Exclusive: Donovan McNabb Talks with The700Level.com

Exclusive: Donovan McNabb Talks with The700Level.com

Donovan McNabb has been the center piece of the sporting world in Philadelphia for the past decade. Allen Iverson took us on a wild ride only to fall short early in the 2000s. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are certainly on the upswing of super stardom but the Phillies have still failed to win a playoff game since 1993. The Flyers and Sixers have made tremendous strides the past few seasons but neither has brought home a championship. That parade down Broad Street eludes us.

Yesterday, I got the chance to talk to the guy whose shoulders our city's championship dreams most broadly fall on, Donovan McNabb.

We chatted for about twenty minutes on topics ranging from the status of his chest injury, his feelings on the fans giving him an ovation last Sunday, his thoughts on Vince Young, to his admiration of Brian Dawkins and even his favorite movie. You can read the conversation in its entirety below and enjoy a couple quick video sound bites I threw together. Enjoy.

Enrico: We know you have your personal blog on Yardbarker.com but do you read any other blogs?

Donovan: Do I read any other blogs? I don’t. Because mine is so hot. No, you know, I just try to reach out to a lot of the fans who don’t really have a hands on feel of the type of person that I am. I think it’s great for a lot of the fans to get an understanding of us as players.

Enrico: How do you like having that direct line of communication to the fans where it’s unedited with no media bias?

Donovan: I think it’s better because it answers a lot of questions they may have had. When the media asks questions it always deals with football, with things that people don’t want to hear about. They see the game, they get the answers to what happened in the game, but when you get to know an athlete you have to get to know him from a different side. I think it’s important to us as athletes to reach out to our fans to show them different ways that we prepare ourselves going into game weeks, things that are on our mind that may not pertain to football, how we may handle things off the field. It’s not just, “Hey, I’m lifting weights or I’m watching film and I played in a game.” It goes more in-depth than that.

You started off Sunday by connecting on 15 straight passes. Do you feel that a QB can get in the zone as athletes in other sports like basketball talk about?

I think it’s not just in sports, I think it’s in life in general when you feel like you’re in a groove. If you’re selling cars and you sold ten cars in the last month, you feel like you’re in that zone. Everything you tell your client is what they want to hear. In basketball, the rim feels like you’re shooting into the ocean. You just can’t miss. When you’re in that rhythm offensively in football, you’re connecting with your receivers, you know what you’re seeing, guys are making big plays for you, you’re scoring touchdowns. You, personally, feel like you’re in the zone but the team also feels like it’s in the zone.

How's the chest feeling?

The chest is getting better. It’s a little sore but we’ve been treating it. We’re going to continue to treat it all week and hopefully when the time comes we’ll be ready to roll.

You mentioned in your post game interview that when three Steelers pounced on you it felt like Bruce Lee getting kicked in the chest by Kareem. Are you a big Bruce Lee/Game of Death fan?

You know, I was. I used to watch the karate station on Saturday mornings. In college we had the Seven Deadly Villains. You get out your karate movies, especially Wu Tang was big with it. I remember watching when Kareem kicked him in the chest and left his footprint on his chest.A short clip of me chatting with Donovan

Is The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh really you're favorite movie of all time? I'm ashamed (I think?) to admit I've never seen it despite Dr. J. starring in a 70's disco-styled role. Should I check it out?

It is my favorite movie of all time, yes. You need to check it out. It’s got a lot of the NBA stars from the past. Kareem is in there, Norm Nixon, Mychal Thompson, Bob Lanier, the list goes on. It’s a movie that is pretty awesome with an interesting plot of a losing team that comes together and had tryouts and they pick all Pisces. They had an astrologist come in and tells them what they’re reads were going to be and how it’s going to happen.

Without Westbrook and with you hurting, the offense struggled on Sunday yet the defense was playing lights out. When the D is shutting down opponents like that and getting the Linc rowdy, does that energy translate at all to when you guys get on the field?

You feed off all the energy that your fans present. You try to show them positive plays and we did that early on. Our defense was blitzing, getting to the quarterback, getting sacks. Our fans were on their feet and that’s what you want when you’ve got home field. You want your fans to provide that twelfth man and that energy that you need. I thought our defense did a remarkable job of applying pressure to Ben and getting him out of that rhythm, which gave us an opportunity to put enough points on the board to win the game.

