Philly March Madness: (2) Tim Kerr vs. (15) Carlos Ruiz

Philly March Madness: (2) Tim Kerr vs. (15) Carlos Ruiz

Over the next few weeks at The700Level, we'll be posting poll matchups as part of our Philly March Madness competition. Examine the cases of the two fine Philadelphia athletes below, and cast your vote at the bottom as to which you think should advance to the next round. And as always, feel free to explain your selection and/or debate the choices in the comments section.


(2) Tim Kerr

Imagine Scott Hartnell. Now imagine the complete opposite, and you have Tim Kerr. The beauty of Kerr, a three-time All-Star who from 1983 to 1987 might have had the most dominating four-season stretch of any Flyer in history, was the serenity that existed in him while mayhem reigned around him (usually due to his presence). At 6-3, 235, he was a mountain of a man, particularly in his era. And his greatest asset was almost neanderthal in concept: Stand in front of the net, and wait for the puck. Except as Kerr parked himself in front, particularly on power plays, opponents threw every short of plastic explosives at him in futile attempts to stop him. You could build a bonfire visible from space with all the sticks snapped over his back (and yes, they were still wooden sticks back then). They would hook, crosscheck, slewfoot, punch, butt-end … to no avail. You couldn’t knock Kerr off his skates. His balance was amazing, and his ability to endure the punishment was epic. He scored 224 goals in that four season stretch. Of the 58 goals he had in 1985-86, an NHL-record 34 came on the power play. Two players have come within 10 goals of that record in the past decade; it’s as air-tight as DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.

Kerr suffered a season-scrapping injury in 1987, came back the following season and threw up 48 more goals. But the pounding he took for his relentless decision to make the area three feet in front of the goalie his own took its toll. He didn’t play more than half a season over the next four years and retired when he was 33. However, it is impossible not to marvel at what Kerr did on the ice, for he had to know it would come at the expense of longevity.

Oh, one more thing: Tim Kerr was not a fighter. However, on the handful of occasions an opponent pushed him over his long threshold of patience and prompted him to drop the gloves, it was a scene from a gore film. No Flyer -- not Dave Brown, not Donald Brashear, not DAVE SCHULTZ -- could devastate a man with his fists like Tim Kerr. But Kerr knew he was more valuable as a mountain instead of a volcano. --Dennis Deitch

(15) Carlos Ruiz

Philadelphia loves to watch an unknown player emerge from doubt and/or mild obscurity to become a major contributor, and over the past three seasons, Carlos Ruiz has done just that. In 2007, he began to show he could work well with a pitching staff, aided by the mentoring of Jamie Moyer, and he also showed particular strength defensively. In 2008, with the Rod Barajas era over after just one injury-shortened season, Ruiz continued his development as a catcher and was a vital part of the Phillies’ World Series run. I’ll never forget watching him from the fifth row on the first base side in game 3. He had homered early in the game, but the moment that stands out was his dribbling, bases-loaded, walkoff infield single that somehow found enough daylight to score Eric Bruntlett despite Joe Maddon having seven fielders within the cutout. Game 3 was in the books, and Chooch’s status as a folk hero was cemented. He was the man calling some masterfully pitched games from behind the plate—a Panamanian with an almost entirely American-born staff (11 of 12)—and he also came up big at the dish under the brightest spotlight.

Over the past two seasons, particularly in 2010, Ruiz has continued growing as a catcher and is now considered one of the best in the game, even adding some offense. He caught Roy Halladay’s perfect game and his playoff no-hitter, and to hear Halladay tell it, Doc was just a guy doing as his catcher directed. His play on the final out of the no-hitter was a thing of athletic beauty, quickly getting out to a dribbler with the bat in the way, then firing it over the baserunner’s shoulder, just in time to make history. While some of the best-known prospects fizzle out when they get to the big leagues, if they make it at all, Ruiz spent eight seasons in the Phillies minor league system with most fans hardly knowing his name. Now you can’t go to a game without hearing it shouted by 40,000-plus. --Matt P.

Who should advance to the next round?online surveys

Results So Far:

East Bracket:

(1) Julius Erving (91.8%) over (16) Von Hayes (8.2%)
(8) Simon Gagne (77.9%) over (9) Seth Joyner (22.1%)
(5) Eric Lindros (70.3%) over (12) Eric Allen (29.7%)
(4) Randall Cunningham (77.6%) over (13) Shane Victorino (23.4%)
(11) Cole Hamels (82.1%) over (6) Mark Recchi (17.9%)
(14) Tug McGraw (51.1%) over (3) Moses Malone (48.9%)
(7) Darren Daulton (74.0%) over (10) Andrew Toney (26.0%)
(2) Chase Utley (93.5%) over (15) Andre Waters (6.5%)

Midwest Bracket:

(1) Mark Howe (60.2%) over (16) David Akers (39.8%)
(9) Rod Brind'Amour (73.6%) over (8) Rick Tocchet (26.4%)
(5) Brian Westbrook (93.3%) over (12) Jayson Werth (6.7%)
(4) Mike Richards (85.1%) over (13) Trent Cole (14.9%)
(6) John LeClair (89.2%) over (11) Clyde Simmons (10.8%)
(3) Jimmy Rollins (75.8%) over (14) John Kruk (24.2%)
(7) Lenny Dykstra (51.9%) over (10) Dave Poulin (48.1%)
(2) Allen Iverson (83.1%) over (15) Jeremiah Trotter (16.9%)

West Bracket:

(1) Mike Schmidt (96.9%) over (16) Keith Byars (3.1%)
(9) Wilbert Montgomery (59.4%) over (8) Jeff Carter (40.6%)
(5) Ron Jaworski (83.5%) over (12) Bobby Abreu (16.5%)
(4) Ron Hextall (94.1%) over (13) Andre Iguodala (5.9%)
(6) Mike Quick (59.8%) over (11) Hugh Douglas (40.2%)
(3) Brian Dawkins (98.3%) over (14) Scott Rolen (1.7%)
(7) Maurice Cheeks (51.9%) over (10) Eric Desjardins (48.1%)

Sixers-Celtics 5 things: Slowing down Isaiah Thomas

Sixers-Celtics 5 things: Slowing down Isaiah Thomas

The Sixers (4-15) continue their homestand against the Boston Celtics (11-8) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night (7:30 p.m./CSN and CSNPhilly.com).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. A green giant-sized challenge
Just crumple it up and move on.

