Jrue goes down: We mourn while selfishly celebrating (but not too much)

Jrue goes down: We mourn while selfishly celebrating (but not too much)

The injuries in the NBA are now piling up to near-historic proportions, particularly in the point-guard ranks, where the extended absences of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe have robbed the NBA at least an eighth of its overall watchability. Now, the lame can add another newcomer to their ranks--Pelicans point guard and former Sixer great Jrue Holiday.

Jrue has been ruled out indefinitely by Pelicans brass with a right ankle injury--a stress fracture in his tibia, if you must know. The loss to injury is tough for Holiday, who has been durable for most of his four-plus-year pro career, not yet missing ten games in a season. It might be even tougher for New Orleans, who was already missing sharpshooter Ryan Anderson for an indeterminate amount of time, and has also seen fellow young core players Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and future superstar Anthony Davis shuttling in and out of the lineup with various maladies over the young season.

As NBA fans, we hate to see the league lose a talent like Jrue for any time period, and as Sixer fans our heart obviously goes out to our former floor general. However, the latter allegiance also forces us to consider how this news might end up impacting the Liberty Ballers, who own the Pelicans' first-round pick in the upcoming loaded draft, and have reason to wish temporary ill upon the fortunes of New Orleans.

And the impact will likely be rather sizable. Jrue wasn't likely to be an All-Star again this season--more of a comment on the level of elite backcourt talent in the West than anything--but he was still having a very solid year in New Orleans, averaging 14 and eight on 45% shooting and 39% from deep, while developing a particularly nice chemistry with Davis. Without him, the Pellies will have to either shift combo guard/forward Tyreke Evans to the starting lineup, leaving the second unit almost entirely bereft of scoring, or promote either steady backup Brian Roberts or (shudder) one-time prospect Austin Rivers to the first unit, none of which are particularly attractive options compared to the Damaja. The offense, already reeling from the loss of Anderson, will undoubtedly suffer even further.

The Pelicans currently reside at 15-19, and would have the 12th best lottery chances if the season-ended today. Their injury woes seem likely to push them back even further, possibly falling out of the just-outside-the-playoffs tier of the Wolves, Nuggets and Grizzlies and into the when-does-next-year-start? tier of the Lakers, Kings and Jazz. They'd have to do some serious losing to out-tank the dregs of the East, where they currently have a better record then even our seventh-seeded Bobcats, but nothing is impossible in this most unpredictable (and injury-stricken) of NBA seasons.

Good news for the Sixers, right? Well, to a point. Obviously we'd rather have the eighth or ninth pick in this historic draft than the 12th or 13th--though with the Eighth Samurai Sam Hinkie making the final proclamation, you gotta like our chances at either--but it's a slippery slope at that point, because if the Pelicans actually get drawn in the top three on lottery night (or more incredibly, tank their way all the way to the bottom five), we don't get to pick at all, as the selection remains top-five-protected. Ideally, we want the Not-Hornets to slip another rung or two, but tread water from there, to avoid risking anything more than a single-digit-percent chance of the Pelicans getting to hold onto their pick.

The important thing for us is that the Pelicans not get into the playoffs. If they did, it'd probably mean they had a better record than all but two or three of the Eastern playoff teams, which means their pick would fall all the way to the 20s in the draft--still valuable, but not nearly as. As long as we're picking in the lottery, the depth of this draft should allow Hinkie to find us a player to be a valuable contributor on the team for a long time to come. With their recent spate of injuries, we should now be relatively safe on that one, and that is good news.

Most importantly, we don't want karma to come back and bite us on this one. So let us wish nothing but get-well-soon thoughts to our once-and-future boy Jrue, and hope the Pelicans get back on track before too long. We'll bandwagon for you guys super-hard next season, promise.

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Howard, Phils can spoil Mets' season

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Howard, Phils can spoil Mets' season

Phillies (70-89) vs. Mets (85-74)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

Just three games remain in the Phillies' season. After a 24-17 start, the season went predictably downhill. However, the Phils have a chance to play spoiler to a big-time rival with the New York Mets in town. Alec Asher is on the hill for the Phillies while Robert Gsellman faces the Phillies for a third times this year.

Here are five things to watch on Friday night.

1. End of the road for the Big Ticket
There are just three games left in Ryan Howard's tenure with the Phillies.

It's been a long ride for Howard. There'll be plenty on Howard this weekend (and there's a pregame ceremony for him on Sunday), but here are some of his stats from his 13 years in Philadelphia.

Howard has hit 381 home runs and has 1,192 RBI with the Phils. He has 10 seasons of at least 20 home runs and has a run of six straight seasons from 2006 to 2011, his first six full seasons, with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI. He twice walked more than 100 times in a season and he racked up 276 doubles.

The long-time first baseman has hit 47 home runs against the Mets, his second highest total against any team (52 vs. Atlanta). In 174 games, Howard has 157 hits and 73 walks against the Mets.

Howard goes into the weekend with 197 home runs at Citizens Bank Park. Overall, he's racked up 1,465 total bases at CBP. He has, however, struck out 880 times in 769 games there as well.

2. Playing spoilers
While the Phillies are firmly outside of the playoff race, the New York Mets are in the driver's seat for a wild card spot. The Phillies could have something to say about that.

The San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals both won on Thursday while the Mets were off. That leaves the Mets one game ahead of the Giants for the first wild card spot and two games up on the Cardinals for a playoff spot. 

