12 Days of Philly Christmas: Day 3, Win Free Darko's Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac

12 Days of Philly Christmas: Day 3, Win Free Darko's Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac

To be eligible for our 12 Days of Philly Christmas
drawing to win a copy of Free Darko's book, simply leave an intelligent comment on this
post and be sure to enter your real email address OR send a tweet on
Twitter with the following message, "@The700Level I'd like to win Free Darko's Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac, Please! T7Lxmas 3:
Feel free to do both if you'd like.

Today, we're not only giving away a copy of the amazing FreeDarko presents The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac, but we also have a chat we did with one of the main brains behind the amazing creation. Nathaniel Friedman of Free Darko and the Sporting Blog among other places answers our questions.

Enrico: Perhaps, if you like, you could briefly tell us about your Philly ties?

Nathaniel Friedman aka Bethlehem Shoals: Myself, Big Baby (illustrator/designer), and
Silverbird5000 (stats) all went to Haverford College, and lived in
Philly after graduating. I was in the area a grand total of eight
years. Also, my mother grew up in Bucks County, and a couple of my
aunts and uncles stayed in the area, so I was around there a lot when I
was younger.

E: One
of the main points of the FD Manifesto states "We find rooting for the
home team spiritually and emotionally limiting." Do you think this
holds true in all cities, specifically in a very loyal sports city like

Shoals: I'd say a lot of the Manifesto—which is a
stark, go-for-broke version of what I actually believe on the
subject—was a direct result of, or reaction to, my time in
Philadelphia, around Philly fans and teams, etc. In fact, that's
probably true for a lot of what I believe about sports. If you took the
book, and completely inverted every single word, you might have the
perfect Philly fan's Bible.

E: One of my favorite sections was the "jerseys
for every occasion." (Example: at a wedding the best man could rock a
Barkley Rockets jersey and the ring bearer could sport a Iverson
Sixers jersey.) Now how about Christmas eve dinner at Aunt Marie's?

Shoals: Do they make James Naismith masks?

E: For
the few kids out there who haven't yet seen the book, Gilbert Arenas
writes the foreword and sets up the book as being about the antics of
NBA players. When it comes to appreciating a players game and antics on
an individual level, Allen Iverson immediately comes to mind. Do you
think if you guys did this book 5-7 years ago, Bubba Chuck would have
warranted a more in-depth chapter instead of a Newport News mayoral
candidacy and a glossary item?

Shoals: We've been asked this a lot. The reason
we didn't do an Iverson section, or anything specifically
Jordan-centric, is because they're too important for that little space.
One or both of them are mentioned in like half the essays. And I
actually think Iverson warrants more consideration now than he would've
5-7 years ago, since we've really gotten a chance to see how wide and
varied his influence has been. Also, perspective has allowed some of
the more visceral feelings for and against him to cool down.

E: This
book is pretty amazing and must have taken quite a while to put
together. Did you guys have any crazy ideas that seemed great in theory
but you just couldn't translate to paper? Maybe something that hit the
cutting room floor?

Shoals: There's a lot of stuff we discussed that we're
hoping to use in the future, so I don't want to spill the beans on
anything. But I will say that there was a comic strip that ended up
falling victim to time constraints, an oral history section
(AI-related, actually) that didn't end up coming together, and some
stats about degree of difficulty that we didn't have the necessary data

E: Speedy
Claxton got a shout out in the amazing 2000 NBA Draft section. He used
to live down the street from me in Havertown. Or maybe his mother did.
I'm not sure. But we always saw his sick Escalade. That was neat.

Shoals: I always liked that he and Lamar Odom were best
friends. And wondered if he ever considered reliniquishing the nickname
"Speedy" when he joined the Sixers, since AI was so obviously speedier.
He should've; sometimes I felt like it was tongue-in-cheek.

E: Regarding
Kobe, I couldn't agree more with the ambivalence factor. I often hate
him but then he's so good that it's hard not to love watching him. The
illustration accompanying his chapter is perfect. Did the art typically
come after the text or what kind of process did you guys use to come up
with some of the imagery?

Shoals: It depended. In the case of the Kobe one, I
had a clear idea of what I wanted and told Jacob (BBB). In other cases,
he'd just work off of the essay himself. Then sometimes, we'd go back
and forth on what visual motifs would both make sense and not look
stupid before he actually sat down and tried to draw something.

E: Finally,
some simple hoops talk. How bout a little Sixers analysis. Can Iguodala
and Thad Young coexist on a successful team in the East? Is there any
hope for Sammy D.? What are your thoughts on the future of the Sixers?

