PHILADELPHIA - The official news came this week that the Philadelphia 76ers — the forlorn franchise of the NBA — had signed an all-star forward and All-First Team defensive pick.Just dont rush out quite yet for a jersey — its Malcolm Thomas, an NBA Development League all-star for the Austin Toros.Thomas will earn a nice pay bump, first-class travel, fantastic coaching, and call himself an NBA player. But given expectations of the 76ers this season, he as may as well still play in the D-League.If they win 15 games, former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy said, they will have overachieved to the highest level.Think a 26-game losing streak and 19 wins under coach Brett Brown was pretty lousy last season?This years Sixers may tumble their way toward NBA infamy with a collection of castoffs. The losses should stamp them the favourite for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft — and the record book as one of the worst teams in NBA history.The Sixers have mastered the art of tanking, fielding a noncompetitive roster in hopes of better odds at high draft picks and potential franchise players.Foolproof plan, right? Look how the Sixers became championship contenders after selecting Evan Turner with the No. 2 overall pick in 2010. OK, bad example.With the approval of team owner Joshua Harris, 76ers president Sam Hinkie has set course for a dip in the standings for several seasons with the wildly optimistic expectation that the franchise will rise into title contention in three or four years.That means lottery picks Michael Carter-Williams, Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Dario Saric will all blossom into all-stars and at least one, maybe two, will become franchise-type players. That means Hinkie wont whiff on future picks or get burned on trades. That means star free-agents will bypass Miami, New York, Cleveland, San Antonio, and flock to Philly.Can all of that happen?Maybe. But for now, a championship parade through downtown Philadelphia is just a wild dream.None of their nine first-round picks preceding Carter-Williams in 2013 play for the Sixers. None helped the Sixers ever advance out of the second round of the playoffs.Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams, Nic Vucevic and Andre Iguodala were on the 2011-12 Sixers that made it to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Thinking they were on the cusp of a breakthrough, the Sixers traded Iguodala and Vucevic to get Los Angeles Lakers centre Andrew Bynum.Bynum never played a game in his lone season with the Sixers because of bad knees and the franchise unraveled.Its a little painful right now to be a former Sixer and see the losses and all, former 76ers player and coach Doug Collins said.When the team opens the season Wednesday at Indiana, Jason Richardson — injured and facing retirement — will be the only player left from when Hinkie took over the team in May 2013.Some good news for Carter-Williams, the NBA rookie of the year has been cleared to return to practice following shoulder surgery on Nov. 6 and could return a week later.The Sixers play their home opener Saturday against Miami in front of what should be a packed Wells Fargo Center, but are having trouble selling tickets beyond that.I can ... see why you would never buy a ticket right now because its a substandard product, Van Gundy said.One that Hinkie — and his analytics-minded front office — has vowed to improve.As of Monday, the 76ers had just $32 million committed to this seasons payroll, the lowest figure in the league by about $20 million. They have only $4.6 million on the books for next season (Laker star Kobe Bryant will earn $23.5 million alone this season), giving the downtrodden franchise millions to offer free agents in 2015 and beyond.But what player with any competitive spirit would want to sign with Philadelphia?Money always talks, but it will take a brave all-star or two to decide the Sixers are headed into contention.At some point, youve got to develop a culture of winning and winning habits and gaining some results so the guys can believe it, former NBA coach and all-star guard Mark Jackson said. Because that can fester and be like a disease youve got to rid those guys of in order to get a winning culture.The Sixers already scored their biggest win of the season when NBA owners failed to pass draft lottery reform last week. The team with the worst record will still have a 25 per cent chance at getting the top pick and cannot drop lower than fourth.Hinkie isnt swayed even though his method has been nicknamed Tankadelphia.A lot of it is, where does your self-worth come from, Hinkie asked. Do you need people every day telling you youre doing well? Do you need the masses every day telling you that they agree with you? Or do you have some higher purpose in mind?Hinkie says he does. Hes betting his career and the teams future that the Sixers can hit the championship jackpot with a bunch of winning lottery tickets. Markieff Morris Jersey
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. The team announced the defensive coordinator will not be offered a contract extension.When referee Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot in the 85th minute to award a penalty, after Southampton defender Jose Fonte pulled Per Mertesackers shirt in the box, Arsenal fans and players celebrated as if theyd already scored a goal. It was not hard to understand why. Arsenal have received a lot of praise this season, mainly around their attacking play, but it is how they have played when they have struggled in certain parts of a game that has helped them stay on top of the table. It is rare that any team is at their best throughout the 90 minutes of a game. Arsenal are certainly not at that level. Yet, when opponents have had their turn to attack and threaten, through 12 games, a mature Arsenal have stood resilient, as a unit, in belief that they can get through a difficult patch and still win the game. In most of Arsenals games this season, the key time to analyze the Gunners has been in the first 30 minutes of the second half. Rarely are games decided in the first 45 minutes of a match and against Arsenal, inferior teams, after a rest and a talk with their manager, usually test them the most at the beginning of the second half. From some teams, the severe test lasts shorter than