Markelle Fultz sprains ankle as Sixers top Warriors

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Sixers 95, Warriors 93 – Box Score

It should have been a happy night. Larry Drew II hit a jumper with 8 seconds left to break a 93-93 tie and send the Summer Sixers home with a victory in their Vegas opener. We could have joked about how the Sixers had succeeded where Cleveland had failed, the defending champs were nothing, et cetera, et cetera.

But the actual game seemed meaningless in light of what had happened in the third quarter. Golden State’s Jabari Brown drove to the basket, in the process inadvertently connecting with an elbow to Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot’s face. Markelle Fultz, trying to come from behind for the block, stepped on the back of Brown’s foot with his left ankle. It immediately turned the wrong way and Fultz stumbled to the ground.

After the whistle, the scene literally looked like a Sixers fan’s worst nightmare. TLC had blood streaming down his feet, and Fultz was rolling on the ground, clearly unable to put any weight on his left leg. Fultz had to be helped off the court, and after the injury history for Philadelphia the last few years, all the worst thoughts ran through people’s minds. Remember Ben Simmons injured his foot and was gone for the season after stepping on someone’s foot in training camp.

Joel Embiid summed up the feelings of Sixers nation quite succinctly.

Luwawu-Cabarrot needed stitches to his lip. Painful, I’m sure, but he should ultimately be fine. The real concern was Fultz, but it seems like the Sixers might have avoided some of the worst-case scenarios.

Even if it’s a higher grade ankle sprain, Fultz should only be sidelined through the summer; there should be no impact on his availability in the regular season. Still, these were crucial developmental months and you hate to lose that time with your prized rookie. Also, the Sixers training staff doesn’t exactly have a sterling record as far as diagnosing injuries. Let’s just hope they didn’t botch the call here.

Before going down, Fultz struggled a bit with his shot, scoring 8 points on just 3-12 shooting. As always, though, he had a few plays that showed why he was a worthy first overall pick. This fake behind-the-back, wrap-around pass to an open man in the corner is something few guys would even think to attempt, let alone pull off.

Fultz also flashed his ability to create separation for himself out of nothing and score from different parts of the court.

Meanwhile, Furkan Korkmaz found Vegas more to his liking than Utah, leading the team with 15 points, going 5-9 from the field and 3-6 from three. He was in a tough spot earlier in the week having traveled across the world and being thrust into back-to-back games right away. Good to see him bounce back and have a solid performance. His terrific range and quick release are definitely skills the Sixers will make use of down the line.

It wouldn’t be a summer league game without a strong outing from Jonah Bolden, who recorded a double-double with 11 points on 5-7 shooting (1-3 3PT), 10 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Bolden can shoot, attacks the rim hard, rotates well defensively, and flies all over the court. My only gripe is he forces contested turnaround jumpers; he needs to cut those out of his game. But Bolden looks like an absolute steal in the second round that any team would love to have.

For Golden State, Patrick McCaw scored 25 points, taking on a much larger role than with the big club in making half of his 20 field goal attempts, including 5-11 from downtown. I just think it’s absolutely crazy to think that this guy was playing significant minutes in one of the most historic Finals ever a month ago, and now he’s in Summer League. It has to be one of the most bizarre shifts in level of competition ever.

As we await word on the severity of Fultz’ injury and an eventual timeline, the Summer Sixers are back in action late Sunday night against the Spurs.

Chu Chu Maduabum on Japan, Philadelphia fans, & the Sixers

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Many, many players have come and gone in the last half decade of Sixers basketball, but one who will always have a special place in fans’ hearts is Chukwudiebere Maduabum. Acquired from Oklahoma City as part of the JaVale McGee trade in February 2015, the man known best as Chu Chu never actually suited up for the Sixers. Still, due to some combination of his train-sounding nickname and his congenial nature both in person and on social media, Maduabum became a fan favorite during the Process era. Even after his rights were traded to Cleveland in July 2016, Sixers fans still look back fondly on the days of Chu Chu.

