Joel Embiid played one of the best games in 76ers history

Joel Embiid played one of the best games in 76ers history

Man, did I want the Sixers to win that game last night. Partly due to Lonzo Ball and Luke Walton pettiness, partly because I didn't want the Sixers to risk falling under .500 again after their upcoming meeting with the Warriors, partly just because c'mon it's the friggin' Lakers. But by the end of last night, it was mostly just because I didn't want the greatest individual performance of the Sixers' last decade to go to waste. 

To say Joel Embiid just played the best game of his career is like saying Portugal. The Man just had the biggest pop hit of their career -- I mean, obv. Not only did JoJo demolish his previous career high (32, tied Monday night against the Clippers) in scoring with his 46, he also set new career highs in blocks (7) and assists (7) and came one off his career high in rebounds (16, set Monday night) with his 15 boards. He also went 14-20 from the field (and 16-19 from the line), only turned the ball over twice, and had at least one absolutely dynamite celebration shimmy. Oh, and the Sixers did win, 115-109, mostly 'coz of all that Embiid stuff. 

This was the game we were waiting for. Again, not to sound ungrateful for JoJo's still-superlative first 10 games of the season, but it felt like he turned a corner Monday night against the Clippers, and last night he was finally fully activated. He moved better, he reacted better, he shot better, and he absolutely dominated in all phases of the game. The Lakers could not stop Embiid on defense, and poor Julius Randle probably lost a good half-season off his player development for having been tasked with even trying to defend him at various points in this one. JoJo says this is still just him at 69% fitness -- obligatory "nice" -- and if so, the rest of the league should use a collective monkey-paw wish on him never finding that final 31%. 

Ben Simmons: also good. The Fresh Prince (and yeah, I'm OK with it -- more on that probably at a later date) finished with a mere 18-10-9-5, on 8-13 shooting with just a single turnover. Most importantly, he played brilliantly with Joel, delivering him a couple of those FGs on a purple-and-gold platter with his bounce passes and lobs around the basket. (Not to mention one kickout to Jo behind the arc -- he hit 2 of 3 from three as well, natch -- after posting up a smaller guard in the paint. The whole "Point guard setting up shop in the paint and then kicking out to our seven-foot center for three" thing... if we're supposed to get used to it at some point, it hasn't happened yet.) 

Considering the hugeness of some of his recent performances, Robert Covington had a relatively small impact last night, making some big defensive plays and one dagger three, but still ending with just 12 points (5-9 FG, 2-5 3PT) and six boards, with just one steal. In fact, the entire rest of the squad outside Simmons and Embiid failed to provide a ton of support, with the non-Joel Sixers going a dying-of-thirst 5-30 from deep, including 0-8 from J.J. "Don't Come to L.A." Redick, who needs a homecoming rejuvenation in the worst way. There have been Sixers Ws this season where their three-point shooting bailed out flawed Simmons and Embiid performances, this one was definitely the other way around. 

But of course, RoCo's big score yesterday came off the court, inking a four-year extension that it sounds like will bump his pay to a hefty $17 million for this season, but will only pay him between $10-12 mil annually for the four years to come. That's an absurd bargain for Philly: It's significantly less for one of the league's premiere 3-and-D guys than, for instance, what our Los Angeles friends are paying Luol Deng to not play for them in the seasons to come. Covington is top 10 in the league in Real Plus-Minus, but will be payed like a role player for the peak years of the Process. That's a bigger win than anything the Sixers did at Staples this week. 

Of course, those L.A. wins were pretty nice, particularly last night's Embiid-powered performance. BTW, that 46 is more for any Sixer since Iverson over a decade ago, and more for any non-AI Sixer since Dana Barros' legendary 50-point night in '95. It's also the first time since blocks started being recorded (i.e. post-Wilt) that a player put up numbers equal to 46-15-7-7, and it's the third-highest overall Game Score (vis Basketball-Reference) posted by anyone this year, after 57- and 56-point efforts from LeBron James and James Harden, and the fourth-best in recorded Sixers history. I mean, if you're not Trusting the Process by now, what the hell are you trusting?

Fan recreates Eagles Super Bowl ring out of sand

Fan recreates Eagles Super Bowl ring out of sand

Here’s another story brought to you by the fact that the Eagles are Super Bowl champions.

Remember that gorgeous ring the team received last week? Well, someone made a replica completely out of sand.

That’s pretty impressive work and it’s awesome to see that Stefen Wisniewski is so proud of his ring that he’s wearing it to the beach. His former teammate and "Philly Special" QB, Trey Burton, is questioning that decision, though.

After the ring ceremony, Wisniewski posted this to his Twitter account, a heartfelt story about what the ring means to him.

The guys on the Eagles just get it. Throughout this journey that brought Philadelphia its first Super Bowl trophy, the players have put the fans first and taken everyone along for this incredible ride. It’s awesome to see a story like this where a Super Bowl champion is so proud to share his new ring with a fan.

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Eagles' trading Ronald Darby seems unlikely

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Eagles' trading Ronald Darby seems unlikely

The Eagles paid a reasonably high price to acquire Ronald Darby last August, sending a third-round draft choice and Jordan Matthews to the Bills in exchange for the cornerback.

So why is it all offseason there were rumors the Eagles might turn around and flip Darby? And why is it, even as training camp approaches those rumblings persist?

Darby is the Eagles’ most accomplished cornerback in many respects. Despite missing eight games last season, his three interceptions were tied for the most among the team’s returning players, while only Malcolm Jenkins received a higher grade from Pro Football Focus in the secondary. In terms of pedigree, Darby is a second-round talent with sub-4.4 speed and a nose for the football – the kind of game-changing ability you can’t teach – and, except for Jalen Mills, he’s the only proven corner on the roster.

Yet, the feeling Darby is on the trade block has been hard to shake. After months of speculation, but little concrete evidence to back it up, perhaps it’s worth exploring the legitimacy of the idea.

The rumor appears to have originated from an appearance by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen on 97.5 The Fanatic on March 6. At the time, Mortensen said he would be surprised if the Eagles didn’t add a third-round pick in April’s draft, and believed they would move a defensive back to pick up the extra selection.

Though Mortensen never singled out Darby by name, he was the logical choice. The 24-year-old’s contract is scheduled to expire at the end of the 2018 season, and given the Eagles’ salary cap restraints and depth at cornerback, re-signing him long-term might prove challenging.

There’s been a lot of noise about the possibility of trading Darby ever since, but no strong or definitive report indicating the Eagles ever attempted to do so.

If the Eagles were to deal a corner, Darby does make the most sense. Mills is under contract through 2019, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas through 2020, and recent fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox through 2021. DeVante Bausby has also emerged as a rising prospect under contract for the foreseeable future.

Then again, if the Eagles are serious about repeating as Super Bowl champions, there’s no reason they should be aggressive in trying to dump Darby. A strong argument can be made he’s their best cover man, and set to play the ’18 season for a cool $1 million.

Who’s to say the Eagles wouldn’t make a concerted effort to sign Darby long-term after this season, either? Cornerback is clearly a position the team values. Mills has his limitations – not to mention his contract comes up soon – while Jones, Douglas and Maddox are all relative unknowns at this point. By the end of the ’18 campaign, Darby might be the only certainty of the bunch.

Right now in particular, remove Darby from the equation, and almost everybody else is nothing more than a projection. It’s difficult to imagine the Eagles taking such a huge gamble when there’s still so much at stake this season.

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