Tony Wroten, James Anderson and the new look Sixers in the first week of training camp

Tony Wroten, James Anderson and the new look Sixers in the first week of training camp

The Philadelphia 76ers have descended upon the Philadelphia Center for Osteopathic Medicine, meaning training camp is officially underway. The new-look Sixers will play their first pre-season game on Oct. 6th (though they'll be going all the way to Bilbao, Spain for that one) and will debut at the Wells Fargo Center about a week after that. In the meantime, however, we're treated to transmissions from the first couple days of practice, including the team's first scrimmages and those scrimmages' first lineup implications.

First off came the revelation a couple days ago that the Sixers' off-season acquisition James Anderson was getting looks with the squad's first team during scrimmages, leading reporters to conclude that he will begin the season as the team's starting two-guard. Anderson has started just six games thusfar in his three-year NBA career, and the numbers have not been pretty--about eight points and four rebounds a game on 35% shooting, with nearly as many turnovers as assists.

So why Anderson? Well first and foremost, it's a general paucity of options. There was previously some thought that Arnett Moultrie would crack the starting lineup at the four, which would slide Thaddeus Young down to the three, while Evan Turner would start at shooting guard. But Moultrie's season-delaying surgery has Thad once again the likely starting power forward, and ET the small. The team's only other options for a backcourt partner to Michael Carter-Williams would be Khalif Wyatt and Darius Morris, both of whom would give up a good deal of size at the position, or Tony Wroten, whose terrible outside shooting would make him a poor fit with the already brick-happy MCW.

James Anderson does have himself some size--he's a hearty 6'6", 210 pounds--and the reputation of being a shooter and scorer, even if that hasn't really translated to the pros yet. When asked at a recent media scrum about what he could bring to the Sixers, Anderson mentioned his three-point stroke, but that hasn't been a real weapon for him yet at this level, where he's been a career 33% shooter from deep--though it was a more reliable weapon for him in college, where he shot 38% from three (with high volume) over three years.

At the very least, Anderson does bring decent athleticism to the position, with a potential to be a weapon in the open court. More than anything else than camp started, new coach Brett Brown has preached pace as a priority of the new Sixers administration (as well as the fitness required to maintain such a pace), and the 24-year-old Anderson certainly fits into that. Observe this footage of him dunking on Nuggets guard Evan Fournier in the open court last year, possibly the season's most underrated slam:

If he can defend competently, shoot a little bit and give that kind of effort running the floor, there's a pretty good chance James Anderson will end up getting serious minutes on this team. They'll likely be filler minutes, as it's unlikely that Anderson will blossom into a serious piece on this team four years into his career after washing out with model organizations like the Rockets and Spurs (twice!), but they'll help make the team coherent, which is important for the team's watchability, if nothing else.

The real story of training camp, however, has been combo guard Tony Wroten, who was the star of the team's most recent scrimmage, the only one open to reporters thusfar. Wroten impressed media and coaches alike with his athleticism and play-making, with Coach Brown even going so far as to call Wroten the "star of the day" and say that he "resurrected the gym" after Spencer Hawes tweaked his ankle earlier in the practice. (He'll be fine, presumably.) You can see a couple of Wroten's highlight plays in this post-scrimmage video interview with the Washington native, including a perfectly executed 2-on-1 break and a just lovely baseline dish to a plunging teammate for an easy layup.

Like Anderson, Wroten is sure to get a fair deal of opportunity with this team based on the style Coach Brown evidently wants to play with his young team. In fact, more than maybe any other player on the team besides the injured Nerlens Noel, the sublimely athletic T-Wrote looks the ideal fit for Brown--an up-and-down player with passing smarts, finishing ability, and practically unlimited defensive potential.

Of course, the downside of this is the dreaded potential quarterback controversy, which may be coming somewhere down the line between Wroten and MCW. It's tempting to consider playing them together, since both players have the size and athleticism to guard either points or twos--Coach Brown even compared Wroten to former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, who has spent plenty of time at the one, two and three--and they would likely be a deadly defensive combo.