At the moment, Maduabum is playing for Kagoshima Rebnise of the Japanese Second Division; he’ll be heading back to Japan on August 1st. Meanwhile though, he’s participating in The Basketball Tournament, the $2 million, winner-take-all, single elimination tournament currently underway.

Saturday morning, Maduabum contributed 4 points and 4 rebounds in a 78-74 victory for his team, Paul Champions, over the Talladega Knights. Chu Chu, who I must add is an enormous man with deltoids the size of small boulders, was nice enough to speak with me for a couple minutes immediately after his team’s win.

You guys played in the Jamboree a couple weeks ago [Paul Champions won two games on June 17 & 18 to grab one of the final four spots in the main, 64-team field.]  Do you feel that helped you to come together as a team?

Yeah, I mean, it helped everybody, pick up the tempo of the game. The kind of the players that come here, most of these teams have been playing together for a while. You can see with this team [Talladega Knights], they knew who to pass the ball to.

[Referencing Japan] What’s that like, you’ve played all over the world? 

It’s fun. Some places more fun than the others. Japan would be probably the best.

Why is that the best for you?

Lifestyle. I love playing basketball, so that helps. And the money is good. Tax-free.

So you still get a lot of love from people in the Philly area. Is there any other fan base you feel that connection with still, like the Sixers? 

Only Sixers. In Denver, I never got this much love from fans. I never even played a game, that’s what crazy. I never played summer league. I’ve never been in the Sixers training facility. But they still show me love. And I show love back.

You’re in Japan now, but how much do you still pay attention to what’s going in the NBA? 

Mostly the playoffs. I watch highlights of games, teams I like and players I like. Because I like to see what rookies are nice, and all that. I saw Embiid.

So what are your feelings about the current Sixers roster?

They’re gonna be a problem. This year they’re gonna make the playoffs. I don’t know how far they’ll go, but I think they’re gonna make the playoffs. Unless something goes horribly wrong. As of now, I think they make the playoffs, maybe the semis, who really knows. Still have LeBron in the East though.

Got to ask everybody that comes through, do you Trust the Process?

I’m gonna come back and take a picture of my shirt. It’s a shirt that says, “What is Process may never die,” like Game of Thrones.

The Basketball Tournament Regional Round Coverage

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

What do you get when you have former college stars and current overseas professionals competing for a $2 million, winner-take-all prize? You get The Basketball Tournament, a 64-team field where players come from over all the world to grab a piece of that grand prize, which they’ll only receive if they win the title. With one of the regionals taking place in my backyard at Philadelphia University (soon to be renamed Thomas Jefferson University), I headed over to take in the action in person.

Paul Champions 78, Talladega Knights 74

It’s rare to see a 41-year-old, high school basketball coach control the action in a game consisting of professional basketball players, but the exception comes when that coach played 13 seasons in the NBA. Earl Boykins, the second-shortest player ever in the league after Muggsy Bogues, led the Paul Champions to victory with 25 points and 5 assists. His work as a floor general was enough to overcome hot shooting from former George Washington guard Carl Elliott (game-high 23 points, 4-6 from three) and the rugged interior work of former UConn forward Josh Boone (17 points, 17 rebounds).

FCM Untouchables 92, OPI 77

OPI jumped out to an early double digit lead thanks to some hot three-point shooting, particularly from former Old Dominion wing Jonathan Adams (22 points, 6-9 3PT) and Kenny Bellinger II (26 points, 5-8 3PT). However, once the barrage of long-range bombs slowed down, the top-seed Untouchables were too deep and talented, pulling away and coasting to an easy victory. Kyle Hines, the 2016 Euroleague Defensive Player of the Year, was a consistently dominant presence for the Untouchables with 14 points and 15 rebounds. Marcus Hatten, who averaged 22 ppg in his senior year at St. John’s, knocked down 4 triples of his own for 16 points.

