Kronum League Season 4 – Week 7 Recap

Kevin Clark made his presence known on both sides of the field with a league-record 10 blocks.

Urban Legends 103, Night Owls 86

(Parts of this article will also appear on the official Kronum League website.  Be sure to check out the site for additional Week 7 coverage and statistics.)

The MVP argument has always been fairly ambiguous in sports.  Should the award go to the individual widely considered the best player, the player who puts up the best statistics, or the player whose team would suffer the most in his absence?  Well, if Night Owls captain Kyle McGrath ever wants to construct an argument for his MVP candidacy, this round 7 game against the Urban Legends should be Exhibit A.  With McGrath suspended for the game due to a controversial spitting incident last week against the Nimble Jacks, the Night Owls’ offense looked completely out of sorts and the Urban Legends ran away with the contest.

The Legends wasted no time getting started as Mike Ragan (team-highs 21 points, 8 assists) connected on a 4-point cross shot the very first play of the game.  Five minutes later, Ragan sank another cross shot off a steal, followed shortly thereafter by an 8-point kronum from Kevin Clark (12 points, league-record 10 blocks).  Before you knew it, the Legends had jumped out to a commanding 25-4 lead.  The Night Owls climbed back into things a bit, as cross shots by Joe Tulskie (12 points) and Bill Zane (6 points) found the back of the net, but they still trailed 37-24 after one period.

The second period was more of the same, as the Owls continued to look sloppy offensively, shooting just 26.6% as a team on the game.  The Legends especially locked down Quad 4 defensively, with Jordan Welles (11 saves on 21 attempts) stopping those rare balls that got through the amazing blocking efforts of Kevin Clark.  On the other side of the ball, the Legends sustained their offensive efficiency, as Dan Vignola (17 points, 10 saves on 14 attempts) successfully worked the ground game, while Kevin Glover (16 points) added that flex zone dimension that was missing the previous week against the Evergreens.  The lead swelled to as high as 30 points before settling at 74-46 after two periods.

The Night Owls got a spark when Brett McGlensey (team-high 14 points) banged home a kronum to cut the deficit to 79-60.  However, Mike Ragan answered that strike with a kronum of his own a few minutes later to push the lead back to 91-62 and the Legends would hang on from there.  Overall, the game served as the template for the Urban Legends’ success: stout defense combined with a versatile offensive attack featuring Ragan and Clark in the middle, Glover on the outside, and a host of players in the wedge zone.  As of the Night Owls, Kyle McGrath better steer clear of any controversies going forward because the results without him are simply uninspiring.

Ben Hutchison defied the laws of physics in a record-setting 22 save performance in goal.

Nimble Jacks 113, Evergreens 85

Many Evergreens players had their college graduation ceremonies the day before this highly anticipated matchup against the Nimble Jacks.  Little did they know there was one more course for them to take: Wedgebacking 101, Professor Ben Hutchison presiding.  Captain Scott Kennedy (14 points, team-high 13 assists) opted to man-mark both leading scorers for the Evergreens, Joe Petrino and Ryan Maley.  With Jacks defenders Matt Charleston, Nick Caton, and Shaun Stevens absolutely shutting down Petrino (5 points) and Maley (4 points), it was left to the Jacks’ wedgebacks to stop the Evergreens’ other scoring options in numerous one-on-one situations.  I think there was a smile somewhere under the intimidating scowl of Hutchison, as he relished that opportunity in recording a league-record 22 saves on 35 shots.  Fellow wedgebacks Pete Weiss (17 points, 15 saves on 20 shots) and Sean Kennedy (13 points, 13 saves on 20 shots) followed Hutchison’s example in stifling the Greens’ attack.  Next time Evergreens, check out Rate My Professors beforehand, Hutchison hates cocky first-years in the Kronum League.

The Jacks got off to a quick start as Jared O’Donnell (14 points) picked up right where he left off last week against the Night Owls.  Pete Weiss continued his savvy scoring from the goal zone and the Jacks led 41-27 after one period.  Then, the Evergreens made their solitary run of the game coming out of the gate in the second period.  Dom Petrino (team-highs 24 points, 14 saves) was the Green’s best player on the afternoon, coming up with dunks, ring shots, and big saves to get the Evergreens back into it.  As the Jacks’ offense continued to sputter, a Jim Oakes (16 points) cross shot tied the game at 43-43.

However, the Nimble Jacks showed why they are three-time defending champions, keeping their composure in the face of that surge.  They answered with a 12-0 run of their own, capped by a Dan Geiger (10 points) cross shot.  The Jacks regained their rhythm therafter, led by Ryan Coyne (team-high 24 points), who supplemented his usual flex zone attack with a pair of cross zone goals and a ring shot for four.  The Nimble Jacks built their lead back up to 80-63 after two periods and continued to coast in the third period, leading by as many as 35 points before emptying the bench and cruising to victory.

The Nimble Jacks showed the true versatility of their team with this victory.  Last week against the Night Owls, the defense had its worst outing of the season in allowing 139 points, but the offense bailed the team out.  This week, the Jacks’ shooters were not as efficient as usual, but the defense was rock solid.  When a team can win a game on either side of the ball, it will find itself toward the top of the standings as the Nimble Jacks have shown.  Regarding the Evergreens, the Jacks may have discovered the formula for shutting down the Greens’ high-powered offense.  Players others than Joe Petrino and Ryan Maley will have to score more efficiently in similar situations going forward.

In his return to the lineup, Mike Quintans played a big role in the Jet Sets’ win.

Jet Sets 86, Throwbacks 85

Yankees-Red Sox, Ravens-Steelers, Celtics-Lakers, Jet Sets-Throwbacks.  Every sport has its share of rivalries where teams plain don’t like each other.  These two teams have been at each others’ throats across multiple seasons and you know this matchup was circled on the calendar for both teams (or whatever the modern-day equivalent is, highlighted as a Microsoft Outlook reminder maybe?).  The latest clash in this rivalry was missing a few key players for the Jet Sets as captain Matt Parsons missed the game due to the birth of his child and leading scorer Jeff Regensburg was a very late arrival, finishing with just 2 points.  However, there were plenty of fireworks all the same.

Though missing Parsons and Regensburg, the Jet Sets did return a pair of players to the lineup who had a huge impact on the game.  Nick DeLuca assumed Parsons’ role of playmaker in the middle and finished with a game-high 16 assists.  On the outside, rookie Mike Quintans did a fair Regensburg impersonation, tallying a game-high 26 points on 12-18 shooting.  Overall, the Jet Sets came out with more energy than the Throwbacks in getting out to a 28-16 lead after one period.

