Can They Do That? NBA Vetoes Megabuster Three-Team Deal Sending Chris Paul to Lakers

Can They Do That? NBA Vetoes Megabuster Three-Team Deal Sending Chris Paul to Lakers

It was supposed to be a short, easy off-season. No big-name free agents
hitting the block, unless you count Nene and Marc Gasol (nope), just a
lot of small, quick signings and quiet roster-bolstering as teams
prepare for their very short pre-seasons and incredibly strenuous
regular seasons. But then that wisenheimer Chris Paul had to go and tell
the New Orleans Hornets that he wasn't going to sign an extension with
them, pushing them to look to trade the superstar point guard. And now
nothing is as it should be.

As of 6:00 pm today, it looked like a done deal that Chris Paul was going to be traded to the Lakers. In all likelihood, it was a
done deal—New Orleans was gonna send CP3 to the Lakers for forwards Pau
Gasol and Andrew Bynum, then turn around and deal Gasol to the Houston
Rockets in exchange for shooting guard Kevin Martin, power forward Luis
Scola, backup point Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round pick belonging
to the New York Knicks. Twitter exploded with the news of the trade,
leading to the inevitable amount of hand-wrigning about the rich getting
richer when we just had a lockout partially caused by the desire for
parity between the big and small-market teams.

But not so fast, Rodriguez. Turns out that the league—which by the
way, technically owns the Hornets—doesn't approve of the trade, calling
it not in the league's best interest. Indeed, it does seem sort of odd
that we just had a lockout to help small-market teams be able to hold
onto their stars, and now the '11-'12 season kicks off with one of its
marquee stars forcing his way out of New Orleans to get to the
quintessential big-market team, but it seems far crazier that the league
should be able to veto the trade just because it seems to create some
sort of competitive unbalance. ("This is pretty shameful on the owners'
part. This isn't a fantasy league." read a well-circulated tweet from
NBA writer Eric Freeman.)

And here's the thing: Were we really sure that this trade was going
to make the Lakers that much better? Better at all? Nobody who watches
hoops with any seriousness would dare question the value of Chris Paul,
an MVP-caliber player any year that he's healthy, but people around the
league all agree that the reason the Lakers have won two of the last
three championships is because of their incredibly imposing frontcourt,
with the combination of Odom, Gasol and Andrew Bynum all but guaranteed
to be bigger, more physical and more skilled than whatever big men
combos other teams could throw at them. With Odom and Gasol gone, Bynum
would be awfully lonely in a frontcourt shared with Derrick Caracter,
Devin Ebanks and whatever veteran-minimum or mid-mid-level guys the team
could sign in free agency. The team's primary advantage would vanish.

What's more, who knows how well Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant would've
gotten on as teammates? Kobe's used to playing with yes-men point guards
like Derek Fisher, Smush Parker and Ron Harper, guys who were willing
to serve as unobtrusive role players and let Kobe do most of the
playmaking. (You know how many double-digit assist games Derek Fisher
has had as a Laker since 1998, when Kobe first became a starter? Zero.
Not a single one.) How would Kobe respond to having possibly the best
playmaking guard in the world sharing a backcourt with him? Could he
play off the ball? Could the two split touches and still keep a fluid
offense? Could Kobe stand no longer being his team's unquestioned most
skilled offensive player? All these questions would've invariably come
up for the Lakers, and the answers might not have always been pretty.

And on the other hand, New Orleans might not have been all that
worse off for the deal. Sure, if they had to choose between trading
Chris Paul or signing him to a six-year extension, they'd select the
latter 100 times over, but after Paul let them know he would not stick
around after the season (and with second banana power forward David West
a likely departed free agent anyway), they had to start the rebuilding
process, and in this trade, they received pieces that allowed them to
almost completely rebuild on the fly, not unlike Denver did last season
when they traded franchise forward Carmelo Anthony and were arguably
better after the deal. New Orleans wouldn't have contended this year
(and might not have again any time soon), but at the very least they
weren't going to be Cleveland. (Of course the Rockets seemed like they
were getting hosed in the deal, but whatever, their own fault for
getting involved.)

Now, who even knows. If Paul to L.A. is dead, does that mean he can
still be traded to a fellow small-market team? Or a
small-team-in-a-big-market like the Warriors or Clippers? Or is he just
stuck playing out the string in New Orleans, where everyone knows he's
already planning his next move, with New Orleans unable to get the
proper rebuilding pieces in exchange for his departure? The entire thing
is ridiculous, and furthermore, it shines a light on how ridiculous the
entire lockout was if a disaster like this—in which the league only
seems to be hurting itself more by imposing its will on the situation—is
occurring so close to the lockout's resolution.

