Opening Day was fun for a couple of innings. Then we got reminded of some baseball realities. The Phils bullpen being one of them. And that some people at baseball games in Philadelphia get really, really drunk.
May be a chicken or egg debate there, not sure.
But one thing was very clear. Ryan Braun absolutely killed the Phillies during Tuesday's home opener to the tune of three home runs. He heard boos all day long and he fed off of it.
Sam Donnellon at the Inquirer wrote about Philly fans booing better than Braun's earlier East Coast stop this season:
"Today was the worst," said Aramis Ramirez, the Brewers third baseman, who hits behind Braun. "I thought Boston was bad, but here was real bad. They were booing the same way, but it was louder here. The Phillies fans - they can boo some people."
So we got that going for us. Except Braun seemed to enjoy it.
Ryan Lawrence at the Daily News also wrote about Braun's big day:
“I love it,” Braun said of the nonstop booing. “It’s great. Seriously, as a competitor I really enjoy it ... It’s a long season and playing in an environment and atmosphere like this is certainly motivating.”
So maybe save your breath. Or at least be creative.
There was one particularly vocal, likely drunk, most definitely annoying fan out in left field who was repeatedly heckling Brewers left fielder Khris Davis, saying things like "how's it feel to play with a cheater!?" I'm not sure if the irony of his jeers fell on him as Carlos Ruiz stood at the plate as he screamed his lungs off. Antonio Bastardo did not make an appearance in the game. Marlon Byrd did go 1-5 on the day. All three hometown players have served suspensions for using banned substances.
So, the booing doesn't exactly help. Maybe it fuels the opponent, who knows. I don't particularly care if you boo a guy or not. At least be somewhat creative about it. And not rip a guy for using peds while your own guy who served a suspension for banned substances is up to bat.
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It really felt like we could've gotten this one. The Denver Nuggets are hardly pushovers, but they came into this one a 7-13 team that'd lost their last three games, and even last night they seemed fairly beatable, even for a Philadelphia 76ers team still missing Robert Covington (in additional to our usual mini-roster of absentees). But Philly's energy sagged in the third quarter as Denver caught a second wind, and they spent the final frame hitting shots that the Sixers couldn't answer. Final score: Nuggets 106, 76ers 98.
The most sobering part of the loss was that Joel Embiid finally played what would best be described as "a bad game." Not that bad, of course — even at his worst, Joel still managed 16 points and notched career-high five blocks. But he only shot 5-15 from the field, turned ball over three times, grabbed just four boards and played a large part in the sinkhole offense that the Sixers played in the late third and early fourth that ultimately cost them this one. JoJo still has trouble reading double teams and knowing when not to attack into traffic, and his frustration was extremely evident as he kept trying to do too much and paying the price for it.
Nonetheless, even with an off Embiid night and a still-slumping Sauce — officially down to Left in the Car Overnight temperature after a night of 4 points on 1-7 shooting in 35 minutes — Philly probably still coulda gotten this one. Sergio Rodriguez appears to have swiped Nik's swag at least temporarily, with a season-high 17 points on 7-14 shooting to go with seven dimes and three steals, while Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova also poured in 17 and 8 each, and the Nuggets wings were largely kept quiet for two and a half quarters. But even while struggling, the Nuggets paraded their way to free-throw line — 34 FTAs for the night, including 12 for Danilo Gallinari alone — and once they caught fire late, the Sixers just couldn't keep up.
A bummer for a team that's now lost seven in a row, and has to face the Grizzlies tonight in Memphis — their fourth game in five nights, and the first of a three-game road trip — without Embiid and also without Jahlil Okafor, out with illness. Even with the Grizz missing their own big names (no Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, Zach Randolph or Vince Carter lately) and likely suffering from fatigue of their own after a double-OT road win last night in New Orleans, the 4-17 Sixers are gonna have a tough go matching Memphis' grit and grind tonight. Anytime you feel like Supermanning in and saving the day now would be cool, Nerlens Noel. Just sayin'.
Elton Brand is back with the Sixers, albeit not on the court.
The Sixers agreed with the former NBA forward to name Brand Player Development Consultant. In a press release, the team said Brand will be working with Sixers players in 'every facet of their on- and off-court development' while also working in the front office.
“We are extremely excited to bring Elton Brand back into the organization where he will be a valuable resource to our young and developing team," Bryan Colangelo said in the release. "Elton’s leadership and character displayed throughout his playing career as a player align perfectly with our vision, direction and culture of this basketball team, coaching staff and management group."
Brand retired during training camp after 17 NBA seasons, including five with the Sixers over two stints. The 6-foot-8 forward came out of retirement last season to provide a veteran presence for the Sixers and eventually played in 17 games when the team was snakebitten by injuries.
He will now continue to be an influence on the Sixers' young core thanks to his new role with the basketball operations department.