Archive for December 2008

Back on the beat

December 30, 2008

This blog hasn’t gone away, just been in hibernation for a few weeks thanks to work, fatherhood and the busy time of the holidays. My goal is to post on a more regular basis from this point.

 

Sixers story: Mo Cheeks might not be Red Auerbach, but Cheeks got a raw deal when he was fired Dec. 13. The Sixers were struggling at the time, but it was expected since they were coming off a tough stretch with games against Cleveland, Detroit and the Lakers.

 

You want to fire Mo, fine. But you’ve got to give him a chance against teams with which the Sixers can compete. The bottom line with the Sixers is they just don’t have the talent – with or without Elton Brand in the lineup. They don’t have a legitimate 3-point shooter, which is a sin in the NBA (Example: The Sixers didn’t hit their first 3 in Monday’s loss to Utah until there were two minutes left in the game). Shame on Ed Stefanski for not finding one this offseason.

 

They are athletic, but that athleticism strangely doesn’t translate on the defensive end. This team still can make the playoffs, mainly because the Eastern Conference is so bad. But there’s no chance the Sixers are anything more than a first-round team.

 

And Tony DiLeo isn’t the answer. I wasn’t surprised to hear the praise heaped on DiLeo after the Sixers started 3-0 under him. But I knew it wouldn’t last since those wins were against Washington (twice) and Milwaukee. Since, the Sixers have dropped four straight against some real competition – vs. Indy and on the road against Boston, Denver and Utah.

 

Prediction: Jay Wright will be on the sidelines next September.

 

Next up: At Clippers, 9:30 p.m., tomorrow.

 

 

Eagles story: I was as shocked as anyone with Sunday’s 44-6 dismantling of the Cowboys that sent the Eagles to the playoffs. Truth is, I stopped paying close attention to the Eagles a month or so ago, so infuriated with Andy Reid’s coaching style, personality and reluctance to run the ball.

 

As a fan, I’ll follow the Eagles and root for them to beat the Vikings Sunday. But I can’t say that I think them making the playoffs is the best thing that could’ve happened for the franchise’s long-term success. They might just go out and win the Super Bowl and I could look foolish for writing this, but I truly believe the Eagles need a major overhaul, from the front office, to the coaching staff and, yes, to the quarterback for this organization to take a real step toward contending for a title.

 

I hoped that a loss to Dallas would signal a time for change. We all know what happened. Now, there’s no chance Lurie and Banner will make any changes – and, honestly, nor should they after what transpired Sunday. Somehow I think Sunday’s victory, while amazing and great for the city, will come back to haunt the Eagles.

 

Next up: At Minnesota, NFC Divisional playoffs, 4:30 p.m., Sunday.

 

Phillies story: Not much happening on the Phils front, other than Chase Utley saying he doesn’t regret dropping the F-bomb in the post-victory speech. It must be something in pro athletes’ DNA, that they never regret anything. Remember how Jimmy Rollins didn’t regret calling Philly fans “front-runners?”

 

Maybe it’s what makes players like Rollins and Utley so great, that they don’t look in the past and have regrets. But, really, would it have killed Utley to say he shouldn’t have used that word in front of so many kids in such a public setting? I’m not his judge or jury and I can handle him dropping the F-bomb, but as a parent I would prefer he would’ve been a bit more careful. That said, he’s not a druggie, a gunnie (a word?) or a womanizer. Bottom line, there are worse things he could’ve done than drop the F-bomb. Just wish he would’ve said he would be more careful next time.

 

On another note, anyone who’s seen the Phillies DVD probably will agree with me that it’s very well done. Brought back some great memories for me. How about you?

 

Next up: Spring Training, Februrary, Clearwater, Fla.

 

Flyers story: Word is that the Flyers are crashing frat parties and getting stalled on runways in Chicago. I also hear Jeff Carter is having a great season. Next up: At Vancouver, 10:30 p.m., tonight.

 

 

College hoops report: Here’s a quick look/update at the six Philly D-1 schools:

 

Drexel (3-6). The Dragons ended a five-game losing streak with Saturday’s 76-70 win over Rider. The victory came just in time, too, as the Dragons had the dubious distinction of landing in Sports Illustrated’s “Not Hot” list. Bruiser Flint, who could be on thin ice on 33rd and Market, didn’t even get to share the sideline with good bud and Memphis coach John Calipari for the Dragons’ game against the Tigers Dec. 22 after getting ejected from Drexel’s loss at Bucknell Dec. 20. Good thing, though, since Memphis buried Drexel, 87-49. Next up: At St. Joe’s (Palestra), 5 p.m., tomorrow.

