Wroten Returns as Sixers Visit Nets

December 12, 2014

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Coming off a win in Detroit, the Sixers (2-19) went into Atlanta on Wednesday looking to keep things rolling against the streaking Hawks. Unfortunately, the Sixers offense wasn’t able to keep up with the dangerous long-range shooting of the Hawks, who prevailed 95-79. Tonight, the Sixers are back in the Northeast for a matchup with the Nets (8-12).

The two teams completed a trade yesterday that sent Andrei Kirilenko and other pieces to Philadelphia in exhange for Brandon Davies. After the deal was completed, the Sixers waived Malcolm Lee and today, they waived the other player aquired in the deal, Jorge Gutierrez, to make room for Ronald Roberts Jr., who had been playing extremely well in Delaware with the Sixers D-League team. Roberts, through eight games this season for the 87ers, averaged 17.5 points, 11.8 rebounds per game while shooting 67.4% from the floor. Roberts, a power forward, will provide depth at the four and five spots with the departure of Brandon Davies to Brooklyn. Roberts played on the Sixers Summer League team but was one of the final players cut from their roster.

On Wednesday night in Atlanta, the Sixers looked sloppy, with Michael Carter-Williams accounting for nine of the team’s 18 turnovers. The Sixers were also dominated on the boards, getting outrebounded 52-39.  Noel finished the game with just five boards and Henry Sims had only four. When your point guard leads your team in rebounds, something is wrong. The defense did look good at times, with Nerlens Noel swatting three shots while KJ and MCW contributed with two blocks a piece. Luc Mbah a Moute had five steals. The Sixers free-throw shooting continued to stumble as they missed nine of their 22 attempts on Wednesday.

The Sixers have some help on the way tonight with the return of Tony Wroten. With Wrtoen and Alexey Shved back in the mix, Michael Carter-Williams will get more time to rest during the game rather than playing 40+ minutes each night. Shved returned on Wednesday night in Atlanta and looked strong. scpromg 13 pointd on 4-for-8 shooting while also hitting five out of six from the line in 16 minutes of play. Meanwhile, Wroten has missed the last six games due to a sprained right knee that he suffered back on November 26th against the Nets. He will come off of the bench tonight, but still leads the Sixers with 17.9 points per game.

Game Notes:

  • The Sixers and Nets played each other on November 26th, with Brooklyn winning 99-91. Deron Williams scored 17 points, dished out 10 assists and grabbed eight rebounds in the win.
  • Though the Nets are 8-12 on the year, they are 3-1 against Atlantic Division opponents.
  • Michael Carter-Williams continued his impressive play on Wednesday night in Atlanta, despite scoring just eight points. The reigning Rookie of the Year grabbed ten boards and dished out nine assists. He’s averag8ing 17.7 points, 11.7 assists and 9.2 rebounds over his last six games.
  • Nerlens Noel was barely a year old when Kevin Garnett was going through his first NBA training camp. Garnett is in his 20th season, which is more than the Sixers active roster, which has 17 years of experience.
  • KJ McDaniels (1.8) and Nerlens Noel (1.5) are ranked first and second in the rookie class when it comes to blocks per game.
  • According to Sixers.com, at 6’6″, McDaniels ranks as the most efficient shot blocker at his height in NBA history and is averaging more blocks per 36 minutes (2.1) than all but 12 players, all of whom are power forwards and centers.

Projected Lineups:

Sixers

PG – Michael Carter-Williams

SG – Hollis Thompson

SF – Luc Mbah a Moute

PF – Nerlens Noel

C – Henry Sims

Injuries: Tony Wroten (knee) will play while Joel Embiid (foot) and Jason Richardson (foot) remain out.

Nets

PG – Deron Williams

SG – Sergey Karasev

SF – Alan Anderson

PF – Kevin Garnett

C – Mason Plumlee

Injuries: Kevin Garnett (foot) didn’t play on Wednesday. Joe Johnson (flu), Brook Lopez (back) and Mirza Teletovic (hip) also missed Wedneday’s game against Chicago.

PREDICTION: I think the Sixers bounce back from their poor performance against the Hawks, but still end up on the losing end, 97-86.


