Smooth Criminals: Asante to Atlanta Done

Smooth Criminals: Asante to Atlanta Done

The Eagles got bilked, fleeced, hustled, swindled, shortchanged, and flimflammed, but reporting the crime won't change the fact that Asante Samuel is now a member of the Atlanta Falcons.
On Wednesday, the Birds agreed to send their four-time Pro-Bowl cornerback, a potential future Hall of Famer, to a conference rival in exchange for a lowly seventh-round pick. The Inq's Jeff McLane, who earlier broke the news Samuel agreed to a restructured contract with Atlanta, reported the Eagles had a deal in place with the Detroit Lions last August that would have netted second- and third-round picks.
Samuel had been on the trade block ever since the team traded for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and signed Nnamdi Asomugha.

How We Got HereThe 31-year-old Samuel signed a six-year, $59 million dollar deal with Philadelphia in 2008. He intercepted 25 passes in 61 regular season and playoff games over four seasons -- nearly one every two games -- returning three for touchdowns. Despite having a down year in 2011 production-wise with just three picks, Samuel still charted as one of the best corners in the league according to sites like Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus.
A secondary featuring Samuel, Asomugha, and DRC was surprisingly ineffective though. All three are more comfortable lining up outside, so there was no way to get them all on the field at the same time without having at least one of them play out of position. Plus, the coaching staff wants to utilize more bump and run coverage on receivers, but Asante prefers an off-man style that allows him to sit back and read the quarterback.
His value plummeted in part because the Eagles lost whatever leverage they had when it became painfully obvious they needed to subtract a corner from the equation. Even though Samuel had the best season of the three, Asomugha is entering the second year of a $60-million deal that makes him difficult to move, and Rodgers-Cromartie is five years younger.
However, Samuel's contract was said to be the primary hang-up. He was scheduled to collect $21.4 million in base salary over the final two seasons. As part of the trade, Asante first had to agree to restructure. He'll receive $18.5 over three years from Atlanta -- roughly $3 million less than he was slated to earn over the next two.
To summarize, the Falcons obtain an elite playmaker at cornerback, with an additional year on his contract and a discount rate, in exchange for a low draft pick that has precious little chance of panning out, let alone turning into an All-Pro. The Eagles free up a large chunk of cap space, and simplify their depth chart.
How Bad Is the Damage?
While Samuel may be a textbook example of addition by subtraction, the Eagles are clearly getting robbed.
To some extent, they backed themselves against a wall. It would appear there really is no way for Samuel, Asomugha, and DRC to co-exist. Rodgers-Cromartie can also become a free agent next season, and the front office needs to get a better look at him before they decide whether or not he'll be part of their long-term plans. He was a major piece in the Kevin Kolb trade last summer.
Perhaps it would have been wise to hold on to Samuel for now anyway. While there is plenty the Eagles can do with the nearly $10 million they freed up -- extend LeSean McCoy, for instance -- they were by no means up against the cap. With 10 selections now in this year's draft, they weren't exactly hurting for the pick either. Had they held on to Samuel, maybe they could have got more out of a team that missed out on a corner in the draft, or even wait for a team to suffer a serious injury during training camp.
Because no matter how you slice it, management messed up by giving away a great player for next to nothing. Don't get me wrong, I thought a secondary with Samuel, Asomugha, and DRC would be practically impenetrable, too. The Eagles should have trusted their instincts last summer though, and unloaded Asante while the getting was good. Instead, they've been made to look like fools.
We know we'll being seeing Asante Samuel again when the Eagles host the Falcons in Week 8. We'll just have to hope we won't see him again somewhere down the road, maybe in January.

NBA Notes: Chris Paul to undergo surgery for torn ligament in thumb

NBA Notes: Chris Paul to undergo surgery for torn ligament in thumb

LOS ANGELES -- Chris Paul will undergo surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and is expected to miss six to eight weeks.

The Clippers said Tuesday that their All-Star guard will continue to undergo treatment and evaluation by the club's medical staff.

Paul was injured on a first-half play involving Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook in Monday night's victory over the Thunder. Paul didn't return in the second half.

The Clippers are 26-9 in 36 games with Paul in the lineup this season. He is averaging 17.5 points, 9.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds, and leads the NBA with 2.25 steals per game (see full story).

Knicks: Anthony tells Jackson he wants to stay in New York
NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony still believes the Knicks can win and still wants to be in New York when they do.

Another January collapse makes it easier to wonder if either will happen.

