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SportsReporters’ 2019-20 NBA Previews: Los Angeles Clippers (or, are you kidding me with this talent pool?)

by Scott Mandel

Today, we’re looking at the LA Clippers.

2018-19 season record

48-34 (8th in the Western Conference)

Projected 2019-20 season record

55-27 (tied for 1st in the Western Conference)

Notable additions

Kawhi Leonard (free agency)

Paul George (trade)

Maurice Harkless (trade)

Patrick Patterson (free agency)

Mfiondu Kabengele (draft)

Notable departures

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (trade)

Danilo Gallinari (trade)

Wilson Chandler (free agency)

Depth chart

Starter2nd3rd4th
PGPatrick BeverleyLou Williams
SGPaul George*Landry ShametJerome Robinson
SFKawhi LeonardMaurice HarklessRodney McGruderTerance Mann
PFJaMychal GreenPatrick PattersonMfiondu Kabengele
CIvica ZubacMontrezl Harrell

George is hoping to return “November-ish” from offseason shoulder surgeries

3 key storylines

What will Kawhi Leonard do for an encore?

Leonard is coming off of the best season of his career. While he missed more than a quarter of the regular season, mostly due to load management, he had a historic postseason that culminated in the Toronto Raptors winning their first-ever championship.

Leonard has since seen his stock go through the roof, with our NBA.com Staff ranking him as the best player in the league entering the 2019-20 season.

With that comes high expectations. Not only are the Clippers expected to finish with the best record in the Western Conference next season, they enter the season with the second-best odds to win the title.

For the Clippers to live up to that hype and potentially win their first championship in franchise history, they’ll need Leonard to be every bit as good as he was last season.

There’s some history on the line for Leonard as well. If he adds another Finals MVP to his trophy case, he’ll become the first player in NBA history to win the award on three different teams.

When will Paul George return?

And more importantly, what will Paul George look like when he does?

Like Leonard, George is coming off of the best season of his career. In averaging 28.0 points per game and leading the league with 2.2 steals per game, he received the third-most votes for both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.

George didn’t finish the season on a particularly strong note, though. Due in large part to a shoulder injury, he saw his production decline in the final 18 games of the regular season. He then struggled with consistency in Oklahoma City’s first-round series with the Portland Trail Blazers in the playoffs, combining for 19-for-61 shooting (31.1 percent) in three of the five games.

George has since undergone surgery on both of his shoulders and is expected to miss the start of the season, eyeing a “November-ish” return.

Having parted ways with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and a boatload of draft picks to acquire him, the Clippers are betting big on George being more like the player he was in the first half of last season when he does return. If he can, the Clippers could very well have the best duo in the league in George and Leonard. They might even have the league’s best defensive duo since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

The center position

If there’s one position the Clippers are lacking depth heading into the season, it’s centre.

They have two viable options in Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell, but it remains to be seen if they can handle their own against the league’s best centres. Zubac played well after the Clippers acquired him last season, but he’s both young and inexperienced. Harrell, meanwhile, was a finalist for Sixth Man of the Year last season but he’s undersized at 6-foot-8, making it tough to matchup with the likes of Joel EmbiidNikola Jokic and Anthony Davis – three players the Clippers could very well face in the playoffs.

The Clippers appeared to have Joakim Noah in mind for their final roster spot, but Sean Deveney of Heavy reported that his workout with the team ahead of the season was postponed. If Noah doesn’t end up being the answer, their best options on the free agent market are Amir Johnson, Marcin Gortat and Salah Mejri.

The Clippers could otherwise look to make a trade at some point of the season or wait to see if anyone gets bought out. They’d certainly be able to make a compelling case to any free agent, offering both minutes and an opportunity to compete for a title.

BREAKING NEWS: Mets Fire Mickey Callaway Despite 86-76 Record

By Scott Mandel

FLUSHING, N.Y., October 3, 2019 – The New York Mets today announced that they have relieved Manager Mickey Callaway of his duties, effective immediately.

“We want to thank Mickey for his consistent work ethic and dedication over the last two seasons and I’m certain these characteristics will serve him well in his next opportunity,” Mets Executive Vice President & General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “A decision like this is never easy, however, we believe it is in the best interest of the franchise at this time.”

Callaway posted a 163-161 (.503) record during his two seasons with the Mets. Callaway was named the Mets 21st manager in club history on October 23, 2017.

Football Giants May Get Saquan Back as well as Golden Tate

By Scott Mandel

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It was 88 degrees here this afternoon, but to Golden Tate it created emotions oddly similar to those experienced at another time of year.

“It felt like Christmas to me,” he said.

Tate to make season debut after 4-game suspension

Tate was the proverbial child receiving a long-anticipated gift. After missing the first month of the Giants’ season while serving an NFL suspension, Tate practiced with the team for the first time since the final week of August, on a day strangely hotter than it was then. He will make his season debut on Sunday, when the Giants host the Minnesota Vikings.

“It was good,” Tate said. “I felt like I was moving around pretty well. Obviously, I just need to catch my wind a little bit. But I felt like I was pretty sharp for the most part. You had guys like (Sterling) Shep(ard) and Cody (Latimer) that helped me if anything popped up.