Phillies to Acquire Zach Eflin and Tom Windle in Rollins Trade

December 11, 2014

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Tom Windle was ranked as the #7 prospect in the Dodgers organization this season

Well, the Phillies haven’t announced anything official just yet, but Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers is all but a done deal. It looked like two pitchers were coming back to the Phillies in the deal and it seems like the holdup was the Dodgers trade with the Padres involving Matt Kemp. Sources tell CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury that the two prospects the Phillies will receive are…

Eflin, who will come to the Phillies after being acquired by the Dodgers in the Matt Kemp deal, spent all of 2014 with the Padres Advanced-A affiliate, the Lake Elsinore Storm. In 128 innings of work, the 20-year-old right-hander posted a 10-7 record with a 3.80 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. In 2013 in Low-A, he posted a 2.73 ERA over 118.2 innings, stiking out 86 batters while walking 31. Eflin, ranked #10 in the Padres system by MLB.com, has a fastball in the low 90’s to go along with a changeup, which is likely his best pitch, and a breaking ball that acts as a servicable third pitch. MLB.com’s scouting report projects him develpoing into a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.

The other player coming to Philadelphia is the #7 ranked prospect in the Dodgers system, LHP Tom Windle. Drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft by LA, Windle spent the entire 2014 season with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, Advaned-A Dodgers affiliate. In 26 games, 25 of them starts, Windle went 12-8 with a 4.26 ERA a year after posting a 2.68 ERA at the Low-A level. MLB.com’s scouting report on Windle has him developing into a possible top of the rotation arm if he improves his command and changeup. Otherwise, he could end up as an effective closer. He has a nice arsenal of picthes to choose from, including a nasty slider.

Windle’s best pitch is his nasty slider, which reaches the mid 80s. He can drop it in on the hands of left-handers or on the back foot of right-handers. After working at 90 mph to 94 mph with his fastball during his junior season with the Gophers, Windle pitched more at 88 mph to 92 mph in his pro debut. Lengthening his stride during instructional league helped him reclaim that lost velocity.

For one year of Rollins, Ruben Amaro and the Phillies netted themselves a good return in two top-10 prospects. If you’re interested in when the Dodgers come to Citizens Bank Park for the first time next season, mark your calendars! Rollins will make his return in Dodger blue on August 4th, 2015.


Phillies Nab Odubel Herrera, Andy Oliver in Rule 5 Draft

December 11, 2014

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In today’s Rule 5 draft, the Phillies selected two players within the Major League phase, from the Rangers and the Pirates. If chosen in the Rule 5 draft, a player must be kept on the selecting team’s 25-man major league roster for the entire season after the draft—he may not be optioned or designated to the minors. The selecting team may, at any time, waive the Rule 5 draftee. If a Rule 5 draftee clears waivers by not signing with a new MLB team, he must be offered back to the original team, effectively canceling the Rule 5 draft choice. Once a Rule 5 draftee spends an entire season on his new team’s 25-man roster, his status reverts to normal and he may be optioned or designated for assignment.

Their first pick came 9th overall as the Phils went with INF/OF Odubel Herrera from the Rangers organization. He was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Rangers back in July of 2008 and spent a majority of his time with the Frisco Roughriders, the Rangers Double-A affiliate. In 96 games, Herrera hit .321 with a .771 OPS, en route to the Texas League Batting Title. He also spent 29 games this year with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Advanced A affiliate of the Rangers. He hit .297 there with a .412 OBP. ESPN’s Jayson Stark notes Herrera’s offensive skills and how he could be in the Phillies center field plans this year. If so, then where does that leave Ben Revere?

In the second round, the Phillies picked LHP Andy Oliver from the Pirates Triple-A club. This year for Indianapolis, Oliver posted a 2.53 ERA over 64 innings out of the bullpen, saving 13 games in 16 opportunities while holding hitters to a .157 average. According to a staff writer for Baseball America, Oliver hasn’t been consistent enough in the strike zone.

In the Triple-A phase of the draft, the Phillies lose three players. The first was Delvi Francisco, who pitched in Lakewood and Williamsport this season and posted a 7.44 ERA in 52 innings. The Phillies also lost outfielder Peter Lavin to the Dodgers. Lavin, 26, hit .287 this season between Clearwater and Reading. Finally, the Rockies took right-hander Kyle Simon from the Phils. Known as possibly the guy with the best mustache in the minors, Simon was acquired from Baltimore in the Jim Thome trade. This season between Reading and Lehigh Valley, Simon posted a 3.93 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP in 75.2 innings of work.


Gillick on Phillies Rebuild: ‘You have to kind of disassemble piece by piece’

December 8, 2014

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Let’s spare you the details. You already know the Phillies have admitted to rebuild, but have yet to do a thing about it. Ruben Amaro has responded with his normal “smug” remarks saying the team has had some good discussions and that he likes the talks that are ongoing. Well, that isn’t very reassuring to the Philadelphia faithful who have seen nothing but the uneventful signings Grady Sizemore, Jerome Williams and Jeff Franceour.

