Nocioni's Revenge: Short-Handed Sixers Face Grizzlies in Memphis

Nocioni's Revenge: Short-Handed Sixers Face Grizzlies in Memphis

Yes, you heard right—Andres Nocioni, he of the 43 minutes played all
season, will be starting tonight at power forward for the Sixers in
Memphis. Why? Because regular starter Elton Brand is riding the pine
with a right thumb sprain. Why Noc in his stead? Tough one, though my
best guess is that Coach Collins doesn't anticipate Brand beating out
long, and doesn't want to mess with his rotations and a successful bench
in the meantime. Noble, though as Liberty Ballers writer Michael Levin
puts it, "I get the idea that the Night Shift is cool, but having them
on the bench only works if your starters are mildly competent." And
mildly competent is about as generous as you can be for a guy like
Nocioni, who has a 5.1 PER for the season in his limited burn thusfar.

So yeah, two of the starters for the 20-12 Sixers in Memphis tonight
will be Andres Nocioni and Lavoy Allen. Not exactly how Dougie drew it
up at the beginning of the season, but despite being nominal starters,
it seems unlikely that either player will get particularly hefty
minutes, as Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Nikola Vucevic will probably
soak up most of the actual frontcourt PT off the bench. None of it is
particularly ideal, though at the very least, the Grizz frontcourt is a
bit depleted itself, with top two power forwards Zach Randolph and
Darrell Arthur sidelined with long-term injuries.

Speaking of Grizzlies PFs, by the by—tonight will mark our first meeting
with Marreese Speights since he was jettisoned by Rod Thorn and company
for a couple late second-rounders earlier this year. Mo has put up
respectable, if unspectacular numbers as the 18-15 Grizz' starting four
since being traded, averaging about nine points and seven rebounds on
45% shooting. It's better than what they were getting from the likes of
Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter, certainly, but not quite enough
to put us in My God What Have We Done mode—though I will say that I'd
rather have Speezy starting at the 4 for us tonight than Nocioni.

8:00 tip from the FedEx Forum. Students of recent Sixers history will no
doubt recall that the Grizz went 2-0 against the Sixers last year,
including rallying back from a 20+-point deficit in the 4th quarter to
upset Philly in Philly last January. Payback time? Hard to be too
optimistic with our roster losses and the way we've been playing late,
but it'd certainly add another level of triumph to the win if it was.

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.