But, Kevin Garnett! There's More to the 'Fair-Weather' Story!

But, Kevin Garnett! There's More to the 'Fair-Weather' Story!

Two huge disclaimers to get this started. First, I personally am a self-declared fair-weather fan when it comes to the Sixers. I want them to win, I enjoy them when they're winning, but I am not tuned-in—much less present at the arena—when times are tough. I go to a few games per season, winning or not, but my enthusiasm is negligible when the team stinks. The Sixers certainly have their diehards, and a few write for this site. I'm just not one of them. Second disclaimer: What Kevin Garnett thinks about Philly fans is about as relevant as what Old Man Knees thinks of the TD Garden security staff. So we'll just give this a quick minute, link to some telling numbers that Spike Eskin put together, and move on to the game at hand tomorrow night.

If you haven't heard or read already, here's what KG had to say about the difference between Celtics fans and Sixers fans, via NESN:

“Not even close,” Garnett said. “You’ve got fans, and then you’ve got fair-weather fans. Take that how you want.”

“[Celtics fans] it for 48 minutes from the tip on, so I can’t see a difference from minute to minute,” Garnett said. “I feel like every minute I look up, I see my family, I see people yelling, I see the drunk, fat guy. I can’t decipher one from the other. This crowd is ridiculous. I love it.”

With the Sixers playing somewhere between poor and mediocre basketball for nearly a decade, fan support has indeed fallen off. But, new ownership and an early surge of success saw an embarrassingly empty arena start to fill to a more respectable level, with some nights downright frenzied. Still, KG has a point. When the team was losing, the fans weren't there in droves. When they started winning, the fans returned.

Only thing is, the same thing happened in Boston…

Check out the numbers Spike put together at CBS Philly on where the Celtics and Sixers ranked during previous winning and losing seasons.

Great stuff by Spike, and if you dig even further, you'll probably see similar trends around the league.

The Sixers' season may end tomorrow at home, or it may live to fight another day. Either way, the 2011-2012 season will hopefully be remembered as a turnaround season for the fan experience as well as the on-court product. While Garnett was right to a degree, the fans didn't just come because the team was winning. On plenty of nights, they weren't. The Sixers won four more games than they lost this season (.530). Last season, they played .500 basketball. However, their percent-capacity attendance jumped from 72.6 to 86.1 from last season to this one. A lot of factors come into play, but I doubt the fair weather of being four games over .500 was the biggest reason for a 13.5% increase in attendance.

This season is tough to gauge in terms of these trends because it was shortened by the NBA's work stoppage. Did fan support wane in any way due to games not being played until Christmas? Or did the abbreviated schedule help concentrate the fan presence on game nights? Hard to say for sure.

The timing of the Sixers' early success probably helped quite a bit, but a change in ownership and efforts to bring the team back to prominence, focusing on the in-house fan experience (complete with better deals on tickets) likely had more to do with it. People are more excited about pro basketball in Philly than they've been in years. But, there's still a long way to go before the full engagement potential is reached.

Tomorrow night, KG will likely hear a large chorus of boos from the fans he just insulted. On the one hand, that may seem a dumb motivator to hand a desperate crowd. On the other, he was answering a question asked specifically about his thoughts on how the two crowds compare, and likely playing to his own. Plus, KG's not one to have a nervy game just because an away crowd is getting on him all night. 

Either way, it gives some added fervor to a do-or-die night in South Philly. 

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin: Adam Morgan is a definite bullpen candidate

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin: Adam Morgan is a definite bullpen candidate

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Just pitch.
 
Don’t worry about the role.
 
Just pitch.
 
That’s Adam Morgan’s mindset this spring.
 
“I’m just trying to show whoever needs to see it that I can be an asset to this team,” the left-hander said after his spring debut against the New York Yankees on Saturday (see story). “I’m just keeping it simple that way. I’m not trying to go out for that fifth (starting) spot. If the fifth spot opens up, I’d be more than willing to do that. If they want to put me in the bullpen, I’d be more than willing to do that. If they want me to be the backup catcher, I’ll be the backup catcher.”
 
The Phillies have plenty of candidates for backup catcher.
 
And the top five spots in their starting rotation, barring an unforeseen development, are accounted for.
 
But there is a way for Morgan to make this team.
 
“He’s definitely a bullpen candidate,” manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
Mackanin is on record as saying he’d like to have two lefties in what likely will be a seven-man bullpen. It might not work out that way, but that would be Mackanin’s preference.
 
Morgan is one of what appears to be four candidates along with Joely Rodriguez, Cesar Ramos and Sean Burnett. Ramos and Burnett are experienced major-league veterans in camp on minor-league contracts. Rodriguez is the only pure lefty reliever on the 40-man roster. Morgan, of course, is on the 40-man roster, but he’s mainly been a starter in his career.

There’s a long way to go in spring training and it would not be surprising to see general manager Matt Klentak add to the list of lefty relief candidates with some type of pickup before the end of camp.
 
But for now, it’s just these four.
 
Morgan, who turns 27 on Monday, started and pitched two scoreless innings against the Yankees on Saturday and will likely continue to have his innings stretched out throughout the Grapefruit League season, just in case he’s needed as a starter.

Ramos and Rodriguez both pitched an inning Saturday. Ramos allowed a hit and a run. Rodriguez had a clean inning. Burnett was tagged for two hits and two runs on Friday.
 
Morgan made 21 starts for the Phillies last season. He also made two relief appearances and finished the season with a 6.04 ERA. He was sent to Triple A in July and returned in mid-August. He made nine starts after returning and pitched at least six innings and gave up two or fewer earned runs in four of them.
 
During his time in Triple A, Morgan started throwing a two-seam fastball or sinker. He’s continued to throw it this spring and believes it will help him.
 
“I learned to trust the two-seamer last year and that’s what I hope to keep moving forward with,” he said.
 
Will it take him to the Phillies’ bullpen?
 
He hopes so. He got a taste of relieving last season and liked it.
 
“Oh, yeah, I loved it,” he said. “Every time the phone rang down there, I was on high alert. It was awesome. It’s a rush.
 
“But wherever I land, I land. I’d be willing to play anywhere on this team.”