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  1. “YOU PLAY TO LOSE THE GAME! HELLO?” This is it! The Recess versus The Process! Our Atlanta Hawks get their final run in, against (maybe) Ben Simmons and those wascally Philadelphia 76ers (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast, NBC Sports Philadelphia). We’re going to use this, the final gamethread of this glorious 2017-18 season, to raise the subject you’ve come here to read about… me! You see, it’s still April, the dogwoods have yet to bloom, we’re only 80-some gamethreads in, the season has already drawn to a close and, now, I don’t quite know what to do with these hands. The boss lady in the glorified cubicle nearby has a few ideas, to be sure. But among the many perversely wonderful things about this 2017-18 campaign is that, for the first time in many years, the last gamethread can actually be The Last One. I’m not having to wrap these things up prematurely, hoping against hope that our Hawks’ final playoff loss might turn out a different way. So, first things first, I’d like to thank the Academy… whoops, wrong notecard. Since essentially Halloween, I’ve had ample time to contemplate how I am going to use the extra month of free time that #LotterySZN bequeaths upon me. So here’s how I intend to spend it, and the offseason that starts just hours from now. Not far from the Potemkin Village situated outside the Bravos stadium, somebody opened up an indoor skydiving facility. I’m totally trying that. Back in my drunken fratboy stage I was just another Jager shot away from trying the real thing, but common sense prevailed just in time. A more gravity-bound idea is the Top Golf spot closer to home, where I can perfect my swing in time to school fools once the new one at Highlight Factory ver. 3.0 is ready. (Most Atlanta Hawks ad ever: “Come see the SECOND biggest arena transformation in NBA history! Check that… Killer Mike just said WHAT? THIRD! The THIRD biggest transformation…”) I probably could use a spa treatment. No, not those “spas” on Cheshire Bridge with Pacific-sounding names where you enter from the back. A legit spa, where they lay cucumbers over your eyelids and stuff. I was told I need more Vitamin B in my diet, anyway, so that might be a two-fer. I’m not certain what “exfoliation” entails but, hey, YOLO. Fishing sounds nice. Maybe a little snorkeling would do the trick, too. But no way will anybody catch me on anything named “Chattahoochee” or “Lanier”. There’s Loch Ness Monsters in them joints. Folks getting swallowed up there on the regular. If the water body is more than ten times as wide and deep as my bathtub, no thanks, I’ll pass. Pottery. Poetry. Yoga. Helping little ol’ ladies cross streets. Big ol’ ladies helping me cross streets. Rescuing puppies. Frying hush puppies. Yeah, that’s a good start to a playoff-free springtime. Now, allow me to share what I am NOT going to do. We don’t know how many times we’ll get this extra time off. Certainly, with the way Mike Budenholzer has demonstrated he can coach a turnip to turn up, there’s just no telling how momentary our Recession is going to last, once more lauded young basketball talent washes ashore. This forthcoming free time is precious for me, as I trust it shall be for many of you in the Squawkosphere. So believe me when I disclose that, as Your Friendly Neighborhood Co-Moderator, I shall not be wasting precious moments under the Georgia sun dilly-dallying with some of you and your petty interpersonal Hawksquabbles, over woulda-shoulda-coulda, over foregone lottery odds, over foregone draft choices, over missed opportunities at your coveted free agents, over who on this dear roster gets to stay and who has to go. Brewing on other sites, I’ve already seen from Hawks fans what I call Absolutism, not necessarily the result of too much Swedish vodka on the brain. “If the ATLHawks don’t lose the game on (pick any day that ends in the Letter Y), I am DONE with this Treadmill team!” “If they DON’T draft (top-ten talent they’re obsessed with), that’s it, I am THROUGH!” “If they DO draft (top-ten talent they don’t trust), that’s it, I am THROUGH!” “If they don’t get (random player… okay Baze) outta here, I am OUTTA HERE!” “If they (pursue, or don’t pursue) (free agent), my fandom is OVER! KA-PUT! FAREWELL, CRUEL WORLD! Disgusted Hawks fan, OVER AND OUT!”… ((not even 48 hours later))… “Oh, and ANOTHER thing!...” We’re Hawks fans, many of us Atlanta Sports fans to larger extents. We do healthy, informed Skepticism as well as anybody in this hemisphere, for good reason, and that’s fine. But, please, refrain from the Absolutism that mandates of Budschlenk, or our fragile fanbase, “my way, or the highway!” I-285 is congested enough as it is without any more miffed Hawks fans going round in circles. Discussion is great. Differing is valued. Debate is encouraged. But, I’m sorry, Discord is not on the menu this summer. There’s no appetite for that. Most of you have had months of practice in these forums to know whose rhetoric gets all subcutaneous with you, who you can disagree with without being disagreeable, who you can ignore without acting ignorant, and which personal accusations are verboten around these parts. @AHF, @PSSSHHHRRR87 and Yours Truly have no intentions to mediate tugs-of-war between parties who should already know when, and how, to let go of ropes. If I’m doing any babysitting between now and October, it’s because my buddies and their significant others need a weekend break for fun and frolic. If I’m doing any refereeing this summer, it’s because Lou Williams or 2Chainz is chewing me out over a block/charge call in the AEBL. Your mods and I will not be coming onto this site every other day to dish out warnings, timeouts and Banhammers because somebody decided to respond to perceived boorishness with more of the same. Every off-season there is a ridiculous Squawkpurge that ensues due to unnecessary interactions, and last summer was arguably (and sadly, it’s arguable) the very worst we’ve ever seen. Review the Golden Rules on this here site, and if you feel the urge to issue an inappropriate response to somebody, follow the guidance the soon-to-be-overmatched Pac-12 coach above advises his young charges… Don’t Press Send! The next six months can be pleasant, if we all choose to make it so. Enough of all that drivel. Before I go off and ask Alexa for hammock instructions, I want to thank Coach Bud, the staff, and every one of the 87 players that suited up in a Hawks uniform, for an intentional losing season that was about as well-done as I could have hoped. This was not a 15-win team that won 25 games (oops, I