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?

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.

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds defends hit on Andrei Markov

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds defends hit on Andrei Markov

MONTREAL — Wayne Simmonds didn’t feel as though he did anything wrong. Or that he even touched Andrei Markov.
Thing is, however, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety may have a different view of it come Tuesday morning.
Early during first-period play Monday night, the Flyers' winger came out of the penalty box after serving a minor for holding and cross-checked Markov from behind.
The Canadiens' defenseman went face-first into the boards and fell to the ice, where he appeared to try and sell a penalty. Nothing came of it, but the hit will likely be reviewed anyway.
“I barely touched him,” Simmonds. “When you got a bunch of guys diving all over the place, what are you going to do? Stand on your feet.”

There were a number of tough hits from both sides in the Flyers' 3-1 loss to the Canadiens (see game recap). It was evenly played and the Flyers deserved a point.
“We played a solid game,” Simmonds said. “Obviously, we lost and it’s not what we wanted but we have four more games this week.
“We go home and we've got to be focused on the positive things that we did and carry it over the rest of the week.”
Gudas eligible
Radko Gudas has yet to play a real game this season.
The Flyers' bruising defenseman has been serving a six-game suspension for a careless hit in Boston that closed out exhibition play earlier this month.
Tuesday night, the Flyers will play the back end of a back-to-back against Buffalo at the Wells Fargo Center and Gudas likely will return to the lineup now that his suspension has ended.
“It seems like forever,” Gudas said. “I could use more games behind me. I think I’m ready with my conditioning and skill level, so I can’t wait to get back in there.”
The decision as to who comes out will be difficult. A good guess right now would be Nick Schultz.
“We've got the information at this point,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “It will be a tough decision, no question, if we are healthy.”
At some point — Nov. 5 — Michael Del Zotto will be eligible to come off LTIR. That means another veteran blueliner would become available and an even bigger problem will arise because Del Zotto carries a $3.875 million cap hit.
Barring injury or trade, when Del Zotto returns, the Flyers will have to move two players off their roster entirely just to be cap compliant.
For now, following Monday’s loss, Hakstol has to decide whether to stick with his current defense or put Gudas back in. Given the Flyers have missed Gudas’ physical presence — teams have taken liberties on smallish rookie Travis Konecny — it makes sense to reinsert Gudas.
“Obviously, teams are going to take advantage of smaller guys,” Gudas said. “I would love to be out there if anything happened. All the guys here are responsible and I think they did a pretty good job defending that. It’s not happening a lot.”
No, but it’s happened enough that the Flyers should take note of it.
Hakstol said his decision does not have to come until Tuesday.
“That’s not to say we haven’t looked at things and thought about the [issue], but that decision comes after tonight,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gudas finally has come to the conclusion that the NHL is watching his every hit.
“They’re looking at me since Day 1 I got here,” he said. “The guys made up their minds. I have to make sure I don’t give them an opportunity to call again.”
Maybe he should change his ringtone to say, “Player Safety calling.”

Loose pucks
Simmonds and Matt Read saw their four-game goal-scoring streaks come to an end. ... The Flyers were credited with 39 hits, the most they’ve had since 41 in a home game against Montreal on Jan. 5, 2016. Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Schultz were credited with five apiece. ... Ice-time leaders: Ivan Provorov (21:31), Shayne Gostisbehere (21:27) and Brandon Manning (20:36). … Boyd Gordon was 10 for 12 (83 percent) on faceoffs. ... Jakub Voracek had five shots, giving him 21 overall, which ties him for 10th in the league. His goal gave him eight points and ties him with five other players for fourth in the NHL.

RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai 'calms the storm,' rebounds in 2nd start

RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai 'calms the storm,' rebounds in 2nd start

Halapoulivaati Vaitai wasn’t Lane Johnson on Sunday against the Vikings.

But he didn’t look like Halapoulivaati Vaitai either ... at least the version that was a revolving door last week in Washington.

In his NFL debut last week, Big V gave up two sacks, a quarterback hit and a hurry. Against the Vikings, he gave up just one QB hurry.

What led to the change?

“I just think learning from the week before, quite honestly,” head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. “He really, again, detailed his work during the week. He practiced extremely well. He used his hands better.

“He was able to calm the storm, so to speak, and played a fine football game. He played the type that we saw [in] him and he’s capable of doing. Now it’s something that he can continue to build on.”

While it seemed like Pederson curtailed his offense some to counteract what could be a shaky offensive line, he said it was more about utilizing his team’s strengths. Still, Carson Wentz attempted just four passes that traveled over 20 yards on Sunday and didn’t complete a pass that went more than nine yards in the air.

Despite Vaitai’s scary performance in his debut, Pederson decided to stick to his plan and leave him at right tackle instead of shuffling the offensive line by moving Allen Barbre to tackle and replacing him with Stefen Wisniewski.

The jury is still out on the decision, but the Eagles probably have more confidence in their offensive line for the next eight games of Johnson’s suspension than they did before playing the Vikings.

The Eagles' O-line didn’t give up a sack to the Vikings after giving up five the previous week.

“I thought our guys [Sunday] did a great job of no sacks against a team that had 19 coming in,” Pederson said. “Protected [Wentz], kept him clean and it just gives him confidence now and gives our whole unit confidence moving forward and coming away.”