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
contender.

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 CSNPhilly.com after.)

Colin Kaepernick refuses to stand for anthem in protest

Colin Kaepernick refuses to stand for anthem in protest

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is refusing to stand for the national anthem before games because he believes the United States oppresses African Americans and other minorities.

Kaepernick sat on the team's bench Friday night during the anthem before the Niners played host to the Green Bay Packers in an exhibition game. He later explained his reasoning in an interview with NFL Media .

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Saturday that "players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem."

The 49ers issued a statement after Pro Football Talk initially reported on Kaepernick's stand, saying that Americans have the right to protest or support the anthem.

"The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pregame ceremony," the team said. "It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem."

Kaepernick, who is biracial, was adopted and raised by white parents. He has been outspoken on his Twitter account on civil rights issues and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Kaepernick is not the first U.S.-based athlete to use the anthem for protest. In 1996, NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stand for the anthem, saying the United States had a history of tyranny and doing so would conflict with his Islamist beliefs. The NBA initially suspended Abdul-Rauf for his stance before it was lifted when he said he would stand and pray silently during the song.

Kaepernick said he is not worried about any potential fallout from his protest.

"This is not something that I am going to run by anybody," he told NFL Media. "I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right."

Kaepernick's agent did not immediately return a request for comment.

Kaepernick is in competition to win back the starting quarterback job in San Francisco that he lost to Blaine Gabbert last season. He made his first appearance of the preseason on Friday night after missing two games with a tired shoulder. He finished 2 for 6 for 14 yards and added 18 yards on four runs.

Dorial Green-Beckham out to prove to Eagles he's the gamebreaking WR they need

Dorial Green-Beckham out to prove to Eagles he's the gamebreaking WR they need

He knows how desperate Eagles fans are for a breakaway wide receiver, a gamebreaker, a big-play down-the-field speedster.
 
He knows that a fan base robbed of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin wants nothing more than to see him take advantage of this second chance and become the playmaker they all crave.
 
Dorial Green-Beckham knows how much Eagles fans want this to work.
 
“Yeah, I get a lot of stuff every day from the fans,” Green-Beckham said. “They look forward to seeing what I can do on the field and they look forward to seeing what I can do in this offense.
 
“I just want to go out there and impress everybody and show why I’m here.”
 
Green-Beckham, who joined the Eagles 11 days ago, played a few snaps last Thursday night against the Steelers, but he hadn’t even practiced yet.
 
Now he has a week of practices behind him, he’s learned a good chunk of the playbook and he even knows some of his teammates’ names.
 
And he’s hoping to show Saturday night what Eagles fans have been waiting to see for a couple years now.
 
DGB is expected to get a generous helping of work with the first offense Saturday night when the Eagles and Colts meet in a preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (see 10 players to watch).

The first group is expected to play into the third quarter, which will be their most playing time this summer.
 
Green-Beckham says he's ready.
 
“Whatever is called, I’ve been through the playbook, I should be able to know what to do, where to line up, things like that,” he said.
 
“It’s just playing football. We’ve been doing it for a long time. Coming from a different organization, you hear different calls. You come here and everything is different. But it’s up to you to putting in the effort and making sure you’re accountable.”
 
Still seems odd the Titans would give up on the 40th pick in the draft after just one year. A year in which Green-Beckham caught 32 passes for 549 yards, sixth-most among rookie wide outs.
 
But here he is, trying to jumpstart a moribund Eagles wide receiver group.
 
It can’t be easy forgetting one playbook and learning another. But that’s his job right now.
 
“I just have to erase those memories from there and put a whole new playbook in my head and try to pick up as fast as I can to be able to help my team,” he said. “And I feel like that’s one thing I’ve done as a young guy, erase the memories that I had there and put in the extra time (here).
 
“Right now, I feel comfortable being around those guys. Using the older guys as a resource. Asking them questions, trying to figure out what I need to do.”
 
With his size and speed, it’s hard to imagine Green-Beckham not helping the Eagles.
 
Then again … the Titans didn’t want anything to do with him just a year after making him the 40th pick in the draft.
 
“He looks good,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Just continue to build, build, continue to build.
 
“He's an impressive, physical specimen, obviously. It’s funny. You stand out there as a coach, and they're running routes on air and sometimes as a coach you stand across from the receivers that are running at you. And when he runs at you, his size and speed, it just kind of grabs you.
 
“So really excited about having him here. Just like anybody else though, it's a process. It's a process and we keep giving them little chunks at a time to allow him to play fast and use his ability.
”
 
At 6-foot-5, Green-Beckham becomes the Eagles’ second-tallest wide receiver ever, behind the great Harold Carmichael, who was 6-8. Don Luft, who was with the Eagles in 1954, and Brian Finnegan — who had a drop that cost the Eagles a win in Doug Pederson's first start in an Eagles uniform — were also 6-5.
 
So he’s an obvious candidate to run the fade, which we saw in Pittsburgh.
 
But he wants it to be known he’s more than just a tall receiver who can catch a jump ball.
 
“It starts with being physical, showing that you’re a physical player, showing that you can play other positions besides just having jump balls thrown to you,” he said.
 
“Catching slants, being physical. Looking at the Calvin Johnsons, the Dez Bryants, all those type guys … trying to (base) my game based on what they do.”
 
You try to think of a similar instance of a team giving up on a player so quickly and that player becoming a force with the Eagles.
 
And there really isn’t a parallel.
 
So who knows?
 
Maybe Green-Beckham won’t pan out here either. But maybe he’ll take advantage of this second opportunity and give the Eagles something they’re sorely lacking.
 
“I feel like it’s a great opportunity, especially for me to move from one team to another and me being here a short period of time an being able to play with the 1's (Saturday night), it’s a big opportunity for me to just go out there and show them why I’m here, what I came here to do," Green-Beckham said.
 
“That’s my mindset, just stay focused and try to do those little things and try to impress my teammates.
 
“I feel like the whole team accepted me since I got here, since Day 1. Everybody was glad that I was here, everybody accepted me. They treated me like a brother. For me, that’s big. I feel more like it’s more of a family atmosphere and we all have each others’ backs.”

Union-Sporting Kansas City 5 things: Looking for back-to-back wins

Union-Sporting Kansas City 5 things: Looking for back-to-back wins

Union vs. Sporting Kansas City
7 p.m. on TCN, Pregame Live at 6:30

The Union kept afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race last weekend by completing the season sweep of the Columbus Crew. Now, they have an opportunity to do something they’ve only done once this season — win back-to-back games. The Union (10-9-7) face Sporting Kansas City (11-11-5) Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

Here are five things to know for the matchup.

1. Rookie power
In a surprising move, Union manager Jim Curtin tapped Josh Yaro and Fabian Herbers to accompany Keegan Rosenberry as starters on the road against the Crew. 

And the 2016 MLS SuperDraft trio, starting for the first time together, didn’t disappoint. 

“If you were to tell me before the game started that we’d get goals from Herbers and Rosenberry, I would probably tell you you were a little crazy,” Curtin said. “But we’re happy for them. I think it’s a big step in a tough atmosphere.”

Herbers opened the scoring for the Union by powering home a deflection off his own original shot. The goal was followed by a Rosenberry game-winning goal from a Tranquillo Barnetta pass into the box. 

“For Keegan, for Josh, for Herbers to step up the way they did in what I would call a big boy game, I think it shows them growing as players,” Curtin said. “It’s a real game out there where a team is fighting and is desperate to make a playoff push, we had to be alert for 90 minutes.”

The three had such an impact on last Saturday’s match that Curtin is likely to go to the kids again against SKC. Herbers made the start in place of Ilsinho, who is currently fighting off a foot injury.

“We’re a club that trusts young players and believes in playing young players,” Curtin said. “They rewarded us.” 

2. Bedoya’s impact
Although he won’t make the scoresheet, in three games, Alejandro Bedoya has impressed Curtin with his poise in the midfield and big-game calmness with the ball. 

“To think he’s in his preseason now is a scary thing,” said Curtin, who has played Bedoya 90 minutes in his last two games. “Three great performances and it’s only going to get better. I can’t say enough positives about him.”

What Curtin likes the most is Bedoya’s ability to keep possession and relax the game, something that helps a club overflowing with young players. 

“He has been a great influence on us keeping possession,” Curtin said. “It’s the simple balls that don’t show up in the stat sheet, where he catches it and just plays it to our outside back. That gives us time to catch our breath — it’s so valuable.”

SKC has noticed it, too. 

“They added a very good player, someone with a lot of experience and commitment to the game, especially in the midfield” SKC coach Peter Vermes said. “He poses a problem for any team they play against. For us, we have to be compact, we have to be smart and we have to take our chances really well.”

3. Tired SKC
The Union are catching Sporting Kansas City at the right time. Vermes’ club is winded after just one home match in its last seven. 

“We’ve had a lot of travel these last couple weeks, so going into this Philly game we want to conserve as much energy as possible,” SKC’s Benny Feilhaber said. “They are a really good team this year, so we’ll have our hands full. But we’re confident we can go in and get something out of it.” 

And the club has a right to be tired. In 11 days from Saturday’s match, SKC will have played in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago, home at Children’s Mercy Park, then away at BC Place against the Vancouver Whitecaps, before traveling cross-country to face the Union.

“Every game is very important, so we have to be able to give everything we’ve got, even though we’re running on fumes a little bit here,” Vermes said. “We’re going to have to dig down deep and muster up something with Philadelphia being as good as they are.” 

4. Keep an eye on ...
Union: It doesn’t appear that Ilsinho will return in time for Saturday’s match, leaving Herbers as a starter on the right side of the midfield. He has two goals and four assists in five starts this season.

SKC: Although Dom Dwyer has four goals in his last five matches, Feilhaber has the ability to get everyone involved. The veteran midfielder has a goal and three assists in his last four matches.

5. This and that
• The Union are 4-5-4 against SKC all-time and an even 2-2-2 at home. 

• Despite being in playoff position, the Union have yet to win back-to-back games more than once this season. The only time they’ve claimed consecutive wins was on March 12 and March 20. And that started with a win over the Crew. 

• Each scoring a goal against the Crew, Rosenberry and Herbers were the first two rookies to score in a match since Colorado Rapids’ Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers did it in 2013.