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Former 76ers owner Ed Snider dies at 83

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ed Snider was weakened by cancer, the disease that kept him from his beloved Philadelphia Flyers.

General manager Ron Hextall went to Snider’s home in California in December before a scouting trip, watching what would be their last Flyers game together on TV.

The St. Louis Blues led 3-0 in the second period, souring the mood.

“He looked at me 3-zip and said, `We didn’t plan this,”‘ Hextall said, smiling.

Snider high-fived Hextall, though, when the Flyers scored one goal, then two and three.

Once the Flyers scored the winner, Snider showed as much fight as one of his old Broad Street Bullies.

“He was in pain, a lot of pain,” Hextall said. “But when we scored that fourth goal, he got right out of his seat. I couldn’t believe it.”

Snider, the Philadelphia Flyers founder whose Bullies became the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup, died Monday after a two-year battle with bladder cancer. He was 83.

“Our dad was loved and admired for his big heart, generosity of spirit, and dedication to his family. Despite his considerable business achievements and public profile, he was first and foremost a family man,” the Snider family said in a statement. “Unrivaled, however, was his love for the Philadelphia Flyers Hockey Club, the team he created 50 years ago and to which he remained fiercely devoted through his final days.”

With Snider ailing, the Flyers clinched a playoff spot Saturday and dedicated the playoff push to him. Philadelphia plays Washington in the first round.

Snider watched Lauren Hart sing “God Bless America” on FaceTime as the team’s longtime anthem singer held out her phone during her performance. She blew kisses after the song.

“He is the Philadelphia Flyers,” captain Claude Giroux said Monday.

Snider was arguably the most influential executive in Philadelphia sports. He was chairman of the 76ers, was once a part-owner of the Eagles and had a hand in founding both Comcast’s local sports channel and the city’s largest sports-talk radio station.

Snider, chairman of the Flyers’ parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.

“Ed Snider was the soul and the spirit of the Flyers, who have reflected his competitiveness, his passion for hockey and his love for the fans from the moment he brought NHL hockey to Philadelphia in 1967,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

Snider built his fortune with a record company and arrived in Philadelphia in 1964 as a part owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, serving as the team’s treasurer.

Upon hearing that the National Hockey League was going to expand from its original six teams to 12, Snider was awarded an expansion club in 1966. The Flyers played their first game in October 1967 in front of 7,800 people.

Snider was confident hockey would be a hit in blue-collar Philadelphia.

After being swept out of the playoffs in the first round in 1969, Snider directed his general manager to acquire bigger, tougher players.

Five seasons later, the Broad Street Bullies beat the Boston Bruins for the Stanley Cup. The Flyers repeated as champions in 1975 – the team’s last title.

“We were the best thing that happened to the National Hockey League,” former Flyers enforcer Dave “The Hammer” Schultz said. “Some might disagree. But we created a lot of excitement in the franchises that were existing then.”

Snider assumed control of the Spectrum, the now-demolished home arena for the Flyers and Sixers, in 1971. Three years later, he established Spectacor, a management company that controlled the Flyers and Spectrum, where the team had enjoyed its most success.

“When the officials made a bad call in my mind, everybody would look back and I’d be standing up screaming, so they’d all be standing up and screaming,” Snider said. “I had a great connection with the fans and I miss that tremendously.”

Spectacor went on to establish or buy other businesses, including Philadelphia-area cable channel Prism and WIP-AM. Snider’s company picked up the radio station around the time it was one of the first in the country to transition to an all-sports format.

He also developed what is now the Wells Fargo Center, which opened as the new home of the Flyers and Sixers in 1996. That same year, Snider merged Spectacor with Comcast Corp., bringing together the Flyers, Sixers, Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League, the Wachovia Center and Spectrum.

The company joined with the Philadelphia Phillies to form the regional sports channel Comcast SportsNet, and now runs arenas and stadiums around the country.

“Our business partnership lasted more than 20 years, which seemed improbable at the time, and ultimately transcended into a cherished and special friendship,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said.

Under Snider, the Sixers drafted Allen Iverson and the team reached the NBA Finals in 2001. Comcast-Spectacor sold the team in 2011.

“I’ve adopted the Sixers and I love the Sixers. I really do,” Snider said when he owned the Sixers. “But in hockey, I started from scratch. We named it, we created it. It didn’t exist. Now it’s a worldwide emblem recognized everywhere. It’s my baby.”

Born in Washington, D.C., Snider grew up working with his father in the family’s grocery store. A graduate of the University of Maryland, Snider became a partner in the record company Edge Ltd. before joining the group who bought the Philadelphia Eagles. He sold his stake in 1967.

Snider started the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation in 2005. The foundation promotes life skills and hockey through after-school, recreational, and other educational activities. Snider hockey programs are provided at no cost, focus on underserved Philadelphia boys and girls who otherwise would not have the opportunity to play.

“I really want it to be my legacy,” he said.

He is survived by his wife Lin and daughters Lindy, Tina and Sarena, sons Craig, Jay and Samuel, and several grandchildren. He was married three other times.

