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Reminder — Jay Cutler beat the Patriots this season

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USA Today Images

Reminder — Jay Cutler beat the Patriots this season

At this point, Eagles fans probably don’t need much convincing that their team is going to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. But just in case anybody out there thinks the Eagles have no chance at knocking off the greatest dynasty in NFL history, I would like to introduce Exhibit A into evidence.

A Jay Cutler-led Dolphins squad defeated the Patriots, and not even all that long ago. It happened in December.

Allow me to speak to the skeptics here for a moment. You see, I was once like you. My initial reaction upon learning Carson Wentz had suffered a season-ending injury was something along the lines of, “Well, I still think the Eagles can get to the Super Bowl, but I don’t think they could beat the Patriots.”

The very next day, on Monday Night Football, with Cutler at the helm, the Dolphins went on to upset the Patriots, which should put to rest any notion that it can’t be done.

If Cutler can do it, Nick Foles can.

The Patriots lost only three games all season, and the other two were to playoff teams — the Chiefs and the Panthers — both within the first four weeks of the season. Since then, the Patriots have amassed a 13-1 record, the lone blip in the schedule a 27-20 defeat in Week 14 at Miami.

And in case there is any disagreement over how bad Cutler and the Dolphins are, it was one of only two wins the club had in its final 10 games of the season. The other victory was against the 5-11 Broncos. The Dolphins went on to finish only marginally better at 6-10.

Sure, the Patriots’ loss to the Dolphins is just one game, and it took Tom Brady’s worst performance since they were eliminated from the 2015 postseason to make it happen. In fact, Brady has posted a passer rating worse than his 59.5 against the Dolphins only 21 times in an 18-year career, including playoffs, and just five times this decade.

The Eagles can’t necessarily count on Brady to blink. But it can happen, and their defense is certainly capable of making it happen.

Of course, that was the regular season. This is the playoffs — the Super Bowl, to be exact. Brady is 5-2 in the big game and 27-9 in postseason play overall. He led the Patriots back from a 25-point second-half deficit to win a world championship last year. It’s an entirely different stage.

And yet, Cutler beat them. This team. This season. A guy who literally hopped off his couch in August, whose 6.2 yards per pass attempt ranked 28th out of 32 qualifying quarterbacks, who finished tied for fourth with 14 interceptions in 14 games.

None of which is to say the Eagles will definitely accomplish the same. However, they’re a far better team than the Dolphins, and Foles is a better quarterback than Cutler.

Based on that evidence alone, the Eagles’ chances of upsetting the Patriots in the Super Bowl are a whole lot greater than slim or none.

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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SB Nation/Twitter

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.