Win Another One, Why Not: Hot Sixers Face Spurs at Home

Win Another One, Why Not: Hot Sixers Face Spurs at Home

I've said it before, but going into this seven-game stretch of
toughness—the "death march," as my dad refers to it—I said that the team
needed to win three games, and I hoped they would win four. Well, five
games in, and they've already taken care of the four-win mark, and still
have games against the Spurs and Clippers to possibly even add to that.
It's more than I expected, to say the least, but it's been damn fun,
even with that awful loss against Miami, and it's permanently silenced
critics who say the team isn't legit. (And by "permanently" of course I
mean "until they lose a game or two again".)

In any event, even with the stretch a success regardless, the Sixers do
have to still play the last two games, and it'd be damn good if we could
win one or two of 'em just the same. Tonight they face the visiting San
Antonio Spurs, who despite another year of tread and the loss of
All-Star shooting guard Manu Ginobili to injury for over a month, have
been just as much of a factor as always in the Western Conference,
winning five straight games coming into tonight (including one against
the league-best Oklahoma City Thunder) and posting a 17-9 record for the
year thusfar, good for the three seed in the West.

The key, as seems to be the case with nearly every team the Sixers have
faced in recent weeks, will be stopping the point guard—in this case,
firecracker Tony Parker, who proved in that game against the Thunder (42
points, nine assists, zero turnovers) how dangerous he can still be once he gets going.
Also, the Spurs' front line of the not-quite-ageless Tim Duncan and
young'n DeJuan Blair can rebound the hell out of the ball, so the Sixers
risk getting punked on the boards the way they were against the Lakers
if EB, Nik, Lavoy and company aren't rotating well and banging
bodies under the basket.

Spencer is out tonight while Elton will give it a shot.

7:00 tip from the WFC. As good as the Sixers have been of late, they
need to keep winning to stay afloat, not just in the East on the whole
but in their division specifically—with the Celtics winning nine of ten
and the Knicks seemingly reanimated by the brilliant play of point guard wunderkind Jeremy
Lin, the Atlantic may not be as easy to secure as we previously hoped.
It'd be nice to not have to obsess over the standings much this year if at all possible.

*

One awesome quote from Coach Collins pregame powwow:

Coach Collins was asked once again about the amazing atmosphere at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night when his team defeated Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. He said he did savor it a bit when there was about 5 seconds left in the game.

"Bynum's shot went in the air, I saw it miss," Collins said. "It was a chance to look around a little bit like I did when we beat Miami in the playoffs. When the fans were chanting 'Beat L.A.' it reminded me of 1980 when I was here and the good feeling our guys had. More importantly, just the courage our guys played with the other night. I said it before, you have to be a strong-willed guy to be able to take the torment that Kobe Bryant will throw at you during a game."

He later added that he's not worried about what the doubters around the league may be saying about his club.

"Just to look around to see our crowd so excited, that's why I came here. I wanted these people to be excited about their team again. I know there's a lot of people out there that still think we're the little engine that can't. That's okay, we're just gonna keep chugging."

49ers promote former Eagles VP of player personnel Tom Gamble to assistant GM

49ers promote former Eagles VP of player personnel Tom Gamble to assistant GM

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers have promoted Tom Gamble to assistant general manager.

General manager Trent Baalke announced the move on Monday, calling Gamble an "accomplished talent evaluator."

Gamble returned to the 49ers in January 2015 as a senior personnel executive after spending two seasons in Philadelphia as vice president of player personnel. Gamble worked with current 49ers coach Chip Kelly during his time with the Eagles.

Gamble had spent eight seasons previously in San Francisco and was director of player personnel in his final two seasons. Gamble is entering his 29th season in the NFL.

Browns WR Josh Gordon reinstated by NFL after missing all of 2015

Browns WR Josh Gordon reinstated by NFL after missing all of 2015

CLEVELAND — Josh Gordon's curious and complicated career has taken a new turn.

He's getting yet another chance.

The talented but troubled wide receiver has been reinstated on a conditional basis by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who met face to face with Gordon last week and said he believes the 25-year-old can "make the right choices" going forward.

Gordon has been banned since February 2015 for multiple violations of the league's drug policies. He will be suspended for the first four games of the 2016-17, but he's allowed to join the team in its upcoming training camp and can participate in meetings and conditioning work. The league said once Gordon meets clinical requirements, he can take part in preseason activities, including practices and games.

It's a fresh start for Gordon, who emerged as one of the league's rising stars in 2013 before several missteps led to his banishment.

As long as he stays clean, Gordon, who met with Goodell in New York on July 19, is eligible to return to the team on Oct. 3. During his four-game suspension, Gordon may participate in team meetings and other activities but can't practice or play in games.

