The New York Knicks (25-40) will go for their fifth straight win as they head north to face the Boston Celtics (22-42). The Knicks currently sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference and just 3 1/2 games out of the final playoff slot. During their five game winning streak, the Knicks have scored 114 points per game while shooting 41 percent from three-point range. The Knicks took care of business by handling the hapless Philadelphia 76ers, 123-110. Guard Tim Hardaway led the way with 28 points. 

New York has defeated Minnesota, Utah, Cleveland, and Philadelphia during their winning streak which shows they’re winning the games they need to win. After facing the Celtics, the Knicks will host the Bucks at home on Saturday. Getting two wins is critical.

Last night, the Celtics dropped a 94-83 decision in Indiana to the Pacers. Jared Sullinger led the way with 17 points and nine rebounds. Kris Humphries chipped in with 15 points and nine rebounds. Indiana is known for their tough defense and that defense was on full display. Indiana held Boston to just 35 percent from the field, which included a 19 percent mark from three-point range. 

Boston has defended the three-point very well, allowing opponents to make just 19 percent of their shots. The Knicks made 50 percent of their three-pointers in their most recent meeting on January 28th. The Knicks won 114-88.

Current NBA odds peg New York as a 4.5 point road favorite. New York has agreed to terms with Phil Jackson to become their president of basketball operations, so the distractions are running rampant. I don’t like betting again home dogs and I won’t buck this trend in this spot. Take Boston and the points at home for your NBA pick. 

CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, and Ivan Nova will comprise 80% of the Yankee rotation. The Yankees are holding an open competition for the final spot. RHPs Michael Pienda, Adam Warren, and David Phelps will compete with LHP Vidal Nuno for the last spot. Each pitcher brings some positives and negatives to the Yankee rotation. Today, we’ll walk through each option to see what they bring to the rotation.

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I haven’t written about Derek Jeter’s impending retirement. Jeter, who is the master of calculated moves, announced his retirement, following the 2014 season, on Facebook about three weeks ago. Jeter’s announcement came just days after A-Rod dropped his federal appeal against MLB. After breaking his ankle during the 2012 ALCS, Jeter missed nearly the entire 2013 season. When he did play, Jeter looked old, slow, and feeble. Jeter’s bat speed has clearly declined and he’s having issues getting around on mid-90s fastballs. In the field, Jeter has no problem fielding groundballs hit to him, but his range is compromised. Yankee fans are so used to seeing a young, youthful Jeter manning shortstop and I can’t help, but think Yankee fans are going to be very disappointed with Jeter this season. Mariano Rivera dominated on his farewell tour. Can Jeter match that dominance in his last season? I wouldn’t bet on it.

I usually discount Spring Training stats, but when players who missed a lot of games in the previous season play, I take notice. Brewers’ outfielder Ryan Braun is hitting an absurd .825 so far. Jeter? 0-for-9 with six groundouts, which isn’t a good sign. During 2012 and 2013, Jeter posted his highest ground ball rates (63% and 71%, respectively) of his career. Jeter’s fly ball rate continued to plummet to career low of nine percent in limited action last season. These stats further illustrate Jeter’s decline and inability to drive the ball like he used to. If Jeter continues to drag his high ground ball rate into the regular season, can the Yankees still afford to slot him second in the batting order?

If Jeter struggles through April, Joe Girardi may have some tough decisions to make. For now, it’s appropriate to assume Jeter will hit second behind Jacoby Ellsbury and in front of Carlos Beltran. Fans are so used to seeing Jeter set the table for the power hitters and if he can’t get the job done anymore, will he accept a demotion down the order? Will the fans accept a demotion? Will ownership worry about the backlash of such a move? Remember, Jeter is the last remaining ‘Dynasty Yankee’ and one of the ten best players ever to don a Yankee uniform. It’s not an easy situation and the Yankees will likely lose, either in the media/with the fans or on the scoreboard.

It’s hard to see a player who can still play retire. No one wanted to see Mariano Rivera go because he was still one of the top closers in the game. Leaving emotion out of the equation, Jeter isn’t a top player anymore and hasn’t been one since 2009. Some fans completely wrote Jeter off last season because the team wasn’t missing his production. The team did miss his leadership ability, but Jeter is no longer cranking out 200 hits per season.  

It’s always hard to see an iconic player retire, but some Yankee fans are losing sight of the big picture. The Yankees didn’t make the playoffs last season and the Boston Red Sox are the reigning world champs. Yankee ownership spent nearly a half billion dollars on new players. Focus should be on winning the AL East, AL Pennant, and then the World Series. Anything less is failure. Derek Jeter will be showered with gifts and attention from opposing teams, but I hope Yankee fans don’t lose their edge this season. I think most fans lost sight of the big picture during the Rivera hoopla last season. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again.

