Checking In With the 76ers In Week Four of the Lockout

Checking In With the 76ers In Week Four of the Lockout

Yeah, yeah, football football football. Bully for them for getting their
act together with time to spare before the 2011 NFL regular season is
to start, but for those of us more concentrated on the upcoming NBA
season—there's probably a handful of us somewhere, maybe in Los Angeles
and Miami—it's hard to get too excited about football's return when
resolution in pro hoops still seems so far away. Who cares about Kevin
Kolb and Brett Favre when the Sixers don't even know if they're going to
be able to re-sign Tony Battie next year?

There's no particularly promising news on that front to my
knowledge, so the best I can do for you guys is to keep you posted as to
what the boys on the team have been up to while locking out is still in
effect. Here's the lowdown on how some of our guys have been keeping
themselves busy.

Andre Iguodala:

Enrico already told you about 'Dre's aspirations towards business management
(and possibly some dabbling in civil activism), and aside from his
summer reading list, he's also doing some training and made a cameo at
Sweet Lou's kiddie hoops camp. But most of what AI9 has been doing is
listening to pop music, and sharing his opinions about it via his new
Twitter account. Some pearls:

On Lady Gaga: "What do @ladygaga be talkin bout that got her 11.6
million followers???...11.6 million followers??? No one MAN should have all that power!!! ( #kanyevoice)"

On Watching ?uestlove DJ in Brooklyn: "It's mad eccentric in this joint...but I can dig it"

On Big Sean and 21st Century Music Storage: "Big Sean on his way, his cd dope...I said "cd" like I have the actual thing! Album I should bad.."

On Beyoncé: "This beyonce album is the perfect shower music #isaidit...isaidit !"

Oh, and he and ET should be checking the Chicago date of Jay-Z and Kanye's Watch the Throne
tour. So if you're at the United Center show on Oct. 6th, keep an eye
out for two dorkily dressed six-and-a-half footers with awkward (and
oddly overlapping) dance moves. Can't miss 'em.

Evan Turner:

Speaking of the Extraterrestrial, he's had the most high-profile training regimen in this off-season, thanks to his working out
with renowned shot doctor Herb McGee, who's trying to get the Kid to
use his guiding hand less on his jumper. Good on Evan for putting in
work, though if he's actually hoping on being able to keep up his career
rate of shooting 50% from the field, he might want to think about
playing in a different basketball league than the NBA. (No high-usage
two guards besides Dwyane Wade even approach 50% in the pros, and
crossover moves aside, Turner's no D-Wade.)

Besides that, the Villain has also been tweeting up a storm, learning about the manipulativeness of girls (awww, Evan!!), singing along to the Backstreet Boys (does anyone actually think "Shape of My Heart" is a classic, though?) and begging for rides
to the Waffle House (bro, there's probably an IHOP within walking
distance). If the lockout continues, Evan and 'Dre might eventually have
a Russian novel between them, composed haltingly in 140-character

Jrue Holiday:

Now that he's done supporting girlfriend Lauren Cheney
on the US Women's Soccer team (losers), The Damaja is putting in time
for the kids out on the West Coast. The Sixers' point guard held his
first-ever kids basketball camp
in Porter Ranch, California this week, and is prepping another camp at
the SuperGym in Los Angeles in Early August. Featuring special guests
Shawn Marion and John Wall! Watch the awkward promo below. ("Sepulveda?") :

Oh, and not to be left out of the team's pop love on Twitter, he's also been quoting Drake, though saying you ain't went this hard since you was 18 doesn't mean so much when you were 18 like, a year ago.

Thaddeus Young:

The boy Thaddeus has perhaps the most
to anticipate about the lockout ending, given his imminent free agency
and his likelihood to demand a yearly salary in the high-seven /
low-eight digits on the open market. "I think I’m definitely underrated
by many people after all these years," Thad told HoopsHype
recently. "There’s a lot of different aspects to my game: I can take
one-on-one, I can play guys out, I can dridbble… There’s a lot of
things I can do out there." There are indeed, but whether that's enough
for the Sixers to match whatever exorbitant offer he might end up
getting—under what might be a pretty restrictive salary cap by
then—remains to be seen.