That's about the only thing the Sixers can do after getting ran out of the gym by the Orlando Magic on Friday. Instead of looking like a team that hadn't played since Monday, the Sixers appeared flat in a 105-88 loss.

Outside of Joel Embiid's first 20-point, 10-rebound game (he had 25 points and 10 boards) and a strong effort from Jahlil Okafor (16 points and 13 rebounds), not much else went right for the Sixers.

Now Embiid will sit the second game of a back-to-back set and Okafor will be thrust into the starting lineup, as the Sixers try to deal with Boston big man Al Horford. 

Horford, the Celtics' prized free-agent acquisition, is coming off his best game so far for his new team. He recorded 26 points, eight rebounds and six blocks in the Celtics' 97-92 win over the Kings on Friday.

2. Little big man
Even with Horford coming off a productive performance, the Sixers' game plan against the Celtics has to focus on slowing down Isaiah Thomas.

The 5-foot-9 guard continues to put up big numbers in the scoring department. Despite his shooting percentages taking a dip this season, Thomas still ranks ninth in the NBA with a career-high 25.7 points per game. 

And even though he is a willing passer (averaging a career-high-tying 6.3 assists), expect Thomas to try and score early and often against the Sixers. After all, the reserve-turned-All-Star has put up 21.5 points per game against the Sixers during his career, his highest mark against any opponent.

3. Dial up the long-distance defense
The Sixers need to be aware of Thomas and just about all of his teammates when they toe that three-point line.

The Celtics rank fifth in the league in three-pointers attempted (31.1), three-pointers made (11.3) and eighth in three-point percentage (36.3) per game.

The C's have four players shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc, and perhaps a bit surprising, three of them are big men. Jonas Jerebko (46.4 percent), Horford (42.4 percent) and Amir Johnson (40.0 percent) have all been on target from long range.

4. Injuries
Robert Covington (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are both questionable. Embiid (rest), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ben Simmons (foot) are out for the Sixers.

The Celtics have no players listed on the injury report.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost five games in a row overall and eight straight to the Celtics.

• The Celtics rank 25th in rebounding with 42.2 a night.

• Dario Saric had two points Friday against the Magic and has failed to reach double digits in scoring five of his last six games.

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Another new feeling for the rebuilding Sixers: The bad loss with no excuse. For at least one and possibly multiple seasons, there was no real such thing as an inexcusable L, because they were so never the favorite going into any game that their excuse could almost always be "the other team was better." But four wins and one transcendent player into this season, the Ballers actually do need an excuse for dropping a home game against a subpar team by double digits. And if they had one last night in their 105-88 loss to the Orlando Magic, they weren't telling the rest of us.

Really, this game couldn't have been teed up much better for Philly: We were home, well-rested after Wednesday's weird-ass cancellation, against a 7-12 team we nearly beat early in the season, who were on the second night of a back-to-back after ceding a tough one to the Grizzlies -- and we had Joel Embiid for up to 28 minutes. If this one was to be a laugher by early in the fourth quarter, you'd almost have to assume that it'd been the Sixers who put it to bed early. 

Instead, the Sixers slumped horribly from the field in the first quarter, missing bunny after bunny and plenty of open jumpers, as they dug themselves a hole they were never quite able to climb out of. Philly kept it manageable and D.J. Augustin and Nik Vucevic caught fire for Orlando in the third quarter, and the game was suddenly in Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot territory before we could even process what was happening. 

Of course, you can't blame Embiid for this one. Though JoJo was a little out of sorts defensively on this one -- and personally, I really wish he'd stop trapping five feet outside the arc, it may cause panic in the Magic's ball-handlers but it really seems to compromise our own half-court D -- he still finished with a resounding 25-10-4 with three triples, and for the first time in his young career, 0 turnovers. (I coulda swore I saw at least one, but so says the box score, anyway.) Just another game for the Process, though the Sixers (for some reason) needed him to be immaculate last night, and he was merely phenomenal. 

Less phenomenal were the rest of the Sixers' shooters. Our bench in particular was absolutely putrid, going a combined 0-12 from three, with Nik Stauskas's streak of consecutive games with a three snapped at 15 after his scoreless, 0-6 performance. (Five assists for Sauce, at least.) Jahlil posted a dominant stat line of 16 and 13 (on 8-10 shooting) but was again hapless on defense, ending a team-worst -19 for the night. And Dario Saric's slumping continued with a 1-5 shooting outing with no rebounds or assists, likely his worst game of the season. 

It was a surprisingly listless effort from a team that should have looked much sharper, and the most positive non-Joel-related thing to be said about it is that it's (sort of) nice to finally have expectations high enough to have them let down. It'll be a lot harder for Philly to let down tonight against the Celtics, without JoJo, against a pretty good and mostly healthy Boston team. But that's five losses in a row already for the improving Sixers, and it'd be nice to cut off that streak soon, before it starts threatening double digits -- we could certainly do with being done with those for the forseeable future.