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February 12, 2019

Al Morganti: Has there ever been a better time to be a four-for-four Philly sports fan?

Opinion Sixers
021219_Carson-Alshon-Sixers_usat Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery pose for a photo during the second quarter of a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers at Wells Fargo Center.

Welcome back to the world of four-for-four in Philadelphia, where the Sixers, Flyers and Phillies have managed to spring out from under the huge green shadow of the Eagles and draw some of the spotlight in this sports crazy city.

There is plenty of light to go around in Philadelphia and the past few weeks have provided a glimpse of what it could be like for the next generation of teams down on South Broad Street. Consider that in the span of three days there were three huge games being played at the Wells Fargo Center.

The triple header began on Sunday afternoon when the basketball floor was in place over the ice and the Sixers demolished LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Sixers ran the Lakers out of Philadelphia, and by the time it was over there were dreams of a trip to the NBA finals – this season.

The very next night, the Flyers used a Monday night stage to host the Pittsburgh. And then on Tuesday, the Sixers will host their bitter rivals the Celtics for one of the biggest games in recent regular season memory.

Remember, it was only about a month ago when the Flyers appeared dead and buried in the NHL standings, with little to no chance of making the playoffs. 

Well, enter Carter Hart. The atmosphere was electric as Hart put a record-tying eight-game winning streak on the ice against a guy named Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. The end result was a hugely disappointing loss in a game the Flyers launched 51 shots at Penguins goalie Matt Murray.

By the end, Murray had outplayed Hart and the Flyers chances at making the playoffs were dealt a severe blow, but the prospects of more big games with Hart against big teams were no less encouraging – starting with a show at the Linc in an outdoor game next Saturday night.

Win or lose, the advantage for the Flyers is that Hart is just 20 years old, and deposed general manager Ron Hextall filled the organization's cupboards with young players such as Hart, Nolan Patrick, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim. 

New general manager Chuck Fletcher has come on board to speed up that building process and repair some of the communication bridges that were damaged by Hextall’s close-door policies. It has been a long road back to respectability for the Flyers who looked so woeful at the start of this season, but they have climbed back to more than respectability with Hart at their core.

In fact, it’s a whole lot more than respectability. The Flyers have become a must-watch show when Hart is in goal, joining the Sixers and Phillies as big stories regarding bright futures.

In the meantime, the equipment truck made its way from Philadelphia to Clearwater, Florida where the Phillies were setting up camp. Even though neither Bryce Harper nor Manny Machado has signed yet, the Phillies have already drastically improved their lineup for opening day.

General manager Matt Klentak literally attacked all areas of the field and his lineup in the off season. The Phillies added Andrew McCutchen to the outfield, Jean Segura to the infield, David Roberston to the pitching staff, and, best of all, J.T. Realmuto behind the plate. 

Somehow the Phils got one of the best two catchers in baseball, and all they really had to give up was a pitching prospect.

All right, Sixto Sanchez is quite the pitching prospect, drawing comparisons to Pedro Martinez. Then again, the Phillies are acting like they are in a big-time market, and big market teams can eventually use their wallets go get pitchers like that after they have proven themselves in the Major Leagues.

It’s all set up for the Phillies to have a good season, and a season that could be great if they do actually land Harper or Machado – especially Harper.

Even without that addition, the runway is set for the Phillies to follow the Sixers' model, as they revved up their own engines last week when they made deals to acquire Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovoc, while also subtracting Markelle Fultz.

As was clearly seen from the star-studded audience there to see the Sixers blow out L.A. a few days ago, the team has become a media darling with a celebrity following and big time stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the floor.

Into this great mix the Sixers also have a wild card in another addition – Jimmy Butler, who might very well embrace a new role as a super defender. Although many consider Butler a problem waiting to happen as he waits for the ball, this could also turn into a great case for coach Brett Brown convincing Butler to buy into a new role that would lead a charge deep into the playoffs.

The pieces are all right there, and that is why faces such as Mike Trout, Carson Wentz and even Patriots owner Robert Kraft were in the building on Sunday to see the Sixers take apart the Lakers.

The end result, there are no more green shadows in the world of Philadelphia sports. The Sixers, Phils and Flyers are all on their way to once again making Philadelphia a four-for-four spots mecca.

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