76ers

Source: Sixers, Robert Covington finalizing extension

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Source: Sixers, Robert Covington finalizing extension

Updated: Nov. 16, 2 a.m.

LOS ANGELES — Robert Covington’s payday is about to finally arrive.

Covington and the Sixers are finalizing the framework of a contract extension, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia on Wednesday night. There is no specific day yet for the finalization, per the source.

The deal will be four years, $62 million, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski‏, who first reported the terms.

“I haven’t really thought about it too much,” Covington said after the Sixers’ 115-109 win over the Lakers (see observations). “I made sure that the main focus has been just coming out and playing hard. Even though people have kind of already talked about it and everything, it’s still not official yet because there are still certain things that have to be worked out. But the potential is there. 

“I’m blessed to be here another four years. It’s an opportunity that I’ve been looking forward to. I developed here for four years and now I’m going to be here another four more.”

Over the past four years, Covington has transformed from a G-League hopeful to an impact two-way player in the NBA. He solidified a place in the Sixers’ starting lineup with his locked-in defense and three-point shooting abilities. Now he's a part of the team’s long-term plans.

“To be a part of it long term, I’m very fortunate to be a part of that because I’ve only made myself a better player here,” Covington said during ESPN's SportsCenter after the victory. “Coaches have helped me, my teammates have helped me. Now that everything is starting to come together, it’s a great feeling to be a part of.”

“There’s an inner confidence that he has that’s born out of, ‘I belong. This is my organization and I’m going to do whatever I can to help move it forward,’” Brett Brown said Tuesday. “And that he has. He’s just maturing before all of our eyes.” 

Covington established himself as the Sixers’ defensive go-to and often is tasked with guarding the opponent’s best player. He ranks fifth in the league in deflections (3.5) and fourth among all small forwards in steals (1.62), while averaging 5.7 rebounds. 

Covington is also first among small forwards in real plus-minus (4.46) and sixth in the entire league, behind only James Harden, DeMarcus Cousins, Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokic and Al Horford, according to ESPN.com. 

It’s the little things Brown notes on his “effort charts” that add up for Covington. 

“He’s great defensively,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s what we call a ‘three-and-D’ player. He does his job, especially defensively, 1-on-1 situations, help defense. He’s a big part of this process and I’m glad to have him.”

Offensively, Covington is having his best season. He is one game removed from a career-high 31 points against the Clippers. Covington is posting 16.8 points per game. He is tied for fifth in the NBA with Chandler Parsons for three-point shooting (50.0 percent) and seventh among small forwards in field goal shooting (49.7 percent). 

The player once booed on his homecourt for missing treys has become a consistent long-range scorer. He’s pushed forward with a mentality of “in one ear, out the other” where his confidence hasn’t wavered in spite of his struggles. 

“It’s just about the evolution of my game,” Covington said. “Getting the opportunity to play is what really helped me.”

Just how far has Covington come in his career? 

He went undrafted out of Tennessee State in 2013. That season, he signed with the Rockets and played 42 games for their G-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Covington was named 2013-14 G-League Rookie of the Year but was waived by the Rockets on Oct. 27, 2014, after appearing in just one preseason game. 

The Sixers signed him to a discounted deal three weeks later. It was a get at a bargain contract for former general manager Sam Hinkie, who had been eyeing Covington since the draft, he penned in his resignation letter. Covington entered this season as the fifth-lowest paid player on the team ($1,577,230), earning more than only T.J. McConnell, Richaun Holmes, Furkan Korkmaz and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. 

Covington persevered through the ups and downs of the Sixers’ losing seasons. He took advantage of his chance to simply play basketball in the NBA and is turning it into a lucrative contract and a place in the Sixers’ future. 

“It’s a fantastic journey that I’ve experienced with him,” Brown said. “I’m so proud of where he was compared to where he is.”

Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

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Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

HOUSTON -- Clint Capela had a career-high 28 points and James Harden scored 12 straight points for Houston in the fourth quarter as the Rockets rallied for a 130-123 victory to extend their winning streak to 10 games on Monday night.

