A Brief and Scattered Interview With Evan Turner: Settling the Backstreet Boys vs. N Sync Debate

A Brief and Scattered Interview With Evan Turner: Settling the Backstreet Boys vs. N Sync Debate

I got the chance to talk with Evan Turner for a few minutes last Friday
after the team's win against the Golden State Warriors. There was so
much to talk with the Sixers' second-year swingman about, from the
pressures of being the #2 overall pick, to his seemingly tumultuous
relationship with second-year coach Doug Collins, to his up-and-down
play over the course of the NBA season. Evan is perhaps the team's most
enigmatic player, and I hoped that getting to talk with the man would
help shed light on some of the burning questions Sixers fans have had
about our promising Sophomore since he was drafted in 2010.

Instead, though, I mostly talked with him about hip-hop and '90s
TRL. Oh well—can't win 'em all, and I heartily enjoyed my time spent
with the Extraterrestrial just the same.

Andrew: How much fun did you have playing in the [Rising Stars] game?

Evan Turner: It was cool. It was dope. We had fun. We won, that was even better.

Were you slighted that they kind of picked you towards the end there, in the draft?

I don't really pay attention to that stuff.

Which of the guys there did you have the most fun playing with?

[Indiana's] Paul George is always a good guy. I enjoy watching him play, great person.

Seems like you and [Sacramento center] DeMarcus [Cousins] had a little bit of chemistry there.

Yeah, you know, he runs the court, makes himself available, and when he's that type of threat, it's easy to pass to him.

What's the biggest difference in the team between this season and the last season, you think?

I just think we're just maturing. You know, we're learning to
close out games and everything, we're not blowing leads and stuff, I
think that's the key to our success.

What's the biggest difference for you personally?

Nothin'. Just one more year experience, and that's pretty much it.

Well, does it feel easier? Does it feel better?

It's cool. You know, we're winning, so everything's cool. That's pretty much all you can really take from it.

Do you ever wonder what it would be like on a team where maybe
there weren't so many guys that are playing the same sort of position as
you are?

It'd be different, but at the same time, wondering
and wishing and all that stuff doesn't matter. You still gotta face
reality and the real world, so…let's focus on trying to better myself
every day, and keep getting better and that's it. Develop.

It seems like you guys are a close bunch of guys. Was it hard for you when Marreese [Speights] got traded?

Yeah,
we actually liked Marreese, you know? But it's better for him, [The
Grizzlies'] situation with him, he's been playing well and stuff. But
you know, Mo is a great guy and a great person, and just having him
around was key.

I see you guys on Twitter a lot—I saw that you and Spence over the summer were having an argument between who was better, the Backstreet Boys or N Sync. Care to stick up for your guys a little bit?

Yeah, the Backstreet Boys? They just made album after album. Hits, you know. 'N Sync only had…what was it…it wasn't Celebrity, it was No Strings Attached. Which was amazing from front to back. And then Celebrity was just overrated. And then Backstreet Boys, they been going hard with Millennium, you know, Black and Blue and all that stuff, so they been on top for a while. They still make music today! They're like a white Boyz II Men.

Were you a big TRL fan back in the day?

Yeah, that
was crazy! Carson Daly and stuff? That was back when pop music was
crazy, you know what I'm saying? You had Christina, Britney, 98 Degrees,
all those people. Tom Green, at one time he went #1, with the Bum Bum
Song? That stuff was dope!

Have you seen any of those TRL specials they've had on [VH1] these days?

Naw, I haven't. I never, ever really watch TV.

It seems like you're more into rap now. If you had to choose last year between [Drake's] Take Care, [Jay-Z and Kanye West's] Watch the Throne and [Lil Wayne's] Carter IV, what would your choice be?

That's rough, man. Those are all three great rappers and great albums. It all depends on what you want, man. Take Care
was cool. You know, Drizzy's a great guy, and he raps about stuff you
can relate to, but Jay-Z and Kanye did their thing, you know what I'm
saying? It's hard to decide between those two.

Who are you listening to now?

