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[Posted Sunday p.m.]
Knicks Quiz: In honor of the 14-62, 2018-19 edition, name the nine Knicks to have their jersey hanging in the rafters of MSG. Answer below.
Sweet Sixteen Madness
Last time, with a Sweet Sixteen as heavy with basketball powers as we’ve had in 10 years, all 1-3 seeds advancing, it was a good sign. March Madness hadn’t produced a lot of big upsets and buzzer beaters in the first two rounds, but we were now in the Land of the Goliaths, which is what you want by the time you get to a Final Four, from a viewer and quality of competition standpoint.
Well, we have our Final Four...a 1, 2, 3 and 5. Not three 1s and a 2.
Virginia vs. Auburn; Michigan State vs. Texas Tech. If you had this in your bracket you have my respect.
Today, in the first contest, 2 Kentucky vs. 5 Auburn, there was no way the Tigers would win. Key big man Chuma Okeke (12.0 pts., 6.8 rebounds) out with a torn ACL.
But Bruce Pearl’s boys persevered, 77-71, behind 50 points from the senior Bryce Brown (15.8 ppg. for the season.) and junior point guard Jared Harper (15.2 avg.).
And in the nightcap, it was 1 Duke and 2 Michigan State, the Spartans coming out on top, 68-67, in another instant classic (or maybe not). Kenny Goins’ three-pointer proved to be the decider with 34.3 seconds to play, giving Michigan State a 68-66 lead. RJ Barrett then had the chance to tie it up with two free throws and 5.2 seconds left, but he choked, hitting just one of two...game over.
On the CBS pregame show, Charles Barkley made the trenchant comment that there are two coaches who consistently make their teams better over the course of a season...John Calipari and Tom Izzo. I totally agree. Calipari, however, was perhaps outcoached by Bruce Pearl today, and Coach K. was clearly outcoached by Izzo.
Coach K. has three lottery picks, after all, and a fourth first-rounder in Tre Jones, though both Jones and Cam Reddish should return for another season. [I know they won’t.]
Reddish returned from his tweaked knee to play 37 minutes and sucked. Jones, after a terrific game against Virginia Tech, was hardly super.
RJ Barrett also sucked, with 7 turnovers, and as for Zion Williamson, despite his 24 points and 14 rebounds, to me he was so-so...5 turnovers and undisciplined at times.
But what a pair of games we had Saturday, 3 Texas Tech knocking out 1-seed Gonzaga, 75-69, the Red Raiders smothering defense holding the Zags to 7 of 26 from three, 26.9%, and forcing 16 turnovers. 37-35 Gonzaga at the half, it was nip and tuck the rest of the way, decided in the final seconds. Texas Tech coach Chris Beard, in his third season at the helm, has his team headed to the school’s first Final Four.
And then in the nightcap, 1 Virginia held off 3 Purdue in a game for the ages, 80-75 in overtime, the Cavaliers and Tony Bennett headed to their first Final Four since 1984.
Carsen Edwards, however, was the story, scoring 42 points for Purdue in a heroic effort, 10 of 19 from three, no other Boilermaker scoring more than seven. But he couldn’t pull it out for his teammates in the end.
For Virginia, Kyle Guy’s shooting slump is over, Guy hitting his first four attempts from three to start the second half. Read on....
Scott Gleeson / USA TODAY
“Virginia survived Purdue on Saturday in an overtime classic that will live on in March Madness lore. Just a year after losing to No. 16 seed Maryland-Baltimore County in the first round, the Cavaliers rewrote history by reaching the Final Four for the first time since 1984.
“As Virginia guard Kyle Guy summed it up, ‘we made bad history last year. We’re making good history this year.’