Team FOE 80, DC On Point 75

With current NBA players Markieff and Marcus Morris coaching from the bench, Team FOE easily had the most talent in the gym between the two sides. What matters is the guys suiting up to take the court though, and DC On Point looked like they might have enough firepower to pull off the upset in the 4-13 matchup. Led by 21 points from Delaware alum Andrew Washington and 19 points from Tymell Murphy, DC On Point opened up a 13-point lead midway through the second half. But with a raucous, partisan crowd cheering on the Philly/Kansas squad, Team FOE stormed back to take the lead with a 20-3 run. Former Jayhawks standout Tyshawn Taylor was the catalyst, dropping a team-best 21 points to help Team FOE hold on and advance to the next round.

Sideline Cancer 100, Zoo Crew 87

Levance Fields graduated from Pittsburgh in 2009. Playing with many of his fellow Pitt alums for the Zoo Crew, it looked like he hasn’t missed a beat, poured in 35 points on 11-18 shooting. Unfortunately for Panthers fans, there’s another end to the floor, and Sideline Cancer found little resistance from the Zoo Crew defense in getting to the rim at will. Former St. Joseph’s point guard Aaron Brown and ex-East Stroudsburg star each scored 25 points, making a combined 19 of 25 shots from the field. The group playing in part to raise money for pancreatic cancer research will advance their cause to the next round.

Gael Nation 88, City of Gods 86

In the wildest finish of the day, it looked for a second like we were going to be treated to extra basketball. Then, with the game tied, former Temple star and NBA 1st-round pick Mardy Collins was sent to the foul line with 9 seconds remaining, but missed both free throws. Gael Nation’s Steve Burtt raced down the court and made a tough lay-up with 3 seconds left. Ex-Drexel Dragon Phil Goss nearly connected on a game-winning three, but it was a bit long, and the Iona alums will stay in the hunt for the big money. Burtt and St. John’s career leader in three pointers, D’Angelo Harrison, each had 23 points for Gael Nation, while six players scored in double digits for City of Gods.

Boeheim’s Army 99, DuBois Dream 66

From the closest game of the day, we then transitioned to the biggest blowout. DuBois Dream, mostly made up of former D-III stars, was not able to hang with the team of former Syracuse Orange talent. Brandon Triche shined for Boeheim’s Army, notching a triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists.

SuperNova 97, South Jamaica Kings 72

Many folks favorite to win the tournament, the Villanova alumni squad had no trouble dispatching the South Jamaica Kings in front of the hometown crowd. Despite a whopping 37 points from the Kings’ Allen Thomas, Villanova quickly opened up what was an 8-point halftime lead and cruised to victory. Malcolm Grant led Nova with 21 points, while Maurice Sutton had 16 points and 13 rebounds. The squad also got a boost with national champion Darryl Reynolds showing up to come off the bench; Reynolds had been expected to be a scratch due to NBA Summer League.

Team Fancy 78, Rebel Riders 70

Jason Thompson, who played 8 NBA seasons, including about a week with the Sixers, led his team into TBT consisting of Rider grads with some former Temple Owls sprinkled into the mix. Thompson looked the part of a team anchor, recording 14 points and 18 rebounds, while ex-Owl Ramone Moore led the team with 20 points. But the pair weren’t enough against a more balanced attack by Team Fancy. Fancy kept the Riders just at arms-length away all game, led by former Rhode Island Ram Delroy James’ 18 points and Scott Machado’s 17. Team Fancy will be up against SuperNova Sunday.

Summer Sixers grab their first win

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Sixers 94, Spurs 86 – Box Score

Some summer league games are a fun peek into the future of your team and the league at large, while others leave you wondering whether your time might not have been better spent reading a book or polishing your CV. With Markelle Fultz and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot sitting for the Sixers, and Dejounte Murray doing the same for San Antonio, Thursday night’s Utah Summer League finale largely fell in the latter category.