All that being said, Phillies interim president, Pat Gillick, elaborated on his idea of what the rebuild will take, saying that it isn’t going to happen over night, but rather something that happens one piece at a time. The goal is to get younger, but there are also a variety of things standing in the way of accomplishing that goal.

 “It’s not easy. What you say and what you can accomplish are different. There are challenges to getting younger from the standpoint of contracts, trade situations, no-trade clauses, 10-and-5 (no-trade rights). That all enters into it. You can’t just say, ‘I’m getting younger.'”

“It’s challenging. It’s challenging. It’s challenging. It isn’t really like you implode something. But you have to kind of disassemble piece by piece. This isn’t ‘boom.’ You have to try to get where you want to be, but you do it in a patient, methodical way. You try to do it as much as you can in a planned fashion, piece by piece. You know it can’t happen like that all the time, but that’s what your desire is, your challenge is.” [CSNPhilly.com]

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments so far this offseason other than, you know, not doing anything, was failing to sign Cuban slugger, Yasmany Tomas. He ended up signing with the D’Backs as part of a deal that will pay him $65 million over six years. That definitely wasn’t out of the Phillies price range. Just look at Howard and Lee’s contracts. They have the money. So what gives, Pat?…Oh, we have to ask Ruben? Sigh.

“You have to ask Ruben about that and only because that’s in his area,” Gillick said. “So I don’t really want to delve into that area. I think that’s a question for him.”

Gillick was asked if he liked Tomas as a player.

“That’s not my job,” he said. “It’s a scout’s job. I didn’t see the player. It’s a scout’s job to evaluate the player.”

But, as acting club president, Gillick has some control over where and how the Phillies spend their money. He could make a determination on a player’s worth, though he wouldn’t say whether he advised against signing Tomas.

“I could say that or I could say I’ll talk to our ownership and have [Amaro] represent why we should pay this guy $65 million,” Gillick said. “Let me say this, I control the purse strings up to a certain point. But when you get to $65-$75 million, that’s a decision to be made not only by the general manager, but by whoever’s the acting president and by ownership because it’s a commitment they’re taking on. It’s different than acquiring a player that’s making two years at $12 million or something like that.” [CSNPhilly.com]

The current rumors swirling around the Phillies are heavily focused upon Cole Hamels. While the Phils hope to get a large return in exchange for the former World Series MVP, they will likely have to wait to see what happens to Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and other free agent starters. It is clear that teams such as the Cubs, Dodgers and Red Sox want to see if they can dish out the funds to sign one of these high-tier free agents rather than part with young talent. While losing Hamels may be a hard thing to swallow, he is the guy who represents the best chance at sparking the rebuild process.

“They’re going to work their way through [Jon] Lester, [James] Shields, [Max] Scherzer and those guys,” Gillick said. “Teams don’t have to give up any players. All they have to do is give up money to get them. I think things change a little bit once one of these guys or two of these guys fall. There’s some clubs that are in contention that we know are looking for pitching. If they don’t get one or two of these guys then there will be two, three or four clubs out there looking for pitching. They’ll maybe go into another direction of thinking trade as opposed to free agency.” [CSNPhilly.com]

Marlon Byrd, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz and Jonathan Papelbon are all possible trade chips along with the rest of the team. The Amaro plan hasn’t changed as the Phils GM plans to keep his ears open on every player on the roster.

“Ruben declared a while back that he was certainly available to listen on all of our players,” Gillick said. “Not necessarily to trade them all, but he would listen on all of them.

“I think teams are reluctant to give up talent. I don’t think they are shortchanging us. I think they like some of our people. They don’t like all of them, but they like some of them. It’s just the fact that there aren’t that many clubs that have that much depth that they can afford to give up the talent that you should get for the guy.” [CSNPhilly.com]

The Phillies brass has been rather quiet thus far this offseason, but that could change a lot in one week at the Winter Meetings.


Pat Gillick Backs Amaro: ‘Ruben didn’t all of a sudden get dumb’

December 8, 2014

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Anyone out there a Ruben Amaro Jr. supporter? No? Not all at once. Oh, yes, you in the back! Pat Gillick.

These days, there are no supporters of Ruben Amaro from the fans, but Phillies interim president, Pat Gillick, says that Amaro has his support and that Ruben didn’t get dumb overnight. Amaro is entering the final year of his contract and many believe that he won’t even make it through the season. Gillick is taking the optimistic approach. We’ll see how long that lasts.

