The Evster: The best (and worst) feelings in sports

The Evster: The best (and worst) feelings in sports

Sadly, most of us will never dunk on a dude's neck. Or turn on an inside fastball and send it over the Green Monster. But for some stupid reason, we still love to compete. From skating on ice that's just been Zamboni'ed to having Wes Welker fall to the 6th round of your draft, these are some of sports' simplest of pleasures.

THE BEST

Receiving a "Thank You" Point in Basketball - You're at the Y on a cold Tuesday night, and nothing is goin' your way. Your shot's not falling, your team's lost two straight, and the old dude with the rec-specs keeps lookin' you off. But then something happens that turns everything around, and pretty much validates your entire existence.

An easy layup. Not for you, but for your teammate, set up by you and your Bobby Hurley-like vision. On the way back downcourt, your teammate gives you a nod, and then the subtle point. "Good look," he says, thanking you for the bucket. "Your goddamn right it was," you think, but for now you stay silent. Because no one drops fresh dimes like you do.

Blasting An Opponent's Shuffleboard Disc Off the Court - Why you agreed to play shuffleboard, who can remember? But now it's 95 degrees and you're stuck hanging out with the entire cast of Cocoon. To make things worse, your Uncle Don's in the zone, and if you don't blast him out of that stupid 10-point triangle, victory is his.

You have two options: miss on purpose (so you can get on with your day) or blast that jerk (and live to fight another round). You know what to do. You are a warrior.

Ohhhhhhh baby, this one's on point, zipping along the pavement like a heat-seeking missile. (Or maybe more just like a disc-seeking disc. Yeah, let's not get carried away here, it's just shuffleboard for cryin' out loud. And let's face it, heat-seeking missiles are kinda all over the place anyway.) But then ...WAMMO! Take the walk, Uncle Don, the fat lady ain't singin' just yet.

Opening a Fresh Can of Tennis Balls - The only thing better than smelling fuzzy Penn 2′s is popping open a can of BBQ Pringles.

That Sweet, Perfect 8-iron - Ahhhh, that sound, that feeling, THAT LOFT, you are a natural. Seriously, if you quit your job and moved down to Florida, you could be on the PGA Tour in 6 to 8 months. Maybe 10. You are the next Rick Rhoden.

Unbuckling Your Ski Boots After a Long Day on the Slopes - What the freak were you thinking? This is fun? Paying $96 dollars for severe lower back pain? Pretty much every 11-year-old kid is better than you at this sport. Even the kid with snot all over his goggles. How it got there? You'll never know, but the fact remains that that kid has layers of snot caked all over his face.

But now it's almost over. The lodge is in sight. So very close to a cup of hot chocolate and ultimate relief. Skis off, poles down, heel, toe, heel, toe, heel, toe, snowpants swishing, looking for any bench, ANY GODDAMN BENCH, that can support your cherry red butt. And then you sit down, and unbuckle your boots, OH MY GOD WHY ARE THEY SO TIGHT, HOW DID I EVEN CLAMP THEM ON IN THE FIRST PLACE, and then, release, all is right in the world. Bow down to the king of the mountain.

Picking up a Spare in the 10th Frame - Your wrist is throbbing and your feet are on fire, your high score for the night is a 78. But then comes the tenth, and the extra ball that comes with it, and suddenly the pins need to be punished.

Crushing a Wiffle Ball Over a Fence, Ending the Game Immediately -- You are, without a doubt, the Dave Kingman of your generation. Only handsomer. And with a compact swing that would make Chase Utley jels. "Do I lift weights? Nah, not really. Not really. It's all in the hips. Learned how to take cuts from an old ballcoach. You mighta heard of him, Tom Emanski? Whatever, no big deal, only led his teams to back-to-back-to-back AAU titles. Whatever, only the greatest baseball coach/VHS salesman who has ever lived. You should prolly look him up. If you wanna hit like me."