 

La Salle (6-5). This team has some serious talent, as I saw first-hand in the Explorers’ 92-75 dismantling of Rider on Dec. 17. And La Salle pushed UConn to the limit in an 89-81 loss Nov. 21. Still, it’s hard to know much about the Explorers because they continue to play nobodies. Too bad. A decent nonconference schedule would get La Salle battle-tested and probably ready to contend in the weak A-10. As it is, the Explorers likely will be a run-of-the-mill conference competitor. Next up: Vs. Manhattan, 4 p.m., tomorrow.

 

Penn (1-7). The Quakers continued their struggles, getting blown out, 81-64, by Central Florida Monday to drop their fifth straight. Glen Miller’s job was in jeopardy prior to the season and Penn’s shaky start can’t be helping his job security. Miller hasn’t endeared himself to the Penn faithful but, in fairness, he had a very tough act to follow. Next up: Vs. Lafayette, 7 p.m., Jan. 6.

 

St. Joe’s (5-6). The Hawks inexplicably blew an 18-point, second-half lead at the Palestra Sunday night in a loss to Siena. The Saints are a very good team and a perennial MAAC contender. But the key word there is “MAAC.” If you’re St. Joe’s and you want to be any good, you can’t lose to a MAAC team. The Hawks haven’t had any wins of significance (please don’t give me Indiana, a team of walk-ons) this year, and they haven’t had any really bad losses either. SJU played well in a 59-56 loss at Villanova Dec. 11, but you know what they say about being close…only good in horseshoes and hand grenades. Next up: Vs. Drexel (at Palestra), 5 p.m., tomorrow.

 

Temple (5-6). The Owls followed their eye-catching 88-72 win over Tennessee on Dec. 13 with three straight losses, at Kansas (71-59), at Long Beach State (76-71) and at Villanova (62-45) Monday night. Fran Dunphy’s squad still looks like an A-10 contender. Next up: Vs. Kent State, 7 p.m., Jan. 5.

 

Villanova (12-1). Monday’s impressive 62-45 blowout of Temple capped Nova’s nonconference schedule. The Cats played a bunch of patsies. Now they enter the incredibly tough Big East portion of their schedule. No less than seven Big East teams are in the AP Top 25 this week, with Villanova coming in at No. 15. The Wildcats have the talent and are Philly’s best hope to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, but there are a lot of mine fields awaiting in conference play. Next up: At Marquette, 2:30 p.m., Thursday.

 

 

That’s all for now.

 

phillysportsbeat@gmail.com

A.I. versus A.I. tonight in Detroit

December 5, 2008

 

Andre Iguodala and the Sixers head to Motown tonight for a meeting with Allen Iverson and the Pistons (still sounds strange) at 8 tonight.

 

The Sixers will be without Elton Brand, out for Friday’s game with a strained right hamstring. Brand is day-to-day.

 

It’ll be interesting to see how the Sixers play without Brand.

 

According to the Yahoo! preview, Iverson has averaged 33.3 points and 8.3 assists in three career games against the Sixers. Yikes.

 

Here’s the rest of the weekend schedule:

 

Friday

NBA

Sixers at Detroit, 8

College hoops

Navy at Penn, 7

 

Saturday

NHL

Flyers at Carolina, 7

NBA

New Jersey at Sixers, 7:30

College hoops

George Mason at Drexel, 4:30

La Salle at Hartford, 4

Creighton at Saint Joseph’s, 7

Temple at Penn State, 6

 

Sunday

Eagles at Giants, 1

phillysportsbeat@gmail.com

I was dead wrong about Kobe

December 4, 2008

There are certain things you say in life that turn out to be dead wrong. It happens and there’s nothing you can do but admit you were wrong.

 

I was wrong about Kobe Bryant. Dead wrong. Thought he was overrated coming out of high school. Thought Tim Thomas was just as good.

 

I remember like it was yesterday having the debate during my college days at St. Joe’s. (Also remember playing intramural volleyball in the green gym in the Fieldhouse while Kobe was shooting by himself on the adjacent court.)

 

Anyway, watching him light up the Sixers for 32 points Wednesday night in the Lakers’ 114-102 win was proof again that there’s not a better player in basketball – maybe ever. Put Kobe in the argument with Jordan, Wilt, Russell and whoever else. This time I won’t argue against Kobe.

 

I mean, Kobe seems to be able to do whatever he wants. Bob Salmi said it perfectly on the broadcast that Kobe gets whatever shot he wants and gets to the line whenever he wants.