“Here’s a look at all the thrilling moments from the epic Elite Eight showdown:
“1. Ty Jerome’s miss, Mamadi Diakite tip-out with five seconds left. Virginia looked like it was going to come up short, trailing 70-67 with 17 seconds left when Boilermakers coach Matt Painter smartly decided to foul and avoid a game-tying 3-pointer. That put Jerome at the line, who calmly made the first to slice the deficit to two. Then he missed the second one – claiming he ‘short-armed’ the shot postgame – and it was Diakite who tipped the ball out off the miss to set up the game’s heroics on the ensuing play.
“2. Kihei Clark’s ‘play of the century’ pass to Diakite for the buzzer-beater that forced overtime. Diakite tipped the ball way out past half-court, almost as if he knew there was only one speedy guard fast enough to get to it in time. Enter Clark, the team’s freshman point guard who darted past Purdue defenders to get the ball before one-arming a pinpoint pass to Diakite for the buzzer-beater that Jerome tabbed as ‘the play of the century’ postgame.
“3. Carsen Edwards from different area codes. The All-American guard was unconscious from 3-point range, draining 10 against UVA and setting an NCAA tournament record with 28 triples to become the first losing player to claim a Regional’s Most Outstanding Player since Steph Curry in 2008. Edwards’ 42 points against the nation’s best defense were masterful and several of his long-range jumpers were well beyond the NBA’s 3-point line. While he was unstoppable before overtime, his late three rimmed out in OT and a costly turnover kept Edwards’ legendary performance from lifting the Boilermakers to the Final Four.
“4. Kyle Guy breaking out of shooting slump after apparent ankle injury. Guy looked to have rolled his ankle at the end of the first half, receiving treatment on the bench after crashing to the floor in pain – leading to halftime speculation about his durability in the second half. Then Guy came out firing, scoring 21 of his 25 points and finally breaking out of a shooting slump that saw him go 8-for-38 from the floor and just 3-for-26 from three in the first three games of the NCAAs. While Edwards kept Purdue in the game with his will, Guy’s grit was at the forefront of Virginia’s second half identity that ultimately led to a Final Four. It wasn’t blow for blow, but Guy’s 3-pointers undoubtedly gave the Cavs the offensive life they needed.
“5. Ty Jerome’s scoop-shot and De’Andre Hunter’s go-ahead basket in overtime. Jerome (24 points, seven assists) played a complete game and got a much-needed tear-drop high off the glass to go with 3:19 left for UVA’s first points of the extra frame. Then Hunter, the team’s NBA talent who was relatively quiet in regulation, made a go-ahead driving layup with 28 seconds left to give his team a 76-75 lead it wouldn’t relinquish – before Guy and Clark sealed it with four free throws. Both players looked like they had ice in their veins with a spot to the Final Four on the line.”
You have to feel great for Coach Tony Bennett. He has a 176-36 record in his last six season, including four 30-win campaigns, four ACC regular season titles and four No. 1 seeds. But now he finally has a Final Four.
--Josh Peter / USA TODAY
“It wasn’t exactly Chris Webber calling a timeout in the 1993 title game when Michigan didn’t have any left.
“It wasn’t exactly Georgetown’s Fred Brown passing the ball to North Carolina’s James Worthy in the final seconds of the 1982 NCAA championship game.
“But with a trip to the Final Four on the line, a play with 10 seconds left (Ed. 12) in Texas Tech’s 75-69 victory over Gonzaga on Saturday at the Honda Center merits a spot among the most infamous in NCAA tournament play.
“Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins fouled Texas Tech guard Matt Mooney as Mooney was attempting to inbound the ball, resulting in a technical foul and two shots.
“ ‘He was ball faking a lot and I thought the ball faked in front of me,’ Perkins, who had tears in his eyes, said after the game. ‘Instinctively reached in. Bonehead play. Something I will think about forever.’”
Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell Jr. had made a layup, pulling the Zags to within 71-69, but Perkins reached over the end line to knock Mooney’s attempt to inbound it and it was an easy technical. Texas Tech coach Chris Beard then got to select who he wanted at the line, and David Moretti, a 92% shooter from the charity stripe, did the honors, sinking two, and it was game over.