But as previously mentioned, the shooting woes the two would have alongside one another would likely be too considerable to ignore. Wroten's lack of an outside stroke has earned unflattering comparisons to Rajon Rondo, shooting just 38% from the field and 25% from deep in his rookie season with the Grizzlies. (Perhaps even more discouragingly, Tony shot just 9-56--16%--behind a shorter three-point line in his one season in college). Considering that Carter-Williams is pretty damn far from a marksman himself, as anyone who watched him in Summer League can attest to, it's hard to imagine how the two could play together for extended stretches without totally annihilating the team's floor spacing.

He'll get the start at season's outset regardless, but it's not hard to envision a scenario in which MCW struggles badly from the floor to begin the season, while Wroten has himself a couple highlight plays as the primary playmaker of the second unit, and fans start calling for T-Wrote--who also has first-round pedigree, and is actually a solid year-and-a-half than the rookie Carter-Williams--to start in his stead. Dealing with such matters will likely rank among the biggest challenges for Coach Brown in his first season at the helm of this young team, though he'll have the advantage of impossibly low expectations to give him room to do whatever experimenting is necessary with this roster.

In any event, this is all just off one scrimmage, and perhaps Wroten struggles in the next one while MCW has himself a couple nice alley-oops and layup finishes to be the gym-resurrector of the afternoon. Long way to go with this bunch, and it's entirely probable that the rotation the team starts the season with bears little or no resemblance to the one they end with.

One other, less familiar name to take note of from these early scrimmages: Hollis Thompson. The undrafted 22-year-old Georgetown product signed with the Sixers for training camp after spending last season with the Tulsa 66ers of the D-League, and though his stats there weren't great--eight points and four boards on about 45% FG, 29% from deep--he does have the athleticism and motor Brown is looking for, and did convert at 44% from beyond over three years at Georgetown, which might be enough for the shooting-starved Sixers to give him an extended look this year. (Reports also say that Thompson impressed at the practice, for whatever that's worth.)

Finally--yes, enigmatic power forward Royce White did actually play in the scrimmage, which means that his legs are indeed still attached to his torso and it's possible that he'll actually get a chance to crack the team's injury-depleted frontcourt rotation. However, those getting overly excited at the prospect of White triple-doubling it up in the post for the Ballers should take a quick read of Michael Levin's fine column wisely advising against putting any sort of stock in the Iowa State alum's performance this year, or even remembering that he's on the team in the first place. Until we see him out there on the court during actual NBA action, he's the Sixers' heavily tattooed unicorn--like Andrew Bynum with slightly saner follicle mood swings.

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders are on quite a nice roll.

Anders Lee scored two power-play goals to lead the Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, giving New York its third straight win and fourth in the last five games.

"We've been keeping it simple of late," said Lee, who has four goals in two games against the Kings this season. "We've been getting shots on net and being more effective. I'll do my thing down low."

John Tavares had a goal and an assist, Jason Chimera also scored and Jean-Francois Berube stopped 34 shots to earn his first win in his third start of the season (see full recap).

Hartnell snaps tie as Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blue Jackets would just as soon forget the second period of Saturday's game, when the Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie it.

Columbus didn't play much better in the third but withstood 15 shots and killed three penalties. Midway through, Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game , and the Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2.

Columbus got the win despite being outshot 37-20.

Hartnell scored in the first period and then netted the tiebreaker, helping the Blue Jackets overcome a horrendous second period - in which they managed only two shots on goal - to beat Carolina for the second time this week (see full recap).

Beagle scores in overtime, Capitals beat Stars 4-3
DALLAS -- Jay Beagle scored 19 seconds into overtime and the Washington Capitals rallied to beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on Saturday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov skated behind the net and put the puck in front to Beagle. His wrist shot beat goalie Kari Lehtonen, who got tangled with a defender and lost his footing.

The Stars led 3-1 and didn't allow Washington a power play until the third period, but then Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie scored with the man advantage in the first 5:26 of the period.

