The700Level

Hey Eagles fans, get over Spygate already

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Hey Eagles fans, get over Spygate already

Maybe if the Eagles win Super Bowl LII, and defeat the New England Patriots in the process, that will finally heal the wounds left from Spygate, 13 years ago.

Maybe people can finally stop making excuses for the Eagles’ inability to beat the Patriots back in 2005.

I realize this is going to be an unpopular opinion outside of Boston, but I’ve never been able to muster much outrage for the Patriots’ version of cheating. And I’ve certainly never put much credence in the idea cheating was the reason the Eagles lost Super Bowl XXXIX, not after the offense committed four turnovers and scored a whopping 14 points until less than two minutes remained.

Yet, the multitude of former Eagles players that populate our local media have frequently made mention of Spygate over the past week-and-a-half. Far longer than that, actually. The scandal has been brought up from time to time through the years when members of that team reminisce about, most often, how the Patriots offense somehow knew when blitzes were coming. Just the other day, former Eagles defensive backs coach Steve Spagnuolo was in the news for railing on about Spygate, even if he never explicitly used the word.

Clearly, many Eagles players, coaches and fans alike are not completely over this controversy. The degree to which they are not over it varies, and that’s each individual’s prerogative.

After all these years, it just seems trivial.

Fact: The Patriots broke the rules. From a period believed to have started in 2000 – the franchise’s first world-championship season – up to Week 1, 2007, they illegally videotaped opposing coaches from an unapproved location. This footage may have been used to decipher, or steal, defensive signals, or play calls, as they were relayed from the sideline to the field. Obviously, their offense would have an advantage if they knew what was coming. As a result, the club was fined and forced to forfeit a first-round draft pick.

And in the 11 seasons since, the Patriots have been to the Super Bowl five times, won twice, and have failed to advance to at least the conference title game only three times. It’s probably safe to say whatever advantage they gained from taping signals in the past paled in comparison to the caliber of players, coaches and executives they hired.

Even the act of stealing signals is as old as the game itself. The Patriots used a camera. This wasn’t some grand innovation. They just got caught. You could even make the case the Eagles should've done a better job of disgusing their calls.

“The guy’s giving signals out in front of 80,000 people, OK,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Spygate in 2015, per ProFootballTalk. “So we filmed him taking signals out in front of 80,000 people, like there were a lot of other teams doing at that time, too.

“The guy’s in front of 80,000 people. 80,000 people saw it. Everybody [on the] sideline saw it. Everybody sees our guy in front of the 80,000 people. I mean, there he is. So, it was wrong, we were disciplined for it. That’s it.”

It’s true the Patriots have been accused of worse than what is public record. It’s possible they did worse than what is even alleged. The NFL destroyed all of the evidence they have of Spygate, a decision that lends itself to conspiracy theories. And the Patriots have been embroiled in another cheating scandal since – Deflategate – and found guilty again, however flawed the investigation was. It would be inaccurate to claim they didn’t break the rules, perhaps delusional to believe they aren’t looking for ways to stretch the rules right now.

No one here is suggesting you should like these guys. But continuing to whine about stolen signals more than a decade later, long after the Patriots proved they don’t need them, when the Eagles didn’t play well enough to win that game in the first place, is a lame sob story.

Hopefully an Eagles victory would exorcise those demons once and for all, because it’s nothing more than revisionist history. The Patriots won Super Bowl XXXIX. All that matters now is who wins Super Bowl LII.

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

You can't really fake it at an All-Star Game, especially one where people are actually trying. There's no lucking your way into a couple open shots and a couple generous foul calls and all of a sudden rolling your way to a 30-plus-point game; there's no isolating one defensive mismatch and exploiting it to make yourself look like '01 Shaq. Generally speaking, an All-Star Game shakes out as it should: The best shine the brightest, and those who aren't ready yet fade into the periphery with extra motivation to step things up for next year. 

And that's why it's so awesome that Joel Embiid, a mere 75 games into his NBA career, unquestionably belonged on the biggest stage with the biggest names last night. Playing for Stephen Curry's squad, JoJo posted 19 points on 8-13 shooting, with eight rebounds and two blocks, and a +5 rating for the night -- the only positive plus/minus for the Steph starters. 

