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Kevin Negandhi on anchoring SportsCenter with no live sports: 'It's surreal'

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NBCSP

Kevin Negandhi on anchoring SportsCenter with no live sports: 'It's surreal'

During this time of social distancing, we’re checking in with those in the Philly sports world to see How They’re Keeping Busy. Up next, anchor for ESPN's SportsCenter and Temple University alum Kevin Negandhi.

What’s it like anchoring one of the biggest sports news shows in the world during a time with no live sports?

Kevin Negandhi: Surreal. It's definitely a challenge because you want to find a way to give the viewer the ability to escape. Wherever we turn, everything is different. We're in a different studio, we're reporting on teams and leagues are affected; the Olympics being postponed. We're all feeling the impact of coronavirus. There have been a handful of segments where we can talk about the NFL. It was great having breaking news -- I thank Tom Brady! -- that happened in the middle of our show Tuesday. To me, that was fun because we get to talk about scenarios when we're in this little bubble of the sports world that we're all craving to get back into. I miss it.

We still try to have some fun. The other day Karl Ravech and I did a five-minute highlight reel of the Top 10 Sweet 16 Moments. Man, that was awesome. That's the kind of stuff that keeps you coming back and wanting more while also doing our job and providing a service of letting everybody know what's going on with the leagues.

I know you’re a big Sixers guy. What’s your gut feeling on the timing of the shut down with the championship aspirations they had?

KN: I look at it this way, if this allows Ben Simmons to get his back heeled up, I'm all for it. If this allows Joel Embiid to rest his body and get ready for a playoff run, I'm all for it. I'm one of those guys who deals with the reality and tries to find the positives. If this time off allows those two to get their bodies ready for a six-week stretch, come on now. Let's find the positives.

Are you getting your Philly sports fill? Watching old games? YouTube?

KN: You know what I did on Wednesday night. I hyped my 6 and 7-year-old sons, before I went into work and I said, "Listen, the Eagles pick at No. 21 in the draft next month, we're going to target a wide receiver after seeing how free agency played out. Tonight, when I get home. We're going to go on YouTube and look at the top five to ten receivers. But there's one specific guy I want to watch. The three of us are going to watch it." So when I came home from work, first thing my 7-year-old said when I got home was, "Let's go, let's hit YouTube and look at the receivers." We focused on Justin Jefferson from LSU because many mocks have him going to Philly. We watched a ton of YouTube highlights so now they have some context when the draft comes around. Then I had to let them know that Jefferson could be gone at No. 21 and they'd have to prepare for that. We may have to go with another receiver, but I think we're targeting wide receivers.

You may want to send your reports to [Eagles GM] Howie Roseman.

KN: You know what, I think the way the Eagles have done their entire free agency, it's with the goal of getting two or three receivers in this draft. It continues the theme of making sure Carson Wentz is the strongest voice in the locker room on the offensive side.

Any tips for everyone stuck at home who may be stressed?

KN: Honestly, get outside if you can and get those endorphins going, especially when you're cooped up with kids. Even if it's just a 20-40 minute walk around the neighborhood, try and be active. We're making up games in the house with the kids, pop-a-shot tournaments, all sorts of stuff to be engaged and active. I think the most important thing for anybody is to do something active.

Is there specific content you’d recommend to others? Anything you’re binge-watching/reading/listening to?

KN: Aside from watching everything on Disney+ over and over and over -- I couldn't get the song from Frozen 2 out of my head the other day when I was on the SportsCenter set, nothing worse than that -- I'm binging Better Caul Saul. Really great show. I'm flying through that. Eventually I'll get to Tiger King on Netflix. While we live in a crazy world, I'm not sure why I'm going to spend more time watching a crazy show. It's a good outlet. One small little guilty pleasure I do every now and then, I watch Super Bowl 52. There's nothing better. I still get goosebumps at a variety of moments.

Is there a local business or charity you’re supporting during these tough times?

KN: I've always been a big supporter of the Special Olympics. They always need as much support as they can get to make sure they have activities. The impact it has on communities and families is huge. In times like these, it can be tough. So if people can give anything, no matter how small, it makes a difference.

