Coulda Gone Better: Sixers Thumped By Knicks for Second Time in Two Games

Coulda Gone Better: Sixers Thumped By Knicks for Second Time in Two Games

Well, home-court advantage didn't make much of a difference in this
one—probably partly because half the fans in attendance were NY
boosters, with Philly fans evidently too enthralled with the prospect of
watching Michael Vick throwing pick-sixes on TV to come out in force
for the Atlantic division battle. Regardless, a couple extra Philly fans
in the seats would likely have helped little, as the Sixers again
proved out-manned and out-played by the New York Knicks, who moved to
3-0 with their dissection of the 76ers tonight.

The
much-heralded (by me anyway, sorta) insertion of Kwame Brown into the
team's starting lineup proved unsurprisingly inconsequential, as Kwame
mustered four points, three rebounds, and largely indifferent defense in
ten minutes of game action, before apparently re-aggravating his calf
strain and leaving the game. In his stead, we got a resounding six
points and ten rebounds from the pivot combo of Lavoy Allen and Spencer
Hawes, with Knicks center Tyson Chandler basically stomping over both of
them, and backup Rasheed "Human Victory Blunt" Wallace hitting them for 10 points in the second half, somehow.

The
Sixers didn't fare much better anywhere else on the court. Dorell
Wright, Nick Young and Evan Turner, the three wings that I said would
have to step up to help Jrue Holiday out (especially in starting SG
Jason Richardson's absence) combined to shoot 11-38, while Jrue himself
struggled from the floor with 4-12 shooting, though he hit threes and
got to the line enough that his over all line (17 points, eight assists)
wasn't all that bad. Jrue's real issues came on defense, where he was
torched repeatedly by Knicks point Raymond Felton—a teamwide struggle,
as the Knicks again shot the lights out from behind the arc, hitting 13
of 32.

Not a whole lot of positive to take from this one, though
first-round pick Arnett Moultrie did get his first bucket as a Sixer,
slamming home a putback in garbage time. (Hopefully Moultrie eventually
sees consequential rotation minutes, unlike the last late-first-rounder
we traded for, Craig Brackins.) Also, I continue to be unduly fascinated
by Evan Turner's suddenly immaculate free-throw shooting—the guy shot
under 68% from the line last year and seemed to split just about every
time up, but he's 12-12 from the stripe so far this season. Hey, when
you get blown out by a division rival twice in two days, you take solace
in the little things. The really, really little things.

After
the game, Collins gave all credit to the Knicks, said that his team was
still trying to figure each other out, and adamantly refused to
overreact to a bad two-game stretch against a really good team. It's
fair enough, and I do think the Knicks made us look worse than we are,
but it's still pretty discouraging to see your team get outplayed this
badly in two consecutive contests.

The Sixers next face the
Hornets this Wednesday, a similarly young team, but one that's proven to
be a very professional outfit, going 2-1 (against strong competition)
largely without the help from their two injured young stars, Eric Gordon
and Anthony Davis. If they make it three no-shows in a row for the
Sixers, we might be in for a long season, putting undue pressure on
Andrew Bynum to save the team with his return, still scheduled for
who-knows-when. Trying times for Philadelphia sports fans, for sure.

Jake Metz, Soul credit strong 4th quarter defensive effort for championship win

Jake Metz, Soul credit strong 4th quarter defensive effort for championship win

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Despite leading by three touchdowns early in ArenaBowl XXIX, there was little cheering from the Soul bench.

Given the volatility that is Arena League football and the frequency from which teams can strike, the approach remained resolute and determined. Defensive tackle Jake Metz kept the mindset of a scoreless game and could not stop hearing words coming from Ron Jaworski, a highly vocal partner in the Soul’s ownership.

“He kept yelling that offense gets headlines but defensive wins championships,” said Metz, who currently lives in Schwenksville, Montgomery County, and went to Shippensburg University. “That resounded with me, and brought the championship.”

Metz and his defensive teammates then went out and shut down a highly hazardous and explosive Arizona Rattlers offensive unit en route to a 56-42 win (see story). Led by quarter Nick Davila, the only three-time MVP in Arena Football League history, the Rattlers could manage only seven points in a critical fourth quarter.

