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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.

Super Bowl champs showed up to ESPYS in style including a Philly Special homage

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AP Images

Super Bowl champs showed up to ESPYS in style including a Philly Special homage

The Super Bowl champs showed up to the ESPYS in style on Wednesday night out in Los Angeles.

Nick Foles may have taken home the hardware for best performance in a championship -- with a heck of a speech to boot -- but it was the Eagles secondary who won best dressed.

Or maybe just most outrageously baller. Tough to tell these days.

I mean, just look at what Rodney McLeod wore. Purple. No shirt.

The Green Goblin wasn't far behind. Personally, I liked Jalen Mills going with a vest that still showed off his tat.

And then there was Malcolm Jenkins adding a bit of class to the group.

But the sartorial flair that won the evening may have to go to former Eagle and current member of the Chicago Bears Trey Burton who kept the Philly Special close to his heart.

And shouts to Jake Elliott and his hat just because.

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Are 2018 Eagles better or worse at quarterback?

Are 2018 Eagles better or worse at quarterback?

The one area the Eagles made no major changes from last season is at quarterback. Carson Wentz returns from injury. Somewhat surprisingly, Nick Foles was retained and even signed a contract extension. Nate Sudfeld remains in the fold as well.

The cast may be the same, but with Foles returning to the bench as a Super Bowl MVP, will the Eagles be better or worse off in 2018?

Better

Depth

When Foles took the reins last December, he had barely played or practiced since 2015, his hellish season with the Rams – and, initially, it showed. But after what the 29-year-old signal caller accomplished in the playoffs, does anybody believe Foles is lacking for confidence now? Anybody still wonder whether he’s comfortable running the Eagles’ offense?

Foles is better prepared to take over for Wentz or start Week 1 than he was this time a year ago. So, too, is Sudfeld, who will benefit from his first camp with the team after signing last September, as well as his first NFL game experience in Week 17 against the Cowboys. QB2 and QB3 are both in a better place now, which is remarkable, but true.

Worse

Greater sense of uncertainty

Until the trade deadline comes and goes in October, there’s always the possibility Foles is traded this year. Obviously, there would be some drop-off between the Super Bowl MVP and Sudfeld, a third-year player who’s thrown 23 career passes, should that come to pass.

For now, that’s not the case, but is something to keep an eye for awhile yet.

The same

Nick Foles

Despite everything that’s happened – the winning, the newfound notoriety, going back to the bench, a so-called quarterback controversy, trade murmurs – the one thing you can count on is Foles’ demeanor. He may have questioned himself on the football field at one point in his career, but he’s in a place now where he knows what he’s capable of and his value to the Eagles.

Foles also hasn’t changed much as a player since his historic, breakout campaign in 2013. As long as the offensive line can keep him upright, and he has talented weapons to distribute the ball to, this is somebody that can win you a lot of games in the NFL. There’s no longer any disputing that.

The unknown

Carson Wentz’s knee

Wentz has looked so darn impressive in videos and on the practice field, it’s easy to fall into the trap that his surgically repaired knee is fine, everything is fine. Despite raising the question here, he’s probably better prepared to overcome a torn ACL than some past Eagles quarterbacks who struggled with the recovery in the past – namely Sam Bradford and Donovan McNabb.

Still, more passers than not have come back and looked less than 100 percent in their first season removed from the injury. And many of them had more time to recover than Wentz, who only went down in November.

We don’t even know for sure if Wentz will be cleared to play Week 1. It seems likely he will be, but it’s far from definite. Until he’s playing in actual NFL games, and back to looking like the 2017, MVP-caliber version of himself, all of these concerns give folks some pause before assuming the Eagles would immediately be better off with Wentz under center.

Better or worse?

Fortunately, the determination doesn’t rest solely on Wentz here. A comfortable and confident Foles and the developing Sudfeld should give the Eagles a marginal lift at quarterback. And even after sharing a pile of concerns about Wentz, eventually, possibly sometime in 2018, he will be fine, making Wentz-like escapes and ice-in-his-veins third-down conversions. In fact, if Wentz Is miraculously fine for Week 1, he should still be improving heading into his third season.

Now that’s something BETTER to look forward to.

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