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.

Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

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Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Brian Carroll tied it in 92nd minute and the Union escaped with a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids in a showdown of the Western and Eastern conference leaders.

Carroll ran underneath Fabian Herbers' high-arching header and slotted the finish under goalkeeper Zac MacMath from close range.

The Union (5-3-5) responded only 5 minutes after the Rapids (8-2-4) opened the scoring on Sam Cronin's header in the 87th minute. Cronin made a deep run to connect with Marlon Hairston's cross from the right flank, redirecting it into the far corner of the goal.

Both Dillon Powers and Luis Solignac had shots crash off the crossbar for the Rapids after the 70th minute.

The Union extended their unbeaten streak to seven while the Rapids stayed unbeaten in their nine home games this season.

Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

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Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

NEW YORK -- Chase Utley hit a grand slam and a solo homer after Noah Syndergaard threw a 99 mph fastball behind his back, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went deep a season-high five times in routing the New York Mets 9-1 on Saturday night.

In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, Syndergaard was immediately ejected following the third-inning pitch -- almost certainly his shot at retaliation against Utley for the late takeout slide that broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in last year's playoffs.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed Syndergaard, sending Mets manager Terry Collins into a rage, but no trouble ensued between the teams. A longtime New York nemesis, Utley raised one hand slightly in the direction of the Dodgers' bench to keep teammates calm -- and later answered by doing all sorts of damage with his bat.

Kenta Maeda (4-3) shook off an early line drive that appeared to hit him in the pitching hand and threw five shutout innings for the win. The right-hander yielded two hits, both in the first, and snapped his three-game losing streak.

Adrian Gonzalez homered and had four hits for the Dodgers, who spoiled the Mets' 30th anniversary celebration of their 1986 World Series championship. Corey Seager and Howie Kendrick also connected, all after Syndergaard was gone.

Pinch-hitter Juan Lagares homered in the eighth for New York, long after the outcome was decided.

The stoic Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since Tejada was injured. The Mets -- and their fans -- were incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules this season designed to protect infielders in what some call the Utley Rule.

But the Mets had not tried to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard's first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman's back by a considerable margin.

Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected after screaming at Hamari and pointing in his face during an animated argument. The manager was finally escorted back toward the New York dugout by another umpire.

After waiting near the mound with teammates for some time, Syndergaard walked calmly to the Mets' dugout without showing any emotion as the crowd cheered him.

Logan Verrett (3-2) entered for the Mets and, with a vocal contingent in the sellout crowd of 42,227 urging him to hit Utley with a pitch, eventually threw a called third strike past him. But then Utley homered on Verrett's first pitch of the sixth to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.

Booed all night, Utley added his sixth career slam off Hansel Robles in the seventh, giving Los Angeles a 6-0 cushion with his 38th career homer against the Mets.

In the series opener Friday night, Utley was greeted with loud jeers and derisive chants. He had four RBIs in a 6-5 loss, including a three-run double that tied the score with two outs in the ninth.

Where are you now?
Tejada was released by the Mets during spring training and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, who designated him for assignment Saturday.

Trainer's room
Dodgers: RF Trayce Thompson exited in the fifth with lower back soreness. He was replaced by Yasiel Puig, who hit an RBI single off Verrett in the sixth.

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (hamstring) went 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly in his fifth rehab game for Double-A Binghamton. Before the game, Collins said it was reasonable to think Flores could come off the disabled list Sunday.

Up next
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (7-1, 1.48 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday night against 43-year-old Bartolo Colon (4-3, 3.44). Kershaw, coming off a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati, is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 10 starts against the Mets. He is 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA in May -- including a three-hit shutout of New York on May 12 at Dodger Stadium. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has struck out 55 and walked two this month.

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

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Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

The Soul fell on the road to the Cleveland Gladiators, 63-49, at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night.

The loss was just the second of the season and the first away from the Wells Fargo Center for the Soul. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh completed 25 of 44 passes for 342 yards and seven touchdownsi in a losing effort.

The Gladiators were led by receiver Quentin Sims, who finished with 10 receptions for 114 yards and three touchdowns, and signal caller Arvell Nelson who completed 22 of 36 passes for 307 yards and seven touchdowns.

Next week, the Soul travel to Jacksonville to take on the Sharks on Saturday, June 4. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports and 97.5 The Fanatic.  Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.