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Bad timing for Sixers' only hot shooter to go on shelf

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Bad timing for Sixers' only hot shooter to go on shelf

Sixers fans got a news update they didn't even know they were supposed to be dreading on Tuesday night, when the team announced that sharpshooting starting guard JJ Redick would be out with "a small cortical crack in the fibular head of his left leg." Redick suffered the injury Monday against the Raptors he will be "re-evaluated in approximately 10 days to two weeks." (This was, of course, preceded by a Woj Firecracker in which he commented that Redick's injury "isn’t serious and he will likely miss only a short window of time," which should inspire some cold sweating over how bad we were supposed to initially be expecting this injury to be.)

To a certain extent, injuries like this are to be expected over the course of the NBA season. It may not feel like it, with Joel Embiid a perpetual DNP risk and Markelle Fultz suffering from jump-shot amnesia, but the Sixers had actually been relatively lucky with health so far this season. Out of a possible 40 games so far, none of Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, T.J. McConnell or Redick have played fewer than 35, with even Embiid's 31 played feeling slightly miraculous. Someone important from their rotation — no, Justin Anderson doesn't count — was bound to miss a couple weeks with injury. 

But, man, losing Redick right now is gonna hurt. It's not just that he's been scorching lately — though that he undoubtedly has been, averaging 20 a game with a 51/46/94 percent shooting slash line over his last eight, since coming back from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss two contests. It's that while he's been that hot, the rest of the team has gone ice cold. 

Saric was similarly searing from deep at the beginning of 2018, but he's cooled off in the last couple, hitting just 2 of his last 10 triples. Jerryd Bayless has hit multiple threes in only one of his last 10 games. Covington, whose three-point bombing was so furious at season's beginning we started to wonder if Redick was gonna get jealous, has now gone just 31 percent from deep over the same eight-game stretch when Redick has been raining holy Process hellfire. Even McConnell, who never seems to miss when he actually deigns to take a triple, is just one for his last nine from distance. And three-point shooting continues to be the one blight on Embiid's otherwise superlative sophomore season, as he's just 3 for 17 from three so far in 2018. 

With only six players that Brett Brown can really trust right now — maybe seven if you wanna give Amir Johnson the benefit of the doubt — injuries to anyone is devastating to the Sixers' chances to be competitive on a nightly basis. And, as previously harped on here at The 700 Level, the Sixers are currently in the midst of a particularly tough January, which will see them play the Celtics, Bucks (twice), Spurs and Thunder — as well as the much-improved Bulls — over the next two weeks. 

What to do for the Sixers, then, in JJ's absence? Well, we'll certainly see a lot more of Bayless' streaky shooting, and maybe some more minutes for a recovering Anderson. We may also get a first look at the recently-signed wing James Young, who shot 37 percent on 9.4 attempts a game from deep this season in the G-League. And, hopefully, we see some greater offensive aggression from McConnell, who after the Raptors game, essentially owned up to the fact that he has to be willing to take open shots when they're given to him if he wants to be the Sixers' fifth guy down the stretch. 

Of course, it's tempting to wonder if this might not be the perfect circumstances for the return of Fultz to the Sixers' rotation. But such hopes don't seem particularly practical at the moment —Fultz's jumper has obviously not fixed itself overnight (or, uh, over two months), and no one — not even Brown — is pretending there isn't a major problem here. I don't know how or when the Fultz situation will get better, but in the meantime, it's hard to see him returning anytime soon, and even harder to picture him being the cure for what ails the undermanned Sixers if he does. 

Perhaps the biggest worry here, if you're a Sixers fan, is if Redick's injury will end up pushing the Colangelos toward making a short-sighted move to bolster their current depth, a.k.a. the much-feared "panic trade." If the Sixers struggle over their next two weeks — going 2-5, say, and dropping to three or four games out of the playoff picture — it's not impossible that the team will sniff around a quick-fix upgrade on the wings. The good (or bad) thing for the Sixers is there aren't a ton of obvious names that are both available and fit the team's timeline of trying for max cap space this summer — and both Lou Williams and Nikola Mirotic have likely priced themselves out of any cheap deadline dealings with their strong play of late. 