gave away tonight’s outcome too soon. Pretend I said 24!). Certainly not in this LeBronference. Au contraire, this was a 30-win team, 35 at the max, that was poked and prodded and pulled down into 25-ish territory four our long-term benefit. To a tank fan, 25 wins only looks disturbing when somebody else has 20, or 24. Now, if you truly wanted to get to a baker’s dozen and stop, what you would do is, you’d hire Isiah Thomas, or Phil Jackson, or any exec with an overinflated sense of entitlement and accomplishment, to run your company. You’d let him dump Coach Bud, and his collection of whiteboard braniacs, in the summer of 2017, then replace them with a staff that knows only so much as to question their players’ guts, or other vital organs, and not much more. If you prefer, you can wait until the season starts, then pull the chair out from under the incumbent coach you were so enthralled with just months before, a la Phoenix and Memphis. Speaking of overinflation, you stack your roster with Michael Beasleys and D.J. Augustins of the world, single-minded players for whom the full box score matters not nearly as much as their individual lines. Add Joakim Noahs and Bobby Portises, so when they predictably fly off the handle and threaten to harm someone, it’s their own teammates and staff, not just some random schmoe in a Buford Highway parking lot. Swing deals for the Dwight Howards, ensuring your most lead-footed highway drivers are the ones angling for 30+ minutes a night. Put the ball in the hands of guys for whom, once adversity strikes and the 40-point losses roll in, running to Twitter and asking for a way out sounds like a splendid idea. Add in dashes of G-Leaguers, two-ways and ten-days that will hesitate to hustle, or make a basket, or a stop, for fear their participation might spoil the fans’ draft hopes. Need it be noted that, among the NBA players cited in the preceding paragraphs, despite their teams’ best efforts, none of them outperformed the Hawks in the upside-down standings? Need it be mentioned that none of those teams had to plummet farther than Atlanta did from last season to his one? Look at the respective sidelines, the way these Hawks players pull for each other even during downturns and losses, and you would think it was those other teams circling the drain for last in the NBA East. We’ve seen disastrous resets around this town before. The Babcockian variety, where Isaiah Rider, Glenn Robinson, and Antoine Walker get trotted out by the salespeople as if to say, “THIS is the turnaround, folks. Lock in your seats and get in on the ground floor, while you still can!” I credit this staff for not going that route, where the “ground floor” turns out to be a sub-basement with broken rungs on the ladder. Instead, the Hawks gave Dennis Schröder, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, and Dewayne Dedmon a chance to show us what 32-50 might look like, three of those players missing critical time while wearing themselves out along the way. They allowed John Collins to build up his playing time gradually, rather than throwing their most efficient player to the proverbial wolves from the outset. They allowed Schröder, Prince, Malcolm Delaney, Mike Muscala to play their way out of, into, and again out of funks, some of epic thread-worthy proportions, gaining valuable tutelage both on and off the court. They acquired veterans like Miles Plumlee and Luke Babbitt, once thought to be useless, and found a way to render them useful. Surging at season’s end, Prince (25.3 PPG, 4.7 APG and 52.4 3FG% in last three games; Atlanta 3-2 in last five games) has been less Bob Sura, the shelf-lifed nine-year vet who nuked the 2005 Hawks’ lotto chances (Atlanta 6-5 season finish) for a shot at one final free agent contract, and more Zaza Pachulia, the player thrust into starts as a young Hawk due to circumstance, whose late 2006 run (Atlanta 4-5 season finish) heralded his practicality for Atlanta’s next playoff string, one that began two seasons later. Around mid-season, the Hawks eased Babbitt, Ersan Ilyasova, and Marco Belinelli on to (at least momentarily) greener pastures. By the time Ilyasova drew his final charge as a Hawk, Atlanta was sitting at 18-40. With a win tonight, they check in with a slightly worse finish (7-17, 6-18 if they lose). Thing is, much of the time, they looked pretty good doing during the downturn, even with Schwab-stumping surnames like Dorsey, Lee, Morris, White, Cavanaugh, Magette, Cleveland, and Evans (and you, too, Bembry) blending smoothly into the rotation. The first year of the Recession under Coach Bud’s stewardship has been unwaveringly functional, the staff never allowing dysfunction and disinterest to take hold among the rank and file. Illustrating his staff’s moderation of the team’s success, the Hawks (24-57) made it to tip-off of the final game of the season without winning three consecutive games at any point. Even with adversity baked in, they never reached double-digits in terms of losing streaks, either, enduring one eight-game stretch in October-November, and one six-gamer in February-March before hitting the skids for five games to conclude last month. In the right-side-up standings, I peer up at every one of the East’s fellow cellar-dwellers – from Detroit and Charlotte to the NYC teams, Chicago, and Orlando, and I find myself, as a fan, unenvious of all of them. Do they have potential championship-caliber stars on their squads? Sure, some do. Do any of them have management regimes that give their fans reason to believe such glory is right around the corner? That would be a no. As it stands, the odds are pretty good the Hawks will select a top-tier talent ahead of all but maybe one of them this June. The sole exception? The franchise that was handed Shaq, C-Webb (if they wanted to keep him), and Dwight on a platter and has as many NBA titles as we do. (Sorry, but if we’ve decided that a single conference final trip doesn’t matter around here, then coming up short repeatedly in NBA Finals will, too. With all that fortune, where are the rings?) Should I be tossing and turning at night that the division rival who got a young Tobias Harris for a song, Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, Mario Hezonja, and Jonathan Isaac with top-6 picks, Dario Saric and Domantas Sabonis with top-12 picks, only to squander most and fail to adequately develop them all, will be beating us over the head four times a year with some future Hall of Famer we should have super-duper-tanked for? Perhaps. But I’m not. Sorry, John Hammond, but Larry Drew isn’t around to save you this time. Chris Wallace and John