Previously:

Why is there a basketball hoop traveling through Philadelphia during protests?

Why is there a basketball hoop traveling through Philadelphia during protests?

Over the last week, you’ve likely seen, read about, participated in or experienced in some way protests against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd.

You might also have noticed a basketball hoop rolling around Philadelphia. 

NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Marc Farzetta recently talked with Philadelphia native Stephania Ergemlidze, who’s responsible for the traveling games of 1-on-1.

“Basketball is the one way I know how to spread love and I know how to bring people together,” Ergemlidze told Farzetta, “so it was a no-brainer.”

Ergemlidze said that she was cognizant of not wanting to detract or warp the messages of protestors. Philadelphians gathered on Saturday for the seventh straight day in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“That was something I was very, very nervous about,” she said. “What way can I do it where I’m not actually distracting from the protests? My goal was not to distract from the protests. My goal is to amplify it and show the positive sides of things, because right now I feel like they’re sharing a lot of negatives, like rioting and looting, but there’s also a lot of peaceful protesting going on.”

You can watch Ergemlidze’s interview with Farzetta in the video above. 

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Would a neutral site help or hurt the mercurial Sixers?

Would a neutral site help or hurt the mercurial Sixers?

The night the NBA season was suspended back on March 11, we were all wondering about the possibility of the league playing games without fans.

The last player the Sixers media got to speak with was Glenn Robinson III. As he sat at the podium six feet away from us, he pondered what it might be like to play a game with no fans and what might be done to account for a quiet gym.

"I think how they play music when we're on defense, and offense they kind of play the instrumental in the background — maybe they turn that up a little bit," Robinson said. "Maybe they got the fake fans that cheer in the background, so maybe we can do that. That'd be interesting for us to do, is act like there's more fans here."

A reporter mentioned that fake fan noise wasn't a bad idea.

"I'll take that credit," Robinson joked.

Almost three months later, not only do empty stands appear to be a reality, but games at a neutral site in Walt Disney World are part of the return-to-play format approved by players and owners.

While it’s unknown whether the NBA heard Robinson’s idea, that is reportedly a notion the league is considering, with fake crowd noise provided by the folks at NBA 2K.

For the Sixers, the situation will be especially difficult to grasp. They were on pace to have the widest gap between their home and road record in NBA history. 

The happiest place on Earth for the Sixers was the Wells Fargo Center, where they boasted a preposterous 29-2 record. On the road, they had as many wins as the rudderless Knicks with an abysmal 10-24 mark. To make matters worse, the Sixers finished 0-4 in the state of Florida this season with two losses each in Miami and Orlando.

It's hard to know if having no true home-court advantage will hurt the Sixers or their opponents more.

The stakes will be much higher than the previous four games in the Sunshine State, or any game before the season was suspended, for that matter. The Sixers will have two or three “preseason” games and just eight regular-season games — which they absolutely need — before the playoffs begin.

Brett Brown has always referred to the last third of the season as a sprint. This time line is even more accelerated. Perhaps that’ll force his players to have a heightened focus and put their road woes behind them.

“Of course, [playing with no fans is] going to have some level of an impact,” Brown said to reporters on May 15. “I do feel just the mere fact that we'll be playing again might be able to sort of minimize whatever awkwardness playing in front of zero fans is going to teach all of us.”

For those of us at home, the lack of crowd noise, however unfortunate, could add an interesting dynamic. If Joel Embiid is telling an opposing center that they can’t bleeping guard him, we may hear it. When Tobias Harris gets hacked on his way to the lane with no whistle, we may hear the earful he gives the official. When Ben Simmons throws down a rim-rocking dunk, we may hear him bellowing.

It’s uncharted territory for every person involved.

“I think it will be almost comical,” Brown said, “like the communication with referees and the back and forth with players and the rest. I mean, think about that, so much of it really is drowned in 20,000 people — there won't be at all. And so how it will play out, I don't know. None of us have ever done this.”

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