Flyers-Sabres Game 6: Leighton In, Flyers Must Win

Flyers-Sabres Game 6: Leighton In, Flyers Must Win

With no single right or wrong answer in net today, we're reminded that this Flyers team was built for that question not to be a dire concern. The depth at every skating position is designed to obviate the need for a true #1. Whether that's actually true or not (especially with recent injuries), we'll have all summer to reflect on it. Today, the forwards and defensmen need to play as though there's a trash can in net. The goalie needs to play like his team may only score a single goal. No more softies. No bad rebounds. The softie allotment has been expended this series. All eyes are on the man in the Flyers' crease.

Just before game time, CSN is reporting that Michael Leighton will start the Flyers, meaning the team will start three different goalies in six games. You couldn't have written this story in training camp, but growing up a Flyers fan, it's not exactly science fiction either...

No matter who's on the ice today from the forwards to the crease, the  Flyers need to play an exceptional game in all facets. The Sabres have  shown us that they will win if given any opening. If they don't come  home with a win, the criticism will be heavy on players and coaching  staff alike. There is no time left to get anything figured out. They  need to win today on their strengths, despite the weaknesses we know  they have.

Perhaps the biggest question is whether the power play can get its act together when it matters most. Tim Panaccio reports that JVR was taking the front-of-the-net role in the limited practice they ran yesterday. He was out with Giroux and Briere, with Richie and Kimmo at the points. I like it. Although JVR's not a garbage goal man, he has the size to protect the real estate and the hands to do the deflection and shovel work the position demands. But more than that, he's been the best player on the ice for the Flyers this series, and I like that Lavvy is saddling him with a big part of the responsibility to get the power play on the board when the team needs it most.

At various points over the past calendar year, the team has played very well in front of each of the goalies. However, it likely wasn't easy for Lavvy to sleep last night, because if the Flyers are downed by the Sabres and his goalie of choice allows even one questionable goal, the decisions throughout the series and especially today will be pointed to as the primary reason.

History may not recall that this has been a very tight series, with each game being very close and very good. Both teams are playing some great hockey, making each other pay for mistakes. But there's no comfort in that if the Flyers do not advance out of this series. For the first time all season, the Flyers face a must-win game. Their fight to come back from a 3-0 deficit on Friday reminded us of what we saw last season, which is that they can't be counted out. They're absolutely good enough to hang a few on Ryan Miller and shut the Sabres' offense out.

As of this writing, we're still waiting on the Chris Pronger status update. Pronger was on the first bus over to the arena, and they'll probably need to tie him down to something if he is not going to play. [Update: Looks like Pronger is indeed going to play. Ben Holmstrom will try to fill Zac Rinaldo's big shoes in taking the Jeff Carter roster spot.]

It's time to pull out all the stops if he can play, and every player on the ice needs to play like the Stanley Cup is waiting in the tunnel. If not, they won't get anywhere near the hardware this spring.

Report: Sixers have shown interest in Timberwolves PG Tyus Jones

Report: Sixers have shown interest in Timberwolves PG Tyus Jones

With Ben Simmons and Jerryd Bayless hurt, the Sixers are still lacking a distributor, and so it makes sense that they've been in contact with the point guard-rich Timberwolves.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Sixers and New Orleans Pelicans have shown interest in T'wolves backup point guard Tyus Jones. 

With fifth overall pick Kris Dunn and Ricky Rubio, Minnesota is set at PG. Jones, 20, is third on the totem pole a year after being drafted 24th overall. 

According to Wojnarowski, the Timberwolves are more inclined to trade Jones than Rubio. 

Jones has a connection to the Sixers in Jahlil Okafor, a former teammate at Duke. Both were one-and-dones for the 2014-15 National Championship team. Jones averaged 11.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists for the Blue Devils. 

He played sparingly as a rookie last season with Minnesota (37 games), averaging 4.2 points and 2.9 assists in 15.5 minutes, but stood out this summer, winning Las Vegas Summer League MVP.

