Uh-oh, Sixers host Raptors in game they should probably actually win

Uh-oh, Sixers host Raptors in game they should probably actually win

Update: The Sixers have announced the signings of guards Elliot Williams and Lorenzo Brown to fill up the roster spots vacated by Darius and Kwame. Also, Daniel Orton is starting tonight in place of Thaddeus Young, who is away from the team for personal reasons. This team, obviously.

Well, this is a new one. The Sixers have played all kinds of games this year--close ones, blowouts, back-and-forths, come-from-way-behind-at-the-very-ends, fun ones, miserable ones, ones that felt more like a fever dream than anything else--but they've played every single one of them, fairly or not, as some degree of underdog. Not a single one of them--except for maaaayyybe the Pelicans game, which they ended up losing by 37--would you have gone into saying "well, they should probably get this one," and none of them were particularly disappointing when they didn't.

Tonight, the Sixers face a different beast altogether. The Toronto Raptors are probably about on the Sixers' level at the moment--3-7, with a tough strength-of-schedule start to the season and a loss or two that probably could've gone the other way. They may or may not be worse than the Sixers, but even with their mostly superior talent level (or at least their considerably higher payroll), they're certainly not all that much better than the Sixers at the moment. Bovada sports still has the Raps as 3.5-point favorites, but really, this is a very winnable game for the 76ers.

Still, you have to wonder how much of the early-season magic the team has left after going 0-3 on their recent roadtrip, with a couple bad losses in Atlanta and New Orleans and one in Dallas that probably should have been worse than it was. At the very least, they should be getting Michael Carter-Williams back from his foot problems tonight, the ailing phenom PG having missed the last four games. Tony Wroten didn't look half bad taking over the PG role, but MCW is easily the more complete PG at this point--neither can shoot a lick from outside--and it'll help having Wroten to bring off the bench again.

That bench will be a little lighter tonight, however, as Adrian Wojnarowski reports in his typical out-of-nowhere style that the team has waived the corpse of Kwame Brown and the somewhat livelier body of Darius Morris, who'd been averaging 16 minutes a game as the Sixers' backup point. The timing of the move is a little perplexing, as Morris had actually been playing better the last week or so, hitting nine of his last 18 attempts from three, playing solid perimeter defense, and even going off for a season-high 20 (albeit mostly in garbage time) against the Pelicans the other night.

Obviously the return of MCW makes this possible, with Wroten assuming the backup point duties, though the Sixers have such minimal depth behind those two (or really anywhere else on the roster) that the waiving of anyone makes little sense--unless, of course, there are more moves to follow, a possibility which never should be ruled out with Sam Hinkie involved. (Could a long-rumored signing of disgraced ex-Suns point guard and one-time lottery pick Kendall Marshall be in the works? "We have people we've been looking at," says Coach Brown.)

Anyway, 7:00 tip off from WFC, with anyone still currently on the Sixers' roster welcome to join in the fun against the Sixers' Atlantic rivals to the north. Do it for Kwame.

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Kevin Hayes will miss two to three weeks with a lower-body injury.

The team announced the timeline Monday after Hayes underwent an MRI in the morning. Hayes left the Rangers' game Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period.

Hayes had seven points in his previous six games and is third on the team in points with 35. The 24-year-old has 13 goals and 22 assists in 47 games this season.

His injury is a major blow to New York, which holds the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The silver lining for the Rangers is that Hayes will miss fewer games because of the upcoming All-Star break.

Senators sign Zack Smith to 4-year, $13 million extension
OTTAWA, Ontario -- The Ottawa Senators have signed forward Zack Smith to a four-year contract extension worth $13 million.

The Senators said that the extension goes through the 2020-21 season and carries an annual average value of $3.25 million.

Smith, 28, has 11 goals and 11 assists in 43 games this season and is averaging a career-high 16 minutes, 13 seconds per game.

He set career highs with 25 goals and 36 points in 2015-16. He has 75 goals and 61 assists in 443 games, all with the Senators.

Smith was Ottawa's third-round pick (79th overall) in the 2008 draft.

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

In the eighth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 8 is Mathews to Means.