 

He had one highlight after another Wednesday night, but his play down the stretch was breathtaking – his drives that made it 105-97 and 110-97, respectively, and his step-back 20-footer that made it 112-100.

 

Wow!

 

As for the game, I can’t come down too hard on the Sixers. They were overmatched, simple as that. It wasn’t just Kobe, either. Philly had no answer for Pau Gasol (22 points, 13 boards) and Jersey native Andrew Bynum (18 points) inside.

 

The Lakers are the best team in the league. No one ever thought the Sixers would win the NBA title this year, just compete for the East crown.

 

Andre Miller (26 points, 8 boards, 5 assists) and Andre Iguodala (19 points) played OK, while Elton Brand (3 points, 1-7 FG in 25 minutes) didn’t show up. Marreese Speights (5 minutes, 0 points, 0 boards), after a nice game Tuesday in Chicago, also was a big disappointment. Brand apparently injured his hamstring, so I’m willing to give him a bit of a pass.

 

After the first quarter, though, you never got the sense the Sixers really had a chance. Not with Bynum and Gasol inside, and especially not with Kobe doing his thing.

 

So, again, sorry Kobe. I was wrong. Dead wrong.

 

 

Temple tumbles: Didn’t see or hear any of the game, but Temple was pounded at home by Miami of Ohio. The Redhawks have played some solid competition tough in the early going, but there’s no way the Owls should lose by 16 at home to a MAC team.

 

On a side note, tried to get some pregame information on owlsports.com and the Web site was down Wednesday afternoon. Bummer.

 

 

Danny’s downer: Danny Briere can’t stay in the Flyers’ lineup this season, as the Flyer reportedly will miss another month after getting hurt Tuesday. Maybe this time he should wait until he’s healed before returning to the lineup.

 

 

Avery’s comments: By now you all have heard Sean Avery’s “sloppy second” comments. Didn’t put two and two together until tonight that his ex, Elisha Cuthbert, is Kim Bauer. Used to love 24, but the writers made a HUGE mistake when they wrote Kim off the show. (BTW, I stopped watching 24 when Jack Bauer’s ability to stay alive became more and more ridiculous.).

 

 

Pearl of wisdom? Caught some of Earl “The Pearl” Monroe’s interview with Jody Mac on 950-ESPN Wednesday morning. Enjoyed a lot of Monroe’s recounting of the glory days of Philly hoops. However, it’s a major pet peeve of mine when someone goes on the radio and starts right out promoting a product. I understand there’s an agreement between the station and the guest, but let’s start with the sports and then do the promoting. Not vice versa.

 

(update 9:30 a.m. Thursday)

Blogger’s paradise? Don’t expect the Inky’s Frank Fitzpatrick to start blogging anytime soon…

From today’s Morning Bytes column….

“If you want to know why most blogs remain the journalistic equivalent of cotton candy – insubstantial fluff – all you had to do was read a recent entry from allphiladelphiasports.com.

 

Thursday sked

NHL

Devils at Flyers, 7

Houston Baptist at Villanova, 7:30

 

phillysportsbeat@gmail.com

 

In it, the clever blogger posits a scenario that includes both Kevin Kolb as the starting quarterback and the Eagles as contenders.

Those two events will converge when I win the Masters.”

Philly Sports Beat talks, Mo Cheeks listens

December 3, 2008

 

 

After imploring Mo Cheeks to make some major changes after Sunday’s loss, the coach did just that Tuesday and the Sixers responded with an impressive 103-95 overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls.

 

The victory snapped a four-game losing streak. More than that, it gives the Sixers – and their fans – hope that maybe something can come of this season.

 

Cheeks made a major shift in the lineup, essentially benching Sam Dalembert (11 minutes Tuesday) to go with a small lineup (one of three suggestions I made Monday) that looked like this:

 

Andre Miller/Lou Williams, Willie Green, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Elton Brand/Marresse Speights.

 

The small lineup worked wonders, as the Sixers played unlike they had all year.

 

Iguodala, moved to the three spot, played like a free man, scoring a season-high 25 points to go with 9 boards. Miller played aggressively on offense and netted 28 points, including 7 straight big ones in OT. Speights was solid in 26 minutes, with 11 points and 8 caroms and Brand was his usual double-double self with 22 points and 14 boards.

 

It’s just one game, but it’s one game that may just turn the season around.

 

More on the Sixers:

(Update 8 a.m. Wednesday)

 

 

Recliner GM wasn’t too impressed with Tuesday’s win. Here was my response to RG. The Greek (Jimmy The Greek?) thought I was off my rocker, or preparing for a circus or something, and his comments with my responses follow.