--In action Thursday and Friday....
1 Gonzaga pulled away from 4 Florida State, 72-58, after the ‘Noles cut the lead to 60-56 with 4:00 to play.
3 Texas Tech’s smothering defense was too much for 2 Michigan, 63-44, the Wolverines just 1 of 19 from three!
1 Virginia continued to play on with a 53-49 win over 12 Oregon, despite just 9 of 33 from three.
And in another terrific game, 2 Tennessee, down 18 in the second half, rallied against 3 Purdue to force overtime, 82-82, only to have the Boilermakers prevail in OT, 99-94, with Ryan Cline (27 points) and Carsen Edwards (29) leading the way.
But both teams were dreadful at the foul line, Purdue 16-33, Tennessee 14-28. It’s a highly-disappointing ending for Rick Barnes’ Vols, who at one point won 19 in a row and were atop the AP poll for four straight weeks.
Friday, 2 Michigan State rolled over 3 LSU, with freshman Aaron Henry leading the way with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Fellow frosh Gabe Brown, averaging 2.0 points per game this season, came off the bench for a career-high 15 on 4 of 6 from three.
Then there was 4 Virginia Tech and 1 Duke, the Blue Devils once again surviving a last-second shot under the basket to avoid overtime, Duke on top 75-73, behind Zion Williamson’s 23 on 11 of 14 shooting from the field, and RJ Barrett’s 18 points and 11 assists.
But the key was point guard Tre Jones, not known for his shooting, who came out firing and had 22 points on 5 of 7 from three.
In another terrific game, 3 Houston appeared to be headed to the Elite Eight, up 58-55 with 1:16 to play against 2 Kentucky, after Corey Davis Jr.’s mid-range jumper, but P.J. Washington and Tyler Herro made the big plays from there, scoring the last seven, with Washington also contributing a key block, Kentucky moving on, 62-58.
And 5 Auburn took down 1 North Carolina, 97-80, the Tar Heels never seeming to be in it in the second half after trailing by 41-39 at the intermission. Carolina cut it to 60-54 with 13:40 to play, but then the Tigers pulled way, Auburn a terrific 17 of 37, 45.9%, from three.
The Tigers were led by Chuma Okeke’s 20 points and 11 rebounds, but with 15 minutes remaining, he had to leave the game with a serious knee injury.
Sally Jenkins / Washington Post
“Under all the crud, the cash and the crackle of wiretaps, there was the quality of the game, and that made it all worth it. Auburn’s Sweet 16 victory over North Carolina was a matter of such pretty craftsmanship that it was cleansing. You forgot all about the greased palms and realized there has been a fallacy at the heart of the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption, that money makes it an irredeemable exercise. That’s wrong.
“Commerce and education are uneasy partners, no question. But there was a central honorableness to this March Madness meeting, an all-in-ness by the principal actors, the coaches and players, that was restorative. Auburn’s action was so beautiful it blotted out the shoe companies and middlemen and the whole stinking NCAA structure in which everyone gets paid exorbitantly except those doing the sweating. When the ball went up, the players purified all of it, if you will, with their hearts and their efforts, and so did their coaches with their elegant and frantic arm-waving strategy. Final score: No. 5 seed Auburn 97, No. 1 seed North Carolina 80.
“Four reputationally dinged coaching greats were here in the Midwest Region, four semi-soiled huckstering representatives of the system, in Carolina’s Roy Williams, Auburn’s Bruce Pearl, Kentucky’s John Calipari and Houston’s Kelvin Sampson. But they also happen to be superb teachers of the game and lovers of their players. On the day before the regional semifinals, Williams, in logoed Carolina blue, ambled down a hallway of Sprint Center and ran into the Tigers’ 59-year-old Pearl. ‘Hey Brucie!’ he greeted him. Then Williams, survivor of one of the worst academic scandals in NCAA history, grasped the hand of Pearl, whose former assistant Chuck Person is entangled in the FBI corruption probe and who did three years himself in NCAA purgatory for recruiting violations.
