The New York Knicks cleaning house with new coach Mike D’Antoni at the helm was just a question of time really. And it finally started in earnest on Friday night as Knicks management sent away their top two scorers Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford in separate deals to clear salary cap space to go after LeBron James in 2010.

Before the Knicks’ lost at home against the Milwaukee Bucks, New York team president Donnie Walsh sent Crawford to the Golden State Warriors for forward Al Harrington. And just hours later,  Randolph was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers with Mardy Collins for Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas.

By ridding themselves of the big contracts of Randolph (17.3 million dollars) and Crawford (10.1 million), the Knicks will have at least 27.4 million dollars more available before the 2010-11 season. Moving Eddy Curry and his 11.3 million dollars for 2010-11 would provide enough more space to go after a big name or two.

Among the names who become free agents in 2010 include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

This is a huge step in cleaning up the huge mess that Isiah Thomas had managed to create in the Big Apple. The Knicks did not get a lot in return for their top two scorers. But it’s the flexibilty financially which will prove more valuable down the stretch.

Going back a few days to that Cleveland Browns victory over the Buffalo Bills in the Monday night NFL game. When Rian Lindell missed his 47-yard field goal attempt with 38 seconds left – sorry Bills fans, but it went “Wide Right” (two dreaded words in Buffalo history) – it was actually an uncommon occurance.

Living in Europe, subscribers of Sports Illustrated have to wait a couple of weeks to read the U.S. magazine. But the November 10 issue featured and article about how successful NFL kickers have become.

Here just a couple of the most interesting facts: in 1973, kickers made a record 63.1% of field goal attempts after which the NFL moved the goal posts to the rear of the end zone. The percentages continued to improve to a record 82.8% in 2007. And it was 85.4% up until the time of the article, including an amazing 65.5% from 50 yards or beyond.

Even more impressive is that the kickers had converted 588 of the 590 point after touchdowns – the equivalent of a 20-year-old field goal. So, Lindell missing wide right was definitely somewhat uncommon.

A couple other notes, Saturday is the baseball Arizona Fall League Championship Game between the Mesa Solar Sox and the Phoenix Desert Dogs. And the Atlanta Braves top pitching prospect Tommy Hanson will be starting for the Solar Sox. Hanson has been remarkable this winter so far compiling a 5-0 record with an 0.63 ERA. He has held opposing hitters to a .105 batting average with 49 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings.

Another baseball item out there, former All-Star outfielder Tim Raines has been named the new manager for the Newark Bears of the independet Atlantic League on a two-year deal. The future Hall of Famer made seven All Star games and was one of baseball’s top leadoff hitters and base stealers between 1979 to 2002. Raines hit .294 with 170 home runs and 2,605 hits and 808 stolen bases.

And finishing off with a quick basketball note, Charlotte Bobcats rookie center Alexis Ajinca earned his first NBA start against the Atlanta Hawks, scoring 2 points, blocking two shots and grabbing one rebound while picking up four fouls in 15 minutes of action.

The 20-year-old French big man set career highs in minutes and blocks as coach Larry Brown said he was trying to send a message to his veterans. It’s good to see Ajinca getting some minutes, even if it’s with other motives in play.

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