No one who grabbed that plastic yellow stick before you hit one out of the yard. Not even your cousin's 19-year-old boyfriend, and he played Legion. But you? You jacked that knuckler onto the neighbor's roof, and now it's time to get yourself a cheeseburg.

(For the record, the feeling of smashing anything is amazing. Ping Pong balls, whack-a-mole, watermelons, all fantastic. Any one of them could've been included in this piece.)

THE WORST FEELINGS

Unfortunately, there is no glory without pain. Sometimes we fail. And sometimes we barf. And sometimes we are forced to sleep on the couch after lathering up in Ben Gay. Behold, the 5 worst feelings in sports:

Basketball: Jamming your Finger  - Doesn't matter how it happens, going up for a rebound or deflecting a loose ball, it is the worst thing that can happen in your whole entire life. The absolute worst. Fingers aren't supposed to turn green and purple. And yellow. And orange. And the sound oh good God the sound!

Softball: Misjudging a Fly Ball and Having it Go Over Your Head - Then turning around and having to sprint after it, so far, so far, like "how is it still rolling?" only to finally get there, pivot like Willie Mays and fire it nowhere near the cutoff man, who now stands in shallow center with his hands in the air, totally embarrassed to know you.

Golf: Not Being Able to Find Your Ball - OMG, you didn't even hit it THAT FAR off the fairway, and yet you can't find it? How is that possible? You had your eye on it the whole time. Did someone pick it up? How long are you going to look for it? Seriously you have like, 50 other balls in your bag. Let's just give up. Why are we still looking? I'm so thirsty.

Basketball: Missing a Free Throw When Shooting Up Teams and Having to Sit Out a Game Because of It - Not only did you miss, but the dude who made it after you shoots with two hands. Ugh, just leave the courts and/or stop playing sports forever.

Football/Hockey/Lacrosse/Boxing/Basketball: Getting Blasted - There is nothing worse than getting blasted. Any type of blast, really. I know I just said that jamming your finger is the worst, but I was wrong. Getting blasted is the worst. It's interesting because blasting is so fun, and yet getting blasted is so horrible. Can you imagine blasting someone whilst getting blasted? Rocky II was the best movie EVERRRRRRR.

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Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

BOX SCORE

The Sixers began the season looking lost without Joel Embiid. Now they are finding ways to win when he is not on the court. 

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion in the second half of Friday’s 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see story). He was sidelined for the decisive 8:50 of the game (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers trailed, 81-78, when he subbed out for the second time because of the injury, and outscored the Trail Blazers, 15-11, from that point on.

So how was this team that battled with inconsistency and reliance on Embiid able to pull out a comeback win punctuated in the final seconds? Ask the Sixers and they’ll give varying answers, a sign they are getting the job done in multiple ways and aren’t relying on just one key to success.

The most glaring difference was the hero of the game. Robert Covington drained two three-pointers in the final 40 seconds. His trey from Dario Saric with 38.2 remaining cut the Trail Blazers' lead to just one, 91-90. With 4.5 to go, he nailed the game-winning three from T.J. McConnell to give the Sixers their eighth victory in 10 games (see feature highlight).

“That’s resilient Cov,” Nerlens Noel said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good shot or a bad shot; he’ll pull it in your face. That’s the confidence he has and that’s the confidence we need him to have. He steps up and makes two big shots like that, that’s enough said. He won us that game.”

Critics have called out Covington’s up-and-down performance from three all season. (They’ve made their feelings known with loud boos at home games.) Covington shot 5 for 12 behind the arc on the night but his 2 for 3 performance in the fourth was what mattered most. 

“I am a fighter, that’s what I have been my whole life,” he said. “Just because fans are booing me at one point doesn't mean anything. I just keep working. I am not going to let that deteriorate my game. It goes in one ear and out the other.”

Without Embiid in the game, the Sixers had to rely on a total team effort. After he went to the bench, the final points were scored by a combination of Covington, Gerald Henderson, Noel, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and McConnell.

