Back on the Chain Gang: Ten Personnel Questions Regarding the Sixers This Off-Season

Back on the Chain Gang: Ten Personnel Questions Regarding the Sixers This Off-Season

With the new proposed CBA seemingly poised to pass with overwhelming numbers, it looks like this Friday will finally represent the beginning of what should be the most rapid-fire free agency period in NBA history. While the Sixers haven't been predicted to be one of the big movers and/or shakers in the off-season brouhaha, there are still plenty of questions facing the team that will need to be answered post haste, as they figure out what group of twelve players they're planning on trotting out when the season starts shortly after Christmas. Examples, you ask? Well, let's deal with ten of 'em.

1. Will the Sixers re-sign Thaddeus Young and/or Spencer Hawes?

All signs seem to point to them at least trying to retain both of their restricted free agents—Kate Fagan of Philly.com has all but promised that Thad will be back in a Sixers uni, and it seems highly unlikely that Hawes will find a team significantly more invested in his still largely unproven skills than the dismally size-depleted Liberty Ballers. The one wrinkle in this is the recently reported interest in Young from the Denver Nuggets, who have oodles of cap space (especially if big man Nene departs for lower altitude) and a run-and-gun offense in which Thad would certain thrive. If the Nugs can creep up into the double-digits in their yearly offer to Young, it might price the Sixers out of the discussion (for better or worse), but for now, you have to assume both players well end up back in the Red, White and Blue.

2. Will the Sixers amnesty any of the players on their roster?

One of the most intriguing wrinkles in the soon-to-pass CBA is the added Amnesty Clause, which allows teams the opportunity to waive a player in order to get their contract off their books, still paying the player the majority of their salary but having it not count against their cap space. Sixers fans understandably salivated at such news, thinking it might be an opportunity to get out from under the bloated contract of Elton Brand (2 years / $35 million), but think again: The team was reliant enough on Brand as a leader and consistent post threat last year that management (especially smitten coach Doug Collins) would never consent to his waiving, not to mention that the team is hardly flush enough in cash to afford paying a player tens of millions to play for another squad.

More likely an AC candidate is superfluous swingman Andres Nocioni, but even the nearly $7 million remaining on his contract isn't so toxic that the team can't swallow it for one year. More likely, the team will buy out Noc and allow him to maybe find a contender more in want of his services, while retaining the Amnesty Clause for more urgent use in a later season. (With this team's front office, you can never be too careful.)

3. Is Andre Iguodala still on the trading block?

Iguodala spent much of the pre-draft off-season representing one-half of many rumored trades—to the Clippers for Chris Kaman, to the Warriors for Monta Ellis, etc.—none of which, obviously, ended up coming to fruition. Now that the off-season is officially back on, it wouldn't be impossible to see 'Dre go back on the block, but so far, it's been quiet on the wires regarding the Sixers' most diverse and important player. With the shortened season and a lack of training camp, you have to think that the Sixers aren't going to make too many boat-rocking moves unless an opportunity they can't pass up presents itself, so in all likelihood, 'Dre will be starting the season as a Liberty Baller. Whether he ends it as one as well may end up being a question for a trade deadline column, however.

4. Who's the team looking at in terms of big men?

Well, nobody particularly sexy, so cross high-profile free agents Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol and the previously-mentioned Nene (all of whom should demand contracts far beyond the team's capabilites) off your wishlists right now. The team is mostly looking at veteran big men who can ably back up the likely returning Hawes and push rookie Nikola Vucevic for rotation minutes without costing too much or demanding too many years in the process. So think Kwame Brown, Erick Dampier, maybe returning European baller Bostjan Nachbar if we're lucky. Of course, there's one name floating around out there familiar to Sixers fans, who might be available to fill that role as well...

5. Holy crap, might the team actually end up bringing back Samuel Dalembert?

Hopefully not—you have to think that one of these contending teams in need of size and defense will overextend for Dalembert, a free agent after spending last season with the Kings, and price the Sixers out of the discussion. Still, Philly's been mentioned as a possible landing spot for the polarizing big man, especially if they end up amnestying Nocioni. So, suffice to say, the sooner the Sixers fill this role with someone who isn't Slammin' Sammy—a guy so frustrating to watch that most Sixers fans will always believe we won the Hawes trade just by getting rid of him—the easier we'll all sleep at night.

6. What else might the team be looking for in free agency?

Well, assuming Young and Hawes are retained, probably not much. The team could maybe use more of a pure point guard to back up Jrue Holiday, but with Lou Williams and Evan Turner capable of splitting the role (and Andre Iguodala assuming some of the responsibilities to begin with), the guy probably wouldn't see much more playing time than Antonio Daniels did at the end of last year. Most of the roster spots are already spoken for anyway, and young'ns like Vucevic and Craig Brackins should hopefully be pushing for the few remaining. Don't expect too much beyond one or two further veteran guys at the minimum, Dairus Songaila-like filler.

7. Is there a chance of Lou Williams getting traded?

A chance, but not a good one. Rumors were floating a week or so back that the team might be shopping Sweet Lou—his contract is hefty for a career backup, and it's hard to see exactly where he fits into the Sixers' long-term plans—but almost as quickly as they appeared, those rumors were shot down, and now it seems probable that just like the rest of the gang, Lou will back in tow for '11-'12.

8. Are the Sixers going to be involved in the sweepstakes for either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard?

I'm not even gonna answer that.