The Knicks have fallen off the playoff pace, again proving they can win headlines but not games. It seems like the same old story in New York, even though Anthony still thinks they can change the ending.

"Yeah, we will," he said. "I still believe."

He reiterated that Tuesday in a meeting with Phil Jackson, telling the Knicks president of basketball operations that he wanted to remain with the team, according to a person with knowledge of the discussion.

The question is how much Jackson still wants him.

A Fanragsports.com piece by Charley Rosen last week was heavily critical of Anthony, saying his legs are "going, going, almost gone" and that "the only sure thing is that Carmelo Anthony has outlived his usefulness in New York."

Criticism of Anthony is nothing new, but this came from a longtime confidant and former assistant coach of Jackson, leading to speculation that those were the same thoughts as the Knicks executive (see full story).

Hornets: Clifford blames poor defense for Hornets' losing streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Hornets coach Steve Clifford points to one factor when explaining his team's five-game losing streak -- a lack of defense.

Charlotte went 0-5 on its recent road trip, surrendering an uncharacteristic 109.6 points per game during that span. The Hornets return home Wednesday night to face the Portland Trail Blazers, part of a stretch of five-game home stand which Clifford hopes will help turn things around.

But Charlotte's fourth-year coach said nothing will get better until the Hornets start playing better man-to-man defense.

"It starts with our ability to guard our guy," Clifford said. "When you get blown by a lot on the perimeter where you are constantly in need of help, then you are going to give up 3s -- and that's what is happening."

The Hornets raced to a 14-9 start this season and were third-best in the league in points allowed through 23 games.

Since then, things have steadily fallen apart, culminating with Charlotte giving up at least 100 points in eight straight games. The Hornets have since dropped to 12th overall in points allowed (see full story).

Kings: F Omri Casspi out for up to 2 weeks with calf injury
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi will miss up to two weeks with an injured right calf.

The team said Tuesday that an MRI showed Casspi strained a tendon in his calf during practice on Monday.

Casspi is averaging 5.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game this season.

Another injury, another opportunity as Sixers' PG merry-go-round continues

Another injury, another opportunity as Sixers' PG merry-go-round continues

CAMDEN, N.J. — The camouflaged tape wrapped around T.J. McConnell’s right wrist couldn’t disguise the latest hit to the Sixers’ backcourt. 

McConnell suffered a sprain on Saturday in a play against John Wall and was in a splint on Tuesday. He did not participate in practice and is listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s game against the Raptors (see story)

“[I’m] trying to keep it stable and not move it around a lot. I should be good to go very soon,” McConnell said. “I’m leaving [when I play] up to the medical staff. I’ll just tell them how I feel. It’s getting a lot better each day.”

Add McConnell to the list of point guards who have battled injuries this season. Let’s start at training camp: Jerryd Bayless suffered a left wrist ligament injury that ended up requiring season-ending surgery. His absence bumped Sergio Rodriguez into the starting lineup, until Rodriguez sprained his left ankle in late December and missed three games.

That left McConnell as the team’s only healthy true point guard at that point. McConnell played so well as a starter while Rodriguez was sidelined that he remained in the lineup when Rodriguez returned. 

“I obviously want to get back quick, but I know me and my teammates won’t lose that cohesion together,” McConnell said.  

This time around, the Sixers are better equipped to handle the injury of a point guard. They signed Chasson Randle from the Westchester Knicks (NBA Development League) to a 10-day contract on Jan. 10. The team liked Randle for his combo skills that would allow him to play shooting guard in practices and give Gerald Henderson an opportunity to rest. Turns out, they need him at the one spot the most. 

Randle played 16 minutes off the bench in Monday’s win over the Bucks. He scored 10 points (3 for 6 from the field, 2 for 4 from three, 2 for 2 from the line) with two rebounds, an assist and five fouls. Randle took his first shot just 23 seconds after checking in for Rodriguez and made his first NBA bucket, a three. 

“He did a great job,” Rodriguez said. “He stepped up in the game, he made some shots, he got the rhythm of the team going. For us, it’s amazing … he’s just here for a few days and he’s talented and he showed [Monday].”

Now Randle could be the latest point guard to maximize an opportunity created by injury. The Sixers have been impressed by what Stanford’s all-time leading scorer can do on both sides of the court. 

“When you start looking at what we have access to, the physical measurements, his wingspan is elite,” Brett Brown said. “You sit him in a stance and he spreads out, he uncoils. He really can cover some ground with his width, his length, albeit from a point guard position. Some of the deflections he got and defensive plays he made, I thought were outstanding.”