At the same time, Metz recovered a fumble by Davila with the Soul holding a slim six-point margin with just under six minutes to play. That turnover was the key point in the Soul’s eventual win, and cemented the role of the defense as a shut-down unit.

On the subsequent possession, Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh connected with Shaun Kauleinamoku on a 30-yard scoring strike. That created a 14-point comfort zone and the final margin of victory.

“These players deserve this championship,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. “This is a first class organization and ownership gives the players a first-class experience. That way, we can attract great players, and with great players comes success.”

In capturing the league title Friday night, the victory was the second in franchise history. In 2008, the Soul and Phillies each won championships, and that was the last time a professional team captured a title in Philadelphia.

Metz remembers the Phillies' win over the Rays, and pointed out, “I went to those games as a kid.” That championship stuck with the 6-foot-6, 265 pounder, and helped to forge a championship mentality.

Early in the fourth quarter, Arizona caught the Soul at 42-42. From that point, Raudabaugh directed two scoring drives, and along with Metz’s important fumble recovery, carried the Soul to the title.

“It’s all about how you respond,” said Raudabaugh, who finished with 20 for 36 for 278 yards and six touchdowns. “Granted, they have a very explosive team, but we were never out it. They did come back, but we had an answer for them.”

The answer was a strong defense which Dolezel indicated was playing at their peak just prior to the title game.

Defensive back Tracy Belton, the AFL defensive player of the year and DB Dwayne Hollis, whose fumble recovery for a touchdown early in the game was another key defensive play, clearly showed how a defense can carry a team to a league title. That was the effort the Soul brought together in an environment as unpredictable as the Arena Football League.

NFL Notes: Romo has broken bone in back; Kaepernick protests anthem

NFL Notes: Romo has broken bone in back; Kaepernick protests anthem

FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says quarterback Tony Romo has a broken bone in his back, and there is no timetable for his return.

Garrett made the comments on Saturday during a conference call. He said an MRI revealed the break, but the coach did not provide further details.

Asked if Romo would be back, Garrett said there's no timetable but that the quarterback would play this season.

Romo, 36, has had back surgery twice before. His latest injury occurred on the third play of Thursday night's exhibition game at Seattle. He was hit by Cliff Avrill and was rolling in pain before taken off the field and replaced by rookie Dak Prescott. Later, Romo said he was OK.

The Cowboys open the season Sept. 11 at home against the New York Giants (see full story).

49ers: Kaepernick refuses to stand for anthem in protest
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is refusing to stand for the national anthem before games because he believes the United States oppresses African Americans and other minorities.

Kaepernick sat on the team's bench Friday night during the anthem before the Niners played host to the Green Bay Packers in an exhibition game. He later explained his reasoning in an interview with NFL Media .

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Saturday that "players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem."

The 49ers issued a statement after Pro Football Talk initially reported on Kaepernick's stand, saying that Americans have the right to protest or support the anthem (see full story).

Falcons: Free agent S Dashon Goldson works out with team
ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons have given a workout to veteran free-agent safety Dashon Goldson, the former Redskins starter.

The Falcons will be without rookie safety Keanu Neal, the projected starter, for at least the first two regular-season games with a right knee injury.

Coach Dan Quinn said Saturday that backup Kemal Ishmael would fill in for Neal as the starting strong safety even if the team signs Goldson, 31. General manager Thomas Dimitroff says Goldson also has interest from other teams.

The Falcons cut nine players, including backup quarterback Sean Renfree, to reach the roster limit of 75 players on Saturday (see full story).

Phillies option Jorge Alfaro back to Double A Reading

Phillies option Jorge Alfaro back to Double A Reading

As expected, the Phillies on Saturday optioned prized catching prospect Jorge Alfaro back to Double A Reading after a one game stint with the big club.

Alfaro was called up for Friday's series opener in New York against the Mets because newly acquired veteran backstop A.J. Ellis had yet to arrive with the team. Ellis was acquired Thursday from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the trade that sent Carlos Ruiz to L.A.

The 23-year-old Alfaro is expected to return to the Phillies once Reading's season is over and MLB rosters expand in September. The Fightin Phils, at 83-48, are the Eastern League's top team and very much could make it to the championship series.

Alfaro, acquired in the Cole Hamels trade last summer, has a .279 average with 13 home runs and 61 RBIs in 90 games with Reading this season. He did not get play Friday night against the Mets.