In the meantime, Thad says that he'd "like to stay with
Philadelphia, the team drafted me," but qualifies that "my mindset is
that anything can happen." To be continued...

Spencer Hawes:

This guy did this:

Yikes. Basketball really can't get back here soon enough.

Eagles-Vikings 5 things: Game much bigger than Sam Bradford's return

Eagles-Vikings 5 things: Game much bigger than Sam Bradford's return

Eagles vs. Vikings
1 p.m. on FOX

Eagles +3

A familiar face comes to town on Sunday when the Eagles host the Vikings, the NFL's last unbeaten team at 5-0.

There's more to this matchup than a certain jilted quarterback returning to Lincoln Financial Field though. After an inspired 3-0 start, the Eagles have come out flat in two consecutive games, both losses. If this squad has any hope of getting back on track in Week 7, they can't afford to focus on the high-profile former teammate in purple sleeves.

Grinding it out
How good is the Vikings' defense? Even though they're ranked fourth in the league against the run and eighth in yards per carry allowed, they've faced the second-highest number of rushing attempts. Simply put, between a fierce pass-rush and ball-hawking secondary, offenses are afraid to put the ball in the air against this team.

Opponents have decided the best way to beat the Minnesota defense is by keeping the ball on the ground — shorten the game, try to create manageable third downs and play the field position game. Of course, the best way for the Eagles to beat Washington's 28th-ranked run defense last week, with a fifth-round rookie right tackle making his first career start mind you, also would've been to hand the ball off early and often, which wasn't exactly the game plan that we saw.

As good as Carson Wentz is, the Eagles probably aren't going to beat this team by airing the ball out. It may be inefficient and look ugly, but this time, head coach Doug Pederson needs to lean on the ground attack and take the pressure off of his first-year quarterback and tackle. Otherwise, a Vikings defense that ranks third in the NFL in sacks and fourth in interceptions can take this game over.

Self-inflicted wounds
Ticky-tack calls or not, you can't blame the judgment of the officials for all of the penalties the Eagles have taken the past two weeks. Last week in Washington, they drew 13 flags for 114 yards. The week before, it was 14 flags for 111 yards. Is it really any coincidence in two losses the Eagles have been penalized 27 times for 225 yards? Unlikely.

Were one or two or even a handful of those calls excessive? Have officials missed some potential calls that could have gone the other way? Yes and yes, as is always the case. When it's that many penalties for that many yards though, you can only place so much blame on the refs.

Simply put, the players need to clean up their acts. According to, the Eagles are committing the most penalties per game at 9.8. Only one other team is above 9.0. All excuses aside, the Eagles lack discipline right now, and it's hard to beat anybody when they are continuously shooting themselves in the foot, let alone the only undefeated squad in football.

No gimmes
There is no bigger indicator of winning and losing in the NFL than turnovers. So what happens when the two teams who cough the ball up the least are going head-to-head?

One thing the Eagles did correct in Washington was the little giveaway problem that cost them the game in Detroit. After losing their first fumble and throwing their first interception of the season in the final three minutes of their loss at Detroit, the offense went back to playing turnover-free football on Sunday, one of the positive things that could be said for the performance.

Yet the only team that's committed fewer turnovers than the Eagles is the Vikings, who have just one through five games. The ball security these clubs have displayed is remarkable bordering on unheard of. So what happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object? The first one to blink, or in this case make a mistake, might just cost themselves the game in what could be a tightly contested tilt.

Just a pit stop
If it feels like the Eagles' 34-3 romp of the Steelers at the Linc was a long time ago, well, it has been almost a month. Since then, there's been a bye week followed by trips to Detroit and Washington, putting the last home game at exactly four weeks ago.

Don't get used to the feeling either. After their game against the Vikings on Sunday, the Eagles go back on the road for two contests against the division rival Cowboys and Giants.

