Sixers Lose, Richardson Out, But Moultrie Alive

Sixers Lose, Richardson Out, But Moultrie Alive

Ugly, ugly game. Few games against the ground-and-pound Indiana Pacers
are pretty, but this one was especially hideous, with the Pacers closing
off all driving lanes and playing the Sixers physical inside, forcing a
whole lotta jump shots, which the Sixers obliged by not hitting.
Remember how I said Jrue and Evan needed to have great games for the
Sixers to win? Yeah, didn't happen: Evan's jumper was off all night, and
he scored just two points with four turnovers, one of his worst games
of hte season. Jrue was better but not much, shooting an astounding 7-22
with only three assists on the night. A game that was close at half got
less so when the Pacers started hitting jumpers and the Sixers
continued clanking, and the Sixers lost their first in four games,
88-69.

Sadly, the loss on the court was not the Sixers' biggest
for the night. It was reported tonight that Jason Richardson, the team's
starting two-guard for most of the year and the only productive return
thusfar from the Andrew Bynum trade, would miss the rest of the season
with a cartliage tear in his kneecap. The news is not terribly
surprising, as J-Rich had missed the last few weeks with ambiguous knee
issues, and Coach Collins basically told reporters not to expect him
back anytime soon. Nick Young has played well as starting shooting guard
in Jason's absence, but he struggled badly tonight, scoring just 7 on
3-8 shooting.

With Thaddeus Young out for most of the remainder
of February, and now J-Rich out for the season, and the Sixers still
well short of the eighth seed in the East, it's probably as good a time
as any to wonder if it's time to just straight-up pull the plug on this
season. Truth told, the Sixers might not have much of a choice—with a
thin rotation and a schedule about to get a lot tougher, it might be too
late to make a playoff push once Thad (and lord willing, the
Funny-Looking Kid With the Big Hair) returns anyway. Luckily, it seems
like the team at least realizes that it's far away enough from competing
not to make a panic trade, but if
there are other teams out there looking for spare parts, they should be
informed that the Sixers are sellers this year, not buyers.

There
was one positive to take from this game—the emergence of rookie Arnett
Moultrie. Obviously, Moultrie hasn't done much for the Sixers thusfar
this year, but you could argue that he hasn't been given a chance
to—Collins has never played him more than spot minutes, and rarely at
consequential points of the game. But without Thad and his 40 rotation
minutes tonight, Collins was finally forced to use Moutlrie, and the
first-year power forward rewarded his coach with 12 points, tripling (!)
his previous career-high, and grabbing three rebounds and a couple
steals in the process.

It's clear to see where Moultrie can be
use of the Sixers, especially with Thad out—he gives them some
all-too-rare athleticism in the frontcourt, also showing a previously
unseen knack for being in the right place with the right time, moving
off the ball and allowing Evan Turner to find him for some easy deuces.
Like Marreese Speights, Moultrie appears to have a nice touch with the
ball and hops to spare, but still occasionally looks lost on set plays
and on defense, and has a tendency to be outworked by physical
frontcourt players on the boards. Still, he gave the Sixers energy and
some much-needed scoring tonight, and hopefully we'll get to see him do a
lot more of that in the weeks to come.

Next for the Sixers: A
very winnable game against the Bobcats on Friday. It's officially just
killing time until FLKWTBH comes back now, but that doesn't mean there's
not learning to be done.

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies lost, 2-1, to the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

The big news from this game, however, was that Vince Velasquez might have made his last start with the Phillies. A major league source told CSNPhilly.com that the Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez. The Rangers, the source said, also have some interest in Jeremy Hellickson, who pitches for the Phillies on Saturday night, but he appears to be a secondary target.

It would take top talent to get Velasquez, a 24-year-old right-hander with a power arm. The Phillies acquired him over the winter from Houston as the centerpiece in the deal that sent Ken Giles to the Astros.

The Rangers had several scouts at the game, including Scott Littlefield, one of their top talent evaluators.

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported earlier in the week by Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

Apparently there’s more than just interest. Stay tuned as Monday’s trade deadline approaches.

Starting pitching report
Velasquez scattered seven hits and two runs over six innings. He walked two and struck out five. Velasquez battled some command issues and needed 91 pitches to complete the six innings.

He is 8-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has a 2.75 ERA in six starts since a brief stint on the disabled list with a right biceps strain.

Braves right-hander Tyrell Jenkins gave up just one unearned run over six innings.

Bullpen report
Both bullpens pitched scoreless ball.