“You could judge them by those paper investigations, or you could judge them on the comportment and performances of their players – and only hope that every campus academic is as effective at imparting organized concepts, disciplined action and speedy decision-making under pressure as these coaches. ‘We love to teach. We all got in as teachers,’ Pearl said. His team was Exhibit A. As Pearl said, ‘Ninety-nine percent of what we got is still really, really good.’”
We’ll never know how much Carolina was really impacted by a flu bug that hit the team the day before, but as Williams admitted afterwards, he was simply outcoached by Pearl.
--Finally, the NIT semis are set for Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, TCU and Texas in one, and Wichita State and Lipscomb in the other.
Lipscomb? This is what the NIT is for. The Bisons, out of Nashville, Tenn., were 28-7 and lost to Liberty in the Atlantic Sun Conference championship, but now they get to put their name in the bright lights of Gotham. No doubt great for recruiting, and far better than a first round blowout in the NCAA tournament.
In Lipscomb’s quarterfinal win over North Carolina State, Garrison Mathews had 44, including 8 of 13 from downtown.
--The Eastern Conference playoff chase for the final slots is going down to the wire, with four big games Saturday.
The Knicks hosted Dwyane Wade and the Heat, Wade, in his farewell to the Garden, with 17 as Miami prevailed 100-92, New York, now 14-62, clinching a bottom three lottery spot.*
The Nets had a huge 110-96 win at home over the Celtics behind D’Angelo Russell’s 29 points and 10 assists.
The Pistons beat the Trail Blazers 99-90, as Andre Drummond had 22 points and 19 rebounds.
And the Magic beat the Pacers 121-116.
With none of them playing Sunday, we now have:
6. Detroit 39-37
7. Brooklyn 39-38
8. Miami 38-38
9. Orlando 38-39
*The Knicks officially have a 14 percent chance of winning the NBA draft lottery, with the bottom three in the new lottery scheme all sharing those odds.
The Knicks thus know they have a 40.1 percent chance at a top-3 pick...Zion, RJ or Ja Morant.
--The Lakers announced LeBron James was being shut down for the rest of the year.
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times
“It was supposed to end in the playoffs. It was supposed to end with a heroic effort to drag an overmatched team back toward NBA greatness, the finish of a stirring run representing the beginning of new hope.
“Instead, LeBron James’ first season with the Lakers ended in a statement.
“ ‘After consulting with our team doctors and medical staff, we have decided to hold LeBron out of games for the remainder of the season,’ read the missive issued Saturday by basketball bosses Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. ‘This decision will allow his groin to fully heal, and is best for the future success of both LeBron and the Lakers.’
“So that’s that. It’s over. It’s done. The great debacle has mercifully been put to sleep, and the uncomfortable evaluation can finally be made.
“LeBron James’ first season as a Laker has been a complete bust....
“When James signed here in July, a certain sucker columnist was breathless in anticipation.
“ ‘Four words that were once whispers of dreams can now be shouted across Los Angeles with a force that will rattle our sports landscape down to its historic core,’ I wrote. ‘The King is coming.’
“That landscape has been rattled, all right, with the outlandish realization that maybe the Lakers would have been better without James. With a 34-42 record, they are only one win better than last year at this time. They are not making the playoffs for a franchise-record sixth consecutive season. They will soon undergo another coaching change. Their youngsters, with the possible exception of a brief stretch by Brandon Ingram, did not substantially improve. And the King still hasn’t shown up....
“What great moments do you remember? Do you remember anything?
“Let’s see, there was his 44 points against Portland, his 51 points in Miami, his postgame hug with Dwyane Wade, his ‘activated’ game against Houston, his late three-pointer against New Orleans. Does that about cover it?
“The list of James’ missteps is much longer, and starts from the beginning.
