Maybe just shut down Dario Saric for the season while we're at it

Maybe just shut down Dario Saric for the season while we're at it

As we've reiterated repeatedly here at The700Level, Dario Saric has given Sixers fans more than we ever could've reasonably asked for in his rookie season. Just coming over in the first place was miracle enough, but the fact that he broke through his rookie adjustment period to put this team on his back when Joel Embiid got injured, and actually kept this team competitive and watchable for months afterwards, was just more of a blessing than we could hope to repay him for. But there's one way the Sixers could certainly begin to pay him back: By shutting him down for the remainder of the season. 

Not that he necessarily needs it, and certainly not that he wants it. Dario undoubtedly yearns to stay out there, to be the only 76er to play all 82 games this season, to help this team get to 30 wins for the first time since Eisenhower was in the White House. But the evidence seems to suggest that The Homie rapidly running out of gas as the season nears its close. He's hit just six of his last 28 three-point attempts, looking like his legs are largely gone. After his 5-18 shooting night against Atlanta last Wednesday, he openly admitted his late-season exhaustion. ("I was tired.... so many games.") And yesterday, he was held to a 24-minute "guideline" due to heel soreness. 

How many more warning signs do we need before Dario is officially put behind protective glass for the rest of the season? I want to see the Sixers get that 30th win as much as anybody, and I certainly don't want to see any late-season slump or benching end up tipping the Rookie of the Year vote in favor of Malcolm friggin' Brogdon. But considering Dario's body is seeming pretty vulnerable these days and that this team passes around meniscus tears like a bag of Doritos, I'd say the priority at this point should just be getting Saric out of this season alive. He probably already has four undiagnosed maladies that should be season-ending, why risk adding more at this point? 

Let's shut him down and park him on the bench next to Joel, Jahlil, Ben, RoCo and (until demonstrated otherwise) Sergio for the season's remainder. Call it tanking if you must, though understand that the Lakers and Suns have basically been pulling vets since the All-Star Break, and we couldn't out-tank them if we sent the Sevens roster to the rest of the Sixers' games for our final five games of the season. Whatever: Let's just let Alex Poythress, Shawn Long and Tiago Splitter play 40 minutes a night for the rest of the year at this point, then give 'em each a gold watch and send 'em to Process Retirement. Bet we still find a way to win two more games with them, anyway.

Mask-wearing pioneer Rip Hamilton has advice for Joel Embiid

Mask-wearing pioneer Rip Hamilton has advice for Joel Embiid

Detroit Pistons star Richard Hamilton wasn't the first player to wear a mask in the NBA but sometimes it feels like he was.

Newsweek caught up with Rip this week to talk about his mask-wearing days and to see if he had any words of wisdom for Joel Embiid. Hamilton first wore a mask for breaking his nose, but he continued to wear it for the remainder of his career.

Embiid made his first playoff appearance of his career last night in Miami while rocking a new mask complete with a custom visor to protect his eyes. It was clearly bothering him but he didn't let it dictate his play.

“It was difficult,” Embiid said of the mask. “But to me it wasn’t really about getting used to it because at the end of the day, no matter how much it bothers me, I’ve still got to be a basketball player."

Hamilton has famously said that he embraced the mask to the point of it becoming his "Batman cape" which allowed him to be more aggresive.

"Over a period of time I started to get used to it. As basketball players, a lot of times you go to the basket and it’s a lot of elbows being thrown, guys are getting poked in the eye," he told Newsweek this week. "You tend to clench up because you don’t want to get hit in the face. Once I started wearing that mask I wasn’t clenching up no more. I was willing to take contact more. I was able to get to the free throw line more because now I’m not scared of getting hit in the face. It kind of made me into a more aggressive and better basketball player."

Hamilton's message to Embiid prior to the series?

"Embrace it. Make it cool. Make it fun. Make it like a prop. Don’t get caught up in saying like, 'I got a piece of plastic on my face. I’m worrying about how I look, I’m worrying about my perception when I shoot.' When you’re out there in, like, shooting drills, don’t be so caught up in putting the mask on and trying to worry about how you shoot with it on. Put it on in the game and just wear it because our game is a non-thinking sport. React. You gotta read and react as quick as possible. The less thinking you do, the better you’ll be."

Rip also took notice of Embiid's frustration with the mask following the game. He encouraged Jo that it only gets easier.

I’ve thrown my mask off numerous times lil bro @joelembiid ...It will get more comfortable game by game ..Trust The Process. #MaskOnMaskOff#YouGotTheJuiceNow #Holdat #Yessir#Mask #TnT #nba #nbaplayoffs #sixers#sixersvsheat #LoveThisGame

Eagles players with the most to gain at OTAs — S Tre Sullivan

AP Images

Eagles players with the most to gain at OTAs — S Tre Sullivan

The Eagles don’t hit the practice field as a team for another five weeks, yet each year coaches point to players who distinguish themselves during the months of April and May. These are the players with the most to gain in phases one and two of OTAs.

There isn’t an unheralded prospect in better position to climb the Eagles’ depth chart this spring than Tre Sullivan.

Never mind the fact that vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas just got done lauding Sullivan’s performance in a pre-draft interview on Thursday. The 24-year-old also happens to be one of only four safeties on the Eagles roster for the time being, creating a huge opportunity for an undrafted free agent from Shepherd College.

Competition will come soon enough, as safety is an obvious target for the Eagles in the upcoming draft. Even then, Sullivan could find himself in the mix for a big role with a good spring.

Last season, Corey Graham was the Eagles’ third safety behind Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Graham, a free agent departure, wound up playing nearly 40 percent of the team’s snaps.

This isn’t merely a backup job. There’s serious playing time at stake – and Sullivan can get a jump on the competition.

Sullivan made a name for himself in last year’s preseason opener against the Packers with a vicious hit on wide receiver Malachi Dupre. It was a scary moment, as Dupre was knocked out by the collision, but also a clean play and an example of the defensive back’s physicality.

Sullivan forced a fumble on the hit and finished with four tackles. He would go on to acquit himself well in three other preseason games, eventually landing on the Eagles’ practice squad.

Listed at 6-foot-0, 200 pounds, Sullivan is a relatively average size for a safety, but plays downhill and hits like a truck.

The Eagles liked the instincts and aggressiveness they saw on the field. Now, Sullivan has a chance to work out and learn from coaches in an environment where there really aren’t any other young players right now and he can be the focus of a lot of attention. Phases one and two of OTAs and the two weeks before the draft in particular could be a pivotal period.

If Sullivan impresses during these early stages, it could go a long way toward solidifying his place with the team.

Even if Sullivan is bested for the third safety spot, he could still wind up on the 53-man roster. The Eagles may opt to carry five since Chris Maragos primarily plays on special teams.

Sullivan will likely enter training camp as a player who’s considered to be on the bubble, and what he does when the pads go on will be most important. However, if he showed up and really nailed these workouts, that could go a long way toward how the team views him heading into this summer.