Video: Flyers-Rangers HBO 247 Preview

Video: Flyers-Rangers HBO 247 Preview

While we can't wait to be at Citizens Bank Park on January 2nd, we're really looking forward to watching HBO's 24/7 coverage of the Flyers and Rangers in the weeks leading up to it. On Friday night, HBO ran this preview.

Pumped? I think Peter Laviolette comes off quite Coach Eric Taylor-like while Torts is clearly the enemy coach who probably cheats.  Below, a look at what 24/7 does to humanize our enemies, and why we'll still hate them even if we learn to respect them a little more.

Last year, I remember watching each installment of 24/7 in amazement at one thing in particular. The Winter Classic would be played by two teams I hate, but usually enjoy watching, so the game at Heinz Field was going to be great no matter what. But 24/7 actually gave me something I wasn't expecting—respect for the Penguins and Capitals. I know, I feel pretty dirty admitting it. I went in anticipating begrudgingly watching an excellent production with a terrible subject matter. Instead, both were outstanding, and heroes emerged among a presumed cast of villains.

Will 24/7 change the way we feel about the Rangers?

The HD cameras showing men and their families around the holidays as well as select footage of a game that is even more brutal than it already looks brought us a lot closer to guys we essentially hate simply because of the sweaters they wear. (Case in point: How differently do you feel about Max Talbot, who featured prominently in last year's 24/7, now that he's tossed aside Black and Vegas gold for the Orange and Black?) But seeing them interact as teammates and normal guys off the ice, coaches talking about their players with their kids while cooking and getting ready for the holidays, and players getting mangled by the speed and sharpness of the game...

It was nearly impossible not to develop respect for just about every character on the screen, even those for whom there will always be on-ice dislike.

I bring this up because I'm not entirely sure how we'll feel about the Rangers over the course of the next month. While I'm fairly certain we'll still hate the crap out of them, I'm also reasonably certain there'll be a bit more respect for the individual guys because we'll know more of them then just the never-ending battle that's been waging between these clubs for years.

The outdoor battle on January 2nd should be that much more entertaining when we know the players a bit more like they know each other.

Update: In true The700Level highly organized fashion, both Rev and I posted about this just about simultaneously. Fortunately, we took different approaches, so you can read his here.

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."