“There was his failure to hold an introductory news conference upon his signing in Los Angeles, a missed opportunity to begin building the bond with fans. Instead, he staged a Twitter pizza prank that left many locals waiting for his arrival at a Culver City restaurant. In a sign of things to come on the court, he never showed up.
“Once the season started, there was his constantly bad body language that told the world of his frustration with his younger teammates. The slumped shoulders, the shaking of his head, the turning of his back, the flailing of his arms, it was all indicative of a guy who had lost all hope.
“Then there was his defense, which was glaring in its invisibility...
“The individual images are just as striking. There was the time he sat far from his teammates on a bench in Indiana. There was the night during his injury rehabilitation when he showed up carrying a glass of red wine to a game. Or how about the moment he passed Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list yet refused to acknowledge those fans who, while feeling scant connection with him, were at least politely cheering?....
“Equally as troubling was his behind-the-scenes plotting, which caused a locker room rift that could not be repaired. In essence, he sold out his teammates when his agent Rich Paul announced that Anthony Davis wanted out of New Orleans, thus leading the Lakers to offer up virtually all of their young talent for the star that James openly coveted. His camp also quietly pushed to fire coach Luke Walton, which created the perception of a leadership void, which won’t be filled until the Lakers actually fire Walton and hire whomever James chooses.
“It was pretty awful, and, to be sure, James was far from alone in causing the mess.
“Much blame for the season certainly goes to Johnson and Pelinka, who, immediately after acquiring James, signed a nutty and mismatched veteran cast that made James’ job much tougher than in previous years in Cleveland and Miami.
“And to be fair, James’ final averages of 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.4 assists were either at or above his career numbers.
“He had the stats. He showed up for the media. He was once again one of the NBA’s leading citizens, smart and thoughtful and engaging....
“But as a Laker, he was never completely invested. To many, it appeared he had come to Los Angeles mainly to promote his many entertainment projects. At times, it even appeared basketball was a glorified hobby....
“What happens now? Veteran James observers warn against ever writing him off, but it seems he and the Lakers will have just one summer to save the remaining three years of this relationship. He needs a co-star to get him interested again, but where will they find it? Can they still trade for Davis? Will top free agents want to come here, knowing James’ constant distractions and declining physical condition?
“That’s a lot of questions surrounding a guy who was supposed to be the answer.”
--James Harden had 50 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, scoring 10 straight Houston points down the stretch to help the Rockets beat the Kings 119-108, Saturday.
It was Harden’s 42nd career triple-double and third 50-point game in the past six, and his NBA-record fifth 50-point triple-double, second this season.
--There was a disturbing report Saturday that former Knicks star, now with the Mavericks, Kristaps Porzingis, was being investigated for allegedly raping a neighbor he’d invited to his penthouse Feb. 7, 2018, hours after he had suffered a devastating knee injury at Madison Square Garden, from which he has been recovering ever since.
A high-ranking NYPD source told the New York Post that the woman’s claim was credible, “believable,” despite her not reporting the alleged attack until over a year later, and her admission to police that she discussed getting $68,000 in hush money from Porzingis.
The woman, who lives in the building, told cops that she waited over a year to talk because Porzingis had promised $68,000 to pay for her brother’s college tuition, but then reneged. It is unclear if any money ever changed hands between the two.
Dallas team owner Mark Cuban told The Post in an email, “We have been instructed by federal authorities not to comment.”
According to a documentary on the center’s rehab, when Porzingis returned home from his ACL-tear diagnosis, he joined his two brothers and a longtime therapist in downing at least one shot of tequila.
The story worsened today, Porzingis allegedly spouting racial slurs during the attack, the woman being black. I won’t comment further until there are actual charges. For his part, Porzingis, through his lawyer, is denying the allegations and said the accuser is trying to extort him.
--Mets fans are used to one thing, winning on Opening Day, and on Thursday, Jacob deGrom, fresh off his contract extension, outdueled Washington’s Max Scherzer in D.C., the Mets prevailing 2-0.
