Slaying Old Demons: Collins's Crew Looks to Roll Momentum Over Magic

Slaying Old Demons: Collins's Crew Looks to Roll Momentum Over Magic

Of all the bitter defeats the Sixers had this season, the one they suffered at the hands of the Magic in January was certainly one of them. You remember, of course--Sixers up three with a half-minute to go, Lou Williams splits a pair of free throws to make it four, Orlando's Jason Richardson squares up behind the three-point arc, Andre Iguodala goes cuticle-to-cuticle with his shooting hand, J-Rich gets the bucket, the foul call and the free-throw to tie the game up. In OT, the Magic take a one-point lead thanks in part to a more legit four-point play from JJ Redick, Iguodala's potential game-winning banker lips out, and the Sixers lose what could would should have been their best victory of the season.

Well, break out your best Mel Gibson impersonations, because there's definite payback in the air tonight as the old new-look Magic come to Philadelphia for a piece of the once-again surging 76ers.

I'll always maintain that the Sixers were the better team the last time they faced the Magic--and to my rare credit, the records of the two teams since have borne this out somewhat. Philly has gone 7-3 since dropping the heartbreaker, with wins against four likely playoff teams, while Orlando has gone just 6-5, with all their wins coming against sub-.500 squads. Despite a solid (though far from easy) win last night against the Clippers, the Magic have lagged greatly in recent weeks, largely due to the absence of starting power forward Brandon Bass, the team's only real post threat outside of beast center Dwight Howard, and the struggles of supposed difference-maker Gilbert Arenas, averaging just 8.4 ppg on horrendous 35% shooting.

And of course, the Sixers have rebounded brilliantly from their rough loss in New York, responding by posting their biggest win of the year (in size if not in stature) in Atlanta. With the team's confidence at an all-time high (""Every night we feel like we can win every ballgame," said Elton Brand recently. "It wasn't like that earlier in the season") they get to go back home to Wells Fargo, where they're 16-8 for the season. A quote posted by the Sixers twitter feed even has Magic coach Stan Van Gundy saying that the Sixers are playing as well as anyone besides the Heat in the East right now. Not sure if I'd go that far, but the fact that it's even suggestible is unbelievable for a team that started the year 3-13.

7:00 tip from the WFC. It's still going to be a tough matchup--any time you're going against Dwight Howard with Spencer Hawes and Tony Battie as your primary centers, you're in for a long-ass night--but for the first time since the two teams met in the playoffs two years ago, I feel like the Sixers have a real chance against the Magic tonight. Here's hoping they don't prove me horribly wrong.

Philadelphia Union announce 2017 broadcast schedule

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Philadelphia Union announce 2017 broadcast schedule

CHESTER, Pa. (Feb. 21, 2017) – Philadelphia Union today announced their 2017 Major League Soccer broadcast schedule, with all 34 of the club’s matches available live, on local and national television. A total of four matches will be featured on local broadcast television via 6abc, with 20 matches on The Comcast Network (TCN) and five on Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (CSN). The Union are also slated to be on national television five times in 2017, appearing on ESPN four times and FS1 once.

Union supporters can catch the club on 6abc in four marquee fixtures: Saturday, April 22 vs. Montreal; Saturday, June 24 vs. D.C. United; Sunday, October 15 at Chicago; and Sunday, October 22 vs. Orlando on MLS Decision Day.

Additionally, the club will be on national television for the following games: Friday, April 14 vs. New York City FC (ESPN); Sunday, June 18 vs. New York Red Bulls (ESPN); Sunday, July 2 vs. New England (FS1); Sunday, September 17 at New York Red Bulls (ESPN); and Sunday, October 1 vs. the defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders FC (ESPN).

