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.

Eagles-Bengals predictions by our (cough) experts

Eagles-Bengals predictions by our (cough) experts

With their playoff hopes waning, the Eagles (5-6) travel to Cincinnati for a matchup against the struggling Bengals (3-7-1).

The Birds have lost six of their last 8, including two straight. Cincinnati hasn't fared much better, going winless in its last four.

It's time for our (cough) expert predictions for the Week 13 matchup.

Reuben Frank (5-5)
Now that the Eagles' playoff hopes have dwindled down to about a 1-in-12 shot, we'll find out if Doug Pederson can keep this team motivated and sharp for the remaining third of the season. That's a lot of football left to go, and for a team that's lost six of its last eight and five straight on the road, it's not going to be easy. But I do believe the Eagles won't stop playing hard. The effort has been there all along. The Green Bay game got away from them at the end, but for the most part, the losses have been competitive, and the team hasn't shown any signs of quitting. 

Now when you look at the schedule, it's filled with winning teams, division leaders, Hall of Fame quarterbacks and teams coming off byes. Of their last nine opponents, only the Packers currently have a losing record at 5-6. But they have Aaron Rodgers. Which brings us to the Bengals. They're 3-7-1, they're missing their Pro Bowl wide receiver and their starting running back and they've won just two of their last 10 games -- one of them against the Browns. 

Final conclusion: This is a team the Eagles can beat. I see a big game for Wendell Smallwood against the NFL's fifth-worst rush defense and also a big performance from Kenjon Barner with his one weekly carry. The Eagles are 0-3-1 all-time in Cincinnati. But Bobby Hoying beat the Bengals in 1997, and if Bobby Hoying can beat 'em Carson Wentz can. I'm going Eagles 17, Bengals 16 and back to .500 with four games to go.

Eagles 17, Bengals 16

Dave Zangaro (3-8)
The Eagles managed to put up just 13 points against the Packers' swiss cheese defense, so it's hard to imagine they'll suddenly catch fire against a better defense on the road.  

The best chance the Eagles have on offense, is to run the ball early and often, but they're without their top running back Ryan Mathews. That means rookie Wendell Smallwood will become the lead back. 

Oh yeah, did we mention that the Eagles' best receiver, Jordan Matthews, is dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of practice most of the week? Even if Matthews plays, he might be severely hampered by the ankle. 

No, the Bengals don't pack the same punch as the Packers, but they'll be at home and Andy Dalton is at least a decent quarterback, Jeremy Hill runs hard and Tyler Eifert is a very good tight end. 

The Eagles catch a break with A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard out, but I don't think that's going to be enough. 

Bengals 17, Eagles 15  

Derrick Gunn (4-7)
After their latest two game losing streak where do the Eagles go from here? In their last two outings the Birds have given up 26.5 point per game while scoring just 14 points per game. The offense has lacked big play capability, and the defense hasn't stopped opponents from making key plays (Green Bay was 10 of 14 on 3rd down). Now they take to the road to face a Cincinnati team that is worse off than they are. The Bengals were projected to be serious playoff contenders but have been pretenders with a 3-7-1 record.

To add insult to injury, the Bengals are playing without 40 percent of their offensive production. Their top wideout, A.J. Green, is out with a hamstring injury and RB Giovani Bernard, who's lost for the year with an ACL tear. The Bengals can't score but their defense has been improving over the last three games giving up an average of 18.6 points.

Jordan Matthews' ankle injury could handcuff the Birds' passing attack. Hopefully the defense can get to Dalton who's been sacked 32 times. I can't believe I'm saying this but just call it a hunch: I don't like the Birds in this situation. 

Bengals 16, Eagles 13

Ray Didinger (5-6)
The Cincinnati Bengals have won one game since Sept. 29 and it was against the Cleveland Browns which almost doesn't count. They are currently on an 0-3-1 slide and will miss the playoffs for the first time in six years. Their best receiver, A.J. Green, is hurt and running back Giovani Bernard is lost for the season. Quarterback Andy Dalton fumbled four times in last week's loss to Baltimore. In short, these are not fun times in Cincinnati.

