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:

Former Eagle Byron Maxwell benched by Dolphins

Former Eagle Byron Maxwell benched by Dolphins

Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell is not starting tonight against the Bengals. Maxwell, who the Eagles traded this past offseason, was already seeing his playing time diminish. Now, he will sit in favor of Tony Lippett, who has not seen a single snap for the Dolphins this season.

The Eagles big trade this offseason keeps getting better and better.  They acquired the 8th overall pick in the draft in exchange for the 13 overall pick, Maxwell and Kiko Alonzo. Not only were they able to rid themselves of Maxwell’s awful contract, but they were able to get value for a player who is now not considered an NFL starter. 

The 8th overall pick that the Eagles acquired from Miami was flipped to the Browns among other picks to move up to number two. As you may know, that number two pick became offensive rookie of the month Carson Wentz. 

At the time of the trade, Maxwell originally failed his physical due to a shoulder injury. It was reported that the shoulder was so bad that he could not perform a simple pushup, but the Dolphins traded for him anyway.

The Byron Maxwell trade was the stepping stone for the Eagles to land their quarterback of the future, and this news can only make them feel better about the move. Howie Roseman had an incredible offseason cleaning up the mess Chip Kelly left behind, and Maxwell’s benching will certainly help his case for executive of the year. 

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens (Noel) - Jahlil (Okafor) thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist.