Banner's exit not as significant as it seems

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Banner's exit not as significant as it seems

On the surface, sure, the news was cataclysmic. Joe Banner? Leaving the Eagles? First reaction was ... ommigod, this is huge.

Then you think about it a bit.

And you realize that Banners true impact on franchise operations, negatively and positively, came during his first decade here and that the day-to-day operations of the team the decisions that ultimately determine what we see on the field when the Eagles play the Giants or the Cowboys have little to do anymore with Banner.

Banners visionary salary cap work and pioneering discovery of CBA loopholes during his early years here gave the Eagles the flexibility to spend more money than any other team each off-season and the ability to land big-time players like Troy Vincent, Jon Runyan, Jevon Kearse, Asante Samuel, Jason Peters, Terrell Owens, Nnamdi Asomugha, etc.

His brilliant organizational skills led to the construction of a world-class stadium in Lincoln Financial Field and a state-of-the-art office and practice complex across the street at the NovaCare Complex.

His remarkable ability to target, evaluate and develop potential high-level employees helped the Eagles find an unknown quarterbacks coach that became the most successful head coach in franchise history and turn a lowly intern who shared a desk with a secretary into a general manager.

Certainly Banners mistakes also had a profound effect on the franchise. He meddled too much in personnel early on before quickly learning to leave the football decisions to the football people. His mishandling of the Brian Dawkins negotiation caused the Eagles to lose one of the greatest players in franchise history, one of the locker rooms only leaders and still at that point a very productive safety.

Love him or hate him, you cant deny Banners vast influence over the Eagles during his 18 years here. More than anybody, more even than owner Jeff Lurie, Banner was truly the architect of a franchise thats reached the playoffs 11 times in the last 17 years and averaged 10 wins a year since 1995, fifth-best in the NFL during that span.

All that said, it was clear that Banners role had transformed over the last few years to the point where his day-to-day impact on the product on the football field was reduced to almost nothing.

Banner gradually transitioned from a visionary into an administrator, and thats one of the reasons he wanted to leave to find new challenges and also one of the reasons his departure is in reality not that big a deal to the football operation.

Consider some of the other front-office shakeups over the years.

When Banner was promoted from executive vice president to the previously vacant position of team president, it was a clear signal that he had become the franchises most powerful figure.

When Andy Reid won his power struggle with Tom Modrak, it fundamentally changed the way the franchise ran and the way players were selected. Reid assumed full control over personnel matters, becoming one of the most powerful coaches in the league.

When Howie Roseman replaced Tom Heckert, it altered the whole front office dynamic, signaling Rosemans ascension to power as Reids most trusted adviser, the teams lead contract negotiator and chief of the entire scouting and personnel operation, and a far more powerful GM than Heckert had ever been.

All those moves fundamentally affected what we saw on the field. The players, the coaches, the schemes. The touchdowns and turnovers. The wins and losses.

Banner? For a guy whos been here nearly 20 years, whos made as profound an impact on the franchise as anybody in a generation, his changing role and pending departure wont have much an impact at all on what we all see on Sunday afternoons.

The gradual shift of power over the last few years from Banner to Roseman, his hand-picked successor, has meant Banners impact on the franchise has been muted and has been directed in areas that only tangentially affect the product on the field.

This isnt a knock on Banner. Its just the natural evolution of the franchise and Joes role. In recent years, hes worked on projects such as Eagles Youth Partnership, the Eagles Tackling Breast Cancer initiative, corporate sponsorships, the evolution of training camp. Important stuff but no longer stuff that really has a bearing on the team, the players, the coaches.

Howie and Andy pick the players and coaches. Howie does the contracts. Andy coaches on game day. This is their baby now and has been for a while.

Banner will find a new challenge, a new project, a new franchise that needs an architect, and hell be very good at it. And the Eagles will continue win or lose because of Reid and Roseman and the people they surround themselves with.
E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

Late goal lifts Penguins over Sharks in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

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USA Today Images

Late goal lifts Penguins over Sharks in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

PITTSBURGH -- To their credit, the Sharks regrouped after a miserable first period at Consol Energy Center in which it looked like they might get run out of the building.

It wasn’t enough, though, as Nick Bonino’s late third period goal pushed the Penguins to a 3-2 win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

On the game-winner, Brent Burns lost his stick and couldn’t prevent Kris Letang from finding Bonino in front of the net with Paul Martin defending the slot. Bonino flipped it through Martin Jones at 17:27 of the final frame.

The Sharks went to the power play with 2:09 to go, but couldn’t tie it up.

Game 2 is in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

The Penguins dominated the first period, only to have the Sharks completely turn the tables in the second, resulting in a 2-2 tie after 40 minutes.

The Penguins had the Sharks on their heels for virtually the entire opening frame, outshooting San Jose 15-4 and scoring a pair.

The first came at 12:46 of the first. On a rush, Justin Schultz’s shot from the high slot hit the glove of Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and rookie Bryan Rust was there to smack in the loose puck.

