The Departed

Spencer Hawes (left) and Evan Turner (right)

by: Michael Conroy

As the new General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, Sam Hinkie was always going to explore ways to reinvent his roster. The flurry of activity in the waning hours of Thursday’s trade deadline was, in a way, just the dropping of a second shoe. Generally speaking, I’ve never been a big proponent of purging veterans as a precursor to a rebuild. In the NBA, colossal youth movements seldom turn out how they were planned. Most young players need to walk into an established culture and grow under veteran leadership. For this team, however, at this moment, The Sixers made the right call.

Evan Turner is not who we wanted him to be. At this point in his career, it’d be laughable for fans not to have arrived wholeheartedly at that conclusion. It’s equally comical and all the more frustrating that Turner hasn’t arrived there with us. Maybe some day he will, but if/when he does, it won’t be as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. What the Sixers received in their trade with Indiana is irrelevant. Sam Hinkie had assessed his team and decided to move on from a player who just never seemed to get it. For all of his physical ability, Evan Turner struggled mightily with his decision-making on the court. In a leadership role on a rebuilding team, he simply didn’t bring much to the table.

Turner seems like a nice enough guy. He takes care of himself in the media and off the court. He’s never been a distraction, but he seems to be more concerned with who he might still become than who he has firmly proven himself to be. The Sixers just couldn’t wait around any longer.

When the trade was announced that would send Spencer Hawes to Cleveland, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. I’ve always had my issues with him as a player but it’s impossible to deny that a Center with Hawes’ skillset has value in the NBA. Earl Clark showed flashes as a Laker last season but few would consider him an asset to the Sixers. The two 2nd round draft picks are a nice consolation prize for what should have been a better deal.

The obvious elephant in the room in this situation is the long-term status of Thad Young, who may have been the Sixers’ most substantial trading chip. He’s a good player who consistently performs up to a certain set of standards. While many believe Thaddeus will be the catalyst for some draft night deal, I find that scenario a bit far-fetched. The draft class of 2014 is a hallowed one in the eyes of many team executives. If a first-round pick in this year’s draft wasn’t on the table at the deadline, I can’t see that changing by June 26th. Though Young has voiced his displeasure about the state of the franchise, he’s still under contract and, unlike his recently departed team mates, holds value for a rebuilding team.

And so, the Philadelphia 76ers have finally blown it up. Very little remains of the Doug Collins era. The continued development of Michael Carter-Williams and the upcoming draft are pivotal, but every young team needs veteran leadership. Sam Hinkie has decided that Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes were simply the wrong kind of veterans. The rebuild has just grown exponentially in scope. In the immediate future, a lot of terrible basketball awaits, but this franchise is undeniably back in motion. While it may get worse before getting any better, at least the 76ers might finally be moving towards better days.

Soundtrack to a Season: 2013-2014 Philadelphia Flyers

Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers kicked off their season the right way, racing out to an early lead and playing a tight and physical game. In the end, however, it simply wasn’t enough to overcome a tremendous effort from one man on the other side of the puck. There were plenty of positives to take away from the from this game, but coming in second always sucks even if it is just one game out of 82.

Track 1: 2nd Sucks

Last night, the Philadelphia Flyers took their first steps into a larger world, wading into the uncharted waters of the 2013-2014 NHL season. Whether or not the orange and black stand to see much success in the near future is still a mystery and last night’s game did little to aid any predictions one might make.

In fact, we learned much more about the Maple Leafs in the Flyers’ season opener than anything else. Playing in Montreal just 24 hours prior to what would be a very physical struggle, Toronto made the 455 mile journey to Philadelphia. After a predictably slow start, the Leafs began to assert themselves as the game went on.

Midway through the 2nd period, Toronto’s skating legs returned and the weary squad began winning races to the puck. They gave the Flyers everything they could handle along the boards, overcoming SIX short-handed situations along the way. Toronto gutted one out and deposited the final two goals it would take to put away the Flyers for good.

The men in blue skated into Wells Fargo Center and muscled the air out of the building. It was a truly impressive performance by what appears to be a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.

As far as the Flyers were concerned, the effort wasn’t anything to be ashamed of overall. Philadelphia played what was, for the most part, an uncharacteristically tight game. Passes were crisp and on target and some new faces dazzled to create multiple opportunities in front of the net.