Hollinger got anything special up their sleeves? I have my doubts. The last time Memphis lucked out with a Top-3 pick (2009), they took Hasheem Thabeet. The 4-spot in the lottery that year, OKC, and the team that drew the 7-spot, Golden State, assuredly had fans that were peeved that they couldn’t stink up the joint enough to improve their lottery odds to the Top-3. Rest assured that fans of the Thunder, who leapfrogged two of the Top-3 clubs at lottery time, and Travis Schlenk’s Warriors, got over it soon enough. Memphis? Not so much. And their draft record hasn’t been much better since. Has Ryan McDonough done enough in this league to make you worry about a missed opportunity? The raw Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson haven’t proven to be the swift turnaround specialists they were once touted to be. Phoenix’s fellow Top-Fiver Alex Len has been no great shakes, either. It’s a good thing low-lottery prospect Devin Booker has panned out, at least on offense, enough so that Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton relishes the prospect of pairing with him. But who appears to be a sure thing to me or you, could very well look like somebody inferior to Bender in McDonough’s estimation. Maybe I should lose sleep over what the Suns might do before the Hawks can pick. But I’ll probably be snoozing with cucumber slices above my eyes instead. I’ll try not to snore too loud. I’m not losing sleep that Phoenix or even Memphis can draft-and-stir their way back to championship contention anytime soon, especially in the treacherous West where these would-be All-NBA upstarts have to bump heads with the Currys, KDs, Hardens, Westbrooks, Lillards, Davises, Boogies, Jokics, KATs, and maybe someday Kawhis out there. And don’t let LeBron start feenin for Hollywood, too. Do these teams even know who will be their head coaches, yet? Winning the Draft Lottery outright would be sweet. Still, I’m almost hoping a couple of these particular clubs get to pick ahead of the Hawks, if only to save us from ourselves (where have you gone, Bill Russell?). The peak of PoppaWeapon3’s Sixers fandom came in 1986, when Philly bumped lucky-ducky Boston aside to win #1 in the Draft Lottery. Neither team had to tank to get in the lotto mix, they just had to snooker some other teams, like the San Diego Clippers and Lenny Wilkens’ Sonics, into giving up their future picks. But just a few weeks after the Lottery, Philadelphia’s Harold Katz and Pat Williams got cute. Out goes the chance to draft Brad Daugherty; in comes Roy Hinson. Roy. Hinson. Oh, and out goes former savior Moses Malone on the same day, too! In comes the broken remains of Jeff Ruland. One would think Williams, who bailed from the Sixers later that year, then wound up running inaugural Orlando, would never be granted such lottery fortune again. PW3 Never Again’d the bridesmaid-aspiring Sixers from that summer day forward. “Trust” that -- he reminds me of it weekly. The Process, for guys like him, are now three decades in the making, and counting. Maybe Simmons, Saric and Joel Embiid will be enough to finally melt the ice. Simmons (questionable, tummy flu) and Embiid (out, fractured orbital bone) display tremendous handle and touch in just their first and second seasons, respectively. Mix in Saric, D-and-3 specialist Robert Covington, 2017 first-overall pick Markelle Fultz (1st career start tonight, if Simmons is a no-go), and a bevy of shooters including JJ Redick, Belinelli and Ilyasova, and as MJ might say, the ceiling is the roof. Baseball aside, the sports vibe is as high as they’ve ever been around the City of Brotherly Shove, with parades for Nova and the Iggles in recent months, the Flyers back in the playoffs and the Sixers (50-30) rolling on a 14-game streak, looking like they plan to go on an even bigger tear. But the older fans have seen enough stories like this before -- Barkley’s Sixers, Lindros’ Flyers, Cunningham and the 46 Defense’s Eagles -- to know how quickly it can all unravel and evaporate with one or two less-than-fortuitous postseason ventures, and with a few poorly-timed injuries. Not that he needs it, but Coach Bud has a colleague who he can turn to for advice on how to expertly endure organizational turnover and young rosters in flux. Sixers coach Brett Brown patiently guided this club out of the Process age, and they have a good chance of adding (via the Lakers) one more plum lotto pick to the mix this summer. The Process, we’ve been told by Brown, draws to a close in 2018. At this new tier with wildly heightened expectations, but with Embiid’s early return a wild-card, the new challenge for Brown is to ensure that his Sixers don’t devolve into Processed Meat. He knows Phickle Philly Phans can shift from “Whoo!” to “BOO!” in an instant. The Sixers have two bugaboos, turnovers (NBA-worst 16.2 TO%, slightly worse than the Hawks’ 15.5%) and a propensity for fouling (22.1 personals per-48, 3rd-most in NBA; opponents shooting just 74.5 FT%, 29th in NBA), that could haunt them like the ghosts of Boston Garden at playoff time. They don’t need Simmons or Embiid on the floor (7.1 combined TOs, 5.9 PFs per game) to begin repairing those issues today. But veterans Ilyasova and Amir Johnson can help demonstrate what good discipline could look like on the floor while the headliners sit. Any live experimentation Brown wishes to conduct is likely to happen tonight against the Hawks, as the Sixers travel home tomorrow to meet Milwaukee, a possible postseason opponent. Finishing the regular season ahead of reigning conference champ Cleveland (50-31) would be quite an accomplishment, especially useful if there’s a Conference Final in these teams’ immediate future. But getting gameplans ready to make a splash in the opening round is more important than looking too far ahead. If you haven’t had much enjoyment as a Hawks fan this season, I can only hope you at least tried to have some. I know I did, way more than last season, although I acknowledge the team’s pragmatic, incremental approach to 2017-18 suits me better than others. Balancing the desire to compete with the desire to tank was at once exhilarating and nauseating, but no different than any rickety thrill ride one would find at Six Flags. At Philips Arena, all the half-court fan shots, concerts, cricket tacos, and Hot Sauce breaking ankles were entertaining enough to pass the time. I know I will at least try to enjoy the offseason as well, right on through the draft, free agency, Summer League and training camp, and I look forward to your help, Squawkers, in making it a pleasurable adventure. Anybody ever try zip-lining? It helps to already be a Hawks fan, but I’d better check with my cardiologist first. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  2. Hawks opponent trying to keep up with Isaiah Taylor. Oh, Benjamin. Benjamin. You know not what you have done. Not yet. But, thank you. This week has been seminal in progress for our Atlanta Hawks, who return from a way-too-eventful road trip to host Ben Simmons and the rolling Philadelphia 76ers (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, NBC Sports Philadelphia). Like another Bennie Boy from Philly, Simmons has discovered the key to draw lightning in a bottle (or jar, if you prefer), producing an electricity that us Tank-era Hawks fans heretofore didn’t know existed. With noted exception to our esteemed Squawkfriend Spud2Nique, and many of you other folks out there, I already have a low tolerance for the Game Stop Boys in our midst. Workdays aside, I am fortunate to live a mostly peaceful existence, up until from roughly 11 PM to 3 AM at night. That’s when my neighbor hops on the PlayStation and my walls are suddenly vibrating, as he gleefully blows something/body up to the enhanced effect of his Dolby Surround Sound system. I think his new wife is totally down with it, too. Man, what a trooper. We’re cool and all, as they’re otherwise responsible peeps. Besides, I get their dinnertime walls rattling, in turn, each time I bellow, “IN DEE FACE!”, anytime John Collins throws one down on fools’ noggins. Or, “AND ONE!”, for every successful Dewayne Dedmon post-up, whether he’s fouled or not. Or, “GOT HEEEEM!”, whenever Dennis Schröder (doubtful, ankle) breaks the appropriate sections of somebody’s legs as he drives for the hoop-and-scoop. For all the popcorn ceiling the neighbors have shaken into my hair, it all evens out. Still, it would be swell for the folks next door to occasionally go to, like, sleep, the way normal homo sapiens with 8-to-6s tend to do. I also grow especially irascible with the button-pushing Ninjas, online, who ought to be Rated I for Immature. This week, Master Simmons hit the irritation sweet spot on both counts. For that, he gets promoted to the next level. Don’t worry about staying up late, Simmons assured Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns. As Tuesday night turned to Wednesday morning, Ben’s appeal was that Towns’ Wolves were “only playing the Hawks” later that day. Bear in mind, barely 24 hours prior, the Wolves were “only” playing the Grizzlies at the Target Center, yet Minnesota could “only” watch as Memphis ended their umpteen-game losing streak. Keeping up with current events is hard when you’re on the X-Box all day. Consider, also, the Sixers (44-30) had just waxed the Wolves in Philly (Simmons with a 15-12-13 triple double, his 10th on the season, 3rd in NBA) two days before that. Why are you two boys even…? You’re absolutely right, @hawkman. Dang Millennials. Then, as Towns was getting his LiAngelo on (56 points, 16 rebounds) courtesy of our lively Atlanta Hawks youth team on Wednesday night, Simmons was all too happy to chime in. “Told ya,” he Insta’d KAT. What are you, 12, Bennie? Were it at all possible, Towns would remind Simmons that his Wolves needed every bit of his franchise-record 56 to outlast “only” a Hawks team that, with all respect due to the visitors on the floor, wasn’t trying all THAT hard, and for good reason. Karl-Ant goes 2-for-8 from deep instead of 6-for-8, and that game is in overtime, and my hairline gets that much closer to resembling Thibs’. Sure, KAT, like fellow Minnesota legend MTM, can turn the world on with his smile. But if he drops “only” 40 on “only” the Hawks, and the Wolves lose to two lottery squads in the space of three nights, with possibly the first NBA Playoffs in 14 years hanging in the balance? No, Minnesota, you’re NOT gonna make it after all. Towns could try explaining all this to his play-buddy Simmons. Alas, he’s limited to 280 characters, so… Simmons’ antics don’t really amount to poking a bear or enraging a bull. Trolling the Hawks is the NBA equivalent of cow-tipping of the highest juvenile order. What Simmons has yet to discover is, you keep messing around with Atlanta, and you eventually find yourself squaring up with a heifer of the “Kung Pow!” variety. Simmons only needs enough sense to ask around the NBA universe a bit. All our heroes need a foil. For all his unenumerable powers, try to imagine Superman zipping around the globe getting cats unstuck from trees, freezing back our ice caps, and helping little old ladies cross streets. Bo-ring! To give a raison d’etre to our daily existence, we all need a Thanos, a Killmonger, a Lex Luthor, a Paul Pierce in our lives. I really admired Poor Paulie, back in the day. Scored lots of buckets, got over the whole nightclub stabbings thing, lugged a once-proud Celtics team as far as he could carry them during Red Auerbach’s final years. He was one of them Bros for which Cool Stories are made, soon to head toward the sunset in JoeJohnsonland as a 30-year-old borderline Hall of Famer requesting a trade to a serious contender. Then, lightning struck. Danny Ainge gets to work. Here comes Ray Allen. Here comes Kevin Garnett. Here wakes up Doc Rivers and Rajon Rondo. And, along the path to Celtics Title #17, all of a sudden, here comes Ratface Paul Pierce. The guy who hadn’t won a playoff series in five years becomes a self-fashioned nemesis, an otherwise mature 30-year-old on our floor talking trash, picking shoving matches, placing unwise wagers with our young Atlanta Hawks. Finally getting back to the postseason for the first time in ages was the ice cream. But whooping Celtic tail, three times at The Highlight Factory, was the hot fudge, the forlorn looks on Pierce’s face each time the whipped cream. Y’now what? The cherry could wait. With no rational, underlying justification, Pierce put a target on the Hawks’ backs. And through all the Tebowing on our logo, through all the I-Called-Gaming, all the tricks that joker pulled out of his bag, we laid our target squarely on him. Armed with just Josh Childress at small forward, Atlanta became his toughest non-LeBron adversary along the way to his first NBA ring, in 2008. And The Truth is, he never got himself another one. Our heroes, the 2015 Hawks (and their trusty game clock sidekick) made sure of that. The year in which our Hawks return to the postseason while likely begin with the digits “202”. But whatever the final digit becomes, Bennie Boy will be our fans’ new Public Enemy #1. The one rule Atlanta sports adversaries learn the hard way: don’t come for us, unless we’ve sent for you. You all remember Brandon