The Mets improved their Opening Day record the past 50 years to 38-12, the best of any North American professional sports team over that time.
Then the Mets followed this up Saturday with an 11-8 win over Stephen Strasburg and a horrific effort from the Nationals’ bullpen.
But they lost a toughie today, 6-5, on a walk-off Trea Turner homer off Justin Wilson, Turner’s second of the game. He also had four stolen bases in the series.
It’s a long season, and as I’ll be saying ad nauseam all year, the battles in the NL East between the Mets, Nats, Braves and Phillies will be a tension convention.
--The Dodgers hit eight home runs, a record on Opening Day, in a 12-5 victory over Arizona; Enrique Hernandez and Joc Pederson each going deep twice. The eight homers tied a franchise record for a single game, also done May 23, 2002, when Shawn Green hit four.
Arizona’s Zack Greinke gave up four home runs and seven runs in 3 2/3 in his old ballpark.
Then, after Arizona bounced back Friday for a 5-4 win, on Saturday, the Diamondbacks were blitzed by the Dodgers 18-5, Cody Bellinger with two home runs and six RBIs. Catcher Russell Martin pitched a scoreless ninth for L.A.
--Bryce Harper’s first hit as a Phillie was a monstrous 465-foot bomb in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday as Philadelphia beat Atlanta 8-6.
Fans gave Harper a standing ovation and chanted “MVP! MVP!” Harper said after, “That’s one of my favorite homers I’ve ever had, definitely.”
Harper had gone 0-for-3 with a walk in his Phillies debut Thursday, and Saturday he started out 0-for-2 with a walk before the home run.
Yes, he’s under the microscope all season...the next 13 seasons for that matter.
--Last year’s NL MVP, Christian Yelich, perhaps my favorite non-Met next to Mike Trout, hit a home run for a fourth straight game today, tying a record for the start of a season, the others being Willie Mays, Mark McGwire, Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis and Trevor Story. He’s the first reigning MVP to do so.
Yelich then won the game in the ninth inning with a two-run, walk-off double, his Brewers taking 3 of 4 from the Cardinals.
--Daniel Murphy signed a two-year, $24 million free-agent contract with Colorado in the offseason, and it was expected he’d post prolific numbers in the Mile High City, but the first baseman, in diving for a sharp grounder Friday night, broke a finger on his left hand and he’s out indefinitely. Murphy actually remained in the game and got his first hit with the Rockies in the ninth inning, but when the finger swelled up overnight, X-rays revealed the fracture on the tip of his left index finger.
--The top five salaries for 2019:
1. Max Scherzer, WSH, $42,142,857
2. Stephen Strasburg, WSH, $36,428,571
3. Mike Trout, LAA, $34,083,333
4. Zack Greinke, ARI, $32,421,884
5. David Price, BOS, $31,000,000
5. Clayton Kershaw, LAD, $31,000,000
--At the WGC Match Play event in Austin, Texas, Tiger Woods made it to the quarterfinals Saturday afternoon, only to choke royally on the 18th hole against Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard, Tiger muffing an approach shot and then a shot putt.
So in the semis today, we had Bjerregaard (who I had never heard of until this weekend) against Matt Kuchar, Kooch taking it 1 up.
And Kevin Kisner defeated Francesco Molinari, 1 up, so we had a Kisner-Kuchar final.
Kisner prevailed for his third career PGA Tour title; Molinari taking third.
--The Champions Tour played this week in Biloxi, Miss., the Rapiscan Systems Classic. So I had to look up just what the hell Rapiscan does and they make walk-through metal detectors and X-ray machines. So we thank them for that.
And the playoff between Kevin Sutherland and Scott Parel was suspended after five holes due to darkness.
--There is a story out tonight on sportswriter Rick Reilly’s new book, “Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump,” which is available Tuesday.
Let’s just say for those of us who love the game and abide by the rules, it’s devastating. It’s also “Week in Review” material because I’ll be shocked if Trump doesn’t tweet about it in the coming days.
