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Dario Saric, the Sixers' Mr. Reliable

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USA Today Images

Dario Saric, the Sixers' Mr. Reliable

It was a dramatic win last night for the Sixers against the post-Lob City LA Clippers. After getting out to a first-quarter advantage that ballooned to double digits by the half, the Sixers fought off a Clips surge — led, of course, by our old friend Lou Williams — that slimmed the lead down to two, before the Sixers made a couple huge plays to stretch the margin back out, and Sweet Lou finally went sour. The Sixers eventually won by double digits, 112-98.

T.J. McConnell was magnificent off the bench, with 17 points, eight assists, zero turnovers and the biggest shot of the game. Joel Embiid persevered through a lousy shooting night (9-22 FG, 1-6 3PT) and a frightening late-game knee tweak to still post MVP numbers (29-16-2, with three blocks and just two turnovers) in the victory. The Sixers are now 28-25, still just eighth in the crowded East, but only a couple of games out of home-court advantage, 2.5 games back of the fourth-seeded Wizards before Sunday's action.

There's a lot to talk about from this game, mostly good (the Sixers are 11-6 with a +6.5 point differential in 2018) and some not so good (did the Sixers play it loose with Embiid's health again?). But I wanna talk about something we don't talk about nearly enough with these Sixers: just how damn consistent Dario Saric's production has been this season. 

Dario didn't have an amazing scoring night against the Clippers. After a strong first quarter, he was mostly neutralized, ending up with just 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting, though he also had nine boards and five assists to go with it all. But getting to 10 in the scoring column extends a remarkable streak for The Homie — he's now scored in double figures in his last 33 games, a streak that extends back to the team's Nov. 29 win against the Wizards. 

That's an incredible run for Saric, who has proven a rare reliable scorer for these Sixers, who don't always know what they're getting from their supporting cast. To put it in perspective: over that stretch since late November, JJ Redick has scored in single figures three times, Ben Simmons has done it six times and Robert Covington has done it 11 times. Amir Johnson has done it 30 times. The only other Sixer to go without a single-digit scoring night over that span is, of course, Embiid, who hasn't missed double digits since December 2016, when he scored nine against the Raptors. 

But, of course, there is a key difference between Embiid and Saric: Over that span since late November, Embiid has missed eight games, and going back to that nine-point night against Toronto in December 2016, he's missed 52. Saric has sat just one game since the Wizards win (a December home loss to the Lakers), and only two games total since coming over from Andalou Efes — easily earning The Homie the Sixers' gold star for best attendance in the post-Our Once and Always Dark Lord Sam Hinkie era. 

He wasn't always this consistent a scorer, though. In his rookie year, he missed double digits 28 times, and he began his sophomore season without a double-digit scoring night until the team's sixth game — including a goose egg against Houston, the only scoreless night of Saric's young NBA career. But since he hit his groove post-Thanksgiving last season, he's just kept rolling, in large part due to an improved three-point stroke (40 percent on five attempts a game over that stretch after converting just 31 percent of his four attempts a game his rookie season) and sparkling free-throw shooting (91 percent, up from 78 percent his rookie year). That extra couple points a night from his shooting uptick seems to make all the difference in Dario's baseline production, and now you can just pencil him in for about 15 points a night no matter what.

Saric won't be participating in All-Star Saturday or Sunday, he won't figure in year-end awards consideration and he won't be one of the first three players who anyone talks about when previewing what should hopefully be the Sixers' first playoff appearance in five years this April. But they wouldn't be in this position without him, and given how much he's already improved in just a season and a half in the NBA, Sixers fans should be as excited about where The Homie goes from here as anything. 

Doug Pederson found out Eagles hired him through media reports

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Doug Pederson found out Eagles hired him through media reports

Remember when you heard Doug Pederson was going to become the Eagles’ head coach? 

That was probably before Doug Pederson found out he was going to become the Eagles’ head coach. 

