Everybody's Gone to the Garden: Knicks Welcome 7-2 Sixers to the Jungle

Everybody's Gone to the Garden: Knicks Welcome 7-2 Sixers to the Jungle

Hey, remember how the Knicks were supposed to be the third best team in
the East this season? OK, it's a little early still to dance on the
grave of that prediction just yet, and the team is only two games in
back of the Sixers at 5-4, but man, things are not going as planned in
the Big Apple this season thusfar. Carmelo Anthony has been
unquestionably brilliant, averaging a 27-6-4 with the highest PER of his
career, and Amar'e Stoudemire has been a capable second fiddle with his
21 and 9, but prized big man acquisition Tyson Chandler hasn't really
gotten into the flow yet, the team's back-court situation is
catastrophic (so much so that the injured Baron Davis, who the Clippers
gave up a lottery pick to get rid of last year, is being awaited as a
potential team savior), and their bench is virtually non-existent—the
Knicks' "nightshift" scored a whopping three points in their victory
over Charlotte two nights ago.

In other words, as far as winning
teams go, the Knicks have been virtually the polar opposite of the
Sixers this year. The Sixers are incredibly balanced, the Knicks are
impossibly top-heavy. The Sixers rely on their bench for a boost, the
Knicks try to cycle through their bench as quickly and painlessly as
possible. The Sixers have been blowing out inferior teams by scores of
27, 28 and 35, the Knicks beat the Wizards by three and the Bobcats by
four (at home!!). The Sixers play solid, aggressive, team-wide defense,
the Knicks really, really hope that Tyson Chandler will make up for
their mental lapses. There's no doubt which of the two teams have been
better this season—while Philly (somewhat speciously) tops Hollinger's
first Power Rankings of the season, the Knicks are down in the 20s.

Still,
the Knicks do have the talent, and they do have the players to put a
real hurting on the Sixers should the team slip at all in the third game
of their first back-to-back-to-back of the season. 'Melo is a matchup
nightmare for any team, and Amar'e absolutely torched the Sixers at the
Garden last year, averaging 31 points and 11 rebounds in the Sixers' two
visits to NY. And speaking of the Garden, the Knicks faithful will
undoubtedly be out in full force tonight, a formidable sixth man at any
point in the season, and especially now that their team has won three
straight (against the Wizards, Pistons, and Bobcats, but still) and is
facing a suddenly much-hyped opponent in the Sixers.

7:30 tip from MSG. "It's interesting that if you're losing, you're
losing," Coach Collins said after last night's immolation of the now 3-7
Sacramento Kings. "But if you're
winning, it's, who are you beating? I don't get into all that nonsense.
These are all professional teams." Well, the Ballers are playing against
another professional team tonight, and it won't be an easy W by any
means, but given the way both teams have played through nine games...you
gotta like our chances. Go Sixers.

Eagles mailbag: Pederson as a coach; running backs; Spikes

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Eagles mailbag: Pederson as a coach; running backs; Spikes

The Eagles are in the middle of Phase 3 of the NFL's offseason program in the CBA. That means they're well into OTAs, with another round set to start Tuesday and run through Friday. 

After that, the team will have a mandatory minicamp June 7-9, followed by a long break before training camp. 

There's plenty to talk about on this Memorial Day Weekend, so let's hop into your questions: 

This question is referring to the yearly USA Today list of the best coaches in the NFL. The list ranked Pederson at No. 30 in a group with the other first-year coaches. Adam Gase is 28, Ben McAdoo 29, Pederson 30 and Dirk Koetter 31.

"We’re lumping all of the first-year coaches together, because no one really knows how they’ll fare as head coaches," Steven Ruiz writes. 

OK, sure. 

Really, this isn't saying Pederson is a bad coach, just an unknown, which is true. I guess for the purpose of the list, he has to go somewhere. Actually, I'm surprised he's higher than Koetter, who has more experience. 

We're not sure how Pederson will be as a coach. Shortly after he was hired, I penned this column, which still holds true. Just because the Pederson hire wasn't very popular, it doesn't mean he won't be a good head coach.

Really, we won't know for a while. 

I've been asked this a few times over the last few weeks, and I understand why. The Eagles are certainly weak at the running back spot, with Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner. But I still don't see them adding anyone. 

The team drafted Smallwood and he's the key to this. They should see how he looks in training camp and even in preseason games before trying to pick anyone else up. If he can be a decent contributor this year, they can start to bring him along and groom him to be the starter. If he isn't going to be a contributor, then maybe it's time to look around a little bit. 

Another thing: there's not a ton of talent out there right now. And if anyone is still on the street, there's probably a reason for that. 

Q: Dave, you think Brandon Spikes should get a chance? He has played for Jim Schwartz before. - Joey (@MrJoey98)

Interesting name. Yes, Spikes did play for Jim Schwartz in Buffalo in 2014 and the Eagles already have three players on that team with these Eagles. 

But the team would have to weigh the positives and negatives of bringing him in. Spikes was released by the Patriots last season — he didn't' take a snap in 2015 — after he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a car crash. 

The Eagles have nearly no depth at linebacker, but would Spikes, now 28, be worth it? Not sure. Probably not, though. 

Phillies prospect Rhys Hoskins looking to steadily advance through minors

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Phillies prospect Rhys Hoskins looking to steadily advance through minors

READING, Pa. – There is a photo atop Rhys Hoskins’ Twitter page that shows the Reading Fightin Phils first baseman, a Sacramento native, seated on a rock and looking out over Lake Tahoe, as well as the horizon beyond.