The lone goal for the home team came as a result of some blue-collar work from the newly added Vincent Levavalier, who carved out some space for himself behind Jonathon Bernier before finessing a pass to a wide open Brayden Schenn in the slot.

Schenn buried the chance with six seconds left in the 1st period. Unfortunately for the Flyers, that’s all Bernier was prepared to concede. Despite numerous quality looks for Philadelphia, including a penalty shot from Wayne Simmonds, the new Leafs goaltender held on and stole his first victory of the season.

It’s hard to be pleased with any Flyers loss, but the Flyers showed encouraging signs in defeat. Giroux looked no worse for the wear after his off-season injury scare. He played quarterback for the team all night, setting up his mates with fantastic looks. As long as the Captain keeps at it, the points will come with time. Brayden Schenn, Mark Streit, and the aforementioned Lecavalier all made an impression in the game, but there was another player whose performance stood out.

Sean Couturier has gotten much stronger. He was in the mix along the boards and even out in front of the net on multiple occasions and looks to be coming into his own. That growth will be important as the Flyers have taken a remarkable stand behind he and Schenn as their franchise cornerstones during their recent rumored trade negotiations.

One major concern that has reared it’s ugly head for the second consecutive year (it would appear) is the Flyers’ lack of accuracy when firing on net. Philadelphia was on the power-play for twelve minutes versus the Maple Leafs and, at times, it appeared as if  Jonathan Bernier was the center piece of a shooting gallery.

Still, far too many shots soared wide of the net. When a goalie is as hot as Bernier was last night, you can’t afford to help him out by missing the net. This is a problem that plagued Philly for most of the 2012 shortened season and it’s one they have to overcome to beat the best teams in the NHL.

The night left much to be desired for Philly fans, but the hockey season is a marathon and the path is not a straight one. There will be many twists and turns along the way for every team. To try and use last night as a vantage point for looking ahead would be foolish.

Montreal awaits on Saturday and the Flyers set out having a respectable foundation to build upon. The bullies have at least 4,860 minutes of ice time left to correct what they could not on opening night.

Picking Poisons

Michael Vick (left) Nick Foles (right)

By: Justin Salmasi

It’s that time of the year. OTAs are finished and minicamp is on the horizon. Chip Kelly has already garnered both praise and skepticism for “shaking things up” with his nutrition advocacy and unorthodox offseason training regimens. However, the giant elephant in the room still remains; who will be the starting quarterback for the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles? I certainly have a strong opinion as to who should start, but my opinion doesn’t factor into Chip Kelly’s decision making. Here is a mostly unbiased analysis of the pros and cons of the two most viable contenders for the starting quarterback position.

Michael Vick

PROS:

Who can forget about that miraculous campaign #7 had in 2010?  Vick showed no rust after spending nearly two years incarcerated. In fact, he displayed better arm strength and accuracy than he ever had during his tenure in Atlanta. Defenses had to remain modest at all times, because if this Virginia Tech product wasn’t going to beat you with his arm, he certainly was going to make you pay with his legs. Defenses didn’t know whether to blitz or remain in shell coverage at times, which is why Michael Vick was runner-up only to Tom Brady in MVP voting during his awe-inspiring comeback year. 2010 was indeed the Michael Vick Experience Version 2.0.

2010 showed that he still has the ability to be a duel-threat quarterback if put in the correct system. Chip Kelly’s past systems would logically suit an athlete with Vick’s skillset, if of course that is what he plans to implement in Philadelphia. He’s got a strong arm and quick legs, which are two qualities that are becoming more and more important in this new NFL era of read option offense.

CONS:

Philadelphia Eagles fans would like their last two years back. However, 2012 wasn’t entirely his fault when you consider that nearly the entire starting offensive lineup was injured, so I will keep the focus on 2011. After nearly coming off of an MVP season, Vick was in his first stage of his identity crisis. Is he a pocket QB or a scrambler? His 30 TDs dropped to 19, his interceptions emphatically rose from 6 to 14, and the man just looked lost out there trying to read coverages.

2010 could also be looked at as an anomaly from a statistical perspective. Michael Vick played all 16 regular season games only one time in his 10-season career (2006). Vick completed over 60% of his passes only once in his 10-season career (2010). Vick passed for over 3000 times only twice in his 10-season career. The bottom line is, what he did in 2010 could have very well been due to teams preparing for Kevin Kolb, (the incumbent starter in 2010) having minimal tape or time with which to prepare for #7.

