If only all life was as simple as T.J. McConnell playing against the Knicks

If only all life was as simple as T.J. McConnell playing against the Knicks

Who knows why it is that Timothy John McConnell enjoys tormenting the New York Knicks as much as he does? Maybe he takes it particularly personal that they passed on him in the 2015 draft -- even though the other 29 teams did too, including the Sixers -- or maybe he has a weird feud with Jeff Hornacek or Courtney Lee that none of us know about. In any event, in addition to hitting the greatest shot in the history of Joel Embiid against the Knicks last year, and posting a huge 15-5-4 against them in the Sixers' Christmas win at MSG earlier this season, T.J. has now posted the first triple-double of his career -- and the first in Sixers bench history -- in a 108-92 win over the disintegrating 'Bockers. 

The final score belies a little how stressful this game was for most of the first three quarters, where the Sixers seemed a little dazed on both sides of the ball, committing sloppy turnovers and playing lazy defense and allowing the undermanned Knicks to hang around in what should've been a relatively easy win for Philly. But the Sixers locked in for the final 15 minutes or so, and McConnell was absolutely everywhere as they were doing so -- not only did he end with 10 points, 10 boards and 11 dimes, but he also tied a career high with six steals. It was a spectacular performance that any Process Truster could point to as a definitive example of just what T.J. means to this team. 

And both the team and the fans kinda needed a moment like this at this point in the season, I think. Despite the Sixers being in the midst of a four-game winning streak where they've won by an average of 15 points a night -- 10-0 at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018, too -- the energy around the team has been a little muted lately. Maybe we're getting spoiled, maybe we're all exhausted over the Markelle Fultz drama, maybe it's just that point in the season, but I feel like the WFC needed something to get rocking over, and they certainly got it last night. 

Even Lou Williams -- who has no relationship to T.J. McConnell that I can tell, beyond being fellow members of the Sixers Sixth Man Fraternity -- was getting hyped:

The Sixers have just one more game before an eight-day All-Star layover -- a big one tomorrow at home against the Heat. With the Sixers surging and the Pistons now in the midst of the post-Blake Griffin trade hangover, losers of three straight, a final W to close out the five-game homestand would be enormous in setting Philly up for a pretty chill All-Star break, one in which their playoff standing is fairly secure and all that remains is scrapping for seeding. Not to mention two more games against the Knicks are still to come, in which T.J. will probably average 25 points, 11 boards, 15 assists, two buzzer-beater daggers and three noogies delivered to Frank Ntilikina. Can't wait.

Eagles releasing Mychal Kendricks the right thing to do

Eagles releasing Mychal Kendricks the right thing to do

For the past two years, the Eagles kept Mychal Kendricks in a state of limbo. It was about time the team set him free.

The Eagles didn’t release Kendricks on Tuesday simply because it was “the right thing to do” — if there was such a thing in this instance. They did it because the move will save $6 million against the salary cap in 2018. They did it because Corey Nelson is a cheaper alternative. They did it because Kendricks isn’t an ideal fit for Jim Schwartz’s scheme. They did it because, evidently, they couldn’t find a trade partner.

In short, the Eagles released Kendricks because the 27-year-old linebacker wasn’t worth $16-plus million over the next two seasons. That really should be enough.

It was also about time the Eagles put Kendricks out of his misery. He made no secret about being unhappy with his reduced role since Schwartz became defensive coordinator, asking the team to either cut him or move him last offseason. The subject of trade rumors annually since 2015, Kendricks probably hadn’t felt comfortable about his standing with the organization for quite awhile.

At what point are the Eagles holding him hostage?

Good thing the club didn’t oblige Kendricks’ request last year, as he wound up filling in for the injured Jordan Hicks and playing a pivotal part in the Eagles’ Super Bowl run. Some see that as evidence the team made a mistake in letting a six-year veteran with 78 career NFL starts to walk away for nothing.

While it’s true Kendricks came up big in 2017, he wasn’t exactly an impact player for the Eagles, finishing the season with four tackles for loss and two sacks in 18 games, including playoffs. He hasn’t forced a fumble since 2015. He hasn’t recorded an interception since 2013. And rushing the passer, arguably his greatest strength, goes almost completely unutilized in Schwartz’s scheme, which sent Kendricks after opposing quarterbacks just eight times all year, according to Pro Football Focus.

Numbers may not do Kendricks’ campaign justice, but typically more would be expected of somebody who was set to carry a $7.6 million cap figure into ’18.

The Eagles also feel they are in better shape now in terms of depth at the position (see story).

Kendricks’ days appeared to be numbered the moment the club signed Nelson and the free-agent addition declared he would compete for the starting weakside linebacker job. It’s unclear whether the Eagles are putting too much faith in the former Denver Broncos reserve and the host of linebacker prospects already on the roster. Regardless, the team likes its options.

So why force Kendricks to stick around? From the team’s standpoint, it was a lot of money for the level of production, for not being a great scheme fit and given his impending return to the bench. The Eagles were wise to keep him around for one more year, but with other arrangements since made, moving on now doesn’t sting as much.

The fact Kendricks was anything less than thrilled to be back only makes it easier. After handling his displeasure like a pro last season, then helping the Eagles win their first Super Bowl championship, granting his release seems like the least the team could do.

Joel Embiid takes shot at Aron Baynes on Twitter

Joel Embiid takes shot at Aron Baynes on Twitter

With the Sixers eliminated, Joel Embiid was asked at his end-of-the-season press conference if he had a prediction for which remaining team would win the NBA championship.

His response was short and simple.

"Nah," he said, "I don't care."

However, Embiid looks like he's still keeping some tabs on the NBA postseason.

And, watching from afar, he's apparently not too impressed with Aron Baynes.

If you recall, during the Eastern Conference semifinals series in which the Sixers fell to the Celtics in five games, Embiid and Baynes had their moments.

Lots of physicality. A few minor scuffles. And this monster dunk by Embiid.

That's probably what the Sixers' big man was referring to when he tweeted Monday night during Game 4 of the Cavaliers-Celtics series.

Could this play have prompted the tweet?

Baynes probably isn't focused on Embiid or Twitter right now in the heat of the Eastern Conference Finals, but maybe he'll be asked about the tweet during media availability sessions before the series goes to Game 5 Wednesday.

The 31-year-old from New Zealand, a role player not known for tons of offense but with a championship ring, can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. We'll have to see where he plays next season, but let's hope some matchups with Embiid are in the near future.