 

Dannie: A little harsh on the win. I thought the Sixers looked good, especially w/o Dalembert in there. Didn’t think there was much “ugly” about this win. Do agree that Rush would’ve been a better kick-out option on the final play (also think Lou Williams would’ve been a better defensive option on the Bulls’ previous possession), but overall think Mo coached a good game — especially making the lineup shift. -Aaron

 

AAron, it’s funny because as I was reading this I was thinking that this was Dannies masterpiece.   Iggy played great until about the 430 mark in the fourth, and then he put his STINKADALA cape on and did his best to lose the game for us.  Luckiy he stunk at that as well and we got out of regualtion with a tie. 

 

Dear Greek: True, Iggy badly missed a 20-footer with 1:30 left that he has to make and slipped on a possession in the final minute. I can give him a pass on the slip. But did you see his baseline drive and dunk with 3:04 left – that came under the 4:30 mark? Yes, Iggy has played poorly this season, but you have to give him credit for Tuesday night. -Aaron

 

Also AAron, Lou Williams and defensive option late in the game should never be mentioned in the same sentence.  If your going to stick a guard in there for D late in the game then put in Ivey.

 

Dear Greek: True, Lou isn’t a good defender, but he has more athleticism than Miller and would have been able to stay with Rose better on the Bulls’ last possession of regulation. Miller got burned again by Rose. Mo used Lou a little on Rose earlier and Lou had an easier time staying with Rose than Miller. BTW, don’t have a problem with Ivey either. -Aaron

 

…and in response to this…


“I thought the Sixers looked good, especially w/o Dalembert in there”

Are you serious dude?  Are you really shocked that the sixers looked good without there franchise anchoring stud sammy in the middle?   My god, what sort of 3 ring circus are you running over that on your site?

 

Dear Greek: No, I’m not shocked the Sixers looked good w/o Dalembert in there. That’s why I wrote they’d be better off w/o him in the lineup. So we agree. … Three-ring circus? Maybe not so bad. Barnum & Bailey certainly has had a pretty good run. -Aaron

 

 

 

 

 

Sir Charles unplugged: Charles Barkley went on the radio with Howard Eskin on WIP Tuesday afternoon and addressed several topics, most of all the Sixers. Barkley said Iguodala is overpaid and Brand was a bad signing. He also touched on the Eagles, saying Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb have been underappreciated in Philly. Hear the interview via podcast here.

 

 

The Hawk won’t die, but radio signal will: It’s tough enough following Saint Joseph’s (my alma mater) due to their infrequent appearance on local TV, but it was downright impossible at times Tuesday night due to the technical difficulties on the 990-WNTP radio broadcast. The broadcast would cut in and out inexplicably. Simply inexcusable.

 

Speaking of college hoops, St. Joe’s (over Lehigh, 77-64) , La Salle (over Bucknell, 68-65) and Villanova (over Penn, 69-47) all winners Tuesday on a big night in Philly hoops.

 

 

Danny hurt again: The Flyers beat Tampa Bay 4-3 in OT Tuesday. I watched about the first period before switching to hoops. The big story in this one might not be the win, but that Danny Briere is hurt again.

 

From csnphilly.com’s game story

 

Flyers center Danny Briere was back in the lineup after missing nine games with a groin pull but he did not seem very effective, nor did he have any jump in his skates. Briere left the Flyers bench late in the second period. It is believed he re-injured himself given that the Flyers were planning an announcement after the game.”

 

 

Wednesday sked

NBA

Lakers at Sixers, 7

College hoops

Miami (Ohio) at Temple, 7:30

Big night in Philly hoops

December 2, 2008

 

Tonight is a big night in Philly hoops, with four college teams and the Sixers in action. Here’s a quick look at tonight’s matchups:

 

College

Bucknell (1-4) at La Salle (2-3), 7 p.m.: The Explorers continue their patsy nonconference schedule by hosting Bucknell. La Salle, playing for the first time since a 75-70 win over Valpo on Nov. 24, will be looking to make it 10-0 all-time versus Bucknell at home.

 

Saint Joseph’s (2-4) at Lehigh (5-1), 7 p.m.: The Hawks also face a Patriot League opponent in the Mountain Hawks, who have a win at Rutgers (76-71, Nov. 24) on their resume. SJU leads the all-time series 12-0.

