Watkins Selection Can Be Judged From Day One

Watkins Selection Can Be Judged From Day One

Whatever players were on the board at 23, whether right guard was the biggest need or not, there is one simple way to break down the Eagles' first round pick this year. If Danny Watkins is starting Week 1, it was the right call.

Was it the sexy pick? Far from it. Colorado's Jimmy Smith could have filled the enormous hole at cornerback. Instead, the big, physical corner went four picks later to the Ravens. Coming out of a veritable offensive lineman factory in Wisconsin, Gabe Carimi could have protected Mike Vick's blindside for years to come. The Bears nabbed him at 29. My personal preference and local product Muhammad Wilkerson may have been the interior pass rusher the Birds' defensive line so desperately needs. The 30th overall selection will play for Rex Ryan in New York.

Here's the thing: while any of those guys would have filled a need on paper, would they be ready to do it this year? Maybe, maybe not, but Watkins is projected to start immediately. In fact, the Eagles are counting on it. Described by some draft analysts as the most NFL-ready of the offensive linemen, the team anticipates he can show up and do the job.

What more can you ask for from your first round pick in his rookie season?

Of course, there is that whole age thing again. Already 26 years old, the obvious knock is a shorter career expectancy. By the time he reaches the end of his rookie contract, Watkins could be 32-years-old, right about the time when the Eagles' front office parts ways with many veterans. That's not exactly ancient for a lineman, but it's reason enough for pause.

Beyond that, Watkins was literally a man among boys at Baylor. His advanced age has prompted some concerns over the evaluation process. Sure, he manhandled college kids, athletes often four or five years his junior, in many cases still developing. How will that translate against professionals, guys whose job description includes lifting weights rather than books?

His age is a big reason why it's so important he's on the field right away. The Eagles don't have time to bring some rookie along. He better be pro ready, or not only will right guard continue to be a problem area, but they lose valuable years with Watkins at a time when most young players would be entering or perhaps already in their prime.

Assuming reports are correct though, and the first round pick is up to speed whenever this season finally kicks off, imagine what it could mean for the Birds in 2011. Upon Jamaal Jackson's return from a torn biceps muscle, they will have solidified the unit from left tackle to right guard with a single move, leaving Winston Justice the lone question mark. And while you can make the case right tackle becomes the most vital position with a left-handed quarterback, how much easier will life be on that island with any kind of presence next door?

But he has to play, it's that simple. If he does that much, and on par with his status as a first rounder, how can you knock the selection? Okay, Watkins is still a fossil compared to every other rookie, which at the very least clouds his future.

At the end of the day, it was a results-oriented choice. Smith, Carimi, Wilkerson, whoever; maybe one or two have an impact this year, maybe not. With Watkins, apparently there was no guess work.

Herremans Moving to Tackle?

After the selection of Watkins, several members of the media suggested the Eagles could plug him in at left guard, and kick Todd Herremans out to right tackle. On Tuesday, Andy Reid indicated he "probably" wouldn't move Herremans outside.

"Right now, that’s probably not going to happen. He’s probably going to be playing guard and Danny will be playing guard."

In theory, the shuffle makes sense. Herremans was originally a tackle in college, and he has filled in there for the Birds before. Watkins would take his place at left guard, while either incumbent Max Jean-Gilles would return on the right, or Mike McGlynn could slide over from center. Obviously, the latter is predicated on Jamaal Jackson making a full recovery.

While that may look appealing on paper, it's probably overthinking the situation a bit.

My biggest issue with moving Herremans now is destroying the continuity he and left tackle Jason Peters have built the past two years. The offensive line has really struggled in that aspect, and shaking up the entire unit could prove more detrimental than anything else. Plus, Herremans just had arguably his best season as a pro, as he and Peters have legitimately quieted their critics.

Furthermore, while Herremans has been their most consistent lineman, he hasn't played tackle on a fulltime basis in the NFL. That's not to say he can't do it, and he might be an improvement over Winston Justice either way, but it is a gameble nonetheless.