Jennings, don’t you? Simmons was a mere middle-schooler back when “Feer the Deer” was en vogue, when a 20-year-old Jennings was assured that he was Kind of a Big Deal. He, not James Harden, was All-Rookie 1st Team in 2010. The Hawks, who had already peaked in many minds, were supposed to be a mere speed bump on the way to future glories for Jennings, who accused Atlanta players of coming into Milwaukee “a little bit cocky” for Game 3, and who was eager to make an example of the Hawks just because he felt snubbed for Rookie of the Year. Even having lost an ugly series with Atlanta without Andrew Bogut, the first-overall pick the Hawks missed out on in the 2005 Lottery, and leading scorer Michael Redd, Milwaukee’s future seemed bright with Jennings carrying the banner. Birrrrrrr… what happened to that boy? After all the youthful bristling wore away, these days, the only Fear Jennings engenders involves what happens tomorrow, after his ten-day contract period ends. Does Simmons need a more modern example? How about our latest hip-hopped star, Isaiah Thomas? “Oh! Woe is me! I was passed over! I was picked last!” Who do you think you are, Alpha Kaba? “I’m gonna make an example out of the Hawks in the playoffs. Back up the Brinks truck for me, Danny Ainge!” How’s that all working out for you, I.T.? Which NBA town are you in this week? And is that an armored vehicle or a bus that you’ve been thrown under? All that bluster and gang-banging braggadocio in 2017 from the comedy team of John Wall and Bradley Beal, like anyone that has lived in Atlanta for five minutes has reason to be intimidated by dudes from Raleigh and St. Louis. As far as D.C. cats go, Tyrone Hankerson, Jr. gives Dennis Schröder more pause than these two nitwits. Say, will 2019 be the year they finally get to 50+ wins and a conference final? ‘Cause it sure ain’t happening this season. Say, is there a gang sign for overrated? Simmons could be staying up a full fortnight, playing a game of Fortnite, and should still be able to carry his team past the Hawks at the Highlight Factory. That’s with or without the guy Simmons should be leaving all this social media ragging to, anyway. The Center of the Future, Joel Embiid got whacked upside the noggin by the Backup Point Guard of the Future, Markelle Fultz (there was no hitch in his accidental headshot, so that’s progress). With an orbital fracture and a concussion, Embiid is not only staying home for the Sixers’ two-game road swing that ends on Sunday up in Kembaville, but his return in time for the long-awaited playoffs is now in doubt. But, hey, at least our Hawks helped handicapped today’s outcome, by waiving Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli so the pair could land in Philly’s lap right on time for this refreshing playoff push, one that wasn’t completely a slam dunk just two months ago. Philadelphia was just 24-24 after losing “only” in Brooklyn on January 31. Then came the ex-Hawks. Now the 76ers have won 20 of their past 26, and they can today win their ninth in a row to conclude their March record at a solid 13-3. Coach Brett Brown, I am sure, is mighty grateful to his former colleague, the Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer, and our management staff. Can you put down the controllers for a moment and say, “Thank you, Atlanta,” Ben Simmons? I’m sure you can. Get all the chuckles in while you can, Bennie Boy. For all their momentary, newfound success on the court, this here was a Process that was **this close** to getting CTRL+ATL+DEL’d. That’s because, for every Embiid, there was a Michael Carter-Williams. For every Dario Saric and Fultz, there was a Furkan Korkmaz, and a Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. For every Simmons, there was a Jahlil Okafor, a Nerlens Noel. And none of the so-called success-stories of the moment were of the instantaneous variety. Sam Hinkie, himself, was the Sixers’ third GM in three years by the time he came on the scene in 2013. Once he was pushed into writing his own walking papers, with the team starting out 1-21 in 2015-16, with Okafor and Noel shrinking into nothingness, it was so tempting for Bryan Colangelo to blow the whole thing up. Who knows what kind of Cheez Wizzy mess Simmons could have walked into, had he himself been able to play in his draft year, without upstarts like Embiid or Saric around to carve a path first. Fortunately for Simmons, the team stuck with its high-potential youngsters, and built around them with vets like J.J. Redick, Amir Johnson, Belinelli, and Ilyasova. They also developed a defensive stalwart, in Robert Covington, so they wouldn’t be giving up more than they dish out. So now, and only now, Simmons got jokes. He thinks his first name is Russell now. I, for one, have been pleased as punch over the on-court production of Collins, the first player currently behind Simmons in Player Efficiency Ranking, and the next player behind Simmons and Donovan Mitchell in Grizzlies guru John Hollinger’s other ESPN-era stats, of Value Added and Estimated Wins Added. That includes being the top rookie in Rebounding Rate (shhh… Erie Bayhawk playoff participant Tyler Cavanaugh ranks 6th, ahead of Mr. Simmons. That oughta look good in 2K19). Johnny Bap’s an upstanding kid. And dude put up with Demon Deacons in the ACC, so who better to muddle through with during a losing season? I know the cheery EXPRESS Men’s model will take all the ribbing and e-snickering in stride, just as he will the favored-team-media snub that’s coming, a few weeks from now, at All-Rookie award time. But he’s taking notes. And when it’s time to make his statement, it won’t be a Snapchat Streak or whatever the cool kids use by then. Once Collins’ Hawks take their turn rebuilding their roster, over the course of this and the next offseason, it won’t be about what’s getting played, but who. Simmons will be looking up, soon, only to find it’s not only the Hawks’ G-League and E-League teams whooping the Sixers’ tailfeathers, but the NBA-league one, too. For now, though, if he sincerely wants the Rookie of the Year award all to his lonesome, he had better do what Mitchell could not, and that’s carry his team to victory against the Hawks. Go ahead and use whatever sliders you need, Bennie. It won’t be on April 11, the season finale when the Sixers return to The Highlight Factory, hopefully with playoff seeding all wrapped up. It probably won’t even be next year. But, Ben Simmons, You Gon’ Learn. Happy Passover! Happy Easter! And Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  3. Are you (( bleeping )) serious? Hawks BETTER win this game tomorrow night. No dang excuses now.
