Smith Jr., Geffrard talks Saturday night’s showdown

Steve Geffrard wasn’t supposed to be here. Last Friday, he was preparing to weigh in for a fight in Delray Beach, Florida, when he received a call. WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. needed an opponent after British puncher Callum Johnson contracted COVID-19.

Geffrard answered the call and will fight Smith this Saturday evening at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes & ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT). 

Geffrard (18-2, 12 KOs), a South Florida native and former U.S. amateur standout, was 0-2 before rattling off 18 consecutive victories. Smith (27-3, 21 KOs) defeated Maxim Vlasov last April and will finally defend his title after a COVID-19 diagnosis delayed his return.

In the 10-round co-feature, featherweight contender Abraham Nova (20-0, 14 KOs) will look to extend his unbeaten record against 2012 Dominican Olympian William Encarnacion (19-1, 15 KOs).

The undercard will stream live on ESPN+ (7:45 p.m. ET/4:45 p.m. PT) and includes rising Puerto Rican star Omar Rosario (5-0, 2 KOs), 18-year-old welterweight Jahi Tucker (5-0, 3 KOs), and recent U.S. Olympian Troy Isley (3-0, 2 KOs) in separate bouts.

At Thursday’s press conference, this is what Smith and Geffrard had to say.

(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Joe Smith Jr.:

“I can’t wait to be on ESPN this Saturday defending my world title in front of the whole world. I’m extremely happy to be here. There were a couple of moments where I thought I wasn’t going to be here. I can’t wait! Thanks to everyone that made this happen.” 
 
“Since I became a world champion, the only thing that has really changed for me is that I’m holding this title, and I want to keep it that way.” 
 
“Geffrard has been inside the ring training with the best. I’m sure he is going to give it his all and will try to take full advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.” 

Steve Geffrard:

(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)


“When those belts are on the line, that mental switch turns on. I know that mentally and skill-wise I can battle with the best. I have sparred with, and handled myself very well, against the best of the division.”
 
“I’m a fighter, especially with an opportunity like this. I’m going to rise to the occasion. I’ll show the world who Steve Geffrard is.” 
 
“I was in the sauna when I got the call for this fight. I was looking forward to Smith vs. Johnson, but now I’m the one fighting for the title. It’s surreal.”

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on win over Jazz: ‘We took all 48 minutes of it seriously’

The Utah Jazz came into Wednesday’s game against the Cavs, a depleted team. The Jazz had six players out due to health and safety protocols, including Rudy Gobert, Rudy Gay, and Hassan Whiteside. 

The Cavs took full advantage of it.

Cleveland had six players in double figures as they went into Utah and routed the Jazz 111-91 at Vivint Arena. The 20-point win was the largest victory by the Cavs in Utah in team history.

The Cavs(24-18) have won two straight and are 3-1 on their current six-game west coast trip.

Utah(28-14) has now lost four straight.

The Great for the Cavaliers:

-Darius Garland messed around and got his first career triple-double. The third-year guard had 11 points, 10 rebounds, and a career-high 15 assists. Garland registered his triple-double after three quarters. The only player in Cavs history to have a triple-double after three quarters is LeBron James. 

-Lamar Stevens had a career-high 23 points. Stevens went off as he scored 15 of the team’s 30 points in the third, including 11 straight for the Cavs. On Sunday, Stevens had a then career-high 17 points against Golden State, and he surpassed that Wednesday night.

“I got lost in the moment,” Stevens said about his big third quarter. “I was able to pick and choose my spots. I just felt really confident, and I was just riding that confidence and allowing my game to just take me to those 15 points.”

-Lauri Markkanen busted out for the Cavs. He scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds. 

Markkanen was 8/11 from the floor, including four threes. It was Markkanen’s first 20-point game since December 26.

-Evan Mobley had another Evan Mobley-type game. The rookie had a double-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and he added five assists. Mobley became the first Cavs’ rookie to have 15 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists since, guess who, LeBron James. 

-Third Quarter: Cleveland broke the game open in the third after leading 58-52 at halftime. The Cavs outscored Utah 30-16 in the quarter, including an 21-0 run to take their largest lead of 25 points. Utah couldn’t make shots as they went 5/23 from the floor. 

The Not So Great for the Cavaliers:

Nothing! Nothing at all!

Bottom Line:

Even though they beat a depleted Jazz team, this is still a quality win for Cleveland. This was the type of performance we saw from the Cavs when they were blowing teams out during their six-game win streak. It was a team effort during that streak, and we saw the Cavs have a team effort Wednesday night. 

