Post-Draft Extras: Sixers Graded, Reynolds Snubbed, Turner Summarized

Post-Draft Extras: Sixers Graded, Reynolds Snubbed, Turner Summarized

So the night is over, the dust has settled, and the Sixers pick appears final: Evan Turner, Ohio State Buckeye and 2010 National Player of the Year, is your newest Philadelphia 76er. (The team had no second-rounder, having traded it to Milwaukee as part of last year's Meeks-Ivey blockbuster). In his post-draft team grade column, I was afraid that ESPN draft guru Chad Ford would rip the Sixers for taking a player so similar to Andre Iguodala, the possibility of which he had previously tut-tutted, but Ford actually complimented the Sixers' decision, giving their draft night an A- grade. Sez Ford:

The 76ers snagged the best player in college basketball and have to be
thrilled. Turner's versatility and ability to lead in big moments are
the stuff that makes players great. His lack of elite athleticism and
his high turnover rate are some cause for concern, but most see him with
similar upside to Brandon Roy.

Of course, Ford does still mention the overlap with Iguodala presenting a likely issue:

More problematic is Turner's fit in Philly. He and Andre Iguodala are similar players and both are at their best with the
ball in their hands. I think it's likely that the Sixers will try to
find a trade for Iguodala this summer. If they can replace him with a
shooter, Turner could be the guy who turns the Sixers back into a

For the record, I would really like to see the Sixers at least give it a try with both Turner and Iguodala. So much of the problem with 'Dre at the team's forefront last year is that he didn't really have anyone on his skill or IQ level to really run with--at least until Jrue's emergence as his playmaking equal late in the season, which seemed to loosen up Iguodala's game considerably and allowed both to thrive. Add Turner to that mix--maybe the smartest player in the draft--as well as a quality passing big man like Hawes, and this could be the team most conducive to 'Dre's point-forward skills that he's ever played with. I'm not saying it's a guaranteed recipe for success--no matter good your team is at sharing the ball, eventually SOMEONE has to put it in the net--but I just want the team give it a chance before we ship of 'Dre to the Celtics or Rockets for 30 cents on the dollar.

Also, I'm surprised Chad doesn't mention it, but I can't help but be the slightest bit disappointed that Turner was the only move the Sixers made last night. There were rumors floating around that Philly was gonna try to buy in to late in the first round, and I was pretty excited at the prospect of them doing so--I thought maybe they could grab one of those project big men who kept slipping out of their projected near-lottery status, like Kentucky's Daniel Orton, South Florida's Solomon Alabi, or Marshall's Hassan Whiteside. Taking a flier on one of those guys to maybe groom into the pivot of the team's future could have been a dice-roll worth throwing, and teams were selling those picks fairly cheap. Oh well--at the very worst, the team did the right thing with their one move, and with this team, "nothing catastrophic" is just about the best compliment you can give for their personnel moves.

Happy as the night was for the Sixers, however, one of Philly's favorite sons was sadly left with his cheese out in the wind. Scottie Reynolds, heroic Villanova combo guard and the face of Big Five basketball for the last two-plus years, was passed over 60 times last night to become the first AP All-American in post-merger history not to get picked by anyone on draft night. We were worried after Reynolds' horrible end to his senior season (Scottie shot a combined 4-26 in Nova's two NCAA games, after feuding with teammate Corey Fisher and receiving a surprise benching from coach Jay Wright) that his stock would slip, but I think most of us were hoping some team would at least take a second-round chance on the college star. In any event, we here at the Level salute Scottie's excellent four years at Nova, and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors, whether it be in the D-League, overseas, or outside basketball altogether.

Meanwhile, as he does every year, ESPN star fan-analyst Bill Simmons did a Draft Diary column, and it was interesting to see that as a sidebar in this year's edition, Simmons asked Evan Turner's Ohio State teammate Mark Titus to talk a little about Turner's draft night performance. Mostly, he talked about Turner's wardrobe, saying he hoped he'd pull a Lady GaGa with his get-up. Failing that...

I realized there was virtually no chance of Evan going over the top with
his wardrobe, because pretty much nothing about Evan could be described
as "flashy." On the court, the bread and butter of his game is his
midrange jump shot (unexciting yet effective). Off the court, he's a
well-mannered and respectful kid who can be found reading books,
watching film, or working on his game in the gym on weekend nights.
This substance-over-style attitude was reflected last night in demeanor
and dress [...] While Al-Farouq Aminu regrettably wore glasses that made him look like
Squints from "The Sandlot," Evan wore the same prescription glasses that
he's worn for years. These glasses paired with this year's atrocious
draft hats made Evan quite possibly the first top 2 pick in NBA history
to also look like the draft's biggest dweeb.

It's true that Turner's wardrobe, combine with a naturally nasal speaking voice, did kind of give him a certain honors-student / AV Club air. But a final note on that, as well as a message to those who still think we should have taken Favors, the upside pick, over Turner, the safe choice...