“I missed these guys, I missed the chatter, the music, the warmups, I missed everything about it. Just being around the guys, it was special. Something that I definitely value. Just excited to get back out and compete. It was great.”

Tate spent his enforced absence at his home in San Diego working out with Melvin Gordon, the Los Angeles Chargers’ running back who ended his holdout last week. Though they attempted to make their sessions as rigorous as possible, NFL football is a game that cannot be replicated away from a team’s practice environment.

“It’s hard to simulate football without playing football,” Tate said. “So much goes into it. I was running a lot, and I felt like I was in shape. But until you have that first practice, that’s when you learn – today was also an 88-degree day, so that could have something (to do with) it. The biggest thing is I think I’m strong enough where I won’t go out and pull any muscles or tendons, so that’s the most important thing. My wind will come over the next few days, I would expect. Coach (Pat Shurmur) is doing a great job of taking care of me.”

Tate brings skill, speed, experience and 611 career receptions to an offense that has been on an upward curve since rookie Daniel Jones became the starting quarterback two weeks ago. He should step right in and join Shepard and tight end Evan Engram as Jones’ favored targets.

“Obviously, he’s a guy that’s played a long time, he’s caught a lot of balls,” Jones said. “He’s a really good player, he gives us another weapon, another tool on offense. Excited to have him back out there for sure.

“I worked with him a little bit (in the preseason). The week of the Patriots game especially, I worked with him a little bit. We all worked with everyone throughout camp and throughout the preseason, I feel comfortable with him, I think he feels comfortable with me, so I think we’ll be on the same page.”

Tate has played in 137 regular-season games with 100 starts, so he knows how to prepare during the week and can anticipate what will happen on Sunday, both physically and mentally.

“With this being my 10th year, I feel like I have a good beat on what to expect,” he said. “I guess the biggest thing would be being used to the physicality of the game. That first time I get out there, getting off a release and actually getting jammed, or getting pads put on me and being knocked off my path. Or when I do make a catch, getting hit and trying to have that body control down to the ground. I would probably say that’s the biggest thing. Maybe the speed. The speed is obviously going to be a little bit more than it is in practice, especially against this defense that flies around. I think I’ll adjust pretty quickly.”

That might take a little more time against the Vikings, who line up with one of the NFL’s most formidable defenses. Minnesota is ninth in the league in passing yards allowed with 218.5 a game.

The good news is that this is a very familiar foe for Tate. He spent 4½ seasons with the Detroit Lions, one of the Vikings’ NFC North foes. He has played 10 games against them and his 50 receptions vs. Minnesota is his second-highest total vs. any opponent (Green Bay, 52).

“I believe (that helps),” Tate said. “I’m very familiar with majority of those guys on that defense. I used to play them twice a year. I know them a lot, but with that being said, this is a very hardnosed, tough defense that we’re playing.”

The other part of that equation, of course, is that had these teams met a week ago, the Vikings would not have had to contend with Tate. Now they have to prepare for him with no game action to study to help them discern how the Giants might use him. Tate wants to contribute not only statistically, but to the chemistry on an ascending offense.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said. “(I am) just another option. It’s no secret that yards after the catch is something that I specialize in. I feel like I can take that five-yard pass and turn it into an explosive play, which is what we might need a time or two this season. I don’t mind going through the middle. I don’t mind blocking. I think I can make big plays. Just another complete receiver on top of the guys that they have like Cody, Shep, Evan and Wayne (Gallman). We have a lot of guys that can make plays. Just another option that hopefully is going to make it easier for D.J. and harder for defenses to cover.”

That itself is a pretty good srecei

Barkley running and cutting today

*Saquon Barkley officially did not practice today, but he was on the field for the first time since spraining his right ankle 10 days ago at Tampa Bay. After going through some rehab drills, he stood with his fellow running backs and was both cheerleader and observer. And afterward, Shurmur was asked if this week’s game is too early for Barkley’s return to the field.

“I don’t know yet,” Shurmur said. “We’re just going to see where he’s at. He’s out there moving around. I’ve seen him moving around. I guess this is the first opportunity for you guys (reporters) to, so that’s probably why it’s a point of interest.”

Image result for Saquon Barkley running today
Barkley was running and cutting today at practice, two weeks after his injury, despite the high ankle sprain prognosis of 8 weeks

*Linebacker Alec Ogletree (hamstring) and guard Kevin Zeitler (shoulder) also did not practice.

Four players were limited: running back Wayne Gallman (neck), tackle Nate Solder (neck) and linebackers Lorenzo Carter (neck) and Tae Davis (concussion).

“We have a bunch of guys here that this time of year, it’s just game soreness,” Shurmur said. “I’m not really concerned about (them). … Just game soreness stuff. This time of year, it kind of creeps up. By the end of the week, most, if not all, of these guys will be ready to go.”

SportsReporters’ 2019-2020 NBA Previews: Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets enter the 2019-20 NBA season with very different expectations than they did a season ago. Lots of teams enter training camp talking about culture and/or how they’re being overlooked. Well, the Nets were one of the few teams that were right in 2018-19. They entered last season having won only 28 games the season prior and ended the season with 42 wins and a playoff berth.