With the Jet Sets continuing to pull away, the Throwbacks’ offense finally showed a sign of life as John Graham (16 points) hit an 8-point kronum to pull back within 12 points at 41-29.  After some back and forth action, the Throwbacks closed the period with a nice run to cut the deficit to single digits, with a little help from the Jet Sets.  Jet Sets wedgeback Zach Van Fossen caught a shot from teammate Ryan Skinner, erroneously thinking they needed to clear the ball out to the middle.  The Throwbacks ended up getting a stop on the possession and George Price (4 points, team-high 6 assists) turned around and connected for a four-point cross goal.  After Steve Botta (team-high 19 points, 8 saves on 15 attempts) rang in a penalty shot, the lead fell to 55-46 after two periods.

Botta kept that momentum going into the final frame as he heated up from the flex area, but Van Fossen (12 points, 9 saves on 13 attempts) answered with a 4-point ring shot.  Then, John Graham connected on another game-changing kronum after the referees discussed whether it was deflected through the rings or just up into the chamber for four.  Moments later, a Brian Marron (10 points) flex shot tied the game at 69 midway through the third period. The teams traded blows from there and two Marron flex shots were answered by Mike Quintans in the final minute to put the Jet Sets back up one.  The Throwbacks called timeout with 6 seconds left and the ball.  Captain Joe Ferrigno drew up a nice play to get an open shot for Steve Fariss (14 points, 4 blocks), but the attempt was saved by Van Fossen.  There was a frantic scramble in the goal zone for the rebound but unfortunately for the Throwbacks, the buzzer sounded instants before the tying one pointer was kicked into the net, securing the victory for the Jet Sets.

It was an encouraging performance for the Jet Sets who saw some other guys step up without their leading assist man on the field and their leading scorer MIA for most of the game.  Quintans was a rookie receiving a lot of hype coming into the season that had gotten off to a slow start; hopefully for the Jet Sets, this game was the jump start he needed.  However, the game has to be seen as a step back for the Throwbacks after two straight strong performance.  Their offense looked slow throughout the game and they only shot 32.6% as a team.  Without the two kronums, which you can’t count upon on a weekly basis, the Jet Sets would have run away with this contest.

Teammates congratulated unexpected hero Vince Rota following the Evergreens’ victory.

Evergreens 128, Night Owls 127

Why so serious?  Down three with time running down, someone had to step up for the Evergreens if they were to avoid their second loss of the afternoon and remain in second place.  Would it be MVP candidate and team leading scorer Joe Petrino?  Or how about rookie of the year candidate Ryan Maley?  No, instead, it would be a veteran journeyman playing on his third team in three seasons, not exactly the man casual fans would associate with the upstart, expansion Evergreens.  Down 127-124 with under 15 seconds left, Vince Rota intercepted an errant Kyle McGrath in-bounds pass in the middle and immediately threw the ball into an open chamber for 4 points and a 128-127 lead.  The Night Owls then had two shots to win the game, the last of which was a wide open flex shot by Tyler Katz that was swallowed up by Rota to preserve the victory.  Vince Rota was both the hero the Evergreens deserved, and the one it needed right now.

At the start of the game, Jeff Gerace (18 points) was scorching hot for the Owls.  On the opposing side, Joe Petrino (23 points) and Ryan Maley (10 points) were both happy to see the last of the Nimble Jacks’ wedgebacks and field defenders; while the pair were again both man-marked, they were able to find more open room than in the previous contest.  The first period ended with the Owls ahead 34-31.

The second period largely belonged to Chris VonTanhausen (game-highs 26 points, 16 assists), who was truly the most impactful player on the field in what was his best game of the season.  VonTanhausen started out the period hitting a pair of shots from the cross zone as the Owls went up 48-33.  However, the Evergreens would fight their way back into the game as usually secondary scoring options like Gerry Plescia (team-high 23 points on 12-15 shooting) and Harold Bolton (16 points) finally took advantage of all the open space afforded by the double man-mark defense.  Dom Petrino (20 points) scored 8 straight points for the Evergreens, including a 4-point ring shot, and the game was suddenly tied again at 76.  It was still the period of VonTanhausen though, as the Owls’ crosser drained an 8-point kronum at the buzzer to put the Night Owls back on top 84-76.

The third period saw both VonTanhausen connect on his second kronum, and Joe Petrino answer with one of his own to get the Evergreens back into things, setting the stage for Rota’s late-game heroics.  Looking back, the Night Owls did get things going offensively, even despite Kyle McGrath (12 points on 3-14 shooting, 4 blocks) struggling with the man-mark defense some in this contest.  However, the defense has to be a concern for them, as wedgebacks saved 42.6% of shots faced, exactly equaling their second-worst mark on the season.  The field defenders need to do a better job forcing harder shots for opposing players and the wedgebacks have to come up with some big saves now and again.  As for the Evergreens, a key in this game was guys like Plescia, Dom Petrino, and Bolton stepping up with the defense focused on Joe Petrino and Maley.  They’ll need similar efforts from those guys if the Evergreens are to hold off the Urban Legends for second place.

Points – Mike Quintans (26), Chris VonTanhausen (26), Ryan Coyne (24), Dom Petrino (24)

Assists – Nick DeLuca (16), Christ VonTanhausen (16), Scott Kennedy (13)

Saves – Ben Hutchison (22), Pete Weiss (15), Dom Petrino (14)

Blocks – Kevin Clark (10), Steve Fariss (4), Kyle McGrath (4)

Steals – Ryan Skinner (3), 9 players tied with 2

Sixers Practically Assured Top Pick in Draft Lottery

Fans of 14 franchises will follow the bouncing balls Tuesday night.

Tuesday night at 8:30, the fortunes of 14 NBA franchises will be determined by random selections from a group of ping pong balls.  Despite the cries of the pro-tanking community, the team with the best odds has only landed the first overall pick twice in the last 22 years.  With Adam Aron and Josh Harris representing the Sixers at the envelope ceremony, the team will look to cash in on their 0.8% chance of landing the top pick and 2.9% chance at a top three pick.  We’ve crunched the numbers, and based on some comparative research, it looks like Sixers fans will come away happy.

  • Odds of dating a millionaire: 215 to 1 (0.5%) – Based on the snippets of Millionaire Matchmaker I’ve overheard while my girlfriend watched and I worked on my computer, all it takes to date a millionaire is model good looks and personal values desiring wealth entirely over personality in a partner.  Easy enough, right? Well, it’s even easier to land a top pick. 
  • Odds of catching a ball at a major league ballgame: 563 to 1 (0.2%) – Bleachers are filled with middle aged men carrying gloves in hopes of achieving their dream of nabbing the elusive foul ball.  If they’re willing to look foolish doing that, imagine their delight when the Sixers are the last envelope pulled.
  • Odds of getting a hole in one: 5,000 to 1 (0.02%) – People traipse up and down the links their whole lives in search of that elusive ace on a Par 3.  You won’t even have to leave your couch to see the Sixers land the first overall pick.
  • Odds of bowling a perfect game: 11,500 to 1 (0.009%) – Everyone has that uncle who has a bowling buddy who rolled a 300 back in the day.  See, these things happen.
  • Odds of becoming a pro athlete: 22,000 to 1 (0.005%) – As a kid, nearly every sports fan answers the question ‘What do you want to do when your grow up?’ with play in the NBA/NFL, etc.  Let’s bring back that childlike whimsy.
  • Odds of winning Powerball: about 1 in 175.2 million (0.000001%) – As some lucky individual in Florida can attest, it can happen to you. The Sixers are a few lucky numbers away as well.

