Rob's Rants — LaVar Ball's slippery slope

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Rob's Rants — LaVar Ball's slippery slope

Here's the latest edition of Rob's Rants in which NBC Sports Philadelphia's Rob Ellis does just that about the hottest topics in Philly sports.

Big blowhard brand
In news that ranks right behind the sun rising in the East and the Cleveland Browns stinking, LaVar Ball is once again popping off. The latest episode surrounding the carnival barker/helicopter dad comes from his comments to ESPN regarding his son Lonzo's coach, Luke Walton. 

"You can see they're not playing for Luke no more," LaVar said. "Luke doesn't have control of the team no more. They don't want to play for him." 

At this point, you would just chalk this up to a guy begging for attention and who doesn't care in the least that said attention does nothing but make life more difficult for his rookie son. The same father who in the last year has also pulled his 16-year-old out of high school because he didn't like the coach and removed his freshman son in college because his school had the audacity to suspend his son for allegedly shop-lifting in a foreign country.

But Ball's latest diarrhea of the mouth has brought about a very interesting reaction from some of Walton's fellow NBA coaches. Namely Rick Carlisle, Stan Van Gundy and Steve Kerr. Carlisle, also president of the National Basketball Coaches Association, and Van Gundy were highly critical of ESPN for writing the story and giving Ball the platform to say what he said. They went as far as threatening non-cooperation with the network when it comes to access, interviews, etc.

This is a slippery slope. Networks, including this one, pay big bucks for the rights to broadcast games. The players and coaches are paid handsomely, in part because of those deals. So there is a partnership. But that pact does not give the coaches or the owners or the leagues the right to tell networks what stories they can or cannot do. You may disagree with Ball, you may be sick of him and the whole circus that follows him, you may hate the TMZ-ization of sports, and I would agree with you. But the reality is, sports are covered differently in 2018 than they were 10 or 20 years ago. Gone are the days of highlight, postgame soundbite, next highlight. For better or worse, debate, controversy, salaciousness sells. 

The leagues do not have the right to dictate content. And Ball has every right to his opinion, even if it is stale and not in the best interest of his kid.

No flow
Let me get this straight, the Flyers and the entire Metropolitan Division have a mandated bye this week? The orange and black last played Sunday and won't play again until Saturday. Keep in mind, the NHL all-star break is coming up later this month and they are off again for five days? The Flyers finally appear to be gaining some consistency, having won three in a row and four of their last five and they're being shut down for six days. Awesome.

The Sixers last played Friday and next play Thursday in London. Granted this is not your typical flight or travel game — the Sixers are considered the home team — but six days in between? Then they don't play again until Tuesday. Two games in the span of nine days in January?   

Timing is everything
Monday night's national championship game between Alabama and Georgia lasted 3 hours and 50 minutes. It ended at 12:10 a.m. I know the argument about the West Coast and splitting your audience when it comes to start times, but Alabama's overtime win over Georgia was a classic and it's a shame that most kids and folks who have to get up early for work missed it.

Sixers rookies starting to see some light in injury rehab

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Sixers rookies starting to see some light in injury rehab

CAMDEN, N.J. — The sting the Sixers took from that dreaded rookie curse earlier in the summer is starting to wear off a little bit.

Zhaire Smith underwent a follow-up on his broken left foot on Thursday and has been cleared to begin full weight bearing. Dr. Martin O’Malley, the associate attending orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City who performed the procedure, was pleased with Smith’s healing and will reevaluate him in approximately four weeks.

Smith, who was the No. 16 pick in the 2018 NBA draft and acquired by the Sixers, suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot at Tim Grgurich's basketball camp in Las Vegas on Aug. 6 and had surgery on Aug. 9. 

While there was no timetable provided for Smith’s return, one report stated the team expects him back around Christmas.

Smith wasn’t the lone Sixers rookie to get a bit of good injury news. Shake Milton, who was recovering from a stress fracture in his back, was cleared for limited contact and is progressing to full clearance without limitations.

Landry Shamet, the No. 26 overall pick in June by the Sixers, has also been fully cleared from a right ankle sprain he suffered during the team’s first summer league game.

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Sixers new GM Elton Brand encouraged by what he's seen from Markelle Fultz

Sixers new GM Elton Brand encouraged by what he's seen from Markelle Fultz

CAMDEN, N.J. — It’s only fitting on the day Elton Brand is announced as the Sixers’ new GM that we get our first glimpse of Markelle Fultz’s rebuilt jumper.

Fultz released videos of him draining a bunch of threes as part of an interview with Isaiah Thomas for The Players' Tribune Thursday morning. The shots were taken by himself in a gym and were strictly of the catch-and-shoot variety, but an encouraging sign nonetheless. 

Brand has a connection to Fultz. Both players were selected No. 1 overall, so Brand has a unique perspective in being able to relate to Fultz. After having one of the oddest rookie seasons in which he played just 14 games and had the most scrutinized jumper maybe in NBA history — or maybe Ben Simmons does? — Fultz appears healthy and ready to contribute.

“We spoke as No. 1 pick to No. 1 pick,” Brand said during his introductory press conference at the team’s practice facility Thursday. “My stance was always it’s not about this practice or this game, it’s the big picture. 

“And I’ve been so encouraged about what I’ve seen. A special young man. I know why he was the No. 1 pick. He’s going to do great. I’ve been very encouraged by what I’ve seen. When I got the job [Wednesday] it was 8:00 p.m., stayed until 10 p.m., who was here? This was after practice. Before practice today, who’s here? He’s been in the gym working tirelessly to develop and become a great player.”

There’s going to be a ton on Fultz’s shoulder(s) this season. The Sixers moved up from the No. 3 to No. 1 pick to acquire the rights to draft him. They made that pick in hopes that he’d be a perfect fit to develop alongside Joel Embiid and Simmons.

It obviously didn’t work out that way during his rookie season. Now he’s healthy after having to watch most of last season while his team had its best record since 2001. Everyone saw that this team needed something during the loss to the Boston Celtics last season. They needed a player that can create shots for himself and others.

The goal for Brand and the Sixers is to win an NBA championship — he made that abundantly clear. Managing partner Josh Harris also made it clear that he believes hiring Brand for this post gives the team the best chance to land star talent in the future. 

But for the immediate future, Brand wants to get the most out of the players that are in house.

“Immediate goals are to develop this young core,” Brand said. “It was Joel’s first time in the playoffs. It was Ben’s first time in the playoffs. We talk about adding a third superstar — we may have that third superstar in this room right now. And fourth — we have that much talent. They’re young but we have that much talent.”

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