to parlay their surprisingly strong start -- they’re the only team so far to defeat West-leading, 10-1 Memphis -- into a playoff berth this spring. Besides having three players players who are only 19 years old, Kidd’s got a few gaping holes in his roster. It’s early, but at this stage, fresh off a win over the Knicks on Tuesday, the Bucks’ arrow is pointing up, while the Nets’ arrow is pointed down.

Kidd has every right to be optimistic that he’s got a team with a bright future, with two potential building blocks in Giannis Antetokounmpo and 2014 top pick Jabari Parker, two of the three players under 20.

Meanwhile, the Nets are built to win now. Only they’re sputtering badly and don’t look like they’ll be able to compete against the East’s elite, starting with Chicago and Cleveland, and even Toronto, leaders of the Atlantic Division.

Kidd says he’s not “losing sleep’’ over his critics and what happened with the Nets and isn’t keeping up with their latest drama, which, typically, is lost in New York, with the Knicks’ own struggles adapting to Derek Fisher’s version of the triangle offense dominating the basketball talk.

But make no mistake, when the Nets take their four-game losing streak into their first game against Kidd, they’ll be facing major issues. The Cliff’s Notes version:

• Joe Johnson, who hasn’t said a disparaging word about anyone during his 14-year NBA career, called out his teammates for being selfish -- as they were winning four of their first six games. Since going public with his comments, which appeared to be directed at Deron Williams, the Nets have lost to the Suns, Warriors, Trail Blazers and Heat, often looking as selfish as Johnson observed.

• Finally healthy and lighter, Williams has been trying to salvage what was once an All-Star caliber career. But as well as he has played, at times, it hasn’t been easy. He pointed to the Nets’ revolving door of coaches, with Hollins following Kidd, P.J. Carlesimo and Avery Johnson since 2011. There is something to be said for having stability in the front office and on the sidelines. The best teams, starting with the defending champion Spurs, always have a plan, stick with it and stay with their top people.

Kidd, of course, is partly responsible for the recent upheaval on the bench. After helping the Nets get to the second round of the playoffs last season, he forced ownership’s hand by trying to get rid of King, who wanted Kidd fired last season when it looked like the Hall of Fame playmaker was in over his head.

“It is frustrating, but we’re on our fourth coach in three years,” Williams said at his locker after the Miami loss. “There hasn’t been any consistency. We’re learning again as a team. There’s going to be ups and downs, rough patches. Hopefully in January or February we’re hitting our stride and onto the playoffs.”

• Brook Lopez has been a disaster to the point where it’s amazing to think that the Nets almost were able to use him to make a trade for Dwight Howard in 2011-12. Hollins has been working over his starting center at almost every turn, trying to get to the team’s best low-post scorer to become a factor, anywhere on the floor. The tough love approach hasn’t helped. Whether he’s just slowly working his way back from foot surgery that KO’d him for most of last season, or just a victim of his own regression, Lopez seems like a lost cause.

It’s reached the point where Hollins threw his hands up in the air after Lopez had another ineffective outing in the loss to the Heat. The coach said a lot by not saying much at all.

“I don’t want to talk about Brook right now,” he said during his post-game media session. “I don’t want to talk about any individuals. I want to talk about the game and our effort. I know what you’re asking. I just don’t want to go there right now. It’s not a good time for me.”

But it’s a great time for Jason Kidd, even if he hears boos tonight in Brooklyn.

Longtime New York columnist Mitch Lawrence continues to write about pro basketball, as he’s done for the last 21 years. His columns for NBCNewYork.com on the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and the NBA, along with other major sports, will appear twice weekly. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch _ Lawrence.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[4 Sayreville Coaches Get Teaching Jobs Back]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 19:44:19 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/sayreville+football.jpg

Four assistant Sayreville High School football coaches who were suspended in the wake of a sexual assault scandal among players have been reinstated to their teaching jobs.

Without any comment, the Sayreville school board approved the superintendent's request to reinstate the four assistants, less than a month after they had been suspended with pay.

While the four will return to teaching at the high school, head coach George Najjar will remain on suspension for the indefinite future.

There is still no decision on whether the high school's football program will be allowed to resume next year. The season was canceled this year after prosecutors announced their investigation into the alleged hazing,  which they said could be considered sexual assaults that were "pervasive."

Seven football players were arrested on charges ranging from hazing and conspiracy to sexual contact and aggravated sexual assault. They've also been suspended from school.

The incident has some left team members who haven't been accused of hazing concerned about their chances to recieve college football scholarships.

"I've had no other school contact me out of the five I was talking to before," said senior Dan Rodriguez, who noted that only one of the colleges remains interested in him. 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Jerry Rice in China to Promote NFL]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 03:33:27 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/214*120/rice-horz.jpg

San Francisco 49ers legendary wide receiver and NFL Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice is in China trying to entice the world's most-populous country to tune into NFL football on every given Sunday, according to reports.

