76ers

Virginia connection has 3 Eagles supporting Sixers' Justin Anderson

Virginia connection has 3 Eagles supporting Sixers' Justin Anderson

There’s a Sixers fan favorite among some of the Eagles, and it’s not Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons. Torrey Smith, Rodney McLeod and Chris Long are pulling for Justin Anderson. 

Anderson’s link to this trio of Eagles goes back to Virginia. Now they are living out their goals of being professional athletes just feet away from each other at the Wells Fargo Center and Lincoln Financial Field. 

Among these Eagles, Anderson has known Smith the longest. Their mothers are close friends and the two grew up 15 minutes apart. 

“Torrey is obviously a special case for me,” Anderson said. “Torrey is like family.”

Smith has been showing his support for Anderson’s career before he was traded to the Sixers in February. The friends spend time together in Philadelphia and back home, including a crab dinner this offseason.

“My son loves him to death,” Smith said. 

Anderson met the “super swaggy,” as he described him, McLeod at Virginia. The freshman Anderson was drawn to McLeod, a senior, for the way he carried himself off the football field. 

“His aura, how he carries himself, it’s pretty cool,” Anderson said. “It’s one that when you look at him, you’re like, ‘I want to dress like him. I want to talk like him.’ But he’s a really nice dude.”

McLeod took on the role of tour guide when Anderson moved to Philadelphia. From suggesting a barber to helping with an apartment search to attending the Roots Picnic together, McLeod has been a local go-to. 

“It’s good just to have a guy that you’re familiar with in the area,” McLeod said. “He actually lives right behind me now, so I guess he’s my next-door neighbor of some sort.”

Anderson, 23, wants to be more of a leader this season for the Sixers. One player he will look to as an example is Long. They met when Long returned to Virginia to speak with Anderson’s basketball team. 

“Being able to talk to him," Anderson said, "what it takes to be a pro, also now as a champion, just being able to use him as another resource has been phenomenal.” 

Long can see Anderson taking on that kind of role. He is proud to have another UVA alum playing professionally in Philadelphia. 

“Knowing him as kind of a family friend now, it’s fun to keep up with him,” Long said. “The energy he plays with, I think guys will gravitate to that.”

With overlapping seasons, the most convenient way to see one another is at their games. All four will be checking their schedules to find an open day or night. 

“Obviously, there are some perks that go with it,” McLeod said with a laugh. “I’ll get him into the Eagles game. Hopefully, he’ll look out and have me at some Sixers games this year. I’m excited for their season.”

Said Smith, “That’s like family to me. Any chance I get the opportunity to support him, I’ll be there.”

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

LOS ANGELES —  From trash talking on the court to expressing himself on social media, Joel Embiid is a player of many (many) words. So if his fellow All-Stars had to describe him in just one, what would it be? 

Draymond Green: "'Funny.' He's hilarious. The stuff he says, he goes on TV talking about (Kevin Durant's) burner account, he's talking how he's a savage. His Instagram locations, pretty funny. He's a good guy." 

Andre Drummond: "I’d probably say 'charismatic,' 'funny,' 'savage.' He don’t care, he just does what he wants to.”

Paul George: “Personality,' in all caps."

(Why all caps?)

“Because he’s a big dude.”

John Wall: "He's just 'himself.' He's very confident."

Anthony Davis: “'Savage.' Cool dude, he lives by his own rules. He’s just enjoying life and having fun.”

Jimmy Butler: "'Remarkable' in the fact that his game on the court is insane. Then the way he's always saying something to somebody on social media is really 'remarkable.'"

Bradley Beal: “'Wild.' He has no filter, he doesn’t care. That’s my boy, but he just has no remorse, doesn’t care."

LaMarcus Aldridge: “'Entertaining,' because he’s always on TV expressing how he feels. So, entertaining.”

New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

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New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

This week’s serving of Rob Rants focuses on the dichotomy of the 2018 NBA All-star Game and the show that comes with it. On the court, the game was a highly entertaining, competitive, tightly fought contest that incorporated a new concept that's a winner. The league also attempted something new prior to the game. That idea did not quite work as well. 

All-Star Games 
I generally am not a fan of All-Star Games. I haven’t watched the Pro Bowl in years. Same goes for the NHL All-Star Game. I find the MLB's midsummer classic to be the most watchable of the four. Plus, they have a captive audience as there are no other options that time of year. In recent years, I’ve taken more to the NBA three-point contest and skills competition rather than the dunk contest or the game itself. Full disclosure: I watched the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night for a few reasons. I wanted to see Joel Embiid’s first All-Star Game. I was curious about the new draft format of player selection. And my 16-year-old son who I was watching it with is a die-hard Sixers and NBA fan. So I watched all the way through. What I found were two polar-opposite productions. 

Premise
Along with ESPN’s College Gameday. I find TNT's Inside the NBA to be as good as it gets in terms of pregame shows. Ernie, Charles, Kenny, Shaq and crew were excellent as always. It’s what happened after they signed off that was a sight to be hold. 

Pregame show?
Philadelphia’s own Kevin Hart performed some type of musical/broadway play/comedy/is this really happening? Somehow Rob Riggle, the least funny man in the world, was involved. As were Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah and Ludacris. And there were cheerleaders and wild west folk. There may have been others but at that point, I began slipping into some kind of hypnotic coma. It went on interminably long. It was the kind of thing that, if Hart was not so popular and talented, can kill a career. It was that bad. But I strangely could not pull myself away. It was car crash, rubber-necking kind of bad. 

That mercifully ended and you thought it was game time. But we still had the anthems. First, the Canadian anthem, which was followed by the Star Spangled Banner. Fergie decided that she would turn Francis Scott Key’s composition into a steamy, sultry, lounge act from back in the day. To put it kindly, she missed the mark. Charles Barkley said at halftime that he needed a cigarette after her performance. It wasn’t quite Carl Lewis or Roseanne Barr-level of terrible, but it just capped a half hour-plus of strangeness that anyone who watched was never getting back. All of this just reaffirmed why I don’t generally indulge in these exhibitions. But then something funny happened. 

The game
The NBA smartly changed formats for All-Star selection this year. The league went playground style, having two captains choose their teams. LeBron James and Steph Curry were the two captains in charge of selecting from the voted-in All-Stars. The game, unlike recent years, had a different kind of competitive feel from the jump. Yes, it had the usual array of dunks and incredible passes, which the game should have. But there was defense played and fouls taken. Strategy was employed. To the players and NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s credit, the changes were a home run. The game came down to the last possession with Team Steph having a chance to tie with a three. Team LeBron played great defense and Curry could not get a shot off, giving Team LeBron the 148-145 victory. The game had the best of both worlds — incredible athletes showing off their skills and a level of care and compete not seen in a long time. And Embiid had an excellent All-Star debut with 19 points, eight boards and a great sequence where he nailed a rainbow three-pointer and then swatted Russell Westbrook at the other end of the floor.

Lesson here: tune in at tip-off. And no more Rob Riggle. Ever.