Flyers Fight for Each Other Literally and Figuratively in Frantic Comeback Victory over Washington

Flyers Fight for Each Other Literally and Figuratively in Frantic Comeback Victory over Washington

If you wanted retaliation, you got it. Two games after
Claude Giroux was splattered all over the boards like insect on windshield to
no recourse from his teammates, Jakub Voracek stood up for his captain
immediately after a huge open-ice collision on Sunday. The result: four minutes
of 5-on-4 hockey for Washington, and a pair of power-play goals to put the
Capitals ahead 4-2 with 13 minutes remaining in the third period.

But just as Voracek went to bat for Giroux, G and the rest
of his Flyers teammates would do the same for Jake, in the process redefining what it can mean
to retaliate. The Bullies kept on retaliating until they tied
the score with 10 seconds left, kept on retaliating in overtime until they landed
the knockout blow in a rousing 5-4 win.

[ Video and more on Jake Voracek's first NHL fight ]

And as great a comeback as it was, this victory may have
meant more than the standard two points in the standings for a desperate team.
This felt like something of a defining performance from Giroux – not so much as
a player necessarily, but as a leader.

While the Flyers were saddled with Voracek’s (questionable) double-minor
for instigating and fighting with a visor, it was Giroux who was actually
responsible for the turnover that gave the Caps a 3-2 lead in the first place.
He got a little too cute with the puck during the penalty kill, skating it deep
into his own zone before attempting to clear. Alex Ovechkin nullified Giroux’s
stick, essentially gift-wrapping a goal for Marcus Johansson who took the play
to the wide-open slot and snapped the disc past Ilya Bryzgalov.

Less than a minute later the score was 4-2. Washington won an
offensive draw and cycled the puck to the opposite faceoff dot where Ovechkin
was all alone for the one-timer.

Giroux was visibly frustrated with himself. Bryz was visibly
frustrated by everything, throwing his Gatorade bottle toward the benches. Moments
later Scott Hartnell took out his frustrations with a slashing penalty. Voracek
had to take his out in the dressing room, serving a 10-minute misconduct for
instigating. The game was spiraling out of control.

The captain pulled it back together. The Flyers went on the
power play with seven minutes to play, where Kimmo Timonen set Giroux up for a
wicked slapper from his customary spot, a shot that seemed to bend time and
space as it whizzed into Washington netminder Braden Holtby’s top shelf. You
better believe Giroux was fired up for that Doop.

By the final shift in regulation, the momentum was squarely
in Philadelphia’s corner. Bryzgalov went to the bench, and for about 80 seconds
the orange sweaters were attacking the Capitals in waves. The Flyers were able
to sustain the pressure, the puck moving back and forth through Giroux throughout,
until finally Timonen found twine on his shot from the point. The Wells Fargo
Center came unglued.

The Caps were not long for this world. In overtime Ruslan
Fedotenko ran a sweet give and go with Timonen, with Feds slipping the puck
underneath a lunging Holtby for the winner.

It was the type of effort followers had been waiting to see
all season, the Flyers finally overcoming adversity with the hopes of it jump-starting
their campaign. Every time we keep thinking it’s going to be too little too
late for that, they pull us back in. Believe it or not, Philly surprisingly is a
mere two points out of the eighth seed after picking up five points out of a possible
six over the last three.

With the Pittsburgh Penguins suffering multiple injuries
recently – including to Sidney Crosby (broken jaw) – a potential postseason opponent
suddenly looks a bit vulnerable.

Perhaps more important though, this was what we’ve been
waiting to see out of Giroux. He finished with one goal, two assists, seven
shots, three blocked shots and two hits, yet his night almost transcended
that of an all-star performance. Giroux practically willed his team to victory,
picking up Voracek, and for that matter himself, too. Maybe that’s the best
sign to date for a club that has looked uninspired far too often this year.
Maybe there is still a pulse there after all.

Notes

Max Talbot
left the game with an apparent left knee injury late in the second
period after attempting to check Mike Green. Talbot missed everything
except the defenseman's leg, his knee taking the brunt of hit collision,
and he was either unable or unwilling to put any weight on it from
there. Once Talbot made it back to the bench, he would have to be
carried to the back from there, though he did contribute a goal to the
win.