Nick Foles

PROS:

At a time of flux, Nick Foles came in and did an admirable job as the Philadelphia Eagles interim quarterback. He was thrown to the wolves, and still managed to have a passing yards-per-game average that would have been second to only Andrew Luck for 2012 rookie QBs. His game against Tampa Bay showed that he may possess that “clutch gene” that many Philadelphians say McNabb and Vick lacked. He’s got a long way to go before that’s a proven quality but the bottom line is that this kid has tangible potential. I’d even compare his playing style to Joe Flacco and Eli Manning, both of whom are Super Bowl champions.

CONS:

Although this hasn’t been the case during this year’s OTAs, Foles arm was called into question many times during 2012. Many wonder if he can throw the long ball with velocity on a consistent basis. It doesn’t matter if the ball goes 65 yards if the final product is a wobbling duck. Furthermore, Nick Foles is not exactly Collin Kaepernick. Using a QB with his athleticism in Chip Kelly’s Oregon-style read option offense would garner more laughs than many of Adam Sandler’s recent films. The truth is that the jury’s out on Foles and whether he can be that complete quarterback that is immeasurably important in today’s NFL.

My Take:

Michael Vick can still play QB, but it shouldn’t be for Philadelphia. He should have been gone last year with Andy Reid. Like Reid, I respect Vick and everything that he did for the city of brotherly love, but last year was as apt a time as any to make a fresh start. If he isn’t going to bow out gracefully, he runs the risk of being metaphorically run out of town, which is something I don’t think any of us is hoping for. There’s a reason why his 10-year, 100 million dollar contract was reduced to a 1-year, incentive based contract this offseason.

While Nick Foles was erratic at times, he was thrown into the worst possible situation for a rookie quarterback. The Eagles’ offensive line was completely decimated by injury, Desean Jackson was done for the year with I-don’t-want-to-injure-myself-for-nothing-itis, Maclin was questionable week-in and week-out, and the defense was…well, the defense. Nick Foles might very well be incompetent and a bad fit for the Philadelphia Eagles, but 2012 should not be the deciding factor in the argument. Foles has a strong arm and surprising poise at times. Let’s see what the kid’s made of.

It Doesn’t (Always) Get Better

We’ve all made comments in passing during the McNabb-Reid era Eagles’ reign about how special sustained success in the NFL can be. These comments may have been shamelessly placed between brazen criticism more often than not, but I’d like to think that most Philadelphia sports fans conceded some level of appreciation for what the 2000′s Eagles were able to achieve. Five appearances in the NFC title game and one thrilling trip to the Super Bowl opposite the best coaching-quarterbacking combination in a quarter century isn’t a bad consolation prize for a franchise that still hasn’t claimed a Lombardi trophy.

As obvious as the Eagles’ success in the past decade has been, an overwhelming sense of expectation surrounds the 2013-2014 season. This is a completely understandable side-effect of the prosperity this franchise has seen of late. After all, if teams like the Steelers, Packers, Giants and 49ers can maintain a winning culture for as long as they have, it’s only fair to assume that the Philadelphia Eagles are capable. Or maybe it isn’t.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ success in the 2000′s was not only an unsurpassed level of sustained excellence for the franchise, it was an unmatched one. In 1999, the Eagles were historically one of the NFL’s least impressive franchises. A decade of great football can go a long way to help rid an organization of such stigmas but the after years of such golden eras are almost more important.

It’s only natural to assume that, with a new, highly touted coaching regime and young talent, that the only direction to go from a 4-12 campaign is up. The fans from Cleveland, Detroit and Jacksonville might have a problem with your line of thinking there. The NFL has done a remarkable job of selling its fans a very valuable commodity: hope. Hope is what keeps the seats in stadiums filled through five to ten to fifteen years of futility. Sometimes hope is rewarded and other times…the Browns.

The underlying point I’m trying to make here is that this hope that Philadelphia Eagles fans are clinging to now is not a backed currency. Only time will tell whether the Eagles can roll into another decade of good football or sink back into mediocrity. While it’s not wrong to have an optimistic outlook on the post-Reid Eagles, fans would be better off keeping their hopes and expectations separate.

