Jimmy Rollins Could Learn Something From Theo Ratliff

Jimmy Rollins Could Learn Something From Theo Ratliff


Ed Stefanski sounds like a guy who just hit the lottery.  In a lot of ways, he has.

The Sixers GM was gracious enough to hold an open Q&A session yesterday with several writers from the web, including Matt and myself, and we had the opportunity to discuss basketball with a bright man and true fan of the game.  As excited as the fans are for this coming season, Stef is equally as enthusiastic about the club's off-season haul.

Describing last season as very rewarding, Stefanski acknowledged there was a "residual effect" from the team's surprise playoff run, and players wanted to be a part of the Sixers because they expect the team to be good.  Once Brand opted out of his contract, he became the club's main priority, and Ed seized the opportunity.  From there, the plan just fell into place.

The number one question on my list was whether or not Stef thinks this team, with the addition of Brand and re-signing of Iguodala, is good enough to win an NBA Championship.  Ed would not definitively answer yes or no, replying only time will tell, but with the opinion the team has undoubtedly moved in the right direction.  As he said at the very beginning, "We look good on paper, but paper doesn't play."

One of the highlights of the interview was when Stef talked about the decision to bring Theo Ratliff back to the club.  The addition was purely a result of the unfortunate injury to Jason Smith, with Theo only expected to see limited minutes, but it's the former Sixer's opinion of the fans that I found interesting.


"He said he loves Philadelphia.  He loves the fans because the fans make him play hard, and the fans are always there for him, and he knows if he puts in the effort, the Philadelphia fans will like him.

He figured the Philadelphia fans out.  Philadelphia fans are all about effort.  When you give the effort, and maybe it comes up short, they're gonna forgive you.  When you don't give the effort is when the fans get on you."

Refreshing to hear in light of some recent comments from some of the other athletes in this town.

Stefanski had nothing but positive things to say about everybody on the team, and touted the team's versatility when asked about what guys would play which positions.  "We have a lot of guys that I would just term basketball players," while explaining a lot of players would rotate between different spots in the lineup depending on the situation.

The interview was a lot of fun, and we covered just about everyone on the team, so I've posted some more excerpts below.  I'd also like to thank Ed Stefanski for taking the time to hold the conference.  It was great to hear what his enthusiasm firsthand.

* Sweet Lou, recently rewarded with a contract worth $25 million, received high acclaim from Stefanski.  "I think Lou Williams is a hell of a basketball player, I really like the way the kid plays." 

* Stef revealed Thaddeus Young has spent the summer improving his ball-handling in preparation of seeing more minutes at the 3 position.  "There's no question he has gotten better."

* The Sixers are very pleased with the development of Marreese Speights at this point.  Stefanski gushed about the rookie, who he described as skilled and athletic.  Despite the rumors about Speights' work ethic, the skills are there, and the injury to Smith may give the kid an opportunity this season.

* Willie Green was given a vote of confidence from the Sixers GM.  For now, there are no more moves planned, so Willie is part of the team.  He also disclosed that Green was playing hurt last year, and was hopeful there would be some improvement this season.

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

It had been a while since Steve Mason saw himself.

Walking into the Barclays Center on Sunday, the Flyers’ goalie was 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances (see more recent Flyers numbers and stats).

A far cry of how Mason truly sees himself in net.

But heading into Wednesday’s rivalry clash with the Rangers, Mason will have something to build on, something he couldn’t say since Dec. 21 - the last previous time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a massive one for Mason considering all the key moments on Sunday the Flyers hope invigorate his confidence.

Without numerous clutch stops from their goalie, the Flyers don’t come back from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, in overtime. Mason made four saves  — three on four-time All-Star John Tavares — in just over a minute of a third-period power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill two New York man advantages in the final 10 minutes of regulation in order to force overtime.

The extra session is when Mason was just as good, if not better, stoning Tavares on a breakaway attempt that had game-winner written all over it. Mason made four saves in overtime after 13 in the third period.

“I was happy with the way that, personally, this game went for myself,” Mason said Sunday. “It’s been a tough stretch and this is more the type of game that I expect of myself. In recent games, the team was lacking the big saves and tonight it shows what kind of difference it can make.”

It was a massive performance heading into a massive three-game stretch against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

“Mase made some huge saves for us,” Simmonds said. “It allowed us to get back in that game.

“It’s not just Mase [with the] ups and downs. Everyone in here has been kind of fighting it and squeezing sticks pretty tight. That one felt good and I think Mase led the charge for sure.”

Mason understands just one game doesn’t turn around a season.

“It’s nice to feel good after a game,” Mason said. “At the same time, whether you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short mindset and get ready for the next one.”

That brings the Flyers to Madison Square Garden Wednesday to face the Rangers, who they’ve lost five straight games to dating back to last season. Mason hasn’t had much luck against New York this season, allowing seven goals in two losses with an .860 save percentage. However, in 2015-16, Mason put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in five games against the Rangers.

“That’s going to be a tough game going into MSG,” Mason said Tuesday (see story).

The good thing: Mason was in New York two days ago, remembering what he can be.

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

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Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

Bol Bol, the 17-year-old son of the late Manute Bol, is a top high school basketball prospect with offers from schools like Arizona, Kansas and Creighton. This highlight tape should give you an idea why.
 
Bol, whose father played in the NBA for parts of 12 seasons, including 215 games for the Sixers, now attends the famed Mater Dei High School in California and played in his first game of the season this past weekend. Listed as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class by Scout, Bol started his season off with a big 21-point, 10-rebound effort.
 
Take a look at the highlight tape from the 6-foot-11 Bol and expect to see him carry on his father’s legacy on the court at a major NCAA college basketball program soon.