What Philly Is Overreacting To: The Sixers

What Philly Is Overreacting To: The Sixers

Until recently, there have been basically two camps of Sixers fans.

We have a peaceful village of people who enjoy this surprisingly competittive basketball team. They understand Rome was not built in a day, and consider stockpiles of young talent their chief form of currency. Let's call these people Ed Stefanski.

The rival tribe consists of sinister, warmongering hockey fans who want to slash and burn all of the club's resources. They've been reading from the book of Chuck, and pray one day the Liberty Ballers will be rebuilt in the likeness of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

My friends, you don't have to choose between these two ridiculous factions any longer. Dissatisfied with the core philosophies that guide both sides, I decided to break away and start my own group, and you are all welcome to join.

Our principal belief: the Sixers could play in the NBA Finals this year.

While the opposing coalitions squabble with each other over blueprints, we are focused on the bigger picture. Right now, that's the Eastern Conference standings.

The Sixers are positioned comfortably in seventh place, and are poised to strike at the higher seeds. A win last night along with a Knicks loss would have elevated them to sixth. Of course, neither of those things actually happened... but with 18 games to play, there is plenty of time.

Atlanta might not want to get too cozy in the fifth spot either. The Sixers are only four games back of the Hawks, who are just 3-7 in their last 10. Nobody seems to be talking about this, but even if Philly is unable to pass New York, the Hawks are very much in their sights.

So the Sixers could rise as high as fifth in the East, which would establish them as what? The best of the medicore teams?

There is some truth to that. We are not an idealistic people, and must concede there is a higher order of competition in the NBA. We also believe the Sixers soon could join their ranks.

First, eliminate that awful 3-13 start from the record book. That might as well have been a completely different team, and had it not been for that horrid stretch, the Sixers would be on pace to easily eclipse 50 wins. It's not an arbitrary total either, as it's usually the minimum number of victories a franchise representing the East in the Finals will reach.

The Sixers have come even further since then though. Just as the team is better now than they were at Game 1, they're better now than they were at Game 41. In fact, in the last 22 contests, they are 16-6. A .727 win percentage spread across an entire season would put them in the hunt for 60 W's, and the best record in the conference.

Obviously, that deserves some context. They haven't beaten a lot elite clubs during that span, have been home more often than away, pissed a few of them away, etc. If nothing else at least, it suggests they still may be on the rise. 

And while it's true the Sixers are only 2-7 against the top four seeds in the East this season, would you consider any of them unbeatable? Take away a highly unusual 45-point fail at Chicago, and the average margin of losing to these teams is by less than five points.

That Bulls game is clearly an outlier, and they responded with a revenge win a few weeks later. Philly has gone the distance with Boston and Orlando every time they stepped on the court, falling by no more than four in any meeting so far. Miami looks like they are imploding.

Is that crazy cult leader really suggesting the Sixers can match up with anybody in the East?

Well, sort of. All things being equal, I have to admit any one of those teams is still in a better position to make a Finals run in 2011. Key components from the Celtics, Heat, and Magic have all been there before, and the Bulls are incredibly talented. Chances are Philadelphia can't outlast three out of four of them in seven game sets.

Why is everybody so quick to count the Sixers out though? Because they don't have a superstar? Yeah, there's a revelation.

With the recent emergence of Evan Turner as a respectable NBA player, what the Sixers do have is a dynamic team that is eight or nine players deep, several of whom the sky is the limit for their potential. Maybe somebody will finally realize theirs at the end of one of these close games they keep losing.

And maybe this Finals talk is only a pipe dream. Maybe I should go back on my medication.

Maybe the fact that the Sixers are good—and fun to watch—yet incomplete isn't a bad thing either. Maybe, when the time is right, they will take the next step, and this is simply all part of that process.

AP Photo

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy dies at 48

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AP Images

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy dies at 48

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy has died in Orlando.

Police say the 48-year-old former Seattle Seahawks star was found dead on Tuesday morning.

Orlando Police Department public information officer Wanda Miglio said the circumstances surrounding his death are still unknown, but that there is nothing suspicious about his death. An investigation is being conducted.