Yet, these guys are still fighting for their professional lives and the Sixers could ultimately hang their hats on pulling out a victory before bagging their bags for Vegas. Buoyed by 23 San Antonio turnovers and a 13-0 4th quarter run, Philadelphia overcame 21 points from Bryn Forbes and got the W.

Leading the way was a familiar face for Philadelphia basketball fans. Former St. Joseph’s standout Isaiah Miles dropped a team-high 18 points on 7-10 shooting, adding 7 rebounds. Miles also offered good production in limited minutes earlier in the week against Boston. Although a bit undersized as a stretch four, Miles has been active on the glass and shown he can get up and down the floor well for a big. After playing in France last year, Miles is playing well enough to earn himself a training camp invite from some NBA club.

Finishing up an excellent week in Utah, Jonah Bolden shined again with 16 points, hitting 3-6 from three, to go along with 8 rebounds and 3 steals. Bolden’s MO is pretty clear by now. He will be all over the floor on both ends, and will shoot the ball whenever he’s given a moment’s window to do so. Given how well he’s played the last three games, he’s earned a chance to see how he performs against (and with) better competition in the fall.

Finally, with the team’s two most prominent NBA-ready players on the pine, more of an opportunity opened up for Furkan Korkmaz to show what he can do. Furkan did hit 2 of 4 threes for 10 points, showing off his range with one of those triples coming from a couple feet from behind the line. Otherwise though, another poor performance from the young Turkish star, who missed all three of his field goal attempts inside the arc and committed 4 turnovers. On one of those turnovers, Korkmaz flat out dribbled the ball off his foot in an ugly unforced error. 87ers fans, get ready for a lot of Furkan in your life this season. The kid needs some time to develop.

It’s wheels up for Vegas for the Summer Sixers, who take on the G-league version of the defending champion Warriors Saturday night. It’ll be good to see them in the always fun Vegas setting and, of course, with Markelle Fultz back on the court.

Fultz surge not enough for Sixers to pull out the win

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Jazz 100, Sixers 94 – Box Score

Facing the stiffest test of his young professional career (which now spans all of two games), Markelle Fultz came away with passing grades, nearly pulling the Summer Sixers out of a huge, 24-point hole against the Jazz. Fultz finished with a team-high 23 points on 9-16 shooting, scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter alone as his team came within a single point of tying the game in the closing moments. Ultimately, Fultz couldn’t single-handedly overcome the tagteam Utah backcourt of Dante Exum (26 points, 10 assists) and Donovan Mitchell (15 points, 3 steals), who terrorized the Sixers all evening. Their play was neatly summarized by this sequence where Mitchell stole a lazy Furkan Korkmaz pass and made a perfect behind-the-back pass to Exum for an uncontested flush.

Matched up against Exum, who is entering his 4th year in the league (albeit with one entirely lost to an ACL injury), Fultz struggled at times defensively to contain the more experienced guard. Not losing focus on the defensive end is definitely going to be something head coach Brett Brown harps on Fultz about this season. It was also the first overall pick’s first time as the lead guard in summer league, as Korkmaz’s arrival pushed he and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to the wings with Fultz at the point. While Fultz made some errors leading to 6 turnovers, he has probably never faced a defender of Exum’s caliber and he still generally acquitted himself well. His 5 assists could have been a much higher number with some more help from his teammates.

Even still, scoring the ball is something that already looks so easy for the former Washington Husky. Fultz drained 4 of 8 from behind the arc, showing no signs of needing to adjust to the longer three-point line. The way he keeps himself under control and smoothly pulls up to drain these shots is a sight for sore eyes after what we’ve been forced to watch from the guard position in recent years.

He once again showed off his spin move, which when he combines that with a stepback jumper (jimbo, if you’re a real baller like Kevin Durant), is basically unstoppable. Dante Exum is about as long a defender as Fultz is ever going to face and he can’t prevent this bucket from going down.