The Nets swapped out D’Angelo Russell for Kyrie Irving, they return a fully healthy Caris LeVert and they still have Kevin Durant to look forward to in 2020-21. Further, they fleshed out their depth at the center position and swapped out Allen Crabbe for Taureen Prince. Long story short, the Nets are ready for the national spotlight. Now they’ll have to live up to the hype instead of playing above expectations.

You have to give coach Kenny Atkinson, a local guy from Long Island who played point guard at the University of Richmond, credit. He’s changed the culture of this moribund organization know mostly for its losing ways. The Nets became contenders quickly – going from the laughing stock of the league to the envy of it in about two years. Even with Durant missing most – or probably all – of 2019-20, the Nets will still boast top-10 talent.

They’ll be fun this season and if Durant returns to form in 2020-21, look out. The one caveat for 2019-20 is if Kyrie can put his ego aside and be the Nets on-the-court leader. He struggled to do so in Boston. But last year was a learning opportunity and Irving should be better prepared to be a team-centric leader with the Nets this year.

Sean Marks, their general manager who learned how to construct an NBA team from the geniuses in San Antonio, Gregg Popovich and the general manager, R.C. Buford, inherited a mess of a team when he took over in the front office, and he’s done a remarkable job of cleaning it all up and putting a real contender together. Brooklyn has become a destination for marquee players and that was evident this past summer. Taurean Prince, Garrett Temple, and Wilson Chandler were solid pickups. Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs were spot on draft picks. It will be huge if this team can manage to win a playoff series while Durant recovers.

Key Players:

Jarrod Allen

A major knock on Jarrod Allen was on full display in the postseason last year against Joel Embiid and Philadelphia. Embiid made a habit of bullying Allen in the post, and Allen simply couldn’t hold his ground. But according to Nets Daily, Allen added 10 pounds of muscle this offseason, which will come in handy when battling bigger and more physical opponents – and which could help separate him and other above-average rim protectors as early as this season.

Top Playmaker: Spencer Dinwiddie

Spencer Dinwiddie attacks the basket with supreme confidence – he averaged a career high 6.6 points in the paint in 2018-19. But he can also dish the rock, too. He averaged 6.6 assists per game in 2017-18 and 4.6 in 2018-19.

He’ll probably play alongside Irving a bit but since the Nets lack true point guards, he’ll also almost certainly rack up minutes as the lead guard for the Nets’ second unit, allowing him to demonstrate his ability to create for others.

If Dinwiddie can shore up the second unit, the Nets will – once again – boast two top-tier point guards. And the drop off from Irving to Dinwiddie might be the smallest across the entire league as far as starting and backup point guards is concerned, which is a huge buoy to a team’s offensive continuity.

Top Clutch Player: Joe Harris

Joe Harris gained national attention in the last year or so, thanks entirely to his shooting ability. Harris is definitely more than just a shooter, but he is also a certifiable assassin from long-range. He shot 45.9 percent from three-point range last season and ran around screens at an elite level – according NBA.com, Harris ranked 5th in the league in average speed on offense at 5.17 mph. He also shot 47.9 percent on 4.2 attempted catch-and-shoot three-pointers per game.

Also, his time with Team USA this summer should only improve his game and work ethic, having been exposed to superstars and their processes, including Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum.

Harris’ unassuming approach and demeanor also make him a perfect fit with other similar-minded Nets like Jarrett Allen. And having a team-first shooter like Harris is a must for teams hoping to compete for a championship (e.g., Kyle Korver).

The Unheralded Player: Caris LeVert

It might be a stretch to call LeVert unheralded, but the presence of guys like Irving and (eventually) Durant will allow him to fly under the radar, even after a quasi-breakout year last season.

Fresh off of a three-year extension with the Nets, LeVert can now put financial distractions aside and focus exclusively on his game – not that that’s been an issue. He looked primed for an All-Star selection through the first few weeks of last season, but an ankle injury derailed his year and cost him more than 30 games.

A healthy LeVert will benefit from the increased offensive threat that is Kyrie Irving. He is an ideal third option alongside Irving and Durant come 2020. But LeVert will happily develop his game as the second option this season next to Irving – and the Nets could find themselves contending for an NBA title if LeVert takes his game to the next level.

Best New Addition: Kevin Durant

As much as Durant doesn’t affect the on-the-court product this season, building a dynasty is about much more than one year. Durant’s addition truly validates the Nets ascension. They have completely arrived as a force to be reckoned with. Irving was a great addition and boasting a strong core and excellent coaching staff is equally important, but adding a top-three active player moves the needle in the NBA like few other things can. Durant has the luxury of being patient with his rehab and recovery. While rumors already began to circulate about Durant’s return thanks to video of him walking without crutches in Los Angeles this summer, it’s more likely than not that Durant takes his time and returns at the start of the 2020-21 season. And the Nets should do everything in their power to ensure that is the case – unless his recovery is so far ahead of schedule that the team and every expert available all agree that he there is no doubt he is back to 100%.

2. DeAndre Jordan

As much as Allen is the Nets’ defensive anchor, he struggled defending Embiid in the playoffs (as stated above). Jordan’s game is very similar to Allen’s, only he is 10 years older and approximately 30 additional pounds heavier. Having two starting-caliber centers who can’t share the floor with one another – neither of them can stretch the floor – might be unusual for the modern NBA, but it also guarantees that they’ll always have a shot blocker and rim runner available. Signing Jordan to a four-year deal with no team options was curious, but he’s obviously a good addition.