Just one minute and two seconds later, the Penguins upped their cushion. Sidney Crosby tracked down a loose puck in the corner ahead of Justin Braun, calmly played the puck off his backhand and whipped a cross-ice pass to Conor Sheary. Another rookie, Sheary whizzed a wrist shot past Jones’ far shoulder.

It was evident early in the second, though, that San Jose had regrouped, as Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski both had good looks at the net. They broke through on an early power play courtesy of Tomas Hertl, who curled in a pass from down low off of Olli Maatta at 3:02.

Pittsburgh withstood a continual push from the Sharks for much of the period until Marleau’s late score. After Couture outworked Maatta deep in the offensive zone and pushed the puck to the point to Burns, Marleau secured Burns’ rebound and wrapped it around at 18:12.

Burns had two assists, and made a strong defensive play with about three minutes left in the first, backchecking hard and lifting up Carl Hagelin’s stick on a breakaway.

Special teams

The Sharks were 1-for-2 on the power play, on Hertl’s second man advantage goal of the playoffs. They are 18-for-65 in the postseason (27.6 percent).

Pittsburgh went 0-for-3, generating five shots on goal. The Pens are 15-for-67 overall (22.3 percent).

Marleau was whistled for an illegal check to the head of Rust in the third period, sending the 24-year-old to the dressing room for a brief stretch.

In goal

Jones and Murray were each making their first career starts in the Stanley Cup Final. Jones took the loss with 38 saves, while Murray stopped 24 San Jose shots.

Lineup

Sharks forward Matt Nieto remained out with an upper body injury.

Pavelski saw his seven-game point streak (5g, 5a) come to an end. Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz increased his point streak to six games (3g, 4a).

Up next

The Sharks are 5-11 all-time when losing Game 1 of a playoff series, but 1-0 this year as they came back to defeat the Blues in the Western Conference Final.

Teams that win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final have gone on to win the championship 78 percent of the time (59-18). The last team to win the Cup after losing Game 1 was the 2011 Bruins.

Warriors complete comeback, oust Thunder in Game 7

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The Associated Press

Warriors complete comeback, oust Thunder in Game 7

OAKLAND – They beat the odds, clobbering them into submission.

Facing a 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors rallied to take three successive games over Oklahoma City, finishing the epic comeback with a 96-88 victory in Game 7 Monday night before a delirious sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

Stephen Curry scored 36 points and Klay Thompson fired in 21, as the Warriors become the 10th team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA playoffs – and the first to do so in the West finals.

Draymond Green added 11 points and also had a team-high nine rebounds, as the Warriors battled the bigger Thunder nearly even on the glass, 47-46.

Curry splashed 32 3-pointers in the series, the most ever for a player in a seven-game playoff series.

Ratcheting up the defense, the Warriors overcome a 42-point first half, their lowest total at home all season. They trailed by as much as 13 before storming back.

Kevin Durant scored 27 points to lead the Thunder. Russell Westbrook added 19.

STANDOUT PERFORMER

When his team needed him most, Curry was at his MVP best.

Curry’s line: 36 points (13-of-24 shooting from the field, 7-of-12 from beyond the arc), eight assists and five rebounds. He played 40 minutes and finished plus-18 for the game.

TURNING POINT

After OKC took a 54-48 lead on a Durant fadeaway with 8:15 left in the third quarter, the Warriors responded with a 23-4 run to go up 71-58 on an Anderson Varejao floater with 58.3 seconds left in the quarter.

Six different Warriors scored during the run, lead by Curry with six points. They held the Thunder to 2-of-11 shooting, with three turnovers, during the run.

The Warriors outscored the Thunder 29-12 for the quarter.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Warriors on Thursday play host to Cleveland in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Tipoff is scheduled for 6pm.

Joel Embiid declares himself '#FinallyHealthy' on Instagram, creates great new hashtag

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Joel Embiid declares himself '#FinallyHealthy' on Instagram, creates great new hashtag

When will Joel Embiid be cleared to make his NBA debut? That question still remains.

But the big man is making it known, he is setting his sights on that game (whenever it may be) and being part of the Sixers’ new chapter.

Monday night Embiid posted a photo of himself in a Sixers jersey with the caption “Wish we could fast forward to next season #FinallyHealthy#TrustTheNewProcess.”

Wish we could fast forward to next season #FinallyHealthy #TrustTheNewProcess

A photo posted by Joel Hans Embiid (@joelembiid) on

That second hashtag, though? Just tremendous.

Yes, even in the midst of an electric Western Conference Finals Game 7 between the Warriors and Thunder, Embiid is thinking ahead to next season.

Embiid, the third overall pick in 2014, has yet to play in an NBA game because of foot injuries. He has been going through non-contact drills during his rehab, teasing viewers with videos of his three-point shooting, and dabbling in soccer moves.

Embiid has been expressing his excitement of playing next season on social media. Seven weeks ago, a caption included “We'll see y'all next season. ME PERSONALLY.”