I also enjoy how Fultz doesn’t try to do too much when he’s driving the lane, showing an ability to knock down a variety of floaters and tough-angle shots rather than trying to finish through people. Maybe it’s a product of never having the uber-athleticism you might expect from a top prospect, but Fultz’s offensive game seems more polished than your normal rookie, which should serve him well against better competition once the fall rolls around.

The other guy who continues to jump off the screen for the Sixers in Utah is Jonah Bolden. While he’s a bit of a chucker offensively (5 points on 2-9 shooting, 1-5 from three), Bolden is simply every on the defensive end. He ended the night with 3 steals and 3 blocks, rotating effectively and covering a huge amount of ground with his fluid, 6’10” frame. His skillset was on full display during this two-play sequence. Bolden did a nice job helping off the ball to cut off a driver and still a pass attempt to the corner (somehow staying in-bounds to keep possession). Then, after a Sixers turnover, Bolden sprinted down court for an outstanding chasedown block.

I’d really like to see the Sixers sign Bolden to one of the new, two-way player contracts. He needs regular playing time, which he would get in Delaware, but I’d also want to see what he can do with the big club. A big man with his ability to guard in space and protect the rim has a place in this league.

After signing with the team this week, former first round pick Furkan Korkmaz’s was a big dud. Korkmaz missed all his field goal attempts and finished with just 3 points, going 3-5 from the line. He also looked to need an adjustment period to the speed of the game this side of the Atlantic, evident in the turnover I detailed at the top. Hopefully, it was more of a situation where he was tired from traveling and unfamiliar with his teammates and we’ll see that sweet shooting stroke in short order.

Having struggled with his shot the other night against Boston, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot found the range against the Jazz, hitting 3 of his 4 threes for 12 points. As he should be, TLC has been more aggressive in summer league hunting for his own shots and driving to the hole. With the main club though, he’s mostly going to need to knock down open outside shots, so good to see him doing that Wednesday night.

The Summer Sixers will be right back at it, looking for their first win tonight against the Spurs.

Sixers fall in closing seconds in Fultz debut

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Celtics 89, Sixers 88 – Box Score

In front of Danny Ainge and facing the Boston Celtics team that literally traded down to pass up on him, Markelle Fultz had just about a perfect start to the game in his professional debut. On the game’s very first possession, Fultz patiently put up a step-through jumper, the ball bouncing around and in reminiscent of all the lottery balls and other things that had to bounce just right for him to become a Sixer in the first place.

Then, on his first defensive possession, Fultz blocked Demetrious Jackson. A few plays later, he hit his very first attempt from downtown, showing how lethal he’s going to be in the pick-and-roll because teams will not be able to go under screens on him.

Alas, it wasn’t a Hollywood ending for Fultz and the Summer Sixers, as Boston ultimately prevailed in the closing seconds. Third overall pick Jayson Tatum made a jumper with 5 seconds left to put Boston ahead. On the game’s ensuing final possession, Fultz’s game-winning lay-up attempt was blocked by Jaylen Brown. I hope the Celtics victory is a talisman for Danny Ainge to hold on to while Fultz is terrorizing the Eastern Conference over the next decade.

Fultz finished with a line of 17 points on 6-16 shooting, including 2-5 from three, and showed off his two-way potential with three blocks. The one knock on his night was his 1 assist to 4 turnovers, which is where I remind you that it’s summer league and it was his first experience primarily playing off the ball. Seriously, if spin moves like this don’t throw your heart for a loop, I don’t know if you qualify as a fan.

In all fairness, Tatum also looked very good for Boston. He had 21 points on 8-17 shooting, 7 rebounds, and 5 steals, not only knocking down the game-winner but throwing down a hellacious dunk through traffic in the lane. Brown looked how a lottery pick in his second NBA season should look playing summer league, scoring 29 points on 10-16 shooting, including 3-4 from three, and grabbing 13 rebounds.

