Glass Half Full of Ice? Sudden Optimism in NHL Labor Fight

Glass Half Full of Ice? Sudden Optimism in NHL Labor Fight

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Last week, the NHL cancelled the Winter Classic, and the
initial fear was it might be only a matter of time before the entire season came
next. Since then, negotiations between the league and players association on a
new collective bargaining agreement have picked back up, with some reports even
predicting a resolution could occur in the next two weeks.

Tim Panaccio has been keeping up on the so-called secret
meetings between representation for owners and union over the weekend, which
are expected to continue into this week. Panotch was willing to describe the
talks as progress,
while others are digging much deeper in their inferences to
the meaning and potential details of these discussions.

In the video above, Al Morganti views the silence
surrounding exactly what is being discussed at these meetings as a positive,
and goes so far as to say he believes the lockout could be over in 10 days – or
not at all. His sense is talks finally have a purpose, so if both sides are
going to cut to the heart of the issues, now is the time.

Frank Seravalli for the Daily News seems to be on the same
page as Morganti. In his Monday article, Seravalli agrees on a similar timeline
of agreement being possible “in the next 10 to 15 days,” and specifically
mentions a 64-game season as a possibility. It should be noted that’s similar
to the 66-game slate the NBA went with after its own lockout-shortened campaign
a year ago.

At this point, it’s all speculation, but speculation is
better than the hopeless feeling another season could be lost. If the players
and owners really do somehow manage to bridge their differences in the next two
weeks or so, not only could they save some face, but probably the sport along
the way.

Morganti is probably right though. If this situation isn’t
any closer to being figured out in the very near future, with the Classic gone
and precious little time to organize a season, then what is left to keep the
dispute from dragging on? We’re not out of the woods yet, but if either side is
committed to playing NHL hockey within the next couple months, something has
got to give soon.

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Sixers merchandise sales on the rise along with win total

Sixers merchandise sales on the rise along with win total

Between recent wins and Joel Embiid’s All-Star push, fans are buying their Sixers gear.

According to Fanatics.com, a sports apparel website partnered with the four major sports, the Sixers rank fourth among all NBA teams in total merchandise sales over the past seven days. The Warriors, Cavaliers and Bulls are ahead of them.

Joel Embiid was the fifth-best selling player over that period. His popularity has risen during his enthusiastic All-Star campaign, which included celebrity shoutouts and an outpour of social media activity. Embiid is now up to 553,000 Twitter followers.

The Sixers have ranked in the league’s top 10 of merchandise sales since the beginning of the 2016-17 season. They hold the largest year-over-year increase during that time frame in the NBA this season.

In September, Ben Simmons ranked in the top 10 of NBA players in merchandise sales since draft night.

Sales from the Sixers' and NBA's official online stores are included in these statistics.

Sixers clicking just in time to face surging Raptors on Wednesday

Sixers clicking just in time to face surging Raptors on Wednesday

The Sixers are clicking just in time to face their toughest competition in over a month. The Raptors (28-13) come to Philadelphia as the Sixers have won six of their last eight games by holding one another accountable and taking each outing step-by-step.

“You feel like the group is coming together,” Brett Brown said. “You feel like all the work that we have put in is starting to pay dividends in relation to a solid foundation.”

The Raptors sit second in the Eastern Conference, just one and a half games behind the Cavaliers. The last time they met, the Raptors beat the Sixers 123-114 on Dec. 14 at the Wells Fargo Center.

A lot has changed since then, especially the rotations. Brown started Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together against the Raptors, an experiment that waned out after six games. The Sixers have found a formula to winning with an established starting lineup and a consistent second unit, with the added experience of Gerald Henderson and Nerlens Noel. They will be tested Wednesday as both Joel Embiid (illness) and T.J. McConnell (wrist) are questionable.

“When you look at this team, it’s a lot of talent but we didn’t play as a team,” Ilyasova said of the start of the season. “Now we come together. I think it’s all about the chemistry, we trust each other.”

The Sixers are looking to carry over the momentum of a 113-104 victory over the Bucks in Milwaukee on Monday. They got a test of All-Star caliber talent against Giannis Antetokounmpo, whom they held to two points in the second half. The Sixers will have their hands full with the backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry (22.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists) and DeMar DeRozan (28.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists).

One key to countering talent like that placing an importance on accountability. The players are not letting each other off the hook for mistakes on the court, regardless of who the opponent is.

“I could see it over the past couple weeks, guys coming out here and being more vocal on both ends of the court,” Noel said. “If one guy messes up, you’ve got to let him know so it won’t be a recurring thing. With that, guys are taking steps in the right direction, both leadership roles because everybody on this team can be a leader in their own way.”

The Raptors come in on a four-game winning streak.