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Receiving yards for Cowboys’ Amari Cooper during Sunday’s 29-23 win over Eagles

Carson Wentz throws three touchdown passes during the first half as the Eagles score the game’s first 24 points en route to a 31-3 victory over the Bears. The Eagles win their ninth straight game to improve to 10-1.

Carson Wentz throws four touchdown passes while leading the Eagles to a 34-24 triumph over the visiting Redskins. The Eagles, with the best record (6-1) in the NFL, take a firm grip on first place in the NFC East.

The Super Bowl is half football and half entertainment. Eric Fisher analyzes Lady Gaga’s halftime show and the other musical acts, as well as listing the Top 10 commercials in a lackluster field.

Archive for the ‘NBA’ Category

Sixers Notebook: Fultz’s development critical

Posted by Eric Fisher On November - 4 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Judging by the postgame coverage, every game seems to be a referendum on Markelle Fultz. The overreaction to each game is ridiculous, but it underscores that one of the most important storylines for the Sixers this season is Fultz’s development, and a key to Fultz’s development is whether he can play effectively with Ben Simmons.

Fultz has been most effective during the Sixers’ first 10 games when he’s not on the court with Simmons. When Simmons has the ball, Fultz frequently seems lost on the perimeter. Without confidence in his outside shot, Fultz isn’t looking for open places where Simmons can find him.

Despite offseason reports about Fultz working on his shot, he is making just 39.4 percent (39 of 99) of his shots, including 30.8 percent (4 of 13) from 3-point range. With no defender in his way, Fultz is making 64.7 percent of his free throws. If Fultz has confidence in his shot, that confidence is misplaced.

Fultz seems most comfortable when coming off the bench during the second half (he starts the game, but is replaced by JJ Redick at the start of the second half). Fultz provides energy, takes the ball to the basket and, at least during the past week, is making a difference on defense.

The problem is that the Sixers didn’t select Fultz first overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, after trading up to get the first pick, in order to have him become a complementary player who provides a spark off the bench. Unless either Fultz or Simmons develops a reliable jump shot, however, that might be the best-case scenario for the Sixers.

Fultz is still in the early stages of his NBA career. Remember, he only played 14 games as a rookie. There is still plenty of time for Fultz to develop, but the Sixers don’t have a lot of time if we’re talking about the prospects for their success this season. Unfortunately, the early returns on Simmons and Fultz working effectively together aren’t good.

Perhaps the best thing for Fultz would be for people to forget that he was the No. 1 overall pick. That would put the focus on Fultz’s contributions instead of on what he’s not able to do. The chances of that happening, though, are extremely slim.

As the No. 1 overall pick, Fultz must live with high expectations. But it’s fair to question whether he’ll ever come close to approaching those expectations while sharing a backcourt with Simmons.

*****

HOME AND AWAY: The Sixers are 6-0 (through Saturday) at home this season. They are 0-4 on the road.

Part of the reason for the disparity is the strength of schedule. The Clippers are the only team the Sixers have beaten at home that has a winning record. The Sixers have beten the Magic, Bulls, Hawks, Hornets, Pistons and Clippers at home. Their road losses have come against the Celtics, Raptors, Bucks and Pistons. The Bucks and Raptors each have one loss. The Celtics have three defeats.

The road losses to the Celtics, Bucks and Raptors weren’t close. This could indicate that a sizable gap exists between the Sixers and the top teams in the Eastern Conference. On the other hand, the losses to the Raptors and Bucks occurred on back half of games on back-to-back nights, so an optimist could point to extenuating circumstances as the reason for the lopsided losses.

*****

TALKING TRASH: Joel Embiid has displayed MVP-like form during the season’s first 10 games. Embiid is averaging 29.6 points and 12.4 rebounds. During Saturday’s victory over the Pistons, Embiid exceeded his average in the first half, pouring in 32 points.

My only issue with Embiid is his inability to control his emotions. During the opening minutes of Saturday’s victory over the Pistons, Embiid stared down Pistons center Andre Drummond after a dunk and, in a separate incident moments later, picked up a technical foul. Embiid then got into foul trouble, which is part of the reason he only added seven points after a monster first half.

Embiid’s behavior was worse after the game. Referring to Drummond and backup cener Zaza Pachulia, complaining about them flopping to draw fouls and saying, “At the end of the day, I kicked both of their ass.”

Forget for a moment that Embiid has already received an official warning from the NBA about flopping. His bragging and denigrating of his opponents can lead to nothing but trouble. I understand that Embiid is an emotional player, but he needs to be able to control those emotions, particularly with regard to his comments and posts on social media.