We’ve looking forward to seeing what Sam Hinkie does with the 11th overall pick.

2013 Offseason Training Program: Evan Turner

In this series, we’ll examine each of the Sixers under contract for the 2013-14 season and one aspect of his game he could work on during the offseason.

The first three parts of this series looked at a specific statisical aspect of a player’s game and how he could incorporate an improvement into his style of play.  With Evan Turner, we’re going to be a little more abstract with our advice.  The artist formerly known as ‘The Villian’ needs to stop complaining to the refs every single time a call doesn’t go his way. 

Evan Turner is the guy in pickup basketball who called a foul whenever he drove and missed his shot.  Everyone else would shake their heads but rather than start some big argument, you just let his team check the ball up top.  Whether it’s the AAU culture or his standing as BMOC at Ohio State, Turner has it in his head that he’s the greatest thing to hit the hardwood since Naismith hung up those peach baskets.  Whatever the cause, you couldn’t watch 5 minutes of Evan Turner gameplay without seeing him in the face of an official, yapping about how he got hit when one of his head-down, barrelling drives to the hoop ended with a shot off the top of the backboard.

Besides how obnoxious it comes across to fans, there are tangible detriments this behavior causes for Turner and the Sixers.  Most obvious is that while Turner is busy complaining to the refs, his designated defensive assignment is streaking down court uncovered.  Countless times throughout the season, you saw Turner whipping his head around to say something to the referee under the Sixers’ basket as the opponent was already outleting downcourt to Turner’s man.  I’m surprised Doug Collins never tore a rotator cuff windmilling his arm around in pleading Turner to get back on defense. 

The other effect is that officials get annoyed with Turner and actually don’t give him some calls he likely deserves.  There were certainly occasions where Turner got hit on his way up but the whistles remained silent.  Now, technically referees are supposed to call the game to the letter of the law; however, they’re human just like anyone else and eventually just tune a guy out when he’s always complaining to them.  It’s a little bit of a ‘boy who cried wolf’ scenario.  So Evan, next time you have the urge to say something to the official, just get back on defense.  You’ll be helping yourself as well as the team.

Kronum League Season 4 – Week 6 Recap

The Evergreens’ offense continues to look sharp behind the scoring of Joe Petrino.

Evergreens 118, Urban Legends 97

Facing a Legends team they entered the game tied with for second place, the Evergreens wanted to send a message to the rest of the league: despite their expansion status, they were a team to be reckoned with.  Message received.  The Evergreens once again showcased a powerful offense and perfectly executed a defensive gameplan to stifle the Urban Legends’ attack, cruising to an easy victory.

After the teams traded shots early on, the score was tied at 20 when the Evergreens went on a 14-0 run to really take control of the game.  As usual, Joe Petrino (game-high 38 points) was at the center of the scoring for the Greens, converting two penalty shots during that run.  The Evergreens also looked strong on the defensive end, led by Ryan Maley (9 points, 11 saves on 19 attempts) and Vince Rota (11 saves on 23 attempts) in net.  The Evergreens maintained a 42-31 lead after one period.

The Urban Legends continued to struggle to find consistent offense against the Evergreens.  The Greens were determined not to allow shots from the points and the Legends only finished with 12 points from the cross area as a result.  Without Kevin Glover in the lineup, the Legends had no threats from the flex area outside of Brian Sperling (10 points).  Players like Greg Ermold (team-high 21 points) and Dan Vignola (12 points) continued to find success on the ground in the wedge zone, but the Legends remained too one-dimensional offensively overall.  Mike Ragan (12 points, 10 assists) did manage to connect on two cross shots in the second period to stay within striking distance, as the score was just 74-61 after two periods.  However, the Evergreens continued their consistent play, pulling away little by little until they had built a 22 point lead at 100-78.  With minimal scoring options outside the wedge area, that deficit was too large for the Urban Legends to overcome.

The biggest question for the Urban Legends is ‘What has happened to Kevin Clark?’.  The former MVP shot 2 for 24 in this contest and is now shooting just 16.8% on the season.  If you exclude his 31 points in week one, Clark is averaging just 6.3 points per game.  The Legends don’t necessarily need last season’s Kevin Clark, but they definitely need more than this from him to assist Ragan and Glover in stretching opposing defenses outside the wedge zone.

On the other side of the field, the Evergreens look like a juggernaut and keep improving each week.  They have plenty of versatility offensively, and feature the team speed and steady wedgeback play to hold serve on defense.  Their upcoming match this weekend against the Nimble Jacks will be a huge measuring stick game for them and might be a preview of a late playoffs match-up.

Throwbacks 111, Work Horses 90

Ryan Kirby added a valuable ground game aspect to the Throwbacks’ attack against the Work Horses.

One of the toughest things to do in sports is come back from a heart-breaking defeat, to get your mind right after you give something your all to just barely end up with the short end of the stick.  The Throwbacks’ last-minute loss to the Nimble Jacks in round 5 certainly qualified as the prototypical ‘gut-punch’ loss.  However, instead of packing things up, the Throwbacks bounced back with their best all-around performance of the season.  In the process, they served notice to the rest of the Kronum league that much like mankind in Independence Day, they will not go quietly into the night.

The Throwbacks decided to play man defense on Work Horses leading scorer Phil Cavalcante (24 points, 4 blocks), which really put pressure on their wedgebacks to come up with some big saves.  Fortunately for the Throwbacks, that group was more than up to the challenge.  The wedgebacks saved 57.7% of shots faced as a team, led by Steve Botta (16 points, game-high 18 saves on 26 attempts) and Jim Bradley (9 saves on 13 attempts).  Steve Fariss (team-high 27 points) and Brian Marron (12 points) paced the offense early on to build a 32-23 lead after one period.

The Throwbacks really opened up things on the offensive end in the second period.  Steve Botta connected on a pair of shots from the cross area and Ryan Kirby (18 points) established himself in the wedge zone, adding a necessary dimension to the Throwbacks’ attack.  When Kevin Casero kicked home a 6-point ring goal off a penalty shot (believed to be a Kronum first), it appeared things were well in hand for the Throwbacks, as they led by 23 after two periods.

