Holiday, Celebrate: Sixers Sign on for Four More Years With Jrue

Holiday, Celebrate: Sixers Sign on for Four More Years With Jrue

When last night's game against the Nuggets came and went without news of
a contract extension for the Sixers' starting fourth-year point guard
Jrue Holiday, with Oct. 31st being the deadline for '09 draftee
extensions, it looked all but sure that Jrue would head to restricted
free agency next summer to seek the max contract he had reportedly been
asking. However, it appears team and player put their heads together
after the season-opening win and came to an agreement: A four-year,
$41-million deal with another five million being rumored in
"incentives," whatever that means.

Personally, I'm elated. First
and perhaps foremost, just because they've settled the issue and it
doesn't have to hang over the team all season, with everyone (especially
us) worrying about whether Jrue was playing himself into big money, or
playing himself out of a contract. Secondly, in today's NBA, four for
$41 is a very reasonable amount for a top 15 point guard yet to even
enter his prime, especially considering that the far-more-unproven DeMar
DeRozan of the Raptors signed for four and $38 just hours before.
(Stephen Curry and Ty Lawson of the Warriors and Nugs respectively both
got a little more, but their stats in the league have been superior to
Jrue's thusfar, so fair enough.) Considering Jrue was said to be looking
for a max deal (four years at roughly $15 mil), this could've been a
LOT worse.

It's also exciting because it means the team is
investing in Jrue as a critical part of their future. After three years
of reluctance to give the Damaja the ball and let him run with it, Coach
Collins and GM Tony DiLeo finally seem ready, with the trade of Andre
Iguodala and the goodbye-wave to Lou Williams, to make the leap of
faith. The game last night probably didn't have a huge impact on their
decision, but it was a good example of how even though Jrue has a long
way to go, he is at trustable team leader, both in getting his teammates
involved and making big plays in the game's key moments.

Of
course, making this kind of commitment to Jrue means that the team will
have further difficult decisions to make regarding the remainder of
their roster, and as Michael Levin of LIberty Ballers rightly points out,
with Holiday's agreement and a likely extension for Andrew Bynum, it'll
be tough to pay big money to surrounding wings, which could mean
trouble for Evan Turner's future in Philadelphia if his play this year
doesn't merit a similar level of extension. With Thad and Jrue locked in
for sizable contracts, the team doesn't get to swing and miss on any
more from here if they expect to contend at all in the next few years.

Still,
these are issues for another day. Today, with a home victory over a
likely playoff team and a reasonably priced extension for one of our
core players, is a happy day. Let the Damaja-ing ensue.

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

The Phillies are a lifeless team right now.

For a while the starting pitching was the biggest issue, then it was the bullpen, now it's the offense. The Phils have hit .224 since May 12, which was when their 2-7 road trip began. 

Their .268 on-base percentage over that span is worst in the majors and their .613 OPS is better than only the Mariners.

Players up and down the lineup are slumping. Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP since the ninth game of the season. Michael Saunders hasn't given them much at any point. Maikel Franco had an eight-game hit streak snapped Monday, but even still is hitting .221 with a .281 on-base percentage. 

At this point, why not bring up Roman Quinn and play him every day? It makes too much sense right now.

Daniel Nava went on the 10-day DL Monday with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. It doesn't seem to be a serious injury, but why not use the open space as an excuse to bring Quinn up for at least a few days and see what he's got?

Quinn could infuse some energy and life to the top of a sputtering lineup. Bat him second, play him in the corner outfield and see what happens. At the very least, he'd be a defensive upgrade over Saunders. At the most, Quinn's hunger to stick in the majors could result in a hot streak that sparks the top of the order the way Herrera does when he's hot.

Quinn is hitting lately at Triple A, batting .333 with a .424 OBP over his last 15 games. He showed last September that he can be an offensive catalyst with his ability to beat out infield singles, bunt for hits and spray the ball. Yes, he strikes out too much for a leadoff-type hitter, but it's just hard to see the downside of a call-up right now.

