Saturday Reads: SLAMMED? Asante's Decline? Voracek's Value? Why a 'Gratton' Trade? Union Dues and Player Ratings? Phillies Food?

Saturday Reads: SLAMMED? Asante's Decline? Voracek's Value? Why a 'Gratton' Trade? Union Dues and Player Ratings? Phillies Food?

What we're reading this morning instead of doing something more productive. Sports, music, and food... 
Phillies...The Phils-Giants series got off to a rough start last night, allowing Tim Lincecum to improve his gaudy 2012 ERA while also giving up a decisive, gut-punching grand slam in a 7-2 loss. Vance Worley looked amazing for a stretch that included five straight strikeouts and retiring 11 batters in a row and 12 of the first 13 he faced. But things started to come apart in the fifth, then exploded in the sixth when Brandon Crawford cleared the bases with a salami to right. Even Eli Whiteside had an RBI double. The Phils' two runs came when Lincecum slipped and fell with Shane Victorino on third, balking him in, and when Ryan Howard launched his second homer of the season. Señor Finger has more on the game and its place in the 2012 Phillies timeline... [CSNPhilly
With the trade deadline still looming, we remain in "Who's staying, who's going?" mode... John Stolnis at That Ball's Outta Here weighs in with his guesses and reasoning behind who the Phils  will trade and who they'll hang onto. [TBOH]
Eagles...Switching gears to the Birds, an entry posted yesterday by Jeff McLane had some interesting nuggets in it. McLane was emptying out his notebook in two parts, both worth a read. In the second, he talks Mike Kafka's slight uptick in velocity, Nick Foles' hand positioning, DJacc and JMac, and perhaps of most interest—DRC and Asante. McLane refers to Andy Reid's belief that Asante was in "steep decline," which is surprising in two ways to me. First, that Reid felt that way about a guy who appeared to have a pretty damn good season, and second that he let it get into the press. On DRC, McLane gets into his lack of a contract after this season and how the Eagles could already be planning for life without him, even before 2013. [Philly.com / Birds Eye View
Pro Football Talk places the Birds at 8th in their power rankings. Click the link for their reasoning. [PFT
Flyers...The entire Flyers world feels like it's in a holding pattern as we await David Poile and the Nashville Predators' decision on whether to match the Flyers' massive offer sheet signing of Shea Weber. While we wait, so does Jake Voracek, the Flyers' own restricted free agent (along with Marc-Andre Bourdon). Vorch's next contract won't be an easy one to nail, as Bill Meltzer describes this morning. What do you think the Flyers should be targeting for a Voracek deal? [Hockey Buzz (requisite autoplay video ad warning)] 
One question that keeps coming up is that of whether the Flyers and Preds will arrange a "Gratton" trade, whereby something other than the mandated four first rounders goes to Nashville in exchange for Poile not matching the offer. One reason that doesn't make a lot of sense on the surface is the growing suspicion that the Predators don't have the cash to sign Weber to the offer the Flyers arranged with him. So why would the Flyers offer them players from their roster? BSH takes a look at three possible reasons. [Broad Street Hockey
If they want to make any more moves in addition to adding Weber's salary (say, signing Shane Doan...), the Flyers might need to shed some loot...
Union...According to Chester mayor John Linder, the Philadelphia Union missed a deadline for paying the 2012 installment of their agreed-upon annual $500,000 payment in lieu of property taxes, and although 2011 is paid off, there appears to be a discrepancy as to the 2010 figure. With a massive change in Chester city politics and a new entity like a stadium and its pro soccer team all coming at once, there were bound to be some disagreements. The good news is, the two sides appear to be talking at the negotiating table on both the annual payments and proposed entertainment and parking taxes, and not just sending messages through the press. [Daily News
Jon Tannenwald and Chad Graff sat down with MLS Commish Don Garber on the All-Star Game coming to PPL Park, perhaps earlier than many would have expected, and certainly something we're really looking forward to next week. Tickets hit my mailbox yesterday… [The Goalkeeper
As for the action on the pitch, Philly Soccer Page has an excellent breakdown of the Union players over the season to date in their midseason player ratings. You may or may not be surprised to see who their lowest-rated midfielder is… [Philly Soccer Page
And finally, Kerith Gabriel catches up with Sebastien Le Toux, on what it will be like to face the Union this afternoon wearing the dirty pink cow jersey of his new club, Red Bull New York (slightly paraphrased). [Daily News]
Sixers...After their personnel changes, are the Sixers any better than they were last year? I vote we ask Sir Charles. In fact, I vote we always ask Sir Charles when we're not sure of something. [CSN Philly
Wizards/Caps owner Ted Leonsis describes former Wiz and new Sixers gunner Nick Young as someone who "wanted stats" and not exactly a team player. The quote comes on page 3 of this interview, which is a pretty good read. [WaPo]
Food...Back in 2009, we read about baseball teams moving to get rid of all the junk food that was usually found in clubhouses. The Phillies were among that wave, which continues these days. M
y man Dom at Cocina Domenico recently spoke with Dana Gollotto, a chef and dietitian from South Philly who prepares meals for the Phillies, among others. Hook a brother up with some chocolate protein balls? Ya know, for after my "workouts." [Cucina Domenico
Pretty cool local food event going on at The Shambles at New Market (Headhouse Square, 2nd & Lombard) this evening, a collaborative effort from Slow Food Philly and Farm to City called "Good Food, Good Beer and the Rest Is History." Gourmet food trucks meet local breweries Victory, Philadelphia Brewing Company, Stoudts, and Earth Bread + Brewery. $30-$35 to get your grub & drink on. [Slow Food Philadelphia
Music...Ween fan? Check out mxdwn's interview with Mickey Melchiondo, where he talks about the I-hope-only-temporary "end" of the band, everything-fishing in America, changes in the music industry, and how he listens to sports talk radio instead of music. [mxdwn
Chili Peppers fan? Flea has a new EP available for download in a pay-what-you-will offering. Proceeds will benefit the Silverlake Conservatory of Music. Download Helen Burns here, and read about it at Rolling Stone. [Rolling Stone]  
And some War On Drugs:

