Andrew Bynum Is a Better Center Than Dwight Howard, Says Newest Sixer

Andrew Bynum Is a Better Center Than Dwight Howard, Says Newest Sixer

The Sixers introduced their newest guard-forward on Tuesday at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and the sound bite that caught the most fire on the Internet and sports radio airwaves was his declaration that his new teammate, Andrew Bynum, is the best center in the NBA.

Yes, better even than former Orlando Magic and current Los Angeles Lakers star Dwight Howard.

From the Inquirer's John Mitchell via Ball Don't Lie:

"He's going to need two defenders to stop him; I would say he's the
best big man in the NBA right now, hands down," Wright, speaking at
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine,  said. "He's a guy that
can give you baskets with his back to the basket; a guy who makes free
throws at 7-feet. You've just got to respect him."

At that point I interjected, asking him if he calls Bynum the best
big man in the league because they are now on the same team. Or could it
be because Howard is on the mend from back surgery?

"No way, I'd say it any day. It's because I know  he can put his back
to the basket and give us a basket and request a double team and make
free throws," Wright continued.  "It's his all-around game. Hopefully he
can stay healthy and we can ride, he can put us on his back and he can
take us as far as we can go."

I'm not necessarily sure I'd agree with Mr. Wright's assessment just yet, but boy am I hoping it turns out to be a reality.

Regardless, one thing seems to be true: the sky is the limit for Andrew Bynum in Philadelphia and shooting for the title of best center in the NBA remains a realistic goal.

Atlantic City ballin' is just weeks away. Get excited.

Touch passes an effective part of Carson Wentz's arsenal

Touch passes an effective part of Carson Wentz's arsenal

Now the kid has a changeup, too.

A couple of the most impressive passes Carson Wentz threw Sunday weren’t fired to the receiver. They didn’t show off Wentz’s rocket-launcher right arm.

They were touch passes. Lobs. Looping things of beauty that floated high into the air above the coverage and settled softly into the hands of a receiver on the run.

Wentz, the Eagles’ 23-year-old wunderkind of a quarterback, displayed remarkable touch on a couple of his biggest passes in the Eagles’ 34-3 win over the Steelers at the Linc on Sunday.

It’s just the latest evolution in the development of the remarkable young Eagles’ quarterback.

He doesn’t just fire it. He floats it, too.

“It is a challenging thing,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Because in practice, if you’re not working on those types of throws, it just doesn't happen.

“It’s sort of a math problem in your head as a quarterback because you have a receiver that's running away from you at full speed and you are trying to put a touch pass on a 20-, 25-yard throw and so you have to judge it just right.

“That's a lot harder to do than just zipping it right at your target.”

On the 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles, Wentz stood in the pocket, looked to his left and started scrambling to the right when he spotted Sproles racing down the right sideline with a step on Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier.

In full stride, running to his right, Wentz threw across his body and lobbed the ball from the Eagles’ 25-yard line to a point near the 50-yard line. Sproles caught the ball without breaking stride and did the rest and eventually scored a TD that turned a 10-point lead into a 17-point lead early in the third quarter.

In the third quarter, Wentz connected similarly with tight end Brent Celek on a 24-yard gain, this time lobbing the ball above linebacker Vince Williams and in front of safety Sean Davis for a first down inside the Pittsburgh 30-yard-line to set up another touchdown.

After three games, Wentz is 3-0 with five touchdown passes, no interceptions, a 65 percent completion percentage and 103.7 passer rating. He's the first quarterback in NFL history to open his career with three wins without an interception.

A lot of young quarterbacks want to fire every ball as hard as possible. But Wentz’s ability to change up and lob the football to his receivers makes him even more dangerous. Kind of like a young fastball pitcher who suddenly shows up in spring training with a killer changeup.

“It can be hard because you are so geared on throwing everything fast and hard,” Pederson said. “That throw to Celek was a thing of beauty. The week before, the Monday night (game), to Jordan Matthews, the little touch pass was great. The little floater to Darren for the long touchdown run was another one that was a touch pass with accuracy.

“Those are hard throws to make. Having been in that position before, those are hard. The guy is running away from you and you are trying to put air on a throw but still judge the distance and the speed of the receiver. Those are tough things to do. He really has a good feel for that and it just makes him an all-around solid quarterback.

“That’s just who he is and (shows) his ability to make really all the throws.”

