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.

President Obama praises Villanova at the renamed 'Blue and White House'

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AP Photo

President Obama praises Villanova at the renamed 'Blue and White House'

Villanova’s memorable victory tour continued Tuesday as noted basketball fan and President of the United States Barack Obama welcomed the Wildcats to the White House -- or, as he called it, “the Blue and White House today.” 

You should definitely watch the whole video but here are some highlights from the very cool ceremony: 

  • Obama said that Vice President Joe Biden, whose wife Jill Biden got a Master’s degree from Villanova, picked the Wildcats to win it all. “That’s the type of wise counsel you’re looking for in a vice president. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow the counsel so my bracket was busted,” said Obama, who picked Kansas to win it all and didn’t even have ’Nova in the Final Four.
  • Obama called Jay Wright the “George Clooney of coaches” and “the best dressed man in college basketball.” We’ve reached out to George Clooney’s reps for comment (no we haven’t).
  • He pointed out that leading scorer Josh Hart went to the same high school -- Sidwell Friends -- as his daughter Malia, who will graduate from there next week. “It’s good to see a Sidwell kid do well.”
  • It was fun to hear the president call Daniel Ochefu and Kris Jenkins by their nicknames -- “The Chef” and “Big Smooth,” respectively.
  • He purposefully sped through Ryan Arcidiacono’s name “in case I didn’t say it right” -- and he didn’t. “I’m just gonna call him Arch,” Obama said, learning an important lesson for Villanova fans, college basketball writers and world leaders everywhere.
  • Was that a Charles Barkley weight joke? After comparing Kris Jenkins’ famous game-winner to Christian Laettner’s shot vs. Kentucky in 1992 and N.C. State’s buzzer-beater in the 1983 title game, Obama said “Charles Barkley apparently jumped out of his seat, which he doesn’t do very often these days.”
  • He praised Villanova’s off-court achievements, including the fact that they ranked in the top 10 percent nationally in grades and all five seniors graduated (continuing a trend of every four-year Villanova player graduating since the 1970s). And he discussed how Ochefu and Arcidiacono surprised a young ’Nova fan with cancer by hiding in his playhouse -- “which seems a little scary but their hearts were in the right place.”
  • He didn’t hold back about the epic ending to the NCAA tourney, calling it “as memorable of a championship game as I can remember” and “maybe the best title game of all time,” before adding that “just the last few seconds could be a documentary.” 

After Obama’s remarks -- good job, speechwriters! -- Wright took his turn at the podium to present the President with a Villanova jersey from their game at Pearl Harbor last December and to thank him for his leadership.

“Nothing is as big as this,” Wright said. “This is big time. This is a great day for Villanova University.”

Well said, Coach Clooney.

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Bryce Harper (knee) sits for Nats

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Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Bryce Harper (knee) sits for Nats

Bryce Harper is out of the Nationals' lineup Tuesday night after being hit in the knee by a Jeremy Hellickson pitch on Memorial Day.

Big break for the Phils considering Harper has hit .346 against them with three doubles, 11 home runs, 23 RBIs and 21 walks in his last 104 plate appearances against them.

It's an equally big break for Aaron Nola, against whom Harper is 6 for 10 with two homers (see game notes).

For the Phillies, Ryan Howard gets the start at first base against another right-hander, Washington's Joe Ross. Phillies fans are clamoring for more playing time for Tommy Joseph, but starting Howard against Ross does make some sense given how much better lefties have been against him (.295 BA) than righties (.209). Ross throws a ton of sinkers and sliders, which make it tough on same-handed hitters.

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Cameron Rupp, C
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Tyler Goeddel, LF
7. David Lough, RF
8. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
9. Aaron Nola, P

And for the Nationals:

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Jayson Werth, RF
3. Daniel Murphy, 2B
4. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
5. Clint Robinson, LF
6. Anthony Rendon, 3B
7. Wilson Ramos, C
8. Danny Espinosa, SS
9. Joe Ross, P

The Ryan Howard saga is hard to watch

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The Ryan Howard saga is hard to watch

It's difficult to feel sorry for a professional athlete who will have earned nearly $200 million in salary before his playing career ends at 37 years old. It's hard, but Ryan Howard is doing an outstanding job of making me feel bad anyway.

The statistics speak for themselves. As the calendar rolls over to June, Howard is batting .157 with more than twice as many strikeouts (52) as base hits (22). Debate rages as to whether the Phillies should hang on to the three-time All-Star for locker-room morale -- perhaps also in the desperate hopes they can still trade him -- or if they should just put The Big Piece out of his misery with an outright release.

There's no satisfying answer here. All I can say is I wish for it to be over.

Howard's decline has been one of the saddest to watch in recent Philly sports memory. From 2005 through 2011, he was the heart of the Phillies' order, belting 284 home runs and driving in 859 runs in six-and-a-half seasons, during the most successful run in franchise history. In 2016, Howard's bat can barely catch up to the ball, let alone knock it out of the infield.

Largely through no fault of his own. Howard has never been the same since rupturing his Achilles on the final at bat of the 2011 season. Sure, there were signs he was slowing down or that the rest of the league was catching up to him even then, averaging 32 homers between the '10-'11 seasons compared to 49.5 over '06-'09 -- but he was still hitting the ball at that point.

Since the injury, Howard's power hasn't necessarily dipped dramatically. It's his ability to hit the ball, period. From '04 to '11, he was a .275 hitter. After the injury, he's batting .226. This season has been especially trying, with the month of May bordering on the historic.

Of course, it's not news Howard's career was derailed by injuries. It's no secret he's been particularly awful this season. It's just harder than ever to watch.

Just how ineffective has Howard been in 2016? In retrospect, maybe the numbers don't quite do the struggle justice. Obviously, he isn't hitting, and he's striking out as frequently as ever. What's new this year is the percentage of fly balls that don't even make it out of the infield -- 12 percent, which is twice as high as any season in 13 Major League seasons.

What does it mean exactly? Howard's swing is so jacked right now that even when he does make contact, even when he doesn't hit a ball into the defensive shift, one in 10 times is essentially a harmless pop-up.

To his credit, Howard also has eight home runs this season, some of which have been big at bats or game-winners. He's also been hailed as a positive influence and leader in the clubhouse, an example this young group of Phillies can certainly benefit from.

Nor do I believe Howard really needs anybody to feel bad for him. He's worked hard and accomplished more than most ever will at his profession, and as a result is able to provide for his family and generations beyond. He's built a great legacy both on the baseball diamond, but one that no doubt extends beyond athletic prowess.

Yet none of that changes the fact that Howard's play has deteriorated to the point where he's become a black hole in the Phillies' lineup. It pains me to say that, to use this platform to write it -- just not as much as it pains me to watch it happening.

I'd love nothing more than for Howard to go on a tear and end his final season with the Phillies with head held high. It's the ending a legend like him deserves. Or better yet, improve his production to a level where a contender in the American League would sign Howard and give him one last crack at postseason baseball.

But short of that, I'd love nothing more for it to all be over, to not have to watch one of the great Phillies sluggers flail away every other or third day, or less as it soon may come to. It's not a matter of debate as to when or how that should happen. The sooner, the better.