The 2014 season is a critical one for the future. The Yankees have a lot of new stars that must assimilate to the challenges of playing in New York. Derek Jeter should receive the attention and accolades he deserves, but that shouldn’t make fans complacent. Remember what the ultimate goal is… 

 

The New York Knicks (21-40) have lost eight straight games and continue to tumble down the Eastern Conference standings. Entering Wednesday’s tilt, the Knicks are 6.5 games out of the final playoff spot. The Minnesota Timberwolves (30-29) are riding a wave of momentum, winning seven of their last eight games. The Timberwolves just completed a 4-1 road trip including an impressive 132-128 victory in Denver. Minnesota’s recent surge has put launched it into a four-team race for the last three playoff spots. Minnesota has four straight home games against Eastern Conference foes that are a combined 59-games below .500. 

Over his last seven games, power forward Kevin Love has been scorching hot from the field. Love is averaging 33 points per game while shooting 47 percent from 3-point range. Love has absolutely dominated the Knicks, averaging 33 points and 21 rebounds over his last four meetings. Love had 34 and 15 in the team’s first meeting at Madison Square Garden earlier this season. The Knicks have given up 112 points during their seven game losing streak which is the worst mark in the NBA. 

Current NBA odds slot Minnesota as a 9-point home favorite. The Knicks are a paltry 7-37 when they allow 93 points or more. Minnesota has only been held under 93 points in four of their 27 home games. Individually, Anthony has won eight straight games, when healthy, when playing in Minnesota. 

Pick: Minnesota -9. The Knicks are reeling big time while Minnesota has been rolling. Minnesota’s offense put on an absolute show in their 132-128 victory over the Nuggets. The Knicks have given up 113 points per game and should get absolutely shredded by Minnesota. Back the T-Wolves in this showdown. 

The Yankees gave 30-year-old center fielder left fielder, Brett Gardner 52 million reasons not to test free agency next season. The Yankees’ speedy left fielder agreed to a four-year, $52 million contract that will keep Gardner in pinstripes through 2018. The contract includes a team option for a fifth year. The signing may come as a surprise. The Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury to a $153 million contract in December which solidifies center field for the foreseeable future. Gardner has been adamant about his desire to play center field, but he actually grades out better as a left fielder. Gardner does not fit the prototypical, power dependable mold for left fielders. Gardner hit a career high eight home runs and drove in a career high 52 runs in 2013. However, baseball is always evolving and this signing is a microcosm of this notion. Relative to his peers, Gardner’s signing tell us a lot of the future of the game. After the jump, I’ll show why the Yankees did a great job by locking up of their home grown players at a very reasonable price.

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The Brookyln Nets (26-28) are midst a western road trip. So far, the Nets are 2-1 on their west coast swing with wins over Utah and the LA Lakers and a close loss to the Golden State Warriors. They’ll race their toughest test Wednesday night in Portland. The Portland Trail Blazers (39-18) are one of the league’s top scoring teams and have ripped off three straight victories. The Blazers are playing without power forward, LaMarcus Aldridge, who is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a groin injury. In his absence, point guard Damon Lillard has assumed the scoring responsibility. Since the All-Star break, Lillard is averaging 30 points per game. Lillard has been feasting on opposing point guards, so Deron Williams will have his hands full trying to contain Lillard.

The Trail Blazers are playing a ‘back-to-back’ after a 100-95 road win over Denver last night. Portland’s three best players, Lillard, Nicolas Batum, and Robin Lopez all logged over 37 minutes in the win. Could the young, up-start Blazers feel the effects after playing in Denver’s ‘mile high’ climate? Not having power forward, Thomas Robinson, who filled in for Aldridge, will be a big issue. Robinson left Tuesday’s game with an injury and did not return.

Portland has one of the better home records in the West (21-7) and is a staggering 17-4 against the Eastern Conference. Outside of Robin Lopez, the Blazers don’t have much size so expect Kevin Garnett, Andray Blatche, and Andrei Kirilenko to establish themselves early on. If the Nets can slow down Portland’s efficient offense, they’ll have a chance to win.

Current NBA odds have Portland listed as a 3-point home favorite. We think that number is pretty small for a Blazer team that plays very well at home. Brooklyn has already ‘broke even’ per se on this road trip, so they’ll look forward to getting back to New York. Back Portland and lay the points in this match-up.

