Jimmy Rollins Could Learn Something From Theo Ratliff

Jimmy Rollins Could Learn Something From Theo Ratliff


Ed Stefanski sounds like a guy who just hit the lottery.  In a lot of ways, he has.

The Sixers GM was gracious enough to hold an open Q&A session yesterday with several writers from the web, including Matt and myself, and we had the opportunity to discuss basketball with a bright man and true fan of the game.  As excited as the fans are for this coming season, Stef is equally as enthusiastic about the club's off-season haul.

Describing last season as very rewarding, Stefanski acknowledged there was a "residual effect" from the team's surprise playoff run, and players wanted to be a part of the Sixers because they expect the team to be good.  Once Brand opted out of his contract, he became the club's main priority, and Ed seized the opportunity.  From there, the plan just fell into place.

The number one question on my list was whether or not Stef thinks this team, with the addition of Brand and re-signing of Iguodala, is good enough to win an NBA Championship.  Ed would not definitively answer yes or no, replying only time will tell, but with the opinion the team has undoubtedly moved in the right direction.  As he said at the very beginning, "We look good on paper, but paper doesn't play."

One of the highlights of the interview was when Stef talked about the decision to bring Theo Ratliff back to the club.  The addition was purely a result of the unfortunate injury to Jason Smith, with Theo only expected to see limited minutes, but it's the former Sixer's opinion of the fans that I found interesting.


"He said he loves Philadelphia.  He loves the fans because the fans make him play hard, and the fans are always there for him, and he knows if he puts in the effort, the Philadelphia fans will like him.

He figured the Philadelphia fans out.  Philadelphia fans are all about effort.  When you give the effort, and maybe it comes up short, they're gonna forgive you.  When you don't give the effort is when the fans get on you."

Refreshing to hear in light of some recent comments from some of the other athletes in this town.

Stefanski had nothing but positive things to say about everybody on the team, and touted the team's versatility when asked about what guys would play which positions.  "We have a lot of guys that I would just term basketball players," while explaining a lot of players would rotate between different spots in the lineup depending on the situation.

The interview was a lot of fun, and we covered just about everyone on the team, so I've posted some more excerpts below.  I'd also like to thank Ed Stefanski for taking the time to hold the conference.  It was great to hear what his enthusiasm firsthand.

* Sweet Lou, recently rewarded with a contract worth $25 million, received high acclaim from Stefanski.  "I think Lou Williams is a hell of a basketball player, I really like the way the kid plays." 

* Stef revealed Thaddeus Young has spent the summer improving his ball-handling in preparation of seeing more minutes at the 3 position.  "There's no question he has gotten better."

* The Sixers are very pleased with the development of Marreese Speights at this point.  Stefanski gushed about the rookie, who he described as skilled and athletic.  Despite the rumors about Speights' work ethic, the skills are there, and the injury to Smith may give the kid an opportunity this season.

* Willie Green was given a vote of confidence from the Sixers GM.  For now, there are no more moves planned, so Willie is part of the team.  He also disclosed that Green was playing hurt last year, and was hopeful there would be some improvement this season.

Flyers-Blackhawks 5 things: Matinee showdown with Western Conference leader

Flyers-Blackhawks 5 things: Matinee showdown with Western Conference leader

Flyers (12-10-3) vs. Blackhawks (16-6-3)
1 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

Behind captain Claude Giroux's two goals and overtime heroics Thursday, the Flyers enter Saturday's matinee with the Chicago Blackhawks on their longest win streak of the season.

That and more as we get ready for the afternoon showdown at the Wells Fargo Center.

1. Three's company
With their 3-2 OT win over the Senators, the Flyers have now won three (3!) games in a row for the second time this season, a sign the ship might be turning in the right direction.

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol applauded his team's 61-minute effort afterward. Comparing it to Tuesday's win over Boston in which Steve Mason single-handedly stole two points from the Bruins, Hakstol said the Ottawa game was a "real, good, consistent effort" throughout the lineup, which the Flyers will have to mimic again Saturday in order to beat Chicago.

On Friday, Hakstol rewarded the Flyers with an optional practice. Brandon Manning, who has missed the last two games because of a possible concussion, returned to practice Friday and was cleared to play. If Manning returns Saturday, Andrew MacDonald seems like the likely candidate to come out.

Manning's return would be welcomed for the Flyers. The 26-year-old has been one of the team's most consistent players. He's been aggressive, both offensively and defensively, and his play is not deserving of a healthy scratch. But with no morning skate and limited player availability Friday, Manning's status for the Blackhawks' game remains unknown.

2. Power hour
For the Flyers to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games Saturday, they will have to do so not only with a sound, defensive game but also on special teams.

