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Does Sixers' Joel Embiid need to protect himself better on the court?

Does Sixers' Joel Embiid need to protect himself better on the court?

There are a lot of words to describe Sixers center Joel Embiid. Amazing. Uncanny. Special.

Lately, a few others are coming to mind. How 'bout injury-prone? Scary? Reckless?

Embiid hasn't played in 11 of the Sixers' last 12 games, and at this point isn't expected to return until after the NBA All-Star break. That doesn't put him back in uniform until February 25, more than a month after sustaining what was once termed a "knee contusion."

No big deal. The Sixers' playoff push was a farce anyway, and rest and recovery are what's best for Embiid right now.

The real question we should probably be asking is not when will Embiid return, but what kind of player will he be once he's back? Because just watching him for one game is enough to make a serious examination as to whether he's going to continue to put himself and his career in jeopardy on a nightly basis.

Let's go back to the tape against the Rockets (we spliced video of these plays together in a clip above).

After winning the tip, Embiid takes the pass at the top of the key, drives to the basket and dunks OVER Nene on the Sixers' opening possession. The Wells Fargo Center roars in approval as Embiid lands awakwardly on his right leg and nearly comes crashing haphazardly to the hardwood.

In the second quarter, Embiid faces up Nene, cuts across the basket and lays the ball into the hoop, but does hit the deck this time, gingerly falling to the floor on the finish. Moments later at the other end, Embiid rushes into the corner to defend Sam Dekker's three-point attempt, only to wind up in the Rockets bench.

Then in the third, Embiid skies for an alley-oop from Dario Saric, yet is brought to the ground again — hard this time — when he's fouled by Patrick Beverly. Shortly after, Embiid chases down James Harden from behind and swats away the easy slam, only his knees appear to buckle on the way down.

Fourth period, Embiid is back in the front row on defense.

That was all from the last time Embiid played a game for the Sixers, and it turns out he had a torn meniscus at the time, the result of another ugly landing. Unfortunately, it's an all-too-common occurence to see the 7-foot-2 center make an uneasy touch down or on the floor, and ever prior to his latest injury, it was quite worrisome.

Keep in mind, we're talking about one of the faces of the Sixers franchise here, a 22-year-old who missed two full seasons already because of a foot problem — albeit a freak injury, but still concerning nonetheless. Of course we love the effort, yet at this rate, how long can his body withstand these types of beatings, night in and night out?

Obviously, asking Embiid to bring that energy level down by even a notch is easier said than done. He's not a certain 6-foot guard, though, nor should he be playing like such, especially at this stage of the Sixers' rebuilding process, when so little is on the line.

The style of playing honestly is at least a little reminiscent of Allen Iverson, in terms of the seeming total disregard Embiid shows for his body. He's captivating audiences like Iverson, too.

But Embiid isn't Iverson. Big men tend to break down easier to begin with, let alone those with a history of lower-body injuries. And few if any NBA superstars took the drubbings AI did with such regularity and were still great for very long.

Ultimately, it might be Embiid's responsibility to take better care to protect himself when he's on an NBA court. You could also make the case that it's the Sixers' imperative to impart this to him, if they haven't already.

Embiid's importance to the Sixers isn't vastly different than that of Carson Wentz's to the Eagles, and how do people react any time he's exposed to an unnecessary hit? Wentz is told to get out of harm's way all the time, and peppered with questions from the media roughly every other week there's a situation when he doesn't.

Watching Embiid play like a guard in a center's body is a legitimate thrill, and the degree to which you want to see him rein it in might vary. Yet up to this point, it's a concern that doesn't seem to be getting much attention, if it's been voiced at all. If anything, people want to know when the minutes and game restrictions will be lifted.

Until he starts to show some regard for his own safety on the court, the Sixers would be best served to continue putting limitations on Embiid. The organization can't protect him forever, but until he learns to protect himself, maybe they should continue doing what they can.

Kennett Square's Jack Regenye makes catch-of-the-year at Junior League World Series

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USA Today Images

Kennett Square's Jack Regenye makes catch-of-the-year at Junior League World Series

Sunday gave us the catch-of-the-year. And it didn't come from MLB, or the minors, but from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania's Jack Regenye in the Junior League World Series.

Just take a look at this. Then watch it again and again, trying to figure out how this is possible. 

After being initially ruled an out, the umps reversed the call, calling it a home run. After more deliberation, it was finally ruled an out because rules be damned, when a catch is that good, you have to count it.

