Notes from a week of losing Sixers basketball

Notes from a week of losing Sixers basketball

While you were out tryptophanning it up this Thanksgiving season, the Philadelphia 76ers played a trio of basketball games, and like a good little bottoming-out basketball team, they lost all three of them. As I wrote earlier, this was the start to a pretty key stretch of the season for the 76ers, one that saw them playing a good number of teams they'll be in competition with for lottery balls come late May, and it was important for them to start to gain some separation from them in the race to the bottom. They've done that now--at 6-12, they now have the seventh-worst record in the league, with plenty of opportunity to sink even further--and though it's not always fun to watch, it's unquestionably important for the team's future.

Anyway, for a variety of reasons, it'd be pretty understandable if you took this last week off from Sixers basketball. If you did, here's a handful of things you missed that are of minor significance to the team's short-or-long-term outlook.

1. Defense is becoming increasingly come-as-you-are. In the three L's, the Sixers gave up an average of about 114 points per to the Magic, Pelicans and Pistons, and currently rank dead last in the league in terms of points, assists, blocks, steals, and three-pointers given up per game. That's due to a certain extent to the team playing at the top-rated pace in the league, leading to bigger totals in just about everything, but the Sixers are also giving up the fourth-worst three-point field-goal percentage and the eighth-worst two-point field-goal percentage on that gargantuan number of attempts, leading to predictably disastrous results.

The team's lassez-faire attitude in defending the three-point arc has always struck me as particularly egregious, to the point where I wondered if it was somehow Coach Brown's strategy to let other teams fire away from three, and just hope to get long rebounds off misses that they could take off the other way with. Given how furious Brown looked on the sideline as Brandon Davies repeatedly failed to switch onto Pelicans sharpshooter Ryan Anderson behind the arc off pick-and-pops on Friday night, I'm guessing that's probably not actually the case. Get it together, guys.

2. Thad's back. In the literal sense, Thad has returned to the team after three games missed while he was with his family after the tragic death of his nephew. In the less literal sense, however, Thad has also returned to form in the past week, averaging 21 and eight on 51% shooting over last week's three outings. He's also hitting from three again, draining six triples in 13 tries after going just 2-10 in his nine previous contests, and playing with the kind of energy and activity we've come to expect from Thad, especially over last season. It's not enough to help the team win games when nobody else seems to be giving a damn on the defensive end, but that's fine for now.

3. Evan is hitting from three again. After an absolutely brutal start to the season from range--an incomprehensible 6-39 over his first 15 games--Evan Turner drained a much more reasonable six of ten tries from deep this week, including a 3-3 night from beyond against the Pelicans. Evan gave good offensive efforts in all three games, keeping up his season-long consistency with an average of 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists on 56% shooting in the three L's. The defense comes and goes (mostly goes) with the Extraterrestrial, but as long as he can keep those offensive numbers up, and if he starts to hit the three with any degree of consistency he'll have some serious trade value when the new year rolls around.

4. Hollis Thompson has taken over from James Anderson in the starting lineup. Not guaranteed to stick, but on Sunday, Coach Brown tinkered with his starting five for non-injury-related reasons for the first time all season, inserting Hollis Thompson at the three, sliding Evan to the two and moving James Anderson to the bench. Thompson had been playing better off the bench, and it's been a season-long struggle for Anderson to find consistency, so the move wasn't terribly surprising, though Brown remarked that the switch was for defensive purposes against the sizeable Pistons, and is not necessarily something to be read into much.

I'm fine with the lineup switch on a per-matchup basis, but I still like Anderson more in the starting five--mostly because I don't like Turner at the two so much for this team, and I still believe in Anderson developing into something resembling a starting two-guard in this league. Anyway, Thompson's performance against Detroit (Six points, six rebounds, three assists, four fouls) was mostly middling, and Anderson had 11 points off the bench, so it seems pretty likely that the adjustment will be reversed in time for tomorrow night's game against the Magic. Worth keeping an eye on, though.

5. Anthony Davis went down. This is obviously related to the Sixers only tangentially, but New Orleans (and the NBA community in general) took a big hit in yesterday's Pelicans-Knicks game when Anthony Davis left with what turns out to have been a fracture in his left hand. Davis could miss about a month or longer with the injury, which is a really bad break for a team that was just starting to find its groove, crawling their way back up to .500. They were able to hold on to beat the ailing Knicks last night without their star forward, but their schedule doesn't have a lot of cupcake games on it the rest of the calendar year, and Davis--owner of the league's second-best PER--will certainly be missed.

This news is of note to the Sixers because of the draft pick owed to them by New Orleans in next year's draft, which the Pelicans get to keep if it lands in the top five. Losing Davis for a month or so won't likely put the Pelicans in danger of dropping that far in the standings, but it might keep at least them in the lottery, which is good news for the Sixers. Still, AD is one of the league's great young stars, and no side benefit to the Sixers would really be worth any threat to his long-term greatness, so we here at the Level wish him a thorough recovery.