Shoals: I think they should trade Dalembert,
play Brand at center, Young at PF, and Iggy at the small forward. Then
get someone to reliably hit threes at shooting guard. . . as part of
what you get back for Dalemebert. That would solve everything, right?

E: Uh, I don't know how to solve this team.

Thanks, to Shoals for taking the time to answer our questions and you should all really go buy this book right now.

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

Every morning on his way to work, Jaylen Watkins drives down Broad Street toward the NovaCare Complex and thinks back to his three months on the Bills' practice squad.

The former fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2014 joined the Bills' practice squad after the Eagles cut him last Sept. 5 in what he has previously referred to as a “humbling” experience.

“I try to never forget that moment because it was definitely a soul-searching moment,” Watkins said on Wednesday. “Anyone who is released or fired from their job, you have to do some soul-searching.

“Every day that I drive down Broad Street, I think about Buffalo and how far I’ve come and just not wanting to be on a practice squad again. Nothing’s wrong with the practice squad, but my goal is to be on the 53 and making contributions to the team.”

Watkins isn’t just on the Eagles’ 53 after rejoining them late in 2015. For the rest of the 2016 season, he’s also expected to have a major role.

After Ron Brooks was lost for the season when he tore his quad tendon against the Vikings, Malcolm Jenkins is the Eagles’ new slot cornerback. That means that Watkins, 23, will be the second safety on the field in the team’s nickel package.

That meant that he played 46 snaps against the Vikings after Brooks went out. And with how much teams pass in the current NFL, he’ll probably play a considerable amount the rest of the season.

“It’s something that I’ve been waiting for and I’ve just been patient,” Watkins said. “I’ve been waiting for this experience, so I’m just excited. This week was amazing for me. ... It was good for me this past week to be in the game plan and putting yourself in position that this could possibly be me on the first play of the game.”

Jenkins has said multiple times that he enjoys playing as the slot corner, but until Brooks went down, the team thought it was better off with him staying at safety.

With the secondary shuffle, what’s different with Watkins at safety instead of Jenkins?

“Nothing really man,” the Eagles’ other starting safety, Rodney McLeod, said. “It’s been a next-man-up mentality this whole year. ... Guys have a lot of experience back there. I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. It’s obviously an unfortunate situation with Ron playing great. But Jenkins is ready and so is (Jalen) Mills and Watkins.”

Watkins was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round in 2014 and played just four games as a rookie before he was cut at the start of his sophomore season. He spent three months in Buffalo, where his younger brother Sammy is a star receiver.

When Jim Schwartz became the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Watkins was moved to safety. He quickly asserted himself as the first option off the bench at that position.

And just like McLeod and Jenkins, he’s a safety with a history and knowledge of every position in the secondary.

“He’s kind of our Tyrann Mathieu a little bit as far as being able to play safety, being able to play nickel, being able to play corner, being able to play all those positions,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “A swiss-army knife if you want to call it that. For him, it’s just about continuing to get reps, continuing to be confident.”

Jenkins, McLeod and Watkins are so interchangeable, Watkins joked that sometimes they get confused because they forget which position they’re playing. According to McLeod, there haven’t been any communication issues between him at Watkins when Jenkins moves down into his role as the nickel corner.

Watkins still thinks about his time in Buffalo, but he also thinks he’s a much better player now than he was before he went there.

“Just more confident player, I would say,” Watkins said. “My coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. Now, I’m just confident and relaxed when I go out and play, making plays, doing what I did in college. I think I’m a much better player than before.”

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz's Rookie of the Year odds took a hit, the Eagles' Super Bowl odds shortened and the Vikings' lengthened after Sunday's 21-10 win.

The Eagles are 33/1 to win it all, a week after being listed by Bovada at 50/1. The Vikings, meanwhile, went from 7/1 to 9/1. They still have the third-shortest Super Bowl odds in the NFL and are two spots ahead of the Cowboys (14/1). 

Wentz, who had his worst statistical game against Minnesota, is now 9/1 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, according to Bovada. Last Wednesday, he was 6/1.

Wentz trails Cowboys studs Ezekiel Elliott (2/5) and Dak Prescott (11/5) on that leaderboard.

As far as this week, Wentz is favored to throw for more yards than Prescott. Wentz is 5/7 to outgain Prescott through the air in Week 8, while Prescott is 1/1 to outgain Wentz.

Elliott's over/under rushing total against the Eagles is 99.5. He's rushed for 130-plus yards in each of his last four games, and the odds are 3/1 that he'll reach that number again this week. 

The Eagles have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season, Washington's Matt Jones (16 for 135).

Elliott is also now on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Dickerson had 1,808 in 1983; Elliott is on pace for 1,875. Will Elliott break that 33-year-old mark? A "yes" bet pays 2/1; a "no" bet pays 1/3.