Burn One: Sixers Lose to Bulls in Game I Sincerely Hope No One But Me and My Roommates Watched

Burn One: Sixers Lose to Bulls in Game I Sincerely Hope No One But Me and My Roommates Watched

Well, that was a thoroughly miserable experience. Watching sports is
rarely fun if your team is losing, but watching sports where it seems
like it's actually both teams that are losing but it's your team
that's losing the most is just the worst. I hoped the Sixers could close
out the Bulls in decisive fashion in this one, but the only thing
"decisive" about this game was how decisively crappy Andre Iguodala's
fourth quarter was and how decisively quickly everyone in the country
without a rooting interest in this game flipped the channel to the
series finale of The Voice.


You could probably tell about this one early, when the score was still
16-12 Sixers and there was already less than a minute to go in the first
quarter. (I squinted at my TV several times, convinced I was just
reading the clock wrong.) Little did I know that was about as good as
things were gonna get for the Ballers—they scored 10 points on 17% (!!)
shooting for the entire second quarter, and barely scraped the 20s in
the two quarters after that, as the Bulls managed to scrape together
some semblance of an offense, increasing the lead to about ten late in
the third, putting the game totally out of reach for the bumbling
Sixers. Final score: Bulls not a lot of points, Sixers even less.

The really remarkable thing about this game was how the Bulls managed to
look invincible in that second half while still playing totally
mediocre. Luol Deng achieved folk hero status in Chicago for his 24
point, 10-19 effort—which, while mildly impressive, would maybe be the
third best performance in a game involving two competent NBA teams.
Carlos Boozer, meanwhile, felt like he was having a career game, though
he ended up with 19 points on 9-20 shooting. 19 points on 20 shots!
That's not even a good game! But tonight, it was good enough that for a
stretch, he legitimately seemed unstoppable. That's the kind of game it was.

The number of Sixers I'd like to call out in this game is a large one,
since their best player on the court tonight was probably Jrue Holiday
(who scored 16 points on resounding 5-17 shooting), but I need to make
mention of the truly superlative fourth quarter we were privy to from
Andre Iguodala. My roommate Jason has a theory about 'Dre, which is that
there are only two things in this world he truly loves:

1. Dunking
2. Not leading the Philadelphia 76ers

I proposed that he add "Making 1 of 2 free throws" as a third thing, but
he countered that this could be folded into category #2, which was fair
enough.

Anyway, tonight was a pretty textbook example of passion #2 (without
nearly enough #1, IMO). He had a subpar game going into the fourth
quarter, what with Deng going off (sic) and the not much scoring or
assisting, but he did at least have a made three, and well what do you
expect he's Andre Iguodala. But the finale frame took things to the next
level for our All-Star swingman. The entire quarter, Andre did a total
of two good things:

1. He drew a shooting foul and made 2 of 2 free throws (!!!!!)
2. He stole the ball from Ronnie Brewer and dished to Spencer Hawes for a fast break layup (and one).

That's it. Here's how the rest of Iguodala's fourth quarter went, as the world was crumbling around the Sixers:

9:26: Pulled up for an 18-foot jumper while double teamed. Shot blocked by Omer Asik.
6:43: Pulled up for three-pointer from the wing with 18 seconds left in
the clock. Shot rims out badly and leads to Bulls fast break and bucket.

3:26: Tried to spin in the lane looking for a fast-break layup. Ball stripped and stolen by Ronnie Brewer.
2:50: Drove the lane to score against two defenders. Shot blocked by Luol Deng.
0:28: Missed wide-open catch-and-shoot three from the corner.

It was just one atrocity after another for 'Dre, who ultimately finished
with 11 points on 4-19 shooting, four boards and one assist.

Look, I know I shouldn't get on Andre Iguodala too much. I still like
'Dre, really I do—it's not like anyone else on this team stepped up
either—and I want nothing but good things for him in the future. I just
want them for him on another team at this point. It's not like we're
still in the process of deciding whether or not he can be a
fourth-quarter leader for the Sixers—we now know with a fair amount of
certainty that he can't. But it's unfortunate that just in case we were
unconvinced that he couldn't, he always seems willing to provide yet
another example. We are now firmly in "Change of Scenery" territory with
AI9.

Back to the game at large—well, whatever. If we win Thursday at home
then it's meaningless, if we lose Thursday then it's also meaningless,
but in a more depressing way. This game was the absolute pits and the
less we learn from it the better. One good thing, though: The nation
will certainly be rooting for the Sixers on Thursday, simply so that
this series can be over and they won't get sucked into watching any more
games like this. I SEE YOU JERMAINE PAUL!!

Eagles 2016 training camp schedule features 2 open practices

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Eagles 2016 training camp schedule features 2 open practices

Eagles rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans will report to training camp on Monday, July 25. 

The rest of the veterans will report on July 27, with the first full-team practice of training camp taking place on Thursday, July 28 at 3:30 p.m., the team announced Wednesday. 

The majority of training camp practices this summer under Doug Pederson will take place at the NovaCare Complex, beginning at 8:15 a.m., which is earlier than the team practiced during camp under former head coach Chip Kelly. The early practices hark back to training camps under Andy Reid at Lehigh, although now the team will have its walkthroughs in the afternoon. 

The Eagles will have two practices open to fans at Lincoln Financial Field: Sunday, July 31 at 10 a.m. and Sunday, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. Both open practices are free and don't require tickets. Seating will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

The Eagles will have several off days throughout camp: Aug. 2, Aug. 9, Aug. 12. And camp ends on Aug. 16, with the preseason opener vs. the Tampa Bay Bucs in the middle, on Aug. 11. 

With rotation gone, Mychal Kendricks preparing for comeback season

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With rotation gone, Mychal Kendricks preparing for comeback season

Getting in a rhythm, getting in a flow, is important for Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks. 