THE BURNING QUESTION

Can Kyrie Irving play nice with others?

It’s hard to say so with certainty. His recent past doesn’t speak highly of his ability to do so. He abruptly asked for a trade from Cleveland, and then he wore out his welcome in Boston thanks to an allegedly holier-than-thou attitude.

But Brooklyn might be different. After all, he likely won’t have to endure any prolonged periods of subpar play, which could change his thinking on things – and that probably won’t happen given the level Coach Atkinson had his team operating at last year.

And further, Irving had selected Brooklyn as his destination of choice. While he requested out of Cleveland, Boston was not on his short list of preferred teams. We haven’t seen a prime, locked-in Irving since the 2016 NBA Finals. His recent experiences will serve him well in his dealings with Durant, LeVert and his other teammates.

Additionally, Irving’s played for some accomplished coaches – but none as universally loved by their teams as Coach Atkinson is in Brooklyn. And because of that, Atkinson can get even more out of Irving than did Mike Brown, David Blatt, Ty Lue or Brad Stevens.

So if Irving is willing to be a big brother to his teammates and help lead the way, he’ll have the requisite support of his coaches – and that could result in the 2019-20 version of Irving being the best we’ve seen yet.

SportsReporters Will Preview the Upcoming 2019-2020 NBA Season: Houston Rockets (with Westbrook, Harden and Just One Basketball)

by Scott Mandel

The Rockets made a bold decision this offseason in trading Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook.

Coming off a season in which he averaged 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 10.7 rebounds per game, Westbrook is still very much one of the best players in the league. Perhaps more importantly to the Rockets, he’s both better and more durable than Chris Paul is at this stage of his career. Paul almost helped the Rockets make the NBA Finals in 2017-18, but he had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2018-19 – a worrying sign for an undersized point guard entering his mid-30s.

However, Westbrook is neither the shooter nor defender that Paul is, the combination of which complicates his fit next to James Harden, the league’s leader in usage and shot attempts last season.

James Harden will have to learn to share the ball with Russell Westbrook

With four years and around $170 million remaining on Westbrook’s contract, the Rockets are betting big on him and Harden being the duo that can lead them to a championship in what should be a wide open Western Conference. If they can’t, Westbrook’s contract will make it difficult for the Rockets to flip him for someone who better complements Harden while he’s still in the prime of his Hall of Fame career.

Does Eric Gordon have another gear?

Other than Westbrook, the biggest move the Rockets made this offseason was signing Eric Gordon to a four-year, $75.6 million extension.

Gordon has been a huge part of Houston’s success in each of the last three seasons. He was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in his first season with the franchise and finished second behind LA Clippers guard Lou Williams for the award in 2017-18. He then started in 53 of the 68 games he appeared in last season, posting averages of 16.2 points per game on 36.0 percent shooting from 3-point range.

The Rockets are going to need Gordon to continue providing a scoring punch. According to The Athletic’s Alykhan Bijani, the 30-year-old will see a lot of his minutes alongside Westbrook against second units next season, making him the secondary scorer in those situations. He’s also “very likely” to start alongside Harden and Westbrook in the backcourt, a team source told Bijani, which will require him to be a more consistent 3-point shooter than he was at times last season.

Gordon is well aware of how valuable he is to the Rockets, telling Jenny Dial Creech of The Houston Chronicle that he has a lot to give and that he feels as though he’s going into the prime of his career. If the latter is true, it will go a long way in helping the Rockets overcome their demons in the playoffs.

Mike D’Antoni’s future

Having not come to terms on an extension this offseason, head coach Mike D’Antoni is entering the final season of his existing contract with the Rockets, which begs the question of whether or not 2019-20 will be his last in Houston.

Based on what Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta had to say when he was on ESPN’s First Take this offseason, it appears as though how far D’Antoni can coach Houston this season will determine his future with the franchise.

“Mike D’Antoni is a great coach and he fits our team,” he said. “Let’s not talk situational: I think that we’re going to have a great year, and Mike and I are going to sit down – I think Mike D’Antoni will be the coach this year, next year and probably the year after that. But we need to be successful too. I think we will be and I don’t even think it’ll be an issue.”

Beyond having to find a way to get the most out of the Westbrook and Harden duo, D’Antoni has a new coaching staff to work with after a number of assistant coaches were let go this summer, including Jeff Bzdelik, a well-known defensive guru who came out of retirement last season to re-join the Rockets.

In his three seasons as head coach of the Rockets, the team has compiled a 173-73 regular season record and a 23-16 postseason record. They made it to the Western Conference Finals in 2017-18 and the Western Conference Semifinals in both 2016-17 and 2018-19.

Is Eli Manning a Hall of Famer?

by Scott Mandel, SportsReporters.com

I’ve gotten backlash for this many times but, media guys who have never strapped on a helmet or pads should qualify their opinions about football with, “I have never, ever tackled or blocked anyone my entire life and this opinion is that of a pure fan. Call me Benigno.”