The last few years, NBA TV has taken to replaying most of the old drafts from the 80s forward in their entirety. It's fascinating to watch these timestamped NBA portraits for any number of reasons--watching the evolution of ESPN graphics and music, seeing the different hairstyles that Hubie Brown and Doug Collins have gone with over the years, and listening to the sound of teams get super-excited about players and decisions we know never really panned out (John Calipari raving about taking "sure thing" Kerry Kittles over Kobe Bryant in 1996 remaining my all-time favorite) all among them.

My favorite thing, though, is the interviews with the players. It's not usually about the questions asked, or about the answers given--no revelatory information is ever shared in these perfunctory Q&As--but about how the player carries himself in the interview. You don't often see it analyzed as a prospect projection metric, but I swear that more often than not, you can tell who the future pro stars are going to be from how they conduct themselves in these pieces. The best players are quick, thoughtful, engaging, and most importantly, comfortable in their own skin. The eventual busts are dull, rote, fidgety and almost unwatchably awkward. It's not a perfect grading rubric--nobody was more charming in their post-draft interview than the Timberwolves' Isiah "J.R." Rider, and I don't know if you'd exactly say he turned out as hoped--but generally speaking, show a non-NBA fan one of these drafts, and they'll be able to pick out the future building blocks of the league by how they handle Craig Sager and company.

Which brings me to my obvious and perhaps biased point: When it came time for him to do his introductory conference with the press last night, Turner was a stud. He was composed, he was considerate, and he sounded about ten times more comfortable answering my question about his potential status as the Sixers' next real franchise player than I did asking it. (Hey, it was my first time actually piping up in one of those things, cut me some slack.) He sounded knowledgeable about the team, rehearsed in his responses but never robotic. And as he got up to leave, I could hear the other reporters--not all of them Sixers fans, presumably--whispering amongst themselves about what a great kid he was. It was heartwarming, for real. (Btx, John Wall was similarly impressive in his presser, and he and Turner actually shared a nice bro embrace in between interviews that I wish I was quick enough to have gotten a photo of--it could be like that famous Biggie and Tupac photo in ten years.)

Favors was...less so. He talked in a hushed, low murmur, and appeared to be hiding behind his (admittedly enormous) Nets draft cap at times. He gave clipped answers to questions and said generally little of interest. He didn't sound like a complete dunce or anything, he just sounded like something of a dullard. Now, in the grand scheme of things, does that really matter? If Favors can finish on the break, patrol the paint and play inside-out, will anyone care in five years if his favorite sandwich is peanut butter and jelly and he only got a C+ on his high school book report on Moby Dick? Of course not. Besides, Favors is only 19, and has as much of a chance to grow into his own skin as a person than as a player as the years progress.

But when picking this high in the draft--and the Sixers might not get to pick this high again for a long time--do you really want to choose a franchise savior that can't even handle a room full of (predominantly) scruffy-looking middle-aged dudes, let alone 20,000 screaming fans at Madison Square Garden? Regardless of what either player ends up being on the floor, what the Sixers need arguably more than anything is a leader, someone to change the culture of the locker room and be the primary figure to answer for both the team's successes and their failures. They need someone to do for them what Brandon Roy did for the Blazers, what Chris Paul did for the Hornets, what Kevin Durant did for the Sonics/Thunder. Whether or not you believe Turner is that guy--and I'm pretty sure that I do--one thing I think we can definitely all agree on is that Favors isn't.

So even if in five years Favors is the next Amar'e Stoudemire and Turner the next Randy Foye, I'll still believe that Stefanski, lord love him, made the right decision--the only decision--on draft night, 2010. At least that's what I'll tell myself when we're anticipating the lottery yet again, hoping that this time we finally get the guy who turns it all around.

(Photo again from the Sixers' Twitpic account. Turner will be introduced by the Sixers at a press conference around 12:30 today, if you want to see him in action yourself, or check it on after.)

