News: Mike Vick Is an Eagle

News: Mike Vick Is an Eagle

Shocking, I know, but it seems we can't let his story go. No, I'm not talking about dog fighting, actions with which you still have every right to be sickened. It's the shooting that just happened to occur during his birthday party at the club restaurant whose own surveillance footage confirms Vick had already left.

The cops no longer believe he's a suspect and the case is closed. The NFL has shown no intention of suspending him. The Eagles do not plan to release their backup quarterback. The news cycle, on the other hand, is determined to feed you coverage of the Michael Vick story 24/7, even though there is no Michael Vick story.

I don't like talking about him any more than you like reading about it. However, it's not even disgust at this point. It's the lack of relevance. At one time, Vick was a superstar. Now he's just a well-paid substitute, slash part time decoy.

That's not to say his possible involvement in unique criminal activity isn't news. Of course it is, especially considering everything he's already gone through.

But it's over now, and it's been over with for awhile. We know he didn't pull the trigger. We know he didn't invite the "victim." The only thing we know for sure Michael Vick is guilty of is an error in judgment, and while we can all agree there is little room for such mistakes, it's not a crime in itself.

All this talk about Roger Goodell's visit—part of his summer routine of visiting as many training camps as he is able—is junk. The man has already spoken to Vick about the incident, and on several occasions actually. The NFL is not suspending him.

Nor are the Eagles releasing him. Why should they? They've undoubtedly monitored the situation as closely as anybody, determined he didn't break any laws or violate the terms of his contract, and Vick reported to camp on time. There is nothing else to it.

What I'm getting at is the coverage is excessive. I don't think people care. In this instance, the man is innocent. He's a backup quarterback, yet he's getting nearly as much press as the first-year starter, and it's not even the sort of press we really want to read.

In fact, I'll take it a step further and state once and for all it's a total non-story. Doesn't mean we have to support his actions that night, or that you even have to support him as a player or man if that's how you choose to feel. It's simply done. Finished.

Michael Vick plays for the Eagles. How he looks in practice is the only other pertinent information.

Villanova seniors reflect as winningest class in school history

Villanova seniors reflect as winningest class in school history

Senior Day is always one of the most anticipated days on the college basketball calendar. Second-ranked Villanova will honor its seniors prior to tomorrow's game against No. 23 Creighton at the Pavilion.

This year's ceremony takes on added importance. Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds have won more games than any class in Villanova history -- 123 wins, to be exact, compared to just 16 losses. The Wildcat seniors have won more than 88 percent of their games over the last four years. 

They have a 61-9 career record against Big East opponents and have won four straight regular season conference championships. They also won the 2015 Big East Tournament and of course, the 2016 NCAA Tournament. 

The list of accomplishments goes on. These Villanova seniors have a 45-1 record at the Pavilion and finished with a perfect 16-0 record against Big 5 competition. They are the first four-year class in Big 5 history to go undefeated against their city rivals.

They've accomplished plenty individually as well. Hart is the front runner for Big East Player of the Year honors and will likely be a first team All-American. Jenkins authored arguably the most famous shot in college basketball history, knocking down a buzzer-beating three-pointer to beat North Carolina in last season's championship game. Then there's Reynolds, who blossomed from little used reserve to a key starter on this year's national championship contender.

The mood, rightfully, will be celebratory for Senior Day on Saturday. Villanova is 26-3 on the season and is closing in on a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. But the Wildcats will also set out to atone for Wednesday's loss to Butler, the first ever loss at the Pavilion for the seniors.

I sat down with Hart, Jenkins and Reynolds to discuss their journey to this point as well as what still lies ahead.

A shared bond
Most college basketball classes are tight. But the bond between the Villanova seniors runs especially deep. It's evident listening to each of them discuss their shared friendship.

"Our relationship has grown over the years," Jenkins said. "It's continuing to grow now. We're just around each other all the time, we understand each other, we have a genuine love and we really care for each other and I think that spills onto the court."

"I don't like either of them," Reynolds joked before reflecting on the relationship he shares with his classmates. "It was something we were blessed to have, something that clicked. We found that we all had similar upbringings in many ways, which is something that contributed to it. Our parents have always taught us to realize that you're going to be a part of something bigger than you and that's OK."

The relationship between Jenkins and Hart dates back to their time as high school standouts in the Washington, D.C. area. 

