What Difference Does It Make? Sixers Face Rose-Less Bulls in Game Two

What Difference Does It Make? Sixers Face Rose-Less Bulls in Game Two

It probably says something about this series and the two teams involved that shortly after news of reigning MVP Derrick Rose's post-season-ending ACL tear broke, the discussion became "Does this mean the Bulls can't beat the Heat?" or in the slightly shorter-term, "Does this mean the Bulls can't beat the Celtics?" Remind any of these NBA prognosticators that the Bulls still technically have a first-round series to get through, and they'll probably say "Oh yeah, the Sixers? Well, they should still get through those guys no problem. Hey, did you see that Clippers-Grizzlies game on Sunday...?"

That's right: Even without Derrick Rose, nobody thinks that the Sixers have a chance against the Bulls. And really, why should they? The Rose-less Bulls still won at a much better clip during the regular season (18-9, a 67% winning percentage) than the Sixers did with their regular roster, and in the one game the two teams played without Rose, the Bulls won 89-80. The Bulls were even able to do that one thing without Rose that forever eluded the Sixers with their near-full complement of players: Beat the Miami Heat.

Still...take away Rose, and the teams do start seeming to match up kind of evenly. Elton Brand and Carlos Boozer, the two Duke power forwards, both have their respective strengths and weaknesses, but probably end up as something of a wash. Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala are both first-time All-Stars known for their prowess as wing defenders. John Lucas III has a little Lou Williams to him. And if you split the difference between the skills of Jodie Meeks and Evan Turner, the resulting player would probably look something like Rip Hamilton. When you look at it like that, it seems like this should be a pretty even series.

But there's still a huge advantage that Chicago boasts without their top scorer and emotional leader: Size. Starting center Joakim Noah can't shoot quite as well as Spencer Hawes, but he can pass like Spence does, and he can also do those things that centers are conventionally supposed to do, like rebound and block shots and protect the paint and such. The Bulls also bring two big-bodied bangers off the bench in Omir Asik and Taj Gibson off the bench that the Sixers have absolutely no answer for—Thaddeus Young, Nikola Vucevic and Lavoy Allen just don't have the size, muscle or boarding/defensive wherewithal to hang. If the Bulls can continue to own the glass, they can control the pace of the game, and score enough easy points off second-chance opportunities and run-outs that it'll mitigate the loss of Rose's 21.8 PPG a little.

Of course, if the Sixers can hang tough for three quarters, the loss of Rose does mean that the Bulls now join our ranks of the closerless—without Rose, crunchtime possessions either run through likely replacement starter CJ Watson or post scorer Carlos Boozer, neither of whom anyone is going to be confusing with Dirk Nowitzki in the fourth quarter anytime soon. You'd still probably take their options over those of the Sixers, but it at least means that one of the Bulls' biggest advantages over the Sixers going into the series has been nullified somewhat, and should the games ever be tight down the stretch, we'll all be hugely relieved not to see #1 in red dancing around in the half-court, causing all kinds of trouble for Philly.

8:00 tip tonight from the United Center. Hard to say exactly where the series goes from here, but realistically speaking, post-Rose injury I'd adjust the Sixers' chances in this series from about 1 in 15 to about 1 in 8 -- even if that's about twice as likely, it's still a relatively small chance in general. If the Sixers are goign to win this series, then I don't think I'm going out on much of a limb by saying they have to start with a win tonight -- punch the reeling Chicago in the mouth, take back home court and put the rest of the league on notice that the Bulls haven't advanced to face the Celtics (or maybe the Hawks, and then maybe the Heat) just yet.

Former Eagle Byron Maxwell benched by Dolphins

Former Eagle Byron Maxwell benched by Dolphins

Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell is not starting tonight against the Bengals. Maxwell, who the Eagles traded this past offseason, was already seeing his playing time diminish. Now, he will sit in favor of Tony Lippett, who has not seen a single snap for the Dolphins this season.

The Eagles big trade this offseason keeps getting better and better.  They acquired the 8th overall pick in the draft in exchange for the 13 overall pick, Maxwell and Kiko Alonzo. Not only were they able to rid themselves of Maxwell’s awful contract, but they were able to get value for a player who is now not considered an NFL starter. 

The 8th overall pick that the Eagles acquired from Miami was flipped to the Browns among other picks to move up to number two. As you may know, that number two pick became offensive rookie of the month Carson Wentz. 

At the time of the trade, Maxwell originally failed his physical due to a shoulder injury. It was reported that the shoulder was so bad that he could not perform a simple pushup, but the Dolphins traded for him anyway.

The Byron Maxwell trade was the stepping stone for the Eagles to land their quarterback of the future, and this news can only make them feel better about the move. Howie Roseman had an incredible offseason cleaning up the mess Chip Kelly left behind, and Maxwell’s benching will certainly help his case for executive of the year. 

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens (Noel) - Jahlil (Okafor) thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist.