Will the Eagles' Trash Be Another Team's Gold?

Will the Eagles' Trash Be Another Team's Gold?

When the report came in on Tuesday that the Eagles would not sign any of their own free agents, there was a little surprise in The700Level ranks. On one hand, the front office not-so-stealthily replaced practically every one of them in the draft in April, but after all, they have 15 unrestricted players. None of them will be back?

We're still not completely sold it will wind up that way, but the next question was what exactly is the organization losing? Plenty of teams have real good players and even bona fide stars leaving town. That's probably not the case in Philly. After the jump, we broke the departing players into groups, and examined whether any of them will be missed, or if perhaps the Birds are making a big mistake in letting some of this talent go.

Who Cares?
Antoine Harris, Bobby McCray, Reggie Wells

None of these guys made a measurable impact for the Birds, and most fans probably didn't even know who they were or that they were on the team to begin with. I would say they will soon fade into obscurity, but it seems they already have.

Won't Be Missed
Nick Cole, Omar Gaither, Dimitri Patterson, Ernie Sims

Where do we begin? Let's go with Patterson, who was exposed for what he is last season: a journeyman special teamer. Sims is what many suspected he was when he arrived, which is a replacement level player, and the once promising career of Gaither looks to have been derailed once and for all by a Lisfranc sprain in '09. Cole has had multiple opportunities, but never broke through, and became expendable after a decent season at center from Mike McGlynn.

Replaced
David Akers, Quintin Mikell

As was previously mentioned, Akers and Mikell were both essentially gone after the NFL Draft. Say what you want about the decision to trust rookies with key jobs at strong safety and kicker, but Mikell wasn't worth the $7 million/year the Rams gave him, and Akers is aging and has come up small in some big games in recent years. The Eagles should get on fine without them.

No Longer Necessary
Jerome Harrison, Ellis Hobbs, Max Jean-Gilles

A lot of people were really interested in Harrison staying, but believed he would look for a starting job. I don't think that's the problem at all, seeing as he likely won't find that line of work anyway. Sure, Harrison would prefer to be more involved, but the real reason he won't be back is he lacks value to the Birds. They didn't utilize him more because he is soft in pass protection, so they would rather move on and try to develop somebody who can get help in that area.

Jean-Gilles is the prototypical mid-round lineman for the Eagles, who bides his time as a reserve then goes on to become a roughly average starter for some below-.500 club. He could be a serviceable backup, but obviously Danny Watkins is expected to hold down the right guard spot.

Hobbs can't be counted on after sustaining a serious neck injury, and once the Eagles acquire another corner, that player will join Asante Samuel, Joselio Hanson, Trevard Lindley, and rookie Curtis Marsh in a suddenly crowded defensive backfield.

Have Value
Stewart Bradley, Akeem Jordan, Sav Rocca

We're still not prepared to write off these guys, at least not two of them. Jordan makes the list because he was the team's top contributor on special teams last season, and he has defensive experience as well. While it would make sense to bring him back, the Eagles often let this type of player walk, like Tracy White a couple years ago.

We would not be as quick to let Bradley leave town though. As has been noted several times and from many different outlets, the linebacker corps is extremely green if Stew B departs. Granted he did not have a very good season coming off of an ACL tear in 2010, but there is still a chance he can be an effective linebacker in the NFL. Once Bradley has tested the market and finds there aren't many front offices willing to offer an oft-injured player long term contracts, maybe the Eagles will bring him back after all.

On the other hand, after first theorizing Rocca could be brought back, we wonder if the Eagles won't cut ties with their punter of three seasons. While last year was his best, showing he has improved and can be more consistent, he's also old (37) and likely wants to be paid fairly well for being merely a punter. Plenty of time for minds to change, but don't be surprised if they give the undrafted, Ray Guy Award winner Chas Henry a real shot to win the job.

In the end, do the Eagles truly require the services of any of these players? A case could be built for Bradley, but that's about it. It's not often they lose a quality, young player to free agency, so obviously we're not talking about anybody they weren't prepared to part with.

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

BOX SCORE

Brett Brown was ready to do it Wednesday night. The matchup against the Kings presented an opportunity to experiment with playing Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together. That pairing had to wait two days, though, after the Kings game was postponed

On Friday, Embiid and Okafor shared the court for just under 13 minutes in the Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic (see Instant Replay), who also rolled out a duo of bigs in Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. 

“I thought we had our moments,” Embiid said. “We shared the ball, we made shots. Obviously we need to play more together and learn how to play with each other.”

Embiid and Okafor first played together for 5:29 in the second quarter. They scored all of the Sixers' 12 points during that time, including a pair of threes by Embiid. They also combined for five boards. The Sixers outscored the Magic, 12-9, with the bigs in together.

The benefits of the floor spacing was apparent. Oftentimes in the game, Okafor could be seen open at the basket with a hand up for the ball while Embiid was also getting looks from long range. 

“I liked our spacing, I liked the high-low stuff we were doing,” Brown said. “I think when you post Joel, that Jahlil is going to play sort of hide-and-seek on the other side of the floor, and work that low zone, and become — I hope — a potent offensive rebounder. When you post Jahlil, Joel has the ability to space to three.”

