Sixers ready for breakout season?

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Sixers ready for breakout season?

After reaching the second round of the playoffs last season, the Philadelphia 76ers have had a very busy off-season, letting key contributors go and bringing on new players who they hope can take the 76ers farther in the post-season in 2012-13. That might bea stretch for Philadelphia because as an 8th seed last season, the Sixers beat top seed Chicago without the Bulls best best player Derrick Rose. Then, in a seven-game series, Philadelphia lost to Boston in the next round.

Without question, it was a season to build on with young players like point guard Jrue Holliday and shooting guard Evan Turner getting their first taste of playoff basketball. A lot will be expected from Philadelphias projected starting back court next season.Holliday had another solid season, averaging 13 points and 4 assists a game while Turner, the former 2 overall pick in 2010, put up 9 points and 6 boards a game in his second year as a pro. Both will have to continue to improve for the Sixers to be a threatin the eastern conference.

Andre Iguodala -- who will get key experience as part of the U.S. men's Olympic team -- returns as arguably the team's best player. Iguodala averaged 12 points and 5 rebounds last season. The freakishly athletic Igoudala is capable of being a top-tier smallforward in this league but his scoring has decreased over the last two seasons, down from an average of 17 points a game in 2009-10.

Another player the Sixers have high hopes for is Thaddeus Young. The 6'-8" power forward scored 13 points and grabbed 5 boards last season, but his production dipped drastically in the playoffs as he averaged only 7 points in two series.

Faced with his 18-million salary next season, Philadelphia amnestied forward Elton Brand. The burly forward averaged 11 points and 7 rebounds last season but the Sixers had to clear salary space to re-sign center Spencer Hawes and add shooting guard Nick Youngthrough free-agency.

The 7-footer Hawes averaged nearly 10 points and 7 rebounds in 29 starts for the Sixers last season. If he can stay healthy, Hawes has a chance to be one of the better centers in the watered down eastern conference.

Young, meanwhile, got a one-year deal with Philadelphia as the now 6th year pro still has a lot to prove. Plagued by inconsistency, Young would likely come off the bench to provide a spark offensively shooting the ball. Young averaged 14 points a game withboth Washington and the Clippers last season.

Young replaces Lou Williams who left via free-agency to Atlanta. Williams was coming off a career year, in which he averaged 14.8 points off the bench for the Sixers.

In a surprise reunion, Doug Collins gets to coach Kwame Brown again. Collins was the Wizards head man when the team took Brown with the 1 overall pick in 2001 and Brown notoriously struggled. Brown has kept his career going because he is a mobile 7-footerand can bang the boards. Brown's past season was cut short in Golden State where he averaged 6 points and 6 rebounds in only 9 games.

The Sixers selected small forward Mo Harkless in the NBA draft. The 6'-7" Harkless left St. John's after one season, having averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds with the Red Storm where he was named Big East Rookie of the Year.

Just two years ago the Sixers were a dreadful 27-55 but, in a short amount of time under Doug Collins, they have turned it around to make the playoffs the last two seasons. Realistically, they should make the post-season again in 2012-13 but it will be toughto go far in the playoffs with the incredibly stacked eastern conference.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Cousins excited to work with ex-QB Terrelle Pryor

Need to Know: Redskins’ Cousins excited to work with ex-QB Terrelle Pryor

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 25, 19 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on May 22.

Timeline

It’s been 144 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 108 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 19
—Training camp starts (7/27) 63
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 77

Quotes and notes from the podium

Here are some quotes from Kirk Cousins and Jay Gruden from their post-OTA press conference on Wednesday and my comments on what they said.

Gruden on RB Matt Jones’ absence:

“That’s a good question, something that Matt Jones will have to answer. This is a voluntary deal, as we all know, and I can’t force the issue on anybody. So if he’s disgruntled in any way, shape or form, it’s news to me.”

Tandler's take: A year ago Jones was the unquestioned No. 1 running back. After fumbling and then being reluctant to play special teams when the regular season started, he was glued to the bench. The workouts are voluntary and it will be interesting to see if Jones shows up for mandatory minicamp next month if he’s still on the roster. It appears that he does not want to fight to get his job back from Rob Kelley and rookie Samaje Perine. That speaks for itself.

