Sixers Media Luncheon Recap

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

The Sixers held their annual media luncheon Wednesday afternoon; head coach Brett Brown and general manager Bryan Colangelo met with a group of local media members downtown at Barbuzzo. Having just eaten there Saturday night, I can personally vouch for the delectable nature of Nonna’s meatballs. Aside from the fine cuisine, there were plenty of nuggets of information on the menu. Below are some of the most pertinent items.

Joel Embiid still not cleared for 5-on-5, timeline uncertain

Brett Brown revealed that the Sixers franchise center has still not played 5-on-5, and he’s not sure if Embiid will be able to once training camp kicks off next week. Bryan Colangelo later chipped in that there was no setback for Embiid, but it was too early to tell when he will scrimmage. Colangelo very confusingly added, “He will be out there on the first practice and the first game. The question is, how much, how little, if at all.” So he will be out there, if he is out there? The cloud over Embiid’s health continues to be a small cloud in the team’s otherwise bright outlook for the upcoming season.

Update on an Embiid extension

Colangelo also mentioned that the two parties are discussing an Embiid extension and he is “cautiously optimistic they can find common ground”. The October 16th deadline for an extension is fast approaching, but both the team and Embiid’s camp may still be far apart. Based on his talent level, Embiid deserves a max contract. However, the fact that he only has 31 career games under his belt and is still not cleared for 5-on-5 is understandably causing the team to hesitate in shelling out that much money.

Other stories as the rotation turns

Coach Brown said he anticipates Robert Covington starting and ending games for the Sixers. This proclamation should finally put to rest what the starting lineup will be, for those still questioning it. The team will roll out Markelle Fultz, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid, with Dario Saric in the 6th man role.

Fortunately, while Embiid’s situation is still fuzzy, things appear clear as day for Ben Simmons. Colangelo said there will be no restrictions on the former LSU star and Simmons has been “dominating the gym”. If Simmons is out there for heavy minutes, Coach Brown will have to figure out who to put around him, after saying he doesn’t think Simmons can be on the floor with someone else without three-point range.

One of the people who might not be considered to have sufficient three-point range is TJ McConnell, but although people have made the point that Jerryd Bayless was brought in partly due to his fit alongside Simmons, it appears we should expect to see TJ out there. Brown praised his young point guard, saying, “how can we not play TJ?…the kid wins.”

Finally, the proverbial fly in the punch bowl, Jahlil Okafor, was brought up, with Brown telling those in attendance, “we’re gonna see what goes on with the rest of the league in relation to whatever else is out there.” Okafor may have switched to a mostly vegan diet and gotten himself in better shape, but he would appear that his future lies elsewhere. Whether the Sixers can actually get anything of value for him remains to be seen.

Capping Corner – 2017 Week 2

By Josh Mansilla (@Manzilla36)

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Throughout the 2017 NFL season, NFL handicapper Josh Mansilla will be providing his weekly plays, along with a brief write-up on how he sees the games playing out. We’ll track his picks each week to see how well he assists our readers.

Tennessee -1.5

Tennessee / Jacksonville Under 42

0-1 to start the season as the Chiefs came ready to play last Thursday. Let’s look to bounce back with two plays this weekend.

I am rolling with the Titans here, up against a divisional opponent in Jacksonville. The Jaguars started the season 1-0 thanks to their dominant defense, while Tennessee fell to a playoff contender in the Raiders in Week 1.

Unlike Jacksonville’s Week 1 opponent, Houston, the Titans have a stout rush defense, ranking 10th in rushing defense DVOA last season per Football Outsiders. An ability to stop the run is all you need to shut down Jacksonville’s offense. Last week, Blake Bortles threw for only 125 yards and one score, completing just over half of his passes (11-21). Tennessee will stack the box on Leonard Fournette and force the Jags to beat them threw the air. The loss of Allen Robinson for the season due to a torn ACL will surely hurt Jacksonville’s passing attack as Bortles has proven to be inaccurate and inconsistent during his NFL career.

I also like Tennessee’s offense to rebound after last week’s 16-point performance. Don’t get me wrong, the Jacksonville defense is a legitimate force, and a big reason I’m also playing the under. But they face a much better offense this week than the Tom Savage / DeShaun Watson in his NFL debut combination in Week 1. I believe Tennessee will score enough points to get the job done and cover the small spread on the road.

Good luck.

Week 1 record: 0-1; Season record: 0-1

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PFB 002 – 2017 NFL Week 2 Plays

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

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In this episode of the podcast, I sit down with NFL handicapper Dan Urda to discuss his 3-0 Week 1 and the entire slate of Week 2 action.

Support the site via its Patreon page.

Villanova faces a challenging schedule twist this season

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

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The Villanova Wildcats released their 2017-18 schedule on Tuesday. Unlike most schedule releases in sports, which usually involve a lot of meaningless talk about stuff we already knew (oh, I see they’ll be playing around half their games at home and half on the road, how interesting), the Wildcats are dealing with an interesting wrinkle this season.

