Sixers lose to Wizards in first of hopefully many respectable losses this season

Sixers lose to Wizards in first of hopefully many respectable losses this season

The Golden State loss was embarrassing. Half-hearted offense, quarter-hearted defense, giving up open looks and highlight plays and letting eight-year Sixer Andre Iguodala have arguably his best-ever game on the Wells Fargo Center court wearing another team's jersey...not so good, Al. We want to lose this year, sure, but we don't want to have to lose like that.

Last night, I'd say, was infinitely preferable. Yes, they failed to kill off the ailing Washington Wizards, and yes, they probably could have gotten a hand up on defense or a body back in transition a couple more times than they did--giving up 116 points on your home floor is rarely totally justifiable--but they at least fought back throughout, kept it close for at least three quarters, and ultimately let themselves get beat by a more talented team. In the end, it's all good.

John Wall--the boy can ball. After an exceptional first half against the Sixers last week, the former #1 overall pick (and ostensible Evan Turner rival of sorts) played four strong quarters tonight against the Liberty Ballers, flashing the blinding speed and excellent drive-and-dish instincts that make him so spellbinding in the open court, but also showcasing a shooting stroke rarely seen across his first three seasons in the league, hitting 5-8 from downtown, easily his career high in threes for a game. (For reference, Wall went 3-42 from deep for the entire 2011-'12 season.)

All that said, he didn't outshine Evan Turner all that badly this time. Unlike most of their matchups, in which it's been abundantly clear who went #1 overall in 2010 and who went #2, Evan was equally on his game tonight, showcasing his much-improved mid-range game and not forcing matters in the half-court, ending with 24 points (on sparkling 9-13 shooting, including six free throw attempts and even his first three-pointer of the season), seven rebounds and four assists, with just one turnover. Evan is now shooting a mind-blowing (and likely unsustainable) 61% from two-point range this season, showing just how much he's improved his overall shot selection in Brett Brown's offense.

Evan's production last night was mostly matched by Spencer Hawes, who continued his strong start to the season with 23 points (on 9-16 shooting) with 13 points, five assists and a couple blocks--though he also chipped in six TO's, at least two or three of which were of the worst kind of head-smacking Hawesian quality. Michael Carter-Williams similarly put up big numbers, including 19 points, seven assists and five boards, but his shot selection was a little suspect at times, and he needed 21 attempts for his 19 points.

Perhaps the best sign of the night for the Sixers was that James Anderson finally got himself off the schneid a little, hitting a couple threes and scoring 13 points total, easily his best production in a Sixers game this season, amidst not particularly stiff competition. Really, of the Sixers' main offensive cogs, the only one who couldn't really find a groove last night was previous Wizard-killer Thaddeus Young, who struggled through a 3-11 night and couldn't seem to find himself any room to sneak in around the basket, getting badly outmuscled on both ends by the Washington frontcourt of Nene and Marcin Gortat.

And really, it wasn't the offense that failed the Sixers tonight, it was the defense. Slow rotations, missed assignments and failures to get back in transition were the biggest culprits--though admittedly, much of the latter had to do with the Sixers' 20 turnovers on the evening, which started far too many easy looks back the other way. Seven Wizards scored in double figures, which probably means that the defensive blame is across-the-board for the Sixers for this one.

But whatever. Plenty of teaching points for Brett Brown in this one, and plenty of Big Macs for the folks in attendance. It was a fun game to watch, it further inflated the stats of eventual trade targets Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, and in the end, we're one loss closer to contending for Wiggins, Randle and Parker. It's all love, and we can only hope for more of the same for the rest of the season.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- The Latest on a fatal traffic crash in Arizona involving a Dallas Cowboys bus (all times local):

6:55 p.m.

Four people were killed when a Dallas Cowboys bus collided with a van in Arizona.

Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr says all the fatalities in the Sunday crash were passengers in the van.

Mehr didn't say what led to the crash on U.S. Highway 93 in western Arizona.

Dallas Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple says the bus had no players, only staff members on board. They suffered "bumps and bruises."

According to the Department of Public Safety, the collision occurred about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman.

The bus was en route to Las Vegas for an afternoon fan event where organizers say the team's mascot was expected to appear.

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6:30 p.m.

A spokesman for the Dallas Cowboys says passengers on a team-owned bus escaped serious injury in a collision with another vehicle that killed at least one person in Arizona.

Team spokesman Rich Dalrymple says people on the bus suffered only "bumps and bruises" in the Sunday crash on U.S. Highway 93.

Dalrymple didn't say if any players or staff were onboard the bus.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety says the collision occurred about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, in western Arizona.

The agency said it was a fatal crash but couldn't immediately confirm the number of people killed.

