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Patty Mills talks James Harden’s beard, visualization, dealing with racism

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Patty Mills talks James Harden’s beard, visualization, dealing with racism

Nets point guard Patty Mills and Australian Olympic medalist, who signed with the team as a free agent in August, takes a shot at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: Can you imagine what it would mean to Brooklyn to win an NBA title?

A: After being here for only a few months now and talking to people from here, that have grown up here, it would mean the world to them, and that’s what I’m starting to really uncover in myself is what it means to represent these people. I have my own dreams, and I envision it on a regular basis of winning a championship here and how that would feel. It would really be another level of passion and excitement for this place.

Q: You have visualized it?

A: Oh mate, on a regular basis. That’s how I operate, being able to visualize these things and open my mind to it, it helps me get up every day and go about my craft how I do, because it really gets me going.

Patty Mills
Robert Sabo/New York Post

Q: Tell me what you see when you visualize it.

A: I see holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy with my teammates. I see us having a parade throughout Brooklyn, that consists of going over the Brooklyn Bridge. … These are all things that are just in my own little fantasy world that helps me get up and be a professional and want to win. It’s part of my make-up of who I am. I love winning and I think visualizing all these types of things helps me go about it that way.

Q: Describe James Harden’s beard.

A: (Chuckle) I love it, to be honest. I’ve had a fairly lengthy beard over my time, so I’m actually impressed how he can go with that thing for this long.

Q: If I was a visitor from Mars scouting James Harden, what would I learn about him?

A: That you can’t read his lips when he tried to talk to you (chuckle) because of his beard. It’s so loud in the arena, sometimes he’s speaking with his mouth but you can’t see his mouth ’cause his beard’s so long.

Q: How about his game?

A: His ability to use his first quick step, and how he’s able to get by people with his ballhandling. You wouldn’t look at him and say, “Oh he’s got a first quick step,” but he does … deceptive.

Brooklyn Nets guard Patty Mills (8) celebrates with guard James Harden (13) in the second half of a game, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.
James Harden and Patty Mills
Corey Sipkin/New York Post

Q: A visitor from Mars watching Kyrie Irving?

A: For me it would be his body movements, his agility. It’s so smooth that … people with Mars probably can connect with it — at times it’s like how is that humanly possible the way that he moves and gets around people?

Q: Kevin Durant?

A: How freakishly skilled he is for how tall and long he is. The way that he moves and skill it’s like he does that in a body that’s my height — exactly the same things, just a million times better.

Q: What have you learned about him as a person?

A: I would say how genuinely excited he gets for the success of his teammates. That’s something that I don’t think I would have noticed from playing against him for so long. But he really empowers his teammates in a lot of different ways. Kudos to his leadership and how far his leadership has come to get to this point.

Q: Describe the night he ruptured his Achilles in The Finals with the Warriors in 2019

A: I remember a devastating loss for the entire league. I remember feeling just as devastated as a fan at that point. It was a deflating type of feeling I’d say.

Q: What have you learned about Kyrie as a person?

A: He’s an interesting person. He’s someone that you’d want to sit down and talk to and get to know and see where his mind is at. And you figure you’d have very interesting conversations about a whole lot of things.

Q: What kind of guy is Harden?

A: I would say this about him: I obviously love reggae music, so when I’m pumping that in the weight room and he walks in the weight room, I was very surprised to see that he actually likes that music as well every now and again. To see him dancing to some reggae was very surprising to me, but I love it. That made me say that he loves good vibes (chuckle).

Q: Can the Brooklyn Nets win a championship without Kyrie?

A: That’s a loaded question, mate. But look, I think where we’re at now, I think we can win a championship with who we have. But those odds increase even more with Kyrie, yeah.

Q: What do you like best about this team?

A: I love that everyone is on the same page with understanding that there’s a championship to be won here, and I love that everyone throughout the organization — not only the team, the front office, the staff, the videos, the strength and conditioning coaches — everyone’s on the same page here of being able to do whatever it takes to win. And I think that time of energy that runs through the organization. … Everyone feeds off of that energy. That’s not easy to come by.

Q: Describe the rivalry with the Knicks.

A: I absolutely love it. It was my first time experiencing it. It means so much to the city. It’s things like that, when I feel that type of passion and that type of love for the game, I think that’s when I play my best basketball. That’s why I love the rivalry.

Q: Whatever comes to mind: GM Sean Marks.

A: I love him, mate. I go back with him a long way, obviously playing with him in Portland, getting to know him and his family. Very knowledgeable, very smart obviously from a basketball standpoint, and even more so as a general manager.

Q: Cam Thomas.

A: An absolute athlete. Very skilled, confident … massive legs (laugh) that give him a lot of power. I don’t have very much meat on my legs, it’s pretty much skin and bone, which Is why I notice those things.

Q: Brett Brown.

A: My favorite basketball coach ever. He coached me on the Australian team for the 2012 Olympics, had him in San Antonio as well. But he’s just someone that I’ve been able to just really connect with in basketball and outside of basketball, and still to this day being able to use him as a sounding board for my own personal career.