I listen to everybody,
man. I listen to old school. I still pop in old school Jay, old school
Em, I listen to Common, Big Sean, Drake…

Do you take a side in the Common/Drake feud?

Naw, I don't do none of that. I just enjoy the music.

Did you guys give Thad any crap for that blown dunk the other day?

Naw, naw, we didn't…actually I had forgot about that, to tell you the truth.

It looked like 'Dre was really upset about that.

Yeah,
it was a great pass! But hey, you ain't gonna make 'em all, right? I
think Thad finishes a lot, so he can afford to miss one every now and
then. When we're winning!

Any goals personally, for the team, for the rest of the season?

We just wanna win the Atlantic division. I think that's key for the team.

You think you guys got that?

We got a lot more basketball. We just gotta keep worrying about defending home court, and that's it. 

Matt Klentak: Trade was about doing the right thing for Carlos Ruiz

Matt Klentak: Trade was about doing the right thing for Carlos Ruiz

The Phillies’ decision to trade beloved catcher Carlos Ruiz to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday was ultimately made by Ruiz himself.

“This was about doing the right thing for Carlos because he has meant so much to this organization,” general manager Matt Klentak said Thursday night.

“Once Carlos cleared trade waivers last week, we started thinking about it. The Dodgers expressed some interest. Pete [Mackanin] and I talked to Carlos over the weekend. We discussed whether he wanted to finish the year with us or get the chance to chase another championship ring.

"He took a few days to discuss it with his family and got back to us Wednesday in Chicago and said that he'd be interested in exploring the opportunity and we finalized things with the Dodgers today.”

As a veteran of 10 seasons in the majors and five consecutive with the same team, Ruiz, 37, could have vetoed the deal. He chose to accept the deal because he wanted another chance to play in the postseason. He will serve as a backup to catcher Yasmani Grandal with the Dodgers, but is expected to get playing time. Ruiz's .368 on-base percentage from the right side of the plate could be a nice complement to the lefty-hitting Grandal.

The Phillies acquired the Dodgers’ backup catcher, veteran A.J. Ellis, minor-league pitching prospect Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named later in the deal. The Phils will not decide on the player to be named until after the minor-league season ends in mid-September. The Phils also sent an undisclosed amount of cash to the Dodgers. Ruiz is owed about $2 million in the form of salary and a contract buyout for 2017. Ellis, 35, is finishing up a one-year deal that pays him $4.5 million.

"This deal was not motivated by cash,” Klentak said. “It was about doing the right thing for Carlos, giving him the chance to get another ring.”

Klentak said he was "adamant" about getting Ellis back in the deal. The Phillies have two catching prospects in the upper minors in Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, but the club would like to see them finish their minor-league seasons.

“Carlos has been such an important leader for so long, we knew we had to fill a role on and off the field,” Klentak said. “There is a reasonably good chance one of our young catching prospects will be in the big leagues before the season is over. Both our Double A and Triple A teams are in pennant races and we believe it's important for them to continue to get meaningful at-bats and play in meaningful games.”

Ellis is expected to join the Phillies in New York this weekend. It’s not easy going from a first-place team with legitimate World Series hopes to a rebuilding club.

“I talked to A.J. this afternoon,” Klentak said. “He is a true professional. It's never easy for a guy who has been in one place his whole career to be told out of the blue that it's time to go. A.J. is determined and excited about contributing to the Phillies.”

Bergjans, a 23-year-old right-hander, pitched at Haverford College. He was an eighth-round draft pick of the Dodgers in 2015 and is 3-13 with a 4.98 ERA for Single A Rancho Cucamonga this season. He has 133 strikeouts and just 29 walks in 130 innings.

"Tommy was an excellent college performer,” Klentak said. “He has controlled the strike zone well in a tough league. We're always looking to add starting pitching and we had a chance to do it. He strikes out better than a batter an inning and limits walks which was appealing.”

Sources: Phillies shake up amateur scouting department

Sources: Phillies shake up amateur scouting department

The Phillies have undergone massive changes on the field and off over the last couple of seasons.
 
Those changes have reached the club’s amateur scouting department.
 