Oliver Lauridsen made his second NHL
start, while veteran Kent Huskins – acquired from the Detroit Red Wings
over the weekend for a conditional draft pick – played his first game in
Orange & Black. None of the goals scored were particularly a result
of defensive breakdowns, so no complaints there for a change.

Timonen led Flyers' scorers with four points. Matt Read lit the lamp for the second consecutive game after going over a month without a tally. Zac Rinaldo had seven hits in eight minutes of ice time. Bryzgalov stopped 25 of 29 shots.

>> BOX SCORE [Yahoo!]

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No, No, No: Every reason why the Sixers' trade of Nerlens Noel is unjustifiable

No, No, No: Every reason why the Sixers' trade of Nerlens Noel is unjustifiable

I only asked the Sixers to not do one thing at this trade deadline, and at High Noon this Wednesday, they went and did it. 

For Sixers fans, this was the nightmare all February: That the Sixers would dangle Jahlil Okafor like he was still the No. 3 overall pick, be frustrated with the (understandably) paltry offers they received for him, then deal Nerlens Noel instead, because one lottery-pick back-up big was as good as the next. That seems to be close to exactly what happened, as today, Adrian Wojnarowksi dropped the bomb that the Colangelos have traded Nerlens to the Dallas Mavericks for Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson and a top-18 protected first round pick (which will probably dissolve before we ever actually get it). 

It's hard to know even where to start in breaking down just what a gross miscalculation this was on the Sixers' part. But let's examine the likely justifications, one at a time, that the Sixers will likely offer for this trade, and discuss why each of them are pretty solidly BS. 

The Sixers weren't going to re-sign Nerlens anyway. OK... why not? The Sixers are solidly under the cap for the immediate future, and even with extensions coming up in a year or so's time for Embiid, Saric and Covington, there's so little long-term money on the books that it's impossible to believe they couldn't have found a way to make it work. Shed Jerryd Bayless if you have to. Don't try to find the next Ersan Ilyasova in free agency if it's too cap-clogging. Those players don't matter. Nerlens matters. 

And even if keeping all four of those guys was untenable (and if they decided Nerlens was the lowest priority of all of them, a dicey presumption to begin with), a catastrophic injury is the only thing that would've kept Nerlens from being imminently tradeable at any point during his next contract. Even if today's big-stocked NBA, there will always be a market for potentially elite athletic bigs barely at the outset of their basketball primes. You think the cost would've prohibited Dallas from making this same deal two years from now? No chance. 

OK, but you can't pay $15-20 million a year for a backup center. What the hell does that even mean? Until proven otherwise, there is no such thing as a "backup center" for Joel Embiid -- it'll be a small miracle if the dude even plays 50 games this year, and until we actually see him take the court 75 times in a season for over 30 minutes a night, we have to assume that he'll need extensive platooning for the course of his NBA tenure. I've made this point before, but consider the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had both frontcourt positions filled when it came time for Tristan Thompson's restricted free agency, but signed him to a near-max deal anyway because he was just too talented a player to give up. They won the title the next season, with Thompson as one of their three most valuable players. You never know. 

What's more, who's to say that he couldn't have coexisted with Embiid for stretches? Nerlens spends most of his time in the halfcourt running around the perimeter -- switching, deflecting and generally causing havoc -- and to have him do that while Joel holds down the middle could've made the Sixers' defense borderline invincible. Maybe it wouldn't have worked on offense, hell, maybe it wouldn't have worked on defense, but wasn't it incumbent on us to at least try it out? The reason that Joel and Jahlil didn't work together (or that Nerlens and Jahlil didn't work together) isn't because you can't ever play two centers on the court at the same time under any circumstances ever -- it's because Jahlil was bad! Nerlens is good! It could've worked, and at the very least, JoJo and Nerlens deserved the opportunity to prove that it couldn't. 

Well, but you had to trade one of these guys, right? 

