This Halloween, Give Thanks for the Sixers

This Halloween, Give Thanks for the Sixers

Thanksgiving may be three weeks away, but Halloween is as good a day as any for Philadelphia sports fans to give thanks. Be thankful for the return of the 76ers, and their offering of a diversion.

Be thankful the NBA is playing its 82-game season as scheduled this year. At face value, that may seem like the equivalent of handing out an award for participation. Then again, with the NHL embroiled in a bitter lockout, no end in sight, a little pro basketball right now could be a welcome escape from an ongoing labor dispute.

Be grateful the Sixers are giving fans a reason to be excited about the product. It's about time after running in place for the better part of a decade, but such is the cycle of life. Now that the Eagles look like they could finally fall off of the treadmill entirely, the Sixers are poised to become the best game in town for awhile.

[Enrico's note: ALSO BE GRATEFUL FOR GIANT T-SHIRT LAUNCHERS! YEA!]

Be appreciative of the fact that they are filling a massive void on the local sports calendar. The Flyers are out of commission until who knows when, the Birds' campaign appears to be spiraling out of control, and we are five months away from the Phillies' Opening Day. The Sixers are the only game in town for awhile.

I for one don't know if I've ever been happier for the start to a basketball season, and it's not just because of Andrew Bynum, or the radical changes throughout the organization over the past 12 months. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the 76ers suddenly look like a legit operation, not to mention a viable threat in the Eastern Conference.

I'm most thankful for a fresh start in the midst of what is quickly becoming one of the supremely dismal sports years in the city's recent memory. Between the underachieving Phillies, the disintegrating Eagles, and the non-existent Flyers, there hasn't been very much to cheer for over the last six months -- arguably even less to look forward to.

That changes on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, where the 76ers are hosting an opposing Andre Iguodala and the Denver Nuggets. It's only Game 1 of 82, and Bynum won't be on the floor, but at the very least it serves as a much-needed change of pace to break up the current monotony.

We are not necessarily talking about a team that's going to deliver a parade this summer, but the franchise seems to be heading in the right direction. If nothing else, there is something to see here, which is a lot more than we can say for the rest of the home teams right now.

The Sixers offering hope to Philadelphia during a hopeless time -- imagine that narrative.

Phillies to add 3 players Friday; Nick Williams iffy for September call-up

Phillies to add 3 players Friday; Nick Williams iffy for September call-up

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he expects the club to add three players from the minors on Friday. Rosters expand on Thursday, an off day for the Phils.

“A couple of relievers, maybe a hitter,” Mackanin said before Wednesday night's game against Washington.

Mackanin would not name names because a lot can change in a day or two.

Darin Ruf seems to be a logical choice to be the hitter Mackanin referred to. He opened the season with the big club, but got just 57 at-bats and hit just .158 before being sent to Triple A when Tommy Joseph came up. Since going down, Ruf has hit .298 with 20 homers, 65 RBIs and a .895 OPS in 94 games for Lehigh Valley.

The Phillies will likely add two relievers to fortify the bullpen. Patrick Schuster, a lefty who was recently claimed off waivers from Oakland, could be a possibility. Colton Murray, Luis Garcia, Dalier Hinojosa and Elvis Araujo all could be possibilities, as well. All have spent time in the majors this season.

The Phils can’t completely pick over the Triple A roster because Lehigh Valley’s regular season runs through Monday and that club is likely to be in the International League playoffs.

Once Lehigh Valley’s season is over, more pitching could come. Starters David Buchanan and Phil Klein could be possibilities. Alec Asher, currently serving a suspension for testing positive for PEDs, is expected to be activated by the big club next week and could provide some innings to the starting rotation.

It’s unclear which prospects will come up. Catcher Jorge Alfaro seems to be a shoo-in after Double A Reading’s playoff run. Shortstop J.P. Crawford is not on the 40-man roster and does not need to be protected on it this winter. That could prevent him from coming up as the Phillies look to use the 40-man roster spot on a player that they could lose if not protected. Outfielder Nick Williams seemed to be a lock to come up a month ago, but his performance has slipped at Triple A in recent weeks and he now looks iffy.

Williams, like Alfaro, was acquired from Texas in the Cole Hamels trade last summer. The lefty-hitting outfielder entered Wednesday hitting .265 with 12 homers, 62 RBIs and just a .294 on-base percentage in 119 games. He entered Wednesday hitting just .187 with a paltry .204 on-base percentage in the month of August. He had struck out 34 times and walked just once in 93 trips to the plate in August.

That certainly cannot sit well with a front office that puts a premium on players who "control the strike zone."

AFL rosters announced
The Phillies will send six players to the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. The group includes three pitchers, right-handed relievers Victor Arano and Miguel Nunez, and lefty starter Brandon Liebrandt, second baseman Scott Kingery, third baseman Mitch Walding, and outfielder Aaron Brown. Brown replaces outfielder Andrew Pullin, who recently went on the disabled list at Double A Reading with an elbow injury.

Sixers waive Carl Landry, Tibor Pleiss; officially sign Cat Barber

Sixers waive Carl Landry, Tibor Pleiss; officially sign Cat Barber

The Sixers made some roster tweaks on Wednesday night.

The team waived forward Carl Landry and center Tibor Pleiss, while officially announcing the signing of guard Anthony "Cat" Barber.

The Sixers were expected to cut Pleiss, who was acquired last Friday in a trade with the Jazz. On July 21, Barber and the Sixers reportedly agreed to a partially guaranteed deal.

Landy, a 32-year-old veteran, played one season with the Sixers after being acquired last summer in a trade with the Kings, a deal in which he was essentially a toss-in as it revolved around bringing Nik Stauskas to Philadelphia. Landry, who was under contract for 2016-17 at $6.75 million, battled injury to start 2015-16 and ended up playing in 36 games (12 starts), averaging 9.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.

Barber, 6-foot-3, 173 pounds, will fight for a roster spot at point guard during training camp. The 22-year-old went undrafted in June after declaring following his junior season at NC State in which he averaged 23.5 points per game, seventh most in the country and best in the ACC.

Ben Simmons working out with LeBron James

usa-ben-simmons-summer-league.jpg

Ben Simmons working out with LeBron James

Ben Simmons' fellow NBA rookies may not think too highly of him, but when the best basketball player on the planet is giving him pointers, he must be doing something right.

On Tuesday, a photo of Simmons and LeBron James dribbling side by side started making the rounds on Instagram. That's right. The Sixers' number-one overall draft pick and franchise savior is apparently training with the four-time league MVP and reigning world champion.

#Klutch @klutchsports

A photo posted by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

Those workouts continued on Wednesday, when 12-time All-Star Dwayne Wade posted a photo of himself, Simmons and James, as well as Richard Jefferson and Jordan McRae. That's some good company for a first-year player to keep.

Good day of work!

A photo posted by dwyanewade (@dwyanewade) on

What does all of this mean for Simmons and the Sixers? Hard to say, but it can't be a bad thing that the rookie point-forward is spending time with a pair of future first-ballot Hall of Famers. Surely he must be learning something.

That's good news for the Sixers, who hope that Simmons can even come close to living up to the lofty comparisons some have drawn to James already.