  4. How much would you pay for Trevor Booker? ~lw3
  5. “FLY, SIXERS, FLY! So, fellas, do I have to actually, like, draw up plays anymore, or…?” It’s Finally Sunny in Philadelphia! The Atlanta Hawks arrive in the City of Brotherly Shove, facing a 76ers team (7:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, NBC Sports Philadelphia) that, thanks to some of their Processed Meat, is at long last turning a corner... maybe? Sure, the Sixers (3-4) are just trying to get to a .500 record right now. But coach Brett Brown’s crew has won three of their last four contests, all three wins on the road at places like upstart Detroit and Houston, while the sole defeat in that run was a buzzer-beating loss at the hands of the Rockets’ Eric Gordon. Similar to the Hawks (1-6), with ex-Sixer Ersan Ilyasova (knee) and former St. Joe’s star DeAndre’ Bembry (wrist) rocking suits, the Sixers are shorthanded coming into this matchup. But if you’ve been following Philadelphia during their tanktastic stretch, they’re kind of used to that by now. 2017 first-overall pick Markelle Fultz tried to soldier on through shoulder discomfort, taking free throw shots along the way that would make Chuck Hayes wince, but now the guard has been shelved for a couple weeks. Their biggest free agent pickup, veteran gunner J.J. Redick, missed the past two games with back tightness, although he is probable to play today. Backup big Richaun Holmes was out all of last month with a wrist fracture although he’s expected to return soon. But it’s all good, because there are at least two neophytes bringing the fight for Philly. Much like center Joel Embiid, 6-foot-10 rookie point guard – yes, point guard – Ben Simmons is confirming to Sixer fans that he was indeed worth the wait. He’s nearly averaging a triple-double through seven games, ranking fifth in the NBA with 7.7 APG while posting means of 18.4 PPG and 9.1 RPG. Sure, the 2016 first-overall pick’s range and free throw accuracy are less-than-desirable coming out of the gate. But dare we mention, again, this dude is 6-foot-10? The ability for Simmons to play on-ball and not on the low blocks grants his 7-foot teammate Embiid (20.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 4.5 TOs/game) plenty of room to play in, and around, the paint. The social-media-savvy big man has deft touch in the post and will surprise defenders with his two-point jumpshot (57.7 mid-range FG%). While he isn’t turning opposing back shots as much as he’d like, Embiid ranks second in the league with a 34.3 D-Reb%. While thrilled with Embiid’s play, Brown has strained to keep him under wraps with a limited-minutes restriction, plugging 2017 Rookie of the Year runner-up Dario Saric and free agent vet Amir Johnson in the 5-spot behind him in Holmes’ absence. If only there was someone Jahlil else that the Sixers could have been grooming all this time for Okafor this backup role. Looking back over the past decade-plus of 76er drafts, Philadelphia tends to draft well. But they either fail to adequately develop their youngsters and maximize their utility, or they fail to recoup an adequate return whenever they eventually decide to deal them. Most of their picks reach the zenith of their NBA success with somebody else. The second lottery-pick keeper from the 76ers’ four-year-long tanking Process, Okafor is certainly hoping the trend will hold. After failing to find a trade partner, the Sixers formally declined his fourth-year option yesterday, and Brown has unceremoniously buried him on the depth chart, keeping him from catching an injury before the Sixers could move him. While the defensively-deficient Okafor remains shaped up, he announced today he’s begging to be shipped out. “Honestly, I didn’t want them to pick up my option,” he told NBC Sports Philadelphia today, adding, “I’ve been going through a lot since I’ve been here.” A buyout negotiation will suit him fine if no decent offers come across GM Bryan Colangelo’s desk. It has been more like Foul-adelphia thus far. Eager as the team is to get the ball back in Simmons and Embiid’s hands, the Sixers are committing the most hacks in the league (NBA-high 25.6 personal fouls per-48), allotting their foes an NBA-high 35.3 free throw attempts per 100 possessions. Atlanta (outscored an NBA-worst 6.7 paint points-per-48) isn’t doing many things right at this stage of the season, but they are making free throws (NBA-high 85.8 FT%). Doubling their win total tonight will require the Hawks (1-6) to be the best team below-the-rim. Despite the losing record, Atlanta is averaging more steals and fewer turnovers than their opponents, Kent Bazemore (1.7 SPG) one of four active Hawks (not counting Bembry or Ilyasova) averaging over one theft per contest. Hawks defenders must pounce whenever the ball is brought below the shoulders of the Sixers’ big-men ballhandlers, creating deflections and loose balls that can get Philadelphia into the penalty early in each half of play. Professor Dennis Schröder (22.2 PPG, 6.8 APG, 2.0 TOs/game, 1.8 SPG, 90.0 FT%) can teach the Sixers’ reachers and create imbalances in Philly’s halfcourt defense, ideally forcing Brown’s hand in playing the Hawks with more of a small-ball lineup. Schröder leads the league with 22.6 drives per game, averaging an NBA-high 13.2 PPG (his 52.9 FG% currently better than stalwarts surnamed Wall and Conley), while committing just a 3.5 TO% on those plays. Among 19 NBA players averaging at least 6.0 PPG on drives, only Simmons (3.1 TO%) and LeBron (3.1 TO%) have turned over the rock less frequently. Hawks fans are hopeful that we’ll begin to see more of Isaiah Taylor (4.8 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.4 TOs per-36, 55.6 FG%) in place of Malcolm Delaney as Schröder’s prime backup, particularly as Taylor soaks up more of coach Mike Budenholzer’s playbook. Schröder (74.2 passes per game, ahead of Simmons’ 74.1 for 2nd in NBA) will need someone aside from Marco Belinelli (55.0 3FG%) and Taurean Prince (50.0 3FG%) to shed their individual perimeter shooting slumps. Bazemore (36.6 FG%, 31.8 3FG%) and Luke Babbitt (25.0 3FG%) will face little defensive pressure tonight, particularly when Robert Covington strays to help, and will have to get on track with catch-and-shoot jumpers. Dennis will also need his team’s second-leading per-minute scorer, rookie John Collins (20.4 points and 6.1 fouls per-36), and Dewayne Dedmon to avoid getting cowed by Embiid (81.3 FT%) and Simmons into foul problems that hasten their own premature exits. Having either in the game for significant minutes will help the Hawks narrow the paint-points deficit and improve on their woeful defensive rebounding as a team (74.5 D-reb%, 26th in NBA). Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  6. Don't Write a Check With Your Mouth That... ~lw3