The argument against bringing Quinn up now is that it's too early to sour on Saunders, a player the Phillies signed in hopes of trading at some point. But think about how much Saunders would have to do to have worthwhile trade value. Yeah, you could flip him somewhere for a negligible return or some salary relief, but he'd have to be extremely productive for at least a month to get a team interested in trading a minor-leaguer of any value for him.

Pete Mackanin has tried many things to spark the Phils' lineup, moving Herrera and Franco down, sitting guys, challenging guys. The best solution, perhaps the only solution right now, might be a move made over his head to promote the Phils' speedy, switch-hitting outfielder who has a future with them so long as he stays on the field, which he has this season.

As for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro, who have also hit very well at Triple A, they just happen to play the same positions as Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, who have been the Phillies' most reliable bats the last few weeks.

Jason Kelce ignoring trade rumors as he tries to work on himself

Jason Kelce ignoring trade rumors as he tries to work on himself

Jason Kelce is aware of the rumors and reports that have surrounded his name this offseason. 

As much as he might try to avoid them, the Eagles' veteran center does not, presumably, live under a rock. So he's heard for months about the possibility of his long run with the Eagles coming to a close. 

After all, the Eagles have stockpiled an abundance of interior offensive linemen who can play center, and trading Kelce would save the team $3.8 million in cap space. 

So it all makes sense, but Kelce is trying to keep it out of his mind. 

"I think you'll drive yourself crazy if you're reading too much into what's going on," he said on Tuesday as the Eagles kicked off their voluntary OTAs. "My whole offseason has just kind of been really the only thing I can control is my game and the way I play and what I've been doing. So I've just really tried to hit the weight room, work on technique, work on things to try to get my game back to where it used to be."

How is he able to put it out of his mind? 

"Because worrying about it doesn't do any good," he answered.

While the Eagles have Isaac Seumalo and Stefen Wisniewski ready to play center if necessary, head coach Doug Pederson said on Tuesday that Kelce is still "the guy." 

Kelce, 29, was named to his second career Pro Bowl team last season, which might be a surprise to those who watched the Eagles throughout the year. Kelce wasn't as bad as some people think, but he also probably wasn't a Pro Bowl-caliber player. 

He got off to a very slow start in 2016 but did seem to get better as the season went on.  

"I feel at times last year, there were times I was dominant and games where I didn't really do a great job," he said. "You go back and watch film and try to make the corrections, try to make sure that moving forward I'm the same player I was in the past."

Kelce attributed many of his problems early last season to lousy technique. He's been trying extra hard to work on that part of his game as well as in the weight room. 

Often characterized as undersized, he said weighed 295 pounds on Tuesday morning. That's also his listed weight on the Eagles' website. 

All last season, Kelce said he played in the 290s, which was heavier than he had been in a long time. His goal this offseason is to make it up to 300 pounds by training camp, and then he hopes to keep the weight on. 

"I would certainly think so," he said. "As you get older, it gets a little bit easier to put on the weight and hold it on. I think everybody kind of finds that out."

Perhaps the biggest reason for the Eagles to keep Kelce around this season is the development of quarterback Carson Wentz in his second year. Kelce, as his center, might be integral to Wentz's growth. Although Kelce said he doesn't think of it like that when asked if that relationship gives him an advantage over others.  

Kelce has been with the Eagles since 2011 when he was a sixth-round pick out of Cincinnati. He's played and started 78 games in six seasons. 

He admitted last season he needed to play better or he knew he would become expendable (see story). So the rumors and reports this season likely aren't a shock to him. 

He's still not going to pay attention to them. 

"The reality is, we always have guys coming in, coming out," he said. "Now we happen to have a lot of really good depth at interior line. But like I said, it doesn't do me any good worrying about the what-ifs. All I can control is what I can control and that's how I go out and play, how I go out and prepare and how I try to get back to the player I've been in the past."