The game was tied with about three minutes remaining after Harden made two free throws. Those were the first of seven straight points by Harden that put Houston's up 124-119 with 1:30 left.

Jrue Holiday made a basket after that, but Harden hit a 3-pointer seconds later to push the lead to 127-121. Harden stole the ball from E'Twaun Moore after a timeout by New Orleans. He was fouled and made both free throws to make it 129-121 with 34 seconds left.

After scoring 48 points in Houston's last game, Harden finished with 26 on Monday, but he tied a career-high with 17 assists, finding the 6-foot-10 Capela under the basket again and again.

Holiday had a season-high 37 points for the Pelicans. Moore had a career-high 36 points and made a career-most six 3-pointers on a night New Orleans set a franchise record with 18 3-pointers (see full recap).

Mirotic, Portis help Bulls blow out Celtics
CHICAGO -- Nikola Mirotic scored 24 points, Bobby Portis added a career-high 23 and the Chicago Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.

Owners of the NBA's worst record, the Bulls built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.

Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms. The 6-foot-10 forward hit 9 of 14 shots and grabbed eight rebounds in his third appearance.

Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.

Before Monday night, Mirotic and Portis had only made headlines together this season for the wrong reasons. Mirotic missed the first 23 games with facial fractures he suffered in a fight at practice with Portis.

Al Horford scored 15 for Boston. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics' most lopsided loss of the season (see full recap).

Howard, struggling Hornets roll past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Dwight Howard scored 23 points to help the Charlotte Hornets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-103 on Monday night.

Kemba Walker had 19 points for the Hornets, who had lost seven of eight. Marvin Williams scored 18, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 17 points.

It was Charlotte's second road win of the season in 12 tries.

Russell Westbrook had 30 points and seven assists and Paul George scored 20 points for the Thunder after missing the previous two games with a right calf contusion.

Charlotte shot 53 percent from the field against one of the league's best defensive teams. The Bobcats made 13 of 25 3-point attempts (see full recap).

'Playing like a high school team' plaguing Sixers during losing streak

'Playing like a high school team' plaguing Sixers during losing streak

NEW ORLEANS — The Sixers have hit a four-game skid and there is not a clearly defined way out of it thanks to a laundry list of injuries.

“I think it’s painfully obvious,” Brett Brown said of what needs to be done. “Let’s get our better players back in a uniform.”

The Sixers have to play their best with their pieces available down two starters (Joel Embiid, Robert Covington) and a key bench player (T.J. McConnell).

There are adjustments that can be made to prevent a losing streak from spiraling the Sixers down in the standings.

“We need to be just smarter,” Dario Saric said. “I know we are a young team. I know are playing without Joel, without our very important players … we need to find a way. We need to be more calm down, don’t be nervous, especially on defense.” 

Saric pointed to the Sixers’ late-game defense in their 131-124 loss to the Pelicans (see observations). They were tied with eight minutes to play before the Pelicans hit threes on their next four straight possessions. Jrue Holiday drained four treys himself during a five-minute stretch to push the lead to 11. The Sixers were outscored 44-29 in the fourth quarter.

“In that situation, to me, we are playing like a high school team,” Saric said. “That cannot happen. We need to be smarter at that point. I hope we will grow up and we will be mentally ready for that last five, six, seven minutes.”

The Sixers also were in the position to come back Saturday in Cleveland. They trailed the Cavaliers, 99-98, with 1:39 to play and did not score after that point.

It was during that final stretch when Covington landed out of bounds and suffered a lower back contusion. A day later, Embiid was a late scratch because of lower back tightness (see story). McConnell has missed five of the last six games with a left shoulder injury.

“We’ve got to be consistent with making the right plays every time,” Ben Simmons said. “It’s hard to make mistakes without those guys there. When you make mistakes and you don’t have Jo or Cov and guys like that to make up for that, it’s tough. But we’ve got to just come together as a team and get through it.” 

The Sixers don't have it easy their next two games. They face the Timberwolves (16-11) Tuesday in Minnesota when Embiid said he expects to play but has not been cleared. Covington is doubtful, while McConnell's status is to be determined. The Sixers return home Friday from a three-game road trip to host the Thunder (12-13).