For the Sixers, second-year player Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot did not have his outside shot working, only hitting 1 of 9 from behind the arc. He did look very poised on the court though, collecting 7 rebounds and tying Larry Drew II with a team-high 5 assists.

Among guys who are on the fringe of what’s suddenly a very crowded Sixers roster, second-round pick Jonah Bolden was the clear standout. Bolden had 9 points on 4-10 shooting, shooting 1-4 from behind the arc, while swatting away 4 Boston shots. The Aussie was very active on both ends of the court, flashing his potential as a stretch big who can also protect the rim, basically the perfect modern archetype for what you want from a big man. He’s definitely a guy to watch as the summer continues.

The Summer Sixers will be back at it Wednesday night against the Jazz.

Sixers Sign Free Agents J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Remember when people called Philadelphia a toxic culture of losing where no quality players would want to come? Nobody’s saying that now after the news Saturday that the Sixers have signed J.J. Redick, the top unrestricted free agent shooting guard on the market, to a 1 year, $23M deal.

The deal is mutually beneficial for both sides. Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo is only seeking one year deals this summer in order to retain cap flexibility and make a big splash in free agency in 2018 and 2019. For Redick, this is easily the biggest payday of his career; the $7.4M he made last season was previously the most he had ever made in a year. Redick reportedly turned down long-term deals from both the Timberwolves and the Nets, showing Philadelphia is a place players want to come. Per NBA news wizard Woj, “Redick has long been intrigued by signing with the Sixers, impressed with the franchise’s young talent and enthusiastic about playing for coach Brett Brown.”

Aside from his veteran presence, the 33-year-old Redick brings much-needed spacing to the Sixers offensively. His 41.5% career mark from three is 14th-best all-time, and crucially, for a team that will be funneling the ball to Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz, Redick does most his damage without the ball in his hands.

Imagine a defender having to decide whether to stick to one of the best three-point shooters of all time or help his teammate deal with a 7’3″ freak of nature pump-faking and the three-point line and barreling down the lane. Or run through multiple screens chasing Redick while a 6’10” point guard with tremendous court vision and extraordinary passing ability surveys the court unimpeded. Redick is going to help take the pressure off those guys and allow them to create without as much attention directed toward them, while in turn, they’ll generate plenty of open looks for him. It’s a match made in heaven.

Meanwhile, Bryan Colangelo wasn’t done Saturday, also signing 6’9″ big man Amir Johnson to a 1 year, $11M contract. Unlike the Redick signing, this is less of a perfect fit between the two parties. Johnson’s game has fallen off recently, likely due to some recurring ankle woes that have hampered his play on the court. He has also started no fewer than 72 games in any of the last four regualr seasons. How big of a role is he expecting to receive when the Sixers already have Joel Embiid and Richaun Holmes at center and Ben Simmons and Dario Saric at power forward?

Still, Johnson is a good locker room guy, plays solid defense, sets good screens, and brings a modicum of floor stretching ability as a big man (career 34.0% from three). Having him aboard reminds me of last year’s Gerald Henderson signing; it’s something I can’t really bring myself to care about one way or another. Now, if Johnson being on the roster suddenly means Brett Brown is constantly playing guys like Simmons or Saric out of position, then we have a problem.

Even after these two deals, the Sixers will still have around $15M in cap space. Speculation is that the space is earmarked for a Robert Covington extension sometime in 2017, which is music to my ears. As for this season, the Sixers can run out a starting lineup of Markelle Fultz, J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid, with Dario Saric and a host of both veterans and up-and-coming youngsters coming off the bench. If that doesn’t scream playoff team in a watered-down Eastern Conference, I don’t know what does.

