Flyer Fights: Sestito's Gonna Get a Shanny; Avery's Threats, Simmonds Uses Slur

Flyer Fights: Sestito's Gonna Get a Shanny; Avery's Threats, Simmonds Uses Slur

The preseason's not even over yet, and the Flyers are in all likelihood about to have their second player suspended. Jody Shelley was the first to receive a detailed video explanation by new disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, and I'll be shocked if Tom Sestito doesn't join him tomorrow. In the first period of what would become a rough preseason tilt between the Flyers and the New York Rangers, Sestito took a few full strides before smearing Andre Deveaux from behind, starting a near line-brawl.

Unfortunately, amidst an increasingly rough game, Sean Avery says Wayne Simmonds used a homophobic slur when the two were battling. Katie Strang relayed that news from Avery, and it appears to be the case in watching this video.

If that is indeed what Simmonds said, it's a terrible way to ruin any positivity he'd gain by mixing it up with Avery so early in his Flyers career. More importantly, it's a terrible follow-up to the hateful act Simmonds himself was a victim of just last week. Simmonds was responding to what we hear in the video below: Avery clearly saying he'll "kill Giroux" in retaliation for what other Flyers—namely Sestito—are doing. What we have here, from on the tight camera footage and on-ice mics, is a look at the hockey world we know exists but rarely see up close. When it goes to the living rooms though—and it increasingly will—the league and players will be forced to answer for it.

Both Simmonds' comment and Avery's were in a heated moment, and god only knows what these guys say to each other on the ice even in passing much less when they're ready to go at it. But increased media visibility is going to show more of this to the fans who are tuning in to watch hockey, and there's no question the league will feel compelled to do something about it. We know what Simmonds allegedly said is not uncommon on the playing surface, but it's long since time to put an end to that part of sports culture.

Say what you will about Avery on the ice, but he is one of the foremost advocates of gay rights
in all of sports. To my knowledge, it's his lone redeeming quality, as
evidenced by what you heard above, which is what he's spending most of
his on-ice time doing. After the game, Avery spoke out against what happened to Simmonds in London, Ontario, as well as what Simmonds said tonight.

"It is really disappointing," Avery said, in response to a line of questions focusing entirely on the incidents involving Simmonds. "First of all, who would do that? And why would you do it? It just such an unnecessary thing. It’s something that’s not even an issue with us or our sport. So to be here now and having to answer your questions about what he did is disappointing for me.”

Again, this is coming from the guy threatening metaphorical death but at least bodily harm to the Flyers' star, but on its own, the statement is hard to disagree with.

To his credit, Simmonds didn't want to talk about the on-ice exchange after the game and wouldn't confirm what he said, nor what Avery had said to him prior to it, but did say Avery sucker punched him and said something. “Honestly, we were going back and forth for a while. I don’t recall everything that I said to him. He said some things that I didn’t like and I said some things that he didn’t like. I don’t recall every single word I said." 

[Update: On Tuesday, Simmonds denied using the slur.]

While on the one hand you want to see the players handle their own business, and not dictate the media a transcript of the event, it's almost a moot point what they say in the locker room afterward. With today's access to the sights and sounds of the game, everyone already had the raw footage or soon would. The immediacy of videos being posted to Twitter and YouTube takes the steam out of the "it's just the way it is in hockey," and the logic supporting that argument was already on shaky ground. 

As for Simmonds... I'm glad that just barely into his career with the Flyers, he was so vehemently ready to go to war for a threatened teammate. I don't mind some trash talk either. But try to say something that gets under Avery's skin while not being hateful toward a community of people. It's not always easy to come up with something vicious yet PC, but you know you messed up when you've given Sean Avery the high ground on a night when he was being, well, Sean Avery.

First video via HockeyFights.com, second via SNY Rangers Blog.

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”