One of the best defensive lineman of his generation, Kennedy was a star in his 11 seasons in the NFL with the Seahawks. He became the second Seattle player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. He was an unmovable wall as a dominant defensive tackle, and a quiet, gentle soul away from the field never interested in finding himself in the spotlight.

Kennedy was an eight-time Pro Bowler and won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 1992.

"Really sad to lose a guy like Cortez Kennedy," Broncos' general manager John Elway tweeted Tuesday. Elway was chased around by Kennedy twice a year for much of the 1990s as competitors in the AFC West. "A great personality, a great player and I enjoyed competing against him."

Even though he last played for the Seahawks in 2000, he remained a significant part of the organization. He was a mainstay around the team during training camp and would occasionally roll through the locker room during the regular season grabbing a few minutes with anyone -- players, coaches, media -- up for a chat.

"My heart hurts," current Seahawks offensive lineman Justin Britt tweeted. "We lost a truly great player but even better person."

10 observations from Day 1 of Eagles' OTAs

10 observations from Day 1 of Eagles' OTAs

There was finally some football in South Philly on Tuesday as the Eagles kicked off the first round of their OTAs. 

Aside from a few notable absences -- Fletcher Cox, Jason Peters, Donnie Jones -- the Eagles had just about everyone on the field (see story)

Here are 10 observations from Tuesday's practice: 

1. Here's how the first-team offense looked: 
QB: Carson Wentz
RB: LeGarrette Blount
TE: Zach Ertz
OL (left to right): Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Halapoulivaati Vaitai
WR: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Jordan Matthews

2. Here's how the first-team defense looked: 
LDE: Brandon Graham
LDT: Destiny Vaeao
RDT: Tim Jernigan
RDE: Vinny Curry
LBs: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks
S: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod
CB: Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson. 

Note: In the nickel package, rookie third-rounder Rasul Douglas came on the field as an outside cornerback and Mills slid into the slot. 

3. Early in the practice, in an offense-only drill, the Eagles were trying to audible into a new play, but there was some confusion with Blount, who didn't seem to know the play. Blount is still obviously learning the playbook, but it shows the respect they have for him that he was working with the ones already. 

4. The play the Eagles wanted to get into during that drill was a good one. Wentz rolled out to his right and found Jeffery streaking across the field. The two seem to be getting on just fine. 

Although later in 11-on-11s, Wentz tossed up an ill-advised pass deep to Jeffery in tight coverage and the ball was picked by McLeod. Jeffery will win a lot of battles, but that one was too much. 

5. Linebacker Joe Walker and cornerback Ron Brooks were on the field on Tuesday but didn't participate in team drills. Walker (ACL) and Brooks (quad tendon) are both recovering from significant injuries. 

6. The Eagles lined up a few times with Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey on the field together. Those few times, Sproles was in the backfield and Pumphrey lined up in the slot. It's early, but we might get to see some creativity from Doug Pederson with these two this year. 

7. Dillon Gordon, whom the Eagles signed as an undrafted rookie last year, did something interesting on Tuesday. The offensive tackle, who played tight end in college, took a few reps at tight end in limited offensive drills. That's intriguing because if he could play the role of an extra tackle during the season, he'd have something Matt Tobin doesn't: the ability to actually become a receiver, not just an eligible one. 

8. Robinson, who is getting run at corner with the first team, won a jump ball with Dorial Green-Beckham on a deep ball. It was an impressive play by Robinson, but DGB mistimed his jump. 

The best defensive play of the day came from Najee Goode in 7-on-7s. The veteran backup linebacker and special teamer dropped back and dove backward to break up a pass off the hand of Nick Foles. 

9. Obviously, there's no hitting yet, but Derek Barnett had a good first day going against the vets. Sure, Lane Johnson completely shut him down on one play, but Barnett showed off a variety of moves. 

10. The Eagles' two rookie receivers worked with the third team on Tuesday, while DGB and Nelson Agholor worked with the twos. Shelton Gibson showed off his quickness and Mack Hollins' size and speed combo wasn't any less impressive. Also, Hollins wasn't wearing gloves, but it didn't seem to affect his ability to catch. 

Stupid observation of the day: Thanks to his afro and thick beard, Seumalo kind of looks like a lion with a mane.