Commence the Ownage: Sixers Rout Suns in Phoenix

Commence the Ownage: Sixers Rout Suns in Phoenix

You know what's fun? Winning by a lot against a bad team. Good of the
Sixers to remember this in advance of their game tonight against the
Phoenix Suns, who left little doubt that they are, in fact, one of the
league's bad teams now. After playing the Suns tight for about a
quarter, our second unit started to pull away in the beginning of the
second, and by halftime the game was already a laugher. The benches were
pretty much emptied by the fourth (Craig Brackins! Still no Marreese
Speights though, sadface) and the Sixers cruised to an easy 103-83
victory, bringing them to 1-1 for the season.

Watching the away broadcast on League Pass, the Suns' announcers spent a
long time harping on the Sixers' balanced offensive attack, and tonight
the fixation really was deserved. Despite breaking the century mark in
scoring, no one on the Liberty Ballers scored more than 15—Andre
Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday tied for the lead with that
tally—while three other players also broke double-digits, including Lou
Williams (13), Jodie Meeks and Evan Turner (12 each). It was the kind of
team ball we grew accustomed to seeing from the boys last year, and the
kind that should bode well for the Sixers' consistently over this crazy
strike-shortened season.

As predicted, Thad and Evan were big factors off the bench. The former
was distressingly off on his jumper—the part of his game he needs to add
to become a true offensive force in this league—but displayed his
typical wizardry around the basket, absolutely shredding Philly native
Hakim Warrick on one particularly shaming dunk. Meanwhile, Evan showed
that his mid-range game has become a fairly reliable weapon in his
second year, with that little ten-foot floater he's been showing off
recently starting to look something like a trademark move. He went 6-9
with seven rebounds, no assists but no turnovers either, picking up his
Phoenix-plaguing ways from where he left off last season.

And while Spencer Hawes didn't have quite the game he had on Monday—only
three assists this time, with four turnovers—he continued to show an
improved scoring touch (nine points on 4-7 shooting) and was again a
force on the glass, notching 11 boards in just 26 minutes of game
action. With Hawes' improved play and Nikola Vucevic looking decent off
the bench in his first NBA action (6 points on 3-6 shooting, a couple
boneheaded turnovers but some nice extra passes and good instincts in
the pick-and-roll), perhaps the center position won't be as much of a
black hole for the Sixers this year as we had feared. (Perhaps.)

Now, as we rejoice in celebration of the fine evening for the Sixers, we
should also take a moment to observe the sad state of affairs for the
Phoenix Suns in 2011-'12. After spending the better part of the decade
as the league's most innovative, entertaining team, it appears that this
is the end of the line for the Seven Seconds or Less Suns. All the key
players of yesteryear have been replaced with mediocre role players like
Channing Frye, Josh Childress and Ronnie Price, and the last remaining
holdout from the glory years, the inimitable Steve Nash, may finally be
seeing the downslope of his career. Tonight was the worst night of
basketball I've ever seen the Hall of Fame point guard have—four points
on 2-11 shooting, with one assist (!!!) and six turnovers, and not a
single memorable play the entire night. It's hard to say if Nash is just
going through the motions in a rebuilding year or if the guys around
him just suck that much, but it's a depressing sight for any NBA fan to
see the two-time MVP languishing like this.

But still, this is a Philly sports blog, and from a Philly standpoint,
tonight was a rip-roaring success. The Ballers head to Utah next for a
Friday night game, against another franchise in a state of flux. With
tonight's win bringing Coach Collins' record in Philadelphia back to a
42-42 state of stasis, it'd be nice to pick up the W in Salt Lake and
officially make Dougie's tenure in the City of Brother Love a winning
one. At the very least, it's nice to not have to wait until Game Five to
see the Sixers get a win this year.

Pete Mackanin on Odubel Herrera's slump: 'He needs to battle his way out'

Pete Mackanin on Odubel Herrera's slump: 'He needs to battle his way out'

After an 0-for-5 day at the plate, Odubel Herrera isn't heading to the bench a day later.

He's leading off. 

Pete Mackanin chose to move the slumping centerfielder atop the lineup card for Friday's series opener against the Reds despite Herrera's striking out in all five plate appearances Thursday.

"I think he's a .290-plus hitter as a leadoff man and I'm not going to sit him," Mackanin said pregame. "He needs to battle his way out. You figure you're the leadoff hitter once a game. After that, it's wide open."

While he hasn't batted leadoff this season, Herrera spent the majority of his time in that spot last season. In 76 games there, he batted .285 with a .359 OBP and .417 slugging percentage. 

The leadoff hitter this season has been Cesar Hernandez, who has a day off with a groin pull he's dealt with the last 10 days. Herrera primarily has been the No. 3 hitter this season and his average is down to .226 with 49 strikeouts to just 11 walks. 

Mackanin hopes the leadoff role can help change Herrera's approach at the plate.

"He was drawing a lot of walks at leadoff, so whether he has that mindset or not, I'm not sure," the manager said. "I just want to get him as many at-bats as possible. We need to get him going. We need him and [Maikel] Franco to get going."

May specifically has been tough on Herrera. He has four hits in his last 36 at-bats and has seven strikeouts in his last two games. He has just seven hits in 22 games this month. 

"I think he's at the point where he's grinding and sometimes when you grind, sometimes there's that feeling where you get lost," Mackanin said. "I've been in situations as a hitter where I've gone up to the plate saying, 'I don't care where it is. I'm going up there and just hacking.' Because you start thinking and that's not working.

"And you look for a pitch and then all of a sudden you say I'm going to take a pitch to get a look at and it's strike one. Then he throws you a nasty slider and that's strike two and your plan is out the window. So I've gone up to the plate myself saying, 'I'm just looking down the middle and swinging. I'm not thinking.'"

When asked, Mackanin said the team had not discussed demoting Herrera or Franco to the minors to take pressure off the duo.

While Herrera tries to hit his way back into a groove, Howie Kendrick is in the midst of working his way back to the majors. He was hit by pitch twice in a rehab appearance Thursday but is back in the lineup Friday in left field. 

Mackanin said Kendrick needed four days minimum in his rehab assignment and will therefore play Friday and Saturday before the team sees how he feels.

The manager also said the team would give more playing time to backup catcher Andrew Knapp. He started consecutive games for the first time on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

"I'm going to try and see him as much as possible and keep him as sharp as possible instead of once a week," Mackanin said. "That's tough to hit, once a week. It's tough to hit twice a week if you don't hit back-to-back. There's no ulterior motive."

Report: Brett Brown accuses longtime friend of defrauding him of $750,000

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Report: Brett Brown accuses longtime friend of defrauding him of $750,000

Sixers head coach Brett Brown is in Australia this week, where he has accused longtime friend and former Australian men's national team assistant coach Shane Heal of defrauding him of $750,000, according to the Australian Associated Press.

Brown invested $250,000 into each of three companies for which Heal was the sole director. Brown wasn't given a legal title regarding the companies and didn't know the specifics of how the money would be used.

"I assumed that the money was going to be used for what Shane told me it was going to be used for," Brown said. "Because it was a friend that I had for 25 years."

Heal was charged last year by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission following an investigation relating to alleged misconduct in 2008, 2009 and 2010, according to the AAP.

The sides return to court in Brisbane on July 20.

Heal played in the NBA for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1996-97 and was with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003.