The wrongheadedness of this approach is totally inexcusable. I can't believe we have to still keep talking about this, but let's try it one more time for laughs: 

THE SIXERS HAD TWO BIG MEN THAT MATTERED. THE THIRD GUY WAS IRRELEVANT. THEY COULD HAVE TRADED HIM OR KEPT HIM OR CUT HIM OR APPOINTED HIM VICE PRESIDENT IN CHARGE OF TOWEL RACKS AND WAWA ORDERS AND IT WOULD NOT HAVE MATTERED. THEY HAD JOEL EMBIID AND NERLENS NOEL AND ANOTHER TALL MAN WHOSE NAME AND PERSONAGE WERE OF ZERO CONSEQUENCE. 

Does it suck that we drafted a guy with the No. 3 overall pick two summers ago that nobody (including us) currently wants? Does it suck that that same guy also plays the same position as the two other guys we drafted, who EVERYBODY wants? Yes! It's the worst thing Sam Hinkie ever did for us! So bad that most Sixers fans have constructed elaborate conspiracy theories for the decision placing the blame on anybody else but our Once and Always Dark Lord! It is a shame and a bummer and more of a burden than Perfectly Nice Guy Jahlil Okafor ever deserves. 

BUT. It is done. It is a cost that is sunk. No backsies, no matter how often we call Magic Johnson to goad him into a D'Angelo Russell / Jahlil Okafor swap. To throw good players after bad by expunging Nerlens Noel in the name of well gee you just can't have three centers on the same team, howzzat gonna work is absolutely nauseating. They could've traded Jahlil for peanuts -- literal peanuts, even the unsalted kind -- and it would've been a better move than this. They could've traded Jahlil with peanuts -- the super-addictive honey-roasted kind -- and it STILL would've been a better move than this! Much better!

All right, but they got a first-rounder, and that's a pretty good return for a player about to hit free agency? Who says? What says? Why says? Would we seriously consider a top-18-protected first-round pick for Nerlens Noel a bountiful return? Again: Nerlens Noel is friggin' awesome! He's exceeded all expectations this year. The Sixers have a better record without Embiid on the court this season than they do without Nerlens! He's an historic defensive talent, and he's been unbelievably efficient and destructive on offense this year. Yes, he doesn't rebound as well as he should, no, he's not the best post defender, yes sometimes he tries to do too much on offense and the ball (or his ankles) end up in the third row. But he is an elite prospect, and he's still only 22. He's great. 

To get a top-18-protected pick for him as the primary prize is beyond insulting -- oh and by the way, we're probably not even getting that pick anyway. Zach Lowe reports, and CSN confirmed, that the selection is top-18 protected this year, and then after that it turns into two second-rounders. The Mavs, currently 22-34, aren't getting a top-12 record this season unless they practically run the table from here on out -- which, better as they'll be with Nerlens, seems mildly unlikely. The Sixers will once again be hoarding second-rounders for the rest of eternity. 

But you know what? I'm not even sure it makes that much of a difference, because even a mildly protected first-rounder that we actually got would've been at best a marginal asset for the Sixers in 2017. At what point do we start trading picks for players instead of players for picks? With our foundational piece finally in place with JoJo, another one likely on the bench in Simmons and who knows how many others on their way between our next two first-rounders, the Lakers pick and the '19 Kings pick, you'd think that time would've come by now. Nerlens could've been foundational too, y'know, if the team respected his talents and figured out how to maximize them. We'll never know for sure now. 

...Justin Anderson, though? Look, I can't say I know much about Justin Anderson. I've liked him the couple times I've watched him, and it seems like he's an athletic wing that can do some things. He's not exactly giving the world peak Josh Howard flashbacks in Big D this season -- seven points and three boards in 14 minutes a game, with sub-par shooting numbers (40% FG, 30% 3PT) but decent defense and free-throw drawing. He sort of fits the profile of a Jae Crowder type, and Lowe and others have pointed out the potential parallels with Dallas' trade for Rajon Rondo, in which Crowder was perceived as a throw-in and ended up being the best player to change hands. 

It's possible Anderson could blossom on this team, and I look forward to having him on our roster. But despite being just a second-year player, he's already 23 -- older than Noel -- and it's hard to believe that even at his best, he'll ever be more impactful than Noel already is. Not to mention that we already have a three-and-D guy on the roster in Robert Covington who's proven to be a high-level contributor, and who's cheaper than Anderson for this season and next. If he's the prize for the Sixers then that means the contest wasn't worth entering in the first place. And it wasn't. 

