<![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, 20 Dec 2014 17:28:16 -0500 Sat, 20 Dec 2014 17:28:16 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[If Belichick Were Still HC Of The NYJ]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:52:48 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/belichick+evil.jpg

Al Groh wasn’t the Jets coach for much longer than Bill Belichick was, but for a while back in 2000, he was the toast of the town -- or at least he would’ve been if the Giants weren’t making a run of their own, all the way to the Super Bowl (they would’ve needed about a dozen of David Tyree’s miracle helmet catches in order to be competitive with the dominant Ravens that day).

Groh, who got the job when Belichick stepped down as “HC of the NYJ” after a good 11 or 12 seconds, had instant success with Gang Green, as the Vinny Testaverde-led team started the 2000 season at 6-1 and was 9-4 -- with a playoff spot firmly in sight -- with three games to go.

Naturally, because they’re the J-E-T-S, they dropped those three to finish 9-7 and out of the money. Soon after, Groh decamped for the University of Virginia, becoming in all likelihood the only coach ever to leave the NFL after a winning season in order to take the helm at a middling college program whose own fans think so little of their team that they refer to themselves as the Wahoos.

With the 11-3 Pats set to play the 3-11 Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, it’s hard not to wonder, if Belichick kept the HC job, would he have fared better that season than Groh? Or, for that matter, then the guys who followed him: Herm “You Play To Win The Game” Edwards, who also had early success with playoff appearances in his first two years; Eric “Simply Incredible That He Was Ever Actually Called ‘Mangenius’ Mangini,” who, yes, also started off strong, earning a wild card spot in his rookie season; and, of course Rex Ryan, whose first two seasons in New York suggested a guaranteed trip to Canton in a very large yellow sports jacket down the road.

In fact, if you combined the first few years of the Groh/Herm/Mangidiot/Rex reins, the resume would nearly rival Vince Lombardi’s. Belichick, meanwhile, is headed for the Hall of Fame whenever he decides to retire from the Patriots after his own Lombardi-like run.

Would the Hoodie be on the way to the Hall if it was green instead of gray? Hard to say. Would the Jets QBs over the past 15 years still have been an over-the-hill Testaverde, an oft-injured Chad Pennington, a Brooks Bollinger-like Brooks Bollinger, a Brett Favre that appeared even further past the hill than Vinny until he was rejuvenated for in Minnesota, a guy best known for being knocked unconscious by a teammate’s posterior, and, of course, a Geno Smith? If so, for all his absurdly impressive gridiron acumen, a Tom Brady-less Belichick likely would’ve gone the way of all the aforementioned Gang Green coaches long ago.

Can you see Belichick in a TV job? He might be the only person in the world that would provoke a channel change to C-Span.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[3 Reasons to Watch Giants-Rams]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:33:55 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/4594822461.jpg


Pop quiz, hotshot. Among NFC teams, which longtime franchise has the best winning percentage against the Giants? If you answered the Rams (25-14 all-time versus New York), then you also probably just visited pro-footballreference.com.

Were you as shocked to discover this as I was? No? Liar.

The Rams, really. I know they’ve had some terrific teams over the years -- making the playoffs eight straight years from 1973-1980, six times between 1983 and 1989 and five times between 1999 and 2004 -- but the franchise still maintains an aura of stink for me. And that’s largely because -- outside of those cluster playoff runs -- the team has been largely terrible.

Has any franchise ever had a bigger disparity between its highs and lows? When the Rams are good, they remain good for years at a time. When they get on a run of losing -- for example like now; they haven’t made the playoffs since 2004 -- they get into a groove, too.

Would you believe the Rams actually have a winning record all-time? Well, they do, 533-531-2. If they lose their last two games this season, they’ll be exactly .500 all-time, which seems fitting for this proud/embarrassing franchise.

The Giants have actually won the last five games in this matchup, which means at one time they actually had a 9-25 record against the Rams. Bizarre? You betcha.

Can the Giants keep the winning streak going? Here are some other compelling reasons to watch this game:

Great rookies

This game features the runaway winner of the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (Odell Beckham Jr.) and a contender for the Defensive Rookie of the Year, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who has eight sacks on the year, including one sack each in the last five games.

The only thing Eli Manning likes more than looking for Beckham (league high 62 targets in the last five weeks) is taking sacks. Look for the announcers to say Beckham or Donald’s name on 44 consecutive Giants offensive plays.

Great coaches

Don’t you ever watch games simply because the teams are led by accomplished coaches at the height of their powers? Coaches like Jeff Fisher and Tom Coughlin? OK, I tried.

Fantasy football

Want to hear me talk about my fantasy football team? How kind of you, please pull up a chair.

I’m playing in my fantasy football championship this week. The guy I’m playing against has Beckham on his team, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because I read somewhere that Beckham is on more championship-participating teams than any other player in fantasy.

What might strike you as odd is that my opponent has the Rams’ defense while I am currently fielding the Giants’ defense. I say currently because, well, I have watched this Giants team all year -- all through the seven-game losing streak, the horrific Manning interceptions, the Larry Donnell fumbles -- and it occurs to me that pinning my hopes on the Giants’ defense is like playing William Tell, except in this instance I’m putting an apple on my head and asking someone to shoot it off with a heat-seeking missile.

The Giants’ defense has been stout of late, accumulating 22 sacks in the last three weeks. But the Rams’ defense has not allowed a touchdown in three weeks, and could become the first squad since the 2000 Steelers to not allow a touchdown in four straight games.

If the Rams’ defense dominates the Giants (which is distinctly possible), the Giants’ defense is going to be in bad situations all game. Decisions, decisions.

My other option is playing the Broncos versus the Bengals on Monday Night Football. So what do you think … hey, where did you go?

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Should Play Jets, Pats Every Year]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:53:29 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/459081054.jpg

The unpredictability of the NFL is one of its greatest charms, the any given Sunday maxim a central cause of the multi-billion dollar gambling industry that has helped make professional football the most popular sport among four-legged mammals, domesticated or otherwise.

But undergirding this most unpredictable of sports is the most predictable of plans, the NFL schedule. We may not know if the Giants can beat the spread in either of their final two games, but we already know who 14 of the Giants’ 16 opponents will be in 2015, because the NFL uses a staid formula with no room for leeway.

The Giants are playing the Jets, Patriots and Bills in 2015? Roger Goodell and his minions are scheduling savants! They know how to foster rivalries! Yeah, no. The commissioner and his team have no say about who plays who from year to year, which is probably good, because they’d probably have the Seahawks and 49ers play against each other in London each week.