At the plate
Phillies leadoff man Cesar Hernandez reached base in his first three at-bats and scored the Phillies’ only run on an error in the third inning. 

The Braves scored two runs in the third inning on three singles, a sacrifice bunt and a walk against Velasquez. Gordon Beckham and Nick Markakis drove in the runs with base hits.

Up next
Hellickson (7-7, 3.65) makes perhaps his final start with the Phillies on Saturday night. He will face Braves right-hander Julio Teheran (3-8, 2.71).

Jeremy Hellickson set to pitch Saturday — unless he's traded

Jeremy Hellickson set to pitch Saturday — unless he's traded

ATLANTA — Even with the Miami Marlins having filled their need for starting pitching, there remains significant interest in Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson, according to major league sources.

The Phillies have received offers for the 29-year-old right-hander, but none that they have deemed worthy of pulling the trigger on.

Hellickson is scheduled to make his 22nd start for the club on Saturday night. Will he make that start? Time will tell. Talks between the Phillies and interested clubs are ongoing.

Hellickson is coming off two strong starts in which he allowed just six hits and one run in 14 innings against the Marlins. Another strong start Saturday could add more luster to Hellickson’s stretch-run value and bring the Phillies the package they are seeking. The trade deadline is Monday at 4 p.m.

Miami had interest in Hellickson before making a deal to acquire starters Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea from San Diego in a seven-player trade Friday (see story).

Hellickson is viewed by industry insiders as being a fallback option for a number of teams. Demand for him could grow as trades are made and the starting pitching market thins as Monday’s deadline approaches.

Baltimore, Toronto, Texas, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Houston are among teams looking to add starting pitching.

Though there’s no guarantee that Hellickson will be moved, he is the most likely Phillie to go. Reliever David Hernandez is next on the list. A number of teams are looking for relief help. The feeling around baseball is that the Phils could move Hernandez before Monday’s deadline, but the return would only be marginal.

The Phillies have received some interest in closer Jeanmar Gomez, but not to the degree one might expect for someone with 27 saves. Because Gomez lacks power stuff, rival teams do not view him as a closer on a contending team.

FOX Sports reports that the Rangers have interest in right-hander Vince Velasquez, but the Phils would have to be blown away to move the 24-year-old right-hander. Velasquez started for the Phillies on Friday night.

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons repeatedly emphasized at summer league he wanted to work on “everything” leading up to training camp.

As a point-forward who plays multiple positions, he has more than just one role to address this offseason. But what does “everything” entail? With a wide range of responsibilities on the court, Simmons is honing in on specific areas.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

Shooting
Simmons has been criticized for his reluctance to shoot. During his one season of college ball at LSU, he averaged 19.2 points off 11.7 field goal attempts per game (56 percent made). Over six summer league games (including both Utah and Las Vegas), Simmons took 22 field-goal attempts and shot 32.2 percent. He had less than 10 attempts in four of the games, and attempted 15 in the Sixers’ finale. Simmons attempted one three in summer league action.

While in Utah and Las Vegas, the Sixers encouraged Simmons to be more aggressive. At 6-foot-10, Simmons is able to get to the rim. Once there, many times he passes it off rather than finishing himself. The Sixers don’t expect Simmons to become a 30-point-per-game scorer, but he will be a key part of their offense.

“You always want him to be as good of a shooter as he can be,” Las Vegas summer league head coach Lloyd Pierce said this earlier month. “It’s not going to be his strength. His strength is going to be passing, facilitating, playmaking. That’s going to be an added bonus, whatever the percentage or the number is.”

Dribbling
Simmons averaged 5.5 assists per game during summer league (second on the team by 0.3 dimes to T.J McConnell). Conversely, he committed 3.8 turnovers.

The Sixers signed two point guards this summer, Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, and McConnell is returning from last season. Head coach Brett Brown said after the draft he does not plan to utilize Simmons as the primary one-guard right away as the 20-year-old learns the league. But early on, Simmons will have the rock in his hands plenty of times given his natural ball-handling abilities, especially when grabbing the rebound and running the fast break.

"I think it's the hardest position to play in the NBA,” Brown previously said. “I think to just give him the ball in that capacity is borderline cruel. He needs to feel NBA basketball. And maybe he evolves there."

Weight room
After college, Simmons put on 20 pounds from his training and entered the draft at 242 pounds. He stood out among the competition in summer league play with his NBA-ready stature. Simmons said he would like to get up to 246 or 247 pounds this offseason.

“Not too heavy,” he said.

With the size of a forward and the skills of a guard, the Sixers will be able to utilize Simmons to create mismatches both in the backcourt and at the hoop.