 

Villanova (6-0) at Penn (1-4), 8 p.m., CN8: The Wildcats play their third straight game at the Palestra after defeating Rhode Island Saturday night to claim the Philly Hoop Group Classic. The Quakers’ early-season performance hasn’t helped Glen Miller, who is on the hot seat in University City.

 

NBA

Sixers (7-10) at Bulls (8-9), 8:30 p.m., CSN: This is a big game for the Sixers, who enter a difficult five-game stretch after tonight (opponents a combined 61-20 through Sunday). Mo Cheeks’ squad has lost four straight, including Sunday’s 103-92 beating by the Bulls at the Wachovia Center. Chicago is returning home after seven straight on the road. Meantime, the Sixers are 2-6 on the road this season.

 

For non hoop heads, the Flyers host Tampa Bay at 7 tonight on Versus.

phillysportsbeat@gmail.com

Sixers need changes — and fast

December 1, 2008

Maybe only the turkeys had a worse weekend than the 76ers.

 

After being routed by Boston, 102-78, Friday night, the Sixers were spanked at home by the Bulls, 103-92, Sunday night. It was their fourth straight loss, dropping them to 7-10.

 

I only caught the highlights Sunday, so I can only write based on what I saw, read and the box score. I’ve been to four games this season, though, and Sunday’s loss seemed similar to what has plagued this team for much of the season.

 

Now, not later, is the time for Mo Cheeks to start making some major changes. Ed Stefanski, too.

 

The parts just aren’t right with the Sixers. Elton Brand is a very good player who just doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the mix. Andre Iguodala has been most hurt by Brand, his scoring average dipping from 19.9 last season to 13.3 through 17 games this year.

 

The Sixers can play well on offense in spurts, but lack the sort of consistency that results in wins.

 

They don’t defend very well, especially from the perimeter, and don’t shoot it well from the arc, either. A bad combination. Sunday’s loss to the Bulls was an example: Chicago was 8-for-15 (53.3 percent) from long distance, while the Sixers were 5-for-13 (38.5) from the arc.

 

So, what can be done? Maybe nothing until the offseason.

 

But here’s what I’d try right now…

 

Go small more: I know Brand is making all that money, but let’s see what the Sixers can do without him in the lineup more. Brand is having a solid statistical year, entering Sunday averaging nearly a double-double (16.9 points, 9.9 boards), but he’s a liability to the fastbreak offense that carried the Sixers into the playoffs last year. I like Thaddeus Young and Marresse Speights. Put them on the floor with Iguodala, Andre Miller and Lou Williams. Brand is averaging 35.6 minutes per game. I say cut him back to between 27-to-30 minutes and see what a small, quick lineup can do.

 

More Reggie Evans less Sam Dalembert: Evans is an offensive liability, but I like his energy and he rebounds the heck out of the ball. Dalembert put up another clunker Sunday night with 4 points and 4 boards in 15 minutes. That’s 16 points and 22 boards in his last 4 games – all losses. Not good enough.

 

Find a shooter for your half-court offense: Brand draws a double-team in the post, something the Sixers have lacked for years. Problem is you need players who can hit the shot when Brand finds them wide-open. The Sixers are sorely lacking with perimeter shooters. I’d give Donyell Marshall and his 35 percent career 3-point percentage a look, and find more minutes for Kareem Rush. A career 36 percent shooter from the arc, Rush was brought in for his shooting from long range. Well, now it’s time to find out if he can do it. He’s made 6 of 17 from 3 this year. Not great options, I know, but something needs to be done.

 

Maybe these moves will help, maybe they won’t…but Cheeks has to try something to get the Sixers out of this rut. The problem probably is deeper than any of these changes and can’t be addressed until the offseason, but you can’t sit and wait until then.

 

And Cheeks needs to move fast because the Sixers are entering a brutal six-game stretch, beginning Tuesday at Chicago. After playing the Bulls (8-9), the Sixers’ next five opponents are a combined 61-20 (75.3 percent).

 

Your thoughts on changes?

 

phillysportsbeat@gmail.com

 

Monday sked

 

College hoops

Cal St Northridge at Drexel, 7

(Update 5 p.m. Monday)

Arbitration for Burrell, Moyer? A story on the Phillies’ Web site says the team is likely to offer Pat Burrell and Jamie Moyer arbitration by the midnight deadline tonight. However,

 

GM Ruben Amaro was noncommittal on Moyer in a radio interview with Howard Eskin on WIP about an hour ago. In fact, reading between the lines it sounded to me like the Phils wouldn’t offer Moyer arbitration.

 

My take: I believe the teams wants to sign Moyer, but at a price less than what the might have to pay through arbitration. Stay tuned.