“Just keep livin’,” it says elsewhere on the page.

“As clichéd as it sounds, I try to stay where I am, day to day – take care of what I have to do that day,” he said Thursday, after hitting a solo homer in Reading’s 7-4 victory over Erie. “Life’s going to throw a lot of stuff at you, so just keep on going.”

The 23-year-old Hoskins, a fifth-round pick of the Phillies in 2014, as a result has managed to remain in the moment, but not without expanding his horizons – all the way to Australia, where he played winter ball this past offseason, and one day, he can only hope, Citizens Bank Park.

“I set a goal with my dad, as soon as I got drafted – a (minor-league) level a year, as long as I kept on progressing,” he said. “Try not to get caught somewhere.”

So far, so good. He spent 2014 at Williamsport, the short-season A-ball affiliate, and tore it up while splitting last season between two other Class A clubs, Lakewood and Clearwater. And recently he has begun to rake for the Double-A Fightins, a team featuring such other prospects as catcher Jorge Alfaro, rightfielder Dylan Cozens and pitcher Ben Lively.

Hoskins hit .450 while being named the Phillies Minor League Review Player of the Week for the week of May 16-22, and followed that up by hitting a walk-off grand slam Tuesday against Erie, in addition to his blast Thursday.

Overall, his stat line will not overwhelm – he was hitting .269 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in 45 games through Friday – but the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder is at least another name to consider going forward, as the big-league club continues its rebuild.

As for the others: Alfaro, the jewel of the Cole Hamels trade last year with Texas, was hitting .339 entering Saturday's games, and Cozens, a second-round pick in 2012, was leading the Eastern League with 13 homers and second in RBIs with 40. Lively, acquired from Cincinnati for Marlon Byrd in December 2014, was 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA in nine starts.

Certainly Hoskins understands the first-base pecking order, with Ryan Howard in obvious decline. Tommy Joseph is off to a promising start for the big-league club, and Darin Ruf is at Triple A Lehigh Valley. 

At the same time, Hoskins tries not to dwell too much on such things.

“If you get caught looking ahead,” he said, “you probably miss some stuff, where you’re at right now.”

All told he hit .319 with 19 homers and 90 RBIs in his two stops last season, then asked the Phillies to arrange a winter-ball destination. They sent him to Sydney, and he excelled there, too – .323 with eight homers and 38 RBIs, in 42 games.

“The baseball was fun, a lot of fun,” he said. “I was able to get some more work in, but I think more than anything it’s a life experience. … Not too many people get to spend three months in a country on the other side of the world, especially when someone else is paying for it.”

The season ran from October to January – part of Australia’s summer – and he remained for a few weeks afterward, touring not only that country but nearby New Zealand.

No telling when he might ever be back there. 

He does have some idea of where he’d like to be, baseball-wise, but everything in its time. He’s just going to keep livin’ and continue to focus on the task at hand.

NBA draft profile: G/F Jaylen Brown

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NBA draft profile: G/F Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown

Position: Shooting guard/small forward
Height: 6-7
Weight: 223
School: Cal

Aside from Ben Simmons, Brown may be the most scrutinized lottery pick in the draft. A blue chip recruit, the Mariettam, Georgia, native chose to attend Cal, spurning schools like Kansas and Kentucky. That decision didn't appear to be a wise one, as Brown struggled with inconsistency playing in a system that really didn't suit his skill set. A slasher with crazy athleticism, Brown averaged 14.6 points in his lone season with the Golden Bears. 

Strengths
Brown can play above the rim and then some. He's a strong finisher and would be an excellent candidate for next year's dunk contest. He's an explosive athlete with a tremendous first step. There were games in which he lived at the free throw line. With his ability to blow by people and willingness to take on all comers at the basket, he had 12 games this season in which he attempted eight or more free throws.

His 7-foot wingspan coupled with his quickness could make him an elite defender. He's also very strong. He averaged 5.4 rebounds as a wing.

Weaknesses
Two pretty big ones: his jump shot and his instincts. Brown shot 29 percent from three. That's not good for a wing player. He also shot just 65 percent from the line. Again, not good for a wing player with a propensity to get fouled. He flashed the ability to hit shots, hitting 42 percent (10 of 24) from three in seven February games. There's inconsistency with his mechanics, which good coaching should be able to iron out.

His feel for the game is just not very good. He doesn't seem to understand what defenses are trying to do to him. Again, good coaching could go a long way in helping Brown here. He also had a tendency to be a little loose with his handle. He averaged more turnovers (3.1) than assists (2) per game. 

How he'd fit with the Sixers
Horribly. With the way the Sixers are currently constructed, Brown would struggle with the same issues he had at Cal. With all of the big men clogging the paint, Brown's slashing ability would be useless. If the Sixers were to deal a big man and get more shooters, Brown would be fun to watch with head coach Brett Brown's desire to push the basketball. This kid is worth the price of admission in the open floor.

NBA comparison
Andrew Wiggins but with a lot further to go. Wiggins was a much more polished prospect coming out of Kansas than Brown is now. But the size profile and athleticism are very similar (although Brown is stronger physically than Wiggins). Wiggins was also much further along with the development of his jumper. 

The moral of the story: when you're an elite prospect, go to a big-time school with a big-time coach if you want to properly develop your game.

Draft projection
He's probably a top-5 pick based on upside alone (I can't see him getting past the Pelicans at No. 6), although the weaknesses could scare off teams looking for a "safe pick."