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Miles McBride sparks Knicks’ win over Rockets to halt four-game skid

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Miles McBride sparks Knicks’ win over Rockets to halt four-game skid

HOUSTON — Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said this COVID-19 outbreak the Knicks are experiencing will tell a lot about their young players.

On Sunday, rookie Quentin Grimes stood out with a 27-point outing. Thursday in Houston, the desperate Knicks found out even more about rookie point guard Miles McBride.

With the infections worsening among the Knicks’ traveling party and Derrick Rose going down with a sprained ankle, it was McBride’s time to sparkle, quarterback the team and ignite the defense in a critical 116-103 victory at Toyota Center that snapped a four-game slide.

Down four players thanks to COVID-19 and losing Rose at halftime, McBride logged 36 minutes, scored 15 points to go with nine assists, four steals and no turnovers. McBride had played a total of 33 minutes this season entering the night.

“It really feels great honestly, it’s been hard playing a different role than I have my whole life,’’ McBride said. “The coaches have told me to stay ready, it’s a long ready.’’

McBride, known as “Deuce,” looked decent Tuesday in the Golden State loss in his first real look, but the former West Virginia guard became a blazing force against the Rockets and played the entire second half in steering the Knicks away from their losing ways.

Miles McBride finished with 15 points and nine rebounds.
AP

Asked about playing all 24 minutes of the second half, McBride said, “I felt like I could continue to impact winning and I guess Thibs did, too.’’

“You look at his development and he’s a strong two-way player,’’ Thibodeau said. “He plays with great energy on both sides of the ball. He plays multiple positions. He’s unselfish. He sprays it out. If you sag off him, he’s going to shoot. He can make it and can finish. And he’s a great worker.’’

McBride, a second-round pick who has done most of his previous damage in the G-League, wrecked the Rockets, sparking a first-half surge with his pesky defense and high-paced game.

Immanuel Quickley shared the backcourt with McBride in the fourth quarter and lit it up, finishing with 24 points, hitting 7 of 10 3-pointers.

Knicks
Immanuel Quickley and Miles McBride shared the backcourt down the stretch in the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ 116-103 win over the Rockets.
NBAE via Getty Images

In the first half, McBride scored 11 points in 12 minutes, made 4 of 5 shots, drained his first two 3-pointers and played hounding defense, picking up his man before the midcourt line.

“It’s ingrained in my DNA to be a monster on defense,’’ McBride said.

In the fourth quarter, Thibodeau used a three-pronged backcourt of McBride, Quickley and Alec Burks to go with big men Taj Gibson and Mitchell Robinson.

And the quintet flowed with Quickley hitting three big long-range shots to give the Knicks space. Robinson scored 17 points (8-for-8 shooting, six offensive rebounds) with mostly put-backs and Gibson became a force in filling in at power forward for Kevin Knox, the latest to come down with COVID-19.

Knicks
Miles McBride strips Eric Gordon during the Knicks’ 116-103 win over the Rockets.
Getty Images

Julius Randle, after a good first half, sat on the pine for most of the fourth period as the Knicks pulled away after leading by two points after three quarters. Randle finished with 21 points and Evan Fournier had 23.

“They got going so we ran with them a little longer,’’ Thibodeau said. “I think it was good in some ways. It gave Julius more rest and keeps him fresh down the stretch. I thought Mitch’s activity was huge for us.’’

With the Knicks down Knox, Grimes, RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin to COVID-19 — and with Rose injured — not playing Kemba Walker was another gut-punch to the Bronx legend as his stunning fall from grace continues.

The Knicks moved to 13-16 — 2-7 since the Walker demotion as he received his ninth straight DNP-CD.

Knicks
Tom Thibodeau reacts during the Knicks’ 116-103 win over the Rockets.
AP

But should McBride continue to play like this, it’s hard to imagine Walker ever getting back in the mix.

“We trust him,’’ Quickley said of the rookie. “Deuce had a lot of confidence and we have a lot of confidence in him as well. He was ready when his name was called so it’s a credit to him being ready. We needed this big.’’

Rose looked like he was laboring in the first half despite starting at point guard. And sure enough, at halftime, the Knicks announced Rose was out for the rest of the contest with an ankle injury and McBride started the second half. And he played all 24 minutes.

“I’m not nervous because I see them every day,’’ Thibodeau said of rolling with the youngsters. “And so I always feel when you work the way Quick works, Deuce, Quentin, those guys, they’re killer workers.’’

Thibodeau noticed Rose’s lackluster movements in the second quarter. When Rose re-entered, Thibodeau quickly removed him for McBride again. Afterward, Thibodeau said Rose “tweaked’’ what has become a recurring ankle situation.

“Periodically it flares on him and we had to adjust,’’ Thibodeau said.

McBride picked up the Rockets’ guards in the backcourt and played the hounding defense he was known for in college. He had two coast-to-coast layups — one after picking up a loose ball, the other after an interception.

On that play, McBride’s hoop put the Knicks in front 44-33 and they took a 49-33 bulge with him on the floor.

It’s a good win but these are the Rockets (9-20), who were playing the second night of a back-to-back, who are in full rebuilding mode and were without their star rookie Jalen Green.

After McBride’s 21-minute outing against Golden State on Tuesday, the veteran Rose admitted the kid can play.

“Deuce is a good player, man, a good young player,’’ Rose said. “His confidence is very high. His defense is top tier. And he just needs time. Hopefully, Thibs gives him the time. But we know how good he is and we know how good the rookies are. It’s all about opportunity in this league.”

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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