Coulda Gone Better: Sixers Thumped By Knicks for Second Time in Two Games

Coulda Gone Better: Sixers Thumped By Knicks for Second Time in Two Games

Well, home-court advantage didn't make much of a difference in this
one—probably partly because half the fans in attendance were NY
boosters, with Philly fans evidently too enthralled with the prospect of
watching Michael Vick throwing pick-sixes on TV to come out in force
for the Atlantic division battle. Regardless, a couple extra Philly fans
in the seats would likely have helped little, as the Sixers again
proved out-manned and out-played by the New York Knicks, who moved to
3-0 with their dissection of the 76ers tonight.

The
much-heralded (by me anyway, sorta) insertion of Kwame Brown into the
team's starting lineup proved unsurprisingly inconsequential, as Kwame
mustered four points, three rebounds, and largely indifferent defense in
ten minutes of game action, before apparently re-aggravating his calf
strain and leaving the game. In his stead, we got a resounding six
points and ten rebounds from the pivot combo of Lavoy Allen and Spencer
Hawes, with Knicks center Tyson Chandler basically stomping over both of
them, and backup Rasheed "Human Victory Blunt" Wallace hitting them for 10 points in the second half, somehow.

The
Sixers didn't fare much better anywhere else on the court. Dorell
Wright, Nick Young and Evan Turner, the three wings that I said would
have to step up to help Jrue Holiday out (especially in starting SG
Jason Richardson's absence) combined to shoot 11-38, while Jrue himself
struggled from the floor with 4-12 shooting, though he hit threes and
got to the line enough that his over all line (17 points, eight assists)
wasn't all that bad. Jrue's real issues came on defense, where he was
torched repeatedly by Knicks point Raymond Felton—a teamwide struggle,
as the Knicks again shot the lights out from behind the arc, hitting 13
of 32.

Not a whole lot of positive to take from this one, though
first-round pick Arnett Moultrie did get his first bucket as a Sixer,
slamming home a putback in garbage time. (Hopefully Moultrie eventually
sees consequential rotation minutes, unlike the last late-first-rounder
we traded for, Craig Brackins.) Also, I continue to be unduly fascinated
by Evan Turner's suddenly immaculate free-throw shooting—the guy shot
under 68% from the line last year and seemed to split just about every
time up, but he's 12-12 from the stripe so far this season. Hey, when
you get blown out by a division rival twice in two days, you take solace
in the little things. The really, really little things.

After
the game, Collins gave all credit to the Knicks, said that his team was
still trying to figure each other out, and adamantly refused to
overreact to a bad two-game stretch against a really good team. It's
fair enough, and I do think the Knicks made us look worse than we are,
but it's still pretty discouraging to see your team get outplayed this
badly in two consecutive contests.

The Sixers next face the
Hornets this Wednesday, a similarly young team, but one that's proven to
be a very professional outfit, going 2-1 (against strong competition)
largely without the help from their two injured young stars, Eric Gordon
and Anthony Davis. If they make it three no-shows in a row for the
Sixers, we might be in for a long season, putting undue pressure on
Andrew Bynum to save the team with his return, still scheduled for
who-knows-when. Trying times for Philadelphia sports fans, for sure.

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.