Winning the Games We Should: Sixers Face Bucks on the Road

Winning the Games We Should: Sixers Face Bucks on the Road

"We don't lose two in a row at home." Such has been the credo of the post-suck Sixers, taken (as just about everything has been this year) from the example of their head coach. It's one thing to preach that, however it's quite another thing to back it up on the court--especially when doing so necessitates a hard-fought victory against an elite club like the Boston Celtics. But just as they have since back-to-back home drops against the Cavs and Raptors last November, they avoided posting a second straight L at the WFC last night with a gutsy, defensive, statement of a victory against the C's.

Great as it is to see the team follow through with protecting their home court, I think it's just as important that the team make another point of emphasis: Not to to lose to sub-.500 teams on the road.

Not that they should do it at home, either, but there's more of a built-in excuse to come out lackluster against the bad teams when they're playing with their home crowd at their back. But really good teams should be able to reliably beat the lottery hopefuls regardless of locale, and that certainly extends to the Sixers game against the Bucks tonight in Milwaukee.

The Bucks this year are having arguably the most disappointing season in all the East, after taking the Hawks to seven games in the playoffs last year and having added pieces in the off-season (Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden, in addition to the re-signed John Salmons) that were supposed to help take the team to the next level. But the pieces turned out to be ill-fitting, the lineup got wrecked with injuries, and neither of the team's two key players (point guard Brandon Jennings and center Andrew Bogut) ended up building on the solid seasons they had in '09-'10. It's all added up to a 25-38 season for the Bucks, leaving them outside the playoff picture in the East--though with the Pacers in freefall of late, they're not completely out of the discussion just yet. 

8:00 tip tonight from the Bradley Center. A win tonight would be Philly's fourth straight on the road, the first time in three years. "We definitely feel like we're a great ballclub that is capable of beating anybody each and every night," said Thaddeus Young after the team's win last night. Certainly getting there, Thad.

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Phillies corner outfielder/infielder Howie Kendrick is finally nearing a return. He'll begin a rehab assignment tonight with Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Kendrick has been out since April 15 with an oblique strain. He did defensive work during the Phillies' road trip and has been taking outdoor batting practice at home this week.

Kendrick was off to a hot start when the oblique injury sent him to the DL. In 10 games, he went 13 for 39 (.333) with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs. He batted second all 10 games.

The Phillies are in a bad offensive funk and could use Kendrick's bat over Michael Saunders' right now. The Phils' 1-2 hitters were among the most productive in the majors in April, hitting close to .350 for the month. They're down to .282 on the season as Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera have slumped in May.

With Clay Buchholz likely out for the season and Saunders providing little offense so far, the Phillies' trio of offseason veteran additions has not panned out through two months.

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

It's only natural to have some reservations about Lane Johnson after he was suspended for 10 games last season for his second violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. One more positive test and the Eagles will lose their starting right tackle for two full years.

Fortunately, Johnson seems determined to avoid any future run-ins with the league. The 27-year-old changed his entire approach this offseason, cutting out negative influences or any other voices at all while preparing for the 2017 season.

"I just trained by myself back in Oklahoma," Johnson said after the Eagles' first full-team practice of OTAs on Tuesday. "Trained by myself and everything went good. I came back, my body weight is about 325, so I'm heavier than I've ever been. I feel in good shape, and I have a lot to prove, so it's a big year for me.

"I did everything by myself. There wasn't going to be any mishaps."

Two suspensions totaling 14 games later, Johnson has gained a healthy fear of being unknowingly steered toward an illegal supplement.

Johnson tested positive for PEDs before the season last year after taking a banned substance known as peptides and was eventually slapped with the full 10-game penalty after a lengthy appeal process. The fifth-year veteran always maintained peptides were not listed on the label of the offending supplement.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the players' association in November after the suspension was upheld. Its status is ongoing.

Johnson also served a four-game suspension in 2014.

When he's not in trouble with the league office, Johnson is a vital cog in the Eagles' offense. They went 5-1 with him and 2-8 without him last season.

"I feel like whenever I'm playing, I try to be the best right tackle in the NFL," Johnson said. "My deal is to just stay on the field, play a complete season, and I think it will be a big year for me."

Johnson isn't concerned about losing a competitive edge, physically or mentally, after dropping supplements altogether.

"I've always been the athlete that I am," Johnson said. "That's what I'll continue to prove. I'm gonna go play and show people what I can do."

Signed in January 2016 to a five-year contract extension worth $56 million, Johnson has plenty to prove. He was working out in place of 35-year-old left tackle Jason Peters, who wasn't at the start of OTAs, on Tuesday and is expected to one day replace the nine-time Pro Bowl selection permanently.

Despite his checkered past, it sounds like Johnson knows exactly what's on the line, which is why he chose to go it alone this offseason. The only person you can trust is yourself.

Then again, Johnson still has his vices, which might raise some eyebrows with the news he's up to 325 pounds — eight more than his listed weight.

"My big deal is cutting out the ice cream, the Ben & Jerry's late at night — the stuff you want to indulge in," Johnson said. "If you get me on an ice cream binge, it's not good."

The Eagles can probably deal with a little extra ice cream, just as long as Johnson remains committed to keeping dodgy supplements out of his body.