For now, we expect Herremans to remain at left guard, with Watkins penciled in at right. Of course, Reid has been known to say one thing one day, and do the exact opposite the next. And for what it's worth, the head coach didn't say anything at all about which guard position Herremans would play.

Report: Sixers in California for NBA draft workouts

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Report: Sixers in California for NBA draft workouts

As the Western Conference Finals are taking place in Oakland, the Sixers are looking for new talent of their own in California.

This week, members of the Sixers' front office are attending pre-draft workouts organized through multiple agencies, including BDA Sports Management, CAA Sports, Landmark Sports Agency, Octagon and Wasserman Media Group.

While the Sixers hold the No. 1 pick, these workouts are opportunities for them to evaluate players that could be fits for their 24th and 26th selections.

On Thursday, the list of workout participants included projected first-rounders Deyonta Davis (Michigan State) and Cheik Diallo (Kansas), according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

The scouting process takes NBA teams coast to coast. Earlier this week, the Sixers reportedly attended a private workout with Excel Sports Management in New York City, in which Brandon Ingram and Jamal Murray participated.

The Sixers have held two workouts at their own practice facility, bringing in a total of 12 prospects thus far.

As the draft nears, 57 early-entry candidates withdrew their names from the 2016 draft.

NBA Playoffs: Stephen Curry, Warriors fight off elimination

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NBA Playoffs: Stephen Curry, Warriors fight off elimination

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND, Calif. -- "We ain't going home! We're not going home!" Stephen Curry screamed at the top of his lungs.

No, his Golden State Warriors are going back to Oklahoma City, after keeping their title reign and the winningest season in NBA history alive for at least one more game.

Curry scored 31 points, raising his arms in the early moments to fire up Golden State's raucous crowd, and the defending champions staved off elimination with a 120-111 victory over the Thunder on Thursday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.

"We just did what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to win at home," Curry said. "We know what we still have to do going forward. ... We knew if we didn't win we were going home. There's no other motivation you need."

For all the speculation about the current state of Curry's beat-up body -- that troublesome ankle, sore knee or tender elbow -- he did it all.

"I thought he looked like 91 percent," coach Steve Kerr cracked. "He came out and played a really good game. That's all I can tell you. He's going to compete every night. He had an excellent night and helped us get it done."

Led by Curry, the Warriors looked like their old winning selves again.

The MVP made a snazzy layup late and dished out six assists, while Klay Thompson added 27 points as Golden State sent the best the best-of-seven series back to Oklahoma City for Game 6 on Saturday night. The Warriors trail 3-2 and are trying to become just the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit.

"None of us want to go home," Thompson said. "We're having too much fun out there."

Kevin Durant scored 40 points and Russell Westbrook added 31 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals for the Thunder, trying for the fifth NBA Finals appearance in franchise history and first championship since moving from Seattle.

The record-setting, 73-win Warriors, coming off their first back-to-back defeats all season, had been blown out in two losses at Oklahoma City by a combined 52 points.

"We have to take that game and travel," Curry said of keeping momentum.

Durant's 3-pointer with 4:34 left got the Thunder within 103-98, then Curry answered with a three-point play.

Curry scored seven points in a 58-second stretch of the second quarter and hit more big shots late, but the Thunder didn't go away easily.

"I liked our will, I liked our fight," Kerr said. "We were embarrassed in OKC the last couple games."

Trailing 58-50 at halftime, Oklahoma City came out of the break with a 9-2 run. Westbrook's 3-pointer with 6:06 left in the third put Oklahoma City ahead 68-67 for its first lead of the night. But Golden State led 81-77 going into the fourth and began the final period with an 8-0 burst.

"We didn't shoot a particularly good percentage when we got into the lane and got into the deep paint," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "We had our opportunities."

Curry shot 9 for 20 and also had five steals, while Thompson had his 11th 20-point game for the second straight postseason despite shooting 2 for 9 from 3-point range. After struggling the past two games, Draymond Green had 11 points and 13 rebounds a day after receiving some encouraging words from Kobe Bryant on the phone.

"We really relied on the entire team tonight, which is when we're at our best," Curry said.