Really important. 

“That’s everything,” Kendricks said after Tuesday’s OTA practice. “It truly is.”

That’s why last season was so tough on the veteran linebacker. Under former defensive coordinator Bill Davis and head coach Chip Kelly, Kendricks was forced into a rotation with DeMeco Ryans, Kiko Alonso, and later Jordan Hicks. 

In a year when he did nurse a hamstring injury for a few weeks, Kendricks played just 52 percent of defensive snaps in 2015. After playing all 77 snaps in the opener, Kendricks never got above 90 percent again and didn’t play more than 70 percent of snaps in any of the last five games of the season. 

That’s quite a departure for someone who is widely considered to be a three-down linebacker. In 2014, Kendricks played 100 percent of his team’s defensive snaps in seven games. 

“I just feel like it was too much hot and cold, with all the players rotating in and out and whatnot,” Kendricks said about his 2015 season. “No one was able to get in the flow. It was odd. But I didn’t feel like I played as good or as much. For the time that I was in, I feel that my numbers were OK. But it’s hard to be a force or something to reckon with when you’re not on the field.”

Kendricks admitted the rotation was tough on him, but did what he was told. 

This season, he’s not expected to be in a rotation. For now, he’s the team’s starting weakside linebacker, while Jordan Hicks is in the middle with Nigel Bradham on the strongside. All three, however, are versatile and could be moved around. 

“All of those guys are pretty much interchangeable,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “And you have to be now.”

Aside from the rotation at inside linebacker a year ago, Kendricks also dealt with another injury. He basically missed a total of four weeks in 2015 with a lingering hamstring injury. In 2014, Kendricks missed four games with a calf injury. 

While Kendricks has never made a Pro Bowl, before last season, when healthy, he has played to that level. In fact, making the Pro Bowl is a personal goal for Kendricks this season. 

“I feel like if I stay healthy, you’ll see me in the Pro Bowl,” he said. “Those are things that you can’t control. Unfortunately, a couple times, I’ve fallen short of my personal goal because of an injury. No one wants that. I’m not making any excuses or anything, that’s just what it is. 

“I used to beat myself up over that, but as you get older and you start understanding the game, you know that there’s some things that you just literally do not control. You can’t beat yourself up over it.”

If Kendricks does get named to the Pro Bowl this season, his production will match the four-year, $29 million contract extension he signed before the 2015 season began. 

From the outside, it seems possible that Kendricks’ new contract might have been a factor in his decline last season, but the linebacker doesn’t seem to think it played much of a role. 

“Have I thought about it? Yeah,” Kendricks said. “But then I look back at all the scenarios that could have played an effect. I got paid and I didn’t play as much as I’d like to. It could have went both ways. Who knows, maybe I wouldn’t have played at all. I don’t know. Sometimes the grass is greener; sometimes the grass isn’t greener. I’m not a fortune teller or a future teller, I just go with my gut.”

Sixers draft target: F Ben Simmons

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Sixers draft target: F Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons

Position: Forward

Height/Weight: 6-foot-10/239 pounds

School: LSU

The 19-year-old Australia native was the favorite to be the top pick in the 2016 NBA draft before he ever took the court for LSU. Here we are less than a month from the draft and that still may very well be the case.

It's hard to ignore Simmons' production in his only season with the Tigers: 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and two steals per game. The 6-foot-10 forward with guard skills was named SEC Freshman of the Year and was named to the conference's first team. But for all his personal accolades, Simmons' team failed to make the NCAA Tournament after taking a 71-38 whooping at the hands of Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament. He's been criticized from everything to his lack of maturity to his inability to shoot consistently from the outside.

Strengths
It's so rare to see a player of Simmons' stature with the ability to handle and see the court so well. Watching Simmons grab the ball off the rim and then go the length of the floor to either finish or find the open man is a thing of beauty. I love how smooth he is. It looks effortless for him. You almost forget he's 6-foot-10. His basketball IQ is excellent. He forces contact down low with his big body and draws fouls. His rebounding ability should translate very well to the next level.

He has the ability to guard multiple positions with his length and athleticism... if he's motivated. His size is going to be a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. A traditional four will struggle with his quickness. He'll be able to take a lot of wings down low and punish them in the post.

Weaknesses
The biggest thing is his shot. It's been well-documented. His three-point output in college: 33 percent. As much as that number reflects a weakness, he's at least self-aware. He knows his weaknesses. His free-throw percentage (67 percent) is just OK. The good news is, if you actually watched him shoot, this isn't a total rebuild.

Are the maturity and competitiveness concerns legitimate? I don't know. It's a 19-year-old kid we're talking about. The Sixers will have to decide if those concerns are something he'll outgrow or a serious red flag going forward. Playing under Brett Brown, who coached Simmons' father in Australia, would hopefully mitigate some of the concern.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
This is a really interesting question that I'm not sure anyone has the answer to yet. At 6-foot-10, he almost has to play the four, but where does that leave Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and possibly Joel Embiid and Dario Saric? There could be nights where Brown could get away with playing Simmons on the wing given his ball skills. But it might be a struggle for Simmons defensively depending on the matchup. In any case, Simmons will need a shooter/scorer or two in the lineup to complement his skill set.

NBA comparison
This is next to impossible. How many players have there been that are built like power forwards but handle like point guards? Magic Johnson is a lofty comparison, but Lamar Odom may not be quite strong enough. Much like Simmons, Magic was not a shooter (19 percent from three in his first nine years in the NBA), but at 6-foot-9, Johnson was one of the greatest facilitators in league history. If Simmons is somewhere between Johnson and Odom, the Sixers will be just fine.

Draft projection
I'd be shocked if the Sixers don't take Simmons at No. 1. It's the right call.