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OK, *now* Ben Simmons should really be an All-Star

OK, *now* Ben Simmons should really be an All-Star

Wow, the East has been a bloodbath since lineups were announced for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game two weeks ago. Since then, three of the conference's reserve selections — the Cavaliers' Kevin Love, the Wizards' John Wall and Tuesday night, the Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis — have suffered sidelining injuries that will render them unable to participate in All-Star festivities. The two East replacements so far have been the Pistons' Andre Drummond and the Heat's Goran Dragic. And now, following the KP injury, it might finally be Ben Simmons' turn. 

To be honest, I didn't think Simmons should have been an All-Star this year — at least not initially. His offense was a little too erratic, he went silent for long stretches of games too often — his surface numbers were there, and his defense was awesome, but he just didn't seem to have a pronounced-enough effect on whether the team won or lost for me to believe he was one of the 12 best players in the East this season. (The team's 2-8 record with him and no Joel Embiid undoubtedly played a part in that as well.) Which was fine; he's a rookie, with many appearances likely to come, and Embiid was already named a starter. No need to rush the All-Star Process Takeover. 

But now, I think it's time to let the Fresh Prince in. It was fine to give the first reserve spot to Drummond (having a career year on a playoff-contending team) and the second to Dragic (having a pretty meh year on a team that should but doesn't have an obvious All-Star, and overdue a lifetime-achievement selection). But now we're out of clear candidates on good teams — unless you really wanna make a belated case for Bucks wing Khris Middleton or recent East arrival Blake Griffin — and at this point, Simmons would have a legitimate gripe if he was again snubbed. 

That's in large part because since he was left out the first time, he's been playing some of the best basketball of his young career. In the two weeks since reserves were announced, he's averaging 18-7-7 on 62% (!!) shooting with a steal, a block and just two turnovers, playing some of the East's most productive, efficient basketball. Thanks to a tough schedule (and a dumb L in Brooklyn), the Sixers have only gone 4-4 over that stretch, but his growth has been just undeniable, and his aggressiveness has finally gotten to where it needs to be in the half-court — last night was the only game over that stretch where he didn't take double digits' worth of shots. 

The Sixers may or may not objectively deserve two All-Stars overall — they're back to one game over .500, at 26-25, with their 115-102 victory over the previously surging Washington Wizards — but at this point, it's hard to deny that they have two of the 15 best players in the East this season. Will the East coaches finally recognize this, or is Simmons gonna have to play with a chip on his shoulder for the rest of the season? Hell, given how his last few weeks have gone, maybe we should be rooting for the latter. 

Eagles fans donate to Minnesota charity and received a historic gift

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USA TODAY

Eagles fans donate to Minnesota charity and received a historic gift

What goes around comes around, at least for some charitable Eagles fans.

Some good karma has found its way to particular Eagles fans, courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings Foundation. Fans who donated to head coach Mike Zimmer’s foundation to apologize for some of Philadelphia’s rowdy behavior before, during and after the NFC Championship Game have received a special memento from U.S Bank Stadium.

Eagles fans were gifted a jar of the historic confetti that streamed down onto the newly-crowned Super Bowl Champions at the Vikings’ home field on Feb. 4 and a thank you note acknowledging their contribution to the organization.

Check out Reddit user EYEsoar’s photo for proof.

While it may not be enough for fans to perform their own Jalen Mills-style confetti angels, these generous Eagles fans will hold a piece of Philadelphia history.

The donation from Eagles fans now total more than $18,000 as of Jan. 26, according to the ZimFoundation Twitter page and we can only imagine this total will grow.

It pays to be nice.

Eagles can create cap space and still keep Jason Peters

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USA Today Images

Eagles can create cap space and still keep Jason Peters

Contrary to rumors the Eagles could try to trade Jason Peters, signing the 36-year-old left tackle to a contract extension might make more sense.

The Eagles are well over the projected NFL salary cap for 2018, and Peters’ money looks like an easy target. The nine-time Pro Bowl selection is scheduled to cost more than $10 million next season after suffering a torn ACL in October. Since then, the team went on to win a Super Bowl with Halapoulivaati Vaitai at left tackle.

Peters is aging, expensive, recovering from a serious injury, and a young alternative would earn a fraction of his salary — all sound reasons for the Eagles to explore a trade.

“The offense operated well without Peters, and he'd have some value,” an anonymous league executive told Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. “The kid who filled in is nothing special, but the offensive line as a whole was fine without Peters.”

La Canfora expects the Eagles to be “proactive” in their effort to move Peters.

I’m not so sure. Entering the final year of his contract, Peters and the Eagles agreed to a new contract last June — a deal fueled in part by Peters’ desire for financial security beyond the 2017 season. Though the pact does not explicitly prohibit a trade, it certainly disincentivizes the Eagles from going down that route.

According to estimates, trading Peters creates only $4.3 million in cap savings for 2018. The Eagles would be on the hook for another $6.3 million, for a player who will no longer be on the roster.

At that point, why not just pay him?

Peters is still the best left tackle on the team. He was well on his way to another Pro Bowl before injury struck. He’s probably the most respected player in the locker room. As long as the stated goal is to repeat as world champions, this is somebody the Eagles should want around.

If money is the motivating factor, extending Peters may prove more helpful. The Eagles can pick up his team option for 2019, perhaps even add a year in 2020, and structure a new contract similar to the deal reached last summer, pushing bonus money into future years to lower his cap hit in '18.

Obviously, there is risk involved. Restructuring kicks the can down the road, so the Eagles will have to deal with the financial consequences next offseason rather than now. 

There aren’t many better options, either. Peters reportedly declined to take a pay cut last offseason — he’s not just going to give the money back. And while the Eagles could recoup some draft picks in a swap, it would come at the expense of their O-line depth, with minimal financial benefit.

Peters was dominant last season. He’s bounced back after major surgery before, returning to form after a torn Achilles in 2012. In fact, every time there’s been concern about Peters’ ability or future, he seems to respond better than ever.

Maybe it’s about time we have some faith in an eventual Hall of Famer and quit trying to ship him out of town.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES BREAKDOWN
*Ages as of Sept. 6, 2018

Lane Johnson
Age: 28
2018 cap hit: $12.484 million

How good was Johnson last season? Just look at the names of pass rushers he silenced over the course of the year. According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson surrendered three sacks all season while blocking the likes of DeMarcus Lawrence, Olivier Vernon, Ryan Kerrigan, Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Chandler Jones, to name a handful.

Jason Peters
Age: 36
2018 cap hit: $10.666 million

News flash: Peters isn’t even the highest-paid tackle on his own team anymore. In fact, his cap hit is third among Eagles O-linemen, behind Johnson and right guard Brandon Brooks. Peters currently ranks 13th among all NFL left tackles, as well, so his contract is hardly some out-of-control cost.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Age: 25
2018 cap hit: $686,000

Is Vaitai the left tackle of the future? Maybe. Analytics haven’t been very kind to 'Big V,' but whether filling in for Peters or Johnson over the past two seasons, he got the job done. Fortunately for the Eagles, Vaitai isn’t a free agent for another two years, so there’s no need to rush to conclusions.

Will Beatty
Age: 33
Free agent

Signed as an insurance policy after the injury to Peters, Beatty’s only action came in the Eagles’ meaningless Week 17 clash against the Cowboys. The club will no doubt look to the draft and continue developing Taylor Hart — re-signed to a futures contract last week — for tackle depth in 2018.