Eagles Attempt to Complete Return to Respectability Against Bears on MNF

Eagles Attempt to Complete Return to Respectability Against Bears on MNF

Despite defeating division opponents in back-to-back games, we still don't get the sense there is a great deal of enthusiasm for the Birds. Sure, some folks are feeling a full-fledged turnaround, complete with a postseason berth. The rest would have you know they are below .500, and waging an uphill battle just to make the playoffs.

Fair enough. Fans have their reasons for remaining detached, and another win tonight against the 4-3 Chicago Bears might not convert many people. It would be an important milestone for the Eagles in their quest to fulfill Vince Young's prophecy though, evening the team's record for the first time since Week 2 -- which was nearly two months ago.

The Eagles are becoming harder and harder to dismiss with each passing week, and should they reach 4-4 tonight, they become almost impossible to ignore. That would be three consecutive victories, which would tie them for the fourth-longest streak in the NFL, and three in a row versus conference opponents. They are also the only team in the East sitting on two division wins right now.

In the Bears, they would also be disposing of a quality opponent that has given Andy Reid and Michael Vick problems in the past. Reid is 1-3 against Chicago over the past four seasons, with none of the contests decided by more than five points. Vick, meanwhile, has never beaten the Bears in three tries. No doubt it would feel good to get that monkey off his back.

But if the Eagles intend to generate some energy from a wounded fan base, how they win might carry them the farthest. The last two weeks have been something entirely different from the previous five, which leaves us wondering which side is for real, and how many games must pass before we can declare which is which. Has the offense really cleaned up the turnovers? Is the defense really settling into Juan Castillo's scheme?

In a league with few truly elite teams, knocking off Chicago in impressive fashion to get back to .500 should go a long way toward injecting the excitement back into this season. Maybe it won't, because people have seen this act from the local football club before -- fall behind early, then come storming back, only to come up short in the end.

We're all tired...

In case you haven't been paying attention though, things are finally clicking. The Eagles might be on the verge of becoming the great team we all thought and desperately hoped they would be this season. With a big win tonight, they are right back in the thick of the race, and in great position to continue their rise from the ashes of a 1-4 start.

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is all about trusting the process.

He manages to insert the well-known phrase into just about every interview, hashtags it on social media and soaks in the chants during games. 

While “trust the process” is commonly associated with former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s patience-required approach to building the team — which resulted in three years of dismal losing and suffering setback after setback — Embiid has his personal take on the mantra.

“I think I have my own process,” Embiid said Friday at practice.

Embiid is playing for the first time this season after waiting two years to recover from foot injuries. His long-anticipated debut was a focal point of “the process,” and his return to the court marked a new chapter in the organization.

“I went through two surgeries, lost my brother, thought about some stuff I shouldn’t have thought about, so that’s my own process,” he said. “And then the process of going through the rehab and finally getting back on the court and getting the chance to finally play in the league, that’s my process.”

Embiid is now synonymous with the word. He credits Sixers fans for the moniker, which he added to his Instagram profile. 

“I don’t think it came from me,” he said. “Fans just started and then I just went along with it.”

Wednesday marked the next step in the process, both for the Sixers and Embiid. His regular-season debut (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) was a long time coming and garnered buzz all over the NBA world.

“I was the third pick and then I missed two years,” Embiid said. “The excitement in the city, everybody’s happy to finally see me play. Even though it was weird because a lot of people kind of wrote me off a long time ago saying that I’d never play as a Sixer, I’d never play in the league. So it’s all fun. Everybody’s going to have an opinion.”

He’s just got to trust in his own.