Philadelphia Redemption, Jake The Snake and Your FGSB Mailbag

Philadelphia Redemption, Jake The Snake and Your FGSB Mailbag

As a hockey fan, the internet sucks from July 15 to September 10, or thereabouts. After the Free Agent Frenzy dies down and before players start trickling into town with new haircuts and 10 more pounds of muscle, writers have to dig deep into their bag of tricks to come up with content that all too often materializes in the form of a Top 10 list or Best Dick Goal of the Year slideshow.

It’s strange then that during the slowest news cycle is when I get most excited for the upcoming season.

You know what August 8th smells like? Hope. In small towns and big cities across the world professional hockey players have completely done away with the notion of summer. The off-ice training has intensified and the on-ice stick practice has begun. No longer is Claude Giroux a local celebrity at the bar every Thursday, but a man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.

I hope we'll win the Cup this season. I hope I’ll snipe 30 goals. I hope I’ll hit 100 points. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.

There may not be much going on in terms of score sheets, injuries, line combinations and controversy. But even though I try to temper my excitement at this time of year visions of Vinny LeCavalier celebrating a goal with a 40 on his neon orange back keep popping into my head.

The standings and their 2013-14 are stats are as clean and pure as a freshly cut sheet of ice. Half of the guys haven’t played a competitive game of hockey in 4 months. The older guys verge on sentimental and the younger guys are nothing but hungry to prove themselves as they each begin really preparing in their similar but in the end drastically different ways.

Personally, I hope the Flyers win the Metro this season. I hope Claude Giroux leads the NHL in scoring. I hope Steve Hartnell nets 40 goals. I hope Ray Emery and Steve Mason draw comparisons to last year’s Blackhawks. I hope I look forward to watching games after the Olympics. I hope…

FGSB Mailbag

Me first. Here’s a question I’ve been asking myself internally for the past couple years instead of going to church on Sunday – would Jake The Snake Roberts' tactics have been allowed in the NHL of the ‘80’s? For those of you that don’t know, this wrestler (fake) used to come down to the ring with a brown canvas sack that had a snake (real) in it every freaking match! He would put it in his corner and you’d try to watch the wrestling but there was a SNAKE IN THE BAG (maybe that was inspiration for Snakes on a Plane, actually). Anyway, the imminent threat of this 6’6 dude putting this giant Python on anyone was enough to make me black out from fear before the match ever ended. My parents would come into the living room and find me splayed out on the floor in my Transformers (original) underoos and a Macho Man head band on the reg, which I think is why I started off going to school in a trailer. Anyway part deux, if you ever saw the NHL in the 80’s you know that it was an anything-goes type of league back then. There were guys with helmets, guys without helmets. There was no Instigator Rule so dudes would literally jump other dudes and just beat the piss out of them. There was Brian Propp doing the guffaw. There was fighting in warm ups… So, if during warm ups Dave Brown, or Jake Roberts himself had he learned how to skate, brought out a brown canvas bag and just dropped it at the red line, would anyone have done anything? Would guys have freaked? Would John Ziegler have come out of the stands and chopped its head off? Guess that’s the kind of thing you have to wait to find out in Heaven…

@Mager_Pls do you think Mac truck Schenn plays as well as he did last season?
Did he play well last season? Because from what I remember the Flyers are a team. And on a team, one part is only as good as the whole. And the whole sucked and missed the playoffs. So if you’re under the impression (I’m yelling now but not using caps) that anyone played “well” last season, then you are exactly what is wrong with this organization, this city, and America!

Jake Voracek had a pretty decent year, actually. He scored lotsa goals.

@CaseOfDanglitis why was prongs not wearing shoes?
Wow. Good eye. I actually didn’t notice that, probably because I don’t have a foot fetish. Some things I did notice are

1. Why blur out the names when you’re just going to talk about them all and point to them? Yes, we get that you LUV Samuel Morin and had him ranked very high, and you would consider him a steal based on where you got him. If you’re going to mention players 5-10 on your chart by name, and then point at them and say where you’re moving them, then just show them.

2. I know you get shot for mentioning Moneyball on a sports blog, but wasn’t that scene SO MUCH like Moneyball? “He’ll hit ya with his stick I tell ya!” “He knows what he’s going to be and he’s going to be it!” “I saw him drinking a coffee and he didn’t even blow on it to cool it down – kid’s MEEAAAANNNN.”

3. There were meetings prior to this one, as noted by Chris Pryor – who I’d be fine going through my life never meeting. But this final get together didn’t seem all that organized, did it? I mean, if they got a proper system in there and actually put in a process to rank the prospects based on weighted points-per-scout then they wouldn’t even need a final meeting where Chris Pryor had to yell at all the guys to tell him what he wanted to hear. Is this right? IS THIS RIGHT? I’m going to move this guy. Would that be right? WOULD. THAT. BE. RIGHT?

It’s a good start but it didn’t really show much. Or much of anything that anyone wanted to see, to be more specific. Except for one person who apparently was eager to see Chris Pronger’s dogs. And the simple answer to the question is that Chris Pronger does what he wants. If he wants a puck he takes it. If he wants to kick off his shoes, even if it was in the middle of a Congressional hearing, the shoes come off.

Rick: I’m headed to Maine for vacation to a place where there are no tvs. In 2013. Give me a hockey vacation book rec. Gimme.
You literally (ha) cannot go wrong with a Roy MacGregor book. He was once called Canada’s Poet Laureate of hockey (or something) for good reason. Dude is an excellent writer and captures the essence of the game perfectly. People will tell you to read The Game, which is for good reason the seminal work on sports to date, but they’re also telling you “I’m smarter than you.” That is a deep, rich book. If you’re on vacation Road Games is just plain awesome, Wayne Gretzky’s Ghost is capturing, and The Home Team is a book he also wrote.

The Last Season is about a fictitious Canadian kid who makes it big and wins two Cups as a member of your Broad Street Bullies. It’s actually more about his rise to and then fall from the NHL. It’s Shamalanian, but it’s a long route up a dirt road to get there.

Ourtweet Breakdown of the Week


The other day the only Flyers writer with a Flyers tattoo Anthony San Fillipo, asked for recommendations for upcoming episodes of the Flyers new web series Flight Plan. For those of you that have jobs, you missed out on some retro-awesome FGSB coffee-fueled fun. Here are, looking back, our Top 10 suggestions (TOP TEN!):

10. Matt Reading Rainbow
9. Flyers Wipeout
8. Nick Cage shows Flyers how to steal Declaration of Independence
7. Two words: Flyers. Karaoke.
6. Jake Voracek and Cloode Giroux recreate pot throwing scene from ghost. Grossmannnnn signs Unchained Melody.
5. Flyers surprise game against Team Comcast '99s
4. Take Flyers to random office. See who can sit in cubicle the longest.
3. Flyers play the Eagles in football, Phillies in baseball, and Royce White in basketball all in the same day #Champadelphia
2. Flyers Fantasy Football Draft coverage, hosted by Steve Coates
…….
1. Flyers SVU

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.