You didn’t come out with the rest of the team at half time but came out a few moments later by yourself and received a real nice ovation. Does that pump you up to get back in there?

It feels good when you get a good reception, when people acknowledge the things you’ve done and get excited to see you back out there again. You know I took a shot in the game and it bothered me through the course of the game, especially in the second half a little bit where we had a decent rhythm but not as well as we had in the first half. Again, our defense really stepped up and made big plays for us. When you’re in that situation, you want to step up and do what ever it takes to win. I try to provide that.

B-Dawk struggled a bit in the Dallas game yet played phenomenal against the Steelers. Fans obviously love Dawk for his intensity but he's also a bit of a showman. Do the players on the team talk about Dawk's Wolverine-like flying tackles at all?

Dawkins is kind of two guys. You know Brian Dawkins as the person and on the field he changes into a super hero. We know that when Dawk puts his helmet and shoulder pads on he’s going to give it everything that he has. His passion is unbearable. His determination is something you wish everyone had. He’s willing to contribute and do anything and everything possible in order to win the game. He’s a guy that leaves everything out on the field for his team. At the end of the game, you know he’s going to be spent and he can say that he gave you all that he had. You can see that.

Coming into the season, Eagles fans were pumped about DeSean Jackson's potential. You tried a bit to temper expectations after his very impressive rookie debut against the Rams. After three games, is it safe to say you're excited about his ability?

He’s still a rookie. It’s early in the season, he hasn’t hit the wall yet as far as your body, recovery, and mentally where you’re at. As the season continues to get longer, how does he adjust? He’s still a rookie no matter how you look at it. But one thing about him, he works extremely hard, he prepares himself, and when the ball is in his hands, he’s one of those electrifying football players.

When did you realize that DeSean threw the touchdown away in Dallas. Did you have to wait for the replay or did you have a hunch as soon as it happened.

I went in on the replay and saw it happen. It’s unfortunate but things happen.

How much does not having Shawn Andrews out there hurt?

You always miss a guy like Shawn who is a Pro Bowler and the things he can present to you. We know that he’s rehabbing well and getting himself back together and Max is filling in and doing a great job so far.

Fans and opposing players seem to be supportive of The Big Kid after he went through some rough spots this summer, how's he doing as a teammate?

We’ve corralled him and made sure he understands that we’re there for him. We provide confidence for him with that. I think also what we try to do is make sure that he doesn’t have to worry about what we may be saying behind his back. We try not to do that. We want to make sure that while he is going through this process, he can always rely on us and if he wants to talk to somebody we’re here for him. We’re all one big family.

I read something today that mentioned Hank Baskett and Todd Herremans describing this Eagles team as a family. How important is that kind of bond on the field? Is it vital to winning?

It is vital to winning because guys are selling out for that guy next to him. I think that’s very important when you come to play this vicious game. When you see another man down, you elevate your game until he’s ready to get back on track and things get rolling again.

A fellow QB, Vince Young, seems to be struggling with criticism lately. As a quarterback who has dealt with his fair share of criticism, can you sympathize at all?

I can. I’ve communicated with him. It’s something that everybody goes through. A lot of people may not be public with theirs. It’s unfortunate the way his went about. I think he’s handling it the right way. You want to continue to stay strong mentally, physically, and spiritually in the situation and stay positive and know everything is going to work out for the better.

On Sunday, you passed Ron Jaworski for most TDs thrown in Eagles history. How'd it feel to break a guy like Jaws ‘record?

It’s an honor. With everything he’s been able to accomplish in Philadelphia as a player and he’s still a major figure in the city. He does a lot of different things in the Philadelphia area, obviously being co-owner of the Soul and they just won the championship. To break a guy’s record like that who was not only a great player but is also a great human being, it’s a special feeling.

Most fans in Philly were happy to see the Soul win but it’s not one of the big four. Does that give you the itch even more to really want to bring home a championship?