--I was about to post and just caught that Jason Witten is returning to Dallas as tight end on a one-year, $5 million deal, after spending a year in the “Monday Night Football” booth. As I wrote last time, well, time for Gronk! More on him below.
--In a surprise trade, the Eagles acquired running back Jordan Howard from Chicago, only giving up a conditional 2020 sixth-round pick in return.
Howard is making just $2.025 million this season, though he becomes a free agent at the end of the year. While he has 3,370 yards rushing in his first three seasons, the worrisome thing is his average yards per carry has fallen from 5.2 to 3.7 over that time.
--Greg Schiano suddenly stepped down from the New England Patriots, citing a “need to spend more time on my faith and family.”
Schiano, whose hire had never been officially announced by the club, announced his decision Thursday in a joint statement with coach Bill Belichick.
“This is not the result of any one event, but rather a realization that I need to spend more time on my faith and family,” Schiano said. “I don’t want to look back years from now and wish I had done things differently. Therefore, I am taking time away from the game to recalibrate my priorities.”
It was widely assumed that Schiano, hired two months ago, was going to be defensive coordinator after Brian Flores, who held the position, was hired by the Dolphins to be their head coach.
Belichick said: “I respect Coach Schiano greatly and appreciate his contributions to our staff and team.”
The 52-year-old Schiano was on the cusp of being named University of Tennessee coach in 2017, but the school reversed course after public outcry among Tennessee fans, with some citing his connection to the Jerry Sandusky era at Penn State. Belichick had offered his public support for Schiano.
--Last chat I praised New England tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had announced his retirement, and then Tuesday night, Gronk received an award at the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore’s 37th Annual Awards Dinner, which required him to give a speech.
Now picture this was a room full of generals, Medal of Honor recipients, big-money sponsors and military personnel clad in black-tie, as Gronkowski told the audience about a visit he had made that afternoon to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“I mean, I thought I went through a lot in my life,” Gronk said. “Today, I saw a troop who lost both of his legs tell me he wants to get the movement back in his legs and get prosthetics in, and get back out there and kill some mother-------.”
As the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore wrote:
“The room responded with gasps, a burst of spit-take laughter and shrieks of approval."
“That’s what he told me!” Gronkowski said. You’ve gotta love him.
In his one-day visit to Washington, Gronk visited Walter Reed and laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery. He visited with Gen. Mark A. Milley and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At the start of the night, Gronk posed for photos with Medal of Honor recipients.
Separately, I forgot to note Bill Belichick’s comment when asked about Gronkowski’s retirement.
“Offseason is offseason.”
And for that stupid remark, The Hoodie goes in the December file for “Jerk of the Year” consideration.
--The majority owner of the Alliance of American Football told USA TODAY Sports that the league is in danger of folding without help from the National Football League Players Association.
Tom Dundon, who became chairman of the AAF last month, said the NFLPA is not cooperating with the AAF by refusing to allow the first-year league to use young NFL players.
Unsigned NFL players, including practice-squad players, are free to join the AAF at any time. But the AAF would need the NFLPA’s cooperation to acquire a practice-squad player who currently is signed to a futures contract with an NFL team.
Dundon, who also owns the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, made a $250 million investment in the AAF last month after the league was in danger of not making payroll, according to reports.
I haven’t been writing of action in the PL the last few weeks because there has been none. Players were involved in European Championship Qualifying and some friendlies.
But play resumed this weekend and Saturday, Manchester City defeated Fulham 2-0, and Manchester United edged Watford 2-1.
Earlier in the week, Man U announced that its interim manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, would take over on a permanent basis, three months after Jose Mourinho was ousted.
“Ole’s at the wheel!” the club posted on Twitter.
Solskjaer, 46, signed a three-year contract, after taking over as caretaker manager in December. Since then, including Saturday, he has led United to 15 victories in 20 matches, all leagues, and brought the team back into contention for a spot in the Champions League.
