Who will point the way for the Knicks and 3 other key questions as training camp gets underway

Who will point the way for the Knicks and 3 other key questions as training camp gets underway

Last season, Ramon Sessions was the starter on opening night and Jarrett Jack was most frequently in the lineup. Both of them are gone. The Knicks now have three candidates for the spot – Frank Ntilikina, Trey Burke and Emmanuel Mudiay. All of them are former Top-9 draft picks, and all of them believe they should be the starter. Based on their production last season, Burke is the frontrunner. He is, by far, the best scorer in this bunch. Ntilikina, 20, still probably has the highest upside, but he’s more of an offguard who plays better alongside a ballhandler. Mudiay had fitness issues last season but, according to a source, dropped about 15 pounds in the summer. If he can suddenly – and consistently – exhibit the talent that made him a No. 7 draft pick only three years ago, he’ll emerge as the starter.

Leonard: 3 keys to a Giants win over the Texans

Leonard: 3 keys to a Giants win over the Texans

Here is how to beat a team with Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt: lean on Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley and Landon Collins. The Texans have some imposing stars. The Giants do, too. Manning needs to get his top receiver the ball, though, and Shurmur needs to find Barkley space to operate. Losing a game is one thing, but losing in Dallas without getting Beckham involved hardly at all was unacceptable. If the Giants are going to go down, they must go down knowing that they gave Beckham, Barkley and Collins on defense every opportunity to make game-changing plays, whether they’re touchdowns or turnovers forced. The defense will have its hands full, especially with Watson’s scrambling ability and the deep threats of Hopkins and Will Fuller (and CB Eli Apple out).

Leonard: Time for Eli Manning to prove the critics wrong and lead the Giants to a season-saving win vs. Texans

Leonard: Time for Eli Manning to prove the critics wrong and lead the Giants to a season-saving win vs. Texans

“You don’t feel different (in those situations),” Manning said. “But there’s definitely something about whether it’s a two-minute drive to win a game or it’s a situation where, ‘Hey, you need something. You need something to happen.’ And it’s the ability not to press, and not to force, but just kind of feel some urgency to get things going.

Madden: Hey, Rob Manfred! The analytic geeks are ruining starting pitching and it's making a joke of the game

Madden: Hey, Rob Manfred! The analytic geeks are ruining starting pitching and it's making a joke of the game

The Rays’ “Opener” concept – in which a relief pitcher, a lot of times closer Sergio Romo, is named to start the game, usually pitching only the first inning, and is then followed by the “real” starter, who is given a fairly short leash to get the game past the fifth inning after which, using matchups, 3-4 more relievers, finish it out – was introduced on May 19, primarily out of necessity because of injuries that felled four of their opening season starting pitchers, Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Nathan Eovaldi and Jake Faria. Much to the delight of the analytics people, the Rays have had success with it – as of Thursday they were 29-20 in “Opener” games and since May 19 Rays pitchers’ ERA of 3.26 ranks second in the majors and first in the American League. So it is therefore not surprising other teams have begun adopting “openers,” the first being the A’s, whose rotation, plagued by multiple injuries, has been in constant turmoil with 14 different pitchers having started games for them this season.

Raissman: Giants coach Pat Shurmur better learn to dish up some real talk or he'll wind up another McAdoo

Raissman: Giants coach Pat Shurmur better learn to dish up some real talk or he'll wind up another McAdoo

While Francesa is taking credit for being the first local Gasbag to discover Sam Darnold (the Pope is predicting stardom for the Jets rookie), 970-AM’s Dino (Mastermind) Costa, has followed Sudden Sam since college and, unlike most, has little to no confidence in the Jets rookie. “While the rest of the lightweights on New York sports radio have been genuflecting in front of Darnold, I, on the other hand, have never been on the hype train and have advised people to chill,” Dino squawked. … Did Adam Silver not only deliver a slap on the wrist to Mark Cuban following the NBA’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and violence toward female employees inside the Dallas organization, but find the Mavs owner a soft place to land? While Rachel Nichols did a fine interview with an abnormally reticent Cuban, the ESPN venue came off too cozy. And even when an ESPN personality — like Stephen A. Smith – took issue with the sleaze inside the organization Cuban runs, they prefaced it by saying what a good guy/owner Cuban is. That’s called vomit material. … While Bart Scott already is working multiple jobs (WFAN, SNY, SI, FS1, Jets Flight Plan) there are strong rumblings that he will add another gig, national in scope, soon.

Leonard: Odell Beckham running Philly Special? Saquon Barkley returning kicks? Giants could pull out all stops vs. Texans

Leonard: Odell Beckham running Philly Special? Saquon Barkley returning kicks? Giants could pull out all stops vs. Texans

“Anytime, whether it was the zone read plays, or whether it was when the quarterback was underneath center and they ran the inside zone that went for 20, I’m disappointed on both of those plays, equally,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said Thursday. “We can’t allow big runs. We had two opportunities, you go back to Jacksonville, we give up a big run backed up, that’s points on the scoreboard in tight games. We know that defensively, and that’s why that is a very big point of emphasis.”