Sixers Chat: Wrapping the Bulls Series and Previewing the Celtics

Sixers Chat: Wrapping the Bulls Series and Previewing the Celtics

It's been a crazy couple of weeks for the Philadelphia 76ers, as they
pulled off the weirdest upset in NBA history against the East-best
(though roster-depleted) Chicago Bulls and now face an aging-but-loaded
Celtics team with the chance to make the Conference Finals (!!) for the
first time since 2001. As always, we called in Michael Levin of the
excellent Sixers blog Liberty Ballers to help us put the Bulls series to
bed, see what we have coming with the Celtics, and generally figure out
what the hell is going on.

Andrew: All right, so first and foremost: You stopped laughing about that Game Six ending yet?

Michael Levin, Liberty Ballers: Yeah at some point I had to go to sleep, so eventually, yeah. It was close though.

Our editor at the Level wrote an article about the two FTs being 'Dre's signature moment as a Sixer. You agree?

Yeah
I'd guess that's how he'll make his stamp. When I think signature
moment I think of like something he does often? So maybe a huge dunk to
win it or a big stop. But in terms of meaningful, yeah this was the
biggest moment.

Which would you have said to be more likely before Thursday: The
Sixers winning a playoff series on 'Dre's clutch FT shooting, or the
2008 Phillies winning the world series on Pat Burrell stealing home?

Hahahha Dre's foul shots. I've seen Pat run far too many times to
know he's not stealing home or anything else anymore. Not since he was
like 22. Dre used to be a decent foul shooter. He just tailspinned the
past two years.

But can you think of a more...maybe not ironic, but like,
poetically unexpected way for the Sixers to have won this series? How
many times have we seen 'Dre come up on short in this near-exact
situation?

It was perfect poetic justice. Maybe Turner nailing a three. Or Lou
making a huge defensive stop. But Dre at the line was the ultimate
vindicator for him and for the team. I hate to say "you can't script
this" and that crap, but it was the absolute perfect way to end that
game.

Did it even cross your mind that he might make both, or were you thinking "Just hit one, send it to OT"?

I
don't know that I thought will he make one or two or none, I knew I was
confident. Earlier that game I said he'd been money from the foul line
this series. Which, money for him was like 80%. So I felt better about
his foul shooting at least temporarily, but I've seen him miss so many
late game free throws that it probably crossed my mind that he'll brick
both. But I'm not sure -- in hindsight it feels like I was confident.

It seems like the Sixers, who have struggled all year to close
out close games even against subpar teams, finally figured out how to do
it in this series. Is that legitimate development, a fluke against an
undermanned team, or just odds saying you have to win a couple close
games eventually?

I'd say the last two. Without Rose and Noah, the Bulls don't have
many options to go to. CJ Watson shouldn't have been in the game at the
end, but he had to because he's the only alternative. He shouldn't make
that pass to Omer Asik, who ALSO shouldn't have been in the game. But
when you're that undermanned, you gotta play somebody.

And yeah I've been saying "they're due" all season long. You can
only lose by 4 so many times before something goes their way. And the
Basketball Gods picked a good time to finally give them a few bounces.

How much of an upset, if at all, would you call this win? Were the Bulls still a better team, even without their top two guys?

I'd call it even. The Sixers are as good as the Bulls minus their two best players. Not exactly a confidence booster.

So sad, yeah.

If the Bulls had a few games without
Rose and Noah going into the series, i think it would have been
different. But happening so close together when you have this gameplan
and then it falling apart, I don't think they had time to recover.

What was your primary feeling after the end of Game Six,
excitement and elation over the Sixers' win, or relief that both the
Sixers weren't going to blow the series and you wouldn't have to watch a
Game Seven?

Hahahaha ummm....excitement for Dre. That was the #1 thing. And
yeah, I was really thrilled that we don't have to watch another game
between those two teams. Even if the Celtics series won't be much
better. Or possibly (gasp), worse.

And I wasn't so worried that the Sixers would blow the series,
because I'm not exactly invested in their success this postseason, but
it's fun to watch them win, even with the knowledge that no, all of this
doesn't matter because they're not good enough.

Was there one unreserved positive that we could take from the
series win, besides just "Hey, we won a series for the first time in a
decade"?

