If you see Brett Brown squinting a little bit more lately, it's not because he's having an sort of medical condition with his eyes. With players recovering from injuries and his team finally off the winless train, Brown can see a little more light at the end of a long, long tunnel.
Tuesday in the team's locker room before they faced the Lakers, Tony Wroten was beaming as he said he is getting close to making his season debut for the team after tearing the ACL in his knee for the second time. The previous time he did it in high school. Though he had surgery, then played a year in college before turning pro and playing two-plus seasons, he said his knee never felt right after that first surgery. He says he is pain-free for the first time since high school.
He will be a welcomed sight for Brown, whose team is still dead last in the league in offensive rating (93.8) and points per game (91.4). Wroten was averaging 16.9 points a game last season when he went down, to go along with 5.2 assists and 1.6 steals. His average of 3.8 turnovers, to go along with the other numbers, lends to what type of player Wroten is - a 100 miles per-hour blur who can get to the basket, make the game move at a faster pace, even if the results aren't always positive. He has improved his outside shooting and is no doubt a piece Brown is looking forward to throwing into a jumbled roster which the coach is still trying to figure out.
Point guard Kendall Marshall, who had the same injury at the same time as Wroten last season, is still about a couple of weeks away. He is the more calming influence of a point guard who has a definite skill of being able to get the ball up the court quickly, something Brown loves.
But before those two are able to take the court, the Sixers will look to extend their one-game winning streak Wednesday when they take on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Here's a look at three things to watch.
1. The play of Kristaps Porzingis. The 7-2 rookie and fourth overall pick has one of the smoothest outside shooting strokes you will see - from anyone. Yet, he has been even more impressive of late with his big man skills of blocking shots and rebounding. Over the past five games he is averaging 17 points and 11.6 rebounds. He has quickly become a fan favorite of the New York fans after getting lustily booed on draft night. His eight double-doubles are tied with Karl-Anthony Towns for most among rookies.
2. Sixers' play down the stretch. If this turns out to be a close game in the fourth quarter, and the Sixers have held a lead in each of their past six in the final 12 minutes, it will be interesting to see how the Sixers handle it. Before Tuesday's win over the Lakers, the Sixers had blown five consecutive games in the fourth. They built the lead to as many as 14 in the fourth against the Lakers, but went more than five minutes late in the fourth with just one basket. Fortunately for the Sixers, the opponent was the Lakers and they weren't able to cut much into the lead in what eventually became the Sixers' first win.
3. The play of Robert Covington. The Sixers' swingman has been on fire of late, averaging 18.8 points over his last six games. Also during that time, he has made 21 of his 47 three-point attempts (44.7 percent). If he can become a consistent scoring force, it gives coach Brett Brown a fun tool with which to tinker.