This is to say that it doesn’t always get better. Sometimes teams just fall apart. Sometimes fans wallow in misery for 20 years, getting excited about that new first round draft choice and their young talent that never pans out. It would be wrong of me to demand that the specter of these possibilities be at the forefront of every fan’s mind. It is equally misguided, however for us to dismiss such thoughts as simple pessimism.

Despite the overwhelming sense of hope that surrounds this new era of Eagles football, it is possible that we don’t see the success we’re used to for a very long time. I’m not telling anyone anything they didn’t already have lurking in the back of their minds. It is not my desire that we all expect the worst from the Philadelphia Eagles going forward. If reading this makes you think more fondly of the years that have passed, I believe that’s a healthy return. Maybe the possibilities of future failures will force us to appreciate smaller victories during the next decade. Would that be so bad?

Maybe the next ten years will be prosperous ones for the Eagles franchise. Maybe Chip Kelly and Matt Barkley will right all of the wrongs of previous regimes and set a new “gold standard” for Philadelphia football. But if they do, let’s cherish every moment with thoughts of the failures that could have been. Let’s do ourselves a favor as fans. Let’s not expect it.

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On Why We Love Sports: Chris McNamara

I am the mad scientist supreme of sports blogging.  While you may think that to be a bit pretentious — arrogant, even — I simply love to freak out and Hulk Smash conventional wisdom.  Think of me as Doc Brown from Back to the Future, although without the crazy hair and the 1.21 Giga…whatever.  Anyway, there’s nothing selfish about caring that much is there?

Chris McNamara

To me, there’s always more to life, and sports, than meets the eye. I am incredibly passionate about pretty much anything worth talking about.   Philadelphia sports in particular are just one of those creative vehicles through which I release vast amounts of energy.  If you read anything I ever compose or listen to what I have to say (P.S. there’s a lot!), know this: you may love me, or you may hate me, but it will be one hell of a ride.

You will also get a lot of nerdy references and gibberish that you won’t understand unless you were born in the 90’s.  But I am an equal opportunity nerd so don’t be confused or feel frustrated if you have no idea what I’m talking about.

The truth is I’m not here to tell you anything that’s supposed to be life-altering.  If that becomes the case then more power to you, but this is a bit of an experiment of my own.  I want to push boundaries and make things uncomfortable.  I don’t want this to be just any run-of-the-mill sports blog section.  Although my intention is to never be outright belligerent, being a fan can get pretty intense.  People would say that being a fan prevents one from being truly objective.  I would have to disagree with that statement.  It’s like having a little brother that you’re totally allowed to pick on, but if anyone else does it you want nothing more than to rub their faces in concrete.  You have express license to analyze, dissect, and stitch back together whichever sibling is behaving badly.

I’ve been a fan of Philadelphia sports my entire life and in running with my previous statements, see it as a Brotherhood of sorts.  It is not a gang!  When it comes to Brotherly love, bumps and bruises are to be expected.  We are a complicated bunch who act like we’ve always got something to lose.  Most of us become emotionally invested in one, if not all four professional sports teams at an early age. When they lose miserably, we lose miserably.  So my lovely readers will get a taste of disdain in the highest.  I do however, like to believe that this make the victories all the sweeter.

Sports in general are great action, comedy, and drama crammed all onto one giant stage.  There are heroes, villains, and even crazy people who we don’t know what to think about so we just laugh at them (I’m looking at you Andrew Bynum).  That’s the great thing about professional athletes in the city of Philadelphia: sometimes they can be heroes and villains at the same time.  Alas, this is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this matter.  I will analyze the crap out of players, teams, managers, etc.

I’m not superstitious about sports, but I’m pretty damn religious about it.  Shut up, it makes perfect sense!  It’s not your grandfather’s stuffy football religiousness or daddy’s college basketball obsession; this is hardcore stuff people.  I accept all forms of hysteria into my life but I have a particular interest in new school thinking.  Moneyball is my personal bible.  I don’t say that lightly; I’m dead serious.  That book changed my damn life, not just the way I look at baseball.

I try not to read too deep into things but at this point in my life it’s inescapable.  What can I say?  In college I majored in spazzing the f–k out (English, actually, if you were wondering) with a minor in BS.  Along the way I’ll chastise the Eagles constantly for being inadequate, ridicule the Flyers for being all or nothing all of the time, the Phillies for getting carried away with success and not making it last, and the Sixers for just being dumb.  That’s it for now.  I know nothing’s perfect, but you’ll enjoy my intensity, and perhaps one day appreciate the sheer depth of my madness!