But in proper hands (read: mine) the NFL schedule can be improved, with an emphasis on fostering regional and historical rivalries, while neglecting the perceived need to have, say, the Dolphins play the Cardinals every few years.

Believe it or not, Cardinals fans don’t care if the Dolphins ever come to town, and this is what the NFL fumbles in its construction of the NFL schedule.

As it stands, the NFL uses a very simple formula for determining a team’s schedule.

Per NFL communications:

Under the formula, every team plays 16 games as follows:

• Home and away against its three division opponents (6 games).
• The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (4 games).
• The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (4 games).
• Two intraconference games based on the prior year’s standings (2 games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place, and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.

Because of this formula, the Giants (who are locked into a third-place finish in the NFC East) already know who 7/8ths of their 2015 will be. As the consistently great Ed Valentine points out at Big Blue View on SB Nation, the Giants’ opponents are:

Home: Dallas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Carolina, New England, New York Jets, and NFC West third-place team (“As of now, the third-place team in the NFC West is the San Francisco 49ers, who are 7-7. Sunday's opponent, the St. Louis Rams, are 6-8 and could sneak into that spot over the final two games,” Valentine writes.)
Away: Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington, New Orleans, Tampa Bay. Buffalo, Miami, and NFC North third-place team (“The third-place team in the NFC North is the 6-8 Minnesota Vikings. The 5-9 Chicago Bears have a shot at that spot, but they seem to have imploded.)

Is it great that the Giants get to host the Patriots and the Jets? Sure, but this should happen every other year, with the Patriots and Jets hosting the Giants in the alternating years. That’s right, a yearly contest at MetLife Stadium between the Giants and the Jets. How awesome would that be? How many fights would break out in the stands? Probably no more than go down whenever the Eagles, Cowboys Washington come to town. Well, the Eagles and Cowboys, anyway; Washington fans don’t like to travel these days.

It’s safe and predictable for the NFL to say this year’s standings should affect next year’s schedule, but it’s also lazy and idiotic. The last-place team in the AFC North this year is currently Cleveland, who are 7-7 and could finish 9-7. The last-place team in the AFC South is Jacksonville, which has two wins and could finish with, um, two wins.

Some fans complain that the NFC North will send a team with a losing record to the playoffs this year, while more worthy teams (please let it be the Eagles) get left out. But if it’s supposedly unfair to allow a sub.-500 team such as the Saints to reach the playoffs, how is it fair to automatically equate a seven-win team such as the Browns with a two-win team such as the Jaguars?

Listen, there’s no perfect formula for designing the NFL schedule, but the currently boring formula should be scrapped in lieu of a new “formula” that includes:

• A nod to regional or historic rivalries. Pittsburgh and Dallas? These two teams have played in three Super Bowls and need to play more often. You don’t think Steeler fans can hate Dallas fans as much as other fan bases? You are mistaken. Other teams that need to play more often: the Dolphins and the Jaguars, the Chiefs and the Rams, and the Texans and the Cowboys. The 49ers and Raiders don’t need to play more often; jails in California are already overpopulated, so there’s no need to put these two fan bases in a confined bowl. Like ever.

• The formula should also include never playing another game in London. Seriously, just stop. How about Iceland, though? The naturally occurring hot springs would be very therapeutic to players’ aches and pains. Plus it’s a shorter flight from New York and would actually allow the NFL to play a game on a real frozen tundra.

• Pulling team names out of a hat to determine matchups. You think the NFL Draft is entertaining theater? Imagine a scene at Radio City Music Hall, with the commissioner pulling the Eagles’ name out of a hat, followed by him pulling out...the Rams! And you think the booing was loud when Donovan McNabb got drafted.

Now, will such changes to the NFC schedule ever be implemented? Probably not.

Instead we get the lukewarm excitement associated with the NFL’s schedule release in the spring. We already know which teams play which, because the crusty old schedule formula determined that at the end of the previous season.

“But we get to learn WHEN the Giants play the Patriots!”

Come on, NFL. We can do better than that.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sheldon Richardson a Silver Lining for Gang Green]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:37:18 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/120714jets.jpg

April 22, 2013 is a day that will live in infamy for Jets fans. That’s when newly installed GM John Idzik traded Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Of course, Gang Green has no lack of infamous days. How about the day Idzik decided not to bring Revis back, leading the cornerback to relocate his island to New England and return to his otherworldly form while playing for the hated Patriots? Or the day Idzik was hired? Or Rich Kotite? Or Bruce Coslet? Or Lou Holtz? OK, you get the point. And I won’t even mention butt-fumble day.

Oh well, too late, I guess.

But back to that fateful April day. The Jets parted with Revis --arguably the best player they’ve ever had -- and in return received a mid-first round and a fourth round draft pick. Sounds like a steal for the Bucs, right? Like taking candy from an Idzik?

However, in one of the few standout moments from what will likely soon be the end of the GM’s brief tenure of infamy, with the first round choice he wisely selected Sheldon Richardson from Missouri.

Yes, just four spots earlier, the GM chose Dee Milliner, the DB from Alabama, and not only is the jury still out on that pick, but at this point no one can even seem to find the jury. The rumor is it’s being sequestered somewhere under MetLife Stadium, a stone’s throw from the remains of Jimmy Hoffa. And Idzik also whiffed on 2014 fourth round choice Jalen Saunders, whom the Jets dropped after he failed to catch a pass through the first few games of his rookie campaign.

But even if Milliner doesn’t pan out, you can’t call Idzik’s first first round a wash, because Richardson has already proven to be one of the best players from the 2013 NFL Draft. The defensive end won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Honors last year, and has followed that up with an even stronger sophomore season.

A staunch run-stopper in the Jets’ base 3-4 D since he arrived in New York, Richardson has stepped up his game in the pass-rushing department in 2014 -- especially since linemate Muhammad Wilkerson went down with a toe injury in November. Richardson was a constant presence in the Vikings’ backfield two weeks ago, racking up three sacks in the 30-24 defeat.

Revis should be a Jet. After all, it’s rare that you get a second chance at a talent like that, and Idzik obviously blew it. Milliner? We still don’t know what we have there. But Sheldon Richardson is exactly the kind of building block the Jets need more of if they’re going to progress from a punch line to respectability.

If they can do as well with their first-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft as they did with their second choice two years ago, they shouldn’t be a laughing stock for much longer.  

<![CDATA[Jets Owner Accidentally Favorites "Fire Idzik" Tweet]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:53:23 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/woody+johnson+romney.jpg

Jets owner Woody Johnson apologized Tuesday night after committing a common social media faux pas that had some speculating he was planning a front office shakeup.

Johnson said he accidentally favorited a tweet from a fan calling for him to fire general manager John Idzik.