others, depending on Arsenals response, but to learn a lot about Arsenal it is worth watching, very closely, their first 30 minutes of the second half. On Saturday against Southampton the game inside the game (between the minutes of 45 and 75) ended 0-0 but it was not easy for Arsenal. Southampton changed their tactics, putting Danny Osvaldo on next to Rickie Lambert, Mikel Arteta, who had been excellent against a fast-paced, quick counter-attacking team, was forced to leave through injury while Santi Cazorla, a wonderfully skillful player going through a difficult patch, struggled again to put his mark on the game. Arsene Wenger replaced him with Theo Walcott, who returned after a two month absence through injury, and having a player in an attacking area willing to wait to receive the ball (rather than coming to get it like many of Arsenals playmakers) helped. Up a goal, from a goalkeeping error in the first half, Arsenal were on top but needed to be solid against a fearless Southampton team who looked very much capable of snatching an equalizer. Last season teams such as Fulham, Newcastle and Aston Villa all proved to be exactly that at the Emirates, attacking with pace, scoring goals after half-time and causing their defenders many issues. After a bizarre 7-3 match against Alan Pardews men at the end of December, where Arsenal won the game inside the game (45-75 mins) 3-2, the Gunners ended 2012 in good spirits on a four game winning streak. However, by the middle of January, after losses to Manchester City and Chelsea, any hopes of winning the league were over. A midweek game against West Ham followed and at half-time, with the score at 1-1, the atmosphere inside the Emirates was miserable. Four goals inside the opening 12 minutes of the second half changed that and saw the home team crush the Hammers 5-1. Against Liverpool at home in the next match they trailed 1-0 at half-time, watched Liverpool go ahead 2-0 on the hour, before responding with two goals, between the 64th and 67th minute mark, to draw 2-2. Back-to-back home matches and back-to-back outstanding performances after half-time. Arsenal looked like a different team and its a look they have maintained through this season. In the 28 Premier League games since the loss to Chelsea in January, the Gunners have achieved 67pts, at an average of 2.39 points per game, good enough for a total of 90pts over 38 games, which will win you a Premier League title. They havent played Chelsea or Manchester City during thhat stretch but against all the teams they have come across they have performed very well in the game within the game, scoring 25 goals in 28 games between minutes 45 and 75, while conceding just eight goals.dddddddddddd This season they have conceded just three goals during that key period and two of those have been penalties. They have not lost the 45-75 minute game since a 1-0 deficit to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season. Even outside of the Premier League, Arsenals success in the Champions League has come down to goals scored in that crucial time, Theo Walcotts in Marseille and Aaron Ramseys in Dortmund. Arsenals performance up to the 75th minute is not only crucial to their overall success but also sets them up mentally for whatever the final 15 minutes brings. By not losing the 45-75 minute match since the game against Villa, they have ensured that they are entering the final 15 minutes in a good position. Even at Manchester United, where they lost 1-0 to a Robin van Persie first half header, their play after half-time was excellent and meant they had a real chance at the end of the game to get something. Each of Arsenals last 12 Premier League wins, dating back to mid-April, has seen them in the lead for good by the 75th minute. The Gunners play after half-time, even when teams look like a threat, is making it harder for opponents to get back into games when behind, something that is crucial if Arsenal want to maintain success this season. That, however, didnt stop tension from entering the stadium on Saturday, after all a 1-0 scoreline is never one anyone can relax with. Then Fonte pulled the shirt, Mertesacker punched the air in delight, and the crowd erupted. While most people celebrated, one man calmly walked towards the ball and put it on the spot. For Olivier Giroud it was finally his time. In a match against Fulham last season he had been terrific, scoring two goals, including a crucial 69th minute equalizer (note the time), and when Arsenal won a penalty in the final minute he had wanted a chance at a hat-trick. "Some of the guys asked me why I didnt take the ball," he said afterwards, explaining: "Arsene Wenger has a list of penalty takers," he confirmed. Arteta was at the top of the list and missed that day, denying Arsenal two points. With Arteta, and Mesut Ozil, off the field against the Saints, it was Girouds chance and he smashed the ball past Artur Boruc to win the game and cap off a terrific individual display. (photo: fourfourtwo.com - Click For Larger Image) It was quite a week for the Frenchman. Having started Frances first leg in Ukraine, he was dropped at home for the vital second leg but was on the field when his team celebrated a 3-0 win to qualify for the World Cup. He lost his grandfather two days before Saturdays match and went on to score a brace that he dedicated in his honour. The goals got Giroud the headlines but once again his link up play with the creators behind him was sensational, as was his defensive work, where his desire to enjoy the physical game and win aerial battles was crucial. He will never be a player who will score goals like a Luis Suarez or van Persie, but at Arsenal, Giroud plays a key role at getting the best out of those around him, while still showing an ability to score goals regularly enough to stop any talk of Arsenal needing another striker. During Arsenals successful run, in the last 28 games, Giroud has a more than respectable 12 league goals, with seven of them putting Arsenal ahead in a game. Much like his team, the timing of the goals have been crucial. Games last 90 minutes but Arsenal are finding ways to excel at the crucial times. Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Jerseys From China Wholesale NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys
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