“Ball movement,” head coach Brett Brown said. “We had 25 assists out of 36 made baskets. It’s not like we’re going to give the ball to Damian Lillard (guard for the Blazers). That’s not who we are. Whatever we do, it has to be done by committee, by a group, by a team. It’s even more exposed when Joel isn’t in the game. They did that. Unlikely people ended up with the ball sometimes in unlikely spots. … You have to move the ball. That’s what the team has learned without Joel.” 

Several of the players on the court in critical moments were from the second unit. Since Brown locked in on his rotation, the reserves don’t have a drop-off in confidence from the starters. 

“It’s the mentality,” Covington said. “Everybody has that swagger about us right now because once Joel comes out, the next person steps in and fills that void. It’s a matter of that contagious feeling that trickles into the second unit that’s making us that much more valuable.”

Then there's always defense, the foundation of any solid NBA team and a focal point for the Sixers. Noel saw that as the difference-maker when subbing in and out. The Trail Blazers scored just two points in the final 1:56. 

"The second unit goes there and does a great job guarding the yard, not letting up easy baskets," Noel said. "The offensive side is fluid motion. Guys get shots, pick-and-roll, it opens up open threes for guys, driving lines, pump fakes, it’s a great unity."

Embiid liked what he saw from a distance. He will not travel with the team to their game on Saturday against the Hawks in Atlanta. 

"I’m just happy we’ve been closing out games, and the main thing I’m really happy [about] is they’ve been able to do it without me," he said. "That’s going to give us a lot of confidence when I’m missing back-to-backs. My teammates are going to have more confidence to come in and play the same way."

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Of the nearly 20,000 people in the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, Joel Embiid was seemingly the least concerned when he came down and injured his left knee. 

Fans held their breath and the Sixers looked on anxiously as the standout big man got up in visible discomfort and limped off the court (see highlights). Embiid, however, wasn’t worried. 

“I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way,” he said after the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see Instant Replay). “I’m great. The knee’s fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good.”

Embiid ran off the court on his own, was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and was cleared to return to the game. He aggravated his knee again driving to the basket and this time, the team held him out to be careful.

“The review is that he hyperextended his left knee,” head coach Brett Brown said. “There was a minor tweak again, and for precautionary reasons only, the doctors did not allow him to return. There will be more information given as we know it. But quickly, that's what we know.”

Embiid understood the team’s decision to sideline him for the final 8:50 while the Sixers went on a comeback run (see feature highlight). He still finished the game with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double, five assists and four blocks in only 22 minutes.

“Obviously those guys, the front office, they care about my future, so they just shut it down,” Embiid said. “But I was fine.”

Embiid will not travel to Atlanta for Saturday’s game against the Hawks (pre-scheduled rest). He expects to be available for Tuesday’s home matchup against the Clippers. 

"You know how tough he is," Nerlens Noel said. "If it isn’t anything serious, he’ll be right back. At the end of the game, he was telling me was he was feeling great and there was no pain. He wanted to come back in the game … he’s a trooper. He always gives it his all and always plays hard."

Injuries to any player are worrisome, especially a franchise centerpiece with two years of rehab (foot) behind him. The Sixers have been methodical and cautious with his playing time. Embiid is on a 28-minute restriction and can play in only one game of a back-to-back series. 

The same player who is so closely watched, though, also plays with sky-high energy that doesn’t have a brake pedal. 

“You're concerned,” Brown said of seeing Embiid get injured. “It's clear to all of us that he plays with such reckless abandon. I think that we're all going to be seeing this and feeling this regularly. From flying into stands to stalking somebody in the open court to block a shot to the collision he often is in trying to draw fouls. That's just who he is. 

“I think that as he just plays more basketball and continues to grow, to not necessarily avoid those situations, just to perhaps manage them a little bit more. Right now, he's just a young guy that's just playing that doesn't know what he doesn't know and has a fearless approach underneath all that attitude.”

Fearless is an accurate description considering Embiid's trouble-free reaction to the awkward way his leg bent (he hadn’t seen a replay). 

“I kind of had that in college, too,” he said. “I think I’m flexible, so it’s supposed to happen.”