Ilya Bryzgalov to Talk Less: Do You Care as a Fan?

Ilya Bryzgalov to Talk Less: Do You Care as a Fan?

Ilya Bryzgalov has been inconsistent between the pipes for the Flyers early this season. While his play has been shaky at times, his interaction with the media has regularly been nothing short of entertaining. That appears to be coming to an end -- at least partially, and hopefully only temporarily.

In an unexpected and unpopular media relations move, the Flyers announced that their big-dollar off-season goalie acquisition "will no longer talk to the media except in postgame situations in which he plays."

From CSN's story, "[Flyers goalie coach Jeff] Reese said more than once that he felt Bryzgalov was “distracted” by [a] number of things, among them, his daily interactions with the media." It's safe to say the Philly media is quite different than that in Phoenix. The Flyers dressing room is mobbed with throngs of reporters, bloggers, cameramen and people milling about following every game. While their numbers are smaller on off days in Voorhees, there is a constant media presence surrounding the team and its players. Most of the time, the attention benefits the team, with more coverage usually translating to more interest among the public. But, at least for now and with this player, it seems the Flyers are willing to take that risk and silence their most interesting interview.

For however long this lasts -- a week, a month, a season, nine years -- we'll miss the frequency of hilarious quotes from the Russian. But we also see the Flyers side in this. First, it's been indicated that Bryzgalov is the one who wants to go rogue. We have no idea the degree to which this is true, versus the Flyers being the driving force. But, if Bryzgalov or his coach thought interacting with the media was affecting his play -- which hasn't been great so far -- then it's hard to fault the them for acting on it.

What happens on the ice trumps everything else, right?

Is the media "barrage" an excuse? Possibly. But Bryz's mind clearly wasn't in the right place, and it's his coach's job to get it there.

Of course, it could also backfire, with the loquacious Russian missing the spotlight he doesn't seem to mind. And, at least in the immediate aftermath, there's more media attention on Bryzgalov than ever, with the focus right now being his newly limited access. Is it better to make headlines at Puck Daddy because you're "lost in the woods" or because you're being handled with kid gloves?

There wasn't much chance the Flyers scribes, a vocal group, were going to let this just happen without much fanfare. Their reaction to Bryzgalov's very limited availability is predictably upset. Bryz's colorful quotes make their job a whole lot easier, so without them, they'll have to dig a little deeper and find interesting things from the mouths of other Flyers players. If you've seen Postgame Live much, there often isn't a whole lot there. Getting a non-generic quote from an athlete usually isn't an easy task, but Bryzgalov is soundbite gold, with his accent adding flavor to an already entertaining routine.

But when you do get a perfect quote, it can be used as the focal point of a story. There's often danger in that, however, as Gus Haynes from the Wire once put it, the best stories focus little on what the subjects themselves have to say, but are based rather on observations made by the author.

Flyers beat writer Randy Miller was among the most vocal about sharing his displeasure with the new Bryzgalov availability, noting that he believes there may be some NHL rule stating every player must be made available every day. Puck Daddy's coverage points out that Sam Carchidi has filed a complaint with the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

As someone who has spent plenty of time in a few Philadelphia sports teams' locker rooms in recent years, my take is that if players don't want to talk to the media, they won't, even if they are "available." And, I don't believe they should be forced to. Mike Richards was clearly a guy who wanted to be captain on the ice and probably in the locker room, but he had no desire whatsoever to talk to the local media, and the result was a series of bitter exchanges over everything from partying to inconsistent play.

If they're forced to talk, most players will only give generic lines you've heard a thousands times already. Bryzgalov was an exception to that, but according to the team, he seems to want and/or need some time out of the spotlight when he's not on the ice. Or, if you don't believe it's coming from Bryz, the team wants it for him.

My question to you, the fans, is do you care that your goalie may talk less (possibly a lot less)? Is that a big deal to you? Or is your only concern how he performs on the ice?

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.