Temple great Tyler Matakevich soaks in rookie return to Philadelphia with Steelers

Temple great Tyler Matakevich soaks in rookie return to Philadelphia with Steelers

It’s a picturesque early autumn Thursday evening in the Delaware Valley. One of those nights when swaths of orange from the sunset to the west pierce the high sky like shards of broken glass.

Weather reports say it’s a similar type of evening all the way across the other side of the commonwealth in Pittsburgh, where Tyler Matakevich now makes his seasonal home. There could have been monsoon-like rains or gale-force winds or any type of terrible weather outside and it still couldn’t hush the excitement in Matakevich’s voice that torqued its way through the phone.

That’s because the former Temple Owl linebacker is less than 72 hours away from returning to play at the same field where he plied his trade for four years and left a program legend. And he’s coming back living his dream as a Pittsburgh Steeler. On Temple’s homecoming weekend, no less.

“I’m definitely excited for this and to come back to Philly,” the 22-year-old rookie told CSNPhilly.com prior to Week 3’s Steelers-Eagles game. “I talk to a lot of the guys still on the team like (senior quarterback) P.J. (Walker), (senior linebacker) Jarred Alwan, (senior linebacker) Stephaun Marshall. I know all those guys are looking forward to me coming back and spending time with them. … I hope to see those guys for a little bit. A good amount of them are coming to the game, too, so I’m excited about that.”

The anticipation in the young linebacker is evident. He’s coming back to his “home away from home.”


Matakevich is arguably the greatest football player in Temple history. For four years, he was the leader of a defense that grew to become one of the fiercest in the nation.  He recorded over 100 tackles in each of his four seasons on North Broad Street and added seven sacks and seven interceptions.

Not too shabby for a guy who had only one FBS-level scholarship offer and only got a shot to play as a freshman when the upperclassman above him on the 2012 depth chart was injured before the fourth game of the season. In what was supposed to be a spot start, Matakevich, then a fresh-faced 18-year-old, recorded 15 total tackles after playing sparingly on special teams the prior three games.

Incredibly, Matakevich wasn’t even the player Temple was recruiting when Matt Rhule, Temple’s current head coach who was then the recruiting coordinator under former head man Steve Addazio, went to Milford Academy Prep School in Matakevich’s native Connecticut on a scouting trip. Milford’s coach wouldn’t let Rhule leave without watching film of Matakevich.

“We watched his highlight DVD and he just kinda had it,” Rhule told CSNPhilly.com last December. “We went out and watched him play and he had it. (Former Temple offensive line coach) Justin (Frye) and I just kind of had a feeling this guy was special. I like to think I’ve always had a feel for linebackers. So we called Steve and he said if you guys think he’s that good, offer him.”

Rhule’s gut feeling turned out to be more correct than he ever imagined.

Matakevich put an exclamation point on his excellent college career with a monster 2015 season when he recorded 138 total tackles, five interceptions and 4½ sacks en route to being the first Temple defensive player to earn first-team All-American honors and the first Owl to do so at any position since 1986. He also brought home some impressive hardware as he won the Chuck Bednarik Award and Bronco Nagurski Trophy, both annually given to the best defensive player in all of college football.

Simply put, he is this generation’s Owl. Revered on North Broad Street, he is the player this crop of Temple fans will tell tales of watching play to future generations.

Matakevich accomplished all that during a season in which Temple shed its downtrodden, sad-sack label to the national eye by busting into and staying in the top 25 for the first time since the end of the 1979 season, beating Penn State for the first time since 1941 and, most notably, hosting Notre Dame in a primetime instant classic that was preceded earlier in the day by ESPN’s College Gameday broadcasting from Independence Hall in front of a massive live audience.

Those who’ve followed the program, intently or casually, would have thought there would be confirmation of human life on Mars before those last two things ever happened.

But they happened. It all happened and Matakevich was the freckled face of the revolution.

“It was something special and something I’ll always remember,” Temple’s all-time leading tackler (493) said of last season. “Our senior class, what we went through, going 2-10 in 2013, coaching changes, 6-6 and not going to a bowl to the season we had last year, it was just relieving, really. Such an awesome feeling that I was just able to sit and reflect on it. I was actually doing it the other day with (Redskins defensive lineman and former Temple teammate) Matt Ioannidis. I’ve got to pinch myself a little bit. When people are telling me all these things we accomplished, I’m sort of like, ‘Wow, we did do that.’”