“I’ve got confidence in him,” said Gillick, who as interim club president has a direct line to John Middleton, the most influential partner in the team’s ownership group.

“Ruben didn’t all of a sudden get dumb,” Gillick added. “People don’t want to hear this, but there were five years from 2007 to 2011 and the last year in 2011 we won 102 games. He didn’t all of a sudden get stupid the last three years. There were just a lot of factors to factor in there. And it isn’t what you’ve done in the past, it’s what are you doing for us now. And we haven’t done anything the last three years.

“But as far as him getting a brain cramp or something — it hasn’t happened. I have confidence in him. I’ve got his back.” [CSNPhilly.com]

Whether or not Gillick has Amaro’s back is besides the point if you are a fan. If the Phillies fail to do anything to show signs of an evident rebuild this season, fans may storm CBP with pitchforks and blow torches. Well, probably not, but the stands will surely be more empty than ever.


The Day After with Apter – Thompson’s Late Three Sparks Sixers

December 7, 2014

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Welcome in to another edition of The Day After with Apter. I am Brandon Apter, your studly host for this lovely story. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Following Friday night’s game at home against OKC, the team immediately departed for Detroit for the second part of their back-to-back, with the Pisons, losers of ten straight. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to nab win number two, but it would be tough coming off of a very physical game against Oklahoma City.

Fast Forward: Why waste time going through the first three and a half quarters when the most exciting moments came within the final minute? Down 100-97 with just under 15 seconds left, the Sixers drew up an in bounds play to Hollis Thompson, who drained a fade-away three pointer to tie things up with 13.4 seconds left. As Marc Zumoff says, the Sixers ‘locked all windows and doors’ during the final moments of regulation on defense. Brandon Jennings was covered heavily by Michael Carter-Williams and his shot attempt came up well short and to overtime we went!

The teams had trouble scoring in overtime to start, with Detroit taking a 101-100 lead on a free throw with just over three minutes to play. That would be the only points they’d get though. The Pistons went 0-for-11 from the floor in the extra frame. Henry Sims hit a jumper to put the Sixers ahead 102-101 and they wouldn’t look back. With 26.4 seconds left, Nerlens Noel made a floating shot in the paint, putting the Sixers up three. Both MCW and Robert Covington made a pair of free throws each to seal the game, 108-101.

Top Performers…

  • Hollis Thompson - He was 0-for-3 in the second half before his game-tying three ball that sent things to overtime. In what has been quite a roller coaster season for Thompson offensively, he went 5-for-9 last night for 13 points, but the biggest bucket came with 15 seconds left in the fourth.
  • Robert Covington, also known as Big Shot Bob, broke his career-high in points for the third night in a row. After scoring 17 against Minnesota, he led the Sixers with 21 points (8-13 FG) against the Thunder before dropping 25 points on the Pistons last night. He made nine of his 14 shots in 29 minutes off the bench last night and is becoming a very valuable asset on a young Sixer team. The former D-Leaguer, Big Shot Bob is averaging 18 points per game over the last four in just over 26 minutes.
  • Michael Carter-Williams didn’t start off too well after he came back from injury, but has posted some crazy numbers over his last stretch of games, despite a poor shooting percentage. Last night, MCW scored 20 points and dished out 15 assists to go along with eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks. It was his best shooting game since his return, hitting eight of his 12 shots and made four of five from the line. Though he did have seven turnovers, the reigning Rookie of the Year has posted some great assist numbers over the past few games. Thus far in December, Carter-Williams is averaging 20 points, 11.3 assists, 8.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. Safe to say he is starting to show signs of returning to last year’s form, thanks to increased playing time with Tony Wroten on the mend.
  • KJ McDaniels – He may have only scored six points on 3-for-10 shooting, but McDaniels made his presence felt on the defensive end, swatting away four shots to go along with two steals. KJ also took down nine rebounds, seven of which were on the defensive end. He leads this year’s rookie class with 1.5 blocks per game.
  • Rebounding Efforts – If the Sixers were going to win this game, they were going to have to make some noise on the rebounding end against Detroit’s front court of Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe. The Pistons rank fourth in the NBA in rebonds with 44.9 per game and the Sixers outrebounded them 53-47.

Quote of the Night…

The Sixers won, but many say it wasn’t really that big of deal since it came against a Pistons team who came into the game with 10 straight losses. Their coach felt like this win showed the Sixers toughness as the game got into the later stages.

