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Jack McCaffery is the lead sports columnist for the Daily Times and He has spent several decades covering everything from the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, to college hoops, to high school sports in Delco.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Some Sixers notes

Finally recovered from a kneecap injury and a resulting injury to his foot, Jason Richardson was delighted to play in his first NBA game since Jan. 18, 2013 Friday.
“I'm super-excited, man,” the 34-year-old shooting guard said before the game. “I might have gotten four hours of sleep last night because I was so excited to get up and just realize that I am here.”
For reasons practical and inspirational, Brett Brown chose to include Richardson in the starting lineup. With that, there was an irony: On the day after the Sixers tried to move way forward in their program with frenzied trade-deadline activity, they turned to their most tenured player.
“I brought him into my office an hour ago and say, 'Jason, we're going to play you and I want to start you, how do you feel about that?'” Brown said. “And to look at him, you just get goosebumps. Because he is a man with a resume that he has still looking like a child playing his first game.
“For us to introduce him and playing him again is an incredible message for all of us.”
Richardson has been with five organizations and is a 44-percent career shooter. To come back so late in his career for a team in a youth movement was considered among his longest shots of all.
“I'm a veteran,” he said. “So I know not to force it too much. I just want to get out there, get warm, get involved in the game, add some energy out there and just play ball.”
Brown's plan was to limit Richardson to one four-minute shift per period.
“He told me I was starting and I said, 'Seriously?'” Richardson said. “It was his call. I didn't want to be unfair because I hadn't had the work in. But he said he would take care of that aspect of it and he wanted to start me.”
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Isaiah Canaan was in the Wells Fargo Center Friday, but he remained a passed physical away from starting for the Sixers at point guard.
“I am a competitor,” Canaan said. “I am not going to back down to anybody. I was born a winner and that's how I like to be. And I will go out there and leave it all out on the court and do whatever the coaches and my teammates ask of me and do whatever I can to help.”
Brown anticipates starting the second-year guard from Murray State Sunday in Orlando.
“That kid can score the ball,” Brown said. “And he has a body like a Jameer Nelson. And he played with Robert Covington (in Houston last season). I asked Robert to tell me about him. He said, 'Coach, he competes.' And then you go look at what he does in a skill package, and he can shoot.”
In two seasons with the Rockets, Canaan shot 38.5 percent from three-point range.
“We all know when we start playing with Joel (Embiid) and Nerlens (Noel) and some other players, we are going to have to sprinkle some perimeter players into the game,” Brown said. “That's the game. You have to put the ball in the hole from the perimeter. And he can do that.”
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The Sixers' deal with Denver Thursday essentially yielded them a first-round draft choice in exchange for lifting the burden on the Nuggets to pay JaVale McGee for the rest of the season … and $12 million next year, too.
For that, it was expected that McGee was just a moveable piece, likely to be bought out of his contract. That was not the case Friday when the 7-0 center showed up, climbed into uniform No. 1, declared himself ready to play and promised to hang around for a while.
“I don't want to get bought out,” the 27-year-old veteran said. “It's not a positive thing. You don't get all of your money when you get bought out. So it doesn't make any sense for anybody, unless they are older and want to go to a contender or something like that. I'm not that old. I just want to play basketball.”
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Tim Frazier was signed to a second 10-day contract and started at the point Friday. He had played three games for the Sixers, starting twice and collecting 26 assists.
Last week, he started in the D-League All-Star Game.
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Not surprisingly, Brown endorsed Hinkie's decision to move Michael Carter-Williams and K.J. McDaniels.
“I am going to miss those guys,” he said. “I appreciate the effort they put in. They gave A-plus effort. They were great teammates. And they showed tremendous improvement.
“It's an example of a club making extremely difficult decisions and having the guts to make extremely difficult decisions in order to get to someplace special.”  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Berube supports Hextall's plan

Craig Berube met with the press before the Flyers-Blue Jackets game Tuesday.

This was the conversation:

On struggles of the top line:

“It's not that they are not doing their part. There's more to it than just scoring. Everybody looks at them to score. But they have been playing pretty solid defensively and doing other things, too. So that's very important in the game. And this time of year, you need all kinds of people to produce --- and big goals at big times. Because they are going to get checked, those guys, hard. So there is not a lot of room for them. They are going to get the best matchups every night from the other team. And it is important that the other guys are producing and helping out.”

The GM said he wouldn't make a trade just to make the playoffs this year. How does that make you feel?

“He didn't say that. He said he didn't want to give up a young asset. I don't blame him. I wouldn't either. I like our team. I liked it last year, too, at the deadline. Same thing. This team can play. And when they play together, and as of right now, the roll they are on right now, they are a good team. They can play against anybody.”