The bus was heading to an afternoon fan event in Las Vegas where organizers say the team's mascot was expected to appear.

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.

Previewing Eagles 2016 training camp: A to Z

Previewing Eagles 2016 training camp: A to Z

The Eagles officially kick off training camp on Monday morning, when rookies, select veterans and quarterbacks report to the NovaCare Complex. 

The rest of the team will show up on Wednesday, which leads into the first full team practice on Thursday afternoon at 3:30. From there, things don’t really stop until the season ends in January. 

But every season starts with training camp. This will be the first under head coach Doug Pederson and the first as Eagles for many rookies and free agent pickups. 

Let’s take a look at this year’s training camp from A to Z: 

A – Nelson Agholor: Agholor wasn’t charged with sexual assault stemming from an incident at a South Philadelphia gentlemen’s club in June, but that doesn’t mean he’s past it. The second-year receiver will undoubtedly be asked about the incident the first time he fields questions from reporters and likely won’t say much. He’s lucky most of the incident is behind him, however, because the last thing he needs is a distraction. Agholor is coming off an extremely disappointing rookie season and has a chance to turn things around by earning a starting receiver job. He could be one of the biggest keys to the Eagles’ offense in 2016. 

B – Bucs. Mark it on your calendars, folks: the first preseason game of 2016 is on Aug. 11 against Tampa Bay at the Linc. It’ll be our first chance to see a ton of new players – including the No. 2 pick – in game action. 

C – Cornerback. One of the more intriguing position groups on this team for a few reasons. It looks like one of the starting corner jobs is going to belong to free agent pickup Leodis McKelvin. But the other? Well, it could belong to Nolan Carroll or Eric Rowe or Ron Brooks or even rookie Jalen Mills. And then one guy will have the opportunity to play the slot. During the spring, Brooks played outside and slid into the slot in the Nickel. 

Aside from the top of the roster, there’s intrigue among the last few corners on the roster. Simply put: there are too many talented young players than there are roster spots. 

D – Days off. There aren’t many. Training camp is a brutal few weeks. From the start of camp until the first game on Aug. 11, players have off just two days (Aug. 2, Aug. 9) and 15 practice days. 

E – Early mornings. If training camp isn’t brutal enough, practices are starting mighty early. Once the entire team gets to camp, practices will start at 8:15 a.m., which is when Andy Reid used to hold his camp practices. 

F – Fullback. Under Doug Pederson’s offense, a fullback will be used. Now, the Eagles don’t have a traditional FB on the roster, so this job will belong to either Trey Burton or Chris Pantale, who are both listed as tight ends. Pantale worked with the first team at fullback in the spring, while Burton got some second-team snaps, but Pederson made sure to note that he wanted to see both of them play the position when the hitting started at training camp. Here’s his chance. 

G – Chris Givens. If you’re looking for an under-the-radar player to become a fan and media favorite during camp, look no further than Givens. He had a very good spring and his rapport with starting QB Sam Bradford was clearly on display. Givens can catch short passes, but his ability to stretch the field will be more fun to watch. With a base salary of just $760,000, he could be a huge bargain. 

H – Hitting. It’s something we didn’t see a lot of during the last three years of training camps under Chip Kelly. He preferred to keep things lighter, in terms of hitting, to prevent injuries. Pederson’s philosophy is different and more like Reid’s. The Eagles will hit at training camp. At times, they will have live (tackle to the ground) periods. It will much more closely resemble actually football than what Kelly had the team doing for the last three years. 

I – Isaac Seumalo. Through no fault of his own, the rookie third-round pick missed all of OTAs this spring because of the NFL/college graduation rule. Seumalo was able to stay in touch with his coaches through the marvels of modern technology, but he still missed a ton. And now he’s playing catch-up. Will he have enough time to wrestle away the starting left tackle job from Allen Barbre? Not sure. First, though, he’ll need to surpass top backup Stefen Wisniewski, who also has his eyes set on that starting left guard spot. 

J – Jason Peters. For whatever reason, Peters declined to talk to the media all spring. We’ll try again during training camp. Perhaps it’s because he wasn’t thrilled about all the talk of his decline in play, which, while it might be unpleasant for him, is hard to argue. Peters is 34 and his eventual successor Lane Johnson signed a long-term deal this offseason. Still, Peters is a big key to the Eagles’ offensive success in 2016. 

K – Kicker. Caleb Sturgis or Cody Parkey will win this job and you may not care. But you probably should. Sturgis looked better in the open practices this spring, but Parkey is recovering from a serious injury and will have every chance to win his old job back. 

L – Linebackers. This is perhaps the scariest position on the roster in terms of depth. Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks have lengthy injury histories and Nigel Bradham is somewhat of an unknown. Still, it might be a solid starting group. But after them? Najee Goode, Deontae Skinner, Joe Walker and a few undrafted rookies. Yikes.  

M – Most at stake. There are several players who can earn a roster spot or even a starting job over the next few weeks. I outline them here

N – NovaCare Complex. For the fourth straight year training camp will be held in South Philadelphia and it doesn’t look like it’ll be heading back to Lehigh University anytime soon. This is sad in some ways because it was a lot of fun up there, but it’s hard to blame Pederson for choosing convenience over team-building. 

O – Open practices. This is the part of having camp at home that really stinks. When it was at Lehigh, fans could get a really good look at their team and I know many took the opportunity to make a mini vacation of it. This year, there are just two open practices, on July 31 at 10 a.m. and Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. 

Both open practices are at Lincoln Financial Field and do not require tickets. Seating is first-come, first-serve. Parking for the practices is free in K Lot, which will open at 7 a.m. (gates open at 8) on July 31 and 4 p.m. (gates open at 5) on Aug. 14. Keep in mind, the NFL’s clear bag policy will be in effect. Concessions will be open during those practices. 

P – Doug Pederson. Obviously, a lot of eyes are going to be on Pederson as he enters his first year as a head coach in the NFL. We got a sense of what his practices are going to look like from OTAs, and they’re going to be much different than the ones Kelly ran. Slower pace, more teaching. Really, a more traditional look. 

Q – Quarterbacks. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, the Eagles have invested a ton of money and resources into the quarterback position. They re-signed Sam Bradford, signed Chase Daniel, then moved up from 13 to 8 to 2 to draft Carson Wentz. Pederson and his offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who are both former NFL QBs, have obviously put a ton of stock in the position. How will it all shake out this season? We’re not sure yet, mostly because injuries are impossible to predict, but we’ll certainly be watching. 

R – Rookies. Wentz is the first quarterback the Eagles have taken this high in a draft since Donovan McNabb. Yeah, people are going to be watching him. But the Eagles have plenty of other draft picks and undrafted rookies in camp, 26 in all. Now, not many are considered to be candidates to make impacts this year, but a few could. 

S – Jim Schwartz. The Eagles’ defensive coordinator is almost as important as the head coach. He’s charged with turning around a unit that has been very bad for the last few years. He has some new pieces to go along with his 4-3 scheme. If nothing else, it’ll be fun to watch. 

T – TV. The first two preseason games will be simulcast on CSNPhilly and COZI TV. The last two preseason games will be on NBC10. CSNPhilly will also replay all the games (see story)

U – Under the microscope. For the last few years, Fletcher Cox has way out-performed his rookie contract. To out-perform his new deal, he’ll have to become a perennial Pro Bowler. He’s clearly the best player on the team – and the Eagles paid him like it – but now it’s time for him to show he’s worth the money. And Cox isn’t the only one. Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz and Vinny Curry also got big money in long-term deals. 

V – Destiny Vaeao. Aside from linebacker, the position with the biggest depth concern is probably defensive tackle. After starters Cox and Bennie Logan, there’s Mike Martin, who is probably the top backup. Then there’s Beau Allen and Taylor Hart, who are questionable scheme fits. That leaves the door open for an undrafted rookie to make the team here, and the top one this spring was Vaeao from Washington State. Now, Aziz Shittu from Stanford might push for a roster spot, but he missed all spring because of the NFL/college graduation rule.  

W – Carson Wentz. The No. 2 pick’s first training camp. Everyone’s gonna be watching. The thing we really have to look forward to is seeing Wentz playing in the preseason games, where he should get significant snaps. 

X – X’s and O’s. Since training camp will actually resemble real football, the X’s and O’s will be important. We’ll see if Pederson’s offense will have some downfield influence from Frank Reich. And then we’ll get a chance to see what Schwartz’s defense is all about. How quickly will the returning players figure it out? 

Y – Year 2 and 3 players. Plenty of folks will be watching the rookies, specifically Wentz, but there are several players entering their second and third years in the league who need to make more of an impact. To name a few: Agholor, Josh Huff, Marcus Smith. All early-rounders who haven’t hit their potential. 

Z – Zoo. Under Kelly, there just seemed to be much more media hype around the Eagles, especially last year. Plenty thought the Birds were legitimate Super Bowl contenders, Kelly was always intriguing, and the team made some major offseason moves. This year, there’s Wentz, but not nearly the expectations in 2016. With the headlines and radio airwaves the Sixers have gotten in town recently, the Eagles have been on the back burner. Don’t expect this to last long though. After all, this is a football town.