Then, with the score 72-50, the Work Horses went on a 10-minute run that represented their best run of the game, and possibly the season.  Luke Dougan (10 points) converted a four-pointer off a steal, Mike Small (team-high 32 points) made an 8-point kronum, Dave Slusser (8 points, 9 assists) converted a four-point ring shot, and Cavalcante connected on two cross shots.  Scott Salvatore (4 steals) and Ryan McGlensey (9 saves on 14 attempts) did a nice job on the defensive end to earn the Horses extra possessions.  After the dust had settled, the Horses had closed to within four at 82-78 with 10 minutes left in the game.

The run ended there though, as Steve Fariss took the game into his hands.  With a wide-open chamber gaping in front of him, Fariss instead opted to shoot for the crown and sank a 4-point ring shot.  On the next possession, Fariss collected his own rebound in the goal zone and threw home a dunk for two.  The sequence fired up the Throwbacks after a listless half-period of play and they regained control of the game from there.  The Work Horses had seemingly expended all their energy making their big push to get back into the game, and didn’t have enough left in the tank to complete the comeback.

Coming out of their bye week, the Throwbacks have looked like a different team.  They nearly took down the undefeated Nimble Jacks before playing a full 60 minutes against the Work Horses to earn their first victory of the season.  The key for them is to continue attacking teams from different angles offensively.  Guys like Kirby, captain Joe Ferrigno, and wedgeback James Thomas will need to draw attention in the wedge zone, while Botta and others have to keep defenses honest at the points.  If they maintain their recent level of play, the Throwbacks should find themselves moving up the standings.

Regarding the Work Horses, any future success starts on the defensive end.  During their 10-minute run in the third period, guys were flying around the field, making stops, and collecting steals which led to easy offense in transition.  They need to play a full game with that level of defensive intensity to beat the upper-echelon teams in the league.  Otherwise, the Horses may find themselves at home come the end of June.

Jared O’Donnell has been the difference-maker the last two weeks for the Nimble Jacks.

Nimble Jacks 150, Night Owls 139

In Case of Emergency: Break Glass.  For the second week in a row, the Nimble Jacks found themselves down double digits in the first period, an unwelcome position for a team accustomed to steamrolling opponents in league play.  However, just as they did in their last-minute comeback against the Throwbacks, the Jacks broke out their most dangerous and enigmatic weapon, as Jared O’Donnell extinguished hopes of victory for the Night Owls.

The first 19 minutes-plus of gametime was all Night Owls.  With Kyle McGrath manned up by the Jacks defense, the Owls’ secondary scoring options used the extra open field to inflict major damage on the scoreboard.  Chris VonTanhausen (20 points, team-high 12 assists) carved up the defense, finding teammates Brett McGlensey (team-high 22 points), Tyler Katz (20 points), and Bob Zane (18 points) on the outside.  McGrath even fought through his individual defender to tally 21 points and 6 assists, well off his 55 points from the previous week but still an impressive effort.  The Night Owls built a 48-32 lead before Jacks captain Scott Kennedy (28 points, league-high 19 assists) connected on a huge 8-point kronum as the first period ended, cutting the lead to single digits and giving the Jacks a boost of confidence heading into the break.

In the second period, the Nimble Jacks decided to fully unleash O’Donnell (league-high 43 points, 3 blocks).  The Jacks moved their star ranger all over the field, as O’Donnell tallied 12 points from the cross zone and generally looked more active than at any other point this season.  The move also pushed Scott Kennedy toward the outside at times, which accounted for Kennedy having his best offensive performance of the season.  The Jacks’ offense was once again firing on all cylinders as they regained the lead midway through the period, but their vaunted defense could still not figure out how to stop the Owls.  Brett McGlensey drilled a 4-point ring shot at the second period buzzer to close the gap back within one at 98-97.

Unfortunately for the Night Owls, the third period was more of the same from the Jacks.  Aside from Chris Custer in net (game-high 15 saves on 31 shots), the Owls had no way to slow down O’Donnell and friends.  Chris VonTanhausen connected on a kronum of his own to pull the Owls back within one at 122-121, but it was the last substantial threat the Owls would mount as the Nimble Jacks pulled away down the stretch.

This latest performance was a mixed bag for the Night Owls.  On the one hand, it was encouraging to see a number of guys aside from McGrath step up and score the ball efficiently on the offensive end.  However, the defense is still an area of concern for them, as their 41.9% save percentage on the season ranks second-worst in the league.  For the Nimble Jacks, this game was easily their worst defensive effort of the season.  More troubling for them is the slow start to the game for the second week in a row.  It’s great that they have O’Donnell and other great scorers to get themselves back in these games but you can’t always count on that happening.  Still, they remain undefeated so it’s tough to find too much fault in their efforts.

Week 6 Leaders: 

Points – Jared O’Donnell (43), Joe Petrino (38), Mike Small (32)

Assists – Scott Kennedy (19), Chris VonTanhausen (12), Mike Ragan (10)

Saves – Steve Botta (18), Chris Custer (15), Adam Forster (13)

Blocks – Shaun Stevens (5), Phil Cavalcante (4), Jared O’Donnell (3)

Steals – Scott Salvatore (4), Kevin Clark (3), 8 players tied with 2

Sam Hinkie Hiring Another Positive Step for Sixers

The hiring of Sam Hinkie is another step in the right direction for the Sixers.

Friday afternoon, word came out that the Sixers had hired former Houston assistant GM Sam Hinkie as the team’s new general manager and president of basketball operations.  As someone not perfectly in tune with the executive depth chart of every NBA franchise, my first reaction was simply happiness knowing he was associated with the Rockets organization.  Houston has generally established itself as one of the most forward-thinking organizations in the league, with GM Daryl Morey a looming figurehead at the annual Sloan Analytics conference and the rise of advanced statistics within NBA executive circles.  As the weekend progressed, more and more respected writers and well-regarded league insiders praised the hire, calling Hinkie one of the most highly sought-after young minds in the game and someone who had worked hand in hand with Morey over the years.  I won’t waste space here rehashing Hinkie’s qualifications that have been more extensively covered elsewhere over the weekend, but let’s just summarize by saying this is a resounding win for the Sixers and their fans.  We even get some laughs from the mis-guided thoughts of the minority still sticking their heads in the sand regarding the impact of the statistical revolution in the game.   

Although it doesn’t seem like it given the miserable results of this past season, it’s not a terrible time to be a Sixers fan.  Current ownership has continued to make small, positive improvements in building a top-flight organization.  Philadelphia is among the half of the league utilizing the SportVU player tracking technology, is one of only a handful of teams with full ownership of a D-League franchise, and has now hired a highly coveted, bright mind to guide organizational decision-making going forward.  Even the one major decision this ownership group oversaw that failed miserably (the Andrew Bynum trade), was one universally lauded at the time as a huge coup for the organization.  Only hindsight and the slick oils in lane 2 derailed that momentum. 

