Sixers Vanquish Nets in First Ever Visit to Barclays, Move to 4-1 on Pre-Season

Sixers Vanquish Nets in First Ever Visit to Barclays, Move to 4-1 on Pre-Season

Well, that was fun. The Sixers won their third straight pre-season game
tonight against the Nets in Brooklyn, again without Andrew Bynum and
tonight without Evan Turner either, moving to 4-1 on the pre-season,
with two more games against the Celtics and Knicks early next week.
Seven players scored for the Liberty Ballers, with Thaddeus Young
leading the way with 24, in a game that the Nets made close late, but
which the Sixers led for the great majority and which they put away with
a couple big shots in the final minutes.

Though Thad was the
leading scorer, pouring in his 24 on 11/15 shooting (many on
second-chance opportunities, and holy hell did the Nets let up a lot of
those), the team MVP tonight was almost certainly Jrue Holiday, who
finished with just 11 points but handed out 12 assists, ten of which
came in an impressive first half. The Damaja was getting into the lane
with impunity and doing an impressive job of finding his shooters, also
locating Thad for a couple easy buckets underneath. He came up a bit
cold late, but played like a real team leader tonight, which he'll have
to early in the season especially if Bynum ends up missing a stretch of
games.

And anyway, coming up big late is what we have Nick Young
for. Swaggy P was a total non-entity for the game's first three
quarters, but hit two huge jumpers in the fourth quarter, the second a
contested, late-shot-clock step-back three (the Nick Young specialty,
natch) that iced the game for the Sixers. Just having watched Young as a
Sixer for a couple games, I was still more confident in his
super-low-percentage shot going in than I have been with just about any
other Sixer hoisting in a late-game situation over the past five years.
It's gonna be an interesting season in Philly for young Nicholas.

There
were plenty other solid performers for the Sixers tonight—Spencer Hawes
and Lavoy Allen combined for 23 and 13 on over 50% shooting from the
pivot, Jason Richardson and Dorrell Wright each hit a couple threes and
grabbed a combined 17 rebounds, and Malik Wayns was again strong off the
bench, scrapping his way to ten points. The sudden depth on this team
is pretty interesting—it won't help them win that much in the playoffs,
but for the Sixers to come into Barclays minus two starters and steal a
game from a Nets team hungry to give their new fanbase a win...even in
the pre-season, that's pretty impressive.

Oh yeah, speaking of
the Nets and Barclays, you might want to hear a little bit about what
the arena is like. Of course, it being an NBA arena, the possibilities
for true personality are traditionally limited, but it's a very nice
building, modern-looking without coming off as ostentatious, and with a
floor that's absolutely gorgeous under the lights. The Brooklynness
comes through in the choice of concessions—a who's who of
foodie-approved Brooklyn vendors, from Calexico to Fatty 'Cue—and the
music, a Jiggaman-curated soundtrack that obviously emphasizes the
borough's hip-hop roots and will probably extend Maino's cultural
relevancy for decades longer than he would have otherwise been granted.
The corporate sponsorship is thick as advertised—the guy next to me in
press row pointed out that even the actual hoop stanchions still had
three different business logos on it—but otherwise, it's definitely one
of the more personable NBA arenas.

Perhaps most importantly, the
building has been totally scrubbed of anything relating to or
reminiscent of New Jersey. The look is different, the PA guy is
different, a whole lot of the team is different (WHAT'S UP REGGIE???)
and even the jerseys that hang in the rafters are almost entirely from
the Nets' ABA days in New York. The only holdover from the days in
Newark that I could spot was the continued deployment of this weird
truncated mashup between "Rappers' Delight" and "The Breaks" that still
makes absolutely no sense to me. It's Year Zero for the Nets franchise
in Brooklyn, and that's probably for the best.

For the record,
though, I'm not all that sold on this Nets team. Their interior defense,
exposed tonight by the undersized likes of Lavoy Allen and Thad Young,
is gonna be a huge issue for them moving forward, and though Joe Johnson
had a big third quarter for the team tonight, I just don't see him as
the kind of difference maker many seem to be projecting him as,
considering he's the only big addition to a team that's finished far out
of the playoffs in the two years that Avery Johnson has been head
coach. I could very easily see them finishing fourth in the Atlantic
Division and just barely sliding to a seventh or eighth seed in the
playoffs. We'll see.

Meanwhile, fun probably isn't good enough
for the Sixers this year—they've been "fun" for a while, it's time to
get good—but it's not a bad baseline to have as a team, and from early
returns, it does appear that now matter how good the Sixers end up being
in '12-'13, they should be a damn enjoyable team to watch. Once we
(hopefully) get Bynum into the fold we'll see what the team's potential
for greatness truly is, but in the meantime, they should be competitive
even without him, and always entertaining regardless.

Ben Simmons working out with LeBron James

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Ben Simmons working out with LeBron James

Ben Simmons' fellow NBA rookies may not think too highly of him, but when the best basketball player on the planet is giving him pointers, he must be doing something right.

On Tuesday, a photo of Simmons and LeBron James dribbling side by side started making the rounds on Instagram. That's right. The Sixers' number-one overall draft pick and franchise savior is apparently training with the four-time league MVP and reigning world champion.

#Klutch @klutchsports

A photo posted by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

Those workouts continued on Wednesday, when 12-time All-Star Dwayne Wade posted a photo of himself, Simmons and James, as well as Richard Jefferson and Jordan McRae. That's some good company for a first-year player to keep.

Good day of work!