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

Instant Replay: Celtics 107, Sixers 106

BOX SCORE

Rewind 24 hours.

The Sixers were walking off the court Friday night after a dismal blowout loss to the Magic that left Brett Brown reflecting on Saturday, “Here in Philadelphia, at home, that’s not good enough.”

The Sixers had lacked fire and grit, especially with Joel Embiid on the floor against a sub-.500 Magic team that had played the night before in Memphis. 

They had a day to turn it around. A playoff contending Celtics squad was coming to town and Embiid wasn’t available because of his back-to-back limitations. The shorthanded Sixers (see below) had a tall task ahead of them. 

The Sixers reacted by jumping out early and kept the Celtics at bay in the first half. Even when the Celtics cut their lead to three midway through the second quarter, the Sixers responded with an 8-0 burst to go up by a game-high 11 points. 

The Celtics exposed the Sixers' defensive void in the paint without Embiid in the third. With the Sixers up 65-58, Isaiah Thomas drew a foul against Jahlil Okafor. That play sparked a 9-0 Celtics run over the next two minutes, in which Thomas scored six of those points (including four at the line). The Celtics took back the lead during that stretch and forced the Sixers to play catchup.

The Sixers cut the Celtics lead to one in the fourth with a three from Dario Saric, who played one of his most aggressive games of his short NBA career. After the Celtics jumped back up by seven, the Sixers kept fighting and tied the game 100 apiece. The Celtics were able to pull away and finished with a one-point win, 107-106, after Ersan Ilyasova drained a three at the buzzer. 

Inside the stats
Thomas exploded for 37 points (11 for 19 from the field, 2 for 3 from three, 13 for 15 from the line), four rebounds, and seven assists.

Saric recorded a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, both tying career-highs. 

Ersan Ilyasova dropped 18 points, including three treys, and six rebounds.

Okafor and Sergio Rodriguez scored 15 apiece, with Rodriguez adding eight assists. 

Avery Bradley dropped 20 points and nine rebounds. 

Stauskas starts in place of Covington
Brown turned to shooting guard Nik Stauskas to slide over to the three spot in place of the injured Robert Covington (see below). 

“Boston’s perimeter defense is as good as it is in the NBA,” Brown explained. “I think you need to have more ball handlers, people who can make a play, on the perimeter … I feel that Nik has that ability to put it to the floor and disrupt that aggressive pressure that the Celtics backcourt can put on you.”

Broken ankles
Saric came up with the Sixers' highlight play of the game when he did this to Jonas Jerebko in the third quarter for an instant highlight reel moment. 

Always a student
Not playing, still learning. Embiid has been praised for being an eager student of the game. During warmups he sat courtside to watch film on a laptop even though he wasn’t suiting up. 

Injury updates
Joel Embiid is not playing in back-to-back games and sat out the back end of this home-home series for rest … Robert Covington sat out with a sprained left knee he suffered on Friday after colliding with T.J. McConnell chasing a ball out of bounds … Jerryd Bayless missed his fourth straight game with left wrist soreness. 

Up next
The Sixers host the Nuggets on Monday night.

Eric Semborski, from Temple club hockey to NHL goalie for a day against Flyers

Eric Semborski, from Temple club hockey to NHL goalie for a day against Flyers

Eric Semborski woke up Saturday and drove to work in Voorhees, New Jersey.

It was just an ordinary morning for the 23-year-old, a Temple graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sports management.

Little did he know, in a couple of hours his world would turn upside down.

Semborski, who works for Snider Hockey and at Flyers Skate Zone running goalie clinics and roller leagues, hadn’t played competitively since suiting up for the Owls’ club team in the spring of 2015.

