Monday, December 28, 2009

Is Anybody Out There Links

My guess is no, no one is out there today. There are empty cubicles all around me in the office, as the majority of normal people seemed to have taken the week off. I, on the other hand, used up all my 2009 vacation days already, because that's what I do. Now I get to go to work when no one else is here and surf the internet. Advantage me.

Heading into Christmas, the Flyers were a lost team. They had just lost their fourth straight game, a 4-1 loss to Florida, and were sitting at 14th in the East. Since then, the Flyers have left the friendly confines of Philadelphia, taking on three teams that could hardly be considered world beaters in the form of Tampa Bay, Carolina and the Islanders, and suddenly the Flyers find themselves on a three-game winning streak and sitting in 11th place, just two points out of the 8th spot. Playing the Lightning, Hurricanes and Islanders is good tonic for a struggling team.

Regardless of who those wins have come against, it's nice to see the Flyers get some W's. They're finally completely healthy up front, as Darroll Powe was the final piece to reenter the fold, and the team has responded. Peter Laviolette can now roll four lines comfortably, and the team has looked fresher and refreshed, putting the recent struggles behind. Blair Betts scored twice in Powe's return, his first two-goal game of his career; Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have awoken from their slumber; Danny Briere has broken his scoreless drought; and the team looks a lot more like the early-season version than the one that couldn't buy a win.

With the return of Gagne, Powe and Betts, Laviolette has made some subtle changes, putting Claude Giroux on the top line, reuniting the Betts line and putting Briere and Hartnell back with Carter. The trio of Gagne-Richards-Giroux has been brilliant, Carter-Hartnell-Briere look like they haven't missed a beat, Betts-Laperriere-Carcillo has continued to bring energy, and Powe-van Riemsdyk-Asham has served well. Every line can score, play defense and provide energy. As a result, the Flyers are on a three-game winning streak, albeit against some inferior competition. And Laviolette has played Braydon Coburn with Chris Pronger, hoping Pronger can have the same effect on Coburn as it did on Matt Carle, who's been spending most of his ice time with Kimmo Timonen. This is not to say the Flyers are back, especially with Brian Boucher and Ray Emery still ailing, but the Flyers look much better than they have in months. They're even winning some faceoffs. Hopefully it's a sign of things to come.

Linkages …

-Say what you will about Bill Simmons, but there is no denying the guy knows his basketball. Need proof? Check out this:

Rudy Gay (playing well) has moved into the deadly Iguodala Zone for nonfranchise players who will get overpaid and, even worse, start believing this makes them franchise players.

If that doesn't sum up Andre Iguodala in a nutshell, then nothing ever will. Iggy, you are not a franchise player, no matter how much money you're getting paid.

-Have you noticed that lately the Eagles are winning the types of games they used to always seem to lose?

-More on Brian Dawkins' return.

-Another reason to hate Victor Harris:

Harris was asked to sum up his day - which included another fumbled kickoff, this one recovered by the Eagles - and he said, "Rookie."

So let me get this straight, Victor. You were absolutely horrible because you're a rookie? So rookies are supposed to take dumb penalties and fumble twice? I don't remember LeSean doing that yesterday. Or Jeremy Maclin. And yeah, you are a rookie, but it was the 15th game of your rookie season. Shouldn't you be making fewer mistakes by now?

God, I hate you. If you were looking to sum up your day in one word, here are a few suggestions for you: shitty, terrible, awful, horrible, fuck, sucky, crappy, etc. The fact that you are a rookie has nothing to do with it. Idiot.

-The Eagles are a bad second-half team, and the reason is pretty simple. At halftime, coaches go in and make adjustments. As I've been saying for the past 10 years, Andy Reid is the worst coach in all of football at making adjustments in-game. The facts are the facts:

"We came out [in the second half] and turned the ball over [a McNabb interception early in the third quarter and a Macho Harris fumble late in the period] and things kind of snowballed from there," Reid said. "We're not a very good second-half team right now and we have to take care of that."

The Eagles have outscored teams, 273-142, in the first half this season. They've led at the half in 11 of their 15 games and have won all 11. But they haven't been nearly as effective in the second half. They've been outscored 100-72 in the third quarter, including 17-7 yesterday, and 171-156 in the final two quarters.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Andy Reid is one of, if not the, best coaches in the entire NFL Monday-Saturday. On Sunday, he's awful. The proof is in the pudding.

-Andre Miller doesn't seem pleased with the fact that the Sixers didn't offer him more money and years, because he evidently wanted to come back.

Andre Miller may have a point.

-Ed has a pretty solid NFL All-Decade team.

-The power of the beard:

-Two Sporting Blog moments of the decade of note: Dan Levy remembers the power of Why Can't Us? and Kenyon Martin broke his leg and helped contribute to me overvaluing the Cincinnati Bearcats for the millionth time in the tournament, even though Martin was out with said broken leg.