Kerr figured his Warriors might have an edge against the percentages of teams having trailed 3-1 because they're the defending champs and were playing at home, where they have been nearly unbeatable.

He wasn't surprised to see this team respond so well.

"We played with great desperation," Kerr said. "I knew how we would play. This is a championship team."

Kerr called for center Andrew Bogut to do more and the 7-footer delivered with a playoff career-high 15 points and 14 rebounds for his second double-double this postseason and seventh of his career.

Marreese Speights had a pair of three-point plays on follow shots and a 3 in the second quarter to give Golden State a nice lift off the bench. He had nine points in four minutes during that stretch and 14 points overall for his fifth double-digit scoring game this postseason.

"Their bench came in and made shots, made plays for them," Durant said. "We know we're going home. We can't relax."

Golden State made 31 of 34 free throws.

With his 1,248th career postseason point in the third, Curry passed Wilt Chamberlain (1,246) for second place on the franchise's playoff scoring list.

"That's who he is, that's what he's done, and that's what's made him a very good player," Donovan said.

Tip-ins
Thunder: The franchise lost in the finals in 1977-78, 1995-96 to Kerr and the Chicago Bulls and in `12. ... Steven Adams sat down with his second foul at the 9:34 mark of the first quarter. The Thunder had seven fouls to Golden State's one after the first. ... Oklahoma City took Game 1 at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have lost only three times all season. ... The Thunder started the game 3 for 14.

Warriors: Green picked up his fifth technical of the postseason. He also has at least one steal in 16 straight playoff games. ... Golden State missed six of its first seven 3s. ... The Warriors supported Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager with "Sager Strong" T-shirts for sale to support awareness and research for leukemia and lymphoma, both blood cancers.

Best of MLB: Jose Fernandez strikes out 12 in Marlins' win over Rays

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Best of MLB: Jose Fernandez strikes out 12 in Marlins' win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jose Fernandez struck out 12 in seven innings Thursday and won his sixth straight start for the Miami Marlins, a 9-1 decision over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Fernandez (7-2) struck out eight of the last 10 batters he faced and struck out every hitter in the Rays lineup at least once. The 23-year-old right-hander from Tampa gave up six hits in beating his hometown Rays for the first time in three tries. He finished the game with 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings, highest among major league starters.

Adeiny Hechavarria and Chris Johnson homered for the Marlins, who won three of four in their annual series against the Rays.

Hechavarria's third home run drove in the final two runs of a three-run second inning off Rays starter Drew Smyly. Johnson made it 5-0 with his second homer an inning later, Johnson's first hit in 22 interleague at bats (see full recap).

Rockies silence Red Sox, Bradley's hit streak
BOSTON -- Carlos Gonzalez, Trevor Story and Dustin Garneau hit two-run homers and the Colorado Rockies stopped Jackie Bradley Jr.'s 29-game hitting streak with a 8-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night.

The win ended a three-game losing streak by Colorado and it ended a four-game winning streak for the Red Sox. Bradley's major league-best streak was halted when he went 0 for 4 after moving up to the leadoff spot for the first time this season.

Jon Gray (2-2) gave up a two-run home run to David Ortiz in the first, but pitched six scoreless innings before leaving in the eighth.

Clay Buchholz (2-5) took the loss. He pitched three perfect innings before things came apart in the fourth, when he gave up Gonzalez's homer with the other two coming the following inning (see full recap).

Happ leads Blue Jays past Yankees
NEW YORK -- J.A. Happ pitched seven strong innings, Edwin Encarnacion and Devon Travis had two-out RBIs, and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Yankees 3-1 on Thursday to win the three-game series.

CC Sabathia was the tough-luck loser for New York, allowing just two unearned runs. Alex Rodriguez went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in his first game since going on the disabled list May 4 with a strained right hamstring.

Happ (6-2) allowed one run on three hits in seven innings with five strikeouts and three walks. He has given up three earned runs or fewer in 19 of his last 20 starts.

Sabathia (3-3) retired the first seven batters before an error by shortstop Didi Gregorius on Travis' grounder with one out in the third (see full recap).