That would seem to bode well for the Eagles but there is that pesky matter of playing on the road (where they have lost five in a row) and the fact they are coming off their worst performance of the season, Monday's home loss to the Packers. The Eagles have scored just 28 points in their last two games while the Bengals have scored 26 so don't look for a lot of offense on Sunday. This could come down to the kickers and if so Caleb Sturgis is a lot better than Mike Nugent who has missed four of his last eight extra-point attempts.
 
Eagles 19, Bengals 13

Andrew Kulp (6-5)
Records aside, these are similar teams right now. The offenses lack weapons, the defenses are OK but flawed and the only way either team can win is ugly.

And ugly this game will likely be. The game comes down to kicks, a battle Caleb Sturgis can win against a struggling Mike Nugent. Bonus prediction: Eagles fans get plenty of chores and projects done around the house during this snoozer.

Eagles 13, Bengals 9

Corey Seidman (5-6)
The over/under is just 42 and I'm not expecting a whole lot of points. 

The Eagles are reeling, the Bengals are reeling, but when it comes down to it the Eagles enter this game healthier and should be able to keep Cincy's offense in check. 

Eifert is the Bengals' most dangerous weapon at the moment and the Eagles have been pretty good defending the seam with Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham and the safeties.

Eagles 20, Bengals 16

Andy Schwartz (5-6)
Just when I thought I had this team figured out, just when I’d evened my record at .500, the Eagles laid an egg.

They did so against a Packers team that had lost four straight. I should have seen it coming. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t going to let the Packers lose five in a row. The Eagles’ defense, despite having played well at home, was at his mercy. 

Now the Birds face another reeling team. Cincy hasn’t won in more than a month. The Bengals have lost three straight after tying the Redskins. 

But the Bengals don’t have Aaron Rodgers. They don’t have A.J. Green or Giovani Bernard either. And they’re not the Packers. They’re the Bengals.

After last week, it’s easy to pick the Eagles to lose. After last week, you wonder if the Eagles will win again this season. 

But the Eagles haven’t lost three straight all year. The pass rush wakes up, the special teams makes a big play, and that helps the offense score three touchdowns.

Eagles 24, Bengals 18

Temple holds off late Penn charge for fifth straight win

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Temple holds off late Penn charge for fifth straight win

BOX SCORE

For the last decade, Temple has never lost to Penn in men’s basketball.

That streak nearly came to an end Saturday at the Liacouras Center.

After trailing by as many 17 and by 11 midway through the second half, the Quakers pulled within two before the Owls scored the final six points of the game to survive Penn's upset bid with an exciting 70-62 victory.

Shizz Alston Jr. led the way with 14 points while Obi Enechionyia and Alani Moore II had 12 point apiece for the Owls (6-2), who have now won five straight. 

Ernest Aflakpui added 11 points and 11 rebounds for Temple, which improved to 3-0 in the Big 5 with a date against soon-to-be-No. 1 Villanova looming in 10 days for the city series title. The Owls have won 10 straight against the Quakers.

Senior Matt Howard scored 19 points and freshman AJ Brodeur had 17 for the Quakers (2-4), who dropped their third straight and fell to 0-2 in the Big 5. 

Trailing 46-37 midway through the second half, Penn reeled of a 10-3 run to pull within 50-46. The Quakers got within four twice more but Enechionyia followed with a jumper and an alley-oop slam to push Temple back ahead 58-50 with five minutes left.

After Brodeur blocked an Enechionyia shot and hit a layup to slice Temple’s lead to 64-62 with 1:12 left, the Owls didn’t let the Quakers score again to continue their mastery of their city rival.

Enechionyia, who came into the contest averaging 21 points per game, missed all nine of his shot attempts in the first half but the Owls still controlled things early, jumping out to a 14-2 advantage and taking a 31-22 lead into halftime.

The Quakers shot just 29.2 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from 3-point range in the first half while committing eight turnovers. 

The game was played in front of a relatively small crowd with much of Temple’s attention focused on Annapolis, where the Owls beat Navy for the AAC football championship. 

More to come …