According to major league sources, the club recently fired three longtime members of that department, including Mike Ledna, a high-ranking coordinator and national cross-checker. Ledna was the No. 2 man under former scouting boss Marti Wolever, who was let go two years ago and replaced by Johnny Almaraz.
 
Almaraz has overseen the last two drafts with a staff of mostly holdover scouts. He has clearly begun to put his stamp on the department with his recent shakeup. Ledna’s firing was preceded by the club’s decision to part with Steve Cohen and Paul Scott. They covered the talent-rich state of Texas.
 
It is not clear whether more changes on the scouting staff are coming. Over the last year or so, the Phillies have hired a new club president (Andy MacPhail), general manager (Matt Klentak) and manager (Pete Mackanin). The playing roster has also been churned, most recently with Carlos Ruiz being traded to the Dodgers on Thursday (see story). His parting leaves Ryan Howard as the lone member of the 2008 World Series championship team still with the club.

Soul's ArenaBowl chances hinge on slowing Rattlers' potent offense

Soul's ArenaBowl chances hinge on slowing Rattlers' potent offense

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The postseason accolades and awards are nice, but Soul defensive back Tracy Belton has a much higher goal.

Named as the Arena League Football Defensive Player of the Year during an awards ceremony Friday, Belton, considered the passion and spirit of the Soul defense, is more than comfortable putting aside individual honors and pushing his teammates to greater heights.

Reaching the ArenaBowl against the Arizona Rattlers Friday in the Gila River Arena (7 p.m./ESPN) the prize is out there, and Belton has his blinders firmly affixed. The focus and concentration is not in question, so the task ahead remains paramount.

“I want that ring, I need that jewelry,” Belton said during media day Friday. “Oh yeah, it would definitely be nice to get that ring.”

To obtain that shiny piece of hardware, Belton and his defensive teammates have the task of trying to shut down the most potent offense in the league.

Guided by quarterback Nick Davila, the AFL’s Most Valuable Player, the Rattlers are averaging 80.3 points per game. From an offensive standpoint, Arizona led the AFL in many offensive categories, including scoring, total offense, rushing, third-down conversion and fourth-down conversion.

To complement the offense, the Arizona defense ranked first in the league in defensive scoring defense, rushing defense, interceptions, turnover ratio and sacks allowed.

In a league which glorifies offense, the task ahead for the Soul defense is considered a challenge. After all, these teams each finished with a 13-3 mark and each defeated the other team on their home turf.

“To win this game, we hope they make mistakes,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. “They are very explosive, but our secondary is playing at a high level. For us, we need to limit our mistakes.”

If Davila, who is the first player in AFL history to win the MVP award three times, is to be challenged, the Soul’s offense need to be proficient. Coming into the ArenaBowl, the Soul averaged 59.0 points per game. That was good enough for fourth in the league, but quarterback Dan Raudabaugh put up better numbers, in certain categories, than Davila.

In head-to-head competition, Raudabaugh tossed more touchdown passes (14 to 13), passed for more yards (541 to 431), completed more passes (48 to 32) and averaged more yards per game (270.5 to 215.5) through the air. Yet, the Rattlers’ offense is swift, quick, efficient and lethal.

“In this league, the quarterback is the most important position,” Davila said. “You have to make decisions quickly, and facing a defense like Philly, that’s the challenge for us. It’s about limiting mistakes. The team which makes fewer mistakes is the team that usually wins.”

Notes
Since the Phoenix Mercury are scheduled for a home game in Talking Stick Arena in downtown Phoenix Friday night, home site for the Rattlers, the title game was switched to home of the NHL's Arizona Coyotes. … Among league leaders this past season for the Soul, Belton was fourth in tackles, Jake Metz led in sacks, Darius Reynolds was sixth in receiving and Jeramie Richardson was second in rushing. … In comparison of QBs, Raudabaugh was second in the league in passing (101 TDs, 63.3 passing percentage) and Davila placed third (110 TD passes, 69.6 passing rating). … This is the third league title meeting between these two teams. The Soul dropped the previous two championship games, 72-54 in 2012 and 48-39 in 2013.