The next crucial step will be Hinkie’s hire as head coach for the team.  Given the Rockets’ offensive emphasis on all points in the paint or three-pointers, it’s safe to say whoever Hinkie brings in will impart a similar philosophy.  Long gone is the Eddie Jordan Princeton offense, centered around taking a bunch of long twos which defenses are all too happy to give you because they’re the worst shots in basketball.  And in the rear-view mirror is whatever hot mess the Sixers were running on offense the past few seasons under Doug Collins (just don’t turn the ball over!).  So while the Sixers continue to tread in the waters of mediocrity, at least now ownership has thrown out a life raft.

Kronum League Season 4 – Week 5 Recap

There was plenty of high-flying action between the Evergreens and Work Horses in Round 5.

Evergreens 113, Work Horses 100

(This article will also appear on the official Kronum League website.  Be sure to check out the site for additional Week 5 coverage and statistics.)

Petrino, from the Latin, meaning ‘one who is unstoppable on penalty shots’.  Now, I’m a little rusty on my foreign language studies but I’m pretty sure that’s an accurate translation after watching Sunday’s battle between the Evergreens and Work Horses.  Following a well-played, back-and-forth affair between the two teams, the Evergreens found themselves ahead 101-100 with 28 seconds left and leading scorer Joe Petrino heading to the penalty shot point.  Petrino (team-high 30 points including 4-8 shooting on penalty shots) expertly clipped the bottom of the crown with his shot as the ball found the back of the chamber to extend the Evergreens’ advantage.  Moments later, teammate Dom Petrino (18 points) said, ‘Big bro, anything you can do, I can do better’, drilling his penalty shot through the rings for six points.  That last dagger made the score 110-100 and closed the door on any Horses’ comeback attempt.  Next time Horses, foul someone without clutch penalty shooting engrained in his DNA.

The Work Horses were once again victimized by a slow start as the Evergreens exploited the Horses’ slow transition defense in the early going.  Evergreens wedgeback Ryan Maley was once again a jack of all trades, dropping 20 points on 10-13 shooting, dishing out a team-high 7 assists, and saving 9 of 15 shots on the game.  His rookie of the year campaign continues to gain strength with each passing week.

However, trailing 40-30 after one period, the Work Horses put together one of their best periods of the season in the second frame.  Captain Phil Cavalcante (game-high 36 points, 3 blocks) fought through intermittent face-guarding to put the pressure on the Greens’ defense from both the cross and flex zones.  In the absence of ranger Mike Small, Kosta Nikolos (22 points on 11-18 shooting) stepped up with his most productive game of the season.  The defense also clamped down, led by Matt Sola, who saved 15 of the 29 shots to come his way.  After briefly taking a lead, the Work Horses entered the third period only down two points.  Unfortunately for them, they were never quite able to get over that hump and build a lead of their own and the marksmanship of the Petrino brothers eventually did them in.  

Now at 3-1 and tied for second place in the league standings, the Evergreens continue to impress with their play.  The aspect of their game that really stands out is how cohesive a unit they are.  The Evergreens know when to find their teammates on backdoor passes and how far out to lead someone on passes into the flex zone.  They play with a fluidity that you would not expect to see from a franchise just 4 games into its professional existence.  It speaks to the sheer number of games the majority of these players logged together coming up through the rec leagues; they know each other better than a lot of other squads that were just pieced together prior to this preseason.  It will be exciting to see the ceiling of this young squad as they continue to gain more and more experience at the professional level.

As for the Work Horses, they have to be encouraged with this effort despite the loss.  The offense showed more variety than usual, as the team collected some points in the goal and wedge zones along with the usual Cavalcante scoring barrage out top.  More importantly, the defense showed signs of life after a sluggish opening period, limiting what is really a high-powered Evergreens offense.  The Horses will win some more games going forward if they continue to bring the level of play they showed in this contest.

The Nimble Jacks held on for dear life and kept their undefeated season alive against the Throwbacks.

Nimble Jacks 100, Throwbacks 96

The Throwbacks came out Sunday decked out in their customary gold with blue trim; but when they face the Nimble Jacks, they might as well be wearing green because they are the Jacks’ kryptonite. After the huge upset the Throwbacks pulled off against the Jacks last season, they nearly duplicated the effort in a game that came down to the closing seconds.  However, with the Throwbacks ahead seven points down the stretch, the Jacks showed the resolve that comes with multiple championship campaigns.  Scott Kennedy (8 points, 13 assists) and Jared O’Donnell (game-high 30 points) each connected on four-point shots from the cross zone and the defense clamped down as the Nimble Jacks pulled ahead.  After a Steve Botta game-tying attempt was blocked as time expired, the Throwbacks’ hopes for another upset had been dashed and the Jacks kept their undefeated season alive.

The Throwbacks came out fired up in search of their first victory of the season.  As a team, the Throwbacks accrued 16 and 14 points in the goal and wedge zones, respectively, demonstrating the type of offensive versatility that the Nimble Jacks have made their trademark.  Steve Fariss was on fire from the flex area, tallying a game-high 26 points on 12-21 shooting, to go with his team-high 3 blocks.  The back-line defense was led by Botta, who tallied 19 saves on 30 opportunities.  John Graham also connected on a first-period 8-point kronum as the Throwbacks jumped out to a 14-point lead after one period.

Against most teams, that may have been enough, but the Jacks have proven time and again that you need to play a full 60 minutes against them.  When O’Donnell wasn’t ripping shots past opposing wedgebacks, Dan Geiger (24 points and 4 blocks) was doing the same from the flex zone on the opposite side of the field.  Despite having a subpar shooting outing, Ryan Coyne focused his energies on the defense end, collecting a league-high 6 steals.  The wedgebacks for the Jacks did everything they could to keep the Jacks hanging around while the offense found its rhythm.  Sean Kennedy (19 saves on 26 attempts) and Pete Weiss (12 saves on 19 attempts) set the tone for that formidable back-line group.  By the end of the second period, the Nimble Jacks were right back in the game, setting the stage for their exciting last-minute comeback.

Though the heart-breaking defeat was surely a kick in the teeth, this performance was easily the Throwbacks’ best of the season.  More often than not, their performance would have been enough to secure a victory.  If they bring a similar effort each game going forward, the Throwbacks will quickly find themselves out of last place in the standings.  As for the Jacks, this game may have served as a wake-up call.  Every opponent is going to bring its ‘A’ game against them and they can’t afford to come out flat against anyone.  Though they’re capable of making up ground when needed, those last-minute heroics will not always be there. 

The Night Owls won a closely contested kronum match as well as the battle for best facial hair.