So today, Chelsea beat Cardiff 2-1, and then we had the biggie, Tottenham at Liverpool, both clubs desperately needing a victory, or at the least a draw.
And so it was 1-1 at the 84’ mark when the Spurs’ Sissoko missed on a breakaway and you just knew that would be Tottenham’s last big opportunity, as 5 ½ minutes later, Mohammad Salah had a routine header from the far post that Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris should have been able to swallow up. But instead he muffed it, the ball fell behind him, and poor defender Toby Alderweireld was charged with an own goal as he desperately tried to clear it. It wasn’t his fault. Lloris, who has been less than spectacular this season compared to past years, blew it. Liverpool wins 2-1...massive, as the Reds are now back on top in this fantastic race for the title, while Tottenham, inexplicably 0-1-4 (W-D-L) its last five, has a titanic struggle on its hands to finish in the top four for the Champions League.
With Arsenal hosting Newcastle tomorrow, and more play at midweek, the standings:
1. Liverpool 32 G – 79 points
2. Man City 31 – 77
3. Tottenham 31 – 61
4. Man U 31 – 61 (trailing the Spurs in goal differential, 24-19)
5. Arsenal 30 – 60
6. Chelsea 31 – 60
It doesn’t get any closer than this for the two races.
--Denny Hamlin won his second race of the year at Texas Motor Speedway for Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s the first time in NASCAR history that the first seven races were won by just two teams, the other Team Penske.
--Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin hit the 50-goal mark for the eighth time on Saturday, with a third-period goal against Tampa Bay. He added a second goal on a power play less than two minutes later in the 6-3 road win.
At age 33, he is just the third player to score at least 50 goals at this age or older, the others Jaromir Jagr, who scored 54 at age 33 in 2005-06, and Johnny Bucyk, who had 51 at age 35 in 1970-71.
Ovechkin is also now 13th on the all-time goals list with 658.
During Ovi’s 14-year career, there have been just 13 50-goal seasons other than his eight.
--In a court filing on Friday in Manhattan federal court, prosecutors are recommending that disgraced radio personality Craig Carton receive more than 7 years in prison following his conviction on duping investors in a bulk ticket scam. Carton had co-hosted WFAN’s morning sports talk show with Boomer Esiason. Sentencing is April 5. Throw the book at the dirtball.
--The Rolling Stones were to have commenced their North American tour on April 20, but Saturday, Mick Jagger released a statement on Twitter:
“I’m devastated for having to postpone the tour but I will be working very hard to be back on stage as soon as I can. I’m sorry to all our fans in America and Canada with tickets. I really hate letting you down like this.”
The 75-year-old was expected to make a full recovery, the band’s publicist said.
“The doctors have advised Mick that he is expected to make a complete recovery so that he can get back on stage as soon as possible,” the publicist said in a statement, without providing further details.
According to reports, doctors “found something” that required “immediate attention” when Jagger underwent a pre-tour check-up. He was, however, seen out at dinner in Miami with his bandmates this weekend.
Top 3 songs for the week 4/7/73: #1 “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” (Vicki Lawrence) #2 “Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)” (Gladys Knight & The Pips) #3 “Killing Me Softly With His Song” (Roberta Flack)...and...#4 “Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got)” (Four Tops) #5 “Break Up To Make Up” (The Stylistics) #6 “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” (Dawn featuring Tony Orland) #7 “Sing” (Carpenters) #8 “Danny’s Song” (Anne Murray) #9 “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)” (Deodata...dreadful...) #10 “The Cisco Kid” (War...I’d give the week a ‘B’...)
Knicks Quiz Answer: Nine to have their jerseys retired and hanging in the rafters....
Walt Frazier (10), Dick Barnett (12), Willis Reed (19), Earl Monroe (15), Bill Bradley (24), Dave DeBusschere (22), Patrick Ewing (33), Dick McGuire (15) and coach Red Holzman (613...for his wins...and two championships...)
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.