What Ersan Ilyasova brings to Sixers this time

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What Ersan Ilyasova brings to Sixers this time

Updated: 9:25 p.m.

MIAMI — He's back.

The Sixers on Wednesday re-signed veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova following his buyout from the Hawks. Ilyasova played 53 games for the Sixers last season before they traded him to Atlanta in exchange for Tiago Splitter.

In order to clear a roster spot for Ilyasova, the Sixers waived power forward Trevor Booker. He will sign with the Pacers, per multiple reports. The Sixers acquired Booker Dec. 7 of this season from the Nets for Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas and a 2018 second-round pick. Booker averaged 4.7 points and 3.7 rebounds in 33 games for the Sixers. 

Booker was one of only three players (not including Marco Belinelli) with expiring contracts, the easiest kind of contract to include in this type of scenario. Starting shooting guard JJ Redick was not being moved and backup center Amir Johnson adds insurance at the five spot behind Joel Embiid. 

Booker thanked Sixers fans on Twitter.

Ilyasova returns to the Sixers after making a strong impact in his short time. The Sixers first acquired him in October 2016 from the Thunder for Jerami Grant. Ilyasova moved into the starting four spot, adding floor spacing and instant experience to a young lineup.

His addition also gave Dario Saric the opportunity to continue to develop in the NBA off the bench without the pressures of starting.

Ilyasova was a main contributor in the Sixers' 10-5 month of January, a key point for the team that got Embiid thinking playoffs.

"He was great, especially the pairing of both of us," Embiid said earlier this week. "I remember we had great times going back to that January month. Everybody was part of it. But he's a great player, stretch four, he's actually really good defensively. I don't remember the last time any guys on our team took a charge, so he's going to bring that in."

Ilyasova averaged 10.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and shot 36 percent from three in 46 games (40 starts) with the Hawks this season. He adds another boost to the second unit, which the Sixers have been enhancing with veterans since a quiet trade deadline. Earlier this month, they signed shooting guard Belinelli, Ilyasova's teammate on the Hawks this season, after he also was bought out.

"He's a great dude," T.J. McConnell said of Ilyasova. "Great teammate, very talented, and he works super hard. In the short time he was here, he was in the gym relentlessly and it was crazy. He taught me a lot about hard work."

The Sixers will need contributions from Ilyasova. They have lost their last two games against the playoff-contending Wizards and Heat and face the Cavaliers Thursday.

These players could come 'out of left field' for Sixers

These players could come 'out of left field' for Sixers

Brett Brown’s witnessed many playoff battles during his days as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs.

That’s when the stars shine brightest in an attempt to help their team hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. It’s also when role players get an opportunity to change the course of a series and leave an imprint that lasts a lifetime.

Think Kenny Smith’s seven three-pointers in Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals, Steve Kerr’s series-sealing jumper in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals and Robert Horry in, well, too many games to count.

“Every one of my years with San Antonio, 12 of them, somebody came out of left field in one of the games for six minutes, maybe more, and had a significant impact on a win,” Brown said last week.

Sure, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are going to do the heavy lifting. But the real question is who else will make a significant contribution during those crucial postseason moments?

Robert Covington is certainly not planning to shy away from the big stage.

After three months of sliding production, the swingman has regained his shooting form at just the right time as the Sixers appear headed for their first postseason berth since 2011-12. Covington is shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from three-point range with an offensive rating of 128 in March.

“My teammates have been pretty much finding me the same shots, but I just changed up a little bit of my workout, switched it up,” Covington said after scoring 18 points (6 for 12 shooting) in the Sixers’ 108-94 win over the Hornets on Monday. “That’s what allowed me to get where I’m at now. My teammates have been finding me open spots. We’ve been moving the ball really well.

“That’s just doing the right things and waiting on that moment.”

Marco Belinelli knows all about seizing that moment. He’s played — and played very well at times — over the course of 48 career playoff games.

The Sixers got a taste against the Hornets of just how much of a boost Belinelli can give a team when he’s on target. The 10-year veteran scored 21 points off the bench and contributed five of the Sixers’ 18 threes as he sharpens his game for the major challenge on the horizon.

“It’s huge,” Simmons said of finding shooters such as Belinelli and Covington in addition to JJ Redick in close games. “It’s just the way we’ve been playing all year.”

With Justin Anderson now back in the rotation and contributing, it could be the performance of secondary guys that keep the Sixers playing longer than anyone expected before the season started.

Ben Simmons shrugs off mental fatigue with another triple-double

Ben Simmons shrugs off mental fatigue with another triple-double


Around 6 p.m., Ben Simmons spoke about mental fatigue and the frustrations it can cause. 

An hour later, he hit the court and posted an 11-point, 12-rebound, 15-assist triple-double … with zero turnovers.

“I wish he was more mentally fatigued in the future,” Brett Brown said with a laugh. 

The 21-year-old rookie may be feeling the weight of his first NBA season, but he certainly didn’t show it Monday in the Sixers’ 108-94 win over the Hornets (see observations)

Simmons recorded his third triple-double in the last four games. He exhibited disciplined court vision by finding his teammates with a high level of ease and chemistry that’s been developing over the season (see highlights).

“I was trusting them to knock down shots,” Simmons simply put it. “They make it easy for me.”

Simmons became the first rookie in the NBA to record a triple-double with 15 assists and no turnovers. Only David Robinson and Andre Iguodala had reached a triple-double without an error as rookies. 

Simmons considers his assists and turnovers to be the most meaningful stats of the triple-double, noting his turnovers usually are caused by mental errors. 

"That’s amazing," Joel Embiid said. "To be able to make the right reads and not turn the ball over, there’s a few guys in the league that can do that ... that just shows you that he can be a great point guard."

The 6-foot-10 point guard is averaging 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game over 34 minutes. With each game that passes, Simmons continues to be linked with the feats of Hall of Famers. From joining in the same company as Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson to moving ahead of Allen Iverson for most 10-assist games by a Sixers rookie, his performances are often tied back to historical markers. 

“I think people get caught up in how many points I score every game,” Simmons said. “It’s not about that. It’s a matter of points that we’re getting as a team and how many stops we get … 

"People are always going to say I need to do certain things but I know what I’m capable of and I know what I’m really good at.”