Bye Bye Speezy: Marreese Speights Traded to Grizzlies in Three-Teamer

Bye Bye Speezy: Marreese Speights Traded to Grizzlies in Three-Teamer

You know, in Marreese Speights' first season as a Sixer in '08-'09, he
had a Player Efficiency Rating of 18.0—third-highest on the team of
anyone who played 1000 minutes, behind team cornerstones and Co-Andres
Miller and Iguodala. This is not to suggest that the Sixers made a
mistake by trading Speights today to the Memphis Grizzlies in part of a
three-team deal that netted the Sixers a couple second-round draft
picks—quite the contrary, in fact—but rather, just to remind everyone
that while Marreese is now a superfluous player on a .500-ish team, that
doesn't mean he wasn't without his moments, especially in that rookie
year.

Indeed, during that rookie season, Mo Speezy seemed like he might
have been a real steal for the Liberty Ballers with the 16th pick of the
2008 draft. He really started coming on in late December of '08,
scoring in the double digits in six straight games off the bench, and in
12 of 15 games in a one-month span. The high point of Marreese's rookie
year came in a 2009 game against Phoenix, where in the proud tradition
of Sixers bench players carving up the Suns, he shot 11-16 for a
season-high 24 points, outpacing even the Suns' scoring dynamo Amar'e
Stoudemire. A fine finisher around the basket and a deadly shooter from
the wing, and still raw at the age of 21, watching Speights was one of
the highlights of an up-and-down '09 season for the Sixers, and looked
like he would be a key part of the Sixers' offense for years to come.

But Speezy was also a cautionary tale of the perils of reading too
much into PER. While a versatile, efficient scorer, Marreese was also
indifferent to just about every other aspect of the game. He was an
untalented, unmotivated passer (his career high in assists in a Sixers
uniform remains an astounding "two," achieved just five times), and he
was fundamentally flawed on the defensive end—one of the reasons he
could never play big minutes for the Sixers, even in '08-'09 after Elton
Brand went down and we had to start Reggie Evans, was because he could
never stay on the court long enough without getting into foul trouble.
More disturbingly, he never seemed to show much interest in improving,
instead moaning about his playing time as the league caught up to his
offensive tendencies and his numbers began to dip each year.

In the four games the Sixers have played this year, Marreese
Speights has not played a single minute, his role in the rotation taken
by new backup center Nikola Vucevic, demonstrating what on-court value
the team believed the once-so-promising Speights to now have. In that
sense, we should be glad that de facto GM Rod Thorn was able to get a
couple second-round picks for him—you can never have too many draft
picks, and you never know when one of those can be used in a potential
future deal to help get the Sixers a much more valuable player. Still,
when you look back at that rookie year—or, further back, to some of the
players drafted after Speights in that loaded '08 draft
(including starter-caliber big men that the Sixers could really use,
like the Pacers' Roy Hibbert, the Wizards' JaVale McGee and the
Thunder's Serge Ibaka)—it's hard not to feel a little bit bummed that
this is how it all ended with Speezy.

Farewell, Marreese. We'll miss your 16-footers, your growl-after-dunks, your all-too-toothy smile, and most of all, your thoroughly unintelligible Twitter account. Best of luck in Memphis, and say hi to Dante Cunningham for us.

NFL Notes: All-Pro safety Eric Berry to report to Chiefs Sunday

NFL Notes: All-Pro safety Eric Berry to report to Chiefs Sunday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- All-Pro safety Eric Berry plans to report to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, giving him two weeks and one preseason game to prepare for the start of the regular season.

A person familiar with his plans told The Associated Press that Berry will join the team after its preseason game Saturday in Chicago. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Friday because he was not authorized to discuss Berry's plans publicly.

Berry was given the franchise tag early in the offseason but has not signed the deal, which means he could skip all of training camp without being fined. Once he signs the one-year contract, he will make just over $10.8 million, making him the league's highest-paid safety.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey have said all along they expect Berry to report ahead of the regular season, but it was never clear when that might happen.

Kansas City plays its first regular-season game Sept. 11 against San Diego.

"I think it's important to see what kind of shape he is in and then gradually bring him back into the football speed of things," Reid said Tuesday, when asked what Berry will need to do to get up to speed. "I don't think it's the end of the world if he doesn't play in the last preseason game (see full story).

Falcons: 1st-round pick Neal to have knee surgery
ATLANTA -- Atlanta Falcons rookie strong safety Keanu Neal, the team's first-round pick and a projected starter, will miss the beginning of the season with a knee injury.

