Phillies Rewind: March 28th

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

With no baseball going on right now there is only one thing for fans to do to get their fix, look back on previous seasons. Let’s take a trip back just one year to opening day 2019. 

The Phillies kicked off the year against the Braves at home. Citizens Bank Park was sold out for the debut of the new-look Phillies. Fans got their money’s worth in this one as the Phillies routed the Braves 10-4 in an electrifying opening day win. 

This was the first time that the Philly faithful got to see new additions J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, and Bryce Harper take the field for the first time. 

Harper was greeted to a sea of red and a standing ovation as he made his first trot to right field in Phillies’ pinstripes. 

Aaron Nola took the hill in this game and kicked off his 2019 campaign in dominant fashion. Nola went six innings while only allowing one run one two hits, and struck out eight Braves’ hitters. It was everything you wanted to see from the ace on opening day. 

Andrew McCutchen couldn’t have had a better first impression on the Philadelphia crowd if he wanted to. He stepped into the box for his first at-bat as a Phillie and hit a shot to left-center field for a leadoff homerun to kick off the season. 

The Phillies weren’t done though. Maikel Franco stepped up in the sixth inning and blasted a three-run homerun for his first homer of the season. It would start his streak of being one of the deadliest eight-hole hitters in baseball. 

Rhys Hoskins got in on the fun in the next inning. The Braves intentionally walked Bryce Harper and loaded the bases for Hoskins, a decision they would soon regret. Hoskins proceeded to drive a ball to left field for his first career grand slam, sending the Philly crowd into hysteria. 

This was an all-around great first win for the Phillies, who would go on to sweep the opening series with the Braves and start the season 4-0. 


How A Canceled Season Could Affect Change Within The Sixers

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

It has now been 12 days since the Sixers have taken the court, and it does not look like we will be seeing them anytime soon. Covid-19 has put the sports world on pause, possibly to the point where we do not see a finish to this NBA season. 

A canceled season would leave the Sixers in an interesting spot. The regular season did not go exactly the way the team had hoped, which sparked the idea of personnel changes in the offseason. 

All year the idea of this team was that this team was built for the playoffs. The fit was a question all year, but Elton Brand constructed this roster to dominate in the postseason. With that being said, can the organization blow it up before seeing what the group can do in the postseason?

This has to do with two people, in particular, Al Horford and Brett Brown. It is no secret that the Horford experiment had gone the way that the team hoped when they signed him to a multi-year 109 million dollar deal. 

Horford’s fit next to Embiid has not looked good in large samples and with Ben Simmons still showing a reluctance to shoot from deep, Horford has done nothing but clog the paint. He has also shot 61 more threes this season than he did last season in eight fewer games. Along with his shooting percentage from deep dropping three points. 

Rumors swirled throughout the season of the Sixers possibly trying to trade Horford in the offseason for shooting. But if Elton Brand does not get to see what Horford can do for the Sixers in a playoff series, I think it could lead to Horford playing for the Sixers in the 2020-2021 season. 

A coaching change is something that has been tied to the Sixers in recent years as well. It seemed like this year was going to be Brett Brown’s last chance to see if he can put the Sixers in contention to win a title. 

Brett Brown has been at the helm since 2013. He has been around through this entire rebuild. Although people have been calling for his head for years, I feel like it is very unlikely that he is removed as the head coach if the season does indeed end up not resuming.


The NBA Suspends Its Season Amid Coronavirus Concerns

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The coronavirus pandemic has now taken the basketball world by storm. Shocking news came out tonight when it was reported that the league will suspending its season effectively. All games played on March 11th will be the last we will see for the foreseeable future. 

This news came out not long after the league found its first case of the disease. The Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder were supposed to face off tonight, but the game was postponed due to concerns of the disease. 

It would later come out that Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Teams were sent back to the locker room and crews came out to disinfect the benches. 

There is no guessing as to how the season is going to be completed or even if it will get to be completed. With other sports leagues opting to just bar fans from attending games the NBA seems to be taking zero chances. 

This is something we have never seen before and it will be interesting to see how this develops. The NBA has always been a very proactive league so there should be hope that league officials will be able to land on their feet amid this hysteria.  

Injury Update On Joel Embiid And Josh Richardson

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The injury bug has not been kind to the Sixers as of late. But things are starting to look bright for the Sixers. 