-Mo Speights addresses Elton Brand's comments:

Kate Fagan, Philadelphia Inquirer: "Before last night's game against the Utah Jazz, reserve center Marreese Speights(notes) addressed comments teammate Elton Brand(notes) made after the Sixers' last game, Tuesday's loss at the Washington Wizards, which gave them a 7-21 record.

That night, Brand said: "Certain guys didn't box out, didn't rebound, and weren't tough. Certain guys got a longer leash than others, so they played longer and the mistakes were shown."

Although Brand didn't name Speights, it was clear which player he meant, because Speights had played alongside him for most of the game's decisive fourth quarter. The Sixers lost, 105-98, allowing 33 points in the final quarter.

Speights said he heard about Brand's comments because "people called me.""I was kind of upset because I wouldn't think my teammate would throw me under the bus like that," Speights said. "I would never say nothing like that about him. But, hey, he's been in the league longer than me, so I can't say nothing about it."

I bet to differ, Marreese. I think you can say something about it. Something like, "Hey Elton, at least I'm not stealing $80 million for being a bum playing on one leg and dragging down the entire team. At least I'm not a guy who has made every team I've been on in my career worse. I'm only in my second season and have been to the playoffs as much as you. (Oh wait, you were on the roster last season even though you didn't actually play in the playoffs at all, so I guess you've got one more trip than me.) And if I recall, last season we completely sucked when you were in the lineup, then you get hurt, I play more, and we turned into a pretty good team that made the playoffs without you. Shut the fuck up you worthless bum." That would have worked.

-Saw this on Christmas, which Wade then followed up with this against Indiana:

-Brandon Stokely got ejected early yesterday for this:

While you certainly can't make contact with a ref, Stokely had a point. Will Witherspoon all sorts of interfered with him on that play.

-The play before Baron's game-winner, laid out beautifully by Kevin Arnovitz:

-Philadunkia's Christmas wish list. It's a good one.

-2009's Most Forgettable Sports Moments.

-The first of many TV appearances for one Michael Jordan:

-Rough Justice has a very interesting article about athleticism in basketball which provides us with a link to this awesome video of Steve Nash while simultaneously taking incredible shots at Bill Simmons with his use of footnotes.

It's a hell of a thing.

-Spencer kindly shares with us all a sample day from Urban Meyer's recovery plan. You know, the coach who resigned, then unresigned and is now taking a leave of absence but will probably coach at the start of the season.

-Former Penn Stater Nate Bump was signed by the Phillies.

-Worst of the Christmas weekend:

The Philadelphia 76ers: I pretty much expect crappy teams to get blown out by the Jazz in Utah, so in most ways, Philly's 97-76 loss is rather routine. What makes this one a little extra special is that the Sixers managed to stay reasonably close through three quarters before going nine minutes without scoring in the fourth. Philadelphia went scoreless from Royal Ivey's trey with 50 seconds left in the third until Thaddeus Young made a layup with 4:05 remaining in the game.

Here's a recap of that nine minutes of fail: Young missed a 9-footer; Andre Iguodala missed an 18-footer; Jrue Holiday missed a 21-footer; Elton Brand missed a jumper; Marreese Speights grabbed an offensive board and missed the follow-up; Iggy lost the ball (steal by Mehmet Okur); Brand missed a 19-footer (blocked by Okur); Speights missed a 21-footer; Iggy missed a jumper (blocked by Paul Millsap); Speights lost the ball (stolen by Wesley Matthews); Iggy missed a 25-foot three-pointer; Brand grabbed the offensive board, after which Lou Williams missed a 25-foot three-pointer; Speights missed a 5-footer; Williams missed three-pointers on back-to-back possessions; Iggy had his layup blocked by Andrei Kirilenko; Young missed a three-pointer; Holiday missed a three-pointer.

So, basically, the Sixers either jacked up a long-range shot, got a shot stuffed, or turned it over. Way to run an offense, boys. Said Philly coach Eddie Jordan: "In the fourth quarter we didn't put any sort of rhythm or flow together. Their defense was good. We missed some open shots and we didn't execute as well as we would like."

-Not good: Jamaal Jackson out for the season with a torn ACL.

-A nice little article on Penn State wide receiver and West Catholic grad Curtis Drake.

-Brian Boucher and Ray Emery are back at practice.

And on the docket tonight, Temple takes on Bowling Green and UNC plays Rutgers in college basketball action, while the struggling Sixers take on Andre Miller and the Trail Blazers in Portland at 10 p.m. Hopefully all three games will be on TV, though I'm skeptical about the two college games' availability. At least I'll get to watch the Sixers lose yet again Brandon Roy play. That will be fun.

BallHype: hype it up!

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