An NBC News crew captured Rice in the moment in Beijing, where NFL officials are "demystifying the game" by "putting footballs in [Chinese peoples'] hands."

On Sunday, Rice put on a clinic, which one young fan described as "the greatest football experience of my life."

There is also already a flag football league in Beijing, but NBC noted the country is "with little history of contact sports like American football."



Photo Credit: Mathew Luschek]]>
<![CDATA[Canseco May Sell His Shot Finger, Gun on eBay]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 12:57:12 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Jose-Canseco-1.jpg

Jose Canseco says he's parting with his finger forever — for a price.

The former major leaguer tweeted Monday that he'll sell his detached digit, along with the gun with which he accidentally shot it off. He tweeted last week that the operation to reattach the finger had failed, and it had fallen off during a poker game.

Canseco said he is also selling the chrome-plated .45-caliber handgun he was cleaning when he accidentally shot off the middle finger on his left hand.

In a series of tweets posted Friday afternoon, Canseco said his finger fell off during a poker game Thursday night, even after he had it surgically reattached. (Warning: The below tweets might seem disturbing to some.)

Canseco was apparently unaware that a bullet was in the chamber when he was cleaning the gun, Las Vegas Metro Lt. Mark Reddon told NBC News.

"It was a serious hand injury," but not a serious medical injury, Reddon said. "There was nothing suspicious. There was no alcohol involved, just a misstep with a handgun."

Canseco began his long major-league career in the 1980s with the Oakland Athletics before going on to play for the Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox and other teams.

He has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during his MLB career. After retiring, he also competed in mixed martial arts and boxing.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Tony Hawk Rides Hoverboard]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 08:28:20 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Screen+Shot+2014-11-17+at+3.26.35+PM.png

The hoverboard is reality, and Tony Hawk has taken a spin on it.

The pro skateboarder tested the $10,000 prototype Hendo Hoverboard after husband and wife Greg and Jill Henderson launched a Kickstarter to fund it. 

In the video, Hawk performs a few tricks on the board, which hovers an inch off the ground and uses magnets, though he also ends up falling several times.

Hawk had caught attention for another hoverboard video earlier this year — a fake video made by Funny or Die that featured the skateboarder, musician Moby and others riding boards high into the sky, in a prank for which Hawk eventually apologized.  


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<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero for Giants-49ers Game]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 16:46:34 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/459081054.jpg

Well, you can put a bow on the Giants’ 2014 season, because Big Blue’s 16-10 loss to San Francisco all but guaranteed that the team will miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons.

You have to hand it to the Giants; when they stink, they don’t hold anything back. They’re like the Jets in that regard, except the Giants like to occasionally sprinkle in a Super Bowl win or two, unlike their stadium-sharers.

As usual, there were many candidates for Hero, Nero, Zero, but a blue ribbon panel of experts all agreed on the following honors.

Hero: Eli Manning.

When your quarterback throws for less than 200 yards, your starting running back runs for less than 100 yards, and your team gets caught with its pants down on a surprise onside kick  -- and yet you still win 16-10 on the road -- then you know someone had to step up big for your team.

For the 49ers, that player was Eli Manning, who threw five interceptions, or one fewer than he’d thrown to that point all season.

Sure, you could say that the 49ers’ defense was the game’s real hero, but you’d be wrong. The Giants’ offense moved the ball rather successfully through the air, with Manning tossing for 280 yards by spreading the ball around to Rueben Randle (seven catches, 112 yards), Odell Beckham Jr. (six catches for 93 yards) and 49ers linebacker Chris Borland (two interceptions).

From start to finish, Manning was the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Nero: Unknown media member.

I don’t envy beat reporters who have to attend press conferences and ask questions. Players and coaches rarely, if ever, say anything enlightening, and they are always on the lookout to make a media member look stupid.

The easiest way for them to make a media member look stupid is if a media member just happens to be stupid, as was the case with the chap during Sunday's postgame interview with Colin Kaepernick, who asked the 49ers quarterback (1:58 mark of this video) if he feels any empathy when he sees an opposing quarterback throw as many picks as Eli Manning did.

Kaepernick, as you’d expect, said, “Oh, yes, I sent him a bouquet of flowers and a note that read ‘Chin up, Eli.’ ”

Either that or Kaepernick answered the question with a humorless “no” and just glared at the reporter as if he were observing the dumbest mammal in the wild.

Zero: Red zone success for the 49ers.

Thanks to the heroics of Manning, the Giants’ effort on defense will be somewhat overlooked in Sunday's loss. But Big Blue’s defense was largely stout, especially deep in their own territory, holding San Francisco to 0 for 4 in the red zone.

Unfortunately the defense got gashed by a 48-yard touchdown reception by Michael Crabtree, who caught the ball on a slant and turned the Giants’ secondary into orange road cones. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New Sport Called "Footgolf" Captivates Town]]> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 12:29:33 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/NC_footgolf1117_700x394.jpg A new sport is gaining a toehold on golf courses in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.]]>