A player like Raffl, what about his versatility?

“He does a lot of different things for the team. I said I've always liked him at center. He's a good, strong skater. He has the puck more and does good things with it in the middle of the ice. And any role I give him, he does it. He enjoys the game. He's a good, all-around hockey player.”

Decision to keep MacDonald out of the lineup?

“They are all tough. Those are tough decisions with the defense. We've got eight healthy 'd', and they're good players. It's just unfortunate that a couple of them have to sit. But it's a team game and they've just got to be ready to go when called upon.”

You are not losing any … Del Zotto was on the fence, and came back … Mac has been in the league longer …

“They all want to play. I respect that. And when they are not playing and are not happy, I respect that, too. They shouldn't be. But they are part of this team. They've got to be good teammates. That's the bottom line.”

When you are setting a defensive lineup, are you looking at balancing the puck-movers, the stay-at-home guys, etc.?

“That's all part of it. There's different things that come up at different times that we look at. Opponents. How certain players are playing.”

Raffl injury? Until that happened, he was playing great. How much did it set him back?

“Injuries are funny. A lot of times they come back from injuries and they look good right away. And the first two or three games after the injury, there is a lot of adrenaline and things like that. It wears off a bit as the speed and conditioning really set in. It's hard to get game-related in practices. And that's the biggest thing. That's a challenge. I think it's important that we manage Raffl's minutes and keep him as fresh as we can, I believe, and build up and not over-use him and wear him out early on here since he's been back.”

Is he is equally as comfortable on the wing as he is at center?

“I think he probably prefers center. I think some of these guys, it's more freedom, skating, and being involved in it more. But he'll play any role we want. He does a good job either way.”

If you make the playoffs, you will go in as a hot team.

“Let's talk about tonight and that's it. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, OK?”

On Eric Desjardins

“Him and Kimmo remind me a lot of each other, the way they think the game and play the game. Just a real heads-up player. Obviously a winner. Quietly does his job. Just shows up every day and works. He takes it on the ice and leads by example on the ice. A very, very good defenseman. Very under-rated.”

What was he line in the room, off the ice?

“A quiet guy, but if you wanted to know something, or if a player wanted to learn something or talk to him, he was always open, a very nice guy, and he would talk to you. But he saved his talking for the ice. He really wasn't a rah-rah guy or a talker off the ice. But like I said, he led by example --- a very intelligent player. Played hard. Good defenseman. He just had an unbelievable stick. That was his biggest asset --- that and his brain.”

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sports Notes: Come and get 'em

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Berube sensing Flyers momentum

Craig Berube met with the press before the Flyers-Islanders game.

This was the conversation ...

On Peter Luukko returning to the NHL:

“We all really liked him. And he’ll do a great job for them. Good guy, good hockey guy. Good to see him back. He loves hockey.”

Did Flyers survive the time off pretty well, with other  teams having played and not lost much ground?

“Yeah. I guess. It all works out either way. We are going to make games up and play teams that we are going to have to catch. So we’ve got to win those games. Like I said before, it doesn’t really matter; I can’t worry about other teams and neither can our team. We just have to worry about us. That’s what we have to do.”

Four in a row … is there such a thing as momentum? Can you sense it?

“Yeah. There’s confidence. When you’re winning, guys feel good about themselves. They play looser, play faster. I think those things, when you’re winning games, definitely help.”

More jump at practice, etc:

“Yeah. I can only go by right now. I like the fact that we had good jump and good life at practices, good energy. So I think it will translate into tonight’s game.”

Is it crucial to have the same kind of wall play that you had against Winnipeg?

“Yeah, breakouts in general are so important in the game. If you don’t come out with the puck, with possession, it seems like you’re on your heels all game. They just put it back in and you’re back in your own end again. So it’s important. Wall play is very important. Making good breakouts and having the puck coming out of your end with speed is important. That’s where you get a lot of your attacks and your rush chances.”

Evander Kane has been in the news with off-ice stuff. What is your impression of him on the ice?

“He’s a straight-line power forward. That’s the way I view him. Skates well. Physical player. Goes to the net. Shoots the puck well. That’s what he is in my opinion.”

What importance do you put on dress code and getting to meetings on time, etc.?

“Yeah. We all have a dress code. Suit and tie to a game. Travel is coat and shirt. With off days on the road, there are different things and we discuss them, the dress code. But, yeah, it’s all important I think. Discipline is important, whether it is meetings, dress code, all that stuff. Taking care of yourself. All those things. It’s all very important. It’s one of the most important things that comes up.”