In addition, when Markkanen plays the way he did against the Jazz, Cleveland is tough to beat. He can make shots, and the Cavs will only get better if he gets a little more consistent with his shot-making. Cleveland is 5-2 when Markkanen scores 20-plus points. 

“We didn’t start messing with the game,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We took all 48 minutes of it seriously.”

What’s Next:

Cleveland travels to San Antonio to battle the Spurs Friday night.

Best of the Rest:

-Kevin Love added 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench; Jarrett Allen chipped in with 12 points and seven rebounds. 

– Jordan Clarkson led the Jazz with 22 points off the bench.

-Cleveland outrebounded the Jazz 50-32.

-Rajon Rondo(hamstring) missed Wednesday’s win over Utah.

Watch below as Stevens and Garland talk win over Utah:

Suns sign Paris Bass to second 10-day contract

The Phoenix Suns have signed free agent forward Paris Bass to a second 10-day contract, the team announced Wednesday.

Bass first signed a 10-day contract with the Suns on Dec. 31 and appeared in two games. In his NBA debut on January 2 at Charlotte, he recorded four points, two rebounds and a steal in five minutes off the bench, and he tallied two points and two rebounds in two minutes on January 6 vs. the LA Clippers.

Prior to signing his first 10-day contract with the Suns, the 6-8 Bass was named to the NBA G League All-Showcase Team in December after appearing in 14 games for the South Bay Lakers this season, averaging 17.9 points on 49.0% shooting, 8.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals. This is Bass’ second season in the NBA G League, as he also played with the Erie BayHawks in his first professional season in 2016-17.

The 26-year-old played internationally in Puerto Rico and Austria between his time in the NBA G League. A native of Birmingham, Michigan, Bass played collegiately at Detroit Mercy. He earned First Team All-Horizon League honors as a sophomore in 2015-16, averaging 18.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.4 steals, and was named the Horizon League Freshman of the Year in 2015.

Cavs’ Altman on extension: ‘I will forever be grateful for this continued opportunity’

The Cleveland Cavaliers and GM Koby Altman have agreed on a new long-term contract extension, the team announced Wednesday.

Altman, 39, will also take on the title of President of Basketball Operations effective immediately.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the extension runs through the 2027-2028 season.

Last month, the Cavaliers signed head coach J.B. Bickerstaff to a multi-year extension that will reportedly run through the 2026-2027 season, and now they’ve locked up Altman.

Cleveland (23-18) is off to a great start, and with lottery picks Darius Garland (No. 5 in 2019) and Evan Mobley (No. 3 in 2021), Altman has built a solid young core. In addition, Altman, who was named Cavs general manager in 2017, acquired 23-year-old center Jarrett Allen, who is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and field goal percentage, and signed him to a five-year contract extension this past offseason. Altman also traded for NBA veteransRicky Rubio and 24-year-old Lauri Markkanen.

Altman has the Cavs going in the right direction post-LeBron James, and it appears this team has the potential to do big things going forward.

“I will forever be grateful for this continued opportunity. With Dan setting the example and providing us with amazing resources, we are building something truly special here in Northeast Ohio,” said Altman via a press release from the team. “We remain committed to our player development program, and our players have shown incredible growth and improvement this season. Our evolving culture is driven by our players, coaches, and staff, who all play a significant role in defining what it truly means to be a Cavalier, and we are very excited for our future.”

Before being named GM, Altman had been a part of the Cavaliers’ basketball staff for five years, including being promoted to assistant general manager in September 2016. As a member of Cleveland’s front office, Altman has been an integral part of a team that reached four straight NBA Finals (2015-2018) and won an NBA Championship in 2016. 

Shields: ‘I’m 100% ready to display my skills against Ema Kozin’

 Boxing superstar Claressa “G.W.O.A.T.” Shields will make her long awaited U.K. debut on Saturday, February 5, kicking off Black History Month by defending her WBC, WBA and IBF middleweight titles against undefeated #1 ranked challenger Ema Kozin live on pay-per-view in the U.S. and Canada.

The four-fight pay-per-view telecast will begin at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT with Shields vs. Kozin serving as the co-main event to the highly-anticipated headliner between middleweight contenders Chris Eubank Jr. and Liam Williams. Shields signed a lucrative multi-fight deal with promoter Boxxer and broadcaster SKY Sports in the U.K. that has put her on the path toward a superfight showdown with WBO Middleweight Champion Savannah Marshall in 2022.

Marshall owns an amateur victory over Shields, the only boxing defeat she has ever suffered in the amateur or pro ranks. Shields must emerge victorious on February 5 to clinch her long-awaited revenge match against Marshall.