Cousins on adjusting to new receivers:

“Obviously there is a little bit of an adjustment, but we spread the ball around so much. Chris Thompson catches quite a few balls, even Rob Kelley gets involved, we get the tight ends involved. I remember two years ago we lost DeSean [Jackson] for half the season. Derek Carrier played a bigger role when Jordan Reed was out. So you kind of expect a revolving door on offense at a lot of the skill positions and you just start to run plays, and regardless who is out there, you just go where your reads take you.”

Tandler's take: This is a good mindset on the part of Cousins. The Redskins lost two 1000-yard receivers, Pierre Garçon and Josh Doctson, to free agency. Cousins barely practiced with Josh Doctson last year, Terrelle Pryor and Brain Quick signed as free agents, and Robert Davis was a sixth-round pick. These players likely will account for well over 50 percent of Cousins’ targets to wide receivers. But they will not get a sympathy card from the rest of the league. Change happens, both in between seasons and, as Cousins points out, during seasons. Adjustments need to be made on the fly.

Gruden on the NFL shortening overtime to 10 minutes:

“Who cares? [Laughter]”

On changes to the celebration rules:

“You know what, whatever rules they send down, we just try to coach them up. The celebration thing, if it is fun for the fans and the fans really want it, this is a fan league and that’s great just as long as it doesn’t become so much about the player as it is about the team.”

Tandler's take: I think that if most coaches were being honest they would answer these questions just like Gruden did. Overtime is an infrequent occurrence and how to handle the clock on OT probably will not enter most coaches’ thinking before the clock hits 0:00 in a tie game. And as long as the celebration rules are clear and they can teach them to the players I doubt many coaches care if the ball is used as a prop or if players can go to the ground.

Cousins on playing with Pryor, who was a college and NFL quarterback prior to converting to receiver last year:

“I love that you asked that question because it’s even caught me by surprise. I worked with a receiver, Keith Nichol, in college who was a former quarterback, but Terrelle having been a college quarterback and a pro quarterback takes it to even another level. He’s going to hold me accountable because he knows where the ball should go. If it’s Cover 2 and he on Cover 2, if the read is over here, ‘I played quarterback, I know that.’”

Tandler's take: This is an interesting dynamic at work here. Not many quarterbacks have former NFL quarterbacks as their No. 1 receivers. They will be able to communicate on another level compared to the usual QB-WR dynamic. You have to think that it will help Cousins making adjustments in games, with Pryor, who has the eyes of a quarterback, running downfield on every play. Although Pryor is not an accomplished NFL quarterback he could be a big asset as Cousins looks to take his next steps as an NFL quarterback.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Capitals ECHL affiliate wins conference, headed to Kelly Cup Finals

Capitals ECHL affiliate wins conference, headed to Kelly Cup Finals

Finally some playoff success for Caps' fans to cheer for. The South Carolina Stingrays, Washington's ECHL affiliate, defeated the Manchester Monarchs 4-3 on Wednesday to win the Eastern Conference and advance to the Kelly Cup Finals.

RELATED: Why the Caps will not trade Alex Ovechkin

South Carolina lost both Games 1 and 2 at home but came roaring back with three straight wins. Manchester was able to force a Game 7, but the Stingrays ultimately prevailed in Game 7 thanks to a third period tally from Olivier Archambault. The win clinched South Carolina's second conference title in three years.

The Capitals currently have two prospects on the roster in South Carolina. Defenseman Cody Corbett ranks second among the team's defensemen in points this postseason with one goal and six assists. Goalie Adam Carlson is serving as the team's backup and has made only one brief appearance.

South Carolina now advances to face the Colorado Eagles in the Kelly Cup Finals starting on Friday in Colorado. This will be the fifth finals appearance in team history. The Stingrays have won the Kelly Cup in three of those four series.

MORE CAPITALS: 20 questions: What direction should the Caps take?