If the Mets win two of three this weekend, they clinch homefield advantage in the Wild Card game on Wednesday. With one win, they guarantee that they cannot be eliminated this weekend. Their magic number is two to clinch a playoff berth, so a combination of wins and Cardinals' losses can get them into the postseason. 

The Phillies can throw a wrench into the Mets' gameplan with a strong showing this weekend. While they've lost six of seven, the Phillies will likely get up for games with playoff implications. Furthermore, the Mets have the incentive to clinch as soon as possible as to avoid needing Noah Syndergaard to pitch on Sunday, so they can hold him for the National League wild card game on Wednesday.

3. Asher closes out impressive month 
Asher has made four starts since coming up earlier this month and has been much more impressive than his late season stint in 2015. 

After going 0-6 with a 9.31 ERA last year, he's 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA. However, despite picking up a win last weekend against the Mets, he struggled late and left room for improvement. 

Asher began his start Saturday vs. the Mets with a perfect game through three innings. He worked around three baserunners in the fourth inning, but came unglued after a couple errors in the fifth inning. While poor defense is not his fault, it would have been a good sign if he could have picked up his defense. Instead, he barely made it through the inning after four unearned runs.

Normally, a team would look for length out of their starter when handed such a large lead, so Asher only making it through five is disappointing. He still hasn't allowed more than two earned runs and has induced plenty of weak contact with his two-seam fastball.

The Mets will be the first (and only) team he faces twice this season.

4. Third time the charm vs. Gsellman?
Gsellman will be making his seventh career MLB start on Friday and it will be his third against the Phillies.

In two starts against the Phils, Gsellman is 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA over 13 innings. He has 13 strikeouts against them while allowing 10 hits and three walks. 

All four runs he allowed to the Phillies came in his first start. He had held the Phils to one run over six innings but departed after loading the bases with none out. The Mets' bullpen promptly allowed all three inherited runners to score.

On Sunday, Gsellman dominated, shutting out the Phils for seven innings. He allowed just five baserunners and struck out eight in the 17-0 win. 

The 23-year-old rookie has a 2.56 ERA through seven appearances in the majors. He started the season in Double A, but he will likely get a playoff start if the Mets gets to the Division Series.

5. This and that
• The Phillies have just two extra base hits in 50 plate appearances against Gsellman. They are hitting .222/.271/.267 against him. 

• Eight Phils have hits off Gsellman. Freddy Galvis is 2 for 5 with a double and Jimmy Paredes is 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. 

• Michael Conforto hit a home run off Asher last season. No Mets hitter has more than one hit against him, in part because none of them have faced him more than three times.

• The Phillies have 601 runs on the season, the fewest in baseball by 39 runs. The Mets have the fifth worst total with 659 runs.

• Jeanmar Gomez is 0-3 with a 19.13 ERA in September. He's allowed 18 runs (17 earned) in eight innings.

An Attack on Carson Wentz is an Attack on All of Us

An Attack on Carson Wentz is an Attack on All of Us

Carson Wentz. He’s a phenom. He’s a star. He’s the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for for all this time. Wentz has led the Eagles to a 3-0 start, showing poise well beyond his years, and establishing himself, without a doubt, as the best quarterback in Eagles history, or at least the best since Jeff Garcia. Who else would it be? McNabb? Please. How many times was he undefeated at the bye? 

Wentz, especially after crushing the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday, is unquestionably the real deal -- and I have only two questions: Should I order my flight to Houston for the Super Bowl now, or wait until the rates come down? And should the parade go up Broad Street towards City Hall, or down, towards the Sports Complex? 

Carson Wentz has already been named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month, which is clearly only a small steppingstone to Rookie of the Year, MVP, having his number retired, and ultimately the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I mean, did you see some of those throws last Sunday? 

But even with all the excitement, some are skeptical. After Week 1, we heard “it’s just one game, and besides -- it’s Cleveland!” After week 2? “the Browns and Bears suck -- wake me up when he beats a good team. After week 3? “He hasn’t even played a division game yet!” Worst of all was CBS’ Bart Scott, who called Wentz "fool’s gold." 

Please. What you have to understand is that people like Scott aren’t just mouthing off on a pregame show or sharing a meaningless NFL opinion. They are launching a vicious attack on Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles organization, every Philadelphia fan, and the city of Philadelphia itself. We should all be horribly insulted, and demanding action. 

It’s bad enough when the national guys bring up snowballs and Santa Claus. But let’s be real: Bad-mouthing Carson Wentz must not be tolerated, ever. I call for a boycott of all CBS-owned properties (other than WIP), until Bart Scott apologizes or is fired. 

Sure, I know a lot of people are more upset about the national anthem stuff. But make no mistake: Questioning Carson Wentz is way worse. 

Other Philly sports takes: 

- Of course, I’d be even happier with the Eagles’ start if the long snapper hadn’t unfairly lost a televised talent show to a little girl. 

- For those of you who asked: Now that Buddy has passed, I’ll be writing in Carson Wentz for president. 

- Assuming Jim Schwartz leaves the Eagles for a head coaching job, who should replace him as defensive coordinator? It’ll be a tough choice between Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan.  

- The only downside to the Eagles’ 3-0 start? Josh Innes isn’t around for it. Poor guy. 

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