That was until Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, where, someway, somehow he was draped in a Chicago Blackhawks jersey and squaring up blazing shots off the sticks of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith, just to name a few.

Quite the promotion, huh?

“It’s surreal, really,” he said. “I can’t explain it.”

Could anyone?

“I couldn’t imagine the rush,” Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling said.

Incredibly and astonishingly, Semborski turned into an NHL goaltender for a day as Chicago’s second string to Darling, who suffered a 3-1 loss to the Flyers.

How Semborski was found and summoned by the Blackhawks is still somewhat of a mystery, even to the Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, native himself. Once Chicago received word that regular starter Corey Crawford had to suddenly undergo an appendectomy at a Philadelphia hospital, the Blackhawks started scrambling for an emergency backup to Darling.

“I was at work, at the rink in Voorhees just coaching,” Semborski said. “My boss called me and I missed it. I walked off the ice and started talking with someone from the Flyers, he started asking me, ‘Where’d you play hockey, what’s your playing history?’” 

Semborski was confounded.

“I didn’t even know what he was getting at,” he said. “I asked, ‘Why are you asking me this?’ And he said, ‘Oh, Chicago needs a goalie.’ I just lost it. He said, ‘Go home, get your stuff and if they’re going to use you, they’ll call you.’ I left right away.

“I was like, OK, this probably isn’t going to happen, there’s no way.”

Ten minutes later …

“I’m in the truck and I got a call from Chicago,” Semborski said.

Who was it?

“I just know his name’s Tony,” Semborski said. “That’s all I know.”

How the heck did the Chicago Blackhawks, winners of three Stanley Cups since 2010, find a regular, hard-working guy living in Manayunk to be their reserve netminder?

“No idea,” Semborski said, still in awe talking after the game outside the locker rooms. “I think it had something to do with me working with Snider Hockey, working at Voorhees. They asked around and people just threw my name out I guess. I really don’t know how it happened. I’ll have to get to the bottom of that and thank some people. I have no idea who gave them my info, but whoever did, thank you, because it was awesome.”

So Semborski hustled from Voorhees to Manayunk, packed up his gear — including his old Temple mask, sporting the words “Philly Proud” and “Temple Tuff” — and quickly made his way to the Wells Fargo Center. He arrived around 12:30 p.m. before puck drop at 1.

“I hit some traffic on 76 (Schuylkill Expressway), of course,” Semborski said. “I got here as fast as I could in my street clothes. No time to put on a tie.”

Once Semborski signed his amateur tryout, it became real. He walked into the visiting locker room and there were the Blackhawks and his NHL jersey, a makeshift uniform with Crawford’s No. 50.

“It was hanging up when I got in there,” he said. “I guess they took Crawford’s and threw a name on it and made it work.”

Prior to hitting the ice for warmups, Semborski got acquainted with his teammates.

“Dream come true,” he said. “That was so cool, just hanging out with those guys. They made me feel welcomed right away, started joking around.

“When I got there, they put my number on the board and said I’m throwing in $200 for the holiday party. That was pretty good. I told them, ‘You better take credit because that’s all I got.’”

What about his big-money contract?

“No, I should be paying them for this,” Semborski said. “That was awesome.

“I signed some stuff when I came in, I don’t know what it was. I’m happy with a hat and the memories.”

Especially taking the net in warmups.

“I was a bit rusty, but no matter how much I play, I’m not going to be ready for them,” he said. “It was fast and I couldn’t even catch my breath because I was trying to take it all in. That was the best 20 minutes of my life out there skating with them.

“You’re playing against the best guys in the world. I knew I wasn’t going to stop most of them. I was lucky if it hit me.”

As for the game, Semborski didn’t play.

“Well you almost saw it,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said, referring to his frustration with a three-goal second period by the Flyers.

“That probably would have been a big mistake,” Semborski said with a laugh.

“That would have been so cool, but I wouldn’t change a thing. The experience was awesome.”

What did Quenneville think?

"That’s part of the process with all of the teams, they have the local amateur guys or sometimes guys who have played pro before," he said. "But with our cap situation, we needed an amateur, so he fit all the criteria and it was a good opportunity for him. ... It’s kind of a cool experience for the kid."

So Semborski sat on the bench, padded and ready. He smiled and watched, supporting his new team.

He, of course, is a Flyers fan, but …

“Not today,” he said with a smile. “Every other day, yeah, but not today.

“When I first got out there, I was like, ‘All right, if [the Flyers] score, don’t stand up. Just relax.’”

Semborski admitted to Chicago breaking his heart in 2010 when it beat the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final.

“That was one of the hardest things I ever watched,” he said. “But today, that’s all forgotten. I’m a ‘Hawks fan today.”

Afterward, Semborski said his phone was flooded with 70-something text messages and 20-plus phone calls.

“I’m going to have to start calling some people,” he said.

His first will probably be to a special loved one.

“It’s my dad’s birthday,” Semborski said. “So, happy birthday, Dad. Best present ever for you.”