  7. Probably a premature post. I'll delete it if it goes nowhere. ~lw3
  8. any "more" friction, that is... ~lw3
  9. “I call this dance move the ‘Joel Embiid’!” Remember those times the Atlanta Hawks could just bring their B-game to the table, and still run said table on most nights against the Philadelphia 76ers? Well, hopefully, you enjoyed those games, because those days appear to be tabled for the foreseeable future. Nobody’s chanting “fo-fi-fo” up in the City of Brotherly Shove just yet, but the Sixers arrive in Atlanta for tonight’s game (7:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, CSN Philly) having won eight of their last ten, including last night’s thrilling 93-92 comeback win at home against Portland. That’s the best string of Sixer success since the outfit led by Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala broke into the 2011-12 season with an early 9-1 run. By comparison, they were 7-24 before this latest stretch, 10-72 all last season. It’s not just patsies, either, that Philadelphia (15-26) is pheasting on. This past week, the Sixers took out visiting Toronto and knocked off the Bucks in Milwaukee. Last week, they fumigated the Hornets at home, one week after putting a late scare into their old rival Celtics in Beantown. For long-middling franchises like the Hawks, winning ten out of 12 doesn’t cause anyone around town to start planning parade routes. But for a team as historically miserable as the latter-day 76ers, these days, it’s as if the Mummers never left South Broad. 2016 #1-overall pick and soon-to-be-rookie Ben Simmons placed an exotic pet cat atop his head for an Instagram earlier in the week, and just that simple act has spawned a flurry of #RaiseTheCat tweets among Philly’s Pheline Phaithphul. Need we mention that Simmons has yet to play a regular-season game? All that town needed to go paws-itively cat-crazy is the most magnetic personality since Allen Iverson to finally make an impact on the floor. Back in October, Joel Embiid was in just his second game as a pro, when the Hawks obligatorily pasted the Sixers, 104-72. Yet he was thrilled with what he perceived as a dominant performance (14 points, 2 blocks, 2 rebounds in 15 minutes) versus former All-Stars Dwight Howard (2 points, 3 blocks, 7 rebounds in 19 minutes) and Paul Millsap. “Everybody has flaws,” Joel not-so-humble-bragged to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I thought I took advantage of that by attacking (the Hawks’ bigs) and creating fouls. I got the shots that I wanted.” Such paltry contributions don’t excite Embiid anymore. He’s become a per-minute-MVP candidate, for turning around Philly’s fortunes while remaining on a team-mandated 28-minute restriction. 22.9 PPG, 2.5 BPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG, and nearly one made three-point shot per game would be a dream for most starting NBA bigs, to say nothing of these averages Embiid produced in his past 15 appearances (in just 26.8 minutes/game). There are also 3.8 turnovers per game in those abbreviated stints, but hey, this is Philly, and at least he’s trying. Beyond just the highlights and the numbers, Embiid has emerged as the NBA’s premier social media magnet, building legions of fans awaiting his next tweet or Instagram post. Whether it’s flowering praise upon longtime crush Rihanna, bottling Shirley Temple drinks for a city that needs, if nothing else, sugary beverages, or revealing he and Johnny Football were summertime pals, Joey Basketball is taking the NBA world by storm, off the court as much as on. Sixers coach Brett Brown is certainly happy to still be along for the ride. His former boss, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, rarely reveals many “joys in life,” but one of them apparently is “to watch (the 76ers) win basketball games, because if there’s any team that deserves it, it’s those guys,” he told ESPN.com. “They’ve had it really tough for all the obvious reasons,” Coach Pop explained, “and there’s nobody in this business that is more positive, and more day-to-day upbeat than Brett Brown.” The signs that Brown had something simmering even without Simmons has been evident for a couple months. When the Hawks raised their record to 9-2 on November 16, they were the Eastern Conference’s most defensively-efficient team (95.1 D-Rating, 2nd in NBA), and despite combusting every now and then, they remain so (102.5 D-Rating, 5th in NBA). But in the games since that November 16 date, it’s the Sixers – yes, the Sixers – who have boasted the most efficient defense in the East (103.4 D-Rating, 5th in NBA since 11/17). Coincidentally, Embiid began stringing consecutive games together, even more so by mid-December with just 2 DNPs in Philly’s last 17 games (4th in team D-Rating since 12/14). Sixer opponents have shot just 46.9 eFG% in January; only Atlanta’s next opponent, the L.A. Clippers (46.3 eFG%) has been better. It’s just been a matter of the 76ers’ offense finding a way to catch up, and T.J. McConnell has helped in that regard. He has averaged 7.1 APG (2.1 TOs per game) in his last 20 games (8.1 APG in January; 2nd in NBA for Assist Ratio this month), and Philadelphia is 8-2 with McConnell as a starter. Helping cut down on the mistakes keeps Philly (still NBA-worst 17.2 January TO%) in contention by eliminating the runouts at the other end of the floor. McConnell can dish out lobs to Embiid, but he is also feeding the Sixers’ second-leading scorer well. Ersan Ilyasova arrived along with another future protected first-round pick from OKC in exchange for Jerami Grant back in November, and Philly Phans will start calling him “E.I.” if he keeps sinking jumpers. The ninth-year forward is averaging a career-best 15.3 PPG as a Sixer, including 2.2 threes per game. He has ebbed this month (35.3 January 3FG%), but he has been balancing that offense by crashing the glass and scoring more efficiently around the rim (career-high 65.7 