Starting in the season opener on November 10th against Columbia, Villanova will play 12 games at the Wells Fargo Center. Due to the $60 million renovation of the Pavilion, the team’s usual home court location, all but two of the team’s home games will take place in the arena the Sixers and Flyers call home; the remaining two home contests are at the PPL Center in Allentown and Jake Nevin Field House on campus.

Of course, Villanova is no stranger to playing on South Broad Street. Typically, the team plays between three and five games per season at the Wells Fargo Center, as the much larger venue affords the alumni base a good opportunity to catch the Wildcats in action live. Due to an NCAA rule that a team cannot play NCAA tournament games on its “home court”, the Wildcats have not played more than three games at the Wells Fargo Center in years when it was hosting postseason play. However, March Madness will not be returning to the Wells Fargo Center until 2022, so that was not a consideration that needed to be taken into account this season.

Surely, despite their familiarity with playing at the Wells Fargo Center, the Wildcats will miss calling the Pavilion home this year. They have been nearly unbeatable there  in recent years, just having an outstanding 48-game win streak at the Pavilion snapped by Butler last season. Villanova has found success at the Wells Fargo Center as well, going 50-34 there all-time, but it’s definitely not the same as the friendly confines of playing in their own backyard.

Without question, the biggest hurdle for the upcoming season involves the loss of three starters in Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Daryl Reynolds. Still, not being able to welcome opponents to the Pavilion will also be a challenge for the Wildcats, as they begin their journey in search of their second National Championship in the past three seasons.

Capping Corner – 2017 Week 1

By Josh Mansilla (@Manzilla36)

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Throughout the 2017 NFL season, NFL handicapper Josh Mansilla will be providing his weekly plays, along with a brief write-up on how he sees the games playing out. We’ll track his picks each week to see how well he assists our readers.

New England -9

Welcome back to another year of NFL weekly winners. We are starting off the handicapping season by backing the defending Super Bowl Champions, the New England Patriots.

Coach Belichick and his team will be ready to go tonight against another AFC powerhouse in the Kansas City Chiefs. Having arguably one of the best coaches of all-time with one of the best systems in the NFL sure does bode well for them in these situations. The Patriots are 4-0 in their season openers following a Super Bowl win and have not scored fewer than 27 points in any of those contests, winning by an average of 9.5 points.

While there tends to be a lot of uncertainty around most teams entering a new season, it makes sense to stick with the most reliable team, which year-in and year-out is New England. The Patriots have a veteran, future Hall-of-Fame quarterback, surrounded by a ton of weapons who you know will be well-prepared for the start of the season. Throw in a home atmosphere, further pumped up by a banner ceremony, and I see a double-digit Patriots victory tonight.

Prediction: New England 31, Kansas City 16

Good luck.

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PFB 001 – 2017 NFL Season Win Totals and Week 1 Plays

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

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In this episode of the podcast, I chat with NFL handicapper Dan Urda to discuss the 2017 NFL season win totals and week 1 plays.

In this particular episode, you will learn:

  • Which NFC team we both feel will go over their total.
  • Which 2 AFC teams Dan has made 2 unit plays on the under.

Support the site via its Patreon page.

Overseas Sixers shining in EuroBasket

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

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People may debate whether Joel Embiid, if healthy, is the top young big man in the league. They might also try to rank Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz among the other Rookie of the Year favorites heading into the season. But a big reason the Sixers are seen as such a rising presence in league circles is not only due to the top-end talent, but the depth, of their young roster. At the moment, that depth is on full display overseas, where Dario Saric and Furkan Korkmaz are representing their countries in the EuroBasket 2017 tournament.

Both players seemingly produced their best performances of the tournament in action Tuesday. Dario Saric and Croatia were up against Spain, who won this event back in 2015 and is widely considered the best international team in the world outside of the United States. Saric was up against true NBA talent in the Gasol brothers and Knicks center Juan Hernangomez. While Spain came away with a 79-73 victory, Croatia actually led after 3 quarters and the contest was within one point with under 30 seconds left.

More importantly for Sixers fans, Dario was arguably the best player on the floor, going off for a fat stat line of 18 points (6-14 FG, 5-6 FT), 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. It was the second game in a row where Saric recorded a double-double. Often matched up against a former NBA Defensive Player of the Year in Marc Gasol, Saric had no trouble getting his shot whenever he wanted.

https://twitter.com/sixers/status/905083196865437697

He also took a large role in facilitating the Croatian offense. There’s a short list of men 6’10” or taller on the planet who can make the kind of passes Dario Saric can make. Here, the game announcer rightly said, “that assist is as good as anything, even that [Sergio] Rodriguez has thrown.”

Despite dropping to 3-1 with the loss, Croatia is guaranteed to advance out of the group stage with one game remaining. Sixers fans unable to wait until October to see Dario back in action in a Sixers uniform are loving what they’re seeing from the young big man.

Meanwhile, Furkan Korkmaz has also been chipping in for Turkey, most recently in their 78-65 win over Belgium. Coming off the bench, Korkmaz dropped a game-high 14 points, very efficiently going 3-4 from the field and 7-7 from the foul line; he recorded a +17 plus/minus in just 20 minutes of court time.  Sixers fans have mainly considered the young Turkish guard as a spot-up shooter, but he showed plenty of off-the-dribble game on Tuesday.

https://twitter.com/sixers/status/905139303310921733

Korkmaz went off for 7 points as part of a 12-0 Turkey run in the 4th quarter to break open a game that had been tied 60-60. This corner three is the sort of spot-up shot Sixers faithful envision him knocked down off of a Ben Simmons drive or Joel Embiid kick-out for years to come.