Initially, it was the success of [Evan] Turner and
Jrue [Holiday]. But that kind of tailed off towards the end, so....I'm
not sure. I guess the positive would be - they won a series, and now
people in Philadelphia might watch them play. That could be nice. I
think it would take another series win for people to actually care. But
we'll see if it's at least temporarily meaningful for the state of
professional basketball in the city.

What grades would you give Evan and Jrue's performances in this series?

Both
of them were pretty terrific defensively, especially Jrue. And they did
take the ball to the basket a lot, which I liked. So I'd give Jrue a B+
and Evan a B. But I might be going a little easy on them because I'm in
love with both of them. So take that into consideration too.

What grade would you give Coach Collins?

C-. Got the wins, but I disagreed with so many of his calls that it makes me hyperventilate.

Were you disappointed that in the end, he trusted Lou and 'Dre over Jrue and Evan again?

Yeah especially because of how the series started. It was very
promising and then...Boss. Dre in Game 5 was more on him than it was
Doug, in my opinion, but I'm bitter about him benching Evan in favor of
Lou towards the end.

Are you worried about the win sidetracking the Sixers'
development? That maybe it'll be an excuse to get the band back together
yet again in the off-season?

My opinion is that if the
owners watched this series and think this team deserves to be kept
together, then we have a bigger problem than just one year of not
rebuilding. They'd have to be batshit crazy to think this team that
barely beat the Bulls minus their two best players is worth keeping
together.

But do you think that now, Andre Iguodala, Playoff Hero is untradeable in the off-season?

No I think he's still gone. What they get for him I'm not sure. I'm hoping a pick, a contract, and a prospect.

What about Spencer Hawes? Did he make himself money in this series, and will it be the Sixers giving it to him?

I
can't imagine the Sixers bringing him back. I'm operating under the
assumption that Doug is the coach next season, and I'm pretty sure he
will be. That's why I don't think Andre or Spence will be back.

Lou [Williams]...... I'm worried. Really worried. My hope is that he
wants to start somewhere and he'll go where the money is. But if he
likes being here and doesn't mind coming off the bench, then we're in
trouble.

Who do you think the Celtics were hoping came out of this series?

Sixers. The Bulls would still give them trouble inside.

Even with the young legs and the 2/3 wins and everything?

Yeah
I'm sure they don't really care about the 2 out of 3 wins in the
regular season. One game was when Pietrus went down. And both games had
the Celtics at the end of long stretches. They know they're the better
team.

But do you think the youth will be any kind of advantage for the
Sixers? Can they win a game or two running the C's out of the gym?

Yeah
I think they've certainly got a chance to, providing one of the bigger
Celtics gets hurt. Youth is mostly on their side, and if they commit to
pushing it in transition and a few shots go in, we could be talking
about a series.

How do you think the Sixers deal with [Celtics Point Guard Rajon] Rondo? How would you have them do it?

I'd
put Turner on him. Have a bigger guy handle him, disrupt passing lanes
and such. Get Jrue on [Avery] Bradley and make him as annoyed as he'll
make Jrue on the other end.

Is [Celtics Forward Kevin] Garnett the toughest matchup for the Sixers in this series? How do they handle KG?

I
think Brand/Thad/Spencer/Lavoy will all take turns on him. He'll get
his but I don't think he'll be the problem. I'm more worried about the
Sixers not being able to score than the Celtics scoring a lot.

Who's the key for the Sixers offensively, then? Is there one?

It's
everybody. They need help from everyone. I think Sugar Bear [Elton
Brand] will have a big series because he's crazy like that. If Thad can
break out that would be huge. Dre making Pierce work on the other end
would certainly be nice. And obviously Evan and Jrue. Get to the basket,
get people in foul trouble. Find Elton for open jumpers. Gotta hit
shots, gotta keep moving. Can't dribble yourself into trouble.

If there's one thing you want to see from the team in this series short of them actually winning it, what would it be?

Evan
and Jrue. Efficient and being used frequently. Attacking the basket,
playing good defense, and getting the call when it matters most.
Everything else is gravy.

How confident are you feeling that they'll be the ones Collins leans on?

Not very!

All
right, give me a prediction of winner and games, and then give me the
odds you think the Sixers have of pulling out the upset.

Hahah this is going to contradict everything I've said but
Sixers in 6. And I have no clue what the odds are. That's my pick, for
better or worse.
 
Where is that pick stemming from?