9. Whither Jason Kapono?

J-Kaps is already in the talks with a couple teams closer to contention—the Lakers, the Heat, the Knicks, etc.—to hopefully get one of their remaining roster slots at a veteran's minimum. Hopefully for Kapono, he'll be able to fulfill his role of Guy Who Stands in the Corner and Hits Wide-Open Threes When Asked more ably than he was in Philly, but regardless, he's no longer our problem—JK's days in Philly are almost certainl
y over. Bad news for the Kings, good news for the rest of us.

10. Can the Sixers take advantage of Ed Stefanski now serving as Toronto's VP of Basketball Operations the same way the Phillies have abused Ed Wade in Houston?

Only one way to find out: Call up the Raptors and offer them Brackins, Marreese Speights and Nocioni's expiring for Andrea Bargnani. We don't even necessarily want Bargnani, but it's just dumb enough a deal for the Raptors to make that we'll know for sure if Stefanski will be a Wade-esque resource for us north of the border. And then, the pillaging can begin.

Flyers' power play rediscovers swagger in win over Canucks

Flyers' power play rediscovers swagger in win over Canucks

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers got some swagger back Sunday night.

But especially so on the power play, which entered Sunday's clash just 2 for 19 over the last six games.

Two markers on the man advantage helped the Flyers edge the Canucks, 3-2, at Rogers Arena in Vanvoucer (see Instant Replay).

“It all comes back to finding a way to produce – and they did that tonight,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, who had called for his power-play participants to rediscover that swagger.

Hakstol’s club won for the first time in its last nine games in Western Canada. More importantly, the Flyers (28-24-7) moved within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently shared by Florida and Boston, in the Eastern Conference.

Thanks to the power-play success, the Flyers built a 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes and then hung on, atoning for a sub-par effort in a one-sided loss to the Oilers in Edmonton on Thursday night.

The Flyers converted two of three power plays while blanking the Canucks on all four of their man advantages. The loss prevented the Canucks (26-28-6) from getting closer to a Western Conference playoff berth.

“I thought we were playing some pretty good hockey of late, but the pucks weren't going in,” said Flyers center Brayden Schenn, who scored the winning goal on the power play at 2:38 of the second period. “Tonight, we tightened up defensively again from Edmonton's game and were able to score a few more goals. It's a huge two points going home."

Wayne Simmonds, also on the power play, and Jakub Voracek scored the Flyers’ other goals.

“We needed a win,” Simmonds said. “Especially after the game in Edmonton, this is good for the morale."

Shayne Gostisbehere assisted on all three goals, recording the first three-point night of his career.

Schenn’s winning goal came only a minute and 27 seconds after Voracek gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead at 1:11 of the second by sending Sean Couturier’s huge rebound into a gaping net behind Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller. Voracek’s goal was his first in 10 games. He had not scored since Jan. 25 against the New York Rangers.

How did long sought-after goal make him feel?

"Like I scored a goal,” deadpanned Voracek. “We won the game. That’s the way I looked at it. It doesn't matter who scored the goals. Special teams were huge tonight. I liked our power play. We were going all 60 minutes. This one kept us in the race."

The Flyers were a well-rested team thanks to a two-day break between games and a three-day break before the start of the road trip. The Canucks, on the other hand, were playing their second of back-to-back home games with only a day’s rest following a grueling six-game United States road trip. But there was still considerable suspense over the final 30 minutes.

Markus Granlund and Jannik Hansen tallied for the Canucks, who are known as comeback artists, at 3:43 and 12:42 of the second, respectively, before the Flyers shut Vancouver down the rest of the way. Voracek indicated the Flyers were not nervous in the final frame.

"I don't think we changed anything to be honest,” he said. We were pretty tight in the neutral zone. We didn't give them much. When we had a couple of breakdowns, [Michal Neuvirth] was on his act.”

Neuvirth stopped 18 of 20 shots as the Flyers outshot the Canucks, 28-20. He enjoyed a much better start Sunday, holding the Canucks scoreless in the opening period after allowing four goals on his first 12 shots on Thursday in Edmonton. One of his better saves came with just over a minute into the game as he got his toe on Markus Granlund’s dangerous chance from in close.

"I felt good,” said Neuvirth. “I have been practicing well and playing with confidence. The last game, it didn't work out. I put that one behind me and restarted my mind and got back to work tonight.”

“I thought he was excellent,” said Hakstol. “He was calm and settled in there. You can go back through that 60 minutes and you can pick out three or four pretty darned good saves.”

Neuvirth excelled while making his fourth consecutive start and sixth in the past seven games overall.

“It feels good,” he said of the heavy workload. “It feels better when we win.”

But he was not about to get too excited. The Flyers have a tough clash at home Wednesday against NHL-best Washington and a road game Saturday at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field against the rival Penguins as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series.

“We have a tough schedule coming and we have to be ready,” Neuvirth said.

Sixers Twitter rejoices in the Kings' pick swap after DeMarcus Cousins deal

Sixers Twitter rejoices in the Kings' pick swap after DeMarcus Cousins deal

All hail the pick swap.

When word got out that the Sacramento Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, Sixers fans on Twitter rejoiced.

On July 10, 2015, the Sixers traded away the rights to Artūras Gudaitis and Luka Mitrović, and, in return, received an unprotected 2019 first round pick, Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and the right to swap first-round selections in the 2016 and 2017 drafts.

The Cousins move appears to significantly weaken the Kings, who are 24-33 and just 2.5 games better than the Sixers, so the pick swap looks healthier than ever.

But, for now, enjoy some samplings of Sixers Twitter from after the trade.

Here are some of the best tweets.