Q: What drives you?

A: The driving force for me is being able to inspire and empower people. And I feel like, from where I come from, I represent aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that’s indigenous Australian. And for me to be able to inspire those people, and I think that the more that I’ve been able to do that on this platform, I realize that I’ve become a role model for all indigenous people around the world, which has been very eye-opening for me.

So I take a lot of pride in how I carry myself and how I represent myself because I know that I have the opportunity to impact a lot of people, not only in Australia, but around the world. The driving force there is wanting other kids of my background and my culture to also achieve dreams and things that they’ve always dreamed about because it is very, very hard coming from a minority and a place that has a lot of struggle, I guess … whether in sport or not, being able to give hope in that way.

Q: What is the biggest obstacle or adversity you had to overcome?

A: I come from such a small place and having to deal with racism growing up as a kid and dealing with Australian history and my family’s history, that in itself is such a massive thing to overcome to live a healthy life, let alone talk about anything to do with sports. … I experienced racism in sport throughout my childhood growing up, which is why now throughout my foundation we created a campaign called We Got You. I think to be able to set the standard of integrity and encourage actions to achieve an ultimate goal of a world that no one is singled out because of their color or their skin or their origin or their ethnicity.

Q: How old were you when you first encountered racism, and how did it affect you?

A: Grade 1 when I first encountered it, and not to relive the whole thing, but for me it really eye-opened a situation that made me realize that I am different. It was at school, walking into a classroom, and I got uppercutted punched in the belly and took the wind out of me.

Q: Did it make you more determined to overcome it?

A: I think I overcame it by the help of my parents. My mom was a part of the Stolen Generation. I remember to this day my mom telling me always take the high road and walk away from all of those incidences, and kind of put your mind to showing that within whatever sport it might be, and for me it was sport, that was the outlet, that’s where I could go and run my fastest, play my best, play football, play basketball and kind of get people back by just trying to beat them within the sporting field, and I think that helped me to be the competitor that I am today.

Q: If you could pick the brain of any guard in NBA history, who would it be?

A: I will say Steve Nash (laugh).

Nets head coach Steve Nash speaks to Patty Mills in the first half of a game, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, in Brooklyn.
Steve Nash and Patty Mills talk on the sideline during a game.
Corey Sipkin/New York Post

Q: Why him?

A: There’s so many things that I’ve been able to learn from him over the years. From an individual basis, not only basketball-specific stuff, but also functional body movement type of things. And now that he’s a head coach and being a player for him, I even get to do that on another level type of thing.

But I would have said the same answer even if I had never met the guy before. I think the balance here of basketball-specific things that I’ve been able to learn from him as well as the longevity of taking care of your body and finding efficient movement ways to move around the basketball court given my size and my height and try to find little tricks in the bag to help me be a very solid NBA player.

Q: If you could go 1-on-1 against any NBA player?

A: Allen Iverson. I think I’d really want to get into my bag of 1-on-1 and have the opportunity to see what I can do against him on the offensive end, and then buckle down on defense to see how many stops I can get on him.

Q: Describe your on-court mentality.

A: I would say very focused, very determined. I play with a lot of passion, and I think that’s where my mentality comes from, being able to tap into all of the things that’s meaningful to where I’m playing at the moment. Obviously, playing for Australia is a whole other level, but the more that I’m in Brooklyn and I’m out in the community and out in the streets and meeting new people from here, I’m able to tap into those things that brings meaning that’s more than just the game. In that sense, it’s a very balanced type of approach on the court which brings a whole lot of passion and heart and grit, I guess. So the mentality is very determined, I’d say.

Q: How would you compare winning the 2014 NBA championship Spurs with winning the Boomers’ first Olympic medal, a Bronze in 2020?

A: I don’t think you can compare, to be honest. They’re very different in their own right. It’s a process going through that NBA championship, the year going up to that, losing to Miami the first go-around and then coming back and getting ’em again.

Australia's Patty Mills celebrates with his bronze medal during the men's basketball medal ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Saitama Super Arena on Aug. 7, 2021 in Saitama, Japan.
Australia’s Patty Mills celebrates with his bronze medal during the men’s basketball medal ceremony at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Getty Images

The people that we had on that team. And then you look at the Boomers team and how many decades and years and Olympic games that we’ve gone through that we just haven’t gotten over the hump. I can’t compare ’em, I just know that the feeling of winning an NBA championship and winning an Olympic medal, it makes you hungry for more. And I always ask this question: Do you love winning or do you hate losing? And after winning a championship and Olympic medal, there’s no doubt that I absolutely love winning and will do whatever it takes to win.

Q: What was it like bringing the Lawrence O’Brien Trophy back to Australia?