Cuz
Fuck Me, that's why. Everything the Sixers do is to spite me
personally. So they'll win, resign Lou and Spencer to max contracts, and
I'll be here shaking my head. Oh and then they'll get plastered by
Miami. Before resigning those guys, obviously.

Maybe LeBron and Wade get hurt and the Sixers make the finals
just by virtue of still having seven or eight competent basketball
players to dress.

That's going to be how it has to happen. Then they'll win it all and we'll be like What the Fuck just happened.

---

8:00 tip on Game One form the TD Banknorth Garden tonight. Go Sixers.

J.P Crawford knocking on MLB's door after overcoming slow Triple A start

J.P Crawford knocking on MLB's door after overcoming slow Triple A start

ALLENTOWN, Pa. --- After a slow start at Triple A, J.P. Crawford is once again showing everybody why he's not only the top prospect in the Phillies organization, but one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Crawford's average was still hovering around or below .200 one full month into his promotion, and that was considered a sign of improvement. Then the 21-year-old shortstop got hot for real, batting .333 with seven multi-hit games during the month of July. His power has been coming around too, socking all three of his home runs for Lehigh Valley over that span.

It probably was only a matter of time until Crawford's bat came alive. In fact, never before had he experienced such a deep, prolonged slump.

"It was tough," Crawford admits. "It was the first time I ever went through something like that, but thankfully I have good teammates to pick me up and keep me thinking positive. I just tried to stay within myself and I got out of it."

Ironpigs manager Dave Brundage was one of the first to point out Crawford had never struggled to quite that extent, observing that it wasn't necessarily a bad thing that it happened either. Crawford agreed, adding that it's better to get the unpleasant yet inevitable experience out of the way now, before his highly anticipated arrival in the major leagues.

"I definitely would rather have it here than if I make it up there," said Crawford, notably not taking his eventual promotion to the Phillies for granted. "I'd rather learn from it now than suffer from it later."

Crawford entered Tuesday's Ironpigs doubleheader batting .267 with a .341 on-base percentage and .356 slugging since his May 20 call-up. That's beginning to approach the numbers from his stint at Double A Reading, where he hit .265 with a .367 OBP and .416 slugging across parts of 2015-16.

As for what's changed, Crawford made some tweaks to his approach that helped him break out. Most of all, he's simply getting back to what made him successful in the first place.

"Just trying to stay within myself, as far as not trying to get three hits in one at bat," Crawford said. "Recently been trying to put the ball hard back up the middle and it's been working.

"I'm just using less of my body and focused on using my hands more, like I'm used to, not thinking too much at the plate, staying confident in myself and just doing me."

Brundage suggests the reasons behind Crawford's initial struggles, aside from the challenge in making the jump to the next level, may have been a matter of circumstance for the left-handed batter.

"He had a little tough luck early on and was kind of getting his feet wet, just a lack of experience at this level," Brundage said. "I think he's getting himself more comfortable, he's feeling more comfortable with the bat, just trying to make some adjustments along the way and they seem to be working.

"He's had much better at bats. That, and we haven't faced — not that he can't hit lefthanders, because he's done a better job against lefties — but there for a run I think we faced nine out of 11 starters were lefthanded against us, so that makes it a little bit tougher when you're trying to gain some experience, when you're trying to make it here at Triple A."

There's little doubt Crawford will get his first taste of the majors with the Phillies come September when the roster expands, if not sooner. He's now demonstrated he can hit at every level of the minors. There's only one step left to take, and that's up to the big leagues.

But Crawford isn't getting ahead of himself. He knows he's knocking on the door. He also understands what the expectations are once he gets there, and that there's a lot more hard work ahead.

"I mean, it's cool, but I'm trying not to think about it," Crawford said of an impending promotion. "I try to just go about my business, day by day, try to find a way to get better before the game and try to win the game that night."

Report: Nigel Bradham arrested for involvement in Miami assault

Report: Nigel Bradham arrested for involvement in Miami assault

Another Eagle is in trouble with the law. 

According to NBC6 in Miami, linebacker Nigel Bradham was recently arrested after an incident on Miami Beach. 

Bradham, 26, turned himself into Miami Beach Police on Monday, "charged in the beating of a worker at the Hilton Bentley hotel," according to the report. 

