Is There Anybody Alive Out There? Sixers Play Hornets With a Combined Five Starters Missing

Is There Anybody Alive Out There? Sixers Play Hornets With a Combined Five Starters Missing

You expect to get a couple games like the one the Philadelphia 76ers are
gonna play tonight against the New Orleans Hornets, with a combined
five projected pre-season starters out of the two teams' respective
lineups with injury—you just figure (or at least hope) that they'll come
a little later in the season, after we at least get some idea of what
every team is like fully healthy. Unfortunately for the Sixers and
Hornets, they were granted no such luxuries, and tonight's game will
likely be a ragged affair featuring a lot of players that fans of the
other team's probably haven't heard of.

You probably know who's
absent from the Sixers' lineup, as Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson
remain out with no specific timetable for their return. On the Hornets'
side, neither of their two first-round picks from the last draft (big
man Anthony Davis, taken first overall, and combo guard Austin Rivers,
taken tenth), nor their max-extended shooting guard Eric Gordon, will be
playing tonight. Gordon's situation is eerily similar to Bynum's, as
both are out with nagging knee injuries that their respective medical
staffs seem to have difficulty gauging—though Gordon is taking more heat
for his, having been cleared medically to play, with Nawlins coach
Monty Williams basically calling Gordon a wimp for continuing to sit
out.

So it's probably not the star-studded affair that ESPN had
hoped for when the game was tabbed as one of their Wednesday night
telecasts. Still, even with so many key players out, the Hornets have
proven a decidedly tough out thusfar this season, getting contributions
from the likes of point guard Greivis Vasquez, swingman Al-Farouq Aminu
and defensive-oriented big Robin Lopez—a trio of one-time lottery picks
that struggled with the teams that drafted them, but appear to be
thriving in a more defined role on the Hornets. The solid,
defensive-minded New Orleans played San Antonio tough, squeaked out a
win against Utah, and even took one from Chicago on their home floor,
impressing in all three games.

The Sixers, on the other hand,
have only sort-of impressed once this season, the other two games being
blowout victories at the hands of the New York Knicks. A road game
against a lottery team like the Hornets should be the kind of win the
undermanned Sixers would hope to pick up, but if they think they'll be
able to cruise in the Big Easy, they will be quickly disabused of that
notion. Getting the offense (which has still yet to better 85 points in a
game) on track, including our struggling wing trio of Evan Turner, Nick
Young and Dorell Wright, will be the key, but it'll be no easy task
against either the Hornets or the Celtics, who the Sixers play on
Friday.

8:00 tip from New Orleans Arena. "We haven't played together, so we're trying to learn how to trust each
other," says Coach Collins. "We're trying to grow and win at the
same time while battling some injuries. We've had a little adversity
here." No kidding, but so have a lot of teams, and nobody's gonna give us sympathy wins.
Hopefully Spencer Hawes takes out his aggression over Mitt Romney's
election loss with a 28-point, 12-rebound, five-posterization night, at
the very least.

Pete Mackanin on Odubel Herrera's slump: 'He needs to battle his way out'

Pete Mackanin on Odubel Herrera's slump: 'He needs to battle his way out'

After an 0-for-5 day at the plate, Odubel Herrera isn't heading to the bench a day later.

He's leading off. 

Pete Mackanin chose to move the slumping centerfielder atop the lineup card for Friday's series opener against the Reds despite Herrera's striking out in all five plate appearances Thursday.

"I think he's a .290-plus hitter as a leadoff man and I'm not going to sit him," Mackanin said pregame. "He needs to battle his way out. You figure you're the leadoff hitter once a game. After that, it's wide open."

While he hasn't batted leadoff this season, Herrera spent the majority of his time in that spot last season. In 76 games there, he batted .285 with a .359 OBP and .417 slugging percentage. 

The leadoff hitter this season has been Cesar Hernandez, who has a day off with a groin pull he's dealt with the last 10 days. Herrera primarily has been the No. 3 hitter this season and his average is down to .226 with 49 strikeouts to just 11 walks. 

Mackanin hopes the leadoff role can help change Herrera's approach at the plate.

"He was drawing a lot of walks at leadoff, so whether he has that mindset or not, I'm not sure," the manager said. "I just want to get him as many at-bats as possible. We need to get him going. We need him and [Maikel] Franco to get going."

May specifically has been tough on Herrera. He has four hits in his last 36 at-bats and has seven strikeouts in his last two games. He has just seven hits in 22 games this month. 

"I think he's at the point where he's grinding and sometimes when you grind, sometimes there's that feeling where you get lost," Mackanin said. "I've been in situations as a hitter where I've gone up to the plate saying, 'I don't care where it is. I'm going up there and just hacking.' Because you start thinking and that's not working.

"And you look for a pitch and then all of a sudden you say I'm going to take a pitch to get a look at and it's strike one. Then he throws you a nasty slider and that's strike two and your plan is out the window. So I've gone up to the plate myself saying, 'I'm just looking down the middle and swinging. I'm not thinking.'"

When asked, Mackanin said the team had not discussed demoting Herrera or Franco to the minors to take pressure off the duo.

While Herrera tries to hit his way back into a groove, Howie Kendrick is in the midst of working his way back to the majors. He was hit by pitch twice in a rehab appearance Thursday but is back in the lineup Friday in left field. 

Mackanin said Kendrick needed four days minimum in his rehab assignment and will therefore play Friday and Saturday before the team sees how he feels.

The manager also said the team would give more playing time to backup catcher Andrew Knapp. He started consecutive games for the first time on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

"I'm going to try and see him as much as possible and keep him as sharp as possible instead of once a week," Mackanin said. "That's tough to hit, once a week. It's tough to hit twice a week if you don't hit back-to-back. There's no ulterior motive."

Report: Brett Brown accuses longtime friend of defrauding him of $750,000

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Report: Brett Brown accuses longtime friend of defrauding him of $750,000

Sixers head coach Brett Brown is in Australia this week, where he has accused longtime friend and former Australian men's national team assistant coach Shane Heal of defrauding him of $750,000, according to the Australian Associated Press.

Brown invested $250,000 into each of three companies for which Heal was the sole director. Brown wasn't given a legal title regarding the companies and didn't know the specifics of how the money would be used.

"I assumed that the money was going to be used for what Shane told me it was going to be used for," Brown said. "Because it was a friend that I had for 25 years."

Heal was charged last year by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission following an investigation relating to alleged misconduct in 2008, 2009 and 2010, according to the AAP.

The sides return to court in Brisbane on July 20.

Heal played in the NBA for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1996-97 and was with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003.