Despite the accolades, Matakevich wasn’t seen as a great NFL prospect in large part because of a perceived lack of athleticism.

He was too slow. He couldn’t jump high enough. He wasn’t strong enough. The list of knocks can keep going.

The 6-foot-1, 235-pound tackling machine slipped down draft boards, and watched teammates corner Tavon Young (Ravens) and Ioannidis get selected. But he didn’t fall all the way off the board. In the seventh round, the Steelers used pick No. 246, eighth from last, to take a flier on the Temple linebacker.

Matakevich was left virtually unwanted by the big boys. Sounds familiar, huh?

“Once I finally got that phone call, I was just so excited,” Matakevich said. “That’s been my dream since I was a little kid. And to finally actually get that phone call, it made it feel like everything was worth it. All those long days I put in. I told the coaches, ‘This is just the beginning.’”

Matakevich earned his keep during training camp and was rewarded with a spot on the Steelers as a special teamer.

“He’s doing some of the things here that he did in Philadelphia,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said last week. “He’s displayed great instincts and urgency. He gets to the ball and he’s always around the ball. He makes a lot of plays. He’s acclimating himself right now in terms of being one of our core special teams contributors. I don’t see why he can’t be great in that area while he continues to grow as a young linebacker. I’ve been pleased with his progress.”


Fast forward to a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in South Philadelphia. Earlier in the day, Young recorded his first career interception with the Ravens and Ioannidis suited up for the first time with the Redskins in a regular-season game after he was activated from the practice squad.

But here is Matakevich, standing in a familiar tunnel, staring out at a familiar swatch of grass. He’s standing in the tunnel the Owls come out of and staring out toward the grass he tackled so many foes on.

But he’s not wearing cherry and not coming out to the sounds of Temple’s band and a screaming student section. He’s wearing Steelers black and gold and he’s standing in enemy territory, surrended by a sea of Eagles midnight green.

“It was awesome being back on that field again,” Matakevich said after Carson Wentz and the Eagles pummeled his Steelers, 34-3. The rookie saw kickoff and punt return snaps, but did not record a tackle.

“It didn't go the way we wanted it to, obviously. But I was so excited and so amped up. I played a lot of football here. Just to have the opportunity to come back and play here. I couldn’t be anymore excited and happy. I just tried to enjoy it. I get to keep playing football for a living. Not many guys get to move on after TU. So I’m just thankful and enjoying it and having fun.”

“I was just so happy to see him get out there and play and come back to his old stadium,” Rhule said of his former pupil after Sunday’s game. “For me, it’s always gratifying any time I see any of the guys that played for me being successful in anything, whether it’s their personal lives, their business lives, their football lives. It’s a lot of fun for me. It’s pretty cool for me to turn on the TV and see Tavon making big plays for the Ravens or to see Tyler out there playing and see Matt get activated and make the Redskins.

“I was really happy for Tyler. I’m proud of him and I’m excited he got the chance to come back and play in Philly.”

Matakevich still keeps a keen eye on the Owls and tries not to miss a game, even though professional responsibilities sometimes get in the way. He wasn’t able to catch Temple’s 48-20 homecoming win over Charlotte and had to later settle for highlights because the Steelers were traveling to Philadelphia, but he watched all of the narrow 34-27 defeat at Penn State two weeks ago.

“Let me tell you, it’s been frustrating,” Matakevich said with a chuckle. “I’ve never had to watch those guys play from so far away and now I’ve started doing that. At first, it took a little adjusting getting used to it. But I watch. I thought we had it. I really thought we had that win at Penn State.”

Matakevich mentioned he was able to spend time on Saturday night with former teammate and Temple star running back Jahad Thomas after the Owls’ victory. He and Thomas remain close and Matakevich is always there to provide a listening ear when needed.

That’s the thing about Matakevich and his relationship with Philadelphia, a place he gleefully calls his adopted hometown. Though he’s a Connecticut guy through and through and always will be, there will always be people and places here that will be a part of him forever.

“I love it here,” he said of Philadelphia. “I have some unbelievable memories here, especially on this field. It’s always been good to me. It’s always going to be my home away from home.”

- CSNPhilly.com's Dave Zangaro contributed to this story.