Ready for Primetime: Sixers vs. Mavs in First Nationally Televised Game of Season

Ready for Primetime: Sixers vs. Mavs in First Nationally Televised Game of Season

Well, this is the team's reward for starting the season 20-10, perhaps.
ESPN was not initially planning on broadcasting the Sixers' Friday night
matchup with the Dallas Mavericks in South Philly, but the Sixers' fine start
to the season has suddenly made them a lot more palatable to national
audiences, and now the eyes of the basketball world—those not previously
occupied with Jeremy Lin, anyway—will be on the Liberty Ballers
tonight.

Of course, whether the Sixers will prove themselves worthy of the added
attention tonight is something of a worry. The Sixers have not exactly
been in top form the last week or so, going 2-3 over their last five
games, and most recently getting all but blown out by the Magic in
Orlando. Most discouragingly, the young guys—who should dictate not only
the team's present, but their future—have been struggling. Jrue Holiday
and Evan Turner were a combined 3-15 in the game against the Magic, and
the latter particularly has seen both his point totals and minutes drop
precipitously in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Spencer Hawes, looking like
the Sixers' legit center of the future the first few weeks of the
season, should be out for a couple weeks or more, in a boot with his
gimpy Achilles.

On the other side, the Mavs have been rolling of late, winners of their
last five, including Ws over the Blazers, Clippers, and two over the
Nuggets. After a slow start to the season, Dallas has finally started to
look a little like the team that stole the 2011 finals from the
presumptive-favorite Heat, and while they still have a ways to go before
proving capable of repeating, they have climbed back up to fourth in
the West, and are always dangerous in the House That Cubes Built. The
Sixers will get a break in not having to deal with three of the Mavs'
top guards, however, as Jason Terry, Rodrigue Beaubois and Delonte West
are all riding the pine with injuries. (Dominique Jones will be
starting? Great.)

8:00 tip from the Wells Fargo Center. The love of an adoring nation awaits.

Philly Mayor goes to bat for Eagles fans, cheesesteaks against John Oliver

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HBO's Last Week Tonight

Philly Mayor goes to bat for Eagles fans, cheesesteaks against John Oliver

Charter schools. They're complicated!

After watching John Oliver's segment on them over the weekend, you'd agree there is plenty of nuance involved in the charter school debate. But also that some of them are dirty as all get out. An underground nightclub at a SCHOOL? Jeez. That can't be okay anywhere.

It's a solid segment. But it also took a couple of unneeded digs at the city of Philadelphia, its cuisine, and its sports fans.

That irked the Mayor of Philadelphia and he fought back today on Twitter.

"Agree on charter oversight but English soccer fan who eats fish from newsprint can't judge Eagles fans, cheesesteaks," Jim Kenney tweeted.

Take that you fish-eating Brit!

You can also watch the entire John Oliver segment from Last Week Tonight below.

On Eagles' roster bubble, Marcus Smith finally showing signs of improvement

On Eagles' roster bubble, Marcus Smith finally showing signs of improvement

Final cuts are a little over a week away. Marcus Smith is trying to impress a coaching staff that didn't draft him. Steven Means has had a very good preseason. Smith has little to show for his first two NFL seasons.

If time is running out on the former first-round pick from Louisville, it's not weighing on him.

"I try not to think about those things," Smith said. "Just go out there every single day and not worry about what's going on around me because everything will take care of itself."

Smith, in his first year as a 4-3 defensive end after struggling in two seasons as a 3-4 linebacker, missed the preseason game against the Bucs with a concussion but actually played very well Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with four tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.

It didn't count. But it was the kind of performance the Eagles have been waiting for since they made Smith the 26th pick in the 2014 draft.

Smith played just 68 snaps as a rookie, getting more than seven snaps in only four games. Last year, he played five or fewer snaps in nine of 16 games.

But new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has given Smith every opportunity to shine, and he liked what he saw in Pittsburgh.

"The thing I'm most proud about with Marcus is that he's done a good job in the run game," Schwartz said.

"He's a very skilled athlete. He's fast and he's smooth. I think he was a quarterback when he first went to Louisville. I mean, that stuff shows. Where he's really making good improvement is setting the edge of our defense [and] attacking tackles.

"He did that against a physical group from Pittsburgh. That was a great sign."

Smith was asked about his run defense being an underrated part of his game, and he disagreed with the assessment.

"For myself, it's not an underrated part,  but everybody else thinks that it's underrated because they see me as just a pass rusher," he said.

"But I also know that I can play the run and stop the run and rush the passer at the same time, and when you have both those tools then it allows the coaches to be able to put you in the game more."

When the preseason began, it was just kind of a foregone conclusion that Smith's time in Philly had run out.

Now, he's battling not only for a roster spot, presumably with Means, but also for playing time behind defensive ends Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham.

Smith insists he's not worried about where he fits in on a roster that's loaded on the defensive line.

"I don't think about those things because if you think about things you can't control you tend to not do the things that you're supposed to do," he said.

"So I just worry about what I can control and just get better and play well."

Smith is on three special teams units — kickoff, punt and kickoff return — which gives him a few more opportunities to show he belongs.

More than anything, for the first time since he got to the NFL, he's brimming with confidence.

That, more than anything else, was missing the last two seasons.

"I feel really comfortable just because the scheme and the type of defense that we're playing, it allows me to just be a defensive end and go make plays," he said.

"My confidence level is really high. I feel that when I'm out on the field I can't be stopped."