Taking in return, Ryan White moves on but will always remember Flyers

Taking in return, Ryan White moves on but will always remember Flyers

Ryan White was whisking by to the visiting locker room when he had to stop.
With huge delight, the long-haired forward hugged a Flyers employee in bright orange athletic gear standing outside the laundry room. 
The two exchanged hellos and good wishes before White’s path was impeded again.
None of this was a nuisance. This is what he loved.
“That’s probably the biggest thing I miss here in Philly is the people around the rink are great,” White said late Thursday night inside the Wells Fargo Center. “The guys from the locker room attendants to the security guys to people taking care of my girlfriend and stuff like that. It’s a special place to play and I always felt like I was welcomed here.”
White had just scored his first goal of the 2016-17 season. All offseason, he hoped and planned for the occasion to be in a Flyers sweater. He talked about his endearment for the organization trumping the worth of money elsewhere.
But on Thursday night, he was wearing an Arizona Coyote uniform and, what he called, “putting the final nail in the coffin” of a 5-4 loss for the Flyers.
“It feels good scoring here,” he said.
Not at all how he pictured it.
Playing fourth-line minutes (8:09), White somehow snuck a shot past Steve Mason from a nasty side angle with 4:19 remaining in regulation, making it 5-3 and virtually snuffing another Flyers comeback bid.
“Any time you’re coming back playing your old club, you want to make sure you get a win. … I loved playing as a Flyer, it was a lot of fun playing here,” White said. “Guys over there are a great group of guys, good coaching staff, good people in the organization. It’s just a special place to play.”
It’s where White wanted to be but he holds no ill will towards general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers. Hextall liked and expressed interest in re-signing White, a role-playing fourth-liner, but went out and inked free-agent right winger Dale Weise (four-year, $9.4 million deal), more of a third-line player with similar attributes.
That signaled White’s end with the Flyers after two seasons.
“I think I’d be crazy if I didn’t want to come back here, it just didn’t work out,” White said. “I’m just happy I’ve gotten a chance to play in Phoenix and it’s been pretty good so far.”
White on Wednesday night caught up with former Flyers teammates Radko Gudas and Michal Neuvirth. While with the Flyers, he lived in the same building as the two. They all had dinner and White got to visit Gudas’ baby daughter.
On the ice, White, gritty and physical-minded, made his presence felt. He was penalized in the second period for charging Nick Cousins. He was also called for a delay of game penalty in the final two minutes for closing his hand on the puck. The Flyers scored on the power play, ironically turning White’s goal into the gamer-winner.
“He told me he just wanted the winning goal,” Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said with a laugh. “So that’s all that counts.”
White enjoyed the rough-and-tough nature against his old friends. 
“All those guys play hard, they know how the game goes,” he said. “I had a little conversation with Gudy last night at dinner and he said, ‘You’re going to be running around out there.’ I figured it would be no other way. You’ve got to expect that coming from those guys, they’re a hard group over there.
“Those guys know how I play and they all play the same way, too, so it was fun.”
He also appreciated seeing the Flyers Heritage Night pregame ceremony honoring the organization’s legends, led by late founder Ed Snider. White kept tabs on the Flyers’ home opener last week when a banner commemorating Snider was raised to the rafters.
“I even heard about the first game coming back, it was pretty emotional in here,” he said. “It was a pretty special time playing here with Mr. Snider around. I think he’ll obviously be forever missed and like I said, it was just special to be a part of it.”
White wasn’t sure what to expect in his return. In the end, he wasn’t surprised.
“It’s funny, I thought maybe coming back here, it would be a little bit different,” White said. “But they’re a pretty welcoming group and it’s nice to be here.”
Even if it’s just for one game.

Rod Brind'Amour relishes night with Eric Lindros, Flyers alumni

Rod Brind'Amour relishes night with Eric Lindros, Flyers alumni

When he was introduced at center ice Thursday night, Rod Brind’Amour, who epitomizes what it meant to be a Flyer perhaps like no other player in franchise history, acknowledged the crowd.
And then the current Carolina assistant coach walked over to former teammate Eric Lindros and hugged him.
There were indeed some awkward moments for the two back in the 1990s, but they remain Flyers forever and this was Heritage Night for the organization’s Hall of Famers in celebration of their 50th Anniversary.
“You know I haven’t seen him in forever, and it was just fun and when we got out there we just said, ‘nice to be back on the ice again’, it’s been a long time and I haven’t seen him,” Brind’Amour explained of the gesture toward Lindros. 
“I saw Johnny [LeClair] last year but it was just nice to catch up with these guys and relive some stories, we had a lot of great times so it was nice to see him.”
How ironic that Brind’Amour would get traded to Carolina for a larger centerman in Keith Primeau and eventually after the pain of separation from the Flyers womb had healed, he won a Cup with the Hurricanes.
Ask Roddy and he’ll tell you that Cup should have been won in Philly. He began the season as a member of the 1999-00 team that blew a 3-1 lead to the Devils in the Eastern Conference finals, but was traded at the mid-point.
To this very day, it ranks all-time as the most controversial trade the Flyers ever made. As if the very soul of the organization had been purged.
“Well I mean that’s the way it goes, right?” Brind’Amour said. “We had a great team. We had a great team back then, but trades happen and they were trying to make the team better. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t, but had we stayed together who knows what could have happened.
“I’m just fortunate that I got that Cup because obviously, that is what I played for my whole life. Would it have been great to have it here? Yes, I mean that would have been something special, but that’s life. It doesn’t always work out the way you want it to.
“It was just unfortunate we didn’t win because we were one of the best teams in the league there for a long time and things just didn’t work out. It’s hard to win a Stanley Cup, let me tell you.”
He admitted there’s an orange ‘n black spot in his heart that will forever belong to the Flyers. That’s why he interrupted his own season in Carolina to return here for one night of memories.
He also said how much it meant to him last spring when club chairman Ed Snider reached out to him shortly before his death.
“I got a great phone call before Mr. Snider passed and him telling me what he thought I meant to this team,” Brind’Amour said. 
“It meant a lot. So I really feel connected to the Flyers' organization again and I’ll take any chance I can to get back here and be a part of it.
“It has meant a lot to me to be back here and be in the fold. I love the alumni … so, any chance to get to reconnect with these guys means the world to me.”
Which is pretty much how Flyers fans felt about him, too.