See below for a full summary of the Union’s 2017 MLS regular-season schedule, including all broadcast information:

Philadelphia begins the 2017 campaign by playing at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday, March 5 (TCN / 9:30 p.m. ET) before returning to Talen Energy Stadium for the 2017 home opener on Saturday, March 11 against Toronto FC (CSN / 4:30 p.m. ET). In addition to Season Tickets, fans can now purchase Partial Plans and Group Tickets for all Philadelphia Union matches at Talen Energy Stadium.  For the first time, the Union will be offering a Fully Flex 9 Game Plan where fans can select their games along with a Tiered Flex 5 Game plan. Fans can purchase or find out more info by visiting PhiladelphiaUnion.com/tickets or calling 1-877-21-UNION.

DeSean Jackson is playing the Eagles against the NFL

DeSean Jackson is playing the Eagles against the NFL

The Eagles sure could use a wide receiver, and DeSean Jackson is a free agent. Jackson even said it himself in an interview that ran on Tuesday: a reunion with the Eagles would be a good story.

Or perhaps a story that's almost too good to be true.

Don't get me wrong, Jackson could very well wind up back in an Eagles uniform once everything is said and done. He can become a free agent in March. There's an obvious need at wide receiver. Jackson never wanted to leave Philadelphia in the first place, and the person responsible for that — Chip Kelly — is long gone. It makes perfect sense.

So much sense, Jackson can use what is considered common knowledge around the NFL for leverage in contract negotiations with 31 other teams.

Jackson is a smart, calculating guy, especially when it comes to business. He doesn't even have to say he wants to play for the Eagles for people to presume the interest is there, and more to the point, he hasn't.

When a bunch of Philly reporters pressed Jackson about his impending free agency in October, he said there were no hard feelings with the Eagles. When confronted again in December, the three-time Pro Bowler responded that you never know what can happen. On Tuesday, Jackson flat out admitted he's thought about a potential return — while describing talk of it as "a lot of speculation."

There are reports the Eagles will pursue Jackson should he hit the market on March 9. The 30-year-old speedster will be happy to field their call.

Along with the rest of the calls he'll get from around the league.

Unlike the Eagles, Jackson has come right out and said he wants to remain in Washington, and as recently as two weeks ago. Whether the interest is mutual on the Redskins' part remains to be seen, particularly at Jackson's contract demands, but that's a lot stronger than any suggestion he's made to the contrary.

Another report emerged on Tuesday that indicates the Buccaneers are a potential landing spot for Jackson as well, citing a pre-existing rapport with quarterback Jameis Winston. In other words, at the very least, there are more teams competing for his services.

Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa Bay, the West Coast, wherever — this is ultimately going to come down to which one can or is willing to make the most attractive offer.

That might be strike one against the Eagles already. They don't have a great deal of room to maneuver under the salary cap as of now, and while additional money could become available, signing Jackson for around $10 million per year or more would be a strain no matter what.

Keep in mind, Jackson is simply answering the questions he's asked about the Eagles. He's not running around from one media outlet to the other trying to create a market there. And in all honesty, his answers have been lukewarm at best, essentially amounting to, Sure, I'll listen if the Eagles call. Why not?

In the meantime, that puts the rest of the NFL on notice. The Eagles can be very competitive in free agency when they choose to be, and if they really want Jackson — and there are people in high-ranking places that probably wouldn't mind that — they will be players. Even if the Eagles have no serious intention of chasing Jackson, the perception is out there.

Jackson certainly understands that, and he hasn't had to put much effort into keeping the fire burning. He's more or less let the flames fan themselves.

Ultimately, Jackson to the Eagles isn't the least bit unlikely. Yet the idea that he's going to show the club any more deference than another doesn't seem quite as plausible when his comments, this entire situation are placed under the microscope.

Words are cheap. Signing Jackson, on the other hand, will not be. Not for the Eagles. Not for anybody. Not while he's expertly pitting his suitors against one another in the DeSean Jackson Sweepstakes.

The winner isn't going to be based on sentimental favorite or nostalgia. It's who's going to make the best deal for Jackson.