Report: 76ers open to trading if they hire Mike D’Antoni

76ers forward Al Horford and Tobias Harris
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The 76ers said they wouldn’t trade Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons.

Which makes it confounding they reportedly want to hire Mike D’Antoni as coach.

D’Antoni has typically succeeded with teams that can play small to spread the floor and pressure opponents through speed… and struggled otherwise. Post-based Embiid and non-shooting Simmons don’t fit D’Antoni’s demonstrated style.

Maybe Philadelphia’s roster could change.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Keith Smith:

The 76ers could trade Al Horford and Tobias Harris to reduce their glut of bigs. But Horford was already on the block (good luck convincing anyone to take his contract), and Harris is also expensive. For what it’s worth, Harris could thrive as a small-ball power forward in D’Antoni’s system, but Harris is often pigeonholed as a small forward on this roster.

The Embiid-Simmons pairing is a fundamental issue, though. Whatever Philadelphia does with Horford and Harris, Embiid and Simmons just haven’t played like they’d fit well together under D’Antoni.

If the 76ers remain insistent on not trading Embiid or Simmons, there are only so many roster moves that can be done to help D’Antoni.

Adding further complications, Philadelphia might be seeking a new lead executive. That could explain why Tyronn Lue has also gotten so strongly linked to this job. It’s not even clear who’ll oversee the coach and roster, let alone what plan that person will have.

So, yes, it’s meaningful if the 76ers are advancing trade talks with other teams to make their roster fit D’Antoni. But there are still plenty of questions about what will actually happen in Philadelphia.

For NBA players, Breonna Taylor grand jury decision ‘not enough’

Grizzlies forward Anthony Tolliver wears Breonna Taylor shirt
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — LeBron James sent the word to the Los Angeles Lakers in a group text on Wednesday afternoon, and basketball suddenly seemed irrelevant.

A grand jury in Kentucky had finally spoken. And James was letting his team know that NBA players, who have spent months seeking justice for Breonna Taylor, did not get what they wanted.

“Something was done,” Lakers guard Danny Green said, “but it wasn’t enough.”

Wednesday’s decision by the grand jury, which brought no charges against Louisville police for Taylor’s killing and only three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ homes, was not unexpected by many NBA players and coaches. They had a sense it wasn’t going to go how they hoped.

“I know we’ve been using our platform down here to try to bring about education and a voice in a lot of players on our team, especially also spoken out on justice for Breonna Taylor,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We have not gotten that justice.”

Teams came to Walt Disney World to finish the season and crown a champion, and hoping that the platform of the NBA’s restart bubble could help amplify calls for change. Players and coaches have used the NBA spotlight to make statements at a time when the demand for racial equality and an end to police brutality is resonating as loudly as it has in generations.

And Taylor’s story – the tale of a 26-year-old Black woman who was killed March 13 by police in Louisville when they burst into her apartment on a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation centered around a suspect who did not live there – has captivated NBA players. Many have met, virtually, with members of her family to offer support. They say her name in news conferences, wear it on shirts, scrawl it onto their sneakers.

“We have moms. We have sisters, nieces, aunties. And just like men of color have experienced traumatic instances, so have women,” Boston forward Jaylen Brown said. “That is an example of some things that happen to women in our country. So, we wanted to stand alongside them, but also make it that it’s not just us. I think the future is female, so it’s important to show our sisters that we care. That’s why it’s been important.”

Even for teams not in the bubble, it mattered. Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce leads a committee of NBA coaches tasked with finding new ways to use their own platform to create change, and he’s encouraged his own players – Black and white alike – to speak out and take action, whether in Atlanta or their own community.

Pierce took Wednesday’s news hard.

“Yeah, there was a grand jury and yeah, they went through the information and yeah, they have facts to support whatever the claims may be,” Pierce said. “But that doesn’t provide any justice for those that are on the outside, those that feel like the police and law enforcement are there to protect them. … What currently is happening isn’t good enough.”

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell:

Clippers big Montrezl Harrell:

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts went a step further. “Sadly, there was no justice today for Breonna Taylor,” Roberts said. “Her killing was the result of a string of callous and careless decisions made with a lack of regard for humanity, ultimately resulting in the death of an innocent and beautiful woman with her entire life ahead of her.”

The league shut down for three days last month when a boycott that was started by the Milwaukee Bucks – in response to the shooting by police of a Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin – nearly caused players to end the season because they felt their pleas for change were not being taken seriously enough.

And Wednesday’s news was another disappointment for them.

“We feel like we’ve taken a step back, that we haven’t made the progress we were seeking,” Green said. “Our voices aren’t being heard loud enough. But we’re not going to stop. We’re going to continue. We’re going to continue fighting, we’re going to continue to push, we’re going to continue to use our voices.”

Report: Celtics were ‘very much enamored’ with Tyler Herro, whom Heat took one pick before Boston

Heat guard Tyler Herro vs. Celtics
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The Celtics – holding the Kings’ first-round pick – lost a tiebreaker with the Hornets and Heat in last year’s draft. Charlotte picked No. 12, Miami No. 13 and Boston No. 14.