“Have to be more careful when scrolling through my Twitter feed,” Johnson said in a tweet late Tuesday night. “The tweet I most recently favorited was inadvertent.”

Johnson appears to have clicked the star button on the tweet, which read “@woodyjohnson4 you really need to #FireIdzik at this point. This roster is garbagio.”

Johnson de-favorited the tweet a short time later, but not before the user posted a screenshot showing a notification about the Jets owner's slip-up.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[NYC Hoops Legend Chris Mullin Opts Not to Coach Kings: Sources]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 09:47:15 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/mullin+kings.jpg

Chris Mullin’s move to the Sacramento Kings’ bench still could happen -- next season.

The Sacramento Kings wanted Mullin to take their coaching vacancy now, lobbying the Brooklyn basketball legend, Hall of Famer and adviser to the team's owner to move to the bench in the wake of the firing of head coach Mike Malone on Sunday.

But even as Kings owner Vivek Ranadive tried his hardest to get Mullin to move into a coaching role for the first time in his post NBA-playing career, sending signals to team officials that Mullin was ready to take the post and would deploy an up-tempo offense the owner wants his team to play, all the pushing and prodding didn’t work in the end.

Mullin isn’t going to the bench to finish out the season, although he could wind up taking over the coaching duties after the season. According to league sources, Mullin felt he needed time to install his system and was hesitant to make a move to the bench at this point in the season.

“Look for this move next season when he can get a training camp and start fresh,’’ one source with knowledge of the Kings’ plans told NBC 4 New York on Wednesday.

NBC 4 New York reported Tuesday that the Kings had offered Mullin the job and were fully expecting that he would take over for Tyrone Corbin, who replaced Malone on an interim basis.

But as adviser to Ranadive since 2013, the former St. John’s star backed having Corbin finish out the season. Corbin coached the Utah Jazz the last three-plus seasons, posting a 112-146 record and never once making the playoffs.

If he decides to coach, Mullin would like to incorporate some of the same unconventional offensive strategies that his former coach, Don Nelson, used when Mullin was a five-time All-Star with Golden State and went to the playoffs four times.

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[U.S. to Bid for 2024 Olympics]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 04:15:47 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/TLMD-aros-olimpicos-juegos-olimpicos-olympic-rings-getty-images-470969827.jpg

The U.S. Olympic Committee has decided to bid for the 2024 Olympics, hoping to bring the Summer Games back to America after a 28-year absence.

The USOC board heard presentations from four candidate cities Tuesday — Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington — and voted to enter a field that already includes Rome and either Hamburg or Berlin, with Paris likely to join.

A decision on which city the U.S. will put forward for a bid is expected next month.

The United States hasn't hosted a Summer Games since the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

The country's last two tries have been flops, with New York (2012) and Chicago (2016) each finishing fourth in voting. The USOC chose not to bid for the 2020 Games, which will take place in Tokyo.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NYC Hoops Legend Chris Mullin Expected to Coach Kings: Sources]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 14:14:34 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Chris-Mullin-1216.jpg

Chris Mullin once played for Don Nelson, and now the Hall of Famer from Brooklyn wants to take a page from his former coach as he prepares to fill the Sacramento Kings’ head coaching vacancy.

According to Kings and industry sources, Mullin is expected to replace Mike Malone, who was fired Sunday by the by the team.

“He wants to coach like Don Nelson,’’ a source told NBC 4 New York in confirming the move. “Chris wants to be unconventional in his approach. He’s not going to call a play on every possession.’’

At this point, it will be a surprise if Mullin, 51, who has never been a coach, does not accept the post, sources said. Until Mullin accepts the job, interim head coach Tyrone Corbin will lead the team.

Mullins, a five-time NBA All-Star and member of the original Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics has been an adviser for Sacramento owner Vivek Ranadive, who had been trying to get the Kings to play a different style of offense under Malone. He also  played six-plus seasons under Nelson at Golden State, making the playoffs four times.

With the Kings losing seven of their last nine games, Malone was fired as the Kings slumped to 11-13. Malone and GM Pete D’Alessandro were barely on speaking terms.

So while Malone had a great relationship with emerging star DeMarcus Cousins and had been instrumental in Ben McLemore’s development, Ranadive’s wishes for a more open attack led to his dismissal and Mullin’s new gig.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Jets Need QB, But They Also Need Team Around Him]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 09:47:04 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Marcus+Mariota.jpg

A few days ago, I mentioned that Marcus Mariota’s college QB credentials were very similar to Geno Smith’s. Maybe that was a bit of a stretch. So let me try again.

Candidate A, Mariota, was a three-year starter and Heisman winner at a powerhouse program. He also threw 101 TDs against just 12 INTs, completed 66.6% of his passes at 9.2 yards per pass, recorded a passer rating of 172.6 and even ran for 28 touchdowns while leading his team to a 35-4 record.

Candiate B was a three-year starter and Heisman winner at a powerhouse program with 88 passing TDs against just 16 INTs, completed 66.4% of his passes at 9.3 yards per pass, recorded a passer rating of 170.8 and even ran for 57 touchdowns while leading his team to a 35-6 record.

Not much of a stretch, right? B is Tim Tebow. Yes, the same guy who in the NFL appeared as if he was conducting infield practice with his throws was one of the most statistically impressive passers in college football history -- while playing in that competitive crucible known as the SEC.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Mariota will be a good pro QB, and I think the Jets’ win on Sunday over the woeful Titans was in many ways a loss because it gave them a worse chance at landing the 2015 NFL Draft’s top pick -- and potentially grabbing the Oregon signal caller.

Then again, I also thought Tebow would be a good pro.

No, really, I did.

Are you still reading? I wouldn’t blame you if not.

But if so, I might as well come clean completely. So here goes.

I thought Mark Sanchez would be good too.

You’re not really still reading this, are you? If so, it may say as little for you as my evaluations on Tebow and Sanchez did for me.

But remember two things about Sanchez: playing the most important position in pro team sports, he brought Gang Green within one game of the Super Bowl his rookie year. Then, he did it again. How? By playing well enough to go far with a very good team around him -- one that had a top-flight running attack and one of the NFL’s best defenses.

Obviously, the Jets need a major upgrade at quarterback -- and they’re not likely to get one near the top of the upcoming draft, as, incredibly enough, 3 wins likely won’t get them a high enough spot to select either Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

But that’s OK, because they will draft high enough to get the caliber of player who can be a true difference-maker for them.

