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The Process is ready for primetime

The Process is ready for primetime

Basically, you saw everything you'd want to see from Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid during the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Friday night, as they kept doing what they've basically done all February: winning. 

Ben Simmons was electric all over the court, ending with 11 points (5-5 FG, mostly dunks), six boards, a game-high 13 assists and a team-high four steals. A still-locked-in Dario Saric was the beneficiary of a handful of those dimes, ending with 18 points (7-11 FG, 4-7 3PT), three boards and five assists. 

Joel Embiid had an underwhelming stat line in his thankfully clipped playing time (just eight minutes after sitting out Wednesday's game — we'll see him more on Sunday), ending with just five points and two boards, and not exactly displaying the defensive dominance we're accustomed to from our big man. But the five points came on back-to-back possessions in the third, where JoJo nailed a top-of-the-break three and then scored on a dunk following a Fultzian spin move to the basket, showing the range of his skills in an appropriately breathtaking (and Internet-slaying) manner. 

And of course, the Sixers — I mean, Team World — won handily, outscoring Team USA in every quarter and ultimately triumphing 155-124. Even though Sacramento's Bogdan Bogdanovic took home MVP honors on the night for his white-hot shooting night (26 points on 9-16 FG, including a handful of Steph Curry-esque extended pull-up triples), I thought Simmons was the best all-around player on the floor, another thumb in the eye of the All-Star committee that snubbed him (four times!) for the proper game on Sunday night. 

Perhaps more importantly, the Sixers' presence just dominated the game altogether. Hell, they made up 3/5 of Team World's starting lineup — no other team had more than two representatives, across both squads, though the Lakers would have were Lonzo Ball available — and in the broadcast booth, the TNT guys couldn't stop talking about Embiid all night, comparing him to Hakeem and debating whether they'd ever seen a big man of his versatility before. 

And to think, this year they'll actually be represented on Saturday and Sunday, too. Hopefully Ben and Dario get a nice, relaxing All-Star break from here — they've certainly earned it — and now, it's Embiid's spotlight. The Process is ready for primetime, baby, and longtime Trusters should make sure to enjoy this moment as much as JoJo himself undoubtedly will. 

Eagles could struggle to afford Brandon Graham beyond 2018

Eagles could struggle to afford Brandon Graham beyond 2018

If there’s one Eagles player who deserves a contract extension and a pay raise right now, it’s Brandon Graham, whose strip-sack in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LII helped cement a world championship.

Unfortunately, there are a bunch of factors working against Graham entering the final year of his current deal. He’s 30, the Eagles don’t have a ton of salary cap space and the going rate for a top NFL edge defender is somewhere around $17 million per season.

The question is whether the Eagles can even afford to keep Graham long term.

It’s a valid concern, seeing as the club was incapable of rewarding its longest-tenured defensive player earlier this offseason. In fact, the Eagles had to jump through hoops to get under the cap in March. They released a handful of key contributors, restructured some deals, then watched as most of their free-agent class walked. The money that did become available was put toward adding new talent or navigating more immediate contract crises than Graham’s.

Today, the Eagles sit at $6.094 million under the 2018 cap, according to figures provided by the NFLPA. That’s not a lot, and a sizable chunk of that cash only became available with the release of Mychal Kendricks a few weeks ago.

Estimates currently project the Eagles to be over the cap in 2019 as well.

There seems to be little doubt the Eagles would like to keep Graham beyond this season. The nine-year veteran is a leader in the locker room, a positive force in the community, an extremely hard worker, an all-around decent human being and, now, a hero to the city of Philadelphia. He happens to be pretty good at football, too.

Yet, so far, the club’s perceived willingness to re-sign Graham has not been matched by reports of progress on a new contract. And when pressed for an update in March, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman sounded noncommittal about the future. 

“He’s been one of the most productive players at his position,” Roseman said. “He deserves whatever he can get. At the same time, we have a cap and we’re trying to fit everyone in. We’re trying to fit in as many good players. We went through this yesterday a little bit. We have a lot of players who are under contract, not just for 2018, but 2019, but when we get into the 2020s. And they’re good players and we want to keep as many of them around as possible and add players on top of it. That’s the puzzle we’re trying to figure out.”

Graham registered a career-high 9½ sacks during the 2017 regular season and finished tied for ninth in the NFL with 15 tackles for loss. He also got to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the pivotal strip-sack in the Super Bowl while playing through a high ankle sprain that later required surgery and a pulled hamstring.

Despite being “one of the most productive players at his position,” 25 edge defenders carry a higher cap figure for 2018 than Graham at $8 million — five of whom are set to earn more than double, according to OverTheCap.com.

The Eagles are facing a significant pay increase here, but where’s the money coming from?

Graham realizes he’ll be 31 next season, which could impact his earning power, and he wants to remain in Philadelphia, a combination that suggests the so-called hometown discount is a possibility.

He’s also content to play out the season and test free agency. If it comes down to a bidding war, the Eagles will be at a disadvantage.

In the meantime, the Eagles appear to be preparing for the worst-case scenario. First-round draft pick in 2017 Derek Barnett is gearing up for a larger role in his second season, veteran Chris Long’s contract was extended and three-time Pro Bowl selection Michael Bennett was acquired in a trade. The team is built for life without Graham should things come to that.

The harsh reality is Graham’s run with the Eagles is in danger of coming to an end. The two sides have over eight months to hammer something out, which is plenty of time, though what they could really use is more cap space.

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At 44 years old, Terrell Owens is still an athletic freak

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At 44 years old, Terrell Owens is still an athletic freak

Even though Terrell Owens is 44 now, not much has changed. 

He’s still as divisive as ever; he’s also still as athletic. 

The soon-to-be Pro Football Hall of Famer, who recently gained headlines for turning down the HOF’s invitation to the induction ceremony this summer (see story), apparently still has it. As in, freakish athletic ability. 

That’s nuts. If that’s true, that means a guy who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2010 just ran a sub-4.5 40. 

*Eyeballs emoji*

Of course, the T.O. comeback ship sailed long ago, even though it seems like as he ages well into his 40s, Owens clearly still thinks he can play. 

Back in 2012, this ESPN story calls Owens a “physical marvel” for running a sub-4.5-second 40-yard dash at age 38. That was six years ago, and he apparently hasn’t slowed down. I think we used the term “physical marvel” a little too soon. 

To put T.O.’s alleged 4.43 time into perspective, just five receivers at this year’s combine ran faster. 

That would be a faster time than Shelton Gibson’s time (4.50) and Mack Hollins’ time (4.53) at last year’s combine. 

And if T.O. really ran a 4.43 or 4.44, he’s faster now than Alshon Jeffery at his pro day (4.47) when he came out of South Carolina in 2012. 

That’s insane. 

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