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:
http://tinyurl.com/T7Lxmas3"
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
Philadelphia?

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
for.

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.

No. 1 Villanova vs. La Salle: Wildcats look to stay hot vs. Explorers at Palestra

No. 1 Villanova vs. La Salle: Wildcats look to stay hot vs. Explorers at Palestra

No. 1 Villanova (8-0) at La Salle (4-2) 
7 p.m. at The Palestra

Villanova, now the top-ranked team in the country, travels to the Palestra on Tuesday night for another Big 5 game, this one against La Salle (the home team), which has won three straight games.

Let's get you ready for the matchup:

Last time out
La Salle beat Bucknell, 83-73, on Saturday.

Villanova won, 88-47, over Saint Joseph’s.

Scouting report
Villanova, which is undefeated, has become the No. 1 team in the country after beating St. Joe’s handily on Saturday. Josh Hart, who had a triple-double in the game, has been a major reason for the Wildcats' success so far this season. The senior is averaging 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. 

La Salle has won three games in a row after losing at the buzzer to Texas Southern on its homecoming game. Against Bucknell, Jordan Price had 20 points, while B.J. Johnson had 22. Johnson, a transfer from Syracuse, leads the team in scoring with 18.7 points per game.

What it means
Villanova is the best in the country right now, and it moved up to No. 1 after Kentucky lost to UCLA. Another win will give the Wildcats good momentum heading into their Saturday matchup with No. 23 Notre Dame. A victory would also extend Villanova's all-time record Big 5 winning streak to 16 games.

La Salle head coach John Gianinni could potentially be on the hot seat if the Explorers suffer another poor season. A win against the defending national champions would alleviate any chatter about his status.

Series history
This is the first and only time the Big 5 rivals will meet this season. Jay Wright is 13-2 all-time against the Explorers, and his group blew them out last season, 76-47.

What’s next?
La Salle will head to Miami for the Hoophall Miami Invitational to take on Georgetown this Saturday at the American Airlines Arena.

Villanova travels to Newark, New Jersey, to meet No. 23 Notre Dame at the Prudential Center.

Doug Pederson doesn't think 2016 struggles will ruin Carson Wentz in long term

Doug Pederson doesn't think 2016 struggles will ruin Carson Wentz in long term

In his first month in the NFL, Carson Wentz's trophy case was filling up quickly. 

He won two NFL Rookie of the Week awards to go along with being named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 3 and the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Month for September. 

It's hard to believe all of that happened this year. 

Since September, the Eagles have gone 2-7 and Wentz has looked like a rookie. Sure, the Eagles have some major deficiencies on offense that haven't made his life any easier, but it's no longer possible to simply overlook the regression of the No. 2 overall pick. 

Could this tough stretch negatively affect Wentz long term?  

"I don't think it's going to affect Carson going forward," head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. "I just don't think it's going to affect him at all, because he's really a pro's pro and he's learning how to handle adversity for the first time, probably, in his career. It's something that we get to the OTAs and we get a full offseason in and we just continue to work on it."

It's fair to say the 2016 season was probably never really about this year and making the playoffs. It's clear the more important thing is to develop Wentz into the franchise quarterback they drafted him to be. But the one thing the team probably didn't want to see was regression. It seems like that's what has happened. 

In the first four games of the season, Wentz had a passer rating over 100 three times and hasn't done it since then. Take a look at the difference in the first quarter of his season compared to the next two. 

First four games: Completion percentage of 67 percent, 7 touchdowns, 1 interception, passer rating of 103.5. 

Next eight: Completion percentage of 61 percent, 5 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, passer rating of 70.1. 

The Eagles will enter their final quarter of the season when they host Washington on Sunday. The best way to avoid any long-term issues stemming from a tough rookie season is to end on a stronger note. 

"Well, you avoid it by trying to win a football game, and you try to win as many as you can now with these last four that we've got," Pederson said. "If you're looking towards next season, you always want to go out with a bang and try to win as many as you can down the stretch."

Way back in training camp, the plan was for 2016 to be a redshirt year for Wentz. He was supposed to sit behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, but Bradford was traded and the Eagles elected to start their prized quarterback from the onset. 

Wentz went from a redshirt season to being on pace to throw 603 passes, which would shatter the Eagles' record for a single season. 

"These are some of the decisions that I made back when the trade was made that if there was going to be some growing pains, these were going to be some of the pains we were going to have to go through," Pederson said. "And just him understanding and him learning and us growing together as an offense, he and I growing as coach and quarterback together, it's all part of the process."

Wentz and Pederson seemingly had a disagreement after Sunday's game, when Pederson attributed Wentz's struggles to mechanical problems, while Wentz denied that was the case. Pederson held firm to his belief that those mechanical issues can be corrected and it's probable Wentz spoke out of frustration on Sunday night. 

If Wentz is frustrated, it would be understandable. It hasn't been an easy couple of months. 

"I see him handling it well," Pederson said. "These are discussions that we will have, myself, [Eagles offensive coordinator] Frank [Reich], Carson [Wentz], as we talk to him, because we've played obviously at this level, and my experience, even in this city playing and knowing what that's all about, we can really help him. It’s our job to help him and make sure that he stays on track and stays focused and he doesn't get derailed by anything that's coming from the outside."