That draft pick can hopefully be a starting point in again building a team so effective on both sides of the ball that whoever becomes their QB doesn’t need to be a world-beater to go far. Just like Sanchez five years ago. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jets-Titans: Someone Has to Win, Right?]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 11:55:17 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/Jets-Bills-1027003.jpg

Contrary to popular sentiment, the NFL’s blackout rule doesn’t cover matchups of 2-11 teams, so, unfortunately, the Jets-Titans game will be on for your viewing “pleasure” on Sunday at 4. Sure, you can switch channels to the 49ers-Seahawks game at 4:25, but that still saddles you with nearly a half-hour of some of the worst football imaginable. Remember, that’s time you’ll never get back.

Still, it’s not all that bad. After all, you could be:

• Very slowly serpentining through the parking lot of your local mall, in search of that elusive spot.
• Having finally found that parking space after two or three hours, now having to actually enter said mall to wait on line for four of five hours while holiday shopping.
• Digging holiday decorations out of your some godforsaken corner of your home that required enduring a virtual Tough Mudder course to reach. I’m all for saving a buck where possible, but those tree lights cost all of $15 to replace, and getting to them will surely require hundreds in visits to your neighborhood chiropractor.
• Doing just about anything with your in-laws. Isn’t celebrating Christmas with them enough?
• Watching video of your kids’ holiday concert. You already passed up a good game to sit through this mess. Do you really need to relive it, complete with constant commentary from the little ones? Who said camera phones were a good thing?
• Watching video of your relatives’ kids’ holiday concerts, and then being asked to comment on the performances. And then having to nod, smile and keep your mouth shut when they say, “Really, you think he (or she) has talent?,” followed by “That was nothing, you should see his (or her) one-person play. I’m going to start emailing it now, but it’s too big a file to send all at once.”
• John Idzik.

Suddenly sounds like one heck of a game, right? Hopefully Gang Green can find a way to lose (and stay right in the hunt for the #1 draft pick), which is one of the few things at which they’ve excelled all season. But it won’t be easy against a franchise that puts the “Titan” in Titanic.

With rookie QB Zach Mettenberger out with a shoulder injury, Tennessee is turning back to Jake Locker, who forms one corner of the Bermuda triangle of quarterback drafts (In 2011, Locker was selected 8th overall by the Titans, while the Jaguars picked Blaine Gabbert 10th and the Vikes chose Christian Ponder 12th. If any of the personnel guys who made these choices are still employed—in the NFL or anywhere else—that situation needs to be remedied immediately.).

Locker is lousy, but he fits right in on a team that can’t score or stop any opponent from doing so.

The Jets should win on Sunday at Nashville’s LP Field, and you should be watching at home, where you already have a parking space.  

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero for Giants-Washington]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 11:22:42 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/redskins+giants1.jpg

After losing seven games in a row, the Giants have now proven in back-to-back weeks that they are better than a two-win team, the Titans, and a three-win team, Washington. If the Giants had been able to play sub-.500 teams all year, they might have been able to go somewhere. Unfortunately they don’t play in the NFC South, where a 5-9 record will have you fighting for first place.

There was plenty of heroics, insanity and ineptitude in the team’s 24-13 victory over Washington on Sunday, but we can only designate one Hero, Nero and Zero.
Heroes: Giants’ defensive line.
OK, we lied, you can actually pluralize the word “hero.” Who knew?
When the Giants were making the playoffs and winning Super Bowls a few years ago, the team had an amazing ability to put the quarterback on his back. Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Usi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul were avowed quarterback sackers, and this had a magical trickle-down effect – fewer successful plays by the opposition led to more successful plays by the Giants. It was like voodoo.
In recent years, as the Giants have grown wary of the postseason and all it entails, sacks have dropped off precipitously. Well, until the last three weeks anyway, as New York has rattled off 22 quarterback sacks, including seven on Sunday.
Does Odell Beckham Jr. accumulate 12 catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns if the Giants’ defense can’t get off the field on third down? Maybe. Did Beckham deserve to be named “hero” for this game? Probably. Was I getting tired of writing about how great he is? No. I just chose to address his antics under “zero” this week. (Don’t read ahead!)
Nero: Santana Moss.
Football is a laughably imprecise sport. Where the ball is spotted on running plays? Yeah, the refs are basically winging it. Roughing the passer? You can make a great play in sacking the quarterback, but as evidenced by Jason Worilds’ sack of Matt Ryan in yesterday’s Steelers-Falcons game, you can’t make too good of a play. In short, the refs are making it up as they go along, which was further evidenced when they said Robert Griffin III did not score a touchdown as time ran out in the first half.
Was Griffin bobbling the ball as he dove across the goal line? I guess. Was it so obvious that the refs called it a fumble initially? No. Was it such a huge shift of the ball that they should have overturned it on replay? No way.
Listen, anyone with two eyes knows that Tom Brady fumbled when Charles Woodson hit him in the 2001 playoffs, in the so-called Tuck Rule game. I don’t care what the rule books says (or said at the time, anyway, since the rule has since been eliminated). That was a fumble.
Yesterday’s play by Griffin? Not a fumble. But that’s what the refs ultimately ruled, and that’s what sent Redskins’ wide receiver Santana Moss into apoplexy. He cursed at the refs, got thrown out of the game, and the Redskins got slapped with 30 yards in penalties, which allowed the Giants to kick off from Washington’s 35-yard line in the second half. This gave them the perfect opportunity to pull an onside kick, which was successful.
In other news, Santana Moss is still in the league. Who knew?
Zero: Giants rookies with 1,000 yards receiving.
Certain teams are better than others at drafting and developing particular positions. For instance, the Steelers with linebackers, the Colts with quarterbacks, and the Raiders with punters.
Other teams have a comedic inability to draft and develop particular positions. For instance, Washington with linebackers, the Browns with quarterbacks, and the Jets with everything.
It came as something of a shock to learn that the Giants have never had a rookie with more than 1,000 yards receiving. Until Sunday’s game, the rookie record was held by Jeremy Shockey with 894 yards. But with Odell Beckham’s latest stud outing, he now has 972 yards on the season and only needs 28 yards in the final two games to pass 1,000 on the year.
You can check my math, I’ll wait.
Really, is it a wonder that Giants fans are excited about Beckham Jr.? The team doesn’t exactly have a long track record of great wide receivers who don’t shoot themselves in the leg at a night club.
Besides, Plaxico Burress didn’t begin his career with the Giants. And the team’s all-time leading receiver, Amani Toomer, went to exactly zero Pro Bowls during his 13-year career.
The team’s second-leading receiver all time is Frank Gifford, who caught his last pass before the forward pass was even legal. (Probably.)
The third-leading receiver in franchise history? Tiki Barber, a running back. If you can remember the three receivers who round out the top six (Joe Morrison, Kyle Jones and Homer Jones), congratulations, you are old.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Surpasses Jordan]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 05:53:06 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/212*120/Kobe-Bryant-passes-Jordan-points_12-14-14.jpg

On Sunday evening in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Kobe Bryant further cemented his place in basketball lore by becoming the third greatest scorer in NBA history.

