Playoff Posturing: Sixers Host Hot Knicks

Playoff Posturing: Sixers Host Hot Knicks

In addition to Joe Blanton and the Phillies taking on the New York Mets
across the street, the Sixers also take on a team from up that city up
the turnpike. After a loss on Tuesday night against a Celtics team that
played solid defense, Doug Collins' squad will face a team that's not
exactly known for its defense in the New York Knicks, winners of their
last four contests.

The Sixers will once again be without Lou Williams, who could be
sidelined until the playoffs, but Evan Turner stepped up in a big way on
Tuesday night, taking advantage of those available minutes. He also
didn't have to worry about Collins giving him a quick yank back to the
bench, so Turner had the time to feel comfortable and do some things
with the ball in his hands.

From CSNPhilly.com:

I don’t know a lot,” Doug Collins said after the [Celtics] game. “But
I do know what players’ strengths and weaknesses are. Evan is really,
really good when he has the ball in his hands.”

“It definitely
helps,” Turner concurred. “I was able to get a rhythm. Tonight I was
able to come off ball screens and be able to run in transition and
stuff like that.”

It was perhaps the best Evan has played all season, "just
[expletive]-ing getting after it, all night too. And against a really
good defense. Usually his good nights come against the Warriors, Suns,
etc," as one of my Sixers aficionados put it.

Perhaps facing the Knicks' defense tonight could allow ET to put a
pair of real nice games together. It would be especially nice if he
could do it against a team only .5 game back from them in the standings.

Carmelo Anthony didn't want to put too much stock into this one game
with the playoff-bound Sixers, "We don't' want too much pressure saying
if we don't win it's the end-all, but at the same time it would be a
good game to get on the road and a big test."

Does the battle for the sixth seed really matter all that much to the Sixers?

"It's pick your poison, you want Boston? or you want Miami? If we
could finish 6th, that'd be great, because 6th is better than 7th, but
it's not because you get an easier opponent," Coach Collins said before
the game today.

"The seeding to me would be great for our guys from the standpoint of
saying, 'Hey guys, you know what, when it's all said and done at the
end of the year, we had the sixth best record in the East.' That would
be nice."

It's Philly vs. New York tonight. Hopefully the results are better than Tuesday's awful showing from our local squads.

Tip of scheduled for 7:00. We'll be in the Wells Fargo Center if you'd like to chat along in the comments.

There's another Embiid WWE 2K17 entrance and it includes Hinkie

There's another Embiid WWE 2K17 entrance and it includes Hinkie

He’s done it again.
 
Eleven days ago, Sixers social media went wild over a video that showed Joel Embiid walking out to the ring as a WWE character in WWE 2K17. Well, YouTube user Hillman811 is back with an even better version of the video complete with Sam Hinkie and fans chanting.
 
The first video sparked questions to Embiid about his favorite WWE wrestler, and he even did his own Triple H introduction at the Wells Fargo Center after The Game threw him an All-Star vote (see story).
 
Watch the video below and let your mind run wild with what this would look like if it actually happened.
 

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

There was no better story of personal triumph on the Phillies' roster than Tommy Joseph in 2016.

Dumped from the 40-man roster and passed over by 29 other teams on the waiver wire and in the Rule 5 draft in 2015, he reported to minor-league camp with his career on the line last spring.

Two months later, thanks to good health and a molten bat, Joseph's career began to spike upward.

But 4½ months in the big leagues and the promise of a starting job in the majors in 2017 hasn't changed Joseph's outlook or the mindset he will take into spring training camp next month.

He's still going to scrap and claw for everything, just like he did a year ago when he was fighting for his baseball life after a series of concussions put his career in jeopardy.

"I'm preparing the same way I did last winter," Joseph said during an offseason stop at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday.

"The job is not given to me. I still have to win it. I'm not going to walk in and have it. Obviously, it's mine to take and I plan on going in and winning the job."

Joseph, 25, earned a significant slice of the starting first base job last year. But with Ryan Howard, the last piece of the 2008 World Series team, gone, Joseph has a chance to stake an even greater claim to the position in 2017 and establish himself as a serious building block in the Phillies' rebuild.

"Tommy came out of nowhere last year," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's something to be excited about there. He was off the map and he did enough to warrant a real strong look this year. And hopefully, he can improve and take baby steps toward being a final product."

Joseph pushed himself to the majors and cut into Howard's playing time last season by hitting .347 with six homers, 17 RBIs and a .981 OPS in 27 games at Triple A. He came to the majors in mid-May and hit .257 with 21 homers and 47 RBIs in 107 games. In the fall, Joseph briefly played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, but right wrist tendinitis, now fully healed, cut the stint short.

Joseph's good showing at the plate in 2016 was partly the result of his finding good health. As he recovered from a fifth concussion in the summer of 2015, it was discovered that he had a series of ocular problems. They were addressed through therapy and ... well, it's amazing what a hitter can do when he can see the ball.

This year, Joseph will look to improve in the field. The converted catcher is looking to add quickness around the first base bag and that starts with better footwork. At the urging of bench coach/infield instructor Larry Bowa, Joseph has been jumping rope and doing box drills all winter.

Joseph also wants to improve his approach and mindset at the plate. Though he wants to drive the ball like his size — 235 pounds — and position dictate, he wants to improve his on-base percentage and thus his OPS, on-base plus slugging percentage.

Joseph struck out 75 times and walked just 22 times in 347 plate appearances in 2016 and his on-base percentage was just .308. But over the final month of the season, he made an effort to be more selective at the plate and he recorded a .327 batting average and .406 on-base percentage (while slugging .618) over the final 23 games of the season. He struck out 10 times but walked seven over that span.

"My whole career has been a battle when it comes to walking," Joseph said. "I started to listen and read more what veterans around the league were saying about on-base percentage and OPS. Slugging is important on the corners, but there are times you have to take your walks. It's relevant because the best players in the game have a high OPS."

Joseph needs to improve in this area for a couple of reasons. First, the front office is intent on building a long-term lineup around players who control the strike zone, i.e., those who don't chase bad pitches. And second, the Phils have a legitimate run-producing first base prospect in Rhys Hoskins set to take his game to Triple A in 2017.

Joseph knows all of this and takes nothing for granted.

"The only difference this year will be I'm on the big-league side in spring training, but everything still has to be earned," he said.

The Phillies ranked last in the majors — or "last in the world," as Mackanin said — with just 610 runs scored in 2016. The offseason additions of Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders should help run production. So, too, should expected improvements from Maikel Franco and Joseph, two players who have the chance to be long-term building blocks.

"We've got guys at the big-league level that I choose to think are going to get better," Mackanin said. "Tommy Joseph is a perfect example."