New ‘Linsanity’? Knicks fans love small-town Ron Baker and his Hyundai Sonata

They call him Ron Burgundy, cowboy, and occasionally when he steps to the free-throw line, “MVP.”

Yes, small-town Ron Baker is taking Madison Square Garden by storm much like Jeremy Lin did in 2012 but the Wichita State product isn’t forgetting his roots despite the bright New York City lights.

“All the small-town cliches, those are legit with me,” Baker told Bleacher Report about growing up in Scott City, Kan., a town of just under 4,000 people. His Knicks teammates often remind him that he’s an “awe shucks” country boy.

“This organization is special,” he said in a statement. “It was different. In other organizations, they might know you, who you are. They might have heard of you, but they don’t value you as a person. They care about me here not as a veteran, not as a football player, not as a MBA candidate. They care about me as a person.”

Villanueva played all 16 games in 2015, starting the final 10, before starting all 16 contests in 2016. He was responsible for allowing only 17 sacks last season, which is the fewest of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s career.

“I personally take pride in executing to the best of my abilities for the expectations Coach (Mike) Munchak has for myself and I think that is the same for everybody,” Villanueva said. “Protecting Ben is very important. He is our quarterback. He is a guy we respect, love to play for, he is a guy that inspires us, drives the offense, the team. We understand the urgency to protect him.”

Villanueva, 28, went undrafted in the 2010 NFL Draft but signed with the Eagles in May 2014. He was eventually waived by Philadelphia in August 2014 but signed with Pittsburgh eight days later after catching the attention of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

Russell Westbrook drops 58 points on Trail Blazers but Thunder lose again

Russell Westbrook joined James Harden as the only players with multiple 50-point games this season, but the outcome for the Thunder was all too familiar of late for Oklahoma City fans.

Westbrook scored a career- and franchise-high 58 points on 21-of-39 shooting Tuesday against the Trail Blazers, but the Thunder fell for the fourth straight game despite incredible scoring performances from their MVP candidate. Westbrook has amassed eye-popping point totals of 58, 29, 48 and 45 in his last four games, but OKC has lost by an average of eight points in each to teams below .500.

O’Neal and the Lakers won their first of three championships that spring.
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I just figure if it worked for me, it would work for other people, O’Neal said. It’s just my way of testing people out. A lot of people know and understand, I don’t waste time taking personal shots. There is a motive to everything I do and everything I say. I am giving guys the blueprint of what it takes to be the next dominant big man, and they can either take the information or not. If they don’t want to take the information, it’s not on me.

Howard, of course, had a much better shot at being the next O’Neal than McGee ever did. But the principle is the same. Both players could have been better than they are.

C.J. Anderson Kids Jersey At the end of the day, if they don’t get one of these, it’s not my problem, O’Neal said, holding up a championship ring. It may seem like I am poking fun at these guys, but if you really look into the message, if you decrypt what I am saying, I am just giving them the answers to the test.

Booker laughed when asked about his trash talking.

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I don’t start it, but I finish it. They give me grief for being light-skinned, then I give ’em the blues with these buckets, said Booker, the son of Melvin Booker, who is African-American and a former NBA player, and Victoria Gutiérrez, a Mexican-American who primarily raised him during Melvin’s playing days.

Limited Kids Eric Kendricks Jersey I try to let my game do the talking, but I’m always ready with the with the comeback. Some of these dudes assume because my pops played and I’m light that I’m soft and I’m here to let ’em know that I’m not. I try to laugh it off when I can.

He didn’t find Crowder’s IG shade so funny, though.

I felt disrespected by it because we weren’t trying to show them up, Booker said. I was trying to win and I was hot. What else am I supposed to do? I don’t and won’t roll over. So when I saw his post I replied.

It wasn’t even about me — it was about my guys. I couldn’t get the points without my team. I thought the pic was fun and we need all positive moments.

Nurkic has had a tremendous impact on their success during that span. The Trail Blazers go from outscoring teams by 8.9 points per 100 possessions to being at a stalemate with opponents when he takes a seat on the bench. They’ve also been +86 in Nurkic’s 522 minutes as a Blazer compared to Plumlee’s +19 in his 1,516 minutes with them this season. It’s only a small sample size of 19 games, but Nurkic has been a driving force in their late-season push for the playoffs.

In 21 games in a Kings uniform, he’s improved in nearly every fathomable statistical category. He’s attempted more field goals (11 per game from 8.3) and made more (5.3 from 3.2) to improve his shooting percentage to 48.5 from 39.3 percent. He’s made similar strides from beyond the arc, upping his clip by 6.5 percent to 43.4 percent, vital figures for an undersized two-guard at 6-4 who gets 72.2 percent of his attempts through catch-and-shoot or pull-up situations.