What does it all mean? Besides a travel-heavy stretch, it suggests this sandwich game with the Vikings is an especially significant spot on the Eagles' schedule, particularly given the slow starts they've jumped out to as the visiting team of late. That can't be blamed entirely on going on the road of course, but it certainly hasn't helped. Vikings or not, the Eagles could use a positive showing on Sunday before they go away again.

The Bradford Bowl
You didn't really think we were going to completely gloss over Sam Bradford, did you? Not even mention his name?

It's interesting, because right now, the trade that sent Bradford to the Vikings and cleared the way for Wentz to start at quarterback for the Eagles looks like a win-win. Both head coaches agreed with that sentiment as well. Mike Zimmer says Bradford gave the Vikings an energy back after starter Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season with an improbable injury, while despite coming back down to earth a bit the last two weeks, it's obvious the Eagles' future is bright with Wentz.

That being said, there are some additional bragging rights at stake for both signal-callers this week, whether they acknowledge it or not. If the Eagles win, it shows their gamble on Wentz being prepared to start right away was justified. If the Vikings win, pundits could argue the Eagles never should've traded Bradford in the first place.

These are only narratives of course, and the Eagles' investment in Wentz and the Vikings' desperation trade for Bradford are both left to be judged somewhere down the road, long after this game has been played. Nonetheless, the result on Sunday is sure to spark some interesting debate in the coming days.

Penn State upsets No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21

Penn State upsets No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21


STATE COLLEGE – As his team slogged through back-to-back 7-6 seasons in his first two years as Penn State’s head coach, Langhorne native James Franklin heard time and again that he was in need of a signature victory.

Now he has one, even if he refuses to admit it.

Junior cornerback Grant Haley returned a blocked field goal 60 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:27 left as the Nittany Lions stunned second-ranked Ohio State 24-21 on Saturday night.

“That’s for you (media) guys, all that signature stuff,” Franklin said.

Not exactly.

“It’s just a game that put Penn State back on the map,” Haley said. “We needed that signature win, and we did it tonight.”

The fans stormed the field after the Lions, 5-2 after their third straight victory this season, beat a ranked team for the first time since 2013 (Wisconsin). It was also PSU’s first victory over a team ranked in the top five since 1999 (Arizona) and its first over a team slotted as high as No. 2 since 1990 (Notre Dame).

Ohio State (7-1) saw winning streaks of 20 straight road games and 17 straight Big Ten road games come to an end, despite building a 21-7 lead through three quarters.

The Lions whisked 90 yards in five plays to cut the gap to seven with 13:32 left in the game, with quarterback Trace McSorley running two yards for the TD.

Freshman linebacker Cam Brown then blocked Cameron Johnston’s punt to set up a 34-yard field goal by Tyler Davis with 9:33 remaining, making it 21-17.

Ohio State mounted a drive behind J.T. Barrett, their splendid quarterback, moving from its own 13 to the PSU 28. Barrett’s 34-yard connection with wide receiver Noah Brown was the big play.

But the Buckeyes stalled, and Tyler Durbin came on to attempt a 45-yard field goal. Penn State safety Marcus Allen made a leaping block, however, and Haley scooped up the bouncing ball and beat Durbin and Johnston, the holder, down the left sideline for the go-ahead score.

Ohio State’s final drive of the night ended with a pair of Penn State sacks, the last a combined effort by defensive linemen Kevin Givens and Evan Schwan with 1:02 left.

When the final gun sounded, several Penn State players sprinted toward the south end zone and launched themselves into the front row of the stands, Lambeau Leap-style, among the delirious students. And thousands of fans, all clad in white for PSU’s traditional White Out, flooded the field.

“This is for everybody,” Franklin said later. “This community’s been through so much in the last five years (a reference to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal and its aftermath), and this is a big step in the right direction, in terms of healing. I said very, very early on that for us to get where we want to be, we need this entire community together, and a win like tonight – I know I’m biased – but I believe that football has the ability to bring a community together like nothing else.”

Moments later, he caught himself and said he “didn’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the big picture.”

Rather, he added, “I just want to enjoy tonight.”