Five Practical Goals For the Second Half of the Sixers Season

Five Practical Goals For the Second Half of the Sixers Season

The Philadelphia 76ers are not going to win a championship this season.
They are pretty far away from winning a playoff series, and in all
likelihood—at four games back of the eighth seed and having already lost
the tiebreaker with the last-one-in Bucks—are not even going to make
the post-season. With all the expectation that this season began with,
we're probably headed for the lottery for just the second time in the
last six seasons.


All that depressing stuff said, we still do have 31 games to play
this year. There's still an ostensible playoff race to be run—even as
far back as the Sixers are, they're still the ninth seed, and within
striking distance of the top eight if things break right—but personally,
I don't think it's one worth making much of a push for, especially if
it comes at any potential cost to the team's long-term future, whether
that means returning players quickly from injury or making short-sighted
deals for veteran talent to help steal a couple wins between now and
May.


Rather, here's five things I'd like to see the team try to do
between now and then. Some may happen, some not, but all are at least
reasonably attainable goals, which could help the Sixers in either the
short or long-term.


1. Try to trade an expendable role player for a young prospect or future draft pick. This
might be tough to do, as the Sixers are a little short-handed on
movable assets at the moment, especially with shooting guard Jason
Richardson—an overpaid commodity, but a reliable one that a contending
team could make use for—out for the year. Still, the Sixers have two
decent role players on short contracts in Spencer Hawes (two years, $13
million) and Nick Young (expiring, $6 million), who are hardly bargains
but could be good low-leverage pickups for a team in need of size or
shooting off the bench, respectively.



The Sixers have been notoriously inactive at the trade deadline in
recent years—I think dealing a second-rounder for Jodie Meeks a couple
off-seasons ago was the only real in-season trade of consequence made by
Philly since the Iverson deal—and most reports concerning the team have
them standing pat between now and the deadline on Thursday. Still, if
DiLeo and company can do their due diligence and at least see if there's
a late first-rounder to be had, or a project big or wing we can snag
for Hawes or Young (neither of whom are really in the team's long-term
plans), it'd be a nice chip to have while rebuilding over the next
couple years.



2. Continue to develop Arnett Moultrie. The project big man
already on the Sixers' roster has shown some flashes over the last few
weeks, moving well without the ball and fighting for rebounds down low.
But he's badly in need of more reps to find himself in the flow of the
offense (or occasional lack thereof), and that means more minutes,
especially as Thaddeus Young continues to rehab from injury. I'd like to
see him get more PT with Jrue and some of the first-unit guys, though
with Thad returning at the starting four before too long, perhaps it
makes sense to get him acclimated to playing with Evan Turner, Jeremy
Pargo and the rest of the bench unit. At the very least, let's get him
entrenched in the rotation, comfortable and confident and not worried
about Doug yanking his minutes in favor of Damien Wilkins or the ghost
of Tony Battie or whoever.



3. Stick with Evan. Yes, he's struggled lately. Yes, he very
well might continue struggle for the rest of the season. But they're
probably not going to trade him before the deadline, and he has more of a
chance of being a key, long-term part of the team than any other wing
player (not counting Jrue) on their roster. If Coach Collins starts
futzing with his PT now, trying to teach him "lessons" and further
undermining his occasionally fragile confidence, he might alienate or
ruin him entirely. If Turner proves that he just just can't be relied
upon long-term, then we'll figure out what to do about him in the
off-season, but in the meantime, there's no real upside to doing
anything but giving him as much of a chance as possible to prove that he
can be.


4. Keep on driving. Even if Evan's final stat line from his
pre-All-Star Break performance against the Bucks ended a mediocre one—20
points on 8-19 shooting, though that was still his best scoring night
in two weeks—the way he was consistently taking the ball to the basket
was heartening, looking for foul calls that weren't quite materializing.
He did still get four shots at the line, above his season average, and
the team shot 24 times at the charity stripe for the game, the most the
team had in nearly two months. 


If Evan and company keep it up, you have to think eventually he'll
get those calls, and maybe so will Jrue and the rest of the Sixers, who
have been pathetic (though not surprisingly so, given that the team has
been bottom-five in FTAs the last few seasons) in getting to the line
this season. It's the first step in the long process of getting this
offense back to efficiency, but it's a necessary one, and it'd be a nice
precedent to start over the last few months of the year.


