Still Got a Season to Play: Sixers Host Cavs Amidst Bynum Weirdness

Still Got a Season to Play: Sixers Host Cavs Amidst Bynum Weirdness

Perhaps you've heard by now that as discouraging as the reports were
about Andrew Bynum being held out of basketball activity until at least
early December, the situation has already gotten way worse. On Friday it
was reported that Bynum had suffered a setback in his recovery, and now
his left knee now had a similar bruise to his right one. What happened?
Well, we're not sure exactly, but ESPN first reported that the injury occurred
while Bynum was bowling. Yes, bowling—like the sport with the pins and
the gutters and the disco nights and such. Hoooee. (Update: Bynum confirmed the bowling story to reporters before tonight's game.)

For now, the
Sixers are still holding to their original timetable with Bynum's
recovery, but we've already seen this movie once with the Sixers this
year, and it wouldn't be hugely surprising if the team continued to keep
Bynum's recovery process hush-hush as his expected return date came and
went without anything actually happening. Not to be fatalistic, but it
seems like a good time to start considering the possibility that Drew
never actually suits up for the SIxers this year—not yet a probability,
but one I don't think any Sixer fan would feel comfortable betting
against at this point.

Rather than just hold the fort until
Bynum's return, the Sixers probably now need to start thinking about
what their real goals are for this season if Andrew doesn't play this
year. Does the team shoot for a low playoff spot and an
all-but-guaranteed first-round playoff exit? Do they slip out of
contention, trade veterans for young players and draft picks, and maybe
try to strike gold in the lottery as they retool for next year? Do they
just do whatever possible to try to convince Bynum to re-sign with the
team after he becomes a free agent, regardless of his injury history?

I
don't have the answer to any of those, and I'd be surprised if the
Sixers do either. But in the meantime, the regular season marches on,
and tonight the Sixers face the Cleveland Cavaliers at the WFC. The Cavs
are far from a great team, and their bench is very likely the worst in
the entire league, but they're on their way to rebuilding, and they have
two players the Sixers should be seeing in their sleep after the game
tonight—sophomore sensation point guard Kyrie Irving, and the NBA's most
productive and prolific energy guy, big man Anderson Varejao.
Considering how badly the Sixers were beaten on the boards by the
Pistons a few games ago, Varejao (currently averaging nearly 13 boards a
game and five offensive) seems likely to be particularly problematic
for the undersized Ballers.

To win, the Sixers are gonna need
another huge game from Jrue Holiday, both checking Irving on defense and
making plays on offense. The Damaja was again masterful on Friday,
posting a 26-6-7 in 41 minutes of game action, including some huge
fourth-quarter buckets that helped quell a late Jazz rally and showed
his maturation as a go-to-guy down the stretch for the Sixers. It'd also
be quite nice to see Lavoy Allen continuing his hot play of late—after a
couple consecutive scoreless games, Allen has now hit double digits in
two straight, and seems to be getting his confidence back at the basket
and on the glass. We'll need him against Varejao and fellow Cavs
seven-footer Tyler Zeller tonight, certainly.

Early 6:00 tip
from the WFC. The Sixers franchise is in a really weird place right now,
but it's not crisis time just yet. Until the worst is confirmed, all
the team can do is win the games they can, continue to push for a
playoff spot, and hope to get Bynum back and acclimated in time to try
to make some actual noise in the post-season. And we really, really really hope that the worst doesn't get confirmed.

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

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.