The Eagles released the following statement Tuesday afternoon: “We are aware of the recent incident involving Nigel Bradham in Miami. We have been in contact with Nigel and the proper authorities. Due to the ongoing legal process, we will have no further comment at this time.”

Per the NBC report, six people began arguing with the employee about "the length of time it took to bring them an umbrella they had paid for" and the argument became physical. The victim sustained cuts and was allegedly punched in the face and smashed in the back of the head with a bottle. The report continues to say the six people got in a vehicle and sped away. A phone was found at the scene, along with a receipt that showed Bradham paid for the umbrella with his credit card.

An arrest report obtained by NBC claims Bradham "without provocation, struck the victim in the nose with a closed fist, causing the victim to fall to the ground."

"I saw the drill, then I'm going to try to take the drill to come to fix the umbrella for them," the worker, 50-year-old Jean Courtois told NBC, saying he needed a drill to fix the umbrella before bringing the group the umbrella. "He say 'hey, I pay my money for me to set up for me to fix the chair for me. You don't want to fix the umbrella for me.' Then I say 'OK, I'm going to try to take care of it for you.' Then he hit me in my head."

The Eagles signed Bradham to a two-year deal worth $7 million ($4.5 million guaranteed) this offseason. 

The linebacker is expected to be the team's starting strongside linebacker, next to Jordan Hicks in the middle and Mychal Kendricks on the weak side. 

Bradham's best season came in 2014, while playing under Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz in Buffalo. That season, he had 104 tackles, 2½ sacks and an interception in 14 games. 

The Eagles seem to have three decent starters, but if Bradham misses any time, it could be a big blow. The team doesn't have much in the way of depth behind Bradham and the rest of the starters.

Want to play corner for Jim Schwartz? Must worry about more than deep ball

Want to play corner for Jim Schwartz? Must worry about more than deep ball

The Eagles might not have any top-flight cornerbacks, but they certainly have a lot of guys with some talent.

Many of them are young, and all of them are battling for just several roster spots.

That hodgepodge of talent has made the corner position one of the more intriguing spots at this year's training camp. We're not sure how it'll all shake out, who will be the starters, who will be the depth players.

But one thing's for certain: Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wants all of them to be aggressive.

"It's going to be fun to watch the corners compete," Schwartz said after practice Tuesday. "We have some guys that can cover. We have some guys that have a great opportunity here. If they'll get up and they'll challenge receivers, like I said before, if you can cover — you can't cover many people if you don't want to challenge guys. That's God's honest truth. I could play the deep ball. I'd get my ass 50 yards deep and you couldn't get one over the top of me, but I couldn't cover anything else.

"There's a fine line in there. And the fine line is you obviously have to play the deep ball in this league, but if that's the only thing you're worried about, you're not going to cover anything else."

Schwartz said he's happy with the blend of veteran and young players on the roster, before rattling off five names: Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, JaCorey Shepherd and rookie Jalen Mills.

The one notable omission from that list of names is second-year player Eric Rowe, who finished last year as a starter, but has been somewhat of a forgotten man this spring and summer. On Monday, head coach Doug Pederson mentioned some "hiccups" Rowe encountered learning the new defensive scheme (see story).

Even with Rowe buried on the depth chart for now, there are still plenty of talented, young corners fighting for jobs.

Carroll, on the other hand, isn't young. He's 29 and a returning starter from last year. Schwartz praised Carroll's smarts and said he's been a resource for younger players. But Carroll is also coming off of a fibula fracture and subsequent surgery. That's why he's one of the select vets that reported to camp early.

"This is important for him now," Schwartz said. "It's a good opportunity for him to come back before the full club gets here, just to sort of test it out and see how he's feeling. You don't want to judge too much. He might need a day here or there. It helps that he's a veteran player."

It seems Carroll, on a one-year deal, has a decent shot of being a starter opposite McKelvin. During the spring, Brooks worked outside in the base package and moved inside to the slot. At times, the rookie Mills also played in the slot.

Schwartz said corners in the slot need a different set of skills than the ones outside. They need to have the "courage" to take on big-bodied running backs and the occasional pulling guard. They also need to cover differently.

"It's very rare that you're getting the same routes," he said. "You're not getting the same routes from the slot as you are from the outside. So there's a different skill set. Some guys can play both, some guys can't. So it's our job to determine over the next six weeks where all the guys fit in that."