To say Eli Manning’s record of 116-116 does not qualify him for the NFL Hall of Fame shows a fair measure of ignorance, even as a “fan” who purports to be an “expert.” Whether Manning is a Hall of Famer is certainly debatable, but, do not turn his TEAM’S won-loss record into a rationale for or against his inclusion in the Canton shrine.

You see, if you ever played pee wee ball, you would know the quarterback cannot succeed without the 10 other guys on the field doing their jobs (as Belichick has preached for 40 years). Neither could the running backs, wide receivers, or offensive linemen. And, if the coach is a dummy, or, the team has changed coaches every couple of years, the continuity and consistency of an offensive unit disappears.

Football isn’t an individual sport like baseball, or basketball, or, even hockey, where one player’s individual skills can dominate a game, or, an era. It’s the ultimate in inter-dependence on your teammates for your own success.

Manning is currently seventh all-time in passing yards, eighth all-time in touchdown passes and sixth in most completed passes. He has played in 234 games.

For comparison’s sake, his brother, Peyton played in 266, Drew Brees in 267, Brett Favre in 303, Dan Marino in 242,

Image result for John Elway Denver super bowl
Elway finally won his Super Bowl, adding a second win before he retired

John Elway, who had a rough start to his NFL career after a legendary three years at Stanford, became a sure-fire Hall of Famer who played in the same number of games Eli has. Eli has almost 500 more completions, completed 61% of his passes vs. Elway’s 57%, and has thrown 62 more touchdown passes than the great Elway in the same amount of games. The one stat which stands out as one they have in common is, they are two of only five quarterbacks in NFL history whose team won two Super Bowls and, were the MVPs of each Super Bowl game they won.

Manning was never, in my view, better than a top five or six quarterback within his own era, but being behind Brees, Peyton, Aaron Rogers, Matt Ryan, Rivers, and Rothlisberger) does not disqualify him from Canton. Those six guys, all arguably better than him, will be joining Manning in the Hall of Fame, someday.

End of the Eli Manning Era as Giants Bench QB for Rookie Daniel Jones

By Scott Mandel

From the moment he was drafted in April, it was inevitable that Daniel Jones would one day succeed Eli Manning as the Giants’ starting quarterback.

That day has come, two games into Jones’ rookie season.

Coach Pat Shurmur announced today that Jones will make his first career start on Sunday, when the 0-2 Giants face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium.

“Eli and I spoke this morning,” Shurmur said. “I told him that we are making a change and going with Daniel as the starter. I also talked to Daniel. Eli was obviously disappointed, as you would expect, but he said he would be what he has always been, a good teammate, and continue to prepare to help this team win games. Daniel understands the challenge at hand, and he will be ready to play on Sunday.”

Manning started the season’s first two contests – losses at Dallas and Sunday at home to Buffalo. He completed 56 of 89 passes for 556 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 78.7. But the Giants have scored only four touchdowns, despite averaging 420.0 yards a game.

At his news conference yesterday, Shurmur said he was “going to address all areas” and declined to say if Manning would start on Sunday.

“Ultimately, this is a move that I felt was best for this team at this time,” Shurmur said. “I have said it since I got here, I am very fond of Eli. His work ethic, his preparation, his football intelligence. All those attributes are as good as I have ever seen in a player. And Eli worked as hard as you could ask of anybody to get ready for this season. This move is more about Daniel moving forward than about Eli.”

Jones, 22, was the sixth overall selection in the draft. In three seasons at Duke, Jones started all 36 games in which he played. With the Blue Devils, Jones completed 764 of 1,275 passes (60%) for 8,201 yards, 52 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. He also had 406 rushing attempts for 1,323 yards (3.3-yard avg.) and 17 touchdowns. 

Jones was outstanding in the preseason. In four games, he completed 29 of 34 passes (85.3%) for 416 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a glittering 137.2 rating.

Jones will be the third of the 11 quarterbacks selected in this year’s draft to both play and start a game. Kyler Murray, the first overall selection by Arizona, started the Cardinals’ first two games. Gardner Minshew II, a sixth-round selection by Jacksonville from Washington State, started the Jaguars’ loss Sunday in Houston as a replacement for the injured Nick Foles.
 
Manning has been the Giants’ starting quarterback since he replaced Kurt Warner with seven games remaining in his rookie season in 2004. He has started 232 of the Giants’ last 233 regular-season games. The loss Sunday to the Bills dropped his record to an even .500 at 116-116. He is 
8-4 (.667) in the postseason, including victories in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI in which he was named the games’ most valuable player.

Manning started 210 consecutive regular-season games from Nov. 21, 2004 to Nov. 23, 2017, the second-longest streak by a quarterback in NFL history. Only Brett Favre (297) started more consecutive games than Manning. He did not play on Dec. 3, 2017 at Oakland but returned to the lineup the following week and has since started all 22 games the Giants have played.

He will be the team’s No. 2 quarterback at Tampa Bay.

Manning holds all of the Giants’ career passing records, including attempts (8,061, which places him sixth in NFL history), completions (4,860, sixth), passing yards (56,537, seventh) and touchdown passes (362, eighth).