Night Owls 122, Jet Sets 115

When the Jet Sets and Night Owls get together, chances are you’re in for a high-scoring affair and this most recent contest stuck to the script.  Only one wedgeback in the game recorded a save percentage above 50% as balls were flying throught the rings and into the chamber throughtout the game.  After the dust settled, one man had recorded a Kronum league-record scoring performance with 55 points, carrying his Night Owls to victory.

After the teams played evenly through one period, it was truly time for the Kyle McGrath show.  The veteran ranger and captain of the Night Owls started the second period off in style, connecting on an 8-point kronum off the prime rush for the second straight week.  Over the next ten minutes, McGrath would hit multiple shots from the cross zone, snipe a pair of 4-point ring shots (including one off a deflection), and throw in some casual two-point goals from the flex area just to change things up.  During this period, Jeff Regensburg (18 points on just 8 shots taken) counter-punched with an impressive 7-point play but the McGrath onslaught built an 82-56 lead for the Night Owls. 

Finally, the Jet Sets had seen enough and decided to stick Joe Hoban on McGrath to shadow him across the field.  The move worked out brilliantly as the Night Owls’ offense stagnated, allowing the Jet Sets to climb back into the game.  Their attack was led by captain Matt Parsons, who dished out a league-high 15 assists to go along with 16 points of his own.  Steve Vandenberg led the Sets in scoring with 24 points, including heading a ball through the ring for four points (a Kronum first).  After Christian Rota (10 points and team-high 17 saves) threw the ball soccer-style through the rings for 4 at the second period, the Jet Sets found themselves down just six at 95-89. 

In the third period, the Jet Sets took their first lead since the opening frame at 103-101, when Regensburg sank a 4-point shot off a steal .  However, the Night Owls answered with a couple cross shots of their own from Chris VonTanhausen (10 points and 4 blocks) and McGrath to regain a bit of a cushion.  With the score 119-115 in the final minute, the Jet Sets had a couple chances at the game-tying shot but the Night Owls wedgebacks made a couple of rare saves (just a 29.2% save percentage on the game). Then, after an Owls’ penalty shot was intentionally let in, the Jet Sets threw the ball away without even getting off a shot for the game-winning kronum.

The loss raises age-old concerns for the Jet Sets; namely, how does a team allow one player to go off for more than 50 points.  Defense has always been the achilles heel for the Jets and it’s clearly still a major issue for them.  Encouragingly though, the offense still ran smoothly despite Regensburg being shadowed by the Owls’ Frank McKnight and Bill Zane.  Parsons and Vandenberg picked their games up and the team appeared to learn some things on that side of that ball after the Nimble Jacks had employed a similar strategy against them.  If they can ever iron out their defensive issues, watch out Kronum League.

Despite the victory, the Night Owls exit this game facing a couple questions.  First, it would be shocking to see opponents fail to man up McGrath going forward and the Owls will have to learn how to efficiently run their offense when they happens.  Also, the wedgebacks had an exceptionally subpar performance in this contest, on the heels of some additional poor defensive efforts recently.  Ultimately, the Owls will only go as far as their defense enables them, and right now there’s some work to do.  Still, when a team has a player in McGrath capable of going off for a double-nickel, that is a good place to start.

Week 5 Leaders:

Points – Kyle McGrath (55), Phil Cavalcante (36), Joe Petrino (30), Jared O’Donnell (30)

Assists – Matt Parsons (15), Dave Slusser (14), Scott Kennedy (13)

Saves – Sean Kennedy (19), Steve Botta (19), Christian Rota (17)

Blocks – Dan Geiger (4), Chris VonTanhausen (4), Steve Fariss (3), Phil Cavalcante (3)

Steals – Ryan Coyne (6), Derek Clouser (3), 5 players tied with 2

2013 Offseason Training Program: Jrue Holiday

In this series, we’ll examine each of the Sixers under contract for the 2013-14 season and one aspect of his game he could work on during the offseason.

Despite a sluggish end to the season that likely saw him worn down after carrying the team much of the year, Jrue Holiday truly had a breakout 2012-13 campaign.  Along with making his first all star game, Holiday averaged career-highs in points (17.7), rebounds (4.2), and assists (8.0).  The truly remarkable aspect of his scoring production was how he achieved it without the benefit of earning many free points from the charity stripe.  Among the top 25 scorers in the NBA this season, Holiday attempted the second-fewest free throws per game (3.1), only ahead of Al Jefferson.  Continued improvement in getting to the foul line is a crucial part of the young guard’s development going forward.

Advanced statistics track a player’s Free Throw Rate as the ratio of Free Throws Attempted to Field Goals Attempted (or FTA/FGA).  Holiday’s FTA/FGA sat at just 0.19 this past season, which represented an improvement over his abysmal 2011-12 mark of 0.14, but was still considerably below average.  Among players receiving 20 minutes or more per game, the league average Free Throw Rate was 0.269 total and 0.253 for point guards.  Even just approaching average levels of production from the foul line would greatly benefit Holiday’s evolving offensive game.

For better or worse, players affixed with the ‘all-star’ label generally get the benefit of the doubt with contact calls in the paint from referees across the league.  Holiday needs to use his rising star status in NBA circles to his advantage and be much more aggressive in playing to contact.  He has shown an ability to finish with both hands in the paint on those occasions when he does enter into attack mode.  A more aggressive Holiday will help ensure the Sixers aren’t gone fishing in mid-April again next year.

2013 Offseason Training Program: Lavoy Allen

In this series, we’ll examine each of the Sixers under contract for the 2013-14 season and one aspect of his game he could work on during the offseason.

Lavoy Allen’s career trajectory has been pretty well documented up to this point.  At first glance, it seemed like the Sixers were just giving a local kid from the Philadelphia suburbs and Temple University a shot in the big leagues.  Fans may have been upset the team didn’t use that late second-round pick on more of a project with a high ceiling but felt it ultimately didn’t matter.  Then, Allen famously became, “Mr. 500”, as an ESPN.com poll ranked him dead last of all NBA players likely to participate in the 2011-12 season. 

The snub seemed to light some fire under the remarkedly reserved Allen, who had a quietly productive rookie campaign, even earning 15 starts when some injuries struck the Sixers’ frontline.  The former Owl featured a nice mid-range jumper in shooting 47.3% from the field and 78.6% from the foul line, and battled on the glass, as his 22.2% defensive rebounding rate was well above league average.  After Allen went toe to toe with Kevin Garnett in the Sixers’ hard-fought playoff series loss to the Celtics, it seemed as though the franchise had found a diamond in the rough (diamond being a relative term for a useful rotational player in this context).

Lavoy Allen parlayed that solid rookie season into a 2 year, $6 million contract, and appeared to rest on his laurels thereafter.  Not only did Allen inauspicously come out and say he didn’t learn anything in his second season, but his statistical numbers dropped across the board from his rookie season.  His shooting regressed to 45.4 FG% and 71.7 FT%, and his defensive rebounding rate plummeted to 16.5%, below average for both power forwards and centers.  Allen began the year as a starter but couldn’t even crack Doug Collins’ rotation by the end of the season. 