If there is one area Chicago has struggled this season, it has been the penalty kill. At 70.1 percent, the Blackhawks have the league's worst PK unit, and have a middle-of-the-road power play despite all of their offensive firepower.

The Flyers, on the other hand, have the league's third-best power play at 23.6 percent, and their penalty-kill units have improved lately, getting up to 80 percent. The Flyers have two PP goals in their last 19 opportunities.

Still, Chicago's power play is dangerous despite its recent struggles. The Blackhawks have just one power-play goal since Nov. 19, and went 0 for 4 on Thursday against the Devils.

3. Corey's crease
The Blackhawks also enter Saturday hot, winning three of their last four games; however, they have gone to overtime in their last three games. Chicago has had issues with slow starts in games recently, and the Devils' game Thursday was another example of that.

New Jersey took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but easily could have had a larger lead had it not been for Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who's been excellent this season. Crawford faced 13 shots in the opening period Thursday and kept the 'Hawks in the game, as he has all season long. The Blackhawks sit atop the NHL with 35 points (at the time of this posting), and Crawford is a major reason for that.

Crawford has a 2.27 goals-against average and .927 save percentage this season. He's pitched two shutouts and has faced 33 or more shots in his last four games. Scoring on Crawford has not been easy for opponents this season, but the Flyers do average 3.1 goals, third in the NHL.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let's stick with Giroux. The 28-year-old snapped a nine-game goal drought Tuesday with power-play goal, and then added two more Thursday — one at 5-on-5 and one in the 3-on-3 overtime. Giroux's play at even strength has been scrutinized, but his point production remains potent. Giroux has a four-game point streak — three goals, two assists — and has 22 points in 25 games this season. He also got engaged Thursday in Ottawa.

Blackhawks: So many players to watch, but let's highlight the ageless Marian Hossa. The 37-year-old continues to be an effective player even as he grows older. Now in his 18th NHL season, Hossa leads Chicago with 12 goals, including the game-winner in overtime against New Jersey Thursday. Hossa tallied his 500th career goal against the Flyers back on Oct. 18, and has 15 goals in 48 career games against the orange and black. He still has it.

5. This and that
• Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is out for Saturday's game because of an upper-body injury, per CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers. Toews hasn't played since Nov. 23.

• Mason, Saturday's projected starter, is 7-12-3 with a 3.42 GAA and .890 save percentage in 23 career games against the Blackhawks. After a disaster start to the season, Mason has a 2.22 GAA and .912 save percentage over his last nine games.

• Chicago has five players with seven or more goals, and five players with double-digit assists.

TicketIQ: Affordable seats available to see Sixers face marquee opponents

TicketIQ: Affordable seats available to see Sixers face marquee opponents

Editor's Note: The following is sponsored content written by TicketIQ.

The improvements have been obvious for the 76ers this season. Just months removed from a franchise-worst 10-72 record, the Sixers have begun to see return on their rebuild with rookie Joel Embiid leading the charge.
 
December will be a big month for the team as it looks to rise in the Eastern Conference. Attending an upcoming game won’t come attached with big ticket prices, either. With several marquee opponents headed to Wells Fargo Center over the next four weeks, including the Lakers, Celtics and Raptors, fans can find relatively inexpensive ticket prices on the resale market all month long.
 
On TicketIQ, a ticket search engine that pools tickets and data from over 90 percent of the resale market, the average resale price for 76ers tickets in December is just $58. That makes December among the cheapest months to see the Sixers this season.

 
With the Lakers in town for a December 16 game, it will be the only 76ers home game this month that commands an average resale price above $100. On TicketIQ, 76ers vs Lakers tickets own a $112 average and the most inexpensive are listed from $27 each. It will be the Lakers’ sole visit to Philadelphia this season.
 
The Celtics will be the Sixers’ second most expensive opponent this month, but their December 3 visit is currently averaging nearly half the price the Lakers are seeing when they’re in town two weeks later. As it stands now the average resale price for tickets against the Celtics is $69 with a get-in price of $13.
 
The Nets, Pelicans and Raptors are all generating similar demand for their respective stops in Philadelphia later this month. With all three teams visiting over a six-day period between December 14 and 20, no game will average over $55 on the secondary market. Tickets start from as low as $7 each to when Anthony Davis and the Pelicans come to town on the 20th.
 
For those fans with interest in attending the most inexpensive games at Wells Fargo Center this month, the struggling Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets will serve as the most affordable opponents to see in action in December. The Magic play the Sixers on Friday night, where last-minute 76ers vs. Magic tickets are averaging $43. Their next home game against the Nuggets have an average resale price of just $35.