I’ve always had that itch. We got close in 2004. We got to the appetizer but we didn’t get to the entrée. It’s a process that when you put yourself in position, you have to take full advantage of it. We know that when that time comes about, we know what we have to do and have to get it done.

With Chicago next week, if Sunday comes and you're without your biggest weapon in Westbrook, how does that alter the offensive game plan and your style of play in particular.

I just have to do what I’ve been doing, spread the ball around and know what I’m seeing, get guys involved and give them an opportunity to make plays. With that said, make sure that we execute when the time is there. The opportunities are going to be there, we need to make sure we take advantage of them.

I know you're a huge hoops fan and I got a chance to see the Redeem Deem Team play in Beijing. Did you get into the Olympics at all and are you tight with any of the guys that won gold in Beijing?

I’ve had a chance to meet LeBron a couple of times, I know Dwayne. I’ve got a chance to meet Kobe a couple of times. Other than that, all the other guys I’ve watched each season since they’ve been in the NBA. I’m a big fan and was very excited to see they were able to accomplish their goal of winning the gold and show that the U.S. is strong.

Would you like to see Chicago get the 2016 games and are you doing anything to support their bid?

Definitely. You want the big time cities to host and what a big city Chicago is. Talk about fun and excitement, we have that. You talk about shopping and sights, we have that for everybody to come in and enjoy as well. Then you talk about great sports and we can definitely represent that.

Do you spend much time in Chicago these days? Have a favorite restaurant you hit up or is it all business when you come into town?

Every now and then I spend some time there, not much, but I do. It’s all business, you know, with a little play action in there. I throw a little play in there. There’s not one restaurant in Chicago, it’s a big group of great restaurants.

What is the general feeling around the locker room this year, and how does it compare to the start of 2007? Clearly, there were some tough issues affecting the team last year, and although you face a few this year as well, the appearance is overall a lot more positive.

It’s really no different. It’s easier when no one is really talking about you and there’s not much controversy to talk about and you can just focus on what you need to do. I think this team understands that and we take on the challenge that each week we need to bring our ‘A’ game. This is the type of season where at the end of the season people can look back on and say that’s a really good team. We feel like we have a good team and we have to bring it together and be on the same page to take advantage of each opportunity.

A huge thanks to Donovan and his people for taking the time to talk with us. Now go kill Chicago. Also, big thanks to Yardbarker for helping to set this up.

Getty Image at the top by Al Bello

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

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Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points, and the Chicago Bulls handed San Antonio its first road loss after a 13-0 start, hanging on to beat the Spurs 95-91 on Thursday night.

San Antonio fell one win shy of matching the NBA's best road start set by the Golden State Warriors last season. The Spurs cut an 18-point deficit midway through the third quarter to four in the closing minutes, only to come up short.

Kawhi Leonard scored 24 for San Antonio. Patty Mills added 16 points, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers. Former Bull Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds in his first game in Chicago since signing with San Antonio in the summer, but the Spurs lost a road game for the first time since Oklahoma City knocked them out in the Western Conference semifinals last season.

Jimmy Butler scored all of his 13 points for Chicago in the second half. Rajon Rondo added 12 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds, and Chicago picked up the win after dropping three in a row and six of nine.

The Spurs hadn't dropped a regular-season road game since Denver beat them on April 8 (see full recap).

Scoreboard malfunction, quiet crowd don’t stop Wizards’ rally
WASHINGTON -- Overcoming a sluggish start in front of a sparse, silent crowd and with a malfunctioning scoreboard, the Washington Wizards came back to beat the Nuggets 92-85 on Thursday night, thanks mainly to Bradley Beal's 26 points and Denver's season-high 29 turnovers.

John Wall scored only 15 points one game after a career-best 52, but nine came in the fourth quarter for Washington, which trailed by as many as 14 in the first half.

With starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay inactive because of what the team said was a sprained right ankle, the Nuggets went 5 1/2 minutes without a point in the fourth quarter.

In that final period, they had 10 of their turnovers and shot 1 for 14 on 3-pointers -- including 0 for 4 in one last-minute possession (see full recap).