Out of context, those numbers may not sound particularly impressive for an All-Star outing, considering the final score of 2017's game was 192-182. But thanks to increased financial and personal motivation in this year's game, the competition was ratcheted up, and though the final score was still a robust 148-145 -- Team LeBron emerging victorious -- no one player really went off in this one, with Team Stephen being led in scoring by DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard (21 each). Consider that JoJo's 19 outpaced both teammates James Harden (12 points on 5-19 FG) and Curry himself (13 on 4-14 FG) -- only two of the greatest scorers in NBA history. 

And what's more, down the stretch it was Embiid who seemed most ready to rise to the moment. With minutes remaining and his team up one, Embiid posted up LeBron James -- LeBron James!! -- for an easy bucket, and with the score tied and under a minute left, he got stuck isolated on the perimeter against Paul George, and still ended up blocking George's shot to win the possession back for his team. Had his squad been able to hang on in this one, he would've been able to mount a fairly compelling case for MVP, which would've made him the first player since at least the 20th century to win top honors in his first All-Star appearance. 

Of course, it didn't happen that way, and Team Stephen coach Mike D'Antoni might get most of the blame as to why. With his squad up one and Team LeBron inbounding out of a timeout, D'Antoni opted for some incomprehensible reason to bench Embiid, his best defensive player -- which, somewhat unsurprisingly, resulted in LeBron scoring quickly and easily at the basket to go up one, and then DeMar DeRozan throwing the ball away at the other end. Embiid entered for the final possession, with his team needing a three to tie, and he had a chance to hoist one, but understandably passed to Curry, who drove his way into traffic and ended up not even getting a shot off. Team LeBron won, and James took home his third MVP. 

Frustrating finish, but it can't ruin what came before: Joel Embiid squaring off against the best the NBA has to offer, and proving himself a factor. (Also nailed a three and then blocked a Russell Westbrook drive at the other end, btw, so that beautiful random feud lives on.) He got as good as he gave -- LeBron drilled a triple in his face immediately after JoJo took him down low -- but he was in the mix, and a crucial part of his team's successes and failures. It should be the first of many such All-Star starring roles for Embiid, and hopefully the last for some time that doesn't also include him being flanked by Process Truster in Arms Ben Simmons. 

But even if it isn't -- even if nothing good ever happens again with Joel, and we look back at this All-Star Game 25 years from now as the high point of this career -- it still would have all been worth it. It was worth it when the team went 10-5 two Januarys ago. It was maybe worth it when Embiid gave his first-ever post-game interview following a Sixers win. 

That's what people will never understand about The Process, and that's what makes nights like this so gratifying. Franchises go decades, entire generations, without getting a moment to feel this way about one of their players, and even getting the chance to feel it about one of ours is worth seasons of sacrifice. JoJo lives, and somewhere in the bowels of the Staples Center last night, Our Once and Always Dark Lord Sam Hinkie had to be there and be smiling. Hope he enjoyed the Fergie national anthem as much as I did, as well. 

JJ Redick responds to video in which he allegedly used racial slur

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JJ Redick responds to video in which he allegedly used racial slur

Updated at 12:50 a.m.

Early Sunday, a video surfaced on social media that appeared to put Sixers’ guard JJ Redick in an extremely poor light. Redick has since responded to clear up the situation.

Here’s what happened:

At about 8 a.m., a post appeared on Reddit showing a screenshot and caption alleging that Redick said a racial slur during a video from NBA players wishing Chinese fans a Happy New Year. The video caused a huge uproar on social media. If you wish to see the video, it is located here, at the top.

On the surface, without a response, it looked odd from the start. Redick, who we have come to know as a well-spoken individual who is typically very appreciative of basketball fans, isn’t someone you’d expect this from, let alone with a camera pointing directly at his face with an NBA microphone in front of his lips.

He offered this response on his official Twitter account, saying he was tongue-tied and had no intentions of saying what he did on the video.

Fans reacted on both sides of the issue, some still asking for an apology and others taking Redick for his word. 

On Sunday night, Redick followed up with a longer statement on his Twitter and Instagram, where he further explained himself and indeed issued an apology.

Please read. Thank you.

A post shared by JJ Redick (@jjredick) on

Early Monday, Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin tweeted a statement saying that he spoke with Redick and believes the Sixers' guard didn't say a racial slur.

With the All-Star Break going on, Redick won’t be available for a few more days for the media to ask him about this. There’s a chance this story will continue into next week.