Reports came out today that the Sixers might be getting two of their starters back for Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Pistons. Josh Richardson has cleared concussion protocol, and Joel Embiid has been listed as questionable.

This could not have come at a better time for the Sixers. After losing to the Warriors on Saturday night this team is in desperate need to go on a run. Getting back Richardson and possibly Embiid will help with that greatly. 

Josh Richardson will be returning to action just ten days after being diagnosed with a concussion on March 1st against the Clippers. Joel Embiid has been out of action since March 26th, when he injured his shoulder facing off against the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Although this is good news for the Sixers moving forward as they gear up for the playoffs, news has still been quiet about another Sixers’ star. There has still yet to be an update on the status of Ben Simmons and his back injury. 

The team staying quiet about it has to be very concerning and starting to raise the question on if we will see the two-time All-Star again this season.  


Ranking Potential First-Round Opponents For The Sixers

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The NBA postseason is right around the corner. There are less than 20 games left in the regular season and playoff seeding is starting to take shape. Although time is running out, there is still time for the middle of the Eastern Conference to move around before the season comes to a close. 

The Sixers currently sit at the sixth seed in the East and would face the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs if the season were to end right now. With only four and a half games separating seeds three through six that opponent can still change. With that being said, here is my ranking of the best possible first-round opponents for the Sixers from least to best. 

#3: Toronto Raptors

This is the team I want to avoid at all costs in the first round. We all remember how this series went last season when they faced off, and with Toronto having home-court advantage again we could see the same thing as last season.  

The Sixers have struggled against the Raptors so far this season as well. They have faced off three times and the Raptors have taken two of the games. There is still one more game between these two teams, but splitting the season series as best doesn’t make me any more confident for a playoff series. 

Toronto has also been one of the few teams that have found a way to contain Joel Embiid. So far on the year, Embiid is only averaging five points per game against the defending champions. 

Even though the Raptors are without Kawhi Leonard this year they are still a very deep team. They have a lot of young talent who now all have playoff and championship experience, and not to mention a very good coach in Nick Nurse. That is why the Sixers should want nothing to do with them in the first round. 

#2: Boston Celtics 

The choice between two and one was very close, but you never would like to see a longtime rival in a first-round matchup. Although for the first time in a long time, the Sixers have the edge between these two teams.

The Sixers won the season series with the Celtics 3-1 this year. What sticks out most about that, the Sixers have gone on the road and beaten the Celtics. With the Sixers possibly going to have to steal a game on the road to win a series, there has to be some confidence in facing a team they have already beaten on the road. 

Size could tell the story if these teams face off as well. Boston does not have the frontcourt size to slow down Joel Embiid and Al Horford. The Sixers have also done a good job slowing down a certain Celtics star. 

Jayson Tatum has emerged for the Celtics this season but has had some trouble against the Sixers. He is averaging 19 PPG against the Sixers (four points lower than his season average) and is only shooting 33% in those games.

Facing off against the Celtics in the playoffs is going to be no easy task, but I think it is a series the Sixers could pull off an upset in. 

#1: Miami Heat

This is the team the Sixers should want to see to kick off the playoffs. Facing off against the Heat has to be the best-case scenario for the Sixers.

Although Miami has won the season series, it does not tell the whole story. The Heat stole a one point overtime victory and had a four point win that was not very convincing. Not to mention the Heat have yet to see this new look Sixers team. 

Joel Embiid has had his way with Miami this season which is a good sign for the playoffs. He averaged 27.3 PPG, 13.3 RPG, and 2.3 APG in the matchup during the regular season. Those scoring numbers are his second-highest against any opponent he has seen more than once this season. 

There is one big reason why the Sixers should want to see the Heat in the first round...experience. A lot of Miami’s core has not seen playoff action and it can be something the Sixers can exploit. Players like Nunn, Herro, and Robinson have been good key players for the Heat this season but none of them have played on a playoff stage yet. 

Bam Adebayo has arguably been the best player for the Heat this season and he has only appeared in five playoff games. Although they have Jimmy Butler to lead them, I don’t think he will be able to make up for the lack of playoff experience for the rest of the roster. 

The Sixers could go into Miami and steal a game in the playoffs. But most importantly, out of all the teams on this list, I think Miami is the least likely to come into Philadelphia and get a win. That is why a Sixers-Heat first-round matchup is the most ideal for the Sixers. 


