So Glad Jrue Made the All-Star Game Instead of Those Other Dudes on Good Teams

So Glad Jrue Made the All-Star Game Instead of Those Other Dudes on Good Teams

When Golden State's David Lee was interviewed after a recent Warriors
win about the possibility of being honored with an All-Star nod, he said
that what would make the nomination so special was that it would come
because his team had played well, reflecting better on him by
comparison. Needless to say, this was not the case with our own Jrue
Holiday, but if I were him, I would find the honor of being chose in
spite of my team far more flattering and special than being honored
because of my team. If you're chosen as an All-Star when your team has a
16-24 record and hasn't won consecutive games since November, you must
have been really, really good this season.

Jrue Holiday has been really, really good this season. Better
than we would have thought, better than we could have expected, better
than we might've even hoped. He was put in just about every possible
position to flounder—given far more responsibility than he had in
previous years, but with far fewer weapons to work with—and still
managed to put up not just career numbers, but numbers nobody else in
the league is putting up. (The list of players averaging 19 points and
nine assists starts and ends with Jrue.) When watching him put in a
signature takeover performance during that game against the Raptors, I
posed the question (to myself) "Has watching Jrue this year been worth
having to watch the rest of the team?" I concluded that indeed, it had.

Jrue's numbers (and he's not just a numbers guy, he's damn
impressive to watch as well) have been good enough this year that his
All-Star candidacy should've been a no-brainer. But certain
coaches—let's call one of them D. Collins, for example—insist that when
choosing All-Stars, you work from the top of the standings down, and if
you come up with enough plausible candidates before you get to the 9th
and 10th seeds, tough luck for the guys on those lottery-bound teams.

And so candidates like Brooklyn's Deron Williams, Milwaukee's
Brandon Jennings, and especially New York's J.R. Smith were given
protracted consideration for All-Star status, with three of the four TNT
analysts choosing Smith to just one (Barkley, duh) going to bat for The
Damaja. No matter that all three's stats were easily inferior to
Holiday, that D-Will was so bad at the start of the year that his coach
basically got fired for it, and that Milwaukee and New York would gladly
trade either Jennings or Smith for Holiday in a heartbeat—these guys
were on teams with winning records, therefore they must have been
worthier than Holiday.

Thankfully, Jrue was the one who got the nod—along with the
Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving, who had an even worse record (but arguably an
even more impressive season) than Holiday. As happy as I was that Jrue
had been selected, it's nothing compared to how angry I would've been if
we were deprived of the One Good Thing that could've come out of the
Bynumless era of the 2012-13 76ers because coaches decided that other
dudes should be awarded for having better teammates. The TNT bros still
waxed infuriantingly rhapsodic about Smith's snub—et tu, Ernie
Johnson?—but whatever. Justice was done.

So for the second straight year, the Sixers have a first-time
All-Star. But more than Iguodala's selection last year—which, while not
undeserved, was certainly helped dramatically by the Liberty Ballers'
excellent first half to the season—this one really feels earned. The
Sixers have been awful to watch this year, but at least we have Jrue,
one of the best guys in the East, representing for us, making sure we
don't fade into total national anonymity as we wait for Bynum's legs to
grow back. We can't wait to see him running the fast break with Paul
George and getting backdoor feeds from Joakim Noah in Houston a couple
weeks from now.

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Phillies corner outfielder/infielder Howie Kendrick is finally nearing a return. He'll begin a rehab assignment tonight with Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Kendrick has been out since April 15 with an oblique strain. He did defensive work during the Phillies' road trip and has been taking outdoor batting practice at home this week.

Kendrick was off to a hot start when the oblique injury sent him to the DL. In 10 games, he went 13 for 39 (.333) with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs. He batted second all 10 games.

The Phillies are in a bad offensive funk and could use Kendrick's bat over Michael Saunders' right now. The Phils' 1-2 hitters were among the most productive in the majors in April, hitting close to .350 for the month. They're down to .282 on the season as Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera have slumped in May.

With Clay Buchholz likely out for the season and Saunders providing little offense so far, the Phillies' trio of offseason veteran additions has not panned out through two months.

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

It's only natural to have some reservations about Lane Johnson after he was suspended for 10 games last season for his second violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. One more positive test and the Eagles will lose their starting right tackle for two full years.

Fortunately, Johnson seems determined to avoid any future run-ins with the league. The 27-year-old changed his entire approach this offseason, cutting out negative influences or any other voices at all while preparing for the 2017 season.

"I just trained by myself back in Oklahoma," Johnson said after the Eagles' first full-team practice of OTAs on Tuesday. "Trained by myself and everything went good. I came back, my body weight is about 325, so I'm heavier than I've ever been. I feel in good shape, and I have a lot to prove, so it's a big year for me.

"I did everything by myself. There wasn't going to be any mishaps."

Two suspensions totaling 14 games later, Johnson has gained a healthy fear of being unknowingly steered toward an illegal supplement.

Johnson tested positive for PEDs before the season last year after taking a banned substance known as peptides and was eventually slapped with the full 10-game penalty after a lengthy appeal process. The fifth-year veteran always maintained peptides were not listed on the label of the offending supplement.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the players' association in November after the suspension was upheld. Its status is ongoing.

Johnson also served a four-game suspension in 2014.

When he's not in trouble with the league office, Johnson is a vital cog in the Eagles' offense. They went 5-1 with him and 2-8 without him last season.

"I feel like whenever I'm playing, I try to be the best right tackle in the NFL," Johnson said. "My deal is to just stay on the field, play a complete season, and I think it will be a big year for me."

Johnson isn't concerned about losing a competitive edge, physically or mentally, after dropping supplements altogether.

"I've always been the athlete that I am," Johnson said. "That's what I'll continue to prove. I'm gonna go play and show people what I can do."

Signed in January 2016 to a five-year contract extension worth $56 million, Johnson has plenty to prove. He was working out in place of 35-year-old left tackle Jason Peters, who wasn't at the start of OTAs, on Tuesday and is expected to one day replace the nine-time Pro Bowl selection permanently.

Despite his checkered past, it sounds like Johnson knows exactly what's on the line, which is why he chose to go it alone this offseason. The only person you can trust is yourself.

Then again, Johnson still has his vices, which might raise some eyebrows with the news he's up to 325 pounds — eight more than his listed weight.

"My big deal is cutting out the ice cream, the Ben & Jerry's late at night — the stuff you want to indulge in," Johnson said. "If you get me on an ice cream binge, it's not good."

The Eagles can probably deal with a little extra ice cream, just as long as Johnson remains committed to keeping dodgy supplements out of his body.