Critically Acclaimed Sixers Face Different Form of Test with Visiting Kings

Critically Acclaimed Sixers Face Different Form of Test with Visiting Kings

So we're all agreed that yesterday was a test for the Sixers, right?
They'd beaten some lousy road teams, they'd absolutely destroyed the
subpar competition at home, but with the 6-2 Pacers visiting, they
finally had the chance to prove themselves against a legitimately good
team—albeit one who was missing a couple key players, and had padded
their stats against some subpar competition themselves. And by all
accounts, they passed the test—they didn't run the Pacers out of the WFC
the way they did the Pistons and Raptors, but they still won soundly,
and kept their win streak and its accompanying momentum alive and
kicking.

All good, then. Tonight, however, the Sixers face a very different, but
equally important and perhaps more dangerous test. They will be playing
host to the 3-6 Sacramento Kings, a team which, if not for the existence
of the Washington Wizards, would define the word "dysfunctional" in the
NBA, already having fired coach Paul Westphal amidst a PR scrape
between he and budding-star big man DeMarcus Cousins, and having some
definite issues sharing the ball against the team's many formidable
scorers (including Cousins, bruising combo guard Tyreke Evans, one-time
Sixer swingman John Salmons and hyped college gunner Jimmer Fredette).

Meanwhile, the Sixers are suddenly among the toast of the league. Four
out of five ESPN pundits labeled them the fifth best team in the league
right now, while stat guru John Hollinger has done the unthinkable by
placing them atop his Power Rankings—which are derived via scientific
formula and thus don't carry the weight of him actually calling the
Sixers the best team in the league, but still. They are now being viewed
as a team legitimately on the rise, and almost unarguably, they are a
team that is fundamentally sound in all the ways that the Kings are not.

So, common sense says that they should murder this Kings team, and be
well into Garbage Time by the start of the fourth quarter. But in the
NBA, as in all pro sports, it's never that simple. The Kings have beaten
the Lakers at home already, and recently came from 21 back to steal
what looked to be a sure Bucks win. If the Sixers are as rock-solid a
unit as we're starting to think they are, they should still win this
game handily, but if the Kings are still hanging late, it'll be
interesting to see if this team has the stuff to put them away without
getting caught in an Andy Reid-style trap game. Regardless of how they
do it, a true top five team wins this game—so needless to say, we'd like
the Sixers to prove all the critics right and extend their winning
streak to six games with this one.

7:00 tip from the WFC. No Marcus Thornton tonight for the Kings, as the
team's leading scorer is out with a knee contusion. Not like it's a
catastrophic loss for the Kings—they have so many one-on-one scorers
that the loss might actually simplify things for Sac-Town—but it's a
little weird how the Ballers seem to keep facing teams temporarily down a
key member, as they did with the Warriors (Stephen Curry), the Pistons
(Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon), and of course, last night's Pacers
(Danny Granger and George Hill). Makes you grateful for our health
thusfar this season—knock on everything—and makes you hope Spencer
Hawes' back doesn't cause any more trouble than it already has.

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy dies at 48

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AP Images

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy dies at 48

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy has died in Orlando.

Police say the 48-year-old former Seattle Seahawks star was found dead on Tuesday morning.

Orlando Police Department public information officer Wanda Miglio said the circumstances surrounding his death are still unknown, but that there is nothing suspicious about his death. An investigation is being conducted.

One of the best defensive lineman of his generation, Kennedy was a star in his 11 seasons in the NFL with the Seahawks. He became the second Seattle player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. He was an unmovable wall as a dominant defensive tackle, and a quiet, gentle soul away from the field never interested in finding himself in the spotlight.

Kennedy was an eight-time Pro Bowler and won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 1992.

"Really sad to lose a guy like Cortez Kennedy," Broncos' general manager John Elway tweeted Tuesday. Elway was chased around by Kennedy twice a year for much of the 1990s as competitors in the AFC West. "A great personality, a great player and I enjoyed competing against him."

Even though he last played for the Seahawks in 2000, he remained a significant part of the organization. He was a mainstay around the team during training camp and would occasionally roll through the locker room during the regular season grabbing a few minutes with anyone -- players, coaches, media -- up for a chat.

"My heart hurts," current Seahawks offensive lineman Justin Britt tweeted. "We lost a truly great player but even better person."

10 observations from Day 1 of Eagles' OTAs

10 observations from Day 1 of Eagles' OTAs

There was finally some football in South Philly on Tuesday as the Eagles kicked off the first round of their OTAs. 

Aside from a few notable absences -- Fletcher Cox, Jason Peters, Donnie Jones -- the Eagles had just about everyone on the field (see story)

Here are 10 observations from Tuesday's practice: 

1. Here's how the first-team offense looked: 
QB: Carson Wentz
RB: LeGarrette Blount
TE: Zach Ertz
OL (left to right): Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Halapoulivaati Vaitai
WR: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Jordan Matthews

2. Here's how the first-team defense looked: 
LDE: Brandon Graham
LDT: Destiny Vaeao
RDT: Tim Jernigan
RDE: Vinny Curry
LBs: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks
S: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod
CB: Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson. 

Note: In the nickel package, rookie third-rounder Rasul Douglas came on the field as an outside cornerback and Mills slid into the slot. 

3. Early in the practice, in an offense-only drill, the Eagles were trying to audible into a new play, but there was some confusion with Blount, who didn't seem to know the play. Blount is still obviously learning the playbook, but it shows the respect they have for him that he was working with the ones already. 

4. The play the Eagles wanted to get into during that drill was a good one. Wentz rolled out to his right and found Jeffery streaking across the field. The two seem to be getting on just fine. 

Although later in 11-on-11s, Wentz tossed up an ill-advised pass deep to Jeffery in tight coverage and the ball was picked by McLeod. Jeffery will win a lot of battles, but that one was too much. 

5. Linebacker Joe Walker and cornerback Ron Brooks were on the field on Tuesday but didn't participate in team drills. Walker (ACL) and Brooks (quad tendon) are both recovering from significant injuries. 

6. The Eagles lined up a few times with Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey on the field together. Those few times, Sproles was in the backfield and Pumphrey lined up in the slot. It's early, but we might get to see some creativity from Doug Pederson with these two this year. 

7. Dillon Gordon, whom the Eagles signed as an undrafted rookie last year, did something interesting on Tuesday. The offensive tackle, who played tight end in college, took a few reps at tight end in limited offensive drills. That's intriguing because if he could play the role of an extra tackle during the season, he'd have something Matt Tobin doesn't: the ability to actually become a receiver, not just an eligible one. 

8. Robinson, who is getting run at corner with the first team, won a jump ball with Dorial Green-Beckham on a deep ball. It was an impressive play by Robinson, but DGB mistimed his jump. 

The best defensive play of the day came from Najee Goode in 7-on-7s. The veteran backup linebacker and special teamer dropped back and dove backward to break up a pass off the hand of Nick Foles. 

9. Obviously, there's no hitting yet, but Derek Barnett had a good first day going against the vets. Sure, Lane Johnson completely shut him down on one play, but Barnett showed off a variety of moves. 

10. The Eagles' two rookie receivers worked with the third team on Tuesday, while DGB and Nelson Agholor worked with the twos. Shelton Gibson showed off his quickness and Mack Hollins' size and speed combo wasn't any less impressive. Also, Hollins wasn't wearing gloves, but it didn't seem to affect his ability to catch. 

Stupid observation of the day: Thanks to his afro and thick beard, Seumalo kind of looks like a lion with a mane.