“I’m eager to get back in the ring and I can’t wait to return to boxing on February 5 in the U.K.,” said Shields, who is training in her hometown of Flint, Michigan with her coach John David Jackson. “We’ve been pushing through the delays so that I’m 100% ready to display my skills against Ema Kozin. I’m going to give her a beating that’s going to make Savannah Marshall regret agreeing to face me. This is going to be a performance you’re not going to want to miss.”

The 26-year-old Shields defeated the previously unbeaten and then IBF World Super Welterweight Champion Marie-Eve Dicaire in March of last year to make history and become the first boxer in the four-belt era to be an undisputed world champion in two weight classes. Shields has made history throughout her boxing life, as she is also the only fighter in U.S. Olympic boxing history to win two gold medals with wins in London in 2012 and Rio in 2016.

Eagles’ Sirianni on Hurts: ‘I know he’s ready for the next game, which just so happens to be a playoff game’

On Sunday, Jalen Hurts and the upstart Philadelphia Eagles(9-8) will try to go on the road and defeat Tom Brady and the world champion Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

Before losing a meaningless game to the Cowboys in Week 18, the second-year quarterback had the Eagles on a four-game winning streak, and after starting 3-6, the Eagles have won six of their final eight games.

In Week 6, Hurts and the Eagles fell to the Buccaneers 28-22 at Lincoln Financial Field. In that game, Philadelphia was down 28-7, but the Eagles trimmed the lead to 28-22 with just under six minutes left, but they could not get the ball back. 

Hurts, who was 12/26 for 115 yards, touchdown, interception and two rushing touchdowns in the regular season matchup against Tampa Bay, won big on the collegiate level, including winning a National Championship at Alabama, but this is the NFL, and he’s playing Brady in the playoffs, so it won’t be easy.

According to Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni, Philadelphia will have to play very good football to defeat Tampa Bay.

“It’s going to take everybody’s best effort, but the process remains the same of how we go about our business, right? When it’s about the process when you’re process-driven, and you’re results-aware, then you don’t ride the highs and lows of the season,” Sirianni said on Monday. 

Sirianni expects Hurts to be ready against the Buccaneers when it’s all said and done.

“I know he’s ready for the next game, which just so happens to be a playoff game, and he’s going to prepare the same way he has prepared,” he said. “I know, from the outside, it looks like it’s a bigger game and everything, but to us, we understand the consequences of losing, and when you win – you’re done if you lose, so we understand that.

“But our process remains the same through it all, and I’m confident in our process. I’m confident in [QB] Jalen [Hurts’] process that he’s going to go out and be ready to play in this game.”

On paper, the Buccaneers are the better team, and for the Eagles to defeat Tampa Bay, they will need Hurts to be at his best, and they will need the team to be at their best.

However, no matter what happens, 2021 is a successful season for the Eagles.

76ers sign Charlie Brown Jr. to two-way contract

The Philadelphia 76ers signed Charlie Brown Jr. to a two-way contract, the team announced Tuesday.

After signing a 10-day contract with the 76ers on January 3, the 24-year-old Brown appeared in two games for Philadelphia and showed off his athleticism and defense, swiping a pair of steals in each of his appearances against San Antonio and Houston.

Before joining the 76ers, Brown played for Dallas on a 10-day contract, playing 15 total minutes across three games. Brown also saw action in 11 NBA G League games this season with the 76ers’ affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats.   

For his career, Brown has seen action in 24 NBA games with Philadelphia, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta after going undrafted in 2019.   

A Philadelphia native, Brown played his college basketball at Saint Joseph’s.

In a related move, Philadelphia has waived Aaron Henry. 

 

Giants’ Mara: ‘We will hire a general manager and that person will lead the effort to hire a new head coach’

The New York Giants fired head coach Joe Judge, the team announced Tuesday.

The Giants were 4-13 in 2021 and ended the season on a six-game losing streak.

In two seasons, the 40-year-old Judge had a 10-23 record.

On Monday, senior vice president and general manager Dave Gettleman announced his retirement following a 35-year career in the National Football League.

“Steve (Tisch) and I both believe it is in the best interest of our franchise to move in another direction,” said team president John Mara. “We met with Joe yesterday afternoon to discuss the state of the team. I met again with Joe this afternoon, and it was during that conversation I informed Joe of our decision. We appreciate Joe’s efforts on behalf of the organization.

“I said before the season started that I wanted to feel good about the direction we were headed when we played our last game of the season. Unfortunately, I cannot make that statement, which is why we have made this decision.

“We will hire a general manager, and that person will lead the effort to hire a new head coach.”