Sixers Flop In West Coast Finale

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Sixers finished their west coast road trip Saturday night in primetime. They faced off against a struggling Warriors team who are competing for ping pong balls at this point in the year, a good sign for the Sixers going in.

Golden State was also without the services of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green who were ruled out earlier that day. All signs were pointing to the Sixers to go in and finish their road trip on a high note, but that was not the case. 

Against all odds, the Warriors still found a way to pull out the victory by a final score of 118-114. The Sixers now fall to 10-24 away from Wells Fargo Center. 

The Sixers held the lead for a good amount of this game but fell apart at the end. The Warriors heated up late and outscored the Sixers by 12 in the fourth quarter en route to the win. 

Tobias Harris and Al Horford stepped up again for the Sixers on Saturday night, but it was not enough. Harris finished the game with 24 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Horford came close to dropping his first triple-double as a Sixer in this game. He ended up finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. 

There was no excuse for losing a game like this. Although the Sixers are down three starters at the moment, the roster still has more than enough talent to come out with the win in a game like this. Loses like this are going to hurt the Sixers' chances of sliding up in the standings before the season comes to a close. 

Golden State had only won two of their last ten games heading into their matchup with the Sixers. They are not competing for anything at this point in the season and still found a way to pull out the victory. 

On a positive note for the Sixers, the road trip has come to a close. They now have a few days off and then will be back home when play resumes for them. The action will pick up again on Wednesday when they host the Detroit Pistons.  


Sixers End Their Road Woes In Win Over Kings

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

After a night to forget against the Lakers the Sixers were back in action on Thursday, continuing their West coast road trip. They would face off against a young Kings team that has been hot as of late. 

The Sixers went into this game trying to end their losing streak on the road as it was up to nine. This was not going to be easy as the Kings were riding a six-game home winning streak heading into the game. 

Behind some strong play from the healthy stars and good three-point shooting as a team, the Sixers were finally able to pick up a win outside of Philadelphia. They would go on to beat the Kings by a final score of 125-108.

Tobias Harris and Al Horford were huge in this game, leading the charge in the absence of the injured Simmons, Embiid, and Richardson. They both came out very strong scoring 10 points apiece in the first quarter, and both ended with very solid numbers. 

Horford finished the game with 18 points, eight points, and six assists. He also finished with a +/- of +41. This was easily one of his best performances in a Sixers’ uniform. 

The Sixers got some good help from the supporting cast as well. Shake Milton continued his hot streak scoring 20 points in this game to go with 3/5 shooting from deep. Alec Burks (17 points) and Raul Neto (16 points) brought a lot of scoring off the bench. 

Three-point shooting told the story for the Sixers this game. Good shooting from deep allowed the Sixers to jump out to a nice lead early, and to be able to keep the Kings at a nice distance for a majority of the game.

Eight different Sixers recorded a three-pointer against the Kings, a good sign for a team that has struggled shooting the ball this season. 

This was a much-needed win for the Sixers. After back to back losses from the LA teams they needed to get a good win under their belt. Now that the road losing streak has come to an end, it is time to build on continuing to pick up wins on the road. 

The Sixers will be back in action on Saturday night when they travel to face Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. 


Can the Sixers Remain Competitive?

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Sixers have been placed behind the eight ball for this final stretch of the regular season. During Sunday’s game against the Clippers, Josh Richardson left with an injury that was later diagnosed as a concussion. He will now join Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the sidelines for the coming weeks. 

This now puts the Sixers down three starters, a situation no team wants to see themselves in. With no timetable for any of these players set in stone, it begs the question if this team will still be able to compete. 

If Sunday’s showing against the Clippers is any sign of how this team is going to play then fans should remain optimistic. The Sixers took the Clippers the distance on the road and fought until the very end. Although they ended up losing the game, the fight they showed was still a great sign. 

Although this team is down a handful of stars, they still have the talent to win games. Tobias Harris has played good basketball all season and he is going to have to keep it up to keep the Sixers in the mix. He was the number one option for the Clippers last season, so the pressure of being the top guy is nothing new to him. 

The Sixers signed Al Horford for situations like this. He was looked at to be a form of “Embiid insurance” to hold down the frontcourt if the big man was to miss time. He now has the chance to play center full-time, where he has looked much better. Horford has had his critics for the way he has played after the deal he signed over the summer, now is his chance to show why he deserves the money he got. 

