Rob's Rants

Rob's Rants — Golden Knights' success is a good thing

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Rob's Rants — Golden Knights' success is a good thing

My latest installment of Rob Rant’s focuses on things I just don’t get.

Knight time
I don’t grasp the sentiment that the expansion Vegas Golden Knights' advancement to the NHL Stanley Cup Final is a black eye for the NHL. Maybe I’m a glass half-full guy but I think it’s the best national sports story of the year. They played their first home game just nine days after the horrific shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Vegas Strip that left 59 dead. And their season served not only as a distraction from the incident but as a galvanizer for the city. 

They had the fifth-most points in the regular season. And beat the Kings, Sharks and Jets in the postseason. Not an easy task. General manager George McPhee made smart selections in the expansion draft, including landing a Stanley Cup champion goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury and nabbing a quality winger in James Neal, among other transactions throughout the season. They showed through a smart front office, good coaching and players buying in, you can speed up the process. I love that unlike the NBA where a super team like Golden State is basically a lock to win it again, hockey has a great storyline. Vegas’ success proves that if you do the right thing in the offseason, next year could be your team’s year.           

Style over substance
On the heels of last week’s NBA combine, it’s always puzzled me how much stock organizations in various leagues put on workouts rather than game tape. I get it that to play any sport professionally there is a level of athleticism needed. But I’d much rather see how said prospect did against real game competition instead of a stopwatch or tape measure. How do they think about the game? How do they react when their team is down? What kind of teammate are they? You need look no further than Tom Brady’s 40-yard dash at his combine workout. His career turned out pretty well.    

Off base?
So Odubel Herrera got on base Sunday versus the Cardinals but his 45-game on-base streak was still snapped. Herrera struck out in his last at-bat but because of a wild pitch, he reached first base. The strikeout nullified the act of reaching base and keeping the streak alive, according to MLB rules. But if it’s not an out, and he gets on base, shouldn’t that count toward the streak?     

Loyal royal
The wedding of Price Harry and Meghan Markle this past weekend seemed like a lovely affair. My evite must have went right to my spam. Don’t get me wrong, Harry comes off as a sincere, caring dude who is genuinely concerned with using his platform to better the world. And his new bride is beautiful and an accomplished actress. They seem like a great couple. And I get that the new Duchess of Sussex’s biracial ancestry is of interest to folks.    

Rob's Rants — Heat are now most hated NBA team

Rob's Rants — Heat are now most hated NBA team

The reasons were all on full display Thursday in Miami. From the Justise Winslow’s goggles stomp, to Dwyane Wade’s take-down of Justin Anderson, to Goran Dragic’s flexing, to Kelly Olynyk’s cheap shots and man-bun, to Hassan Whiteside’s laughable belief that he is even in the same league as Joel Embiid, the Miami Heat have vaulted to the top of my current NBA hate list.

That spot had been reserved by the Boston Celtics since I was a kid. Red Auerbach, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, cheap-shot artist, Danny Ainge, and that towel-waving weasel, M.L. Carr, were an easy team to despise. Not to mention the arrogance of their fanbase. They were the Sixers' chief rival in those days. The difference with those Celtics squads and the Heat is, those Boston teams were great. This Miami team because of their lack of talent must play a physical, often cheap, dirty style. 

But the beauty of Game 3 of this first-round series was the Sixers beat them at their own physical game. Thanks in large part to the return of the masked man, Joel Embiid. 

Let’s start with Winslow purposely attempting to break Embiid’s goggles that popped off of his facial mask. The ref was standing right there; how that is not a technical at the very least is beyond comprehension. Then there’s Wade, a future Hall of Famer, no doubt. But a bigger whiner you won’t find and that is saying something in the NBA. Wade cries more than an infant teething. He should have been ejected or issued at the very least the only technical for his tangle with Anderson. The double technical was a classic case of pedigreed player vs. a deep guy.  

Olynyk is a complete hack and in the vein of Wade, never thinks he commits a foul. Whiteside is no match for Embiid. He can only play one end and when Embiid is on the floor it’s clear he can’t even handle him on that one end.

It was thoroughly enjoyable to watch the Sixers silence the faux Miami crowd that is more interested in showing up overpriced, garish clothes and being seen than what is happening on the hardwood.       

It won’t be easy by any stretch but here’s hoping the Sixers can send this bunch packing in five. If Embiid stays healthy, the Sixers advance but between then and now, expect much of the same tactics from Miami. And another layer to the Heat hate.

Rob's Rants — Yes, Villanova is a Philly team

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Rob's Rants — Yes, Villanova is a Philly team

What Villanova has done in recent years is nothing short of amazing. Only Florida, who won back-to-back titles in 2006-07, has won as many national titles in as short a period of time in the last 25 years in men’s college basketball. The Wildcats are elite. They are a “blue blood” program. They are right there with the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas. They also have so dominated city play that they have completely separated themselves from their Big 5 brethren. As a Temple grad, that last sentence hurts. But so does the truth.

And as it did two years ago when Jay Wright’s team won the championship, the “debate” of whether Villanova is a “Philly” team or not, has reared its parochial head. This one is right up there with the dumbest debates I’ve ever heard. We do provincial like no other area but even by Philadelphia standards, this one is ridiculous. Let’s start with proximity. Villanova’s campus is a stone’s throw away from the city limits. We’re not talking about State College here. Just to put it into perspective, if you cross City Avenue on St. Joe's campus, you’re in the suburbs.

'Nova’s squad has a lot of local flavors. Wright is a Council Rock North grad. Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Collin Gillespie and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, all rotational players, are all local. Jalen Brunson spent his early years in South Jersey.        

I get if you graduated from one of the other Big 5 schools, of course when your school plays Villanova, you want it to lose. That’s a given. I’m not one who even says you have to root for them when the Wildcats are making a deep tournament run. Full disclosure, I do root for all the local teams when not playing Temple, come tourney time. Winning has not made Wright brash and arrogant as it did his mentor, Rollie Massimino. He values the tradition of the Big 5 and what it means to the city. But to claim they’re not a “Philadelphia” team comes off small and in some cases, strikes as bitter and jealous of Villanova’s success.

The fall of Nerlens
The great Nerlens Noel was suspended by the NBA for five for violating its anti-drug policy. Meaning this was Noel’s third positive test. This is a guy who in the offseason reportedly turned down a four-year, $70 million deal from Dallas. Noel, who always valued his ability far more than any NBA executive or talent-evaluator, wanted a max deal. Dallas had no interest, neither did any other NBA team. He ended up signing a one-year, $4.5 million qualifying offer. Noel averaged 4.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in 30 games this season. Many of which he was a DNP — Coach's Decision.

When the Sixers dealt him at the trade deadline last year for Justin Anderson and what turned out to be two second-round picks, there was much outrage in these parts that they didn’t get enough in return. Turns out they did. Noel’s offensive game is greatly limited. He is a good defensive player, far from elite. And for a 6-foot-11 guy, he has never averaged more than 8.1 rebounds per game in his career. He’s not on the bust level of Jahlil Okafor, but he’s closer to him than he is special.