Sixers Wrap Pre-Season With Win Against Knicks: What Did We Learn?

Sixers Wrap Pre-Season With Win Against Knicks: What Did We Learn?

Thus endeth the pre-season for the Philadelphia 76ers, with a 98-91 win
against the Knicks on neutral-ish territory in Syracuse. The Sixers
dominated throughout the first two-and-a-half quarters, then almost let
the Knicks erase a 20-plus-point deficit before sealing the deal in the
fourth. Jason Richardson led the way with 23 points, seven rebounds and
six assists, hitting two enormous threes late in the game to help fend
off the surging 'Bockers. Thaddeus Young also pitched in 22 on 10-12
shooting, and despite missing three starters in Jrue Holiday, Evan
Turner and Andrew Bynum, the Sixers were able to end the pre-season with
a win, finishing their exhibition schedule 6-1, with the one loss
coming against Brooklyn in overtime.

So how much do we want to take away from the Liberty Ballers' strong
play these last few weeks? Well, everyone says you can't take too much
(if anything) away from the pre-season, and for the most part, they're
right—after all, the Lakers have gone 0-6 in play so far, for instance,
but I'm guessing most prognosticators would certainly still tab them as a
playoff team at the least. Opponents are often injured, coaches tinker
with lineups or give added time to youngsters, and vets often phone it
in, preferring to save their good stuff for the regular season. Just
because the Sixers were able to mostly make short work of the Atlantic
Division in their pre-season schedule, that doesn't suddenly make them
front-runners to win the division by any means.

Still, I do think there are things to learn from the team's
pre-season performance, and in my opinion, the main takeaway is this:
This Sixers team rolls deep. In any given pre-season game, both sides
will be missing at least one or two (if not far more) regular rotation
guys, but the teams that have strong second units beyond their starters
will continue to thrive even with key players absent. That's why the
top-heavy Lakers have struggled, and why the Sixers' 5-1 record means
that they likely have a pretty strong roster from 1-12. With Bynum out,
Spencer Hawes was able to pick up a lot of the scoring and rebounding
load in the post. Turner's absence has been covered by the likes of
Drrell Wright and Nick Young. Even third-stringer Royal Ivey came to
ball tonight with starting point guard Holiday out, ending with 12
points and five dimes.

Now, the Sixers were deep last year too, and we clearly saw then how
such depth only gets you so far once the teams with star-studded
rotations start to put it all together. But usually, to add a player
like Andrew Bynum to your lineup, your team depth chart has to take a
hit as a result, and for the team to still be so loaded with seemingly
competent rotation guys after putting Bynum on top of it all...it's
definitely a good thing. And especially if Bynum doesn't start the
season healthy, the depth will be a key to keeping the team afloat until
he can be a full-time contributor.

So who this pre-season has really impressed? Well, we're not gonna get too deep into pre-season stats—we know how Ray Allen feels about those—but
Spencer Hawes certainly appears to be in fine form, looking a whole lot
like the Spence who very briefly took the league by storm early last
season. Dorell Wright has certainly made a good first impression,
scoring efficiently, making high IQ passes, and proving a real weapon in
transition. Thad has scrapped his way to big scoring nights in a number
of games, offense the team will certainly need from him. Malik Wayns
might be a legit NBA backup point. And Jrue Holiday has looked every bit
the floor general we need him to become, distributing and scoring and
proving he can lead this team from the perimeter.

Yup, it's been mostly good vibrations from the Sixers this
pre-season—of the expected rotation guys this season, only Evan Turner
really underperformed, which I think we're all used to in a weird way.
Otherwise, our young guys seem to have improved, our new guys seem me to
be good fits, and our team chemistry seems to be in a surprisingly good
place, considering how many new parts need to be integrated. It seems
like things are really looking up for this team going into the season.

Of course, I continue to use the word "seem" here, because this is
still the pre-season, and there's at least a decent chance that it all
turns out to be a house of cards or mirage or some other highly unstable
visual metaphor when the regular season starts. But I like what I see
so far, and I'd much rather see my team clicking meaninglessly than see
them go into crisis meaninglessly. Fun pre-season, can't wait for the
real thing to start a week from tomorrow.

Roman Quinn likely done for season; Aaron Nola is throwing in Fla.

Roman Quinn likely done for season; Aaron Nola is throwing in Fla.

ATLANTA – Roman Quinn spent Wednesday getting treatment on his freshly strained left oblique. The rookie outfielder will try to gauge his condition by doing some jogging and light throwing on Thursday, but all signs point to his being shut down for the remaining days of the season and continuing his bid to make the opening day 2017 roster in spring training.

“He’ll let me know tomorrow and be honest with me if he still feels it,” manager Pete Mackanin said Wednesday. "There’s no sense in him getting hurt with only four or five games left in the season.”

Quinn injured himself taking a swing in the fifth inning Tuesday. He blew out the same oblique at Double A Reading this summer and missed six weeks.