5. Try to get at least...what, ten games in with Andrew Bynum and a full roster?
Hoping for just about any amount of time spent on the court for Andrew
Bynum this season seems arrogant and naive at this point. Is ten games
too much to ask for? Very possibly, but boy would even that be huge for
this team—to get some sense of playing with one another, to hopefully
pitch Bynum on his future with the Sixers (and the organization on the
idea that he has a future with the Sixers), to give the team something
to build on when hopefully the whole roster is returned for the
following year. If we can't get even that, it's going to be a long and
emotionally trying off-season, for sure.

NFL Notes: Andy Reid doesn't believe costly hold on Chiefs was worth flag

NFL Notes: Andy Reid doesn't believe costly hold on Chiefs was worth flag

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chiefs coach Andy Reid doesn't believe the holding penalty on left tackle Eric Fisher that cost Kansas City a tying 2-point conversion against Pittsburgh on Sunday night should have been called.

After watching film of the decisive play in the Steelers' 18-16 playoff victory, Reid said Monday that "I don't want to be fined any money, but I'd lean a different way."

Fisher appeared to hook Steelers pass rusher James Harrison on the conversion attempt with less than 3 minutes left in the game.

But the play was not cut-and-dried: Harrison dipped especially low and may have been losing his balance, and he likely would not have gotten to the quarterback anyway.

Still, the flag negated the successful 2-point conversion. And when the Chiefs tried again from the 12-yard line, Alex Smith's throw fell incomplete and the Steelers were able to run out the clock.

PATRIOTS: McDaniels staying on as OC
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels expressed appreciation for the opportunity to interview with the San Francisco 49ers but says for now he will remain in New England.

He said during a conference call Monday that the decision was what's "best for my family and myself" and that he will stay with the Patriots to focus on this year's playoffs and finish out the season "however it turns out."

McDaniels, who was a head coach with the Denver Broncos in 2009 and 2010, interviewed with the 49ers during the Patriots' bye to open the playoffs. He also interviewed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Both McDaniels and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia have been candidates for teams with open head coaching jobs this offseason after helping lead the Patriots to 14-2 regular season.

New England beat the Houston Texans 34-16 in the divisional round and will host the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday's AFC championship game.

SEAHAWKS: Carroll says Sherman played with MCL injury
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on his radio show Monday morning that cornerback Richard Sherman played the second half of the season with an MCL injury in his knee.

Carroll told KIRO-AM that Sherman's injury was significant and it was "stressful" for Sherman to play with the injury.

Carroll did not specify which knee was injured, but said it was similar to Russell Wilson's sprained MCL suffered early in the season in that Sherman could play with the injury.

Sherman was not listed on any injury/practice report this season with a knee injury.

Any practices he missed were listed with the "NIR" -- not injury related -- designation with the exception of Week 12 against Tampa Bay when he was listed with an ankle injury.

Carroll said he had a "big meeting" with Sherman in regards to a tumultuous season for the cornerback that included two sideline blowups during games. "He has some regrets," Carroll said.

TITANS: Former Temple coach Jackson hired as WR coach
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans have hired Frisman Jackson as their new wide receivers coach and Craig Aukerman as assistant special teams coach.

The Titans announced the moves Monday.

Jackson joins the Titans from Temple where he was passing game coordinator this past season and wide receivers coach the past two seasons. Jackson also coached at North Carolina State, Northern Illinois, Akron and Western Illinois.

Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie also coached Jackson when he was a wide receiver for four seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

Aukerman spent the past four seasons coaching the Chargers' special teams, the most recent as special teams coordinator, and has coached with the Jaguars and Broncos. He also coached at Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Western Kentucky and Findlay.

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

The Phillies are putting the finishing touches on a deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, according to a source.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the deal was close early Monday afternoon.

When the medical reviews and other loose ends are complete, Saunders will end up with a one-year contract for 2017. It is believed that there will be an option for 2018.

Saunders, 30, will give the Phils the left-handed bat they’ve been looking for in the outfield. Saunders is likely to play right field and his addition will likely push Roman Quinn back to Triple A, where he will get more seasoning.

Saunders is a veteran of eight seasons in the majors. He played in a career-high 140 games with Toronto in 2016 and made the American League All-Star team on the strength of a first half in which he hit .298 with 16 homers, 42 RBIs and a .923 OPS. He fell off in the second half and hit just .178 with eight homers, 15 RBIs and a .638 OPS. Saunders finished the season at .253/24/57/.815.

With less than a month to go before spring training, the Phillies are likely done with their significant offseason moves. The offseason began with trades for reliever Pat Neshek and outfielder Howie Kendrick. Later in the winter, the club traded for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and signed reliever Joaquin Benoit. Now Saunders is on his way.