*****

SARIC STRUGGLING: One player who is clearly struggling is Dario Saric. He is shooting just 33 percent while averaging 9.4 points per game. The slow start has been attributed, in part, to Saric’s participation with Croatia’s national team during the offseason. The Sixers will be a better team when the versatile Saric finds his legs and becomes a bigger contributor on offense.

*****

FORGOTTEN MAN: Remember how much better the Sixers were against the Celtics during the playoffs when T.J. McConnell was on the court? McConnell played during crucial stretches at the end of games when this season began. But, with Fultz taking more of those minutes, McConnell has become a forgotten man. He is only averaging two points and didn’t play at all in two games.

*****

ROOKIE CONTRIBUTIONS: Rookie guard Landry Shamet, the Sixers’ first-round draft pick out of Wichita State, is averaging seven points per game. He is making 41.4 percent of his shots, including 38.1 percent from 3-point range. Shamet appears to have the versatility at guard, able to play point and off the ball, that Markelle Fultz doesn’t possess.

*****

CHANDLER’S DEBUT: Wilson Chandler, signed as a free agent, finally made his Sixers’ debut during Saturday’s 109-99 triumph over the Pistons after missing the first nine games with a hamstring injury. Chandler, who was limited to 10 minutes, did not score in his debut.

*****

ROSE RISES: Derrick Rose reminded everyone of the promise he once had before injuries sidetracked his career when he poured in 50 points Wednesday during the Timberwolves’ victory over the Jazz. Unfortunately, the good feeling was short-lived. Rose scored just three points in five first-quarter minutes Friday before exiting the Timberwolves’ loss to the Warriors due to ankle soreness.

*****

LOOKAHEAD: The Sixers complete the second half of back-to-back games Sunday (6 p.m.) when they visit the Nets. They will travel to Indiana for a game Wednesday (8 p.m.) with the Pacers, who defeated the Celtics on Saturday. The Sixers will then return home Friday (7 p.m.) to face the Hornets before traveling to Memphis on Saturday (8 p.m.) in yet another back-to-back game situation.

The Great Divide

Posted by Gordon Glantz On August - 6 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Everything is a situation.

That phrase comes up from time to time during NYPD Blue, an all-time favorite television program of mine that was the subject of a recent binge-watching session.

And my life experience is that the phrase holds true to form – certainly much better that what it is or is not the hard truth or who is or is not right or wrong at any given moment.

In an interview on CNN, LeBron James accused Pres. David Dennison – aka John Barron, aka John Miller — of trying to use sports to divide the country, and Mr. Thin Skin couldn’t help but respond.

In a hissy-fit response on Twitter (yeah, that’s what we’ve come to in this ongoing situation in our broken nation) stating that James is wrong – kind of like how he rudely bellowed wrong, repeatedly, when Hillary Clinton was trying to speak in a debate – he is not wrong.

Not 100 percent anyway.

Everything is a situation.

And in this situation – sadly – it seems like it was a much larger umbrella under which sports falls.

It is joined there with other forms of red meat that Dennison/Barron/Miller throws to his rabid base – from supporting the Second Amendment to saying “Merry Christmas” is vital to combat a contrived war on Christianity to being inhumane to other humans seeking asylum here (just like so many of our ancestors did back in the days of alleged greatness).

Dennison/Barron/Miller pulls out this well-worn stunt when putting himself on tour in friendly Deplorable terrain in a blatant — and pathetic — act of self-affirmation.

This is all coded language, and it’s meant to divide – not unite – at its rotted core.

The sports part of it predates the regrettable results of election, where the perfect storm of the arcane Electoral College and an uninspiring Democratic candidate with a virtual mannequin as her running mate led to the surprising outcome, as it goes to back to the summer of 2016, back when his election seemed unthinkable. That’s when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began not standing (he sat the first time and then kneeled, out of respect to veterans) for the national anthem.

My personal feeling — other than that “This Land Is Your Land” should be the national anthem — was that Kaepernick was probably protesting the fact that then-49er coach Chip Kelly was starting a middling white quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, over him for the third preseason game (a sign that Gabbert had won the job) than he was any major injustice to people of his race. (Kaepernick is actually biracial and was raised, middle class, by white adoptive parents).

But everything is a situation.

And, whether intended for not, the situation turned into something bigger than what it was probably intended, which was the way people of color are treated by police and the criminal justice system as a whole.

For a while, it caught on. The louder the outcry, the more other players knelt.

And then, like a dance craze, it seemed to fade.

While the issue at hand became more enmeshed into the national debate, NFL players either moved on or – like Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins – took it to another level, being constructive in addressing the issue instead of symbolic.

So when Pres. Dennison/Barron/Miller stood up in front of a crowd of trained seals in Alabama (where else?) during the heart of last football season and talked about players (“sons of bitches”) not standing for the national anthem, he was a day late and a dollar short.