Gordon was suspended 10 games in 2014 and the entire 2015 season for substance violations, a pattern that began during his college career at Baylor and Utah. He was denied reinstatement in April after failing a drug test because of samples that also tested positive for marijuana.

In a letter to Gordon, Goodell made it clear the onus is on the 25-year-old former Pro Bowler to stay clean.

"As we discussed at our (July 19) meeting, as Commissioner, I want nothing more than to see you turn your circumstances around and succeed," Goodell said. "Countless others including your agent, teammates and coaches, (owner) Jimmy Haslam and the leadership of the organization, the Program professionals and Jim Brown also have pledged to provide you with every resource at their disposal. But as you acknowledged, ultimately, your future is your responsibility. I have every belief that you can make the right choices, but it will be up to you to do so."

The Browns open training camp on Friday under first-year coach Hue Jackson, who has mostly steered clear of discussing Gordon or his future.

The team has not yet commented on Gordon's conditional reinstatement.

Gordon broke out in 2013, when he led the league with 1,646 yards receiving, scored nine touchdowns and averaged 117.6 yards per game.

With his future unclear, the Browns selected Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman in the first round of this year's draft.

Ron Hextall sees benefit in Brayden Schenn's 'market deal'

Ron Hextall sees benefit in Brayden Schenn's 'market deal'

Expensive at the start, cheaper at the finish.
 
That’s how Flyers general manager Ron Hextall views the four-year, $20.5 million contract he gave Brayden Schenn on Monday morning to avoid salary arbitration (see story).
 
Hextall admitted the club is overpaying up front on the deal, but believes it got a “fair” number for the final two years when Schenn would have become an unrestricted free agent.
 
“We took a higher cap hit for the first two years and essentially a lower hit than we would have taken in years three and four if we piece meal it together,” Hextall said.
 
Hextall said he was walking into the 9 a.m. Toronto hearing with agent Don Meehan already deep in a conversation on a deal but prepared to go through with arbitration.
 
Both parties asked arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier for additional time and completed the contract by 9:45 a.m.
 
Schenn, a restricted free agent, turned down the Flyers’ two-year offer of $4.25 million for this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18. That averaged to $4.30 million.
 
His new contract averages $5.125 million.
 
“The benefit for us is our cap number stays flat for four years rather than having have a cap at a lower number then taking a run at him for two years, if in fact he’d sign for two years at a higher cap number,” Hextall said.
 
Hextall denied he was concerned he might get whacked in arbitration. Yet Schenn has had just one very good season in five years as a Flyer. That was last season with 26 goals and 59 points.
 
Hextall described Schenn as a player who has been “average” in his development, yet has improved in the subtle “intricacies” of the game such as finding open spots, avoiding shot blocks and coming cleanly across the blue line without turning the puck over.
 
Schenn’s true market value is closer to what New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed earlier this month: a five-year deal worth $23.25 with an AAV of $4.65 million.
 
Then again, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz signed a five-year, $26.5 million deal with a $5.35 million AAV. That’s above market value.
 
Meehan originally sought an AAV of $5.5 million for Schenn. In arbitration, it’s likely the Flyers would have received a two-year award in the middle of both numbers.
 
“Nothing really concerned me [about arbitration],” Hextall said. “We had a range and in the end our range was close to what Brayden’s camp felt the range was. Both sides had a range on a two-year deal.

“It’s a market deal … Brayden has been a good player. Top six forwards are hard to find and there’s a premium to pay. There’s no question we paid a premium for a top six forward whose 24-years-old and essentially coming into his prime.”
 
While Hextall labeled Schenn as a top six forward, he tap-danced around whether he sees him as a “core” player for the Flyers, even though this makes him the third highest-paid forward behind Claude Giroux ($8.275 million) and Jakub Voracek ($8.25 million).
 
“What is a core [player]?” Hextall asked. “That’s arguable … What we do know is Brayden is a very good young player who is getting better and we hope he continues to get better.”
 
This signing leaves the Flyers with just $1.38 million in salary cap space, but with 14 forwards, the club will lose at least one by the end of training camp.
 
Thinking ahead, Jordan Weal could be sent to the Phantoms, shaving $650,000 off the cap. That’s the most likely option for the Flyers, but not their only option.
 
Scott Laughton, whose role was diminished by a strong presence from Nick Cousins, is a lesser possibility. His cap hit is $863,333.
 
Losing either of those two salaries would provide the Flyers over $2 million in cap space.
 
Schenn’s contract lacks a no-trade/no-movement clause that he would have been eligible for starting in 2018-19. He turns 25 in August.
 
The Flyers have one more arbitration to settle: defenseman Brandon Manning on Aug. 2.