A photo posted by dwyanewade (@dwyanewade) on

What does all of this mean for Simmons and the Sixers? Hard to say, but it can't be a bad thing that the rookie point-forward is spending time with a pair of future first-ballot Hall of Famers. Surely he must be learning something.

That's good news for the Sixers, who hope that Simmons can even come close to living up to the lofty comparisons some have drawn to James already.

Tonight's Lineup: Tommy Joseph starts for 1st time against Gio Gonzalez

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Tonight's Lineup: Tommy Joseph starts for 1st time against Gio Gonzalez

Tommy Joseph is back in the starting lineup … as he's expected to be for most of the final month of the season. Joseph bats fourth behind third baseman Maikel Franco.

Joseph did not start Tuesday night in the Phillies' 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals. The 25-year-old is hitting .251 with 17 home runs and 34 RBIs.

The slugger has a significantly higher average against left-handed pitching than righties, despite clubbing 12 of his 17 homers against right-handed pitchers.

Joseph has yet to faced Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez.

In other lineup notes, Tyler Goeddel gets the start in left field and will hit eighth, while A.J. Ellis gets his second start as a Phillie. He'll catch Adam Morgan.

Here is the full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, RF
6. Freddy Galvis, SS
7. A.J. Ellis, C
8. Tyler Goeddel, LF
9. Adam Morgan, P

For more on tonight's game, read Steven Tydings' game notes.

Villanova season preview: It's Zach Bednarczyk team now

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Villanova Athletic Media Relations

Villanova season preview: It's Zach Bednarczyk team now

VILLANOVA, Pa. — When star quarterback John Robertson suffered a season-ending injury early in Villanova’s 2015 campaign, Zach Bednarczyk was thrown into a difficult spot.

How could an inexperienced redshirt freshman be expected to replace the reigning Walter Payton Award winner? Could the Wildcats still accomplish all of their lofty preseason goals?

In the end, Bednarczyk probably handled it as well as could be expected, performing admirably in some spots (like when he spearheaded a late comeback against rival Delaware just after Robertson got hurt) and poorly in others (like when Penn upset Villanova for the first time in a century the very next week).

But now, after getting almost a full year of experience under his belt, Villanova head coach Andy Talley is expecting Bednarczyk to become a better, smarter player — and, most of all, someone who can lead the Wildcats into the FCS playoffs in Talley’s final season.

“I think the thing that he did last year was that he was a little bit of a gun-slinger,” Talley said. “He threw the ball around a little bit. Now he’s more judicious with where he throws the football, his outlet receivers. He’s not trying to gun the ball in all of the time and make a play.”

While Talley would certainly like his QB to cut down on some mistakes — he threw seven interceptions last season — he does appreciate that Bednarczyk possesses some of the same playmaking skills that made Robertson such a star at ’Nova, including the ability to gain yards on the ground.

In his first season last year, Bednarczyk led the Wildcats in rushing with 515 yards and five touchdowns while throwing for 1,396 yards and 10 touchdowns en route to nabbing CAA co-Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

This season, which begins for Villanova Saturday at Pittsburgh, Talley hopes he can match those running totals while becoming a 2,000-yard passer with fewer interceptions.

“Last year he was rookie of the year in the CAA but he really could have been an all-league player if he didn’t throw the ball in some bad spots,” Talley said. “I think he learned the hard way by having the ball go against him. In the last game of the year, we had a chance to tie for the championship and go to the playoffs if we had beaten JMU. And he threw two picks that went back for touchdowns. So he’s sort of learned his craft the hard way.”

That season-ending loss to James Madison still stings for the Wildcats, who finished with a 6-5 overall record and missed out on qualifying for the FCS playoffs for just the third time in eight years.

That’s something they hope to reverse in 2016 under the growing leadership of Bednarczyk, who agrees with his coach that he needs to become a smarter player.

“Last year I definitely took too many risks,” the sophomore QB said. “This year, although I still want to throw the ball around because that’s my strong suit, I definitely don’t want to force anything. I’ll try to cut back on my turnovers. If it looks like it’s too tight of a window to squeeze it this year, I’ll just tuck it and run.”

Bednarczyk will certainly need to be poised in the pocket with Talley admitting that the Wildcats aren’t as deep at receiver as they’ve been in years past. 

At the same time, he may not have to put too many points on the board, considering how good Villanova’s defense can be. Although the unit graduated star linebacker Don Cherry, who’s been in preseason camp with the Eagles, they still boast a veteran unit that includes linebacker Austin Calitro and defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon.

Kpassagnon, a 6-foot-7, 290-pound NFL prospect, is an especially intriguing player for the Wildcats.

“I think all the pro teams have been through to see him,” Talley said. “He can run. He’s tough. He diagnoses well. He’s in our business school, so he’s smart as can be. And he carries that over to the field.”

Kpassagnon, who was named to the CAA preseason all-conference team, is excited for his senior season but admitted that helping the Wildcats rise to the top of a loaded league won’t be easy. Villanova, which opens league play Sept. 17 vs. Towson, was picked fourth behind Richmond, William & Mary and James Madison.

“There’s no dropoff in competition throughout the CAA,” Kpassagnon said. “In some other leagues, there are a couple of teams that you know will obviously win the conference. But with ours, you never know.”

Of course, Villanova has aspirations beyond just winning the league. As always, the Wildcats — who check in at No. 23 in the STATS preseason Top 25 — will look to make a deep run in the FCS playoffs and, perhaps, try to send Talley out with his second national title.

“The goal is definitely a national championship,” Kpassagnon said. “We all believe we can do it. It’s something we have in the back of our heads.”