Neal will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Monday and is expected to miss three to four weeks, according to the Falcons. Coach Dan Quinn said he is encouraged Neal avoided a more serious injury that could have kept him out longer.

"Hopefully it's a shorter-term injury where we're looking at two and hopefully the worst would be three games," Quinn said, adding that he knows Neal will work for a quick return because "he's kind of just built that way."

Wide receiver Julio Jones is expected to be limited in practice after leaving Thursday night's game in the second quarter with an ankle injury. Quinn said he the injury is not expected to threaten Jones' status for the regular season.

Neal hurt his knee in the first quarter of the Falcons' 17-6 preseason loss to the Miami Dolphins. He had to be helped off the field but walked to the locker room without assistance (see full story).

Ravens: Former Navy star Reynolds finds NFL life 'humbling'
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Keenan Reynolds' foray into the NFL has overwhelmingly altered his perspective of the game.

As a standout quarterback at Navy, Reynolds was revered in Annapolis. He ran for an NCAA-record 88 touchdowns, went 4-0 against Army and finished fifth in the 2015 Heisman Trophy balloting.

However, his prowess at running the triple option is of no help in his quest to make the Baltimore Ravens. Fighting for a job as a backup receiver and special teams contributor, Reynolds is just another rookie buried deep on the depth chart.

"It's very humbling," he acknowledged. "I'm just trying to make the best of it."

At Navy, Reynolds ran, handed off or threw the football. His job now is to catch it.

"I have a lot more respect for the position of wide receiver," he said, "especially after being a quarterback."

Chooch was 'a fireball,' says Ryan Howard, last of the '08 Phillies

Chooch was 'a fireball,' says Ryan Howard, last of the '08 Phillies

NEW YORK — Phillies players were greeted by a message from Carlos Ruiz when they entered the visiting clubhouse at Citi Field on Friday.

“I will miss all of you guys. Good luck the rest of the season. Love you all, Chooch! Gracias,” (see story).

Ruiz did not actually write those words on the whiteboard by the entry to the clubhouse, but they were his. He reached out to visiting clubhouse manager Tony Carullo and asked that the message be written in just that way.

Ruiz, 37, was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, ending an 11-season run with the Phillies that included five NL East titles, a World Series championship, an All-Star Game, a slew of clutch hits, many words of praise from the pitching staff and a million calls of Choooooch from fans in the stands (see story).

“Everybody loved Chooch for a number of reasons,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He’s the kind of guy you loved seeing every day, a hard-working, humble and appealing human being.

“I’d like to think when he’s done playing, the Phillies might have a place for him.”

Mackanin paused and laughed.

“As long as they don’t make him manager and he takes my job.”

Ruiz’s exit leaves Ryan Howard as the only member of the 2008 World Series championship team still with the club. Over the last few seasons, Howard has seen Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels and Chase Utley depart.

It’s a topic that Howard seems to have grown weary of talking about.

“I've had to hear about it every year,” he said. “It's again the same thing. You play with guys your entire career and now you see them in different uniforms. It's definitely going to be something to get used to but that's baseball. That's the business aspect of it. Teams make moves and that's what happens.”

Like the rest of the core of that team, Howard, 36, has been available for trade the last few seasons, but there has been no real interest because of his decline in performance and huge salary.

So he will play out the final six weeks of his contract and try to hook on elsewhere next season.

Howard saluted his former teammate, Ruiz.

“I'm trying to think of the right words,” he said.

“The thing about Chooch — he was the quarterback in a sense. The way he handled the pitching staff, the way he prepared himself for games with the pitchers, from the defensive standpoint knowing different situations, knowing what guy you want to beat you, what guy you don't want to beat you. Just the way he played the game, he was a fireball. He was a fireball out there. I'm definitely going to miss him. I hit him up yesterday a little bit after I found out. I was happy for him and wanted to wish him the best.

“Chooch, he was always very, very positive. Always trying to help guys out, trying to pick guys up when he can and it carried over onto the field. That was his mentality.”

The Phillies acquired veteran backup catcher A.J. Ellis, minor-league pitcher Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named later for Ruiz (see story). Ellis is due to join the team Saturday. In the meantime, the Phillies added prospect Jorge Alfaro from Double A (see story). He will be the backup catcher Friday night, then return to a talent-rich Reading club that has the best record in minor-league baseball and a date with the Eastern League playoffs.