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On Why We Love Sports: Justin Salmasi

A year ago, I found myself staring into an infinite abyss. The Indianapolis Colts had announced that they were releasing the face of their franchise, and my childhood hero, Peyton Manning. Speculation spread like wildfire indicating that the perennial Pro Bowler, the Super Bowl MVP, Mr. “Cut That Meat” himself was unlikely to return to the gridiron at his elite level due to recurring neck injuries. To me, this was like finding out Santa Claus isn’t real, Patrick Swayze lost his battle with cancer, another attempt of a modern Superman movie was in production, and so forth. The end of an era was believed to be approaching, and it was a tough pill to swallow.

The Temple Floor Hockey “Beers.”

Then it happened. Denver Broncos General Manager, John Elway, found a way to become more awesome. A former quarterback who experienced a similar battle with proving skeptics wrong, Elway aligned himself with the fellow gunslinger and the rest was history. The following season, a physically and mentally rejuvenated Peyton Manning returned to the field as the Denver Broncos starting QB and showed no rust. In fact, the Tennessee alum had one of the most decorated seasons of his prolific career, taking his team to the playoffs as the #1 seed and finishing 2nd in MVP voting. People said he should hang it up. Call it a career. Instead, Manning proved his doubters wrong and made his return to NFL dominance. He also became an endorser for tapenade. Stud.

It’s stories like this that exemplify the romance that sports can achieve. The glory, heartbreak, and the unknown are what make fans so passionate. Whether it’s the electricity that runs through the sections of a stadium after a walk-off homerun for the home team, or the venom that fans wear on their sleeves when their star player lets them down, sports bring people together. Sports bring revenue to cities. Sports bring excitement to life. My name’s Justin Salmasi, and I love sports.

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On Why We Love Sports: Michael Conroy

I’ve spent my entire life between the suburbs and inner city of Philadelphia. That being the case, my earliest experience with professional sports occurred at a Philadelphia (now Adirondack) Phantoms exhibition game with my father. It may not have been the most important event in the sports world, but to me it was the start of something special.

I came to love Hockey, the Phantoms and the Flyers in the following years. That love inevitably grew to include the Phillies, Sixers and, above all, Eagles. Though I rebelled against the social experience of American sports through my teen years, my father’s appreciation for “four for four” Philly fandom never truly left me.

My brother, Ryan (left) and Me (right)

In America, sports are important. They provide a means of expression on the largest scale possible. There’s something about tens of thousands of people passionately engaging in dejection, celebration, shock and/or confusion that is impossible to manufacture. Thus, it is the last experience that has remained untainted by our mass-production society.

No matter how many big screen TVs and electronic advertisement banners you fill the stadium with, the feeling of a stadium full of people united in jubilee after a game-winning touchdown is pure.

I am a passionate person. Sometimes that passion becomes annoying. I’m okay with that. If I have one hope for this blog, it is for the Banner Years to be a means of expressing that passion for me and a means of validating that passion in others.

Break the Silence

Center, Jason Collins

I began to write this column knowing wholeheartedly that, by doing so, I would be immediately undermining the point I wish to make. Still, I feel strongly enough about the subject that I was willing to give it a shot.

I want to begin by asking the media as a whole a simple question. What on Earth are we doing with this Jason Collins story? Let’s really step back for a moment and think about what happened yesterday. Jason Collins, a veteran NBA player, became the first active professional athlete in the United States’ four major sports to “come out” publicly and announce that he is gay. When you put it that way, it’s easy to see why this has become such a massive story in the sports world and beyond.

Make no mistake, this was a notable event. It’s worthy of reflection, significance and discussion, but on day two of this post-homosexual-professional-American-athlete world, this has devolved into something that I’m not sure Jason Collins can even be proud of. 

Let me explain. Before yesterday, we knew there were professional athletes with varying sexual preferences in America. Very few people would dispute that what happened was a likely scenario. So, when Jason Collins took a commendable step in disclosing details about his orientation, there was a palpable sense of relief in his words. There was a feeling of relief from his audience as well. In the immortal words of one Bob Sugar, “Finally, someone said it.”

