By Josh Heller
1. Fab Melo Dies at 26
In shocking news on Saturday night, former Syracuse and Celtics center Fab Melo passed away at the age of 26.
According to reports, Melo had gone to bed Friday night at his mother’s home, and his mother found him dead in bed on Saturday morning.
Police are still investigating Melo’s cause of death.
Melo, who has been out of the NBA since 2013, was from Brazil, and last played basketball for Brasilla of the Novo Basquete Brasil (NBB), Brazil’s professional basketball league.
Melo’s last game for Brasilla was back in November of 2016.
Before being drafted 22nd overall by the Boston Celtics in 2012, Melo was a star at Syracuse, including a defensive-player-of-the-year honor in his sophomore season before declaring for the draft.
Melo spent most of his 2012-13 season in Maine for Boston’s D-League affiliate, but did appear in six games in Boston.
In that offseason, the Celtics traded Melo and cash considerations to the Grizzlies for Donte Green. Melo was waived 15 days later, and signed a short time after by the Mavericks, where he was a member until late October, and never made it back to the NBA.
2. Oakley Banned from Madison Square Garden
After a strange scuffle with Madison Square Garden security, former Knicks great Charles Oakley has been banned from the arena.
At last Wednesday night’s Knicks game versus the Clippers, the game was stopped momentarily, as Oakley, sitting a few rows off the court, was seen in an altercation with MSG security.
After some screaming and pushing, Oakley was led to a tunnel nearby, where he was arrested by the NYPD and charged with three counts of assault.
Oakley and Knicks owner James Dolan told very different sides of the story.
Dolan, who was sitting courtside, just a few rows ahead of Oakley, said that Oakley was using racial and sexual overtones.
According to ESPN, Oakley was reportedly directing some comments at Dolan.
The Knicks’ public relations department released a statement calling Oakley’s behavior “abusive,” and “everything he [Oakley] said since the incident is pure fiction.” Dolan and MSG banned Oakley from entering the arena.
Oakley, meanwhile, claims that he was simply trying to protect himself from the many security members thrown his way.
Knicks’ public relations also said they hope Oakley “gets help soon,” which Oakley found to be “another smack in the face.”
At a New York Rangers game the night after, a small “Free Oakley” could be heard resonating in the Garden, and many Knicks fans on social media have used
#FreeOakley, as many are sick of James Dolan.
Oakley has been critical of Knicks management prior to this incident.
Also as a result of Wednesday night’s events, MSG’s security chief has been relieved of his duties.
3. MLB to Test New Extra-Innings Rule
According to sources around the league, MLB’s rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Arizona League will test a new extra-innings rule to decrease the time of games.
The new rule means that, starting in the tenth inning and every extra inning from there on, each team at-bat will start the inning with a man on second base.
The rule would also be implemented in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
MLB’s Chief Baseball Operator, Joe Torre, told Yahoo! Sports “let’s see what it looks like.”
Torre said that while it’s nice to say that you were in attendance for an 18-inning game, “it’s not fun to watch when you go through your whole pitching staff and wind up bringing a utility infielder in to pitch,” when in reality, there’s a whole Twitter alert account dedicated to position players taking the mound.
The rule has taken plenty of criticism on social media, but so far, the rule is only in the minor leagues. If this rule ever makes it to the big leagues, which is possible, there’s bound to be plenty of debate.
4. Phillips Shippedto Atlanta
After being on the trading block for what seems like forever, longtime Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips has been traded to the Atlanta Braves.
Phillips, 35, was sent to Atlanta for Andrew McKirahan and Carlos Portuondo, two minor league pitchers. Phillips is set to make $14 million next season, and then he would hit free agency.
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Reds will pay all but $1 million of Phillip’s salary next year.
Braves’ second baseman Sean Rodriguez was involved in a car accident back in late January, which required surgery on his left shoulder and will sideline him three to five months.
Phillips finished last season with a .291 average, a .320 on-base percentage, and 11 home runs. Since 2006, he is second only to Robinson Cano in hits by a second baseman.
The Phillips trade continues the Reds’ recent rebuild, which has seen the departure of Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman and Jay Bruce.
5. Lundqvist Reaches 400-Win Plateau
After Saturday’s win over the Colorado Avalanche, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has joined the 400-win club. He joins 11 other goaltenders to acheive this.
Lundqvist, 34, was off to a rough start to the season, including a stint where he was the backup, but has since rebounded to a nearly .910 save percentage.
The Rangers have had defensive struggles for several seasons of Lundqvist’s tenure, which makes his feat even more impressive.
A former seventh-round pick in 2000, Lundqvist was never seen as much of a goaltending prospect, but under the work of Rangers’ goalie coach Benoit Allaire has developed into one of the NHL’s elite.
Lundqvist will probably not win any solo awards this season, but his New York Rangers currently sit comfortably in a playoff spot.
With a defenseman acquisition to shore up the back-end, and with the forward depth they have, the Rangers could make some noise come April.
Lundqvist last won the Vezina Award (top goaltender) back in 2011-12, and is under contract at a $8.5 million cap hit for the next four seasons.