Even J.J. Redick knows now. You have to…


Sixers part ways with Gerald Henderson, pursuing J.J. Redick

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

It’s been a wild week in the NBA, with Chris Paul and Paul George both traded even before the start of the July 1 free agency period. Meanwhile, the Sixers, having already made their big splash with the trade to acquire Markelle Fultz leading up to the draft, have since stayed on their slow and steady course. Friday, the team made a housekeeping move, waiving Gerald Henderson before his $9M contract became fully guaranteed on July 1. Instead, the team will have only $1M count against the cap this season.

Henderson, part of the first batch of veterans brought in by Bryan Colangelo to help establish a “winning culture”, averaged 9.2 points and 2.6 rebounds for the Sixers last season. He appeared in 72 games (starting 41), often playing through a nagging hip injury. Henderson’s 42.3 FG% was his worst mark since his rookie season, although his 35.3 3PT% tied a career-high, as his offensive game continues to progress behind the arc.

Henderson was a good soldier and I’m sure the young guys benefited from his imparted wisdom, but it was hard to see him fitting into the team’s future with Markelle Fultz in the backcourt and Furkan Korkmaz’s imminent arrival. The team was wise to open up an additional $8M in cap space.

What is Philadelphia going to do with its abundance of cap space? Reportedly, try to lure veterans in for big money, one year deals. The main target is former Clippers guard J.J. Redick.

A career 41.5% shooter from three, Redick would be an ideal option to help stretch the floor and open the lane for Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. I would be completely on board with Colangelo’s goal of signing Redick for 1 year at over $20M, but at 33 years old, Redick is understandably seeking one last big long-term deal. Philadelphia being “close” to Brooklyn where Redick has a home isn’t enough incentive for him to pass up those added years of security. If Colangelo sticks to his guns about one year deals, it’s hard to see the sides coming to an agreement.

The other name linked to the Sixers on free agency eve was former Celtics big man Amir Johnson. Johnson and Colangelo have a relationship from the general manager’s days in Toronto. After falling further out of the Boston rotation in the playoffs in the spring, the 30-year-old Johnson would appear to be a candidate to jump at a big payday for one season. Personally, I think the team could better use $10-12M than by bringing in a guy on the downspring of his career mostly for his “veteranness”.

Ultimately, keeping quiet in free agency and extending Robert Covington might be the best course of action for the Sixers this summer. We’ll know more in the coming days of another crazy NBA offseason.

Shawn Long traded to Houston

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

In the midst of the hoopla surrounding the Chris Paul trade to the Rockets Wednesday, Houston general manager Daryl Morey somehow found time to contact Bryan Colangelo and complete a deal with the Sixers. Surely, this is the Houston transaction that will be the topic of discussion throughout the upcoming holiday weekend.

The pick was later confirmed to be Houston’s own 2018 pick, with no protections.


Given the fact that Houston should have either Chris Paul or James Harden running Mike D’Antoni’s offense every minute of the season next year, it’s very likely the pick will only be in the mid-to-high-50’s. As we’ve seen in the past though, you never know which asset can be the butterfly that flaps its wings and turns into the next Markelle Fultz down the road. I only hope Colangelo doesn’t sell the pick for cash again on draft night next June.

As for Shawn Long, he did a nice job for the Sixers in the 18 games he appeared in last year. Long averaged 8.2 points and 4.7 rebounds in 13.0 minutes, shooting 56.0% from the field and 36.8% from behind the arc. As the Embiid-less second half of the season wound down, Long was a bright spot for the team and had the look of a man who could eventually develop into a rotational stretch big man.

The Sixers had the former Louisiana-Lafayette star under contract cheaply each of the next two seasons, including for just $1.3M during the upcoming 2017-18 season. However, both years were fully non-guaranteed, and given the new bodies coming to the team via the draft and by way of free agency, it was likely Long would have been released at some point prior to the start of the season anyway.