Bryant passed Michael Jordan's total of 32,292 points in the first half of Sunday's game at Target Center. Only needing nine points on the day, most expected Bryant would surpass the required total before halftime, and Bryant did not disappoint.

Though Bryant missed his first three shots and the Minnesota Timberwolves were consistently putting a hard double team on the Lakers' star, the 19-year veteran began to slowly solve the defensive riddle.

After eight scoreless minutes on Sunday, Bryant's first two points on the night came from the foul line. By the time the first quarter ended, Bryant had four points on five shots, but he did not appear to be in any particular hurry to pass no. 23 on the all-time scoring list.

Instead, Bryant was happy to chaperon the Lakers to a three point lead after one quarter. In the second quarter, Bryant would return from his rest and immediately launch a three-pointer. Bryant took the ball on a turnaround jump shot to pass Jordan, but the ball went in and out. On the next possession, Bryant would head to the free throw line and sink two free throws.

Bryant moved to third all-time on the NBA scoring list, and Jordan dropped to fourth.

The game was momentarily halted as Bryant received hugs and congratulations from his teammates. The Timberwolves' PA announcer congratulated the 36-year-old and the fans in attendance applauded in appreciation. For a night, Minnesota felt like the home of the Lakers again.

With Jordan out of the way, Bryant is still a long way behind Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Malone's total of 36,928 points and Abdul-Jabbar's total of 38,387 points would likely require Bryant to play past the summer of 2016, when Bryant's current contract is set to retire.

On Sunday in Minneapolis, no. 24 passed no. 23 on the all-time scoring list, as Bryant further solidified his case for being the greatest Laker of all time in the city where the Lakers were born.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Best of NFL: Week 15]]> Sun, 14 Dec 2014 23:22:57 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/460466000.jpg Don't miss the most dramatic images from the fifteenth week of the 2014 NFL season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Eagles' McCoy on Playing Sunday Night]]> Sun, 14 Dec 2014 15:12:02 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP383450712423.jpg Philadelphia Eagles' star running back, LeSean McCoy, ran for 159 yards and a touchdown in a convincing win against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. McCoy looks to continue that trend against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, where he always seems to come though for the Eagles.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Knicks Halt 10-Game Skid, Beat Celtics ]]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 23:11:39 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/knicks+win1.jpg

Carmelo Anthony scored 22 points, Amare Stoudemire had 20 and the New York Knicks snapped a 10-game losing streak with a 101-95 victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. added 16 points and Jason Smith 12 as New York snapped its longest losing streak since the 2005-06 team lost 10 straight from Jan. 28-Feb 13 en route to a 23-59 record.

It was just the Knicks' second road win of the season. They won their first, beating LeBron James and the Cavaliers in his return to Cleveland before losing the next 11.

Jeff Green had 28 points and Tyler Zeller 19 for the Celtics, who dropped their third straight.

Boston sliced it to 75-73 on the first basket of the fourth quarter, Marcus Thornton's 3-pointer from the right wing, before the Knicks went on a game-breaking 11-0 run over the ensuing 2 minutes. Shane Larkin started the burst with a 3-pointer.

Boston was held to just two baskets in the opening 7 minutes of the fourth, missing nine of its initial 11 shots.

Anthony's baseline jumper increased it to 90-75 with 5:43 to play.

The Celtics made a late charge, closing it to 99-95 on Phil Pressey's free throw with 16.8 seconds left, but Anthony's two free throws sealed it.

New York had pushed its five-point halftime edge to 71-60 on Stoudemire's basket with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.

The Knicks shot 55 percent in the opening half and led 51-46 at intermission.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Carmelo Anthony Not Leaving Knicks Anytime Soon]]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 16:48:53 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/AP27179659197.jpg

Phil Jackson isn’t going to be so lucky and get himself a do-over here.

No, the Zen Master is stuck in his rebuilding no-man’s land for the foreseeable future with Carmelo Anthony, if not longer.

Anthony on Friday shot down a story that had him agreeing to waive his no-trade clause so that the Knicks could move him to a winning situation. If the story were true, it would have been manna from heaven for Jackson, who is finding out the hard way that hitching his wagon to Anthony will make for a longer and more arduous rebuilding process than he could have ever imagined when he signed a $60-million deal to bring the Knicks a winner.

But Jackson is not getting out of this fix anytime soon, as Anthony made clear to reporters in Boston on Friday morning, when he shot down the rumors at the Knicks’ shootaround that he wants out.

“After all the work I did to get here and get back here?’’ he said. “If I was to get up and want to leave now that would just make me weak, make me have a weak mind. I've never been a person to try to run from any adversity or anything like that, so I'm not going to pick today to do that."

He’s not going to pick tomorrow, the next day, or next year, either. Bet on that.

Here’s why: Anthony is far more consumed with building his brand and wanting to become something of a CEO, with all of his lucrative off-court business endeavors, than he is with winning. So he’s not about to leave New York when his stated goal is to be known for more than just being a professional basketball player.

Anthony basically said all of that in a recent “ESPN The Magazine’’ cover story that told you all you need to know about the Knicks’ scoring star, who might not take the court in Boston tonight against the Celtics because of a balky knee, and his team of business advisers who are totally oblivious to the fact that a basketball player makes his legacy by what he does in one place.

The basketball court.

But ‘Melo has bought into the whole, crazy “I can be a business mogul’’ dream when he should be putting his entire focus on how he can make the Knicks better. He makes the most money, so it starts with him.

Although it pained him to miss the playoffs last season for the first time in his NBA career, Anthony still was more than willing to return to the Knicks after flirting in free agency with Chicago and Houston, both of whom offered him better chances of winning right away. No one could offer him the fame and fortune that New York could, along with $124 million.

Anthony always knew he could have a lot of long nights before the Knicks added more talent via free agency in 2015 and ’16, but it’s not as if losing has ever killed ‘Melo, the way it does Kobe Bryant, for instance.

Did you see the tape of Bryant ripping into his Lakers teammates in practice on Thursday, calling them out for being “soft,’’ among other things? The next time Anthony does that in practice will be the first time.

It’s been only 22 games and although the Knicks are as bad as their 4-20 record indicates, Anthony is not ready to give up on being a Knick, because he sees it as his best way to becoming a “tastemaker,’’ in the words of his advisers.