Oh, and Tony Wroten's back. He did this the other night, which was cool:

Sixers return to action tomorrow night at home to the Magic. As my father would say, hope you all had a happy Tanksgiving.

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy dies at 48

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AP Images

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy dies at 48

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy has died in Orlando.

Police say the 48-year-old former Seattle Seahawks star was found dead on Tuesday morning.

Orlando Police Department public information officer Wanda Miglio said the circumstances surrounding his death are still unknown, but that there is nothing suspicious about his death. An investigation is being conducted.

One of the best defensive lineman of his generation, Kennedy was a star in his 11 seasons in the NFL with the Seahawks. He became the second Seattle player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. He was an unmovable wall as a dominant defensive tackle, and a quiet, gentle soul away from the field never interested in finding himself in the spotlight.

Kennedy was an eight-time Pro Bowler and won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 1992.

"Really sad to lose a guy like Cortez Kennedy," Broncos' general manager John Elway tweeted Tuesday. Elway was chased around by Kennedy twice a year for much of the 1990s as competitors in the AFC West. "A great personality, a great player and I enjoyed competing against him."

Even though he last played for the Seahawks in 2000, he remained a significant part of the organization. He was a mainstay around the team during training camp and would occasionally roll through the locker room during the regular season grabbing a few minutes with anyone -- players, coaches, media -- up for a chat.

"My heart hurts," current Seahawks offensive lineman Justin Britt tweeted. "We lost a truly great player but even better person."

10 observations from Day 1 of Eagles' OTAs

10 observations from Day 1 of Eagles' OTAs

There was finally some football in South Philly on Tuesday as the Eagles kicked off the first round of their OTAs. 

Aside from a few notable absences -- Fletcher Cox, Jason Peters, Donnie Jones -- the Eagles had just about everyone on the field (see story)

Here are 10 observations from Tuesday's practice: 

1. Here's how the first-team offense looked: 
QB: Carson Wentz
RB: LeGarrette Blount
TE: Zach Ertz
OL (left to right): Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Halapoulivaati Vaitai
WR: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Jordan Matthews

2. Here's how the first-team defense looked: 
LDE: Brandon Graham
LDT: Destiny Vaeao
RDT: Tim Jernigan
RDE: Vinny Curry
LBs: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks
S: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod
CB: Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson. 

Note: In the nickel package, rookie third-rounder Rasul Douglas came on the field as an outside cornerback and Mills slid into the slot. 

3. Early in the practice, in an offense-only drill, the Eagles were trying to audible into a new play, but there was some confusion with Blount, who didn't seem to know the play. Blount is still obviously learning the playbook, but it shows the respect they have for him that he was working with the ones already. 

4. The play the Eagles wanted to get into during that drill was a good one. Wentz rolled out to his right and found Jeffery streaking across the field. The two seem to be getting on just fine. 

Although later in 11-on-11s, Wentz tossed up an ill-advised pass deep to Jeffery in tight coverage and the ball was picked by McLeod. Jeffery will win a lot of battles, but that one was too much. 

5. Linebacker Joe Walker and cornerback Ron Brooks were on the field on Tuesday but didn't participate in team drills. Walker (ACL) and Brooks (quad tendon) are both recovering from significant injuries. 

6. The Eagles lined up a few times with Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey on the field together. Those few times, Sproles was in the backfield and Pumphrey lined up in the slot. It's early, but we might get to see some creativity from Doug Pederson with these two this year. 

7. Dillon Gordon, whom the Eagles signed as an undrafted rookie last year, did something interesting on Tuesday. The offensive tackle, who played tight end in college, took a few reps at tight end in limited offensive drills. That's intriguing because if he could play the role of an extra tackle during the season, he'd have something Matt Tobin doesn't: the ability to actually become a receiver, not just an eligible one. 

8. Robinson, who is getting run at corner with the first team, won a jump ball with Dorial Green-Beckham on a deep ball. It was an impressive play by Robinson, but DGB mistimed his jump. 

The best defensive play of the day came from Najee Goode in 7-on-7s. The veteran backup linebacker and special teamer dropped back and dove backward to break up a pass off the hand of Nick Foles. 

9. Obviously, there's no hitting yet, but Derek Barnett had a good first day going against the vets. Sure, Lane Johnson completely shut him down on one play, but Barnett showed off a variety of moves. 

10. The Eagles' two rookie receivers worked with the third team on Tuesday, while DGB and Nelson Agholor worked with the twos. Shelton Gibson showed off his quickness and Mack Hollins' size and speed combo wasn't any less impressive. Also, Hollins wasn't wearing gloves, but it didn't seem to affect his ability to catch. 

Stupid observation of the day: Thanks to his afro and thick beard, Seumalo kind of looks like a lion with a mane.