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.

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

CHESTER, Pa. — On the eve of his comeback after missing nearly 13 months with a left tibia stress fracture and other related injuries, Union midfielder Maurice Edu fractured his left fibula on Saturday, keeping him out for the 2016 playoffs and beyond.

“I was trying to take the shot on goal and my foot got stuck in the turf,” Edu said Sunday, in his blue Union-issued suit and supported by crutches. “My ankle rolled and twisted and it kind of snapped a little bit. I heard it crack, and a lot of pain from there. I got a scan afterward, and there was a break.”

There's no timetable his return.

Edu, 30, has spent over a calendar year fighting various injuries that have kept him out of game action. His trouble began on Sept. 30, 2015, when he played through the U.S. Open Cup final with a partially torn groin and sports hernia. It was during Edu’s recovery from those injuries that he developed a stress fracture.

"A little bit frustration. A lot of frustration, to be honest," he said. "But all I can do now is get back to work, focus on the positives and make sure that my situation isn’t a distraction from the team."

Edu’s teammates were equally devastated by the news. Edu, the Union captain when healthy, is popular and well-respected in the locker room.

"I feel so bad for him," said Alejandro Bedoya, who wore a dedication to Edu under his jersey on Sunday. "He’s one of my good friends, so I was looking forward to playing alongside him. I know how hard he’s worked to get back, and to see him go out like that, it’s heartbreaking. I’m sad for his loss and I hope he stays strong."

Edu, who has been with the Union since 2014, returned to training in July and played three conditioning appearances with the Union’s USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC. He was on the bench for the Union’s last three games and was set to make his first appearance in over a year against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, a game the Union eventually lost, 2-0 (see game story).

"We’re gutted for Mo," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "He was slated to start today. It’s real upsetting because he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. It’s been a tough 2016 for him, but I know he’ll come back stronger."

While he was visibly shaken by recent injury, Edu is driven to return.

"What happened, happened," Edu said. "I have no control over that. The only thing I do have control over is my next steps from here, how I prepare myself mentally and emotionally and how I continue to support this group."

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

CAMDEN, N.J. — Toward the end of Sixers practice Monday, Joel Embiid participated in a fast-break drill … by himself.

Embiid brought the ball up the floor in a one-on-none situation against members of the Sixers' coaching staff. 

He's already showed off his three-point shooting skills and now he’s running the break? 

“I’ve always thought I was a point guard,” Embiid joked. “So that’s something that I want to do.”

In all seriousness, Embiid worked on his ball-handling skills during his two-year rehab from foot injuries. It’s not that he wants to become an unconventional point guard, it’s that he is striving to be an all-around threat. Embiid focused on recording his first assist, as an example, during the preseason. 

“I think I’m a complete player,” he said. “I think I can do everything on the court. Doing that shows I think it can help my team, too, in other aspects.” 

With running the break comes attacking the basket in traffic. It could be an anxious moment for a coach to watch a player fresh off two years of foot injuries to drive in a crowd. Sixers head coach Brett Brown said he has to be past the feeling of holding his breath whenever he watches Embiid do so. 

“We are so responsible with how we use him and play him,” Brown said. “It’s like us with children. They go out for the night. You’re nervous, but they go out for the night. He plays basketball for a living, and so he plays. We’ve just got to keep putting him in responsible environments and monitoring his minutes.”

As a point guard, T.J. McConnell appreciates Embiid’s skills, especially given his size. 

“To the people that try to pick him up when he brings the ball up the floor, good luck,” McConnell said. “It’s pretty incredible to see.” 

Robert Covington watched Embiid practice his ball handling during his lengthy recovery. He has seen improvements and likes the dynamic it creates for the team on the break. 

“His handle is really tight and then he’s really strong with it as well,” Covington said. “We’re very comfortable with him pushing the ball.”

That being said, Brown isn’t about to anoint Embiid into a point-center role. He knows Embiid’s desire to be active all over the court, but just as he’s said he doesn’t intend for Embiid to become a go-to three-point shooter, he also wants Embiid to focus on his true position. 

“Joel likes to be a player,” Brown said. “He wants to be a guard. He wants to shoot a three. He wants to be a post player. He wants to play. And we all have seen enough to think he actually can. 

“There are times that he rebounds and leads a break, we want him being aware of get off it, get it to a point guard more than not. I don’t mind him coming down in trail if he’s got daylight, him shooting some. He’s got a wonderful touch and I’ve seen it for two years. 

“... All over the place, I want to grow him. I’m not just going to bucket him up. I still say, like I say to him, 'At the end of the day, you’re a seven-foot-two post player. Post player.'”

Watch Embiid running the floor here: