Sixers Lose But Jrue Holiday Really Good at Basketball, Nick Young Still Swag to Spare

Sixers Lose But Jrue Holiday Really Good at Basketball, Nick Young Still Swag to Spare

It's tough to take consolation in the ol' "Got beat by a better team"
explanation tonight when facing a team like the 11-26 Hornets, but it's
true. After all, the Hornets are a whole lot better than their 11-26
record, something analysts always say when their squad is getting beat
by opposing teams with crappy win-losses, but in this case it's
basically inarguable—the Hornets finally have franchise lynchpins Eric
Gordon and Anthony Davis healthy together for the first time all season,
and have now won five of their last six, including Ws over the Spurs,
Rockets and Timberwolves, all of whom are also a lot better than the
Sixers. Depressing but true.

The Sixers lost tonight because
they couldn't play competent defense. Again, not as inexcusable as you
might think, considering that the Hornets have several legit scorers and
playmakers in their suddenly formidable starting roster (+ Ryan
Anderson off the bench), but it's stuff that's dogged the Liberty
Ballers all season—getting hung up on picks, not rotating to shooters,
allowing dribble penetration and failing to rebound the basketball.
You'd like to blame it one guy, and if Spencer Hawes was playing the
whole game maybe we could, but really it was a team-wide malaise
tonight, where the Hornets were given quality looks and rarely missed.
Credit to them, debit to us, if that makes any sense which it probably
doesn't.

There were two bright spots tonight, which made this
game a lot more fun to watch than all the other shitty losses the Sixers
have gone through as of late. Jrue Holiday...if a point guard can play
any better on offense then he did in the first half tonight—where he
scored 12 points and handed out nine assists, making seemingly every
correct move and decision and basically keeping the Hornets from running
away with it all by his lonesome—I haven't seen it too often, and
certainly not for the Philadelphia 76ers. Even as The Damaja appeared to
be slowed down in the second half (and the thing really slowing him
down was Doug Collins benching him for half of the fourth quarter,
before deciding garbage time was over), he still scored another 17 and
ended with 29 points on 10-17 shooting (4-5 from deep), 11 assists, five
rebounds and four steals. Give that man his All-Star bid.

But
of course, if Sixers fans remember the game tonight, chance are it will
be for that previously mentioned fourth quarter stretch where Jrue sat,
and His Swagness took over. With the Sixers down 20, Nick Young did what
we brought him to Philadelphia to do, and in his first action in a
couple games, scored 15 points in a five-minute stretch that brought the
Sixers back to nine down, and had the Wells Fargo Center buzzing like
it hasn't been since...I dunno, Lou Williams' Heat-beater? AI's return
game? A long time. The run wasn't enough, and Young dried up shortly
thereafter, but Sixers fans will no doubt be tickled to know that the
Swag lives on, PT be damned.

In the end, another game where you
see your guys getting outboarded and outmuscled—Spence and Lavoy Allen
combined for ONE REBOUND in the first half—and you look at that
funny-looking kid with the big hair at the end of the bench and wonder
if he might have made the difference. Sixers won't find out for at least
another month, but with games like the one Jrue had tonight—with game,
if not quite sufficient, support from Thaddeus Young and Evan
Turner—it's reasonable enough to hope for.

Toronto on Friday in a vengeance game. Go Sixers.

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

The Phillies made a couple quiet additions as the winter meetings ended, signing veteran outfielder Daniel Nava and lefty reliever Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts.

Nava, 34 in February, is a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and first base. He came up with the Red Sox and became a fan favorite in Boston in 2010 as a 27-year-old rookie. Some Phillies fans will remember him for hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first major-league plate appearance.

Nava had a few decent years in Boston, the best of which was 2013, when he had 536 plate appearances and hit .303/.385/.445 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 66 RBIs. 

Nava's numbers and opportunities have dropped every year since. He was designated for assignment by Boston in 2015, latched on with the Rays, signed the next year with the Angels and was traded late in the season to the Royals.

Over the last two seasons, Nava has hit just .208, albeit with an on-base percentage 99 points higher because of his 30 walks and 10 hit by pitches.

Burnett, 34, has spent five of the last seven seasons in the Nationals' bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA in 283 appearances from 2009-12 and parlayed that success into a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Angels. However, he barely pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Halos because of an elbow tear. He returned to the Nats last season and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings.

Burnett, perhaps more so than Nava, has a chance to fill a role with the Phillies if he can stay healthy. He's shown he can get outs at the highest level, posting a 2.38 ERA in 2012 with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.14 ERA with 8.9 K/9 in 2010. That was a long time ago now, and Burnett's fastball has dipped from averaging 90-91 mph to 88.

According to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will receive a $1.25 million salary if he makes the team and can earn another $1.75 million in incentives based on his number of appearances.

Burnett has an opt-out date of March 26, meaning he can become a free agent a week before the regular season begins if it looks to him like he isn't in the Phils' plans.

Nava's chances at cracking the opening-day roster seem longer because the Phillies are expected to make more depth signings between now and the start of camp. They've prioritized finding some offense in the corner outfield and that could come in the form of more minor-league deals, a guaranteed contract or trade. One potential fit I examined last week was Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, a hitter more proven than Nava (see story).

These minor-league deals were commonplace for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak last offseason, when the only free agent he signed to a major-league deal was reliever David Hernandez. 

Last season, three players who were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training made the team on opening day: outfielder Cedric Hunter, utilityman Emmanuel Burriss and reliever James Russell.

Others, such as former closers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey, failed to make the team out of camp. Bailey eventually earned a call-up; the other two didn't.

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixers point guard and Meek Mill collaborator Lou Williams is enjoying quite the run off the bench for the Lakers recently.

Over Los Angeles' last four games, Williams has posted totals of 40, 38, 24, and 35 points. 

The six-man is averaging 34.5 points per game over the stretch, and his 137 points are the most off the bench in a four-game span by any player since 1970-71, when stats were first recorded, per Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN. Williams is now averaging 19.3 points this season, which is 4.4 more than his highest average with the Sixers.

Williams isn’t the only player who used to play for the Sixers that is playing well for the Lakers this year. Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who also comes off the bench, is averaging 13.3 points per game. Just a few weeks ago, Swaggy P stole a pass intended for Lou Williams, and then proceeded to hit a game winner against the Thunder. Swaggy P, however, is currently sidelined with a right calf strain, but is getting closer to a return.

"Lou Will" was also talked about last April during Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game, when he was beefing on Twitter with another former Philadelphia athlete, LeSean McCoy.