Oh, and by the way, the lockout IS officially over now—the players
and owners voted to approve the new CBA as of this afternoon. Welcome
back, The NBA.

End to End: Analyzing Bradyen Schenn's contract

End to End: Analyzing Bradyen Schenn's contract

Each week, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End this week are Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone, all producers/reporters for CSNPhilly.com.

Is Brayden Schenn's contract a good deal for the Flyers?

Dougherty
It's understandable why some portion of Flyers fans have responded to Schenn's contract extension with caution; the $5.125 million is a bit high for what he's done consistently. But we live in a salary cap world in which the cap is not rising at the rate we would like.

We have to consider that when analyzing contracts. As Sportsnet's Colton Praill eloquently opined about bridge contracts back on July 13, we've seen teams get burnt by bad contracts. Look at the Chicago Blackhawks, who have had to move players to fit under the cap.

Part of surviving the cap world is making smart bets on players, and that requires breaking down what they have done already but more importantly, what you believe they'll do in the future. And Ron Hextall has done a decent job of that in his tenure as GM.

A perfect example of that is Sean Couturier's contract. It was a higher cap hit than his offensive production warranted at the time, but a deal we would look back on as a steal.

Now, Schenn's development is nearly complete. It's a different situation, but the same idea. If Schenn is a 26-goal, 59-point player, his $5.125 million AAV is fair.

If there's another level we haven't seen from the 24-year-old, then this is a totally different conversation in a few years.

In the end, the Flyers are betting on Schenn being the player he was from Jan. 1, 2016, through the end of the season, and living in the cap world, it's a smart play.

Hall
The Flyers were going to re-sign Brayden Schenn, through an arbitrator or not.

And when it was all said and done, no matter if the average annual value was slightly lower or higher than the $5.125 million of Schenn’s new four-year contract, the Flyers were still going to be handcuffed by the cap.

So the Flyers avoided what can be a messy arbitration process by finding a happy medium with a strategic deal that behooves the Flyers long term, as Ron Hextall explained.

Now they have longer team control over Schenn, who could have signed for fewer years, upped his game and ballooned his payday as an unrestricted free agent.

Like Hextall said, top-six forwards entering their prime "are hard to find."

Yeah, the Flyers probably overpaid just a bit, but that’s the NHL market — it’s far from perfect.

Paone
There’s a reason these kinds of things are categorized as negotiations. There’s give and take involved. In the case of Brayden Schenn’s contract, there was probably a little more give than Ron Hextall and the Flyers would have liked. The numbers reported over the weekend tell us the Flyers didn’t necessarily want to go over the $5 million per year threshold with Schenn, even though the 24-year-old forward is coming off a career year of 26 goals and 33 assists.

But just because the Flyers went over their projected budget by going a smidge over $5 million doesn’t mean this is a terrible deal for the team. Not by any means. By now, you’ve probably read or heard Hextall use the term “market deal” when describing this contract. And that’s accurate because that’s the way the NHL is going these days. Yes, Schenn has had inconsistency issues over his first five seasons in Philadelphia. But young scorers don’t grow on trees. You have to pay to keep the ones you have. New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, the New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider and St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz are just a few examples. Schenn is just the latest. There will be more young scorers out there, flaws be damned, who will get paid sooner rather than later.

Sure, Schenn picked a great time last year — a contract year — to have a career season. And that pushed the Flyers to reward him. Now, it’s up to him to reward the Flyers’ faith.

Phillies to host Grateful Dead Tribute Night in August with sweet tie-dye T-shirt giveaway

phillies.png

Phillies to host Grateful Dead Tribute Night in August with sweet tie-dye T-shirt giveaway

The 2016 Philadelphia Phillies season has felt a bit like they're just going down the road feeling bad and when they're at home, Citizens Bank Park has felt a bit like a brokedown palace, so it's fitting they're hosting a Grateful Dead Tribute Night in August.

Not sure what kind of antics are planned for the night but I'm hopping it includes a skit where the Phanatic dances on top of the dugout with his new best friend Lucifer. 

Grateful Dead night at CBP will take place on Tuesday, August 2nd when the Phils host the San Francisco Giants.

"The first 1,500 fans who purchase tickets through this promotion will receive a coupon for an exclusive Phillies Grateful Dead T-shirt giveaway," says the Phillies website. "In addition, $4 from each ticket sold for this event will benefit the Rex Foundation."

The Phillies have struggled heading into the July trade deadline, but hopefully help is on the way in the form of young prospects like Jake Thompson and J.P. Crawford.

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Phils look to continue mastery of Giancarlo Stanton

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Phils look to continue mastery of Giancarlo Stanton

Phillies (46-55) at Marlins (53-46)
7:10 p.m. on CSN

Another impressive start by Jeremy Hellickson and some timely late offense led the Phillies to a series-opening win in Miami Monday. Now they go for the quick series win, which would be their first in four tries since the All-Star break.