T.J. McConnell has started the majority of the preseason at point guard for the Sixers. Sergio Rodriguez got the nod in the last game against the Pistons. Brett Brown is also looking at Nik Stauskas to fill the spot in a non-traditional role.

Elton Brand announces retirement after 17 NBA seasons

Elton Brand announces retirement after 17 NBA seasons

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Elton Brand walked out to the practice court clad in a gray suit and tie. As he approached the media with his family, the Sixers' players and staff gathered to watch and, more importantly, pay their respect to the news he was about to deliver. 

“After 17 years of playing the game that I love, and it’s been great to me, I’m officially retiring,” Brand said standing next to his wife Shahara. “It’s for real this time. It was a wonderful journey.”

Brand, 37, played 17 seasons in the NBA with a career average of 15.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists. A two-time All-Star, he recorded four 20-and-10 seasons. 

This summer he signed his final contract, a one-year deal with the Sixers worth $980,431. Brand announced his intention to retire on Thursday and the roster move will be officially completed at the conclusion of training camp. Brand’s retirement clears up a roster space for the Sixers. 

“Me personally, playing, being out there, the mentoring role, it was great. I enjoyed it,” Brand said. “But I really couldn’t be out there giving my all after 17 years, helping the team, being in the right place on defense, and giving the coaching staff the energy they deserve from their players. I thought it was time.”

The Bulls selected Brand with the first overall pick in the 1999 draft out of Duke, a moment he considers a highlight of his career. He played his first two seasons in Chicago, followed by seven with the Clippers. The Sixers signed Brand in July of 2008. He was a member of the team for the next four years, including two playoff runs. Brand played one more season with the Bulls, followed by two with the Hawks. 

His already-lengthy NBA career appeared to be over at the end of the 2014-15 season, but he made a surprise decision to return to the league in January of 2016 with the Sixers. He appeared in 17 games last season, averaging 4.1 points and 3.7 rebounds in 13.2 minutes. 

While Brand was needed to log time because of injuries, including 20-plus on back-to-back nights, his biggest contribution came away from the game. The young team signed Brand to serve as a mentor to players such as fellow Blue Devil Jahlil Okafor, who struggled with off-the-court issues as a rookie. Okafor developed a big-brother relationship with Brand, talking often — and rarely about basketball itself. 

Brand shared his messages of discipline and work ethic across the locker room. He stayed late after practices to work on fundamental drills with then-rookie Richaun Holmes. On game days he often could be seen dressed in a suit, a visualization of professionalism for his teammates. At the end of the season, Brand paid for the team to take a trip to Miami. 

“We felt his presence,” Okafor said. “Having another vet in there, knowing who he is, his accolades, it was a respect factor to him. Whatever he said goes. I remember hearing his voice at halftime if we were playing poor, he would let us know about it. It was good to have somebody on your team tell you you’re playing bad rather than hearing your coach’s mouth all the time.”

Brett Brown described his emotions as "sad" when Brand informed him of his decision. In less than a year of working together, Brown has learned from Brand's NBA experiences. 

"He's as elite in class as anybody I have ever coached," Brown said, adding, "He's got the ingredients that make him, I feel, highly attractable down the road. Surely he's got stuff to offer after this is all done. Compassionate, hard-working, educated, real, tough. He was a great example for our locker room."

Brand plans to spend time away from the game and has not made any decisions on his next career move. He will be accessible to the Sixers and plans to spend time around the team but not in an official role. He has had conversations with the team about possible opportunities in the future, just not right now. 

The Sixers broke out in applause at the conclusion of Brand's announcement. He didn't know they were going to be present and joked that as the "OG" of the team, he doesn't like surprises. Brand wanted a simple no-frills gathering of media, a low-key departure from the game. It was fitting for a career based on quietly putting in hard work. 

“It’s been an honor, it’s been a privilege to play this game, the game that I love, and I’m certainly going to miss it,” Brand said. “But it’s definitely time now.”