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.

Phillies prospect Dylan Cozens honored with Joe Bauman Award

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Photo courtesy of Donald Holohan

Phillies prospect Dylan Cozens honored with Joe Bauman Award

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Phillies prospect Dylan Cozens stopped by the winter meetings on Monday and left with a little something extra in his wallet.

Cozens was honored with the Joe Bauman Award, given annually to minor league baseball’s home run king. The award came with an $8,000 check -- $200 for each homer he hit in 2016.

“That will make shopping this holiday season a lot easier,” Cozens joked.

Cozens, a left-handed-hitting rightfielder, hit .276 with 40 home runs and 125 RBIs for the Double A Reading Fightin Phils. He was named Eastern League MVP. During his acceptance speech at Monday’s awards luncheon, Cozens thanked his Reading teammate, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, for pushing him to his power heights. Hoskins also had a huge season with the bat. He hit 38 homers and had 116 RBIs on his way to becoming the Eastern League’s Rookie of the Year. Night after night in Reading, Cozens and Hoskins staged a friendly power competition. At the end of the season, they shared the Paul Owens Award, given annually to the Phillies’ minor-league player of the year.
Cozens, 22, recently finished a 25-game hitch in the Dominican winter league. Despite hitting just .165 for the Aguilas club, he had four home runs – all against lefty pitching, which has been a nemesis.

Cozens, a 6-6, 250-pound behemoth, made some off-the-field news in the DR when he was involved in a pregame fight with teammate Boog Powell, a Seattle Mariners prospect. Cozens downplayed the incident.

“Just a little boys-being-boys type thing,” he said. “I feel like it was blown out of proportion like almost everything is these days. But, after it happened we became good friends. It was more the level of respect there and I’d say we’re still friends, so it’s good.”

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said the incident was in the past and would have no long-range ramifications for Cozens.

“There is no concern,” Klentak said. “Dylan is an intense kid and he plays the game really hard. That is a good thing. If you’ve watched that, you can see that in his at-bats and when he runs the bases and is running around in the outfield. That’s just his style of play. That aggressive nature at times can boil over. You hope that it doesn’t boil over into altercations with teammates. But we have no long-term concerns with that at all.”

Cozens was recently added to the 40-man roster and will be in big-league spring training camp. Though he projects to open the 2017 season at Triple A, he’s conceding nothing.

“I’m just going to go out there and try to get better, turn some heads and make people notice and hopefully get called up as soon as possible,” he said. 

Plate discipline and strike-zone management are the areas in which Cozens needs the most improvement. He struck out 186 times and walked 61 times in 134 games in 2016. Phillies officials would like to see the strikeouts come down.
 
“I’m learning how to take my walks more often, having better strike-zone judgment, maybe not chase after as many pitches,” Cozens said. “I want to be aggressive, but if they don’t want to pitch to me, just take a walk. I feel like I did not do a good job of that and it’s something I can improve on next year.”

Matt Read out approximately a month; Flyers recall Taylor Leier, send down Scott Laughton

Matt Read out approximately a month; Flyers recall Taylor Leier, send down Scott Laughton

Updated: 7 p.m.

Flyers winger Matt Read will miss approximately a month with an upper-body injury suffered in Sunday's 4-2 win over the Predators when he was checked by Filip Forsberg. Sources tell CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio the injury is an oblique muscle pull in Read's upper torso.

The 30-year-old has six goals and four assists for 10 points through 27 games. Five of those goals came in the Flyers' first five games.

To replace Read's roster spot, the Flyers recalled Taylor Leier and sent Scott Laughton to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. That likely means penalty-kill specialist Boyd Gordon (back), who is eligible to come off long-term injury reserve, will be activated.

Leier, 22, has been playing well with the Phantoms, posting six goals and 14 assists in 22 games (see Future Flyers Report). This is Leier's second stint of the season with the Flyers, albeit his first was short — one game on Oct. 25 in which he was a healthy scratch. He made his NHL debut last season and played six games.

Laughton was a healthy scratch the past five games.

If for some reason Gordon is not activated, the Flyers can call up another forward from Lehigh Valley. Jordan Weal is tied for second in the AHL with 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 20 games, while veteran winger Colin McDonald is an experienced, bottom-six option.