The Last Straw? A DNP-CD for Arnett Moultrie, A WTF for Coach Collins

The Last Straw? A DNP-CD for Arnett Moultrie, A WTF for Coach Collins

There were a lot of reasons to be depressed by the Sixers' performance
last night in Minnesota—the super-soft defense that let up 56 first half
points, the 1-7 shooting night for Nick Young (and 4-9 at the line,
including three misses in a row after a foul on a trey), the miserable
combined jump-shooting efforts from Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen, the
not-much-better combined jump-shooting efforts from Evan Turner and Jrue
Holiday...the list goes on. But we knew, or could pretty well guess,
that all that was going to be the case last night. It's not like we were
unaware this team was crappy shorthanded and not all that great to
begin with. No big surprise there.


What we didn't know, what we still can't figure out, is Doug Collins slapping rookie Arnett Moultrie with a DNP-CD. Now in my Five Goals for the Second Half of the Season
piece I published here a couple days ago, which I'm sure you all pored
over like the religious text it was, #2 on the list was to continue to
develop Moultrie, to give him consistent minutes, and maybe some more
time playing with Jrue Holiday and the first unit. No doubt Dougie also
read my article with diligence, considered all of my points made, and
decided...nah, I think I'd rather just play Damien Wilkins for 26
minutes. (No, you're not missing a decimal point there—Wilkins actually
played for over half the game.) Not like we couldn't have used him, or
any other big body, either—the Sixers got absolutely brutalized inside
last night, and were forced into a lot of long jumpers on offense
because their big men were super-unhelpful moving off picks.


But that's almost besides the point. Maybe Doug didn't like
something about the matchup, maybe Moultrie had a bad practice recently,
maybe he had a bad horoscope reading this morning, I dunno. But I also
don't really care. You may or may not have noticed that nowhere in my
"Five Goals" article does it say anything about winning games. And
that's because right now, coming up with actual Ws is an incidental
concern, especially as long as the Funny-Looking Kid With the Big Hair
is out. This team isn't going anywhere in the playoffs. Chances are very
good (and always looking better) that they aren't even going to
the playoffs. And in fact, the only real impact of the team making the
playoffs this year would be losing our first-round pick to Miami in the
summer. Winning is not the priority at the moment.


Rather, the priority should be building for next season, where
hopefully we'll have a re-signed and healthy-ish Bynum (and perhaps also
JJ Redick picked up in free agency, and perhaps Wilt Chamberlain
resurrected as a unicorn coming off the bench), as well as a decent
lottery pick to go along with our current core and really try to go
somewhere in the Eastern Conference. As a young, low-cost, high-upside
player, Arnett Moultrie could potentially play a part in that. Damien
Wilkins, for a variety of reasons, can not. So I don't really care if he
had a bad practice or something—unless he was making racist remarks
while farting uncontrollably, I wanna see him out there for 20 minutes a
night, learning the pro game, developing chemistry with Jrue and Evan,
showing us what he's got. I repeat: Winning is NOT the priority at the
moment.


Try telling that to Coach Collins, though—like, ever. As I think one of the Liberty Ballers
guys said, Doug is a great coach for an overachieving team, and an
absolutely terrible one for a rebuilding team. His win-now, win-forever
approach can squeeze 45 wins out of 35 wins' worth of talent, but if the
responsibility is tending over a 25-win team already looking at the
long approach, Collins is still gonna focus on how he can somehow get to
win #26. It's hard to fault the guy a ton for trying to win as many
games as possible—in theory, that's usually what you want your coach to
do, and it paid off decently his first two years in Philly. It's also
hard to envision him being a part of this team's future at this point,
though.


I'm not saying they should fire Doug Collins this season. The deck
was stacked against him from the beginning with the Bynum deal and
injuries, and the team is so bad right now that he probably couldn't
sabotage our tanking efforts even if he was consciously trying to. But
the Moultrie thing is indicative of how, if things stay sour for this
team, Doug's probably not the guy to stay the course and stay patient
with the team as they attempt to build towards the future. And really,
if he was still the Sixers' head coach at this point next year, I'd be
pretty surprised.

On Eagles' roster bubble, Marcus Smith finally showing signs of improvement

On Eagles' roster bubble, Marcus Smith finally showing signs of improvement

Final cuts are a little over a week away. Marcus Smith is trying to impress a coaching staff that didn't draft him. Steven Means has had a very good preseason. Smith has little to show for his first two NFL seasons.

If time is running out on the former first-round pick from Louisville, it's not weighing on him.

"I try not to think about those things," Smith said. "Just go out there every single day and not worry about what's going on around me because everything will take care of itself."

Smith, in his first year as a 4-3 defensive end after struggling in two seasons as a 3-4 linebacker, missed the preseason game against the Bucs with a concussion but actually played very well Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with four tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.

It didn't count. But it was the kind of performance the Eagles have been waiting for since they made Smith the 26th pick in the 2014 draft.

Smith played just 68 snaps as a rookie, getting more than seven snaps in only four games. Last year, he played five or fewer snaps in nine of 16 games.

But new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has given Smith every opportunity to shine, and he liked what he saw in Pittsburgh.

"The thing I'm most proud about with Marcus is that he's done a good job in the run game," Schwartz said.

"He's a very skilled athlete. He's fast and he's smooth. I think he was a quarterback when he first went to Louisville. I mean, that stuff shows. Where he's really making good improvement is setting the edge of our defense [and] attacking tackles.

"He did that against a physical group from Pittsburgh. That was a great sign."

Smith was asked about his run defense being an underrated part of his game, and he disagreed with the assessment.