Added Tisch, “It is an understatement to say John and I are disappointed by the lack of success we have had on the field. We are united in our commitment to find a general manager who will provide the direction necessary for us to achieve the on-field performance and results we all expect.”

Before joining the Giants, Judge was the special teams coordinator for the New England Patriots and spent eight seasons in the Patriots’ organization.

After the way this season ended for the Giants, Judge being relieved of his duties is not surprising.

The Giants needed to overhaul the organization, and they have done that in the last two days.

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on win over Kings: ‘It’s a win, so we’ll take it, but it wasn’t our best’

The Cavaliers had a terrible taste in their mouth after losing to the Warriors Sunday night, but fortunately for them, they had a chance to change that taste when they played the Kings Monday night as both teams were playing the second half of a back-to-back.

Cleveland got off to a good start and led 62-49 at halftime. However, the Kings would rally in the second half to take a four-point lead in the fourth with over six minutes to go, but the Cavs would eventually build a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and would hold on to defeat the Kings 109-108 at Golden 1 Center.

The Cavs(23-18), who swept the season series from the Kings, are 2-1 on their current six-game road trip, while the Kings(16-27) have lost five straight.

The Great for the Cavaliers:

-Jarrett Allen is a man of his word. Allen took full responsibility for the Cavs getting outrebounded against Golden State. He knew he had to be better, and against the Kings, he was better. Allen had a double-double with 18 points, 17 rebounds to go along with two blocks. He secured the double-double in the first half with 12 points and 12 rebounds, including a career-high tying nine rebounds in the first quarter.

-Evan Mobley also had a bounce-back game. He had 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. Mobley, who scored in double figures for the eighth consecutive game, stuffed the stat sheet as he usually does. 

-Darius Garland had a double-double with 12 points and 11 assists. He also added five rebounds. Garland had only three points in the first half but scored nine points in the second half, including seven in the final quarter.

Kevin Love and Cedi Osman gave the Cavs great production off the bench. Love scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half, and Osman added 15 points. Since returning from COVID, Osman has been in double figures in two out of the last three games.

The Not So Great for the Cavaliers:

Turnovers:  Cleveland had 17 turnovers, which led to 20 points for Sacramento. The Cavs have had 36 turnovers in the last two games.

The final 2:34 of the game:  After a Lauri Markkanen(15 points) three, Cleveland led 109-99 with 2:34 left in the game. However, the Kings went on a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 109-108 with 11.0 seconds to go. Fortunately for Cleveland, De’Aaron Fox missed a jump shot at the buzzer after great defense from Rajon Rondo, and the Cavs would hold on.

Bottom Line:

Excellent bounce-back performance for the Cavs after the way things went against the Warriors. This is the type of effort you like to see from a team following a bad performance, especially Allen, who showed that he’s a team leader and an All-Star.

Cleveland was not at its best Monday night, but a win is a win, and now they have surpassed their win total(22) from last season.

“It’s a win, so we’ll take it, but it wasn’t our best,” Cavs head coach Bickerstaff said. “We talk about playing with purpose and discipline for 48 minutes. We didn’t do that tonight.

What’s Next:

Cleveland continues their six-game road trip in Utah against the Jazz Wednesday night.

Best of the Rest:

The Kings had six players in double figures, led by Tyrese Haliburton’s 21 points. Buddy Hield added 19 points off the bench. 

Cleveland also had six players double figures. In addition, Rondo had five points, four rebounds, six assists, and two steals off the bench.

Watch below as Mobley and Allen react to win over Kings:

Mavs sign Chriss to third 10-day contract, sign Pinson to two-way deal

The Dallas Mavericks were busy on Monday. They signed forward Marquese Chriss to a third 10-day contract under the COVID-related hardship allowance, signed guard/forward Theo Pinson to a two-way contract, and waived guard JaQuori McLaughlin.

Chriss, 24, signed his first 10-day with the Mavericks on December 21 and a second 10-day contract on December 31. He averaged 6.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 11.9 minutes in 10 games with Dallas.

The six-year veteran was selected by Sacramento with the eighth overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft and subsequently traded to Phoenix, where he earned NBA All-Rookie Second Team honors in his first season.

Pinson, 26, signed his first 10-day on December 20 and has averaged 2.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 9.3 minutes in 10 games. The four-year veteran spent the beginning of this season with the Maine Celtics of the NBA G League and played the last two seasons with the New York Knicks.

McLaughlin, 23, signed a two-way contract with Dallas on September 3 after going undrafted in the 2021 NBA Draft. The rookie guard saw action in four games this season.