Kristaps Porzingis is latest Knick to pile on confusing triangle offense

Marcus Allen Elite Jersey Ever since the All-Star break, the Knicks have implemented more of Phil Jackson’s coveted triangle offense, but it isn’t going over well.

Not only is the team 3-7 since implementing it, but the players don’t even like it either. Derrick Rose has been critical toward it saying he doesn’t have a choice but to run it, and also called it random basketball. His teammate Kristaps Porzingis agrees.
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If the talent is there, why aren’t the wins?

Any year in the league it’s about whoever catches a rhythm. No matter how your season is going, or where you’re at in your season, you can always catch a rhythm and they caught theirs at the right time, winning 12 or 13 games [in a row]. They’ve been playing great basketball ever since then, so we never caught that luck this year.

The Knicks certainly have some talent on their roster with superstar Carmelo Anthony and the rising Kristaps Porzingis. But the Heat shouldn’t be overlooked with Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic to name a few.

It would be a surprise if the Kings still have Arron Afflalo on their roster after the deadline passes. Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee reports Afflalo is more likely to be traded than Ben McLemore, who averaged 14.4 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting (58.1 percent from 3-point range) in the Kings’ last five games before the All-Star break. Afflalo has one year and $12.5 million remaining on his current contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2018.

Butter anyone?! Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown pranked with car full of popcorn

Who needs some popcorn?! Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown certainly doesn’t.

Brown’s Boston teammates had his car filled will popcorn after their win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

Kurucs plays for Barcelona’s second team in Spain, starting while putting up solid numbers for a teenager in a pro league. At 6-foot-8 with solid length, athleticism and instincts, the hope is that over the course of the next few years he can develop into a high level player.

The key will be developing from a solid shooter to a great one over that period, as his frame and athleticism should get by at the highest levels.

Collins is a tough prospect to peg at this stage. On one hand, it’s arguable that only John Collins has out-paced him this season in terms of productivity on a per-minute basis. Collins averages nearly 24 points, 13 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per 40 minutes to pair with a 31.6 PER and a 70.7 true-shooting percentage.

In reality, Wall probably wouldn’t average over 15 assists per game, but he might be able to give Stockton’s record a run for its money if he was in Harden’s position. Remember, people scoffed at the idea of Harden averaging 12 assists per game entering the season, and he is on pace to lead the NBA in assists. Wall is more of a pass-first player than Harden, so the extra shooting around him would likely result in his assists jumping to astronomical levels.magic_042

Aaron Judge’s home runs prove ball is juiced, simultaneously disprove it

While Aaron Judge has always been a behemoth of a man with massive raw power, very few media outlets or scouts had Judge as a potential 50 home run hitter or more before this season. Just look at MLB Pipeline’s rankings assessment during the 2016 season.

The NL Central is easily the tightest division in baseball with the Pirates just four back of the Brewers and the Cardinals 4 1/2 games behind out of first after losing to the Mets on Wednesday.

The Cubs are finally playing the way most expected them to all season after winning the franchise’s first World Series in 108 years last season.
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What was most surprising in Wednesday’s win was pitcher Mike Montgomery’s performance. He allowed just one run on two hits over six innings pitched, but he also clobbered an upper-deck home run at Atlanta’s SunTrust Park.

As good as deGrom was for the Mets, Rockies starter Jon Gray was equally bad. Gray lasted just two innings in Friday’s loss, giving up eight runs on nine hits with just one strikeout and three walks.
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Having an even shorter night was Twins pitcher José Berrios, who was done after recording just five outs in the loss to the Astros. Though the Astros scored eight runs in the second inning, with seven coming off Berrios, he was only charged with two earned runs after a botched double-play attempt with one out continued the inning.

Yankees (45-42) at Red Sox (51-39) 4:05 p.m. ET — What will the Sox do for an encore following Friday’s walk-off win? They’ll send All-Star ace Chris Sale (11-4, 2.75 ERA) to the mound as he looks to add to his MLB-leading 178 strikeouts. The Yankees will counter with Luis Severino (5-4, 3.54).

That’s why Kessler saw his hold on the first-team reps in OTAs and minicamp become more of a split with Kizer

Tom Coughlin has become the face and voice of the front office, but Caldwell still holds the title, and he’s got a lot to prove. This is at least the third year of gushing about the smart signings, hirings and drafting the Jags have done, yet the overall record is … what it is. (They’re 15-49 on his watch.) Hiring Doug Marrone as coach was more of a Coughlin operation, but Blake Bortles is Caldwell’s baby.