Adam Cracknell and Jamie Benn scored for Dallas on plays that originally were ruled no goal. Patrick Eaves had a goal and an assist for the Stars (see full recap).

Bogosian scores in overtime, Sabres edge Canadiens 3-2
MONTREAL -- The Sabres couldn't score from in close on All-Star goalie Carey Price late in regulation Saturday night.

So Zach Bogosian teed it up from a ways out in overtime to lift Buffalo.

Bogosian scored his first goal of the season in overtime and the Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the second game of a back-to-back for both teams.

Buffalo nearly broke through against Price near the end of the third period. Price made a pad save on Matt Moulson on a breakaway at 19:40, and then with six seconds remaining, he robbed Rasmus Ristolainen with a windmill glove save (see full recap).

 

Best of NBA: Kawhi Leonard scores 41, Spurs down Cavaliers in OT

Best of NBA: Kawhi Leonard scores 41, Spurs down Cavaliers in OT

CLEVELAND -- Kawhi Leonard scored a career-high 41 points, LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-115 in overtime on Saturday night despite missing starters Tony Parker and Pau Gasol.

Leonard scored six in OT, including a game-sealing dunk with 4.9 seconds left, as the Spurs regrouped after a late collapse in regulation.

David Lee, making a rare start in place of the injured Gasol, added 14 points as San Antonio improved to 18-4 on the road.

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving scored 29 apiece for the Cavs, who had the last shot in regulation and had plenty of opportunities in the extra five minutes. Cleveland still had a chance to tie it in the final second of overtime, but Kevin Love missed a 3-pointer (see full recap).

Lillard, McCollum carry Portland to OT win over Boston
BOSTON -- Damian Lillard had a three-point play with 47 seconds left in overtime and finished with 28 points to lift the Portland Trail Blazers to a 127-123 victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night, snapping their four-game losing streak.

CJ McCollum scored 35 points to lead Portland, which lost in the closing seconds in Philadelphia on Friday night. Lillard added seven assists.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 41 points, his 14th time this season with 30 or more points. Marcus Smart and Al Horford each scored 17 for the Celtics, who have lost two straight after winning 13 of 16.

Thomas nailed a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:24 to play in OT, pushing Boston ahead by one, but Al-Farouq Aminu was fouled on the next possession and hit both free throws to move Portland back in front.

Lillard then drove the lane, was fouled and hit the free throw. Mason Plumlee had a short jumper in the lane and a free throw in the closing 24 seconds (see full recap).

Booker scores 26 as Suns edge Knicks 107-105
NEW YORK -- Devin Booker scored 26 points and made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 31 seconds left, and the Phoenix Suns beat the New York Knicks 107-105 on Saturday night.

Carmelo Anthony's attempt at a winning 3-pointer rimmed out as Phoenix snapped a two-game losing streak and handed New York its second loss in a row.

Eric Bledsoe added 23 points for the Suns, while P.J. Tucker and Marquese Chriss each had 15.

Anthony led the Knicks with 31 points, Derrick Rose had 26 and Kristaps Porzingis scored 14 (see full recap).

Dekker scores career-best 30 leading Rockets past Grizzlies
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Sam Dekker scored a career-high 30 points, James Harden added 29 points and 10 assists and the Houston Rockets leaned on their usual 3-point offense to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 119-95 on Saturday night.

Eric Gordon added 21 points as the Rockets built the lead to as many as 20 in the fourth quarter before easily coasting home.

Dekker, making his first career start in place of the ill Ryan Anderson, made 12 of 19 shots, including 6 of 11 from outside the arc. Houston shot 51 percent overall and 38 percent from distance.

Marc Gasol scored 32 points and Mike Conley added 15 for the Grizzlies, who lost for the third time in the last four.

Memphis struggled shooting the entire night, finishing at 37 percent and unsuccessfully tried to follow the Rockets' long-range attack but converted only 9 of 34 from outside the arc (see full recap).