Let's take a closer look at Tuesday's matchup:

1. One donut shy of a dozen
The Phillies' 4-0 win last night was their 11th shutout victory of the season, the most in baseball. The Mets and Dodgers are tied for second with nine.

The Phils' pitching staff was obviously at its best in April, when it set the MLB record for strikeouts per nine innings in the month at 10.4. The Phillies had five shutouts in April, two in May, two in June and now two in July. 

And it's not like the Phils have just taken advantage of bad teams here, shutting out the Braves or Padres repeatedly. They've shut out the Nationals twice, the Mets, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Pirates, Marlins and Diamondbacks. All of those teams except Arizona (which has a good offense) is above .500 and in the playoff hunt.

It's been written here many times that the most important short-term decision the Phillies made this past offseason was to raise the floor of the starting rotation. They've done it, and more importantly they've done it with youth. The Phillies' mediocre, veteran-laden 2015 staff had just seven shutouts all season.

2. Walk this way
Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp both had productive nights Monday in their returns to the starting lineup. Franco went 1 for 2 with a double and three walks, scoring the Phillies' first and ultimately game-winning run in the eighth. Rupp went 0 for 2 but also walked three times and saw 26 pitches.

How rare is it for two Phillies to walk three times in the same game? It hadn't happened since Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz did it on April 5, 2010 at Nationals Park in Roy Halladay's Phillies debut.

Franco and Rupp may have been the two most unlikely Phillies to walk three times. Franco is an aggressive swinger, and Rupp walked just three times in the season's first two months. Rupp had just 11 in 248 plate appearances this season before Monday.

The Phillies averted disaster with two of their productive, young hitters after Franco was hit by a pitch on the wrist (again) in Pittsburgh and Rupp was hit on the helmet. 

3. Eickhoff's turn
Two of Jerad Eickhoff's last three starts have seen him start strong and fall apart in the middle innings. He allowed six runs (five earned) on nine hits over five innings against the Marlins last week after beginning the game with three scoreless innings.

Right before the All-Star break, Eickhoff was cruising at Coors Field with four shutout innings before the umpire's strike zone shrunk and Eickhoff's control disappeared. He allowed two runs in the fifth and six in the sixth.

In between those two outings was a well-pitched game in which Eickhoff allowed two runs in six innings to the Mets for yet another quality start.

So even though the results lately have been ugly for Eickhoff, even though his ERA has risen from 3.30 to 3.98 in the span of three weeks, he hasn't been all that bad. He just needs to avoid that one big inning.

Eickhoff, who is 6-11 with a 3.98 ERA in 20 starts this season, is 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA against the Marlins this season. He pitched six shutout innings against them in their lone meeting last year.

Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich have caused the most problems for him, going a combined 6 for 15 with three doubles and two homers.

4. Time to hit Koehler
The Phillies have had three looks at mediocre Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42) this season and failed to hit him all three times. 

On May 7, Koehler allowed one run on two hits over seven innings with eight strikeouts in a game the Phillies eventually won. 

On May 18, he allowed two runs to them in seven innings and induced 16 groundballs.

And then last week, matched up against Eickhoff, Koehler again gave up just two hits, this time over eight innings. He allowed two homers but only one of the Phils' three runs was earned.

It's hard to explain why, all the sudden, the Phils have stopped hitting the 6-foot-3 righty. Last season, a worse Phillies team scored 15 runs against him in 21 innings. 

The Phillies are familiar with Koehler's repertoire, which includes a fastball in the 93 to 95 mph range, a curveball, slider and changeup. In the first two meetings this season he threw them a ton of fastballs, 115 in all. But last week he threw just 38 fastballs among 110 pitches. He threw 34 curveballs in that game, by far the most he's thrown this season. Don't be surprised to see a similar game plan tonight given how well it worked last week.

Current Phillies have hit just .201 against Koehler with three homers (Ryan Howard, Cody Asche, Freddy Galvis) in 144 at-bats.

5. Marlins notes
• Ichiro has gone 0 for 4 as a pinch-hitter in the Marlins' last four games. He's sitting on 2,996 career hits, meaning he could get his historic 3,000th against the Phillies this week with a big game or two. It would require the Marlins to sit one of Ozuna, Yelich or Giancarlo Stanton, though.

• Stanton this season against the Phillies: 3 for 33 (.091), one extra-base hit (a homer), two RBIs, 14 strikeouts. 

Against everyone else, Stanton has hit .257/.350/.524 with 20 home runs and 53 RBIs. If you remove the Phillies from the equation, Stanton's OPS this season would be 52 points higher, .874 instead of .822.