Jrue Holiday Has the Game of His Life, Sixers Blow Out Reeling Knicks

Jrue Holiday Has the Game of His Life, Sixers Blow Out Reeling Knicks

So apparently a lot can change over the course of an NBA season. Not
that the Sixers are a lot better then when they first faced the Knicks
in a humiliating home-and-home, losing both games by dramatic margins,
or that the Knicks are necessarily all that much worse, but suffice to
say, the third time was the charm for the 76ers, as they rode excellent
scoring nights from their top three perimeter scorers to a blowout just
as bad as those the Knicks inflicted on the Sixers not all that long
ago, winning 97-80 in a game that wasn't even as close as the final
score indicates.

Jrue Holiday proved that he is not one to coast
on his banked accomplishments, following his All-Star nomination on
Thursday with arguably his best game of the season and possibly ever,
scoring a career-high 35 (and he could've had more had the game not
devolved into garbage time in the 4th) on 16-25 shooting, with six
assists, five rebounds and (perhaps most impressively) just one
turnover. The real crazy thing about Holiday's performance in this one
is that it didn't even seem all that extraordinary—he got to the basket
easily a couple times to start off the game, and from there it was just
Jrue doing Damaj. This guy is special, for real.

Evan Turner was
a worthy second option tonight, scoring 20 on 8-14 shooting, with six
boards and three assists, keeping the team running (if not exactly
humming) during Jrue's brief absences on the floor. The Extraterrestrial
has now scored well in three straight, hopefully all the way out of the
scoring doldrums he was mired in for the better part of a month. And
Nick Young, getting a rare start, also showed he could be a good
sidekick to Jrue, nailing a couple threes that Holiday set him up for,
and getting to the line a team-high eight times on his way to 20 points.
The frontcourt didn't produce a ton, but they were solid defensively,
Spencer Hawes even ending with an uncharacteristic four blocks.

Ironically,
the one guy on the Knicks who really gave the Sixers trouble was the
one guy who wasn't there for the first two blowouts—Amar'e Stoudemire,
who the Ballers have always had trouble with and who they certainly had
no answer for in the post tonight, Amar'e ending with 20 points on 8-13
shooting. Luckily, Amar'e only played about 26 minutes, and the rest of
the Knicks were a scoring disaster, with the Knicks' other four most
prolific shooters—Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and the
recently returned Raymond Felton—combining to go an unthinkably
miserable 11-51, essentially shooting New York out of the game. Good
Sixer defense, perhaps, but likely also just an off night from a team
that appears to have lost its groove a little, losing seven of its last
12.

An interesting thing worth monitoring with these Sixers is
the steadily vanishing role of Dorell Wright. DWRIGHTWAY1 appeared to
have established hiimself as an important cog in the Sixers rotation in
late December and early January, and he won the Sixers that game in
Memphis nearly single-handedly, but after playing less than five minutes
against the Raptors and Bucks, Dorell picked up his first DNP-CD of the
season last night. Wright's minutes appear to have mostly been funneled
to Damien Wilkins, which is pretty odd considering that it would seem
Wilkins' best-case upside is as a poor man's Dorell Wright, and just
about every available metric rates Wright's contributions this year far
over Damien's. (This would appear to be a Doug Collins' Dawg House
alert—get out soon, Dorell.)

Big win for the Sixers, and one
which leaves them—believe it or not—just two games out of the playoffs
in the super-sad Eastern Conference, a margin likely to shrink even
smaller after the C's get a visit from the Miami Heat tomorrow
afternoon. Whether they can build on it or not will become clearer on
Monday, when the team hosts the Memphis Grizzlies, starting to roll
again with wins in four of their last five. I predict that if Jrue
Holiday makes 16 field goals again, their chances will be decent.

Nick Pivetta excited for big-league debut — even if rainout delays it a few days

Nick Pivetta excited for big-league debut — even if rainout delays it a few days

The Phillies' starting pitching rotation, for the time being, features four arms that were acquired in trades that have coincided with the team's rebuild, which started after the 2014 season.

Nick Pivetta will become the latest to join the group when he is officially activated. He was in the Phillies' clubhouse Tuesday afternoon and was scheduled to pitch on Wednesday, but those plans changed when Tuesday night's game against the Miami Marlins was postponed because of rain.

No makeup date was announced.

The rainout means Pivetta's big-league debut will be pushed back. Vince Velasquez, Tuesday's scheduled starter, will pitch Wednesday night against the Marlins and Jeremy Hellickson will start the series finale Thursday. Jerad Eickhoff and Zach Eflin are likely to stay on turn and pitch Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles. That means Pivetta's debut will likely happen Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. Not a bad venue for an unveiling. He does not have to be activated until that day. In the interim, the Phils are carrying an extra reliever in Mark Leiter Jr.