The Heat took Tyler Herro No. 13.

A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

On NBA draft night last year there was a collective moan among the Boston Celtics brass right about the time the Miami Heat used the No. 13 pick to select Tyler Herro.

The Celtics were very much enamored with the 20-year-old leading up to last June’s draft

The draft is full of smokescreens and disinformation, especially from Boston. So, this can’t be taken as gospel.

But it’s still another fun chapter in the Pat Riley-Danny Ainge rivalry, which includes a previous example of the Heat drafting a player the Celtics coveted.

Herro made the All-Rookie second team and is now helping Miami against Boston in the Eastern Conference finals – no small feat for a rookie.

The Celtics settled for Romeo Langford, who had a far less productive first season and is now out for the year.

Of course, it’s far too early to declare either player will absolutely have a better career than the other. Besides, Boston never chose between Herro and Langford. The Heat got the choice and took the player both teams seemingly agreed was better.

Down 2-1 to Lakers, Nuggets sense a familiar bubble series pattern

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Mike Malone thinks he’s been here before.

Not just down 2-1 in an NBA bubble playoff series and having to come from behind, but the pattern of it — his team getting stronger and figuring things out while the opponent falters.

“This is to me kind of similar to the last series,” Malone said after the Nuggets’ Game 3 victory. “Game 1 the Clippers blew us out. Game 2 we win. Game 3, we felt we gave that game away against the Clippers.

“[The Lakers] blew us out in Game 1. Game 2 we gave away at the end. We had to right that wrong and try to get a game under our belt, which we did tonight. This gives us that much more confidence going into this series letting them know that we’re here, we’re in this for the long haul. We’re going to continue to fight and do whatever we can.”

“You definitely learn more about your opponent, what to try to look for, tendencies, and all that…” Jamal Murray said about why Denver improves as the series gets longer. “Like I said, just taking care of stuff that we can control, whether it’s turnovers, communications, switches, rebounding. Areas that we should control, we got to do that if we want to win. If we’re consistent in our play, like we touched on earlier, we can win a lot of games, put a lot of pressure on other teams.”

Those tendencies and patterns, that history of success, has Denver feeling more and more like this is a series they can win. There is a confidence that is brimming from the Nuggets stars, especially Murray. He has stepped up his game, and it’s not just the three-point shooting — 34.6% in the regular season  47.7% in the playoffs — it’s his aggressive attacks and finishing at the rim. Murry, an inconsistent finisher at the rim even during this regular season, has been lights out when he gets inside in the playoffs. It stems from confidence.

“I think what I’ve seen from Jamal this year, aside from the growth defensively, which has been tremendous, I’m so proud of him in that regard, but now I know every night what I’m getting from Jamal,” Malone said. “Last year we knew what we were getting from Nikola, but what kind of game would Jamal have. That’s no longer the case. We have two superstars in Nikola and Jamal and a lot of young, talented players behind them.”

It should not be a surprise to anyone that the Nuggets played their best basketball with their backs against the wall — this team has been in four straight seven-game playoff series, winning three. They are used to the pressure. Nor should it have caught anyone off-guard that they would not go away quietly. Some in Lakers’ nation thought Anthony Davisgame-winning three to put the Lakers up 2-0 was a gut punch that would floor the Nuggets.

Malone made sure that was not the takeaway from the game.

“[Monday] when we met and we watched the film, I started off by watching the last play of the game,” Malone said. “Get the elephant in the room out of the way. Let’s talk about the play, what happened. When we’re in this situation again, let’s learn from it. Yes, we all take ownership. Let’s learn from it.

“After that, my goal was when we got done with that film, they saw so many positive clips of us doing the right things, which put us in a position to win. Now we had to do that for more than just a second half. We had to do it for four quarters.”

They did it for three, but that was enough to get the win thanks to some late heroics from Murray.

The key to the remainder of this series is defense. For both teams.

Denver is not an elite defensive team, they were middle of the pack for the regular season. What they can do throughout a series is become more disruptive. They have done it this series, quieting the Lakers’ halfcourt offense. The Lakers scored less than a point per possession — 92.8 points per 100 possessions — in their halfcourt in Game 3 (stats via Cleaning The Glass). Add to that the fact LeBron James is fading as games go on — he is dominant in the first quarter but struggling more in the fourth. Denver got a fantastic game from Jerami Grant in Game 3, they will need more of those games, but the Nuggets have a plan that works and that they can execute.

The heart of that plan is keeping the Lakers out of transition, which brings us to the other side of the equation: The Lakers intensity and physicality on defense almost won them Game 3. The Lakers forced turnovers — six in a row at one point — and turned those into transition buckets. The Lakers are as good a transition team as there is in the league and the Nuggets are terrible at defending it. When the Lakers run, they win. It’s just harder to do that when you’re taking the ball out of the basket each time down, the Lakers need stops.

Expect the Lakers to come out with intensity in Game 4, maybe helping them race out to a big lead. Maybe.  But even if that happens, the Nuggets will not be phased — they came from 16 and 19 back against the Clippers to win last round.

Denver has seen this movie before, and they liked the ending.