When he signed his contract, with the highly sought-after, but rarely given no-trade clause that only a handful of NBA players including Bryant have, Anthony knew there was a chance that the Knicks could be terrible. He’s found out during the worst start in franchise history that there’s a big learning curve for his rookie coach, Derek Fisher, who this time last season was playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s found out that subtracting Tyson Chandler from the back line and adding Samuel Dalembert has made for one of the weaker defensive teams in the league.

He’s found out that he, along with J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert, no longer can look for their own shots first, something that comes naturally. Now, in the triangle offense, they first have to read and react to the defense and where their teammates are on the floor.

Jackson has already gone public with Anthony’s various shortcomings, which wasn’t exactly news since 'Melo has been in the league since 2003-4. Normally he doesn’t impact the game, except if he can score. He’s not a leader. He needs strong-willed veterans on the team to direct him, on and off the court. He's not Kobe or LeBron or other transcendent superstars, few as there are.

But he has the kind of power with his no-trade clause that will keep him a Knick for a long time.

Probably even longer than Jackson, truth be told.

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[Giants Vs. Washington: A Contrast in QB Situations]]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 10:35:06 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/RG3-Eli-Manning-Giants.jpg

John Madden used to say, “If you have two quarterbacks, then you have none,” the sentiment being that you need to have a clear No. 1, not a quarterback controversy.

The Giants have a clear No. 1, Eli Manning. Washington has a quarterback carousel, with Colt McCoy, Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins all taking their turns this season. Giants’ fans may occasionally bemoan the services of Manning, but at least they don’t have to spread the disdain among his backups. Thanks to Manning’s NFL-high 175-game starting streak at quarterback, 175 percent of Giants fans can’t pick backup quarterback Ryan Nassib out of a police lineup.

Two years ago, Washington was seemingly flush at quarterback. RGIII won the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, and Cousins filled in tremendously when Griffin went down with injury. Both seemed like legitimate franchise quarterbacks.

But then Mike Shanahan’s administration decided to rush RGIII back from injury, Griffin subsequently blew out his knee in the 2012 playoffs and hasn't been the same since, and Cousins revealed himself to be lackluster.

Now, less than two years after being named a better offensive rookie than Andrew Luck, RGIII is reportedly punting balls to himself at Washington practices and seemingly on the fast track to a padded room with no windows.

Such is the life of a quarterback who has Colt McCoy looking over his shoulder, I guess.

Manning, conversely, has had a vise grip on the starting job since late 2004. Sure, he’s led the NFL three times in interceptions over that time, but he’s also led the team to two Super Bowl wins.

Additionally, the Giants did him the huge favor of never bringing anyone in to challenge him. Maybe that’s stupid on the part of the Giants (especially since the team has now missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six years), but Manning has never been the sole thing holding this team back.

Say what you want about Manning, but as quarterbacks go, he’s as tough as they come. Since 2004, he’s been sacked 278 times, and yet he’s still got the longest active starting streak among NFL quarterbacks.

Maybe Giants fans wish he had taken a game or 10 off, but honestly, what QB situation would you rather have? The one in New York, where there is a clear No. 1 (albeit a low-end No. 1 these days), or the one in Washington, where there’s a collections of No. 2s?

Since Manning began his starting streak in November 2004, Washington has started these quarterbacks: Patrick Ramsey, Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell, Todd Collins, Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, John Beck, Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy.

You can’t unsee that.

If the Giants do make the decision to part ways with Manning after this season, saving $17.5 million against the salary cap, then rest assured that teams like Washington will be lining up for his services.

Is Manning an elite quarterback? No. But he’s a clear No. 1, which is always better than having two No. 2’s.

<![CDATA[Last Time for Some in Giants-Washington Rivalry]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 09:48:58 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/RG3-Tom-Coughlin-NYG-Wash.jpg

A lot has changed since the Giants faced Washington in Week 4. Washington and its fans have gone from loving quarterback Robert Griffin III to essentially washing their hands of him, the Giants went on a mid-season sabbatical that saw them lose seven games in a row, and both teams answered the question of whether they’d like to participate in the 2014 playoffs with a Bartleby-like “I’d prefer not to.”

Needless to say, this is the last time these two hated rivals will be facing off this year. For some of the game’s participants, it might be the last time they are involved in the rivalry, with the numerous question marks surrounding the futures of coaches, players and mascots on both sidelines.

So let’s use your old friend -- the NFL injury report -- to gauge whether this is last time certain figures will take the field for a Washington-NYG game.

Probable Last Game in this Rivalry: Robert Griffin III.

The last time a player fell from favor this quickly (Jamie Foxx in “Any Given Sunday”), Lawrence Taylor chain-sawed his car in half. Washington coach Jay Gruden has reportedly tired of Griffin’s act, lamenting the third-year player’s poor work habits and poor footwork, not to mention his willingness to throw teammates under the bus when the team loses.

Have other quarterbacks (namely, Peyton Manning) also tossed teammates towards the undercarriage of large vehicles? Yes. The difference is that Manning is a maniacal worker, whose knowledge of the game is more or less unparalleled in the game today.

Griffin, who won the Offensive Rookie of the Year two years ago, needs a change of scenery, and the Redskins -- who traded a king’s ransom to the Rams to move up and draft him in the 2012 draft -- will be lucky to get back 30 cents on the dollar in a trade.

Questionable Last Game in this Rivalry: Tom Coughlin.

Coughlin has one year remaining on his contract, and it seems unlikely the Giants will extend the league’s oldest coach with a new deal. Maybe they give him an added year, a way of a) saying thanks for the two Super Bowls, and b) here’s one last chance to make a run with a (hopefully) healthy team with talent on both sides of the ball.

Would Coughlin turn down a one-year extension? Not likely. No team is going to hire him to rebuild a franchise at his age. Well, maybe Washington, but Coughlin probably doesn’t have a death wish.

Doubtful Last Game in this Rivalry: Eli Manning.

Manning counts $17.5 million towards next year’s salary cap, so the Giants might cut him to clear space. Will they? It’s possible. But where would that leave them?At the doorstep of the Ryan Nassib Era?

I’m sure Nassib’s family loves him, but the rest of the NFL has no idea what he brings to the table, because Manning never misses a start and has played just well enough for sane fans to not call into Mike Francesa and pant heavily about giving Nassib a shot.

Manning will be back, and with luck he’ll have a full season from Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Rashad Jennings and Larry Donnell’s hands.

Out Last Game in this Rivalry: Washington mascot.

Despite polls that say an overwhelming majority of NFL fans consider Washington's mascot to be racist and disparaging, team owner Dan Snyder has adamantly refused to change it. He, along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, claim the franchise honors Native Americans with its name and logo.