Wilbert Montgomery Mens Jersey Another survivor at the expense of his head coach, operating in a new, demanding L.A. market. Now that Jeff Fisher isn’t around to kick around anymore, the spotlight shines brighter on Snead’s shortcomings. The vaunted Robert Griffin III trade did almost nothing for the Rams. Sean McVay is a big leap at head coach, and Jared Goff needs to start showing he’s worth the top pick (and the trade that brought him there) sooner rather than later.
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The poster boy for circumstances out of a team’s control affecting a team and its big decision-maker. Teddy Bridgewater’s blown-up knee created a domino effect of trading a first-round pick for Sam Bradford, replacing their offensive coordinator and much of the staff, making a hard choice about (not) extending Bridgewater and cutting ties with Adrian Peterson likely earlier than planned. Spielman is up for it, but this will be another challenging year.

That’s why Kessler saw his hold on the first-team reps in OTAs and minicamp become more of a split with Kizer, with Kessler wilting. Kizer’s football intelligence is doing him plenty of favors in picking up Jackson’s offense quickly. He already has a better natural feel for the passing game, and every day in practice, he reportedly has gotten sharper with his rhythm and mechanics.

Blast from the past: 1960 ‘Home Run Derby’ show set precedent for modern event

Baseball fans are pumped about the prospect of an Aaron Judge vs. Giancarlo Stanton faceoff for the Home Run Derby title Monday night, which might be the most anticipated matchup in the history of the event.

Sam Acho Womens Jersey But wait — what about the classic 1960 showdown between future Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle? That matchup actually happened, on a short-lived TV series named Home Run Derby.
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This has been a possibility since Tom Thibodeau took over in Minnesota last summer. Gibson is one of his favorite players from their time together in Chicago, and the team has a significant need in the frontcourt for a defensive-minded power forward who can play next to Karl-Anthony Towns.

Overall, this is a reasonable salary on a short-term deal that happens to expire at the same time as Jimmy Butler’s contract (and potentially Jeff Teague’s, depending on his player option decision). Gibson is a starter-quality player getting lower-end starter money, and that’s exactly the role he’ll play. It’s worth noting that they’re paying for his age 32 and 33 seasons, but Gibson has yet to show any drop-off from his career-long level. He’s also going to a place he’ll be comfortable, which should help with the transition period many free agents go through.

Spoelstra played college ball at the University of Portland

“I was getting after team in film session about defensive rotations, rebounding, hell, everything to be honest,” Spoelstra told Sporting News. “We weren’t very good. Next thing I know Whiteside gets up and says, ‘we’d still beat any team you played on,’ to which I said, ‘barely.’ We all laughed.”

Spoelstra played college ball at the University of Portland, and professionally for Tus Herten in the German league. It wasn’t a stretch to say Whiteside’s joke was accurate, but it was also time to get in gear. At first, the 13-game streak was a novelty for a team that had only won 11 games prior. But the Heat kept smiling and laughing, while still winning games.

Whiteside had plenty of experience in finding the laughs in darkness during his days with the Kings. Fans knew the talent was there, but the Kings organization wasn’t sure he’d become anywhere near the double-double machine he is today.

“We had to learn to laugh to keep from crying,” Whiteside said. “When we stayed losing in Sac, it made me stronger. I decided that no matter how bad things looked, I’d always find ways to smile. It may not seem like I smile much on the court, but I laugh all the time off it.”

Frustrations were high for San Antonio at the end of the third quarter as Dewayne Dedmon was involved in a scuffle with Harden along with Nene, who intervened by grabbing Dedmon’s neck. Nene was ejected for the grab while Dedmon and Harden received technical fouls.

The Cavs’ comeback was even more remarkable for the fact that Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving did not play in the fourth quarter, with James praising the roles played by Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, Deron Williams and Kyle Korver.

NBA playoffs 2017: Hawks had to hit bottom to finally put it all together

Not even the best roller-coaster designer could script as many twists and turns as the Hawks have had this season.

Limited Mens Vladimir Tarasenko Jersey Ten days ago, the Hawks were scuffling after a 2-9 stretch, which included two losses to the lowly Nets. It was so bad that several people in and around the Hawks organization looked at the daunting five games left on the schedule with a twinge of fear.

Atlanta’s consecutive playoff streak was in peril. When things were at their lowest, the Hawks got it together. In an unexpected deviation of character, Paul Millsap stood up after the second loss to the Nets.

White privilege is wonderful, Spencer said to a shocked Barkley. I want to expand and deepen white privilege. We are living at a time in which white people are losing social dominance day by day.

The immediate question that arises from this interview: Why give someone like Spencer the spotlight and publicity when you already know his views?
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I am glad we had (Spencer) on the show because I want to know who my enemies are, Barkley said (via Sports Illustrated). I give him credit for having the balls and gumption to go on television and say his thing because there are a lot of people who think like him and we don’t even know they are around. I don’t like this dude, obviously, but he doesn’t hide behind it. There are so many people in America who think like him but we don’t know who they are.