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:

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

Two of the country's top prospects faced off in the Pac 12 this week while a top 10 forward saw his season come to a premature close. However, we begin this week with the breakout performance by Jonathan Isaac.

Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida St. (6-11/205)
Isaac's potential had everyone in the basketball world's curiosity. Now his play on the court has their attention. The Seminoles hosted No. 15 Notre Dame, which had yet to lose in ACC play before the Wednesday game. 

The freshman forward dominated in the 83-80 win. He had 23 points on 7 for 9 shooting from the field. He made both his threes, all seven of his free throws and also had one assist. His other stats were also otherworldly. He picked up 10 rebounds and had seven(!) blocks, including one on a late Notre Dame shot to get back into the game after he'd put the Seminoles ahead with a three. All this was in just 25 minutes

He followed it up with a similar game against Louisville. In 28 minutes, he had 16 points on 4 for 7 shooting, making one three and, again, all seven free throws. Add in two assists and two blocks to aid in the 73-68 win. Isaac has shown himself to be an athletic freak, a potential stretch-four at the next level and one with tremendous defensive potential, displayed with his nine blocks this week.

OG Anunoby, forward, Indiana (6-8/235)
Anunoby has had an uneven season, but he, at the very least, showed flashes of the ability that make him a top player for this year's draft class. However, a knee injury suffered on Wednesday finished off Anunoby's season, forcing him to undergo surgery that will keep him off the court for the rest of Indiana's schedule.

This may knock him out of the 2017 draft entirely. As a freshman last year, his NCAA Tournament performance was enough to make him a lottery pick in an even weaker draft field than the upcoming one. He chose to remain in school and it isn't farfetched to believe he will return to Indiana for his junior year to get more seasoning, a better draft field and another year of education.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
There are going to be quite a few marquee matchups in the Pac 12. One of the first this year came in the form of UCLA-Arizona in Los Angeles on Saturday. The No. 3 Bruins lost, 96-85, but that had nothing to do with Ball's standout performance (more on the Wildcats below). He pushed the ball in transition, drove to the hole with ease and made 4 of 8 threes with his quirky shot. 

He had 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting and had eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. When you watch Ball score so naturally, it's easy to forget his potential as a point guard, but then he whips up beautiful assists as he did many times on Saturday. The freshman has everything you want in a point guard.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
The No. 14 Wildcats picked up their biggest win of the year, moving to 7-0 in conference play. As you can expect, Markkanen had a big game to push Arizona past UCLA. He had 18 points on 6 for 10 shooting, was 3 for 3 from three and made three free throws, all which grabbing seven boards. Like Isaac, he is a tantalizing talent as a stretch-four, hanging out around the perimeter and spotting up for threes well.

He now has 16 made threes in his last four games and has averaged over seven boards in that stretch. He's not unbelievably thin like many fours his age. The freshman really can battle down low and get his shot, and he justifies his prospect status on a game-by-game basis with his ability.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
Washington lost on Saturday, moving to 9-10 and 2-5 in conference. But it's worth talking about Fultz's standout Wednesday night. The freshman willed his team back from 17-points down with a 37-point performance en route to an 85-83 OT win over Colorado. In 43 minutes, he was 13 for 24 from the field and 11 for 15 from the free throw line.

Don't think he's just a scorer, though. He had eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks, doing it all for the Huskies as he usually does. The freshman sensation was 0 for 2 from three, but he is normally efficient from beyond the arc. He alone is the reason to watch the under .500 Huskies.

While the 9-10 Huskies are unlikely to make a late run towards March Madness, the strong Pac 12 should provide many marquee matchups for Fultz. He faces off vs. a stout Arizona team next Sunday afternoon. Six days later, the long awaited matchup between Fultz and Ball up in Seattle goes down with presumably many scouts in attendance.

Quick Hits

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Twenty-seven points on 9 for 14 shooting, 4 for 7 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, two steals and four turnovers in an 85-69 win over No. 24 South Carolina.

Josh Jackson, guard/forward, Kansas (6-8/203)
Fifteen points on 6 for 14 shooting, 2 for 5 from three, 1 for 3 on free throws, five rebounds, two assists, four steals and six turnovers in a 79-67 win over Texas.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
Fourteen points on 4 for 9 shooting, 1 for 4 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, three turnovers and five fouls in a 70-58 win over Miami.