If you needed any more proof that there’s no getting through to Snyder and Goodell, just remember that the team’s name begins with the word "red" and that the skin color of the Native American on the team's helmet is, uh, brown. It’d be like if the Red Sox wore the socks of the Cleveland Indians.

To quote Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” “Morons, your bus is leaving.”

<![CDATA[Jets Likely to Lose Race to the Bottom]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 12:20:36 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/geno3.jpg

The good news: the Jets have finally stunk their way to the worst record in football. The bad news: they share that distinction with four other teams -- the Tampa Bay Bucs, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars -- and if Washington can just sustain their streak of utter incompetence, they’ll likely join this loser crew soon.

The worse news: of this feeble five, Gang Green probably has the best chance of winning this Sunday, taking a step forward in the standings -- and a step away from the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

The Jets play at Tennessee’s LP Field this week, and, put simply, the Titans are awful. They haven’t won since mid-October, and even then it was a two-point victory over the Jaguars, so it shouldn’t really count. The Titans have been especially bad over the past three weeks, dropping those games by an average of 24 points. The fact that one of those blowouts came courtesy of the Giants tells you all you need to know and more.

Meanwhile, the other three 2-11 squads face uphill climbs Sunday, as each plays on the road against an opponent that desperately needs every W it can get in order to make the playoffs.

Things do look up for Gang Green in the weeks ahead, though. Taking on the Pats and Fins in last two games of the season, the Jets may well finish the year no better than 3-13. Then again, it’s not as if their competition for the top draft spot will rack up a whole lot of wins either.

And if the Jets somehow do exceed expectations (is that the right phrase?) and perform poorly enough over this late stretch to somehow secure the first overall pick, who will they choose?

Well, the consensus top guy is Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, and what’s not to like about him? Mariota is a three-year starter at a strong program who’s very mobile and has put up eye-popping stats in his last season of college football (3,773 passing yards, 68.2 percent completion rate, 38 touchdowns and only two interceptions).

Mariota, actually, brings to mind a prospect from a few years ago who put up big numbers at a successful big 12 program (4,205 passing yards, 71.2 percent completion rate, 42 TDs and only six INTs).

You may have heard of him. His name is Geno Smith. 

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Jackson Seeks Answers as Knicks Keep Failing]]> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 12:43:04 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/knicks+charlotte.jpg

As if things aren’t bad enough for the Knicks, losing like they’ve never lost before to open an NBA season, now they try to figure out a way to deal with Anthony Davis, just the kind of player Phil Jackson desperately needs to get his rebuilding going.

The old Knick, Monty Williams, now coaching Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, recently summed up his third-year forward with this appraisal: “He's just 21 years old, and when he's 23 to 27, we're going to see something the league has never seen. He’s just special.’’

While New Orleans has the next big deal in their future, the Knicks’ rebuilding is going nowhere, as Jackson himself had to admit on the eve of a game against Davis’ team in the Big Easy.

On Monday, following his team’s eighth straight defeat, Jackson bemoaned how he hasn’t been able to change the culture, as if he could have really done all that since taking over just last March. Maybe the very reason he’s being paid a king’s ransom, $60 million in fact, is because it will take several seasons and something close to a total talent transfusion for the toxic culture to be eradicated from the Garden.

We’ll see how long it takes, just as we’ll see if Jackson can pull off this job and accomplish something he’s never tried before.

Jackson can only dream about the day when he’ll land someone of Davis’ size (6 feet 10 inches tall), athleticism and skill-set. In one respect, having the kind of team that sure looks like it’s on a direct track to a franchise-first, 60-loss season and the draft lottery is one way to get such a player, if one actually exists in the upcoming drafts. Or, to have a shot at a player with Davis’ potential, the Knicks will try to do what they failed doing in 2010 with LeBron James, and attempt to lure a marquee free agent who could finally tip the NBA landscape in their favor.

Those players do exist, but Kevin Durant is two more summers from free agency and Jackson now sees that his team’s 4-18 start and the fact that his players have not exactly taken to the triangle offense is no way to impress Durant and other free-agent targets, notably Marc Gasol, the Memphis center who is free this coming July and in Jackson’s cross-hairs.

“I’m not happy about that,’’ Jackson told reporters after practice. “I think guys understand what we’re trying to do. Hopefully, they’re getting to be more compliant. There’s some resistance to discipline and order and culture change and things like that. I will call it a “crucible’ what we’re going through here.”

As Jackson has found to his disliking, that applies to his rookie coach, Derek Fisher, who has been in over his head. The late-game malfunctions at both ends of the floor speak volumes about a first-time coach who has been unable to call a late-second timeout, in one notable instance, and has used the wrong personnel or called the wrong plays at other times with the game on the line. It’s part of the reason the Knicks have lost their last five games by a grand total of 20 points and enter Tuesday night's game with only two more wins than the Sixers, who are trying to lose.

Jackson is still very much committed to Fisher, the player he once called “my surrogate son’’ when they were winning five titles in Los Angeles. He’s also still a believer in Carmelo Anthony. After throwing $124 million Anthony’s way last summer and providing a treasured no-trade clause for Anthony in his new deal, Jackson has no choice but to continue to put his faith in a player who has shown the boss that he still does not impact the game if he can’t score, as other stars are capable of doing.

You’d think Jackson would know that stuff because it’s not like Anthony is new to the NBA, as Davis still is. This is Anthony’s 12th season and he’s 30. At this point, what Jackson sees is what he’ll get from his best player.

You know where Jackson can see such a player? Down in Houston. You can make a great case, a quarter of the way into the season, that Houston’s James Harden should be part of the MVP discussion because of the way he has lifted his team while Dwight Harden is sidelined with what has been the biggest injury in the league. The Rockets have been without Howard, their All-NBA center, for nine games, and are also without two other starters, so there hasn’t been a lot for Harden to work with. Yet Harden has lifted Kevin McHale’s team to a 7-2 mark since Howard got sidelined by a bum knee that might prevent him from taking the court for several more weeks. They are 16-4, with only the 18-2 Warriors, the best team in the league, ahead of them out west.

Jackson has only Anthony, who couldn’t wait to let everyone know how concerned he is about his branding and all of his off-court business endeavors. But the place where he makes his reputation, he hasn’t done the kind of heavy lifting for Jackson that Harden has done for his team. So here was Jackson with a laundry list of to-do’s for ‘Melo.