"Me and Kris, being from the 301 (area code) we knew each other," Hart said. "And Darryl fit in well with us. After I committed (to play at Villanova), I remember texting Darryl during Sunday worship, I wasn't supposed to have my phone. But I wanted to know what his decision was. And he was like 'yeah I'm coming'. And one of the first things he said, not to sound corny, was 'let's do this, I want to win'. We started from there."

The legacy
If Reynolds' goal was to win, consider it a success. In addition to being the winningest class in school history, the Villanova seniors have won more games than any class in the long and storied history of the Big East conference.

"That's definitely an honor, definitely humbling," Hart said. "The Big East is one of the best conferences in the country, not just right now but tradition-wise. You've seen all the battles and to have that (record) is definitely cool. Something we can't really hang our hats on right now. Obviously, we have the rest of this year to keep working towards. But if we take a step back and look at that, that's something that's a great accomplishment. It's more so the hard work and everything that we put in on a day-to-day basis, it's not just the games. It's coming in, getting your shots up, working in the weight room, getting your body right. It's not just the games and that's something that means the most to us, just the grind. It's great to have it pay off in that kind of way."

In addition to the conference championships and the national title, one particular accomplishment stands out. Entering Saturday's game against Creighton, this group has yet to lose two games in a row during their college careers. The seniors have never experienced a losing streak; they always bounce back following a loss.

"We have great coaches and we have players that want to learn and want to get better and want to improve," Jenkins said. "So when we lose, we learn from that just as if we won. When we win a game we go back and watch film and come back and get better the next day. We do the same thing when we lose, nothing changes."

That approach is part of a winning culture that Reynolds believes is the root for all of Villanova's success over the past four years.

"The thing that I'm most proud of is the culture here," Reynolds explained. "There's a million programs out there and there's a million ways of doing it. Everybody has a different idea of how to do it. There's so many different ways to look at this game and approach this game. The fact that with all of our success, we've never bailed out on our culture, never bailed out on what this program is all about. The fact that we've stuck to our core values throughout these years is the thing you have to be most proud of, because a million things can be thrown at you, there's different trials and tribulations throughout the year. The fact you can stick to what you do and still be successful through that is a blessing in itself."

And while outsiders tend to focus on all the wins and the national championship, the players themselves find deeper meaning in the bonds they've developed.

"It's been a lot of fun. Obviously, we've had some very successful years here," Hart said. "Winning always makes things a little more fun. The national championship, that's something no one can take away from us. But the thing we value more than that national championship is the relationships. That's something we're going to take for the next 20, 30, 40 years. The (championship) rings, those can be lost, those can turn up missing. But the relationships are what we really take pride in, that's something we're always going to have."

A Villanova senior
Rarely does Hart give an interview without mentioning the role of the Villanova seniors. Following games, he's quick to point out what the seniors did well, or in most cases what they could have done better.

"Your role (as a senior) isn't to be the leading scorer or the one that's always going to get to play," he said. "It's to make sure you teach the younger guys how to be a Villanova basketball player, how to be men, how to grow up and be successful in this program. That's day by day -- you bring it in practice, you bring it every game and they see that and say 'OK, this is what a Villanova senior is supposed to be like, this is someone who is not going to break no matter what adversity he faces'. That's something we want to pass down to the younger guys." 

Seniors have become a dying breed in big time college basketball. But not at Villanova, where four-year players are the backbone of Wright's program. Reynolds best sums up the unique mindset of a Villanova senior. 

"A Villanova senior is all about everything but himself," he said. 'You hear about so many times guys become seniors in different places and they focus on themselves and their next step. Your job as a senior here is to make sure everyone else is okay, that this culture is staying alive. That this team is where it needs to be, that you and coach are on the same page. So it honestly is a role of selflessness in its purest form."

Jenkins expands on the importance of the leadership provided by the senior class.

"We all take a great deal of pride in it because when you get to this point a lot is expected of you," he said. "These younger guys look up to you, they believe in you. And the guys that were seniors before us set the standard real high and they expect nothing less. So we owe it to not only those guys but the younger guys and to ourselves to give it our best shot and make sure we continue to hold this program up high and be great Villanova seniors."

Finishing strong
The goal from here on out would appear to be obvious -- defending last year's national championship. It's a task this group realizes but doesn't emphasize. They prefer to stick with the mentality that has served them so well to this point.