So what is one area Lavoy Allen could work on this offseason?  The Sixers desperately need someone who can score from the block.  Allen has never featured a post game, even going back to his Temple days, but we’ve seen numerous instances of players using the summer to add that aspect to their game.  This past season, Allen hoisted 179 shots from 16-23 feet, accounting for 43.3% of his total field goal attempts.  While it’s nice that Allen has that aspect to his game, your 6’9″ power forward/center should not be spending so much time on the perimeter.  So not only would it help him become a more well-rounded player, but Allen would find likely earn more burn on the court by filling a glaring need for the team.

The addition of a post game is a necessary step for Lavoy to achieve his ceiling as a first big off the bench type of player.  If he doesn’t put in the work, Allen might be stuck at the end of the bench for the rest of his playing days.  Certainly, it would be a much better way to make a living than most of us at home but a sad end to a promising early NBA career.

Kronum League Season 4 – Week 4 Recap

The scoring of second-year player Dan Geiger is a big reason why the Nimble Jacks’ offense is once again firing on all cylinders.

Nimble Jacks 128, Jet Sets 93

For four seasons now, the Nimble Jacks have used a balanced scoring attack and aggressive defense to rack up win after win in league play.  The last thing a team on the rise like the Jet Sets needed was for the Jacks to catch a lucky break or two along the way.  But that’s precisely what happened in the opening minutes of the game, as Dan Geiger tossed up a flex shot threw the rings for four in the act of being fouled.  Geiger (team-high 27 points) then drained the ensuing penalty shot for a rare 7-point play and the rout was on.

With Jacks rangers Nick Caton and Matt Charleston shadowing Jeff Regensburg all over the field, the league’s leading scorer was held to just 7 points on the game, well below his 47 points the previous week.  Early on, Zach Van Fossen (team-high 20 points) and Kevin Corbett kept the Jet Sets close, taking advantage of the extra open space on the field with Regensburg being manned up.  The lone wedgeback stemming the tide of the Nimble Jacks’ attack was the Jet Sets’ Christian Rota.  Rota saved an astounding 19 of 32 shots and threw his hat into the ring as a Vezina Trophy candidate with the number of kick saves he flashed throughout the game.  The Jet Sets were still within striking distance after one period at 44-34.

However, the Nimble Jacks really pulled away in the second frame, spurred by a 12-0 run midway through the period to make it 72-51.  Scott Kennedy (12 points and 16 assists) continued to play the vintage Steve Nash role, as time after time he found Jared O’Donnell (22 points), Ryan Coyne (22 points and 7 assists), and Shaun Stevens (18 points) on the perimeter.  The Jacks quartet of wedgebacks also brought their ‘A’ game, as each recorded double digit saves, led by Sean Kennedy (15 of 25 shots saved) and Ben Hutchison (12 saves).  The Jet Sets would only get as close as 15 points during the rest of the game, before the Jacks really put their foot on the gas down the stretch and cruised to an easy victory.

For the Jet Sets, teams will likely continue to shade over on Regensburg going forward given how effective that strategy was in this match.  While it’s great that players like Van Fossen and Corbett provided offensive production, the guys that will really need to step up are Stephen Vandenberg and Matt Parsons.  The two did combine for 15 assists in this contest, but shot just 8-30 for a total of 20 points.  However, those guys have established themselves as proven scorers and chances are they’ll have much better efforts going forward.  A return to the lineup by Nick DeLuca, who was not on the field against the Jacks, will also be beneficial. The Jet Sets still look to be a force to be reckoned with in league play.

As for the defending champions, the Jacks have picked up right where they left off in Season 3. The defense is as strong as ever, and Dan Geiger has admirably filled the Joe Petrino-role within the high-octane Jacks attack.  Barring an injury, it looks like the Nimble Jacks are on the road toward securing another regular season title, but there’s still plenty of kronum yet to be played.

Ryan Maley has emerged as one of the league’s most versatile two-way players for the Evergreens.

Evergreens 113, Throwbacks 103

In the most exciting game of the day, a raucous crowd cheered on as the Evergreens held off a late rally to deny the Throwbacks their first victory of the season. Coming out of their bye week, the Throwbacks initially looked to have corrected their early season offensive woes.  The blue and gold utilized a more aggressive and diverse attack, making backdoor runs into the goal zone and playing the ball into the wedge area to keep the defense honest for their patented give-and-go action deep in the flex zone.  Throwbacks ranger John Graham (26 points) was hot early on, connecting on an 8-point Kronum five minutes into the game.  Then, with under a minute remaining in the first period, Graham again struck from the cross area, scoring a 4-point shot off a steal in transition.  It looked like it might be the Throwbacks’ day, as they led 38-32 at the end of the first frame.

Unfortunately for the Throwbacks, Evergreens ranger Joe Petrino, coming off a 45-point offensive explosion the previous week against the Night Owls, kept his squad in the game early.  Petrino (team-high 24 points) scorched the nets from the cross and flex zones, and even connected on a 4-point ring shot in the first period.  Petrino’s offensive prowess kept the Evergreens within striking distance until the Throwbacks’ offense cooled off.

And cool off it did, as the second period settled into the type of defensive battle the Throwbacks have made their hallmark over the years.  Both teams were determined to shut down scoring from the points and wedgebacks from both sides were making tremendous saves on shots from the flex area.  The Throwbacks’ back-line defense played its usual strong game, led by wedgebacks Steve Botta (team-highs 28 points and 10 saves) and Kevin Marron (10 points and 9 saves).  However, it was the Evergreens’ wedgebacks who once again opened up some eyes, showing that despite being largely a rookie contingent, they are not a unit to overlook.  Wedgeback Ryan Maley was a rock this game, stopping 13 of 23 shots to go along with his 16 points.  The Evergreens inched their way back into a 63-63 deadlock after two periods.

The defensive battle ended thereafter, as the Evergreens possess too powerful an offense to keep down for long.  They started the third period on an 8-0 run to pull ahead 71-63, as Dom Petrino (17 points) and Dan Williams (13 points) really got things going from the flex area for the Greens.  Then, with over 11 minutes left in the game, a 4-point cross zone goal was taken away from the Evergreens due to a questionable interference call.  The play could have served as the turning point in the game as instead of the score sitting at 84-73, it moved to 80-75 after the Throwbacks scored on the ensuing possession.  Instead, a minute later, Ryan Maley sank a 4-point ring shot, effectively killing any momentum for the Throwbacks.

With their momentum cut off, the Throwbacks began forcing tough shots, enabling the Evergreens to really stretch out their lead in the closing minutes.  However, the Throwbacks made it interesting for the fans in attendance as Steve Botta hit an 8-point kronum with just over two minutes left to make it 107-95; then, with under a minute remaining, John Graham hit another kronum to pull within 7 at 110-103.  That shot ended the late game heroics though, as the end of game penalty shot parade yielded a 113-103 final.