Gasol, clutch free throws lift Grizzlies over
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol scored 36 points and Toney Douglas made two free throws with less than a second left to give the Memphis Grizzlies an 88-86 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Douglas finished with 11 points, scoring the game's final six points to seal Memphis' fifth straight victory.

Gasol was 13 of 24 from the field, including 4 of 6 from outside the arc. But Douglas, signed by Memphis this week because of injuries, took over down the stretch. The guard scored on a 19-footer with 34 seconds left, then converted two pairs of free throws in the last 20 seconds.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, and Damian Lillard had 19 on 6-of-18 shooting. Evan Turner had 15 points and 10 rebounds (see full recap).

Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

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Sixers beat Pelicans without Joel Embiid leading the way

BOX SCORE

NEW ORLEANS -- Joel Embiid shot just 5 for 15 from the field and the Sixers … wait … the Sixers won. 

Surprising? Actually, that’s just how the Sixers envision finding success.

It’s not about Embiid having a relatively quiet night on offense with 14 points, especially going 0 for 5 from three. It’s about other players getting involved and taking the burden off the rookie. Embiid has proved he can do a lot of things, but carrying a team each night in his first season isn’t what the Sixers have in mind. 

“I think that’s when we’re at our best,” Nik Stauskas said after the Sixers beat the Pelicans 99-88 (see Instant Replay). “Obviously there are a few guys in the NBA like a LeBron (James), KD (Kevin Durant) or Steph (Curry) that can single-handedly win a game throughout the entire season. But most of the teams are going to rely on bench players to step up and make shots and make plays. I think that’s when we’re most effective.”

Embiid entered Thursday night averaging 24.3 points and shooting 48.9 percent in Sixers wins (three games played). His 14 points against the Pelicans were his fewest in a victory this season. He also grabbed seven boards with four blocks and three steals. Embiid was a game-high plus-27, which Brett Brown called "massive."

Instead of being powered offensively by their centerpiece, the Sixers received solid efforts from the starters and reserves. Ersan Ilyasova scored 23 points (along with eight rebounds) for the second straight game. Sergio Rodriguez chipped in 16 points and eight assists. Off the bench,  Stauskas hit three treys en route to 14 points while Dario Saric scored 10 points with five rebounds as the team snapped an overall eight-game losing skid and a 23-game road losing streak. 

Embiid’s teammates attribute their success to the fact he is such a focal point of the opponents’ defense. In comparison to the beginning of the season when Embiid was getting stifled by double-teams, he has been learning how to pass out of them. Embiid expects to see two defenders every game and has been making adjustments to create opportunities for others to shoot rather than committing turnovers. 

“We’re not standing around a lot and just focusing on what Jo can do,” Robert Covington said. “Jo is making great moves to find guys that are open. He’s willing to pass. We’re starting to build the chemistry that everyone’s been looking for.”

Ilyasova has noticed a change in the flow of the offense and has capitalized on defensive mismatches when opponents swarm Embiid. 

“We just share the ball well,” Ilyasova said. “I find myself open. Obviously Joel does a great job of as far as when there is a double-team, just kicking out. When I see the open look, I try to knock that shot down.” 

This style of play is mutually beneficial for both Embiid and his teammates. Just because Embiid is passing out doesn't mean he's not getting his looks. Oftentimes, dishing out of a double-team allows him to get a better look on the next touch. 

“It’s a team effort," Covington said. "We’re doing so much as a unit that we’re not just focusing on just get Jo the ball and let him do his thing. He’s getting the ball, he’s surveying the floor and then he’s making his moves. He’s reading the defense really well. He’s doing a lot of [kicking out]. Then we find him a lot of re-posts and finding the open shot and making it easy for him to find the easy bucket.” 

Embiid is capable of scoring 20-plus in spite of his 28-minute restriction. The Sixers are making strides, though, by finding ways to win when he isn’t the running up the scoreboard. 

“I think there’s no doubt Jo is our best player and our offense is going to revolve around him most of the time,” Stauskas said. “But we’re playing our best when he’s posting up and kicking out to guys and they’re hitting threes or we’re taking pressure off him by making plays and the defense can’t just be solely focused on him. In a game like tonight, that’s kind of what you saw.”