"For myself, it's not an underrated part,  but everybody else thinks that it's underrated because they see me as just a pass rusher," he said.

"But I also know that I can play the run and stop the run and rush the passer at the same time, and when you have both those tools then it allows the coaches to be able to put you in the game more."

When the preseason began, it was just kind of a foregone conclusion that Smith's time in Philly had run out.

Now, he's battling not only for a roster spot, presumably with Means, but also for playing time behind defensive ends Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham.

Smith insists he's not worried about where he fits in on a roster that's loaded on the defensive line.

"I don't think about those things because if you think about things you can't control you tend to not do the things that you're supposed to do," he said.

"So I just worry about what I can control and just get better and play well."

Smith is on three special teams units — kickoff, punt and kickoff return — which gives him a few more opportunities to show he belongs.

More than anything, for the first time since he got to the NFL, he's brimming with confidence.

That, more than anything else, was missing the last two seasons.

"I feel really comfortable just because the scheme and the type of defense that we're playing, it allows me to just be a defensive end," he said.

"My confidence level is really high. I feel that when I'm out on the field I can't be stopped."

Russell Wilson still affecting Eagles' decision making

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Russell Wilson still affecting Eagles' decision making

By now, most Eagles fans have probably heard stories that the team coveted Russell Wilson in the 2012 NFL draft, but waited too long and wound up watching helplessly as he went to the Seahawks. Doug Pederson was just an offensive quality control coordinator with back then, but even he realizes how losing out on a franchise quarterback altered the course of history.

“If we’d have drafted Russell Wilson in 2012, we’d still be here as coaches,” Pederson said with a smile.

That's what Pederson tells Albert Breer for TheMMQB.com, and there might be a bit of truth to it. Despite concerns over his stature, it turns out Wilson was an outstanding NFL signal-caller from the jump, and while he was surrounded with a dominant defense and ground attack, likely would've been a winner just about anywhere.

Actually, Wilson may not have been good enough to save Andy Reid's head coaching job in Philadelphia or his staff — after 14 years, it was time, and an offensive line depleted by injuries was the real reason behind a 4-12 season. Regardless, Pederson learned something from waiting too long on Wilson in the draft, and based on their aggressive move for Carson Wentz this year, the Eagles organization did too.

Simply enough, if you like a quarterback, Pederson says, “Take him. Take him. Take the best available one. If you’re not planning for the quarterback position, you’re probably not going to win many games.”

...

“There’s a lesson there. Seattle, they felt like we did with Russell Wilson,” Pederson said. “We got Nick Foles right after that, and I love Nick Foles and think he’s gonna be a good quarterback in this league and do well for Kansas City. But if you’re not planning for that position …”

For as much criticism or questioning as the Eagles have faced for their plan at the quarterback position this year, "take him" certainly was not the issue. In addition to all of players and draft collateral they gave up for Wentz, they also invested large sums of money into current starter Sam Bradford and long-term backup Chase Daniel.

If you think Pederson and executive vice president of personnel Howie Roseman's experience of missing out on Wilson didn't play a role in those moves, the head coach made it quite clear to the contrary. While Eagles fans would prefer the known quantity and proven Super Bowl champion under center, you can't say this regime hasn't done everything in its power to erase that mistake.

NHL Notes: Panthers flip Dave Bolland's contract, prospect Lawson Crouse to Coyotes for picks

NHL Notes: Panthers flip Dave Bolland's contract, prospect Lawson Crouse to Coyotes for picks

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Arizona Coyotes have acquired prospect Lawson Crouse and veteran Dave Bolland's contract from the Florida Panthers for two draft picks.

Arizona sent a 2017 third-round pick and a conditional 2018 second-rounder that could become another 2017 third to Florida. The Coyotes are taking on the final three years of the injured Bolland's deal to pick up Crouse, the 11th pick in the 2015 draft.

Nagging injuries limited Bolland to 25 games last season, and the 30-year-old forward has three years left on his deal at a salary-cap hit of $5.5 million. But Arizona general manager John Chayka said Bolland isn't expected to play for the foreseeable future and could be placed on long-term injured reserve.

Crouse, 19, is a 6-foot-4 left winger who could make his NHL debut this fall.

Avalanche name Jared Bednar head coach
DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche have hired Jared Bednar as their new head coach.

Bednar replaces Patrick Roy, who abruptly stepped down as coach and vice president of hockey operations earlier this month.

The 44-year-old Bednar won the American Hockey League's Calder Cup championship as coach of the Lake Erie Monsters last season. He also won the ECHL's Kelly Cup in 2009 with the South Carolina Stingrays.

President of hockey operations and general manager Joe Sakic said upon Roy's sudden resignation that he'd look outside the organization for Colorado's next coach. He did just that with Bednar, who had been in the Columbus system.

Sidney Crosby named Canada's captain for World Cup of Hockey
Canada has chosen Sidney Crosby as its captain for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Crosby returns as Canada's captain after wearing the "C" for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He's coming off his second Stanley Cup as captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber will serve as the alternates.

Crosby scored one of Canada's biggest goals in international history when he beat U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller to win the gold medal on home ice at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Now 29, he has two gold medals, two Cup rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Canada begins training camp Sept. 5 in Ottawa. The World Cup begins Sept. 17 in Toronto (see full story).

Coyotes hire NHL's first female coach
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes have hired Dawn Braid as skating coach and say she is believed to be the first full-time female coach in NHL history.

Braid has a long association with the NHL.

She worked part-time for the Coyotes last year and has served as a skating consultant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames.

Braid also spent seven years with the Athletes Training Center as director of skating development. Among the skaters she worked with while there is New York Islanders center John Tavares (see full story).