Over the last two days, future NFL talent participated in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. After reviewing tape and listening to interviews, there’s no denying that this year’s draft class is super deep with high end talent. On NFL Scout mentioned that this is the deepest draft in 30 years! While there is obvious talent on both sides of the ball, this article will focus strictly on quarterbacks. Fantasy footballers are looking for the next big thing at quarterback. Let’s break down which players were impressive and disappointing during the 2014 NFL Combine.

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Fresh off a very disappointing 98-93 road loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the New York Knicks (20-33, 9-15 away) must travel to New Orleans to face the Pelicans (23-29). After a rocky ending to the first half of the season, Mike Woodson did not reassure New York ownership that he’s the right man for the job. After playing three solid quarters of basketball, the Knicks fell back into their lazy defensive ways which led to 32 points for Memphis. Carmelo Anthony’s final stat line (32 points, 11 rebounds) looks impressive, but he was very sluggish during the fourth quarter and deferred big shots to JR Smith and Pablo Prigioni (gulp). Anthony did play 42 minutes, but every game has meaning and the Knicks cannot afford to squander away fourth quarter leads. 

The New Orleans Pelicans ranks towards the middle of the league in all offensive and defensive categories. Led by Anthony Davis, the Pelicans present an uber athletic power forward that will give Anthony fits on the defensive end. The Pelicans also feature a three guard lineup of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, and Tyreke Evans that is extremely difficult to defend. 

Current NBA odds have the Pelicans pegged as four-point home favorites. In fact, it’s hard not to like the Pelicans in this game. The Knicks have lost six of their last seven games and lost their only road back-to-back game of the year in early January. Anthony looked completely gassed during the fourth quarter and more travel time will not do him any favors. I like the Pelicans in this match-up. Expect the Mike Woodson replacement rumblings to continue.

Pick: Pelicans -4

The New York Knicks (20-31) currently sit in tenth place in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks dropped a tough 112-110 decision in Oklahoma City to the Thunder on Sunday. The Knicks hung tough for three quarters, but were unable to stop Kevin Durant in the fourth quarter. They’ll try to right the ship when the struggling Sacramento Kings (17-35) come to the Big Apple. The Sacramento Kings have dropped three straight games including an embarrassing 109-99 decision last night to an undermanned Cleveland Cavalier squad. Demarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas combined to score 37 points, but did not receive much support from their team mates. They’ll need more help if they want to knock  off the Knicks.

These two teams have their fair share of issues with personnel and coaching. In addition, both squads have players that seem uninterested in the final result. DeMarcus Cousins regularly gets ejected from games while JR Smith acts completely indifferent during games. Trade rumors continue to swirl around Carmelo Anthony, but I have a hard time believing the Knicks will trade him. Carmelo will opt out of his contract this summer and have the ability to sign with any team. The Bulls are a rumored trade partner, but I can’t see the Knicks taking draft picks and young players for their franchise player. 

Current NBA odds have the Knicks slated as a comfortable 5.5-point home favorite. The Knicks need to this game to keep pace with the rest of the Eastern Conference and to keep Carmelo happy. I think the Knicks will come out and put on a big performance in front of the home crowd against a lowly Kings team.

Pick: Knicks -5.5

After ripping off four straight wins, the New York Knicks (19-29) have dropped their last two games. On Saturday Night, the Miami Heat came to New York and beat down the Knicks, 106-91. LeBron James, who always relishes the opportunity to play in NY, had 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and six steals. Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points. On Monday Night, the Knicks dropped a rough 101-98 decision in Milwaukee to the hapless Bucks. The Milwaukee Bucks (9-39) are one of the league’s worst teams and this loss demonstrates how inconsistent the Knicks are. The Knicks made just 15-of-24 free throws and allowed Milwaukee to drain 11-of-18 three pointers. The Knicks must limit the three point barrage if they want to win on Wednesday night.

The Portland Trail Blazers (34-14) enter Wednesday’s tilt ranked third in the Western Conference. Their game against the Knicks is the ‘sandwich game’ of a short three-game road trip out East. On Monday night, the Blazers lost 100-90 to the resurgent Washington Wizards. Portland’s Big 3 of Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum, and LaMarcus Aldridge all scored 18 points or more in a losing effort. After opening Portland as a 1.5 point road favorite, the line shifted to favor Washington by one point. 

Current NBA odds have the Blazers pegged as a 3.5 point road favorite. The Blazers had a day to rest after a tough road loss while the Knicks could be reeling after an inexcusable loss to Milwaukee. The Knicks tend to play-up (or play-down) to their competition. Wednesday’s game will be nationally broadcasted on ESPN, so I’m expecting a strong effort the Knicks.

The Pick: Knicks +3.5