For the tournament, Korkmaz has averaged 10.8 points, shooting 60.9% from the field and 4-9 from behind the arc. The win over Belgium moved Turkey to 2-2, also clinching them a ticket to the knockout stage. With a deeper Sixers roster this season, it remains to be seen how much playing time will be available with the big club for Korkmaz. But if Furkan keeps scoring the basketball against NBA competition like we’re seen the last week or two in Europe, he’ll find his way into the regular rotation.

Philly Fast Break now on Patreon!

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Hello, I’m pleased to announce that Philly Fast Break now has its own Patreon page! Since I began this site in early 2013, Philly Fast Break has always been a passion project for me. The purpose of this Patreon is to help alleviate some of the costs for maintaining the site (these include fees for website hosting, domain registration, podcast hosting, and the prize pools for the free contests I have run over the years).

For as little as $2 per month, you receive patron-only rewards like a weekly newsletter and free entry into our popular NFL Survivor and NCAA March Madness contests. Should you kind folks be generous enough that, somewhere far down the road, incoming revenue exceeds those costs, I’d like to use the supplementary income to bring in additional writers and increase the quality and breadth of coverage at Philly Fast Break.

In addition to the perks listed on the rewards page, for every patron, I will donate $1 each month to (your choice of) one of the following 4 charities:

– American Red Cross
– American Civil Liberties Union
– Wildlife Conservation Network
– Cure Alzheimer’s Fund

Hopefully, we can help make a small difference in the world as a byproduct of my (occasionally) insightful and (somewhat) entertaining sports commentary.

Thank you!

Vegas projects Sixers to have winning season, make playoffs

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

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As we get closer and closer to the 2017-18 NBA season, optimism around the Sixers has been gaining steam like a runaway train. However, it isn’t just homer Philadelphia fans who have high expectations for the team in the upcoming campaign. Tuesday afternoon, Jeff Sherman, manager of the sportsbook in Westgate Las Vegas, posted the projected win totals for every NBA team. It would appear that the denizens of the desert are counting on the Sixers to be a fairly formidable force in the Eastern Conference.

The Westgate set Philadelphia’s win total at 42.5, tied with Charlotte for the 7th-highest total in the Eastern Conference. The line of 42.5 represents a significant jump of more than 14 wins from last season’s 28-54 record. Vegas expects the Sixers to not only return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season, but to have their first winning record in a non-lockout-shortened season since 2004-05 (Philadelphia went 35-31 following the 2011 lockout). Think about that. The last time the Sixers had a winning record across 82 games, Allen Iverson was averaging 30.7 points per game, Chris Webber was the team’s second-leading scorer, and Andre Iguodala was only 21 years old. It’s been a rough decade-plus of Sixers basketball.

Now, behind a (fingers and toes crossed) healthier Joel Embiid, rookies Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, key free agent acquisition J.J. Redick, and continued improvement from the other young players on the roster, the drought of losing seasons will finally come to an end, at least according to the human calculators in Las Vegas. For those of you who were still holding on to your deeply ingrained Philadelphia sports pessimism in the face of all the excitement surrounding this 76ers team, remember the old adage: Vegas always knows.

James Michael McAdoo joins Sixers on two-way contract

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

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If I told you the Sixers acquired a player who has appeared in the NBA Finals in all three seasons he has been in the league, chances are you would view that as pretty exciting news. But if I then told you that player had played a combined 30 minutes across those three Finals series, you would likely temper your enthusiasm. Such is the case for James Michael McAdoo, a two-time NBA champion at just 24 years of age, who signed a two-way contract with Philadelphia Saturday.

Taking one of the two available two-way contracts with the Sixers, McAdoo will be spending a maximum of 45 days with the big club this season and the rest of his time in the G-League with the Sevens. The 6’9″ big man went undrafted out of North Carolina, but spent the first three years of his career with the light-years-ahead Golden State Warriors. Across that time, McAdoo sported per-36 averages of 13.7 points on 53.5% shooting, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks.

Despite coming up in an environment which would give a young player every chance to excel, McAdoo has never appeared to be more than a fungible rotation big type. He’s gotten some run in big situations for the Warriors, but unlike someone like Patrick McCaw, you’ve more often wondered why McAdoo is out there than thought he looked poised to make some sort of developmental leap.

Even if McAdoo spends the maximum 45 days with the Sixers, the most money he can make is $279,000. With two-way contract players not counting against the 15-man roster limit, it’s not much of a risk for the Sixers to bring him on board from either an opportunity cost perspective or financially. He’ll log some minutes on nights when Joel Embiid is being rested or the team has a handful of injuries.

Maybe he still has some upside at 24, but it seems like this is the player McAdoo is at this point of his career. In the end, the signing is a fairly harmless move that will probably add some cachet to the Sevens roster more than anything.