FG% within 3 feet). Compensating for Ilyasova, Robert Covington’s jumper is beginning to reappear (41.7 3FG% last six games; game-winning contested 3FG last night vs. POR), while rookie forward Dario Saric has been putting some big plays together. The Sixers built up their confidence by coming back to win last night while Embiid was on-and-off and finally off the floor after hyperextending his knee. He was left behind in Philly for scheduled rest, but the spirited 76ers should still be a tough out in tonight’s contest without their current franchise rookie star. Right before finding their defensive groove, the Sixers visited Philips Arena on November 12, Embiid again a scheduled DNP. Even without him, Philadelphia sprinted to a 27-23 first-quarter lead, led by Saric’s seven points. Then Atlanta turned on the jets along the way to a 117-96 win. The trio of Tim Hardaway, Jr., Kyle Korver, and Dennis Schröder sank half of their 20 three-point shots, while Dwight Howard and Kris Humphries (combined 23 points and 20 boards) pummeled Jahlil Okafor and the Sixers’ frontline around the glass. A ton of Philly’s turnovers involve either Embiid (5th in NBA for TOs per game; 3rd in TOs per 36 minutes) experimenting, or teammates desperately trying to feed him the ball. They’ll miss his impact on the floor, but his absence should help them keep Atlanta from piling up easy buckets in transition. The Hawks’ 17.4 points per-48 off turnovers ranks second in the East, while the 17.6 points the 76ers allow ranks as the second-worst in the conference. This will be a chance for Nerlens Noel, who contended Mason Plumlee’s would-be-game-winner at the rim to seal the victory last night, and perhaps Okafor to shine, or at least to showcase their skills for other teams. Inactive until mid-December, Noel enjoyed 20+ minutes of playing time in consecutive games for just the second time this season. Those minutes came courtesy of the sudden mid-game absence of Embiid, along with continued ankle soreness for Okafor (season-high 26 points last Saturday @ WAS). Noel’s opponents have shot just 40.8 FG% (2nd-best in NBA, min. 4.5 opponent FGAs) on shot attempts he has defended, a value that compares favorably with the favored Embiid (39.6 defended FG%, 1st in NBA). Similarly marginalized after a rocky rookie season, Jahlil was DNP’d in seven of the last ten games, including the last two Sixer games. If he doesn’t play, Brown will likely turn to Richaun Holmes. Despite limited minutes, the second-year big has more points and rebounds versus Atlanta than against any other team. All of these frontcourt players know their playing status is in jeopardy with the pending arrival of a healthy Simmons. The long-tanking Sixers actually have an incentive to keep winning. Besides Embiid’s insistence on carrying this team into the postseason, Philadelphia also has a pick-swap option with the Kings, thanks to the summer 2015 deal that relieved Sacramento of Nik Stauskas. The Kings just lost Rudy Gay for the season, have lost four straight and seven of eight, and now sit perilously (0.5 games) in front of Philadelphia in the NBA standings. Atlanta will need much more out of their bench players than they presented in last night’s 102-93 roller-coaster ride versus Chicago. Hardaway’s near-halfcourt buzzer-beater to close Atlanta’s 35-13 first quarter mattered much more than it should have. The reserves allowed the Bulls to stampede back from 30 points down, at the start of the fourth quarter, to within 5 in the closing minutes, forcing coach Mike Budenholzer’s hand in making Millsap and Dennis Schröder 25 points on 11-for-14 FGs vs. CHI) re-lace their shoes. If the Hawks’ starters, led by Schröder (70.7 FG% last 3 games), Howard and Millsap, take care of the ball and defend well enough through three quarters to build a sizable lead, coach Bud will turn to once again to the other Mikes (Scott and Dunleavy, with Muscala still out), plus 10-day pickup Gary Neal and rookies DeAndre’ Bembry and Taurean Prince, and expect they won’t again turn a laugher into a thriller. Scott (4 assists in 21 minutes vs. CHI), particularly, must provide a stronger defensive presence around the paint and take some pressure off Humphries, while Prince must make better decisions with the ball in their hands. Philly doesn’t really need Embiid to compete for 48 minutes tonight, but they’d much rather save up their budding big men to face Dwight and the Hawks in the playoffs. Wait, did I actually type that? Rise Up! And Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  10. Congrats to Big EB. He's been True To Philly for awhile now. ~lw3
  11. screeeeeeech... not so fast, my Phriends! ~lw3
  12. That's all he Wroten? http://www.theintell.com/sports/sixers/sixers-trade-for-ish-smith-waive-wroten/article_63c8fb74-aa8b-11e5-908c-a78da6bc0cdc.html ~lw3
  13. HIT 'EM ROCKY! ~lw3
  14. I still enjoy calling it the F.U. Center myself. Come back, First Union! http://www.libertyballers.com/2015/6/11/8764663/philadelphia-76ers-home-arena-as-the-wells-fargo-center-sixers-naming-rights I'm glad Philips' legal beagles don't fuss over the team calling our arena "The Highlight Factory" as often as they do. ~lw3
  15. What else is new in Illadelphia? http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/deep-sixer/Embiid-likely-to-miss-season-after-2d-surgery.html ~lw3
  16. The saga continues for the Sick-sers. ~lw3
  17. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! ~lw3
  18. ~lw3
  19. http://www.libertyballers.com/2013/12/19/5228322/thaddeus-young-trade-sixers-rumors-nba-omer-asik EXCLUSIVE: Thaddeus Young Asks Sixers to Trade Him ~lw3
  20. The next guard taken in the 2012 draft after John Jenkins and Jared Cunningham is on his way to Tankadelphia: http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2013/aug/22/report-grizzlies-ship-tony-wroten-sixers/ ~lw3
  21. http://basketball.realgm.com/wiretap/227616/Sam-Hinkie-Hired-As-New-GM-Of-76ers ~lw3
  22. An ex-Hawk free agent lands after a fortuitous spin in OKC. Good fit for Philly to bring him back. Although he's not a second option, they need pretty much anybody behind Jrue. And in related news (main subject in link), I'll have some of whatever Doug Collins is having. http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sixers/20120718_Collins_says_Kwame_Brown_will_be_Sixers_starting_center.html ~lw3