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WFAN Sports Radio in New York Fires Afternoon Host, Chris Carlin. Was Mike Francesa Behind It?

by Scott Mandel, SportsReporters.com

Chris Carlin, a long-time producer and most recently, a co-host of the CMB afternoon show at WFAN Sports radio in New York City, has suddenly left the station. There are unconfirmed reports he was informed his expiring contract, which runs through December, would not be renewed.

His partners, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott (the M and the B in CMB) are being retained and the show re-named, Maggie and Bart.

There may be a back story here that won’t be coming into the light of day for awhile but there has been speculation that Mike Francesa, the 65-year old afternoon drive time host at the station since 1987, may have been behind Carlin’s firing.

Carlin began his career at the FAN as the producer for the legendary Mike and the Mad Dog show, in which Francesa and his on-air partner, Chris Russo, essentially invented the daily sports talk format which has been copied all over the country.

I’ve known Carlin for 17 years, since we were on the football Giants beat, sitting shoulder to shoulder in the Giants Stadium press room. He is a salt of the earth guy who, even as he stepped away, kept his comments brief and above board.

Carlin tweeted this on Wednesday, and has not had further comment, at this point:

Carlin declined to comment further when contacted by Newsday and also declined to comment on the timing of the move and whether it was his decision for him to leave immediately or the station’s.

His contract was due to expire at the end of the year, and he already had been told that his option under the existing contract terms would not be picked up. But until this week it appeared the station might let things ride until December.

Radio stations often are reluctant to allow lame ducks to remain on the air, so WFAN’s parent company, Entercom, may have decided to let Carlin go sooner rather than later. Also, Thursday is the start of the autumn ratings book

“We can confirm that Chris Carlin is no longer with WFAN,” an Entercom spokeswoman said. “We appreciate his many contributions and wish him all the best.”

End of Eli Manning Era as Giants Head Coach Shurmur Hints at Quarterback Change

By Scott Mandel, SportsReporters

Head Coach Pat Shurmur — September 16, 2019 

Opening Statement: Let me talk about the injuries. You saw Cody Latimer had a concussion. Sterling Shepard is improving from his concussion. (Kevin) Zeitler has a shoulder that he’s been dealing with. Then we just have some game soreness. Markus Golden got hit in the throat, I guess. That’s about all I have for that. I don’t really have much to add to what I talked about last night. There were areas in the game where all three sides played well. I also think there wasn’t enough consistent play. They were four-for-four in the red zone against us. We were one-for-one. We had other opportunities to score that we didn’t. We moved the ball well at times. We didn’t do well enough on third downs. There were some opportunities out there that we didn’t take full advantage of that you need to do against a good team. As we go along, you’re going to see that they’re a good team. They were a good defense. We knew that going into it. They played well on offense against us, and we got beat. We’re looking at all things moving forward, finishing up our evaluation of this game and then having talks as to, like we always do, what we’re going to do moving forward. With that, I’ll take your questions.

Q: You said you’re looking at all things moving forward. Does that include the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game?
A: We always do that. Obviously, Eli’s been our starter to this point. I’m not really ready to get into any of those conversations about any position.

Q: Do you mean conversations with us or conversations…
A: No, we’re going to talk about everything we’re doing moving forward. That’s fair at this point. We’re 0-2. There are areas where we have to get better. We’re going to address all areas and try to find ways to put a winning performance on the field.

Q: Is Eli (Manning) your starting quarterback this week?
A: He’s been our starter to this point. I don’t want to talk about anything else moving forward from that standpoint. Not ready to discuss that.

Q: That’s going to leave it open for debate.
A: I understand that. I do.

Q: Do you think Daniel’s (Jones) ready if he is named the starter?
A: I think anybody that we put in there, we put in there with the idea that they’re ready to go. What I find interesting, too, this is why I’m a digital minimalist, is you all quickly quit listening to me and you’re looking at your phones. I find that fascinating.

Q: What goes into that decision this week?
A: We’re looking at everything that we can do to get better. That’s really what we do every week. To this point, what we’ve done hasn’t been good enough.

Q: Your third downs have been bad. Is there any thought of when you have third and long, putting Daniel in so you have a greater option to, if the pass isn’t there, run?
A: Third and long is usually what you’re presented with are longer yardage situations where they can take away the deep throw, you check it down. You see that around the league. We just need to do a better job of making sure we’re not in those situations, number one. Then number two, everyone once in a while, you have to try to fit one in there. But your option of just putting a guy in there… the ability to run with the football in those pass rush type situations, typically the runs become scrambles where you drop back and throw. The quarterback run game is typically thought of and used more in shorter, third down situations or first and second down, typically. Red zone, situational ball. Not usually on third and long.

Q: What did you think of Janoris Jenkins’ comments after the game about the pass rush?
A: I don’t think that reflects him that well. We spoke today. I talked to him about how things that we say can be interpreted. He was referring to one play and not to anything in general. But I spoke to him and we discussed what should be said moving forward.

Q: Did you disagree with what he said?
A: I don’t like anybody making excuses for anything.

Q: What about just the frustration? Is it almost, I don’t want to say a good thing, but the fact that he showed he cares and he’s tired of losing?
A: Listen, we’re all disappointed that we lost. We can’t get frustrated. We obviously need to make sure we’re saying the right things all the time.