A: That was unreal, because to see the reception and reaction from people in Australia that have never experienced the Lawrence O’Brien Trophy before. For us to see how much that meant to Australia, that was very special. And we took it all the way back to the Torres Strait Islands where I’m from, and to have it sit at the house where my grandfather used to sit on his chair and all of that … so to place it in the same place as my first basketball hoop where I grew up playing basketball, bare feet, that gravel road was pretty special.

Q: Whatever comes to your mind: Tim Duncan.

A: Footwork … fundamentals.

Q: Manu Ginobili.

A: True professional and friend.

Q: Tony Parker.

A: Floaters.

Q: Kawhi Leonard.

A: The Claw.

Q: What makes Gregg Popovich a great coach?

A: I would say his ability to get his players to see the big picture, and understanding that there’s a big world out there, and I think that balance is really what makes him a great coach. You learn so much from him outside of the basketball world that ends up helping you with basketball and with your teammates in the locker room and on the court. Being with him for 10 years, in a sense I grew up as an early adult through my time with him.

Q: Did it motivate you when he called you Fatty Mills?

A: (Chuckle) I don’t know if it motivates me, I was already motivated enough. I think that was just a little joke on the side that kind of went around the world (laugh).

Q: But you did reduce your body fat, right?

A: That little joke came after the fact. That motivation came from me just really wanting to be a part of the San Antonio Spurs organization and team, and I needed to do something extreme to be noticed and to show how serious I was about wanting to be here … going to the extreme of getting into arguably the best shape of my career. … I shaved my head and shaved my beard, and that helped the perception of this new guy that rocks up to training camp the next year ready for business.

Q: You still will not dunk, is that right?

A: Well, I don’t know if I have the choice. So when you say I still will not dunk, it’s because I can’t (laugh). I haven’t dunked in a game.

Q: Could you dunk if you had to in a game?

A: After all the running and miles that I have on my legs, I think those aspirations are long gone.

Q: What is the criticism that bothered you the most?

A: I just go about my craft like I know how to. I don’t let a lot of criticism bother me, to be honest.

Q: What fascinates you about the Brooklyn culture?

A: Obviously Brooklyn was very appealing to me and my wife for many reasons … something that we connected with from an outside point of view is its culture that’s based around music and fashion and cafes and restaurants and food and art and particularly street art, and how a lot of the messaging and meaning within that street, what it means and what it brings. And then finally coming here and experiencing it for ourselves, seeing how diverse the place is.

You hear different languages that are being spoken when you walk by people. It made for a very welcoming place. It was a seamless transition for us because of the culture. It’s everything that we enjoy, everything that we like. I’d like to say thank you for welcoming a couple of strangers into the Brooklyn community. I’m honored to hopefully winning an NBA championship for this place. I think the only thing is the cold that I’m still getting used to (chuckle).

Q: Describe your fascination with coffee shops.

A: Coffee’s been a big part of our life for a long time, it’s a big part of the Australian theme being out and about coming from Australia. But within the NBA environment, I think that’s been kind of a hobby. We travel around the country so much, staying in different hotels, so by the time you get to the hotel, it’s been a little bit of an outlet to be able to leave the hotel, go for a walk, find a nice coffee shop, sit down, kind of relax, take a load off. You enjoy kind of trying to find and unlock done secret hidden gems not only in the city that you play but on the road as well.

Q: Favorite coffee shop?

A: I’m going to say Blue Stone Lane. It’s an Australian coffee shop.

Q: What was it like going to the White House and meeting President Obama?

A: That’s definitely a career highlight.

President Barack Obama, standing with San Antonio Spurs head basketball coach Gregg Popovich second from right, and general manager R.C. Buford, right, speaks during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015.
President Barack Obama speaks during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House with members of the Spurs, including Patty Mills, in 2015.
AP

Q: Describe your wife Alyssa.

A: Very beautiful … very heartwarming, loving. … She played basketball in college [Saint Mary’s College], so she rebounds for me to this day. She’s all about fashion, she has her own swimwear label called Strait the Label. She’s my best friend, we do absolutely everything together. And of course with our goldendoodle Harvey, who’s 8 years old.

Q: Three dinner guests?

A: [Indigenous Australian icon] Eddie Mabo, Bob Marley, Nelson Mandela.

Q: What would you ask Mandela?

A: I would ask him how he can continue to find ways to bring unity to the world.

Q: Favorite movie?

A: “Remember the Titans.”

Q: Favorite actor?

A: Denzel Washington.

Q: Favorite actress?

A: Julia Roberts.

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?

A: Bob Marley. As a living one right now, Alicia Keys.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: Anything that is freshly caught by myself, anything in the ocean.

Q: Adjectives that would describe Patty Mills off the court?

A: Good vibes only … juice … energy.

Q: What are you most proud of about your career?

A: I would say I’m most proud of the way that I’ve been able to still say true to who I am and my cultural identity, and how that in itself has inspired my people back home to be able to gain from hope from it and use that. … It’s like I’m living evidence that these things can happen if you stick your mind to it and work hard and all those things. I always say that you gotta see it to believe of it, and I’m the living proof for a lot of young indigenous Australian boys and girls back home.

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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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