It was, for all intents and purposes, a dead issue.

But what’s the difference when tossing chum to chumps, right?

And when you need to pump up those approval ratings and divert attention away from the crisis du jour, well, everything is a situation.

There were an estimated 10-15 players – league-wide – still kneeling at the time of the Alabama diatribe. Kaepernick, no longer in the NFL, was not even among them.

The next Sunday, approximately 250 players of the nearly 1,500 in uniform engaged in forms of protest that including kneeling.

They made it clear why they were kneeling, and it had nothing to do with disrespecting the flag or the troops (that job is left to White House policies that send home spouses of servicemen because they are not “legal” immigrants).

In addition to criminal justice reform and how they perceive racial bias by police in the streets, they were protesting the occupant of the highest office for dealing low blows and saying they were “sons of bitches” (meaning he was, technically, referring to all their mothers as “bitches”) who should be “fired” from the profession that they scratched and clawed to buck extreme odds to join just for choosing a form of legal free speech during the national anthem.

Turns out, just for a point of reference, that the national anthem was never a big show that required players on the field until after the NFL and the military struck a deal on a mutually lucrative ad campaign in 2009.

From my experience of going to NFL games since 1970, most people pay little to no attention during the national anthem. They are late to stand, and early to sit. They continue to talk, take gulps from their warm overpriced beers and struggle to pull up their pants to cover the cracks of their asses. If I had to guess how much thought was going into the meaning of the national anthem and the flag, I’d say very little – certainly as compared to the players who followed Kaepernick’s lead and protested.

Some may argue it’s a respectful protest; others the opposite. A healthy debate would be welcomed, but that can’t happen without leadership, both from inside the Beltway and in NFL owner’s boxes, can it?

Since 2009, we see a bit more of a dog-and-pony show – complete with military jet flyovers to elicit “U-S-A, U-S-A” chants before games — after which players of multiple races and creeds bleed side by side for fans who are not divided.

If only it could last beyond the end of the game, huh?

Instead, the players shake hands and kneel together in prayer. Everyone else goes back to their little corners in this ongoing battle.

Everything is a situation.

A regrettable one.

In this ongoing situation, which has grown to include teams in those sports dominated by players of color exercising their rights as free citizens and not accepting invitations to the White House after winning championships, the broader national divide continues.

Is it just sports? No.

Are sports part of it? Yes, they are.

It has led to many of the president’s supporters going to the old fallback of saying James should just “shut up and dribble.” They may not realize that when they are going on record with such bombastic commentary, they are opening themselves up to anyone saying to them “just shut up and adjust insurance policies” or “just shut up and change the oil in that car,” etc.

We are divided – perhaps to the point of a cold Civil War – because it is beneficial for a president elected by virtue of self-made division and who will only get re-elected if he can keep it that way.

The list of divisive acts include funding the “birther” movement to prove previous president, Barack Obama, was not born in the United States (to be fair, Dennison/Barron/Miller may not have realized that Hawaii is part of the U.S.) and to saying there are “fine people on both sides” after the national disgrace that was Charlottesville.

How much more divisive can you get than that?

James, on the other hand, has the following quote attributed to him: “You have to accept failure to get better.”

That’s certainly a major difference between these two, as the one charged with the task of acting presidential never accepts failure for anything. Instead, he doubles down on it.

Hence, the lashing out at James (no comment on CNN host Don Lemon).

Fair? Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

In addition to being mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain as the greatest basketball player of all time, James came off the streets of Akron and went straight from high school to the NBA to be paid more than $400K per week at the age of 18.

He was clearly born with amazing natural talent, but we all know – or should know – how the “Bronx Tale” axiom about the saddest thing in life being wasted talent. City playgrounds are full of guys in pickup games who were born with NBA talent who are not earning a paycheck to put a ball through a hoop.

James worked for everything he got.

But there is more.

James, who has been with the same woman for 15 years, has always been a solid citizen. He doesn’t even have a parking ticket on his record.

It would have been nice if he came to the 76ers as a free agent, positioning our hometown team for a title run, but this situation is bigger than that.

He wields as much, if not more, sway in this country as the president.

There is one difference, though. James has sent more than 1,100 kids to college. The president was busted for starting a university that proved to be, like many of his other ventures, a sham.

Yes, we are divided. Yes, sports is a part of it. Hard for anything not to be a part of it these days. Just the way you cut and chew your food or walk your dog is part of it.

Guess we just have to pick a side and ride the storm out until we’re rescued by the return of sanity.

While I personally would not kneel during the national anthem, I know which side I’m on.

Everything is a situation.

Butler game-winner vs. Nets