Just three games into their existence, the Evergreens have already established themselves as a top team within the league, moving to 2-1 with their lone loss by a single point.  Their wedgebacks have performed better than anyone could have anticipated and a handful of secondary options have emerged offensively to supplement Joe Petrino’s efforts on that side of the ball.  On the other end of the spectrum, the Throwbacks dropped to 0-3 with the loss and need to figure out things fast on the offensive end before they dig too big a hole for themselves and miss the playoffs altogether.  Hopefully they can pull it together against their next opponent this Sunday. (Checks schedule.) Uh oh…

Mike Ragan has taken his game to the next level as the Urban Legends’ most dangerous scoring threat in 2013.

Urban Legends 116, Work Horses 101

(This article will also appear on the official Kronum League website.  Be sure to check out the site for additional week 4 coverage and statistics). 

Another week, another quicker opponent taking advantage of the Work Horses’ poor defensive rotations.  It’s as though other teams in the league have purchased Model Ts but the Work Horses are still stuck hauling buggies around given the speed discrepancy out on the field.  In this contest, the Horses came out focused on stopping the point, so the Urban Legends initially pounded the back of the nets with kicks from the wedge area.  Then, as the defense shifted to the perimeter, Legends crosser Mike Ragan (team-highs 38 points and 10 assists) went wild from the cross zone.  (Discussions are underway to rename the ‘Clark Zone’ to the ‘Ragan Zone’ but it doesn’t have the same ring to it.)  Although the Legends are arguably the most versatile offensive team in the league, poor rotations defensively have been a persistant problem for the Horses throughout the season and will seriously hurt their 2013 playoff chances if not corrected.

Time after time, Mike Ragan punished the Horses from the middle of the field, with 32 of his 38 points coming from the cross zone.   Teammate Kevin Clark (12 points and 8 saves) was back in net for the majority of the game and found some success scoring from the flex and wedge areas; still, it was a far cry offensively from ‘MVP Kevin Clark’ who opponents have become accustomed to dealing with in recent years.   Besides Ragan, a couple other Legends stepped up in the scoring department.  Wedgeback Kevin Glover (24 points and 7 saves on 13 attempts) had his second straight strong game following his return from injury and Dan Vignola dropped a double-double with 18 points and 11 saves.

The Work Horses welcomed back crosser Dave Slusser who made his presence known early, drilling a 4-pointer from the cross zone on the team’s first possession.  Unfortunately for the team, those were his only points on the day shooting just 1-8, although he did a nice job orchestrating the Horses attack with 10 assists.  Many of those passes found the powerful right arm of Luke Dougan (26 points), who had his best game of the young season.

Primarily though, it was captain Phil Cavalcante who did everything within his power to keep the Horses in the game on the offensive end, tallying a league-high 45 points on 15-28 shooting.  A 4-point goal from the cross zone followed by a penalty shot conversion by Cavalcante got the Horses back into the game, cutting the lead to 73-63 at the end of the second period.

However, one final Ragan cross shot served as the straw to break the Horses’ back, extending the Legends’ lead to 93-73.  The Horses had one last gasp as Matt Kump connected on an 8-point kronum with one minute left to shave the deficit to 112-101; however, in what was somewhat of a theme on the day, Kevin Glover immediately answered with a 4-point ring to seal the victory for the Urban Legends.

The Horses now sit in sixth place at 1-3 and sport the worst point differential in the league.  Not only do they need to revamp their defensive strategy, but some other players need to alleviate some of the burden from the top 3 or 4 scorers who are doing everything they can to carry the offense right now.  A couple guys on the perimeter scoring an efficient 10-12 points per game would go a long way toward helping Cavacante, Dougan, and Small find some open space in the middle of the field.  The team is just too one-dimensional on offense right now, as the 2 points combined from the goal and wedge zones in this game will attest.

On the opposing sideline, the Urban Legends currently find themselves in second place at 3-1, with their lone defeat coming at the hands of the undefeated Nimble Jacks.  Ragan’s emergence as one of the top scorers in the league has provided a welcome salve to Kevin Clark’s early offensive struggles.  With other steady scoring options such as Glover, Brian Sperling, and a swarm of talented foot players, the Legends should continue to feature a consistent offensive game to pair with their always sound defensive principles.  They have a bye week before facing the Evergreens in a match that could help them distance themselves from the middle of the pack.

Week 4 Leaders:

Points – Phil Cavalcante (45), Mike Ragan (38), Steve Botta (28)

Assists – Scott Kennedy (16), Dave Slusser (10), Mike Ragan (10), Matt Parsons (10)

Saves – Christian Rota (19), Sean Kennedy (15), Ryan Maley (13)

Blocks – Dan Geiger (6), Joe Petrino (4), 4 players tied with 2

Steals – Luke Pinto (3), John Graham (3), 7 players tied with 2

2013 Offseason Training Program: Thad Young

In this series, we’ll examine each of the Sixers under contract for the 2013-14 season and one aspect of his game he could work on during the offseason.

Thad Young was arguably the most consistently productive player on the 76ers this past season. Young maintained his strong per-minute averages while adjusting to a starting role and playing a career-high 34.6 minutes per game.  Any criticism toward Young is bound to sound like nitpicking considering the much bigger problems facing the team.  However, one aspect of his game stuck out like a sore thumb all season long: Young shot just 57.4% from the free throw line on the season, far below his previous career-worst mark of 69.1% and the worst among Sixers regulars.  This precipitous drop was startling for a player who had entering the season a 72.6% career shooter from the charity stripe.

As you can see in the chart below courtesy of NBA.com Stats, Young’s struggles around the foul line translated during live game action.  The zone around the circle was the sole zone within the arc where he was below league average during the season.  Fans are very familiar with his prowess on those 18-footers, which are crucial for Young to keep defenders honest and set up his dangerous drive game.

Shotchart_1367092202519

So if Young hits perimeter shots at around a league-average rate, why was he so subpar from that foul line area both during live action and after being fouled?  Does he expend so much energy with his hustling style of play that it’s tough to bring his body back down to more of a resting state and drain those free throws?  Doubtful, since we’ve seen in the past that Young has the ability to be a solid free throw shooter.  It’s also unlikely he was simply more tired with the minutes increase as he also played over 34 minutes per game in 2008-09 and sported a 73.5 free throw percentage that season.  Chances are that Young’s poor performance from the line was more a problem of small sample size than anything.  The difference between his prior career average of 72.6% and his season mark of 57.4% is only about 28 free throws over the course of the season.  Still, it would behoove Young to spend a little extra time practicing at the line during the summer.  Maybe he and Jrue could play some knockout.