One thing going for the Sixers is their schedule. After Tuesday’s game against the Lakers, the Sixers will see a rather easy stretch of games. This can potentially be a boost for the team as it’s a chance to pick up some easy wins while they hold the fort down without the superstars. 

Playoff seeding is still not set in stone. The Sixers could still possibly move up one or two spots in the standings if they can go on a nice run. They are going to need the supporting cast to step up greatly. Guys like Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, Alec Burks, and Glenn Robinson III. 

It is not going to be easy trying to survive without the services of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. But if the team can continue to show the fight that they showed on Sunday and embrace the “next man up” mentality, they certainly have a chance to keep this team afloat. 


Shake Milton Continues to Show Promise

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Injuries are something that a team wants to have to deal with. Let alone to the magnitude that the Sixers have, four of the five starters have had their issues with the injury bug this season. Although injuries can be rough, it can still be turned into a positive. 

When a player goes down with an injury it opens an opportunity for another player to step up and show what they can do. This can be huge for young players who are trying to earn spots in their team’s rotation. 

We have seen this in a decent sample for the Sixers this season. One player, in particular, is Shake Milton, who continues to raise eyebrows for the Sixers with every opportunity he gets. 

Milton was on the Sixers last year on a two-way contract that limited his time to spend with the team. But this summer he was given a multi-year deal to be with the team full time. Milton has been in and out of the rotation throughout this season, but that might change soon. 

He has kept himself ready at all times for whenever his number is called and it has paid off greatly for him. Every time he has been allowed to show what he can do for this team, he has made the most of it. 

Milton has also stepped up when needed. One night, in particular, was earlier in the season where he would start in place of an injured Josh Richardson. He would go on to post a career-high 27 points in the game, scoring in a multitude of ways. 

Shake has started in multiple games this season and left his impact. When given the chance to run in the starting lineup, his numbers see a nice boost. 

His development has taken a big step in the right direction, which is a good sign for the team moving forward. With a lot of money invested into the starting lineup, the team needs players who can produce on cheaper deals. Milton is on a very team-friendly deal and is locked up until after the 2022-2023 season. 

At this point, it is safe to say that Milton has earned his spot in the rotation and should be here to stay. He fills a lot of holes that this team needs going forward. He is a scoring option off the bench, can handle the basketball, and knock down shots from deep at a nice clip. 

Losing Ben Simmons for an extended period is something nobody wanted to see happen. But it opens minutes for a guy like Shake to continue to develop and show the positive asset he can be for the team in the coming years.   


It's Time To Let Josh Richardson Loose

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Sixers continue to have their unlucky misfortunes with the injury bug. Joel Embiid seems to be close to fully healed from his hand injury, but now more Sixers’ players will be missing time. 

In Saturday night’s primetime game against the Bucks, the Sixers lost a big key player. Ben Simmons re-aggravated his back just five minutes into the game, and was unable to return. 

With home-court advantage in the playoffs still not locked in for the Sixers, losing star players right now isn’t exactly what they need. Right now the team sits a game and a half out of the fourth seed and four and a half games out of the third seed. 

Simmons has been a key player for the Sixers all season. He almost never miss a game, and logs a lot of minutes on the floor every night. Can this team still compete if he has to be sidelined for an extended period?

Luckily for the Sixers, they have one of the easiest schedules in the league heading down the stretch. With that being said there are still guys on that team that have to step up if Simmons and Harris are to miss time. One player, in particular, comes right to mind. 

Josh Richardson has been a nice addition to the Sixers this season. He has bought into the defensive brand this team built and has been a great partner to Ben Simmons in the backcourt. Sometimes it has seemed that he has had the same issue that Tobias Harris had last season when he joined the team in finding his spot in the offense on a nightly basis. But now this team needs him more than ever. 

Richardson has had some big games on the year, and it’s time to put him in the driver’s seat for this upcoming stretch. Joel Embiid is going to need help keeping this team afloat while Simmons deals with this injury, and Richardson can be the perfect running mate. 

We have seen what Richardson can do when given the opportunity. Whether it was earlier in the year when he went for 32 points against his former team the Miami Heat or just recently when he had a huge fourth quarter to secure a win against the LA Clippers. 

This role will not be something new for Richardson as he was the main option for the Heat towards the end of his tenure there. But head coach Brett Brown has to put him in the position to maximize what he can do on the floor and keep this team in the mix.