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Jalen Brunson, Knicks stars give NYC fans taste of what’s to come at Nike Pro City

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Jalen Brunson received a standing ovation from the New York home crowd as he trotted onto the court alongside teammates Julius Randle and Obi Toppin — though the Knicks’ big free-agent acquisition wasn’t donning the blue and orange.

Instead, the 25-year-old guard sported a purple jersey with the words “pro city” spread across the chest. And while his New York City debut didn’t come in front of thousands of screaming fans at Madison Square Garden, the several hundred who gathered in the Hostos Community College facility titled “The Swamp” in The Bronx surely provided him with a warm welcome.

Brunson, Randle and Toppin made a cameo appearance Monday night in the Nike Pro City playoffs — a premier indoor basketball league based in the Big Apple — and gave hopeful Knicks fans a glimpse into what the future may hold.

Minutes after the first whistle had blown, the trio turned in their first of many highlight-reel plays of the night. While running the point on a fast break, Brunson dished the ball behind the back to Randle, who stood unguarded several feet behind the three-point line. Though his shot bounced harmlessly off the back of the rim, it was corralled by a high-flying Toppin, who slammed the ball down with authority and sent the crowd into fervent uproar.

Jalen Brunson drives to the basket at Nike Pro City on Monday.
Robert Sabo

Toppin continued to torment the rim throughout the early portion of the contest en route to posting 11 points in the first quarter. Moments after putting back another one of his teammates’ missed shots, the 24-year-old forward picked up a loose ball at mid court and pulled off his signature between-the-legs dunk, nearly tearing the rim down and the entire roof off in the process.

Brunson took over in the second quarter with three straight soft finishes at the rim, pulling his team within three points at 35-38. His chemistry with his new Knicks teammates was hard to miss, as the former Maverick tossed a no-look, behind-the-back pass to Toppin, who finished the dish with a two-handed slam.

As the pair ran alongside one another moments later on a fast break, Brunson went up for a dunk only to realize he didn’t have enough height. He instead settled for an awkward layup, sending himself and Toppin into a fit of laughter.

Randle additionally got in on the fun, deploying a stutter-step move in the corner that broke his defender’s ankles and led to an easy dunk along the baseline.

The Knicks stars entered halftime down by one, with the score being 52-53. After a strong start to begin the second half that featured two deep threes by Randle and Brunson, they took their first lead of the game at 60-59.

Tensions began to rise in the closing minutes of the third quarter after an opposing player finished in Randle’s face and flexed on the Knicks big man. Several light pushes ensued to the pleasure of fans in attendance and play soon after continued.

Nike
Obi Toppin and Jalen Brunson at Nike Pro City.
Robert Sabo

Not long after, Randle found himself in another sticky situation. Hunting for a block on the opposing team’s point guard, he went up with the shooter but garnered the foul and landed hard on the court. After several seconds on the ground, Randle was able to walk off under his own power and remain in the game.

The Knicks’ starters ended up on the losing end of the final 110-97 score, though played well throughout the contest. Toppin led the pack with 25 points, followed closely by Brunson with 24 and Randle with 18.

Following the game, Nike Pro City director Bernard Bowen commended the Knicks trio for the great performance.

“It’s a playoff atmosphere, New York City bragging rights on the line. Guys want to come out and leave it all on the floor, put on a good show for the city,” Bowen said. “You have a lot of kids [here] who can’t afford the opportunity to go to a Knicks game, so for those guys to come and play in that atmosphere where it’s free for the kids, it’s a blessing.”

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The Giant World Cup Rookie and an Enduring Dutch Mystery

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Follow live coverage of USA vs. Netherlands and to follow teams that have advanced to the knockout stage, see our bracket page.

DOHA, Qatar — As they sat around the dinner table, Andries Noppert’s family raised the question as gently and as kindly as they could.

He had been trying to make it as a professional soccer player for more than a decade. At 6 feet 8 inches, he had the physical gifts, and nobody would question his determination, his drive. But he was 26 now, and if everyone was completely honest, it did not seem to be working out. He had been at four clubs, and hardly played for any of them. He had made barely more than a dozen appearances in seven years.

