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It’s been a good week for New Yorkers — Joe Judge and Dave Gettleman are out, Brooklyn’s Big Three dominated the Bulls, and the Bills are favorites in the Wild Card Round. Even that “thumbs down” crowd at MSG should be feeling optimistic…

The Knicks’ New Duke Duo

Vincent Carchietta & Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

For seven straight seasons, the Knicks counted ping-pong balls hoping to find the franchise’s future. It’s beginning to pay off — especially with former third-overall pick RJ Barrett.

The youth movement got stronger Thursday when the Knicks traded Kevin Knox and a first-round pick to the Hawks for Cam Reddish, a 22-year-old multidimensional G/F who played alongside Barrett at Duke.

Doubling down is a smart move: The Knicks have won seven of their last 10 — including last night’s blowout win over the Mavs — and climbed back to .500 behind Barrett’s fresh energy.

  • Barrett is the youngest player (21 years and 212 days) in Knicks history to drop back-to-back 30-point games.
  • He’s attacking the rim more this month, averaging 15.2 drives per game, up from 8.2 over the first three months of the season.
  • He’s averaging 20.4 PPG over the last 10 — the Knicks are 7-3 when he’s scored 20+.
  • In one season at Duke, Barrett and Reddish combined for 36.1 PPG on 41% shooting.

Reddish joins a young core with key rotational players Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, Mitchell Robinson, and Quentin Grimes — all younger than 23.

The Knicks exercised rookie options on Barrett ($8.6M), Toppin ($5.3M), and Quickley ($2.3M) through 2022-23. With Reddish ($4.6M), that’s roughly 16.9% of this season’s payroll.

The Knicks haven’t extended their own first-round pick since Charlie Ward in 1998. RJ should end that streak — finally signaling a new, healthier hoops culture in the Big Apple.

Appeal for History Denied

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Watt will have to continue sharing the NFL’s single-season sack record with Hall of Famer Michael Strahan.

On Wednesday, the Steelers appealed in vain to the Elias Sports Bureau — the league’s official statistician — to overturn a ruling on what looked like a first-quarter sack against the Ravens in Week 18. He was credited with a tackle for loss and forced fumble.

His second-quarter sack, which arguably should’ve set the record, instead was No. 22.5. But it still capped one of the greatest defensive seasons of all time.

  • Watt led the league in sacks for the second consecutive season and has 72 in 77 career games.
  • The four-time Pro Bowler also led the NFL in tackles for loss (21), QB hits (39), and fumble recoveries (3).
  • He is the first Steeler to be named team MVP three seasons in a row.

Just prior to the season, the 27-year-old Watt inked a four-year, $112 million contract extension, making him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player.

Watt was a big reason they still made the playoffs, and with a bottom-12 scoring offense, he’ll need to make a difference again on Sunday against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who are heavily favored (-12.5*).

Lillard’s Lost Season?

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Trail Blazers have been known for mediocrity in recent seasons. Now, with their perennial superstar set to miss significant time, this season is looking like a lost cause.

Damian Lillard underwent abdominal surgery Thursday morning and will be reevaluated in five-to-six weeks. The injury has been described as a “lingering” one, which could explain Lillard’s career-worst season.

Dame’s poor play has infected a Portland squad that, at 16-24, has only an outside chance at a postseason berth — and a slimmer one of making a meaningful run.

  • He’s shooting 40.2% from the field and 32.4% from three, both career lows, and his 24.0 PPG is his worst since 2014-15.
  • His defensive rating (114.8) is fifth-worst in the NBA among players with at least 30 MPG, exacerbating the Blazers’ 29th-ranked defensive rating (114.5).
  • Portland is last in opponent FG% (47.7%) and 26th in opponent PPG (112.5).
  • The team owns the worst road record in the league (2-13).

Despite the glaring issues, Lillard is reportedly seeking a two-year, $107 million extension from the Blazers next offseason. The 31-year-old is in the first season of a four-year, $176 million deal that includes a player option after the 2023-24 campaign.

Whether or not the six-time All-Star justifies that kind of money upon his return, it’s fair to wonder if Portland will ever be able to build a contender around him.

Making Headlines

Philadelphia Eagles & Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

NFL: The Vikings have reportedly requested to interview Eagles VP of football operations Catherine Raîche for their general manager job. She is believed to be the first woman to interview for an NFL GM position and would be the first female GM since Philadelphia’s Susan Tose Spencer in the ‘80s.

NCAAF: Two of Alabama’s top linemen, Evan Neal and Phidarian Mathis, have declared for the 2022 NFL Draft.

NBA: According to Adrian Wojnarowski, there’s “optimism” within the Nets that Kyrie Irving will become a full-time player at some point this season.

EPL: Aston Villa signed defender Lucas Digne from Everton. Also: Newcastle United signed forward Chris Wood from Burnley.

Today's Action

*All times are EST unless otherwise noted.
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.

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