“To be in this kind of game was a fantastic experience for them,” Brett Brown said of his team being in such a game on the second night of a back-to-back. “They delivered. I give them a lot of credit because I thought they were tough down the stretch.”

“Henry’s jumper, Nerlens’ floater and Nerlens’ presence at the rim going down the stretch,” Brown said of the key factors in overtime. “Luc Mbah a Moute goes the distance as a veteran player playing the three and four [positions]. He was tough and he was disciplined. Our interior players all contributed.” [CSNPhilly.com]

Rough third quarters continue…

The Sixers turned the ball over seven times in the third. Detroit scored 10 points off of those blunders. The Pistons also outrebounded the Sixers in the third quarter, 11-5 and outscored them by eight, 31-23.

Apter Thoughts – The win may have come against the Pistons, but seeing the Sixers be able to stay with it late in the game and come out with a victory is huge, no matter who they play. Their defense was air tight down the stretch and we continue to see great signs from the teams’ young talent. Remember this season isn’t about the record, but rather the progress of Nerlens Noel, KJ McDaniels, Michael Carter-Williams and others that are a part of the Sixers future. They’ve shown plenty of of positives from their past few games and hopefully that continues against a tough opponent on Wednesday night.

Up Next – After an exhausting back-to-back, the Sixers have a little break before their next game on Wednesday in Atlanta against the 12-6 Hawks. Atlanta has an 8-2 record in their home arena and have been getting big contributions from former Sixer, Kyle Korver, who leads the NBA with 53 made three-point shots.

CUE IT! The Sixers won, so you know what that means…old school anthem time!

 


Trio of Sixers Shine in Loss to Thunder

December 5, 2014

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Coming off of their first win of the season on Wednesday night in Minnesota, the Sixers (1-18) came back home to host Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder (6-13). The duo of stars from OKC are both back after recently nursing injuries and they came into the game with just five wins.

Ugly Start: The first quarter didn’t start off well for the Sixers. A defensive lapse left Kevin Durant wide open for three to open the scoring and that was immediately followed by an errant pass that went out of bounds from Nerlens Noel.

Quick glance at the game: The Sixers trailed 31-24 after one and fell behind by as many as 14 in the second quarter but rebounded to be down by just ten at the half, 57-47. The Thunder came out of the locker rooms on a 13-3 run to extend their lead to 20 early in the third quarter. OKC led 82-67 at the end of three. With the Sixers fighting back to cut the lead to seven with just under three minutes left in the game, they came out of a timeout with some momentum. Brett Brown went with a bold call, setting up center, Henry Sims, for a three ball but it he put a little too much on it.  With just under three minutes to play and down seven points, Robert Covington drove the paint and turned the ball over. Durant answered with a layup and then the Thunder went on a 6-0 run, sealing the victory by an eventual score of 103-91

The Good: There was plenty of bad from the game tonight, but really more good. This was a game the Sixers could have easily rolled over on after winning against the lowly T’Wolves. The Sixers played with some physicality we do not normally see from them tonight. Even though KD and Westbrook were still dealing with some rust, they still remain as some of the best talent in the league. MCW played with an extra energy tonight, not surrendering much to the All-Star from OKC. Carter-Williams earned another double-double, scoring 16 points while dishing out 14 assists. MCW also grabbed seven boards and stole three. Unfortunately, the Sixers PG only shot 6-for-19 from the floor. His offense is definitely still a work in progress.

In addition to MCW’s strong performance, both Nerlens Noel and Robert Covington had good games as well. While foul trouble may have kept Noel from contributing late in the game, the Sixers rookie got a double-double of his own, scoring 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting while also tallying 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and an emphatic block on reigning MVP, Kevin Durant. Meanwhile, Robert Covington led Sixers scorers with 21 points on a slick 8-for-13 shooting from the floor. “Big Shot Bob” was also 3-for-6 from beyond the arc and managed six rebounds. After scoring 17 against Minnesota on Wednesday, Covington followed it up with a strong performance. In his last five games, he is averaging just over ten points in 19.4 minutes of floor time.

The Bad: Let’s keep this simple. The Sixers are a very poor shooting team. On Wednesday in Minnesota, they shot just 39% from the field and tonight they fared even worse, shooting 38.1% and they also missed 20 of their 28 three point attempts. They did manage to outrebound the Thunder by four, but the Sixers struggled from the line as well, missing 11 free throws.

Up Next: The Sixers head to Detroit for a matchup with the Pistons tomorrow night. They have lost their last ten games and are 3-16 on the year, so the Sixers have a great opportunity to get win number two in the second part of a back-to-back.


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