Ryan Mathews
Cap hit: $5M

Roob: The Eagles have to get better, younger, faster, healthier, more durable and more reliable at running back. I love the way Mathews runs when he’s healthy. The guy runs hard and he runs physical and he's aggressive. Then he always gets hurt. Mathews actually has the third-highest per-carry average among running backs in Eagles history, but they just can’t rely on him anymore. How can you count on a running back who misses significant time every year? Time to move on. Factor in the cap savings — $4 million if the Eagles release him — and it’s a no-brainer.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $4 million in cap room to cut the running back who needed serious neck surgery after his season was ended in the Giants' game. Mathews played pretty well in his two seasons with the Eagles, but, as has been the case during his career, health was an issue. And now he’s 29 and will turn 30 early into next season. Time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Matthews
Cap hit: $1.57M

Roob: Matthews is going into Year 4 and I’d still like to see him make a jump and become a 1,200-yard type of receiver. Maybe it will happen with another year under his belt with Carson Wentz. Matthews has the 11th-most catches in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons — 225, or 75 per year — but his 2,673 yards are 50th most. Matthews is as hard a worker and as committed a player as you’ll see. He'll get the most out of his ability. I’d just like to see him take his game up one more level, and I think he will.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s a shame the Eagles don’t have any legitimate threats at their outside receiver positions, because if they did, so much of the burden wouldn’t fall on Matthews. No, he’s not a great receiver, but he’s a very good one who has been solid in his first three years in the league. In his first three seasons, Matthews has 225 catches for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. There have been just 10 receivers in the league to put up those numbers or better: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, Randall Cobb and Brandon Marshall. Matthews isn’t going anywhere and it’s time to think about an extension. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alex McCalister
Cap hit: $557K

Roob: McCalister, a seventh-round defensive end, spent the year on injured reserve but considering the Eagles’ lack of pass-rush potency, he’ll definitely get a look this summer. McCalister had 17½ sacks at Florida, so he’s got that going for him. Still a long shot.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is tough because McCalister was a seventh-round draft pick who was placed on IR with a injury that didn’t appear to be serious. The last year was a redshirt season for the defensive end who has some pass-rush ability but needed to work on packing more muscle onto his frame. Haven’t seen enough to think he sticks. 

Verdict: GOES

Leodis McKelvin
Cap hit: $3.45M

Roob: The Eagles have to do better than McKelvin. He made a few plays, gave up a lot more, and as far as I’m concerned, the Eagles should hang onto Jalen Mills and get rid of all their other corners. Not to mention the $3.2 million in cap savings the Eagles would gain if McKelvin is released. See ya.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $3.2 million by cutting McKelvin, which will probably happen. If it doesn’t, it’ll be because the Eagles think his lingering hamstring issue played a big role in his play and because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz goes to bat for him. Ultimately, I think McKelvin’s days in Philly are over. 

Verdict: GOES

Rodney McLeod
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: McLeod played really well most of the season, tailed off the last few weeks, and goes into next year a question mark because of that inconsistency. When he’s right, McLeod is a sure tackler, willing run supporter, big hitter and capable in coverage. But those last few weeks raised some eyebrows. There were times you just wondered what he was doing out there. If the Eagles can have the first-10-games McLeod for a full season, they’re fine. But he has to be consistent. He’ll be here through 2017 but after that is anybody’s guess. Another mixed year will likely spell the end here for McLeod.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There were a few plays that showed questionable effort from McLeod this season, which was shocking based on his past. He was an undrafted rookie who worked his way into the league and into a contract with the Eagles. This ended up being a pretty good signing; he had a nice season. He’s under contract through 2020 and the Eagles hope he hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential. He and Malcolm Jenkins should only get better after more time playing together. 

Verdict: STAYS

Steven Means
Cap hit: $690K

Roob: Means, a veteran journeyman defensive end, played only 36 snaps all year. He did pick up one sack against the Vikings, but as far as his future? Most likely, he won’t be back.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Means did everything in his power last training camp to make the 2016 roster. He flashed every day and in the preseason games. But in 2016, he didn’t get to play very much and was clearly buried on the depth chart behind Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith. The Eagles need to upgrade at the defensive end spot, which might be bad news for Means if more bodies come in. But for now, he's a good depth piece. 

Verdict: STAYS