Brown turned to Embiid and Okafor again in the fourth. At that point, the Magic had a 23-point lead. Their next 7:25 together was a chance to give them a long run in live game action. They combined for another 12 points and four rebounds. All of their buckets were layups, dunks or free throws. Both teams scored 19 points with Embiid and Okafor in that segment.

Both Embiid and Okafor finished the game with double-doubles: 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Embiid; 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks for Okafor. 

“I thought they played well together,” Vucevic said. “I thought it was tough to guard them because they’re both really good offensively.”

Okafor credited his friendship with Embiid, which dates back to high school, as a key to coexisting well on the court. Both emphasized their off-the-court relationship would help them in a game situation. 

“I think the communication piece went really well,” Okafor said. “He was talking to me, I was talking to him.”

Scoring and communication always seemed to be the easier parts of the pairing to tackle. Defense, though, was the challenge given that one of the centers would have to guard the four spot. Okafor noted their transition D as an area that needs improvement.

“We’re both used to going right to the rim,” Okafor said. “I think I had a couple easy buckets. That’s something we’ll be able to fix.” 

Brown had based his decision of when to play Embiid and Okafor together on the matchups. While the two could boast their own edge on the offensive end, Brown didn’t want to play them in a scenario in which they’d be at a huge defensive disadvantage. 

“It’s not offense to me, it’s defense. That’s the thing that is most challenging,” Brown said. “We want to play fast. We want to put points on the board. You don’t want to play in the 80s. You don’t want to do that, that’s not our sport anymore. So you want to make sure that you're capable of guarding the opposition.”

Vucevic noticed the challenge from an opposing perspective. He understands the necessary changes since playing alongside Biyombo.  

“It takes time for them to get adjusted, especially for the guy that will be playing the four defensively,” Vucevic said. “They’re not used to that because they always back down to the paint guarding the fives. It’s a different look. They have to work on it, communicate, and I think they’ll be fine.” 

On a night with few highlights in a 17-point blowout loss, Brown was able to take away a positive from this anticipated duo.

"I thought Jahlil and Joel did a really good job," he said. 

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Joel Embiid didn’t see four quarters of basketball from the Sixers in their 105-88 loss to the Magic Friday night (see Instant Replay). Their efforts were inconsistent as they fell flat in long stretches and allowed the Magic to build up double-digit leads as high as 29 points.

The Sixers gave up a 16-0 run in the first and shot just 6 for 26 (23.1 percent) in the quarter. The Magic, who had lost a one-point game to the Grizzlies in Memphis the night before, rallied together to seize this opportunity.

“They just made a lot of shots that we didn’t,” Embiid said. “That’s the game, but we didn’t play hard all 48 minutes and we need to do a better job next time.”

The Sixers didn’t break 30 points until 4:33 to go in the second and attempted just two free throws in the first half. By the end of the third, the Magic had a 21-point lead which they held on to with in ease in the fourth. 

The Magic outshot the Sixers on all areas of the floor: 47.4 percent to 37.9 from the field and 50.0 to 28.1 from three. While the teams had nearly equal percentages from the line, the Magic shot 18 for 26 compared to only 7 for 10 from the Sixers. 

“They missed a lot of shots,” Magic forward Jeff Green said. “We got stops, were aggressive, guys just played hard and created for one another and played as a team.”

Covington injured
The Sixers are waiting to learn more news on the extent of Robert Covington’s injury. In the fourth quarter, Covington exited and did not return after suffering a left knee sprain when he collided with T.J. McConnell chasing a loose ball in front of the Sixers’ bench. If the starting small forward has to miss time, Sixers head coach Brett Brown is thinking ahead to possible lineup changes. 

“We'll try to figure out what his next week represents,” Brown said. “If we aren't with him, maybe there's a chance we can look at Dario [Saric] a little bit at the three.”

Covington is averaging 8.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. Saric has been coming off the bench at power forward behind Ersan Ilyasova. He started 10 games earlier this season at the four spot. 

Embiid honored
The Sixers honored Embiid during a timeout for being named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month (October and November). Embiid was appreciative of the award and has his sights set on the bigger picture this season.

“All the hard work I’ve put in, it feels great,” Embiid said earlier in the day at shootaround. “Obviously, maybe the bigger picture is Rookie of the Year, that’s what matters. … I don’t have my mind set on that. But if I can get it, that would be nice.”

Brown sees this recent showing as just a glimpse into what Embiid will be able to do over his career. Embiid leads the Sixers with 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. 

“This in infant stages, early days for him,” Brown said. “His body of work, given his lack of playing basketball, really is jaw-dropping for what I think he can be. To jump in and get rookie of the month I think is a real, sort of, quick snapshot view of him now. I think what he’s going to be is going to be extremely special.”

Embiid also is shooting 51.4 percent from three, including 3 for 5 against the Magic. When asked if he would like to participate in the three-point contest All-Star weekend, he said "it would be nice" and noted he would have to work on the speed of his release.