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 NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter for his fifth of the game and the Washington Redskins avoid a near-disastrous 0-3 start with a 29-27 win over the penalty- and error-prone New York Giants on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to DeSean Jackson and 55 to Jamison Crowder as the banged-up Redskins (1-2) handed new coach Ben McAdoo his first loss with the Giants (2-1).

Su'a Cravens ended the Giants' final drive with an interception in New York territory. It was Eli Manning's second pick of the quarter, with the other coming in the end zone by Quinton Dunbar after New York got to the Redskins 15 on a big play by Odell Beckham Jr.

This was a wild NFC East matchup that see-sawed the entire second half after Washington rallied from a 21-9 deficit (see full recap).

Prescott, Cowboys rout Bears on SNF
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without injured quarterback Tony Romo over three seasons before the rookie fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals in NFL history.

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox (see full recap).

Vikings stop Newton, snap Panthers' home win streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries --and keep finding ways to win football games.

Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, Marcus Sherels returned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers' 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.

The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league's reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.

"We have a great team -- the best team I have been a part of," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. "We come from every area on the field and we get sacks."

Said Newton: "They were dictating to us after they got the momentum."

The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason (see full recap).

Bills bounce back with win over Cardinals
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  -- LeSean McCoy scored twice and safety Aaron Williams returned a botched field-goal snap 53 yards for a touchdown in leading the Buffalo Bills to a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 20-yard run at a time the Rex Ryan-coached Bills spent the past week taking the brunt of criticism after opening the season 0-2.

The win also came on the heels of Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

McCoy scored on 24- and 5-yard runs, and finished with 110 yards rushing after combining for just 117 in his first two games. Taylor had 76 yards rushing, including a 49-yarder, the longest by a quarterback in team history (see full recap).

Visit TicketIQ to discover the lowest prices on Eagles tickets anywhere, zone-level ticket data and seat views from fans just like you!”

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

On his way to the locker room following his team's stunning 34-3 victory over the Steelers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reacted, well, like you probably did.

Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first). 

And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.

But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.

“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight. 

"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that. 

At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit. 

“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play. 

"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”

Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.

And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).

More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas'  Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.

But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).

“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”

As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone

"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”