“I’d like to see him flesh out the rest of his game,’’ Jackson said. “He’s been getting some assists, some rebounds. But every opportunity he has to offensive rebound, which is one of his strengths, I’d like to see him continue to do that. I’d like to see him continue to be aggressive, defensively. A leader at that end of the floor, too. Those are some of the things of where I’m at with Carmelo. I encouraged him to continue to do that. Which is a lot of energy -- it takes a lot of energy.’’

It also takes a special breed of player, one the Knicks desperately need to finally get turned around. They’ll get to see one tonight in New Orleans, in Anthony Davis.

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[NFLer Hill Probed for Sex Assault]]> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 19:51:38 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/sammie-hill-getty.jpg

The Tennessee Titans say they are aware police are investigating a sexual assault allegation involving defensive lineman Sammie Hill.

"We will let the police investigate the allegation, and we will provide any assistance they need," the Titans said in a statement Monday. "We have discussed the matter with Sammie, and we will continue to gather facts."

Atlanta Police Department spokesman John Chaffee wrote in an email that a woman told police she had been sexually assaulted by Hill and they are working with the woman for more information.

The woman apparently contacted Houston police first. Spokesman Victor Senties confirmed to The Associated Press that Houston police took a report Friday from a woman alleging she had been sexually assaulted in Atlanta and forwarded that to police there.

Hill, who played at Stillman and a West Blocton, Alabama, native, is a six-year veteran in the second year of a three-year deal with Tennessee. The 6-foot-4, 328-pound Hill has started 12 games this season.

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero for Giants-Titans Game]]> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 12:38:06 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/460112660.jpg

Admit it, when Eli Manning threw the pick-six to shrink the Giants’ lead to 30-7 in Sunday’s game against the Titans, a part of you -- because you were obviously watching -- wondered if Eli and his cohorts had it in them to blow a 30-point lead.

Last week they coughed up a 21-0 lead to Jacksonville and handed (fumbled?) the Jaguars its biggest comeback in franchise history. Could the Giants extend their season of giving by presenting the Titans with the biggest comeback in that team’s history?

No, Eli didn’t quite have it in him this time, and the pick-six turned out to be a momentary blip (and a horrific reminder of his ever-present potential) and the Giants beat the Titans 36-7.

Following the game, our blue ribbon panel once again convened to hand out honors to those who performed heroically, insanely and with ineptitude.

Hero: Giants rookies

On Friday I predicted that Odell Beckham Jr. had a decent chance of breaking Flipper Anderson’s 25-year-old record of 336 receiving yards in this game, because Beckham is awesome, Eli has shown himself to have few qualms about throwing it up for grabs and hoping his receiver makes a big play, and the Titans were coming off a game in which they allowed 238 yards receiving to DeAndre Hopkins.

Beckham didn’t disappoint; at first, anyway.

He had six catches for 98 yards and a touchdown -- in the first quarter. I’m no math wizard, but that put him on pace for nearly 400 yards receiving, which would have easily shattered Anderson’s mark and made this game historic.

But nooooo, fellow rookie Andre Williams had to go and be all productive on the ground and stuff, running for 131 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown of his own.

A well-balanced offense is the ideal when a team is in playoff contention, but when they’re playing out the string, we want ball hogs and broken records. Wise up, Giants rookies.

Nero: Titans fans with bags on their heads.

Life is short and there are innumerable ways to spend your Sunday afternoon. You can go to the park; take to the highway to drive slow in the passing lanes; or maybe sit in a bookstore and read an entire book and then put back on the shelf without having to pay for it.

In short, there are plenty of relaxing, enjoyable ways to spend 50 percent of your weekend. But attending a football game and wearing a paper bag over your head? That's what some Titans fans did to register their disgust with the team's play. Seriously, just save on paper and just write an L on your forehead. Ya know, because it’s the team that’s a bunch of losers.

Zero: Sense out of Antrel Rolle and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

When you’ve gone more than two months without winning a football game, it’s understandable if you’re a little excited that the team’s fortunes have shifted (for the time being, anyway) and the team is finally winning.

After Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie scored on a pick-six -- a high-stepping touchdown that was negated after Giants’ defensive lineman Damontre Moore de-cleated Titans’ quarterback Zach Mettenberger -- Antrel Rolle celebrated by taking a “snapshot” of Rodgers-Cromartie, who mugged for the camera.

This team had lost an NFL-high seven games in a row, and was now winning a meaningless game against the Titans. But two veterans, who probably should know better, decided that was a good opportunity to make a Kodak moment.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Geno: Good (for Him), But Not Good Enough]]> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 12:35:36 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/180*120/Jets-Bills-1027005.jpg

There aren’t that many franchise quarterbacks out there. Not nearly enough, in fact, for each franchise. There are only about half a dozen who can carry a team to the top. The best the rest of the NFL can hope for is a competent signal-caller that can win with a good team around him and make the occasional big play when needed, as it always will be at some point.

Teddy Bridgewater showed he can do that on Sunday. Geno Smith didn’t.

No, I’m not talking about Bridgewater’s game-winning 87-yard TD pass play in overtime. Not much was asked of the rookie QB on that bubble screen that the Vikings’ Jarius Wright took to the end zone to seal the 30-24 win over the Jets, and even so, Bridgewater’s throw was a bit high.

I’m referring instead to Bridgewater getting the ball with the score knotted at 24 and just 16 ticks left on the game clock, and marching his team 40 yards down the field to put them into position to win the game on a long field goal.

They didn’t, as Minnesota’s Blair Walsh, who successfully converted a 55-yard kick earlier this season, didn’t come close from 56. But the fact that Bridgewater brought the home team that far in just 13 seconds with the game -- and their air-thin playoff hopes -- on the line suggested that he may well have what it takes.

Does Smith? We’ll likely never find out, since he’s playing on borrowed time with just three games left in the Jets’ sorry 2014 campaign, and will probably start next season glued to the bench -- either for Gang Green or some other team. Smith had one of the better performances of his two-year career at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday, even after a start that gives new meaning to the word ignominious. Smith’s pick-six on the first play from scrimmage gave the Vikes a leg up in a game they needed to win to keep alive even the slightest hope of earning a playoff spot. But he went on to complete 18 of his next 28 passes, as Rex Ryan and Marty Mornhinweg removed the cuffs they put on Smith last week (when he threw only 13 pass as Gang Green ran nearly 80 percent of the time).

But, as has been his wont, Smith left Jets fans wanting more as he was unable to get the visitors any points after they began OT with the ball. After getting bogged down not long after crossing the 50, the Jets were forced to punt. Three players later, the Vikes were victorious. Not because of any heroics by Bridgewater. Heroes, after all, are hard to come by.

But he -- and his team -- made the right plays when they had to. And that was more than enough.  

Photo Credit: AP]]>