Sixers-Raptors: 5 things you need to know

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Sixers-Raptors: 5 things you need to know

Fresh off a resounding victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, the last-place Sixers host the first-place Toronto Raptors in an Atlantic Division showdown.

Here are a few things to keep in mind for Friday’s game:

1. First place
The Raptors are 21-20 and are one of five teams with a winning record in the Eastern Conference and the lone team over .500 in the Atlantic. But since winning eight of 10 and 10 of 13, the Raptors have struggled to put wins together.

In the last five games, the Raptors are 2-3 with losses to the Celtics, Lakers and Bobcats while averaging 94.2 points per game in that span.

However, first place still carries some cachet (along with playoff seeding) and for a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2008 and has one Atlantic Division title in its 19 seasons, Toronto isn’t taking the standings for granted.

2. Recent history
The Raptors handled the Sixers in both games this season, scoring 108 points in each. The first meeting featured 14 three-pointers from the Raptors followed by 10 more in the second game.

Shooting at the league average 35.9 percent from three-point range, the Raptors are shooting a robust 44 percent from long range against the Sixers.

Still neither team shoots too well from mid-range and beyond. On shots longer than 16 feet, the Raptors are hitting at a 36.7 percent clip this season, while the Sixers shoot 34 percent.

3. The hot hand?
The Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan and the Sixers’ Evan Turner go into the game riding career nights. DeRozan torched the Mavericks for 40 points on 15 for 22 shooting, while Turner scored a career-high 34 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

The trick for both players will be to turn a hot game into a streak. DeRozan has been pretty consistent in stringing together big performances this season. He’s scored 30-plus in four games and 25-plus in 16 games. More importantly, DeRozan averages 21.6 points in the game after a 25-plus points outing.

In the game after his seven 25-plus points games, Turner averages 14.9.

Turner needs to develop some consistency as the go-to scorer for the Sixers. However, it’s worth noting that Turner followed up his lone 30-point performance with 20 points against the Spurs on Nov. 11.

4. The rookie
No player on the Sixers has been more scrutinized this season than Michael Carter-Williams. That’s for good reason, too. After all, not only is Carter-Williams the team’s building block, but also he’s lapping the field in the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year race.

Some have suggested that Carter-Williams may be hitting the so-called “rookie wall.” Most notably, this subject arose following a seven-point, five-turnover game against the Heat and a 5 for 22 shooting performance in a loss against the Bulls.

Nevertheless, the rookie followed up that rough stretch with 31 points, six rebounds and five assists on 13 for 22 shooting against Washington on Monday, and 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists against the Knicks on Wednesday.

If that’s the wall, Carter-Williams has negotiated his way around it.

5. Injuries
Arnett Moultrie (ankle) still has not returned, though he has practiced with the team.

Tony Wroten (ankle) missed the last two games, but could return this weekend.

Brandon Davies (finger) is out after breaking his right pinky finger in Chicago last Saturday.

Jason Richardson (knee) and Nerlens Noel (knee) are out.

For the Raptors, Tyler Hansbrough (ankle) is out indefinitely.

Landry Fields had surgery on his wrist this week and is expected to miss the next few weeks.

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

WAYNE, Pa. — Three steps. 

That’s all it takes before Ben Simmons is recognized walking through the streets of Philadelphia. 

This year’s No. 1 pick has been in the spotlight long before the Sixers drafted him in June, and now he's experiencing what it's like to be known as an NBA player in his new city. 

“I’ve been enjoying walking around South Street, getting some Ishkabibble's,” Simmons said Tuesday after a special appearance at the Sixers' Camp at Valley Forge Military Academy. 

At 6-foot-10, Simmons towers above most on the court, let alone on the sidewalk. Fans have been eager to welcome him to Philadelphia for a new chapter of the organization after three years of struggle. 

“Positive things,” Simmons said of the comments he receives. “I think a lot of people are excited, so I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Simmons understands the impact a professional athlete can have on young fans, and was excited to be at camp Tuesday.

Growing up in Australia, he never had the opportunity to hear from NBA players when he attended basketball camps. Now that he's in that position, the 20-year-old was glad to provide that memory to the 240 campers. 

“That would mean a lot if I was able to experience that,” Simmons said. 

Simmons demonstrated skill drills, such as passing fundamentals, interacted in a Q&A session and signed autographs for each camper. He also took individual photos for those who traveled internationally, including from Nigeria, Italy and Greece. 

“I’m just like them, but older,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to be a good role model to them.”

Simmons plans to spend most of the offseason in Philadelphia as he gets settled into the city. He still has to move into his new home, but at least he knows where to get a cheesesteak in the meantime. 

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

Two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that the Miami Heat have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent guard Dion Waiters.

The two sides came to agreement on Monday. Waiters will make $2.9 million. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. He played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs before his role was reduced in the seven-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Waiters will give the Heat another scorer off the bench (see full story).

Blazers: C.J. McCullom inked to four-year extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A person familiar with the deal confirms that guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a four-year, $106 million contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the deal hadn't been formally announced by the team. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Blazers during the regular season. He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season.

As the 10th overall pick for the Blazers in the 2013 draft, McCollum bided his time on the bench for his first two seasons. He became a starter in the backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team's starters departed in the offseason (see full story).

Michael Jordan donates $2 million to ease racial tensions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he's giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around the country.

Jordan says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that "as a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers," (see full story).

Sixers officially sign guard Brandon Paul

Sixers officially sign guard Brandon Paul

The Sixers continued to add to their roster Monday, announcing the signing of guard Brandon Paul. 

Paul participated on the Sixers' summer league squad in Las Vegas, where he averaged 10.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 19.5 minutes. He also played for the Hornets in Utah. 

The 25-year-old went undrafted out Illinois in 2013 and has been playing overseas and in the D-League since then. Last season, he led FIATC Joventut (Spain) in scoring with 13.2 points per game. Paul also has been a member of the Canton Charge (D-League) and Nizhny Novgorod (Russia). 

Next season he could play for the Sixers' Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers. 

Paul is one of several offseason additions for the Sixers. The team has signed Ben Simmons, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, Sergio Rodriguez, James Webb III and Shawn Long. The Sixers also have reportedly agreed to a deal with Cat Barber.