Eagles need to rebuild souring image


Eagles need to rebuild souring image

The Eagles are out shopping for a new head coach. Its time. While theyre at it, theyd be wise to pick up a new identity as well. Its time for that, too.

Andy Reid did a lot of things for the organization over the last 14 years, but he never got enough credit for serving as the teams emotional and professional adhesive. Reid was the Eagles best and strongest bond. He held that team together. It shouldnt be surprising, then, that the Eagles immediately fell apart once Reid was gone.

Michael Vick wore a Kevlar protective vest for much of the season. After the Eagles ended their rotten 4-12 campaign, everyone in the NovaCare Complex locker room should have been similarly outfitted. Thats how many verbal shots the Birds took at each other without considering the fallout.

A quick review of the unapologetic in-house bickering:

Cullen Jenkins said the Eagles had no heart.

Jason Avant questioned whether enough guys bought in to what Reid preached, while Evan Mathis insisted that the Eagles dont have enough leadership.

Jeremy Maclin said the team had too many new faces that were used to doing things a certain way. When you come to a new place, Maclin said, you have to buy into everything coach is preaching, whether its scheme-wise or how you handle yourself as a professional.

LeSean McCoy criticized unnamed players for failing to lay it on the line and for having a lack of heart.

I think guys made a lot of excuses, McCoy continued. Guys maybe werent playing up to par. Guys werent focusing enough. Guys making money and not putting out. Guys were looking for excuses.

And then there was Vick, who denounced his teammates focus, dedication, commitment and effort in a spectacular screed. I tried to take the modest approach, Vick said when asked why he didnt confront the problem players during the season. I tried to lead by example. I held a team meeting and tried to help guys recommit. It was still the same thing over and over again. I'm not going to tell a grown man the same thing twice because the reason I ended up incarcerated was because people told me the same thing over and over again and I didn't listen. I feel like if you don't learn in the first go-around, you disregard it. You just deal with the consequences because there will always be consequences.

The Eagles just had their worst season since 1998. The roster is overloaded with underperforming players and bloated contracts. And the locker room is populated by finger-pointers and warring factions that openly argue without compunction.

Vick was right. There are always consequences. In this case, the consequence of having a bad team thats hard to like is a much tougher marketing job for the Eagles. The organization is now charged with selling a product that has spoiled to consumers who have soured.

The Eagles have always had a passionate fan base. That will almost certainly remain the case, though you wonder how the zealotry will manifest itself moving forward. Toward the end of the season, the usual grumbling and grousing about the Birds gave way to abandonment. It became relatively common to watch people flee Lincoln Financial Field in the fourth quarter of games that got out of hand which was most of them.

Compared to fixing the teams image and likability, finding a new coach ought to be easy. The Eagles arent numb to that. Jeffrey Lurie seemed fully aware of the locker room issues and how contaminated the chemistry has become.

I take some responsibility for that because I was right out in the forefront for Lets do anything we can to try to win a Super Bowl for the city and our fans. Lurie said. At times you probably had to be a little more self disciplined and say, Doing that and injecting that into the locker room, affecting the chemistry of the team maybe in some way, thats not the best thing to do. And yet, youre so able to do it because of whatever opportunities we had, maybe in free agency, that its kind of like indigestion. You have the capability of ingesting more and more but theres a point of diminishing returns and indigestion.

So true. It was tough season to swallow. Now the Eagles must eliminate the bitter aftertaste.

E-mail John Gonzalez at jgonzalez@comcastsportsnet.com

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday in the season opener (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guys' first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuawon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).