Even with the weather-related change in plans, Pivetta was thrilled to be in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

"I've achieved my goal of getting here eventually," the 24-year-old right-hander said. "I'm happy to be here. I want to get my feet on solid ground right now and just take it one step at a time.”

Pivetta is a Canadian from Victoria, British Columbia, about 100 miles northwest of Seattle. As a kid, he watched Toronto Blue Jays' games on television and idolized Roy Halladay. (see story).

Victoria must now be Phillies territory. Michael Saunders, the team's rightfielder, also hails from the town.

"You see it more and more, more Canadians getting into the game of baseball, so it’s always nice to see another one in the locker room," said Saunders, 30. "Clearly he’s pitched well enough to earn his way up here and I’m looking forward to seeing him play."

Pivetta is 6-5, 225 pounds. He was originally selected by the Washington Nationals in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. The Phillies acquired him for Jonathan Papelbon and cash in July 2015.

Pivetta will take Aaron Nola's spot in the rotation. Nola is on the disabled list with tightness in his lower back. He could be back as soon as early next week.

Nola said he probably could have pushed himself and stayed in the rotation, but the team chose to be cautious.

"I don’t think it's any big thing," Nola said.

With Pivetta on board, the Phillies now have four pitchers in their rotation that came over in "rebuild" trades.

Eflin arrived in the December 2014 deal that sent Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers.

Eickhoff came in the July 2015 deal that sent Cole Hamels to the Rangers.

Velasquez came in the December 2015 trade that sent Ken Giles to the Astros.

Pivetta did not immediately pitch well upon joining the Phillies organization. He had a 7.31 ERA in seven starts for Double A Reading in the summer of 2015. In 28 1/3 innings, he struck out 25 and walked 19.

Pivetta was a different pitcher last season. He registered a 3.27 ERA in 148 2/3 innings between Double A and Triple A, struck out 138 and walked 51. That performance earned him a spot on the team's 40-man roster.

“In 2016, he showed us the potential to be a really good major-league pitcher,” said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development. “He was a little excitable after the trade in 2015, but he came back calm and confident last year. His stuff is legit — 93 to 96 (mph) with life on the fastball, good breaking ball and good feel for the changeup.”

His control continued to improve this season as he got off to a 3-0 start at Triple A. He pitched 19 innings, gave up just two earned runs, walked just two and struck out 24.

"Just getting ahead with my fastball," said Pivetta, explaining the early-season success that put him in line for the promotion. "First-pitch strikes are big. Even if I get into that 0-1 count or that 1-1 count, getting back to that 1-2 count is big. So being able to even up those counts have been really big for me, as well, and being able to finish off with my off-speed later in the counts, too.”

Pivetta pitched for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic in March. He made one start and took a no-decision in the team's 4-1 loss to Columbia. Pivetta worked four innings and allowed one run.

“That helped me," Pivetta said. "It was awesome. It was like having playoff baseball in March."

It's not clear how long Pivetta will stay in the big-league rotation. But he has more than put himself on the map, and if he continues to pitch well, he'll make more starts with the big club this season.

“I did not expect to be here this early in the season," he said. "I am happy to be here right now. I'll see how long I stay and just have fun while I am here.”

Ron Jaworski: Carson Wentz shouldn't 'have any input' in Eagles' 2017 NFL draft

Ron Jaworski: Carson Wentz shouldn't 'have any input' in Eagles' 2017 NFL draft

Should the Eagles give Carson Wentz a say in who they take in the draft?

He is the future of the franchise after all.

"If there's any player on our roster that has insight into a guy in free agency or the draft, it's part of our information gathering," Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said last Thursday.

So the Eagles will at least listen to Wentz — and others — about certain prospects. The second-year QB got a firsthand look at a few receiving prospects during offseason workouts. 

However, former Eagles quarterback and ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski thinks it would be a "mistake" to give Wentz any input into the team's draft decision-making. 

"I don't think the quarterback should have any input in the draft," Jaworski said Tuesday. "Plain and simple. The quarterback should quarterback his football team. I know he'll be a teammate, but the Eagles — like every other team in this league — do extensive scouting. They know what they're doing, they'll select the player they believe is the best player."

Jaws would know -- he made that very mistake once.

"I had someone ask me a question back in 1978 or '79," Jaworski said. "They said, 'Hey Jaws, what do you think the Eagles need?' And I said we could probably improve our wide receiver position. 

"Oh, by the way, Harold Carmichael is one of our wide receivers, the next time I saw him he said, 'Hey, what are you talking about?' So it was a mistake, and I apologized to Harold and that was the last comment I ever made about the draft and my teammates. So I think players ought to shut up and let the front office make those decisions."

To be fair, Carmichael held a little more weight in his day than Nelson Agholor or Dorial Green-Beckham do now. 

Jaworski went on to tell a wild story of his own draft day in 1973 (watch video here), and also made the case for the Eagles to stock up on cornerbacks in the draft (watch video here).