But, hey, while we're on the subject of short-sighted deadline dealings: Boy, could sure use Nik Stauskas right now, huh? Not to say that he's lighting it up since being sent to Brooklyn in December by any means — he hasn't scored more than five points in a game this year for Brooklyn — but he is shooting 47 percent from deep for them in his limited looks, and again, the Sixers thrived a year ago with Sauce as their starting two, even when he wasn't putting up numbers. He'd never be the long-term solution for Philly, but there was always a scenario in which it'd be helpful for the team to have him around in a pinch, and now that theoretical is upon us. (Meanwhile, since scoring 40 combined points in his first three games for the Sixers, Trevor Booker has scored a whopping 38 total in the 12 contests since.) 

Bottom line: This is gonna be a tough couple of weeks coming up for Philly. The good news? No back-to-backs for the Sixers this month, so no games yet where we definitely won't have Embiid or Redick. And if the Sixers can manage to tread water the next few weeks — even going 3-4 would be pretty acceptable — things should get a lot easier for them in February and especially March, when hopefully the team will be closer to whole again. Just have to hope nothing else Woj-worthy happens with the Sixers in the meantime.

Eagles, Vinny Curry better off going separate ways

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Eagles, Vinny Curry better off going separate ways

There are multiple scenarios that end in Vinny Curry’s departure from the Eagles in 2018, but likely just one where he is retained. The veteran defensive end will need to agree to a pay cut to return, assuming a contract restructuring is offered by the club.

Curry is scheduled to cost the Eagles $11 million under the salary cap next season, a figure most everybody can agree is much too high. Where the two sides go from there is the tricky part.

The Eagles may approach Curry about a pay cut. Then again, they may opt to trade or — more likely — release him outright instead. Even if the Eagles are willing to renegotiate Curry’s contract, he may decline the club’s offer, again prompting a trade or his release.

Any way you slice it, there are a lot more roads leading out of Philadelphia than back in.

Though he hasn’t quite lived up to the $47.5 million contract extension signed in 2016, Curry is coming off of a quality season. His 18 quarterback hits tied for first among Eagles defensive linemen, while his 42 tackles and 10 tackles for loss were second to Brandon Graham. Three sacks is a low number for a 16-game starter, but Curry made a greater impact than that tally suggests.

Now comes the hard part. Will the obviously talented Curry and the cap-strapped Eagles be able to agree on his value? And does such a deal behoove either side?

The Eagles could very well arrive at the difficult decision to move on. The club is over the projected cap for 2018 in the first place, with Graham, Chris Long and Derek Barnett all under contract.

While Curry’s release creates $6 million in dead money against the cap, designating the transaction as a post-June 1 cut splits that cost over the next two seasons. It’s not an attractive option but allows the Eagles to save as much as $8 million in 2018, quite a bit of space.

A trade is less likely, simply because not many teams would be willing to inherit Curry’s remaining contract — more than $28 million over the next three years. That being said, the Eagles are among the most creative front offices in the NFL, so if they’re able to package Curry in any way for draft picks, don’t rule that out.

This is business for the Eagles. Of course, it’s business to Curry as well, and as much as he might want to stay, there are other teams that would jump at the opportunity to pay for his services.

Let’s say the Eagles do request Curry takes a pay cut. Will that amount be more or less than what he might command as a free agent? Put another way, if Curry were a free agent this offseason, would he land a deal for significantly less than the $28 million he’s already owed, or his $9 million in base salary for '18? Probably not.

As simple as it is to say the Eagles can try to restructure Curry’s contract, in this case, that might not be in the player’s best interest. Doesn’t mean he’ll say no, but it’s certainly not something the Eagles should count on.

It’s difficult to envision this situation working out for everybody, given how badly the Eagles need the money and how much Curry stands to gain on the open market.