As cathartic an experience as it was, the purity of Collins’ acknowledgement lasted just about twenty-four hours. Today, the prevailing narrative has completely shifted from one man’s brave declaration to something far less noble.

Today, the story seems to be about how “we” are all supposed to deal with this. How are the “rest of us” supposed to treat Jason Collins and other gay athletes? How should a team deal with his locker-room presence next season? The news cycle has been dominated by this story and it’s “ripple-effect.” It’s become a national sensation, but those peripheral distractions should not be so paramount to the discussion.

Maybe I’m naive for thinking that the bigger this story becomes, the less progressive our society seems. I don’t feel like talking about how much of a bombshell this is reflects very well on our tolerance at all. At what point does the media cross that fine line between covering a story and covering themselves, covering a story? Wherever that threshold may be, I can’t help but feel that it’s somewhere behind us.

I could be wrong. This story might warrant such incessant dissection. There is no doubt that Jason Collins did something courageous and noteworthy yesterday. Perhaps his affirmation should have been given a little more room to breathe, though. I think we should be coming to a point in our nation’s history where Jason Collins is looked at as a professional basketball player who happens to be gay and not a gay man who happens to play basketball.

Good Life

It feel like Philly

On Friday, the Philadelphia 76ers did something. I mean they really, actually did something in the world of professional basketball. In acquiring Andrew Bynum, a trajectory has been set for this franchise. There is a real, distinct chance that this team could contend for an NBA championship as early as two or three seasons from now. This is no small feat, as the situation the 76ers had found themselves in was significantly less than ideal.

In the NBA, the economic system dictates that you, as a team, either need to be a contender or you need to be rebuilding. There is no “good” in this league. Just ask Daryl Morey if you don’t believe me. He’s been on a warpath to land a superstar for years. Now that he’s realized he can’t, he’s shifted his focus to sucking as soon as possible.

Being caught in the middle of the pro basketball pack ensures that you are not good enough to contend with the best teams but far too formidable to draft a difference maker. Boy, had the Philadelphia 76ers found that middle… existing as assembled, the Sixers were never going to win a title so they needed to make a move.

The only problem was that seemingly the only move to be made involved a considerable amount of risk; risk that the “difference-maker” you acquire might leave the team gutted at the season’s end. This is only a problem if you are too short-sighted to realize that you truthfully have nothing to lose.

In making this decision, the 76ers have rid themselves of that pesky Andre Iguodala, the man who kept them too good to rebuild for so long, and made certain that they will no longer be part of NBA purgatory. If Andrew Bynum works out as a 76er, plays well, and the team can build around him for the future, that will be a major victory for the franchise. If he flops in Philly and walks when all is said and done, then the team will be atrocious. They will lose a TON of games and contend, for the next few seasons at least, for the top five picks in the lottery.

For ownership, this is a massive gamble with a product that could have easily yielded them a few more years of profitability without warranting such risk. For the fans, however, this is one of the best decisions in franchise history; this is a get-out-of-jail-free card. This team is either going to contend for a championship or build for one through the draft and, after this season, there is no more in between.

For Andrew Bynum, the latest appointed savior of our beautiful city, the focus should remain on himself. I say “remain” because we all know that’s where it’s been all along. We’ve heard rumblings about Bynum’s desire to be “the guy” on his team and, as I’m sure he is aware, that was never going to happen on a team employing Kobe Bryant. In the Philadelphia 76ers, Bynum has found a team that desperately needs him to do what he has so longed for in Los Angeles. They need him to be the premier, go-to offensive option. What Bynum has always wanted is at his fingertips. This is his chance to become something he was never going to be in L.A. : a true superstar.

The happiest person of all in this situation should be Evan Turner. With the roster this team was boasting before the deal, his development was the only meaningful story line. Turner’s growth into a superstar, something he has shown no signs of being, was going to dictate whether this team could salvage this group or had to find a way to bottom out in a hurry. With Bynum’s arrival, Turner reaching his potential becomes just icing on this delicious, blue, white, and red velvet cake.

It’s not all roses and sunshine, however, for the newlyweds in this case. There still remain some serious questions about how this can all fit together. Bynum is notorious for having a lackadaisical attitude towards coaching instruction and can be rough around the edges when dealing with the media.