Thanks to an excerpt from Pederson’s book, “Fearless” posted on SI.com, the Eagles’ Super Bowl winning head coach revealed that he didn’t find out he had the job until a few reporters broke the news. 

He didn’t find out officially until days after:

A few days later, I called Jeannie from the office and she said, “I just heard the news!” I’m like, “What news?” She said, “Ian Rappaport and Adam Schefter are saying you’re going to be the next head coach of the Eagles. That’s awesome!” 

Officially, nobody told me anything, but I was excited anyway. Andy, after hearing the reports, came by to congratulate me. I hadn’t heard from Howie or Jeffrey though. We lost to New England that Saturday night. It was disappointing to lose in the divisional round of the playoffs after the season we had. When I was leaving Gillette Stadium some Philadelphia reporters were waiting for me, but I declined all interviews. 

On the bus to the airport my phone rang. It was a 215 area code. I didn’t recognize the number but I picked up and it was Jeffrey Lurie on the other end. He said he was sorry for the loss, but it was a great season. Then we talked about my interview, and he told me how impressed he was. He said he wanted to officially extend the offer to me to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. I was thinking, “Heck yeah! I’d love to accept the job.”

The whole excerpt is pretty interesting. Pederson admits to hearing rumors that he wasn’t the first choice for the job and even details the interview process he went through with Jeffrey Lurie and the Eagles’ front office. 

They even made him give a mock speech to the Eagles’ brass as if they were players in their first spring meeting with him as head coach. 

Fast forward a couple years and Pederson is now extended through the 2022 season. He’s also a legend in Philly. 

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Doug Pederson struck one final blow to Mike Lombardi

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Doug Pederson struck one final blow to Mike Lombardi

No NFL writer has eaten more crow in the last year than Mike Lombardi, who famously quipped Doug Pederson “might be less qualified to coach a team than anyone I’ve ever seen.” It was a foolish thing to say at the time, and clearly, the statement did not age well, seeing as Pederson guided the Eagles to a Super Bowl championship immediately after.

Well, Lombardi is the gift that keeps on giving. It wasn’t enough he had to eat those words and essentially admit that was probably the most profoundly stupid sentence a football person could string together. It turns out Pederson got one last chance to own Lombardi before his immortal line could fade into the background, taking its place along such whimsically remembered Philly sports quotes as “We’re talking about practice,” and “We can all count, those points would’ve helped.”

NBC Sports’ Peter King got a chance to preview Pederson’s new book, “Fearless: How an Underdog becomes a Champion” co-written by Dan Pompei. The book, which goes on sale Tuesday, Aug. 21, contains an interesting nugget about the coach’s behind-the-scenes dealings with Lombardi.

That got a ton of attention last year when Pederson was on the road to winning the Super Bowl. Pederson, in the book, says Lombardi wrote him a letter during the playoffs last season. “It was written on a typewriter, and was about three paragraphs long,” Pederson writes. “The letter said, ‘The first rule of any informed opinion is to never began with the end in mind. And I violated that rule. For that, I extend my sincere apology.’ I was appreciative, and at least it showed he was man enough to admit he was wrong.”

Then this: “After the Super Bowl, the possibility of writing this book came up. One of the interested companies thought Lombardi would be a great co-author and submitted an offer. I said, respectfully, ‘No thanks.’”

And now you know the rest of the story.

Maybe it shouldn’t surprise in 2018, but to think somebody got the idea that Lombardi should be the person to help tell Pederson’s story, and actually had the audacity to ask Pederson this is crazy. Lombardi said about the most disrespectful thing possible about another man’s career, his livelihood — and most importantly, was completely, 100 percent wrong — but, sure, let’s check with Pederson and see how he feels about this.

You might even say Lombardi was probably the least qualified person for the job.

Lombardi did go on to write a book, by the way. While it’s not an autobiography, nor does the title refer to the author, does anybody else find a smidgen of irony in the book’s title, “Gridiron Genius?”

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