SI gives Sixers 'A' grade for offseason moves

SI gives Sixers 'A' grade for offseason moves

After three straight years in or near the cellar of the NBA standings, the Sixers may be gearing to start moving up.

And people are taking notice.

The Sports Illustrated staff graded each NBA team's offseason moves and gave the Sixers a grade of A for their moves. And it was well-deserved.

Sixers fans haven't had much to celebrate in the past few years, but seeing the team draft Ben Simmons and watching his stunning passing ability in summer league was enough to get many fans excited about the upcoming season. The article noted the Simmons pick as the Sixers' best move, saying taking him over Brandon Ingram, who went No. 2 overall to the Lakers, showed they're ready to take the next step.

Jeremy Woo, one of the contributors to the article, went on to describe their other important moves this offseason:

With Joel Embiid presumably ready to return, Dario Saric coming over from Turkey and Simmons here to anchor the franchise, the future in Philadelphia is bright for the first time in years. Brett Brown can mix and match and the front office can decide which prospects to build around. Some of these guys are inevitably going to get traded, and some of them likely won’t pan out. But at least Philly is moving forward, finally.

Yes, finally.

The Sixers should have three first-round level talents making their NBA debuts this season with Simmons, Saric and Embiid, all of whom represent a separate and long wait. With Simmons, it took three years for the Sixers to finally get the first pick in the draft. With Embiid, it was waiting two full seasons for him to return from a foot injury. And with Saric, it was the agonizing wait for him to come over from Turkey after the back-and-forth reports over what he was ultimately going to decide.

The article makes note of the change in power from Sam Hinkie to the Colangelos, one that could've runied "The Process," but instead helped it continue to flourish. It also said the Sixers' worst move was that they didn't make any big gambles in free agency, whether by choice or because of lack of interest from the actual players. But this criticism is much nicer than what some of the other teams in their division received.

The Knicks received a D grade after signing injury-prone Joakim Noah and trading for Derrick Rose, both of whom have large salary cap hits for their recent production. The Nets received a C- for trying to go after too many restricted free agents and ending up with Jeremy Lin as their top acquisition, who is a good player, but isn't going to turn this subpar team around. And the Raptors got a C for essentially doing nothing other than re-signing DeMar Derozan and letting Bismack Biyombo walk in free agency.

But while the Sixers may have had a better offseason than any team in the division, this by no means suggests they'll move up in the standings too much in the immediate future. They still have to see how the new young talent meshes together and develops. But continued development has a chance to show why this offseason was such a success.

Eagles 3rd-year receiver Josh Huff knows he's playing for a roster spot

Eagles 3rd-year receiver Josh Huff knows he's playing for a roster spot

Josh Huff knows his spot on the Eagles is not guaranteed.

When Chip Kelly was head coach, a combination of the Oregon connection with the fact he was just recently drafted made Huff more of a lock to make the team. But the Eagles face a tough decision with the third-year receiver in a struggling position group.

Competition might be exactly what Huff needed. Not that there wasn’t competition in the past, but he said this year especially the competition has helped him grow.

“I know what’s at stake, and I know each and every day it’s competition at the position,” Huff said. “So I have to be on my A-game if I want to stay here. And that’s how I look at it, obviously having these guys around, bringing the competition is great. It’s great for the mind, it’s great for the soul.”

In terms of actual production on the field, the competition hasn’t yet bred excellence. Despite Jordan Matthews missing both preseason games, Huff has just three receptions for 13 yards.

Despite this lack of preseason production, Huff thinks he’s having a good camp.

“I feel like I made some good strides this year in preseason,” he said. “Obviously there’s still some things I need to work on, ball security being one of them. And I’d rather those things happen to me now in preseason. That way in the regular season, I know.”

The obvious “it’s just preseason” caveat must be noted because nobody really cares about preseason numbers. However, for a player like Huff who could potentially be on the bubble, a strong preseason might help his chances.

Huff’s regular-season highlights include a 107-yard kick return touchdown against the Titans in 2014 and a 41-yard touchdown catch against the Saints in 2015. However, in those two seasons he’s compiled only 35 receptions for 410 yards and three touchdowns, an underwhelming total for a former third-round pick.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said the first-team offense will get more reps in Saturday’s preseason game against the Colts, which likely means Huff will have an extended chance to make an impact.

“This week, as I mentioned, is more of an in-season structure, and we’ve got to start getting those players, Josh Huff being in that group, more touches, more reps, both offensively and on special teams,” Pederson said. “So I would expect his workload to potentially increase this week.”

Pederson said he’s not yet sure how many receivers the Eagles will keep — could be four, five or six. Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Rueben Randle, Chris Givens and Paul Turner are all in the mix, meaning the fight for playing time will be tough.

And then add in Dorial Green-Beckham, who the Eagles traded for last week. When they made the trade, some felt like a message was being sent to the wide receiver group about how they’ve performed this preseason.

Huff was not one of those people.

“What message does it send?” he asked. “He’s an outstanding talent, he brings a lot to the table as a receiver, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in the game and how he can help this offense move forward.”

Special teams, especially kick returning, has been one of Huff’s main contributions to the Eagles the past two years, but that might not be enough to keep him around. Huff acknowledged that, saying his main goal is to just do whatever he can wherever they use him.

Offensively, Huff feels like he has built good chemistry with Sam Bradford recently that he thinks could help his production.

“Huff’s obviously one of our more explosive options,” Bradford said. “He’s got a lot of speed, he has the ability to make big plays for us. I think we just have to find the right ways to get Huff the ball because he’s shown that when we put the ball in his hands, he’s a dangerous playmaker.”

Since the starters don’t really play in the fourth preseason game, Saturday should be a big test for Huff, and it may be his final one to show what he can do before final cuts.

Penn State basketball to host Michigan State at Palestra on Jan. 7

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Penn State basketball to host Michigan State at Palestra on Jan. 7

The Penn State men's basketball team will play Big 10 and national powerhouse Michigan State in a home game at the Palestra this season on Jan. 7, 2017.

The announcement comes after the program announced its non-conference schedule Monday. The Nittany Lions are 22-36 all time at the famous Philadelphia arena, which houses Penn's home court. But Penn State is 12-8 there against teams other than Penn.

The program has strong ties to Philadelphia as the Nittany Lions' roster features six players from the Philadelphia area and four alone who went to Center City's Roman Catholic High School, a local power. Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers is from Newtown Square, Delaware County.

Three of the four Roman Catholic grads are freshmen — Nazeer Bostick, Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens. Jan. 7's game will be their first college game at the Palestra, but they all have played there before as the Philadelphia Catholic League has held numerous playoff games at the Palestra in recent years. Shep Garner, the other Roman grad, is a junior. The other Philadelphia-area natives on the team are junior Julian Moore (Germantown Academy) and redshirt freshman Mike Watkins (Phelps School).

Penn State played at the Palestra last year and came away with a 63-57 win over Drexel. However, Penn State was not the home team in that game.

“We cannot wait to take the Big Ten into Philadelphia this season,” Chambers said in a press release. “It is always an incredible experience to play in the Palestra and we are honored to do it this time as the home team. We have so many ties to the city as a program and we look forward to connecting with the alumni and fans in the area."