With Doug Collins being the coach of this team and sports media being what it is in Philly, I have my doubts that this will go off without a hitch. There is also the loss of Iguodala to consider. Some of you may scoff at that last sentence but make no mistake, Andre Iguodala was a leader and stabilizing force on this young team. Regardless of Bynum’s obvious skill set, Iggy’s absence will certainly be felt.

All around, this should be a glorious time to be a Sixers fan. The franchise’s future has not looked this promising since before Allen Iverson stopped attending practice. Before this move, there was seemingly no plan. In making this commitment to excellence or excrement, the Sixers’ front office has sent a clear message to their fan base that we have been desperately waiting to hear. Deep down, beneath all of the boasting about last season’s imitation post-season success; behind the signing of one Kwame James Brown, they understand. They really do understand.

I Get a Kick Out of You

Flying too high with some gal in the sky...

Taking a break from what has been just a dreadful Eagles season thus far, I have been enjoying the various story lines developing in other NFL cities for the past few weeks. My favorite underdog B-team, the Texans, have had some terrible luck with a great team this season. The Bears are looking at Donavon Mcnabb as a possibility. Even the Lions have gone from a league-wide embarrassment to a… different kind of league-wide embarrassment. As with all things, NFL, these stories have gotten plenty of play on the local and national level.

The most prominent story, however, has been the spectacular play of MVP candidate, Aaron Rodgers. The Green Bay QB is on pace, with company, to break Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a season. His Quarterback Rating is almost high enough to be considered a joke. There is no doubt that the season he is having is one of the greatest we have ever seen in the NFL. Many national pundits are already declaring his season the greatest they have ever seen and until this morning, I shared those sentiments.

I found myself wasting time on ESPN.com’s (stats) page for a good 35 minutes mostly wondering what Michael Vick and other Eagles players could do to make themselves not look terrible on paper by the season’s end. For some time afterwards, however, this devolved into uncontrollable gushing over Aaron Rodgers’ numbers as I compared them to other leading QBs in the league. The numbers are impressive to say the least. They’re almost inhuman, leaving little evidence that he has ever made a mistake on the field.

This set of numbers, as do most things, led to me wasting more time as I sought to line up Rodgers’ numbers with the best seasons for QBs in history. As expected, these first twelve games for the Packers signal caller bore out to be, indeed, one of the most prolific stretches of the last half-century. Still, I found that it may not even end up being the best season for a Quarterback in the last four years.

After a historically brilliant first three quarters of this season, Aaron Rodgers needs to significantly step up his game if he wants to have anything other than the best season ever by a player not named Tom Brady. I realize that talking about Brady’s greatness has grown stale at this point. It’s no longer sexy to talk about the career of someone who is assuredly headed to Canton, Ohio shortly after his career comes to an end. I’m not going to argue that he needs to be talked about more, either. Tom Brady gets all of the respect that he deserves, the standard, against which, elite QBs will be measured for the foreseeable future.

I bring Tom Brady’s ’07 season to light because it has only been four NFL seasons and I had already forgotten just how astonishing that year was for the Patriots’ QB. I watch Aaron Rodgers now, and am impressed with every single throw. Touch throws, power throws, location throws, he makes them all. It just seems like whenever he has the ball, he is going to score and you know you are doing something right when a team “holds” you to 38 points in your closest win of the season.

That is why I am so retroactively moved by Brady and the reality of his ’07 season. Rodgers is behind the Pats QB’s pace for touchdowns and only leads by .02 in completion percentage; a ratio that is normalizing with every game Rodgers plays. Also, considering what empty calories passing yards have proven to be this year, that advantage may not be all too valuable looking back on these stats in years to come. Amazingly, when all is said and done, this year’s runaway MVP may not ever have threatened that immaculate ’07 season.

Thinking of Brady in this light, with the entirety of his career in perspective, you just have to appreciate it on a different level. We get so caught up in the moment sometimes that we become prisoners of it. It seems humorous to say that someone has been “written off” as a hall of fame QB but that’s sort of what’s happened here and he’s not done yet, folks.

Aaron Rodgers is clearly on his way to an all-time elite career and I don’t aim to take anything away from that. I think the questions just become; if we are all so dazzled by the performance of Rodgers this year, just how good was/is Tom Brady? Was his season in ’07 just too good to be aptly appreciated? Maybe that season was just too hot for us humble Goldilocks’ while Rodgers’ ’11 manifestation is juuuuuust right. This morning, I simply felt the need to bring some attention to these thoughts of mine.