And That's The Triple-Double Jruth, Ruth: Sixers Win, Damaja Fills It Up

And That's The Triple-Double Jruth, Ruth: Sixers Win, Damaja Fills It Up

It looked all too familiar there for about five minutes. The Sixers had built a 21-point lead halfway through the third quarter, but appeared all too eager to cough it back up--the Nets went zone on offense, the Sixers' offense sputtered, and the Nets started chopping, getting as close as within nine points in the fourth quarter. But Philly held strong this time, thanks largely to a whole lot of offensive rebounds, a signature explosive effort off the bench from Lou Williams, and a fantastic all-around game from Jrue Holiday, and sealed the deal this time around, winning 106-92. 

Jrue was creeping on double-digits all game, establishing a handful of brilliant connections (alternating giving and receiving) with Andre Iguodala, but his production slowed down in the second half, and with a few minutes to go, it looked like he might fall a little short. But the Sixers cleared out for him to grab a defensive board on a Nets missed free throw with the game already decided in the waning minutes, and that secured it for the Damaja--his first career triple-double (11/10/10--one of those cheap-ish Jason Kidd triple-doubles, but a triple-double just the same), and the first by a Sixer since Andre Miller in April '09.

Congrats to Jrue, who in just his second season has become a great source of stability at the most important position in the NBA to have stability at, and who should be notching a few more nights like this over his Sixers tenure before all is said and done. Think he feels good about getting in on that Rookie-Sophomore game? Well, in actuality he might not give a damn, but whatever. Happy coincidence. 

So the Sixers win their second straight road game, against a team that hadn't lost at home in five tries, and move to 22-26 for the season. What's more, they did so decisively (just like I asked them to--how sweet!) and left little doubt which of the two teams was playoff-bound, and which was already starting to regroup for next year. Not a bad way to start off the month of February, I'd say--even if Evan Turner didn't quite have the monster game I predicted, falling two points, two boards and a dime short of my predicted 9/4/2 stat line. Get 'em next time, ET. 

Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

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USA Today Images

Tranquillo Barnetta will not return to Union next season

Tranquillo Barnetta is going home.

In an abrupt announcement on Tuesday, the Union declared that the skillful Swiss attacking midfielder will not renew his contract with the club and will return to Switzerland following the 2016 season to play for his hometown club, FC St. Gallen.

According to MLS Players Union, Barnetta’s exit will free the Union of $687,500 next season.

“The entire soccer community here was so welcoming and I’m so thankful to everyone at Philadelphia Union for making me feel so appreciated,” Barnetta said. “Playing in front of my friends and family and making plans for life at the end of my career where I want to live is a force I can’t resist.”

Although the timing of the announcement is a surprise, the move isn’t one. With Alejandro Bedoya now in the mix, currently playing out of position in a box-to-box midfield role, the Union will replace Barnetta with Bedoya at the center attacking midfield spot. It’s a position that Bedoya is comfortable in, playing there with his previous club, FC Nantes.

Bedoya played for the injured Barnetta in the center midfield spot last Saturday and scored his first goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC.

But even with Bedoya ready to take over, the Union will miss Barnetta. Since joining the Union in 2015, Barnetta, 31, has been one of the better possession playmakers in MLS, scoring six goals and seven assists in 37 games.

“Tranquillo has been a key piece in what we’re trying to build here in Philadelphia but we appreciate his decision to return to Switzerland,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, whose club has three matches left in the 2016 season, and will likely make the playoffs. “We look forward to continuing to push for the postseason.”

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

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