Q: Getting back to third downs real quick, you guys are 5-for-24 through the first two weeks offensively. Obviously, you can get better on first and second down, but how do you create more manageable third down situations and prolong drives?
A: Well, you’re sort of answering the question within your question. We have to be in more manageable ones. Those situations, we’ve had more longer yardage third downs than the law allows. We need to make sure we do a better job of making them more manageable. That’s where it starts. Then everybody needs to do their job. You have to protect well. We have to make sure we’re running crisp routes. Then we need to throw and catch.

Q: Would you agree that your offensive line is playing well enough, and that your running game is good enough that you should be scoring more points if the passing game were producing?
A: We’re producing yards in the passing game. The critical situations, obviously the third downs and then when we get closer, scoring… With regard to the offensive line, I think they’ve played much better than they did a year ago. There are still errors in there. We’re doing some things better in the run game than we did a year ago.  We’ve made improvements in some areas. Not good enough to win yet. I don’t want it to come out that way. But moving forward, we can build on that.

Q: You guys poured weeks of practices and training camp into Tae Davis with the ones, Antonio Hamilton somewhat with the ones. They went from starting Week 1 to zero snaps defensively. Is that you just decided to move on and go with the rookies? How do you go from starting to zero snaps?
A: Everybody gets reps in the offseason. Most of the guys that made it on our 53 (man roster) got reps at some point with the ones. Sometimes you get more reps with the ones in situations where a guy in front of you is injured. I wouldn’t look at that as being the reason. We felt like we wanted to make a couple changes. We wanted to put (DeAndre) Baker in there and dedicate him to playing at corner so that he can improve, and the same thing with Ryan (Connelly).

Q: How have you been handling Daniel’s reps?
A: Typical of every place I’ve been. He’ll get a couple reps, as you do a rack of plays with the ones, Daniel will get a couple of those.Q: Does 10 percent of the reps sound about right? 50 percent?
A: A lower percent, closer to 10 than to 50.

Q: So, similar to what you did with Alex Tanney as your number two last year?
A: Yes, very similar.

Q: When you look at Eli yesterday—the way he ran the offense, managed the team, utilized the players he had yesterday—where could he have improved in your mind?
A: I think those are internal discussions and things that we look to improve on moving forward. Everybody that played in the game—we’re all responsible for when we win and when we lose—and even when you win, you make mistakes. So, those are internal conversations so that we can make those corrections moving forward.

Q: You mentioned the designed run that Josh Allen scored a touchdown on yesterday–
A: That was a good play. Well designed and he did a nice job. They blocked it well—it’s typical of the play they were running with the running back, the G-sweep—they carved us out and got in.

Q: Around the league in this day in age, you see a lot of the time quarterbacks are scoring and getting first downs on designed runs. You don’t do that with your starting quarterback–
A: There are other teams—there’s a lot of teams that don’t run quarterback-structured runs. We could sit here and make a list of the ones that don’t. I think when you do that, and you have a quarterback that can do those things, I think that’s smart, I think that’s utilizing the talents of the player that you’re working with.

Q: Is it fair to say that—you don’t do that with Eli, no one has ever done that with Eli—whenever Daniel Jones gets his chance, that’s something his skill set would allow you to do?
A: He has a much better skill set to do those types of things than say Eli. Yes, that’s fair.

Q: When you say that you look at every position every week, when you’re looking at the quarterback position, how do you balance giving you the best chance to win this week versus maybe the future?
A: We’re always trying to do what we can to win this next game, and then behind the scenes, we’re always having those long-term discussions, but I think that’s the challenge each week—just doing what you can to win the next game. That’s really my focus as the coach, and certainly that’s what the players’ focus is.

Q: Is Ryan Connelly okay? It looked like he was shaken up on the touchdown.
A: Yeah, he’s not on my list. I don’t see him on there.

Q: Do you expect more from Jabrill Peppers than what he’s shown you through two weeks?
A: I think everybody needs to play a little better, and we’ve got to coach better, that’s all. Here’s the thing with Jabrill—I’m a big fan of his energy and his enthusiasm, his toughness, and I think he’s one of those guys, if there are mistakes in there, he’ll get them corrected and move on fast.

Q: When it comes to making changes at quarterback, is it more complicated because of the position? Is the discussion more complicated because of the personnel involved and who you’re dealing with, as far as Daniel and Eli, and (Alex) Tanney? 
A: I think anything that we choose to do, and when I say we have discussion amongst us as coaches, and then I certainly keep Dave (Gettleman) and John (Mara)—everybody upstairs sort of knows, okay moving forward this is how we plan to play the game—we have those conversations. It really, fundamentally, happens the same way.

Q: Both Dave and John said, “Pat’s going to make that decision.” Do you feel like you have the final say on who your quarterback is?
A: I think at this time of year when we’re talking about the team and moving forward, I’m right in the middle of all of it.

Q: Do you think not being definitive to us about this, and we’re not being definitive to the public right now—is that an edge of uncertainty that you want around this team?
A: Uncertainty about what?

Q: About not coming out and saying Eli is starting this week again. Is a little edge, a little uncertainty, good in the locker room?
A: Listen, I don’t want to be dishonest with anyone. Like I said, we’re evaluating everything moving forward, and I’m not ready to talk about all that right now.