Uhhh Bogut? Another trade maybe? Better hope so. It is possible that this is still the prelude to more wheeling and dealing to come, and that another trade -- potentially using Bogut's large expiring contract as a base to make salaries match -- will help put this one in a better context. If so, we'll deal with that when the time comes, and I look forward to eating (or at least reappropriating) some of my words here. In the meantime, Andrew Bogut will play as many meaningful minutes for the Philadelphia 76ers as Andrei Kirilenko and Danny Granger combined, and apparently we're already talking buyout. Say hello, wave goodbye. 

Well, Nerlens was a malcontent anyway, good to get rid of him. Don't. You. Even. Nerlens had his moments of immaturity, like anyone under the age of 25 (or 35 or 75) does, but he was a great Sixer, and a true Processor. The fans loved him and he loved the fans, and both sides said as much repeatedly. He loved his teammates and his teammates loved him, and both sides said as much repeatedly. Watch this video and tell me with a not-entirely-crooked face that the Sixers needed to get rid of him. 

Nerlens Noel and Richaun Holmes with CSN Philly's Molly Sullivan after tonight's win.

Posted by Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, January 24, 2017


WATCH THIS DUMB VIDEO AND TELL ME THAT THIS TEAM IS BETTER OFF WITHOUT NERLENS. 

Balls. 

This trade, as it stands, is the least-defensible move I can remember the Sixers making in the post-Iverson era. The Elton Brand contract? He at least was that good in the not-that-recent past. The Bynum trade? Him too, and hell, the press conference was exciting. Drafting Jahlil? Well, a lot of other smart people seemed to think it was a good idea at the time. This is the only deal I can remember viewing like a cliff well off in the distance, with plenty of BRIDGE OUT signs clearly located along the way, wondering why the driver is still going, yelling at them to stop, and then watching hopelessly as they casually sail off the edge. Forget about trusting the process, why did we not trust common sense on this one? 

Will the deal end up being particularly destructive to the Sixers? Maybe not. The Sixers are so strapped with assets right now that a semi-catastrophic move or two like this doesn't necessarily mean the end of the road in any meaningful way. But no team can afford to flub players like Nerlens without it becoming something of a problem, and if you burn off too many of them, that's how you become the Sacramento Kings, straight-up. We're more Vlade than Hinkie at the trade deadline today, and that is the single saddest sentence I hope I ever have to write as a Sixers blogger.

Nerlens Noel trade: Sixers simply did not get enough

Nerlens Noel trade: Sixers simply did not get enough

Let's start with this: The Sixers did not need to trade Nerlens Noel. 

They could have kept him through the end of the season, made him an offer in restricted free agency and decide whether or not to match another team's offer sheet.

The Sixers held the cards. If a team like Portland or Dallas were to offer Noel $17 million a year or something this offseason, the Sixers could have either matched or let him walk.

If they chose not to match, they'd lose Noel for nothing.

So, given the return, the only explanation for Thursday's deadline trade of Noel to the Mavericks was that the Sixers definitively concluded they did not want to match a high salary for Noel.

Either that or they just really, really love Justin Anderson.

The trade was initially sold as Noel to Dallas for Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson and a protected first-round pick.

In reality, the trade is Noel for Anderson and two second-round picks.

Bogut wants to be a free agent and will either be traded or bought out, according to multiple reports. So forget about him.

The 2017 first-round pick? It's top-18 protected, meaning the Sixers would get it only if the Mavericks pick 19 to 30. The Mavs currently own the NBA's seventh-worst record, so it would take a miracle for them to win enough games to decrease their draft stock that much.

If the pick does not convey in 2017 -- and again, it's not happening -- the Sixers instead get Dallas' second-round picks in 2017 and 2018.

So, yeah ... it's Noel for Anderson and a pair of seconds.

Ersan Ilyasova netted the Sixers two seconds. The only difference between that trade and this trade? Justin Anderson.

The expectation now, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, is that Jahlil Okafor will stay with the Sixers. It seems like they were just so uninspired by offers they received for Okafor that they instead looked to trade another big for value. 

But in this case, they didn't get value for Noel. They got the perception of value.

Unless Justin Anderson becomes a better player than Nik Stauskas or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

Weird move.