Instead, with Long not included in the Chris Paul deal, he’ll apparently have a chance to make the Rockets roster. With Paul and Harden making big money, Houston will need low-cost players on their roster who can actually give them minutes. Long fits the Rockets’ style as a big man who could stretch the floor and create room for their star guards to operate in the lane out of the pick-and-roll. He would certainly have plenty of opportunities to can open triples given the gravity those two create on the court.

For the Sixers, terrific work by Colangelo to get an actual asset for a guy who the team was likely going to let walk come fall. Something with the magnitude of the Markelle Fultz trade is how the majority of the people look back at the tenure of a front office decision maker, and rightly so. But capitalizing on these smaller deals has value as well. While I haven’t agreed with every single thing he’s done, Colangelo is hitting on the majority of his moves both big and small. Given time, we’ll see how it eventually translates to the team’s success.

Sixers don’t win, still winners on NBA Awards Night

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

After months of debate heading into Monday night’s inaugural NBA Awards night, it was not a Sixer, but Milwaukee guard Malcolm Brogdon, who hoisted the NBA Rookie of the Year award in front of Drake and the rest of the basketball public at-large. Brogdon received 64 first place votes, well ahead of Philadelphia teammates Joel Embiid (23) and Dario Saric (13). Saric finished 2nd in the overall vote, as 33 voters left Embiid off their ballots entirely.

Why Brogdon is a particularly mediocre candidate has been rehashed time and time again; his 10.2 ppg average is the lowest ever for a Rookie of the Year winner. It’s also easy to make the argument that his efficiency numbers were better than his fellow rookies because he was rarely expected to create offense on his own.

As expected though, Joel Embiid’s 31 games played were not enough for a significant percentage of the voters to deem him worthy of the award, despite the consensus notion that he was easily the league’s top rookie when he was on the court. Meanwhile, Saric wasn’t the best rookie on his own team, and struggled mightily with his shot for the first couple months of the season before coming on strong as Philadelphia’s main option in the spring. With those two cannibalizing each other’s votes, Brogdon slid in as a winner largely by default.

Still, let’s not concern ourselves too much with a Sixer not winning the award. ROY goes a long way toward helping young players gain recognition and standing within the league, but between his role as central figure of the Process (among players anyway) and social media GOATness, Embiid could hardly be more prominent in league circles already. It also would have been fun for Saric to be the first ever rookie to win the award without coming over to the States, but if we’re really being honest, he wasn’t quite good enough for long enough during the season to make it happen.

Anyway, the night was really positive for the Sixers on the whole! Joel Embiid and Dario Saric were the first teammates to both make the All-Rookie First Team, the first teammates to achieve the feat since Kevin Durant and Jeff Green pulled it off for Seattle (RIP) in 2007-08. I hear that Durant guy turned out pretty good, which bodes well for the Sixers.

Somewhat more unexpectedly, it was a big night for Robert Covington. The former undrafted free agent grabbed 11 points toward an all-defensive team (2 first team votes, 7 second team votes). He also finished fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting, slotting in behind Draymond Green, Rudy Gobert, and Kawhi Leonard. Covington received one second place vote and one third place vote. Tabulating the point totals for Defensive Player of the Year, Covington is sandwiched between Leonard and LeBron James. Not bad company.

The votes are tremendous validation for the effort put in by Covington and the coaching staff to turn him into one of the top perimeter defenders in the league. At 6’9″, Covington guarded everyone from opposing power forwards down to 5’9″ Isaiah Thomas, leading the league in deflections, while averaging 1.9 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. For a guy who was booed during a shooting slump, and written off by some uninformed hacks as a tool for tanking, this recognition is sweet validation. Now, Bryan Colangelo just needs to work out a deal this summer to ensure Covington is a Sixer for years to come.

When you boil it down, the Sixers have two of the top three rookies from last season (the order of that hardly matters) in Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. They have the fourth-best defender in the league in Robert Covington (that’s according to the voters, not some Philadelphia homerism on my part). And they have the first overall picks from the past two drafts in Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. I’d say the future is pretty bright.