Regenye's Junior League team (ages 13-14) went on to lose to Chinese Taipei, 12-1. 

With Odubel Herrera on the DL, maybe the Phils should give Regenye a call.

Eagles' latest Achilles heel emerges in preseason

Eagles' latest Achilles heel emerges in preseason

Right when the Eagles get finished plugging one potential hole, another springs up.

For months, cornerback was considered by far the greatest weakness on the Eagles' roster, but Howie Roseman appears to have taken care of that with the trade for Ronald Darby. Now, all of a sudden, the Eagles' secondary has the potential to be a strength in 2017.

Yet, just as the plan at corner is beginning to take shape, another concern is emerging halfway through the preseason, at a position many fans thought Roseman solidified in May. Running back looks like it could quickly become a serious problem for the Eagles if it hasn’t reached that point already.

It’s only preseason, and the offensive line hasn’t done him any favors, but LeGarrette Blount has nine carries for 17 yards with a fumble in two games. Fifth-round draft pick Donnel Pumphrey – who the coaching staff seemed enamored with this spring — has 14 total touches for 34 yards. After a strong start at training camp, Wendell Smallwood has yet to play in an exhibition game due to a hamstring injury. And by now, everybody is aware 34-year-old Darren Sproles isn’t an every-down back.

The best any running back has looked in exhibition games is undrafted rookie Corey Clement, by far. Whether that’s a testament to his development or a commentary on the state of the backfield is a matter of perspective.

Regardless, you could’ve seen this mess coming from a mile away.

The Blount signing was met with tremendous enthusiasm when it really should’ve been met with tremendous skepticism. Though he rushed for 1,161 yards and led the NFL with 18 touchdowns in 2016, Blount averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, sat by in free agency as the Patriots moved to replace him, and turns 31 in December. He’s never been a threat as a receiver, and even his gaudy numbers last season with the Super Bowl champions were an outlier compared to the rest of his career.

The reality is Blount is not a mortal lock to make the Eagles' roster. He likely will, because he still has value in short yardage and at the goal line, and most of all, because the competition hasn’t made enough of a push. However, releasing Blount would only cost the Eagles $400,000 against the salary cap, according to OverTheCap.com, while his age and the limitations of his skill set are worth reiterating.

The question is what then?

While the Eagles have toyed with getting Pumphrey and Sproles on the field at the same time, projections as to how prevalent those designer packages would be always felt ambitious as well. Listed at 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, Pumphrey has not looked like an NFL-ready player through two games. Even if he is ready to contribute, that is not an offense designed with running the football in mind.

The Eagles’ ability to let Blount go would seem to hinge almost solely on Smallwood. Of course, it was an unwillingness to rely on a second-year player with 83 touches that caused the club to seek veteran help in the first place.

Smallwood is not an unimpressive prospect. A fifth-round draft pick from West Virginia a year ago, Smallwood has the size and athletic ability to handle the bulk of the work. He was running with authority in camp. He simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy, which is his biggest shortcoming at this point, aside from inexperience. It’s impossible to tell whether Smallwood is in line to finish with the most touches in this backfield (regardless of Blount’s presence) or if he’s fighting for his job.

Clement is the bright spot in all of this and arrives as a more polished pass protector than Smallwood was as a rookie. Seeing as inexperience was one of the primary reasons the Eagles weren’t willing to entrust Smallwood as the primary ball carrier, it’s difficult to imagine Clement could be the guy the in September.

Again, some of the culpability for Blount’s struggles falls on the offensive line. Some. Blount’s last season in New England was far from the norm, and for most of his eight-year career, he’s been purely a situational player. Even under optimal circumstances, expecting him to recreate last season’s numbers, or come close, never made much sense.

And while it would be easy to chalk up the pitiful ground attack as a symptom of the preseason, the fact is these games have exposed a problem that’s been lurking beneath the surface. Blount is old and not an ideal fit for the Eagles' offense. Pumphrey is an undersized rookie. Sproles is Sproles. Smallwood is a mystery.

Up until a week ago, everybody was worried about the cornerbacks. Before that, it was the wide receivers, until the Eagles made significant investments in talent over the offseason. All along, there’s been an underrated need at running back, or at the very least, an uncertainty.

Try as he might, Roseman can’t seem to find a solution for every hole on the roster — and it’s beginning to look like running back is the spot the Eagles might spring a leak.