Q: Have you talked about it with Eli?
A: Again, at this point we’ve had meetings, and they’re still finishing up their meetings.

Q: Is it fair to say that by drafting Daniel in the spring, you guys internally have already had most of the conversations leading up to the point at which a change would be made?
A: I wouldn’t say all conversations have happened, or haven’t happened. We’re very honest and open behind the scenes with everything that’s going on. I think I’ve tried to portray that with regard to the quarterbacks all along here.

Q: Is it fair to say that you will have made the decision by Wednesday when you get on the practice field, if you’re going to make a change?
A: Yeah, we’re moving forward, absolutely.

Q: Is Sterling Shepard clear from the protocol?
A:  I don’t know. It says here (on the injury report) “non-contact practice,” so yeah, he’s going through the steps, it appears like, in time to make it for this game. But again, they’re all different, the concussion things are different. Once you’re in the protocol, there’s a set standard that we follow, and obviously player safety is important. We don’t want to bring a guy back too soon.

Q: On draft night, you said it would be Eli’s job to keep Daniel off the field. How is he doing in that regard, in your opinion?
A: I think he’s doing a good job. I think we need to do more, all of us included, everybody, to win football games. That’s why when I say we’re doing what we have to do each week to put a team on the field that’s going to compete and win a football game, that falls on all of us. That’s the beauty, in my opinion, that’s the challenge, that’s what gets me going, the challenge each week to try and do that. We’ve all been around situations where you’ve had an outstanding team and there’s less you need to do each week. Then, we’ve all been faced with struggles as coaches to fight and scratch to do what you have to do in other ways, and so that’s the fun part for us behind the scenes, is to just kind of put that all together and then watch them do it on Sunday.

Q: Is Darius Slayton making progress?
A: He is. Let’s see what we say here about Slayton—he’ll be out there practicing this week, so we’ll see how much closer. We can revisit that.


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Dodgers Blow Out Mets Behind Kershaw, Syndergaard Lasts Five Innings

By Scott Mandel

This was going to be the beginning of the Mets’ stretch run towards the National League playoffs. They were two games out of the second wild card slot and facing off against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the best team in the league, and its ace, Clayton Kershaw, who has a standing invitation to enter the Hall of Fame five years after he retires. This was the moment to prove they are an elite team.

This morning, the Mets are now three games behind instead of two. It didn’t go exactly as planned.

Kershaw worked his magic against a Mets lineup that has been producing runs at a consistently high rate since the All-Star break in July. But, all night, the Mets were flailing at Kershaw’s serves of fastballs, curves, and sliders with pinpoint control. When it was over, the Mets had lost convincingly, 9-2, with Noah Syndergaard throwing to Wilson Ramos

Before the game, Mets manager, Mickey Callaway had nearly waxed poetic in his praise of Syndergaard, making one wonder if the controversy of the past few days, in which Syndergaard was reported to have complained to management about his preference not to work with Ramos behind the plate, was much worse than initially thought.

Callaway’s agenda, as peacemaker between Syndergaard and Wilson Ramos, seemed clear.

“I think that Noah is going to go compete no matter who’s catching him,” Callaway said. “If we can get the [pitch] distribution where we want it, get the pitches where we want it, it doesn’t matter who catches him. And we’ve seen that.”

Whether the four runs Syndergaard allowed in the 9-2 loss to the Dodgers were more on him, or on Ramos, is a matter of debate. It was Ramos who called for a full-count curveball to Gavin Lux with two men on base in the fourth inning. It was Syndergaard who hung it, chest-high, in a perfect spot for Lux to crush it off Citi Field’s center-field fence. The ball cleared the orange home run line for a go-ahead, three-run shot, and the Dodgers never trailed again in a game that dropped the Mets three games behind the Cubs in the National League Wild Card race.

The pairing of Syndergaard and Ramos became notable last weekend, when Syndergaard approached Callaway and Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen to request an assignment throwing to anyone else. In those meetings, Syndergaard cited the fact that he owned a 2.22 ERA pitching to backups Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera, but a 5.09 mark working with Ramos. The Mets countered with the fact that Ramos was the National League’s leading hitter since Aug. 1.

Kershaw allowed a home run to J.D. Davis and surrendered a walk in the first inning but got stingy after that. Over the next five innings, the Mets managed two hits — consecutive singles in the fourth inning. The Mets went two for 17 during the span.

The Mets then loaded the bases and chased Kershaw with one out in the seventh inning. Joe Kelly was summoned to extinguish the situation. The right-hander got Brandon Nimmo to hit a chopper to his left. Kelly corralled it and spun for an athletic throw home for the forceout. Amed Rosario lined a run-scoring single before Davis grounded out to limit the damage. Kershaw (14-5), coming off a four-inning start, was ultimately charged with two runs on four hits as he improved to 10-0 in his career against the Mets during the regular season.

The Dodgers tallied four runs in the fourth inning to snatch the lead, capped off by Gavin Lux’s tie-breaking, three-run home run. The homer, the second of Lux’s short career, came on a hanging curveball from Noah Syndergaard (10-8), who allowed four runs in five innings. It traveled 419 feet to straightaway center field. Edwin Rios, another rookie, lofted a pinch-hit, two-home run over the wall in left field in the eighth.