"We're anxious to get to this last little stretch," Reynolds said. "As scared as we are of it, because we realize this our last stretch, we'll just approach it like we always have. Focus on what is at hand at the moment and over time it builds and builds and builds. We'll look up and hopefully it will be a month and some change later and we'll be where we want to be as a Villanova basketball team."

"We owe it to each other to finish this year out the right way," Hart said. "That might not be winning it all, but that's making sure we're all on the same page, making sure we're giving it up for each other. We're not going to judge this season on the last month. We're going to make sure we're the best Villanova basketball team at the end of the year and that's something we're going to judge ourselves on. 

"If we don't make it all the way but play the best we can, play the Villanova basketball way, we'll be able to look each other in the eye in the locker room. Obviously, we'll be sad, probably be some tears being shed, but we'll be able to look each other in the eye knowing we gave it up for each other. I think that's the biggest thing and the best feeling -- that we battled to the last second for our brothers."

Jahlil Okafor relieved deadline has passed; Bryan Colangelo explains why no trade

Jahlil Okafor relieved deadline has passed; Bryan Colangelo explains why no trade

Jahlil Okafor is still a Sixer.

He's not a New Orleans Pelican or a Portland Trail Blazer or a Dallas Maverick. He's not going back home to Chicago or to Indiana to play with Paul George. He's in Philly for at least the next 26 games and he's ready to get to work.

"I was happy that the trade deadline was over with and I knew where I'd be finishing the rest of the season," Okafor said. "After the past couple weeks I couldn't wait until 3 o'clock yesterday would pass, which means I wouldn't have to worry about where I would be and have to deal with all the trade rumors.

"It's a sigh of relief. I'm glad it's over with. I'm still a Sixer so I'm excited about playing tonight."

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo on Friday spoke at length about the team's future. He's said he's planning to build around the team's "transformational players" in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

He also addressed the deal that sent Nerlens Noel to Dallas for a protected first-round pick, Justin Anderson and Andrew Bogut. With all of the rumors swirling around Okafor, there wasn't much chatter around Noel.

The biggest reason for Noel's departure is his contract. Noel is set to become a restricted free agent this summer. He's a desirable player in today's NBA as a big that can run the floor and offer elite rim protection. Okafor can't become a restricted free agent until 2019.

Colangelo said there was a market for Okafor, but he just couldn't find the right deal.

"The market dictates what’s there and interestingly given our situation with the multiple talented bigs I think it's safe to say people view us as a place to come if they are looking for a big," Colangelo said. "Several bigs were out there and available on the market. A trade went down early. (Jusuf) Nurkic going to Portland. There was some conversation with Jahlil early, some advanced discussions to the point we pulled him out of a game situation just because there was so much at stake given the terms of a proposed transaction."

It seems like Okafor has been on the trade block since the day he was drafted third overall in 2015. With Embiid's emerging as a star and Noel's being the team's longest-tenured big, it had been difficult to see Okafor's long-term fit with the Sixers.

To Okafor's credit, he's taken it all in stride. As Colangelo alluded to, he had "advanced" talks on a deal that would send Okafor to Portland. The talks got serious enough to where Okafor was held out of a win over the Heat and began the handshaking ritual of a player on the move. He was also held out of the next game in Charlotte.

Through all of it, Okafor wasn't bitter. He just quietly kept working.

"I never looked at me being shopped as a negative thing," Okafor said. "It's just part of the business... I am here so there are no hard feelings or anything like that. No, not at all.

"I never felt disconnected from the team. When I wasn't traveling with the team I was still here in the facility with [Embiid and Simmons]. I was never just at home alone or anything like that. I was still with the team. Some of the coaches would stay back so I always felt connected with the Sixers."

Okafor will get his first action of the second half of the season tonight against the Wizards. He's been dealing with knee soreness, a result of a surgery to repair a torn meniscus last March. He said Friday afternoon that he's feeling healthy after the All-Star Break and the Rising Stars Challenge.

After all the speculation and rumors, Okafor just wants to play basketball.

"I think it's something a lot of players in the NBA have to deal with," he said. "We're all basketball players. We want to play well for ourselves and for our team.

"Whatever happens in a few months, we'll see what happens then. Right now I'm just worried about playing these last 26 games and playing well for the city and playing well for the team. "