76ers

The unlikely reunion for Robert Covington and Jacob Pullen

The unlikely reunion for Robert Covington and Jacob Pullen

Robert Covington and Jacob Pullen already have been on road trips around the league this season. Monday's game in Chicago is different. The longtime friends are in their hometown, together, as NBA teammates.

The relationship between Covington and Pullen goes far beyond being teammates on the Sixers this season. They met when Pullen was in ninth grade, Covington in seventh. The two could have been teammates at Proviso West High School, but Pullen transferred to Proviso East, the school where players including Doc Rivers and Michael Finley competed.

They watched each other's basketball careers develop, technically as rivals but more so in appreciation of one another's game.

Covington summed up the fiery point guard with just two words. 

"Walking bucket," he said in a co-interview with Pullen.

Pullen noted the skills that have earned Covington a place in the league and recently a lucrative contract extension.

"With his size in high school, he could play defense like he plays defense now," Pullen said. "But you didn't see too many guys that were 6-5, 6-6 in high school that shot the ball like that. He was playing different positions on the court. By the time he got to his junior and senior year and I was in college, even though he didn't go to a high major school, you could still see him standing out at the high school level as being better than most of the players in our area for sure."

They took different routes after high school. Pullen went on to Kansas State, where he became the leading scorer in school history and won the 2011 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award for the nation's top senior 6-feet tall or under. Pullen went undrafted and compiled an accolade-filled resume overseas. This season, he decided to turn down international offers and give the NBA a shot, signing a two-way contract with the Sixers. 

Covington played college ball at Tennessee State. He wasn't sure if basketball would lead to a long-term career, so he focused in on an exercise science degree as a backup plan. Covington fought his way through the then-D-League, earning 2014 Rookie of the Year honors. His career has been marked by the transformation from underdog to starting small forward.  

"A lot of people don't make it out of our neighborhood, especially as far as basketball," Pullen said. "It's good to see somebody that I've known and see him go through what he's gone through to get where he's at now." 

Covington welcomed Pullen to Philadelphia when he joined the team this fall. He showed Pullen the ropes of the city and gave him a place to spend time outside of his temporary hotel room. Having a tour guide is helpful, but their relationship is even more beneficial on the court. 

The two often can be seen working on shooting drills together late after practice and shootaround. Because Pullen gets most of his playing time in the G League, he's there to offer Covington words of encouragement from the bench when Covington comes off the court. 

"We already have that bond being from Chicago, both being from an area where there's so much negativity going on," Covington said. "For us to prosper, make it through, one thing that always stands out, we've always got to make sure we keep each other up because there's so much negative stuff that's coming around."

For all the varying roads they went down to get to this point, Covington and Pullen are heading into the United Center playing for the same NBA team.

"It's amazing," Pullen said. 

Watch the video above of Covington and Pullen to hear more about the heated games between their high schools.

Raptors continue to take care of business at home

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Raptors continue to take care of business at home

TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry scored nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan added 21 and the Toronto Raptors beat San Antonio 86-83 on Friday night to snap a four-game losing streak against the Spurs.

Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Raptors improved to 17-3 at home, the second-best home record in the NBA behind San Antonio's mark of 19-2.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 14 rebounds, Pau Gasol scored 15 points and Patty Mills had 13 as San Antonio lost for the fourth time in six road games. The Spurs are 11-15 away from home.

It had been more than two years since Toronto last beat San Antonio. The Raptors won 97-94 at home on Dec. 9, 2015.

San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili missed his second straight game because of a sore right thigh. Ginobili returned to Texas after the Spurs won at Brooklyn on Wednesday (see full recap).

Beal, Oubre spark Wizards’ win over Pistons
DETROIT -- Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre Jr. had 26 points each, and the Washington Wizards scored 45 points in the third quarter before holding on for a 122-112 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

The Pistons cut a 20-point second-half deficit to four in the fourth quarter, but John Wall made a big 3-pointer to put the Wizards up 107-100. Oubre added a four-point play a few possessions later to push Washington's lead to nine.

Andre Drummond had 14 points, 21 rebounds and eight assists for the Pistons, who have lost four straight.

Both teams were struggling coming into the game. The Wizards lost by 24 at Charlotte on Wednesday, and they fell behind by 15 in the first quarter at Detroit. It was tied at 46 at halftime, though (see full recap).

Nets edge Heat to snap 5-game home skid
NEW YORK -- DeMarre Carroll scored 26 points, Spencer Dinwiddie had 15 and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Miami Heat 101-95 on Friday night.

Brooklyn snapped a five-game losing skid at Barclays Center and a seven-game home losing streak to the Heat.

Caris LeVert and Joe Harris each added 12 points for the Nets. D'Angelo Russell played 14 minutes and went 0-for-5 from the field for Brooklyn in his first action after missing 32 games following left knee surgery.

Hassan Whiteside had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Goran Dragic scored 17 points for the Heat.

LeVert made an acrobatic layup to give the Nets a 95-91 lead with 57.8 seconds remaining and then made a step-back jumper to ice the game at 97-91 (see full recap).

Is a rival upset with Embiid's ASG starter nod?

Is a rival upset with Embiid's ASG starter nod?

While Joel Embiid was sharing his first All-Star nod with his teammates and deciding to move on from his former crush, at least one person wasn’t happy that the Sixers’ center was tabbed as a starter.

Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis feels like he should have garnered that final frontcourt spot in the Eastern Conference.

“Players know,” he said, per the New York Daily News. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

True, Porzingis had more of the players’ support as he finished third in the East in that category compared to Embiid in fourth. 

However, Embiid had the trump card with a pair of third-place finishes in both media and fan voting while Porzingis came in fourth. The fan vote was the main key, as it accounted for 50 percent of the overall tally.

“I feel very blessed to be in this type of position,” Embiid said Thursday. “Thank all the fans out there for the support. It’s been a tough couple of years and I really appreciate it — everybody out there, everybody around me, the whole team, the whole organization, the fans especially, for making this happen. We can only get better from here.”

If Embiid is going to get even better, look out. He’s already averaging 23.9 points (48.7 percent shooting), 11.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.9 blocks per game this season. Oh yeah, he also has the Sixers with a 21-20 record and sitting in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, Porzingis’ overall numbers have gone down every month this season. He’s currently putting up 23.6 points (43.4 percent shooting), 6.9 boards, 1.2 assists and 2.4 blocks a night. And the Knicks have lost 11 of their last 15 games to fall to 20-25.

“Everybody has their own opinion,” Porzingis said. “Fans are one thing. It is what it is. There are a lot of things I could have done better also. It is what it is.”