DEFENSIVE ENDS BREAKDOWN
*Ages as of Sept. 6, 2018

Vinny Curry
Age: 30
2018 cap hit: $11M

To put Curry’s cap number in perspective, he’s currently the 15th-highest paid edge defender in the NFL under contract in '18. Statistics don’t do his performance justice, but that’s undeniably a level his play on the field hasn’t matched. A large portion of Curry's base salary becomes guaranteed in March, so expect a decision soon. The Eagles need not wait to reap the benefits of the so-called June 1 designation.

Brandon Graham
Age: 30
2018 cap hit: $8M

Meanwhile, Graham is in the final year of his contract, and clamoring for a new deal he definitely earned. The magic number for the top defensive ends in the league right now is around $17 million per year, so this could get complicated. Ultimately, the Eagles would be wise pay an All-Pro talent, locker room leader and Super Bowl hero — probably something slightly less than that amount — but negotiations probably drag into the summer. Freeing up some of Curry’s money would help.

Derek Barnett
Age: 22
2018 cap hit: $2.92M

The 14th overall pick a year ago, Barnett is poised for a bigger role in 2018. Finished with 6.0 sacks as a rookie, including playoffs, and could push double digits next season with more playing time.

Chris Long
Age: 33
2018 cap hit: $2.35M

Long seems to have landed in the perfect scheme to extend his career, though it will be difficult to match last season’s production. At this price, the Eagles have nothing to lose.

Steven Means
Age: 27
2018 cap hit: $905,000

If the Eagles get desperate for coin, Means’ salary isn’t guaranteed, and he’s rarely active on game day. Then again, the team really likes the intensity he brings to practice. Given the chance, maybe Means could be effective on Sundays, too.

Bryan Braman
Age: 31
Free agent

Brought back strictly to reprise his role as a specialist, Braman’s job is likely done now that the Eagles have won the Super Bowl. Regardless, he’s not in the mix at defensive end.

The Eagles won the Super Bowl! So how come I'm not happy?

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The Eagles won the Super Bowl! So how come I'm not happy?

It’s now been two weeks since the Eagles finally won their first Super Bowl. In that time, I’ve re-watched the game five times, re-watched the parade 15 times, and purchased six Super Bowl champions t-shirts, four sweatshirts and five hats. And that’s just from the next morning.

We won, like I’ve always wanted. We’re Super Bowl champs. It wasn’t a dream. I was led to believe that once the impossible happened and we reached the promised land, I'd have nothing more to worry about, ever again. 

So how come I’m still not happy?

I’ll tell you why: It’s because of Cris Collinsworth’s bias. And the unfair coverage of our celebrations; the national media won’t tell you this, but once the Super Bowl was over, not a single Eagles fan punched a horse.

There were the ridiculous crowd-size estimates. And Mike Francesa objecting to Jason Kelce’s language and calling for him to be cut. And the oddsmakers putting our Super Bowl odds below the Patriots’.  And Duracell, for that tweet about Philly fans throwing batteries. Disgraceful. From now on, I’m only throwing Energizers. I’ve also yet to hear an apology from Donovan McNabb, Andy Reid or Joe Banner for not winning us a Super Bowl before now.

At the parade, as we all remember, Jason Kelce sang “no one likes us, we don’t care!” But he was wrong. I care.

Maybe I’m not used to the feeling yet. Maybe it’s because I’ve been chasing this my whole life, and at this point, what else is there to chase? Maybe this sort of existential despair is what I’ve been fearing all along.

Nah, who am I kidding. It’s Cris Collinsworth.

Anyway, here’s my solution for the quarterback thing: Play Carson Wentz, AND Nick Foles. At the same time. Defenses won’t know what hit them, and besides, I’ve got a feeling if it comes down to it, Foles would make a hell of a wide receiver.

So don’t trade Foles. But DO trade Nate Sudfeld. I bet Cleveland would give up a 1 and a 4.

Other Philly sports takes:

- I’ll tell you what, Markelle Fultz caught a break. If not for the Eagles making a Super Bowl run and winning, he’d be all we had to talk about for the past month.

- The Michael Carter-Williams trade was three years ago this week, and let me tell you, I’m still mad about that.

- Jason Kelce appeared in Clearwater for the start of the Phillies’ spring training this week. I just wish he’d go through the entire Phils roster and list everyone’s faults and weaknesses.

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