The constant disappointment, the ongoing frustration, was taking its toll, and that was before anyone even mentioned his misfortune with injury. Perhaps, Noppert’s parents suggested, it might be time to try something else. His wife wondered if a career in the police force might provide a more reliable salary for their young family.

Two years on from that attempted intervention, Noppert finds himself at the World Cup, and not as a mere observer. He has barely played 50 senior games as a professional, but on Saturday he is almost certain to start in goal for the Netherlands in its round of 16 match against the United States. It is, as Noppert himself has put it, more than a little “bizarre.”

His own interpretation of his unusual career arc — the long, slow burn, followed by the sudden and unexpected ignition — is that his progress was slowed not only by a succession of injuries but by his own failure to grasp his talent. “I may have made the wrong choices at times,” he has said.

It is an assessment reinforced by those who have worked with him. Noppert started out at Heerenveen, his local team, before spells at NAC Breda, the Italian side Foggia, Dordrecht back in the Netherlands and, after he rejected his family’s attempts to persuade him to go into law enforcement, Go Ahead Eagles.

It was only at the latter that he found regular playing time. Until then, he had been “at peace with being second choice,” according to Kees van Wonderen, who coached him at Go Ahead Eagles and then, last summer, returned him to Heerenveen. Noppert “lacked sharpness and hunger,” he said.

“Let’s just say that Andries didn’t make it hard to not pick him,” he said.

Noppert’s individual case, then, might be filed in the same category as all of the other heartening stories the World Cup unearths at quadrennial intervals: the heroes who emerge from nowhere, the players seeking redemption, the sudden superstars.

His story, though, does not exist in isolation. It is part of a pattern, and one that, from a Dutch point of view, is less touching and more troubling. A couple of years after he might have given up on his career, Noppert is at the World Cup not only because of his determination, his refusal to give in, but because the Netherlands cannot produce goalkeepers.

There is, of course, one noteworthy exception: Edwin van der Sar, formerly of Ajax, Juventus and Manchester United. And there have been, over the years, a trickle of perfectly respectable, though hardly awe-inspiring, goalkeepers who have won the Dutch colors: Hans van Breukelen, Ed de Goey, Jasper Cillessen.

The supply, though, has not been steady enough to dispel the impression that the Netherlands, a country that churns out some of the brightest young outfield talent on the planet at industrial volume, has a chronic blind spot between the posts.

Noppert, after all, has been selected ahead of Justin Bijlow, who has spent only 18 months as Feyenoord’s first-choice goalkeeper, and Remko Pasveer, a 39-year-old who made his international debut this year. The reasons for that, as offered by Louis van Gaal, the Dutch coach, hardly amount to resounding praise.

“He was in shape,” van Gaal said of Noppert. “We were impressed by how he played in the weeks prior to the World Cup. He only stopped the balls he could stop.”

But then that, perhaps, is all that is necessary. After all, the pickings are distinctly slim. No major European team outside of Ajax employs a Dutch goalkeeper. Seven of the 18 teams in the Dutch top flight employ imported goalkeepers. Van Gaal has taken roughly a third of the qualified goalkeepers available to him to Qatar.

The reasons for that veer from the loftily philosophical to the pragmatically economic, the former PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord goalkeeper Patrick Lodewijks told the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant earlier this year. Lodewijks spent five years working with the country’s soccer federation as a goalkeeper coach.

Dutch teams invariably demand that their goalkeepers, as is the country’s tradition, possess the technical ability to take part in build-up play, he said, but it comes at the cost of neglecting the rather more rudimentary skills of saving shots and catching crosses.

“The best goalkeeper in the Eredivisie is a German, Lars Unnerstall,” Lodewijks said last season. “A giant, top athlete, great reflexes. But he was second choice at PSV, because he couldn’t play soccer well.”

The financial reality of Dutch soccer, meanwhile, discourages clubs from investing too much time in their goalkeepers. All Dutch teams are reliant on generating income from transfer fees — even Ajax, the richest and most powerful side in the Eredivisie, earned as much money in selling two players to Manchester United in a few weeks last summer as it does from all other revenue streams over the course of a year — and goalkeepers fetch significantly smaller fees than, for example, elfin attacking midfielders. The goalkeeper business is not a lucrative one.

Lodewijks suggests the solution is a complete overhaul in how Dutch clubs think about the position: spending more time on dedicated training sessions, rather than focusing on how goalkeepers can be involved in general play; major teams sending the most promising prospects out on loan to smaller teams, where they may have rather more to do than watching on passively “as youth teams win big.”

Until then, the position of Dutch goalkeeper will remain unusually fertile ground for feel-good stories like Noppert’s: a place for late bloomers and stray talents and prospective law enforcement officers.

He does, at least, seem well-suited to such a rapid promotion. “He’s a real Frisian,” defender Virgil van Dijk said last week, referring to the part of the Netherlands where Noppert grew up, a place famed for its stoicism and straight-talking. (It is unclear how this differs from the rest of the country.) “He’s sober, but very direct. He’s a boy after my own heart.”

Van Gaal, too, has taken heart from how unmoved Noppert was by the prospect of making his debut for his country at the World Cup. “He has the sort of personality that means he would not be too impressed by this championship,” he said. It would be a lot tougher, after all, being a policeman.

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Joe Biden tweets video with USMNT’s Tyler Adams before World Cup match

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President Biden joined the World Cup fun Saturday, tweeting his support for the US men’s national soccer team ahead of their match against the Netherlands in the Round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup today.

In the tweeted video clip, USMNT team captain Tyler Adams kicks a ball, pretending to send it to the White House, which is nearly 7,000 miles from Qatar.

Donning a red-white-and-blue team scarf, Biden catches the ball, looks into the camera, and playfully says, “It’s called soccer. Go USA! You guys are gonna do it!”

The post was captioned, “Good kick, @tyler_adams14. Let’s go @USMNT!”

“It’s called soccer!” has become a playful rallying cry for the US, poking fun at the rest of the world, where the sport is known as football.

President Biden tweeted his support for the US men’s national soccer team ahead of their match against the Netherlands at the 2022 World Cup.

A picture of President Biden during his video in support of USA in the World Cup.
“It’s called soccer. Go USA! You guys are gonna do it!,” President Biden said in the video.

This is not the first time Biden has shown support for the team.

On Nov. 20, he called US national team manager Gregg Berhalter prior to their World Cup opener.

During the pep talk, he said, “I know you’re the underdog but I tell you what, man, you’ve got some of the best players in the world on your team and you’re representing this country and I know you’re gonna play your hearts out. So let’s go shock ’em all.”

Tyler Adams, a player on the USA soccer team at the 2022 World Cup.
Tyler Adams is the captain of the USA soccer team at the 2022 World Cup.
Twitter/@POTUS

On Tuesday, after the team’s win, he quickly made his way back to the podium in Michigan, where he had just spoken on the economy, to announce the victory.

“US 1, Iran 0, the game is over!” the president shouted, amid chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

After joining in the chants, he gushed, “That’s a big game, man.”



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Outside the stadium, a get-well message for Pelé, who is back in the hospital.

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AL RAYYAN, Qatar — The Torch hotel outside Khalifa Stadium has a message on its side tonight sending well wishes to Pelé, the three-time World Cup winner from Brazil who has been battling cancer.

A Brazilian newspaper reported that Pelé, 82, was no longer responding to chemotherapy treatments and had been moved to palliative care, suggesting he would no longer take aggressive measures to fight his cancer.

The report did not suggest that his death was imminent; such scares have been common in recent years each time Pelé, one of the world’s most famous sportsmen, has entered the hospital for treatment.

Pelé’s own Instagram account attempted to push back on the most recent reports this week that noted he was back in the hospital.

“Friends, I am at the hospital making my monthly visit,” said a message under a different photo of him on a building in Doha. “It’s always nice to receive positive messages like this. Thanks to Qatar for this tribute, and to everyone who sends me good vibes!”

Pelé’s daughter Kely Nascimento had said on Instagram earlier this week that there was “no surprise or emergency” in her father’s condition.

“Lots of alarm in the media today concerning my dad’s health,” Nascimento wrote at the time. “There is no emergency or new dire prediction. I will be there for New Year’s and promise to post some pictures.”



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