“I think he’s more scared than anything that it’s going to recur and he’s going to make it worse,” Mackanin said.

That should be enough to shut down Quinn right there.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Quinn said.

Quinn was 15 for 57 (.263) with four doubles, six RBIs, eight walks and five stolen bases in 15 games before going down. He struck out 19 times but had a .373 on-base percentage on a team that struggles to get on base.

Mackanin sees Quinn as a player who could make the jump to full-time duty in the Phillies’ outfield as soon as April, but first Quinn must clear the injury hurdle has cost him so much time since he was picked in the second round of the 2011 draft. Quinn has missed time with a ruptured Achilles tendon, a torn quad muscle, a broken wrist and oblique issues.

“He mentioned to me that because he’s so lean and doesn’t have a lot of body fat that might be part of the issue,” said Mackanin, referring to Quinn’s oblique issues. “They have so much health food available for the players that this could be a good way to make a change, so we can have a pizza and a burger once in a while.”

Mackanin got serious.

“With him, his big question mark is staying on the field,” the manager said. “That’s always going to be in the back of everybody’s mind because he doesn’t seem to stay on the field as much as you’d like him to. Resilience and reliability is important. So that’s going to be a big test for him next year. It’s obvious what he brings to the table as far as making things happen. He’s a catalyst for a lot of things, the least of which is coverage in the outfield, so it’s a matter of whether he can stay on the field or not.”

IN OTHER HEALTH MATTERS …
Reliever Edubray Ramos has a sore elbow and is day to day and day to day at this time of the year might mean he’s done for the season. Mackanin said the elbow issue is not serious and could be a result of Ramos' pitching longer than he ever has in a season.

Also, Aaron Nola has begun to test his ailing elbow by throwing on flat ground in Florida. He will progress to a mound and eventually face hitters in the coming weeks as the club gauges whether he is fully recovered from his elbow strain or will require surgery that could cost him the 2017 season.

Matt Klentak agrees Phillies need bat, but won't ignore pitching

Matt Klentak agrees Phillies need bat, but won't ignore pitching

ATLANTA – The day after Phillies manager Pete Mackanin talked about the need to add a hitter to his lineup this offseason, general manager Matt Klentak agreed with his skipper.
 
“I think Pete is right,” Klentak said Wednesday.
 
On Tuesday, Mackanin mentioned the impact that Yoenis Cespedes had on the New York Mets after he joined that eventual World Series participant last season. Mackanin said he planned to offer Cespedes as an example of what one difference-making hitter can do for a lineup when he and the coaching staff meet with the front office Friday. Cespedes can opt out of his contract at the end of the season and become a free agent. But a big-ticket free agent like that does not appear to be in this team’s plans. Not this winter, at least.
 
“We need to work at improving our offense however we can,” Klentak said. “Whether that comes in the form of a free agent or in a trade or promotions of younger players or the continued development of the players that are here – all of those are ways for us to improve our offensive production. Those are all things we're going to focus on.”
 
The Phillies remain committed to rebuilding through their farm system and with young players. That creates a balancing act for the front office as it looks to add talent.
 
“Every decision that we make will be measured against the short-term implications and the long-term implications,” Klentak said. “We want to do everything we can to field the most competitive team on the field that we possibly can. We also want to make sure we continue to provide opportunities to our young players to develop. That's the fine line that we'll have to tiptoe all offseason.
 
“The goal remains to continue to provide meaningful opportunities to our young players, but also to supplement that group with players from the outside that give us the best chance to win.”
 
Though the Phillies rank last in the majors in runs, Klentak said it remains committed to building with starting pitching. Adding a veteran stabilizer to the starting rotation seems to be as big a priority for Klentak as adding a bat.
 
“I don't think we will ever have the luxury of ignoring starting pitching,” Klentak said. “Starting pitching is the name of the game. We saw it for the first month or two of the year. Every night we were pitching. Our starters were performing. The back of our bullpen was performing. We were competitive almost every night. At times, throughout the rest of the season, we've sputtered along. We've had our good stretches and we've had some not-so-good stretches. But if you can dictate the pace of the game on the mound, you always have a chance to win. We're never going to ignore that.”
 
Jeremy Hellickson was a solid veteran stabilizer this season, but he will become a free agent and is likely to sign elsewhere. The Phillies would like to capitalize on Hellickson’s signing elsewhere and get a compensatory pick between the first and second round of next year’s draft. They must make Hellickson a one-year offer of about $17 million for 2017 and the pitcher must reject it for that to happen.
 
The Phils will also look to add bullpen help this winter.
 
But don’t look for a free-agent spending spree until the club has built more of a core.
 
“Free agency is an important market for us and every team to improve,” Klentak said. “Just how strongly we invest in it is going to depend, No. 1, on the types of players that are available and, No. 2., on where the organization is at that moment.”
 
The organization is still in a rebuild.
 
Draw your own conclusion.