76ers

Charles Barkley: 'The playoffs are a definite for the Sixers this year'

Charles Barkley: 'The playoffs are a definite for the Sixers this year'

Joel Embiid tweeted last month about playoff spots opening up in the Eastern Conference thanks to several star players moving out west (see story).

Embiid presumably meant that would allow the Sixers to snag one of the precious postseason slots. However, former Sixers great and Hall of Famer, Charles Barkley, left no doubt.

“The playoffs are a definite for the Sixers this year,” Barkley said Friday to CSN’s Danny Pommells from the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe.

While other teams have been weakened by core players changing conferences, Barkley still believes the Sixers’ rise will have more to do with the squad coming into its own.

“If Embiid is healthy and (Ben) Simmons is healthy, I think they’re definitely gonna make the playoffs,” he said. “Obviously the injury thing has really hurt them the last couple years. But if those two guys are healthy, I think both of them are terrific players. Now you’ve got (Markelle) Fultz, you’ve got JJ (Redick). They’ve done some good things with the guys coming off the bench. (Dario) Saric was fantastic last year.

“If they don’t make the playoffs, I’d be totally shocked.”

A big key to the Sixers' reaching that level will be how Simmons and Fultz mesh together on the court. The last two No. 1 picks could make up the team’s starting backcourt in a non-traditional pairing.

“One or the other is probably going to have to defer a little bit because they both want the ball,” Barkley said of the Simmons-Fultz pairing. “They’re both dominant guys with the ball. I think coach (Brett) Brown is gonna have to really talk to them about that. That could be an interesting dynamic of their team because they’re both ball-dominant guys and they both will probably have to sacrifice a little bit in that area.”

No matter which of those players ultimately has to take a back seat on the floor, Barkley is confident the Sixers will figure things out and move up the NBA ranks.

“The Sixers, man, they’ve just got a really bright future,” he said.

For more from Barkley on the Sixers and LaVar Ball, watch the full video above.

Best of NBA: Celtics surge past Warriors for 14th straight win

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Best of NBA: Celtics surge past Warriors for 14th straight win

BOSTON -- Kyrie Irving had 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including two free throws that put Boston ahead in the closing seconds, and the Celtics beat the Golden State Warriors 92-88 on Thursday night for their 14th straight victory.

Jaylen Brown had 22 points and seven rebounds, and Al Horford added 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Kevin Durant has 24 points for Golden State. The defending champion Warriors had won seven in a row.

Playing his second game since suffering a facial fracture, Irving shed his protective mask in the second quarter. Then, with the game tied at 88, he was fouled on his layup attempt and calmly made a pair of free throws. Durant then came up empty on his jumper on the other end.

Golden State led by as many as 17, but had to lean heavily on its reserves as its trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant struggled offensively.

Curry, who returned to action after missing a game with a bruised right thigh, was the most ineffective. He was 3 of 14 from the field -- 2 of 9 from the 3-point line -- and had nine points (see full recap).

Harden’s 48 points ignite Rockets’ rout of Suns
PHOENIX -- James Harden had 23 of his 48 points in the second quarter while the Houston Rockets scored 90 points in the first half en route to a 142-116 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

Houston dominated with Chris Paul back in the lineup after missing 14 games with a knee injury. The Rockets made 61 percent of their first-half shots to get the second-most points in a first half in NBA history.

Houston came up 14 points shy of the franchise record for points in a game. The Rockets knocked down 21 of 44 3-point attempts, and Harden made all 18 of his free throws (see full recap).

Harden, the NBA's leading scorer, had 33 points at halftime. Houston used a 13-1 over the final 3:08 of the first quarter to take control and was never threatened after that, leading 45-23 going into the second.

Paul, who hadn't played since the season opener, got the start and didn't miss a beat, scoring 11 points and handing out 10 assists in limited action.

Coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game that getting the two stars, Harden and Paul, in sync will "take care of itself over the next week or so." D'Antoni planned to play Paul for 20 minutes; Paul saw 21 minutes of action and sat out most of the fourth quarter.

Ryan Anderson added 24 points for the Rockets, who have won seven of eight (see full recap).

Sixers marvel at Robert Covington's transformation

Sixers marvel at Robert Covington's transformation

LOS ANGELES — The Sixers have been through one contract extension already this season. The players were thrilled for Joel Embiid and his payday, for everything he overcame with injuries and the way he had excelled in such a short period of time in the league.

Now it’s Robert Covington’s turn, and there’s a different type of appreciation for the reported four-year, $62 million deal he is set to receive (see story). Covington’s success is a triumphant underdog story, an example of how dedication can transcend an NBA hopeful into a solidified starter. 

The Sixers on Wednesday reacted to the news of Covington's upcoming extension with a theme that echoed around the locker room: well deserved. 

T.J. McConnell
“Coming from a guy who’s also undrafted, I don’t think people realize how hard it is to do what he’s done. To get to where he’s at now, he’s more than deserving. He’s put in the hours. Everything he’s been through in this city and with this team, it’s so well deserved and I’m proud of him.”

Richaun Holmes
“Dinner’s on him (laughs). He deserves it. Cov, we’ve all seen how hard he’s worked since he got here. He tried to turn himself into a tremendous player and he has.”

Nik Stauskas
“For the last couple years, he’s a guy that’s been overlooked. He’s constantly been working on his game and trying to improve himself. The fact that he’s been such a valuable asset to this team and he’s been shooting the ball at such a high percentage, he’s been able to defend some of the other teams’ best players, I think the contract speaks for itself. It’s very well deserved and I think it’s only going to help this team moving forward.”

Amir Johnson
“He’s definitely been playing out of his mind. … It shows how his work ethic is and how he carries himself. … Coming from the D-League, playing in Houston, and now being here in Philly, it’s showing how hard he worked and deserves this new deal he’s getting.”

Dario Saric 
“Now he will really get money where he deserves. I’m really happy because he deserves it. He’s working so hard every day. He always stays after practice, tries to work on his game." 

Jerryd Bayless
“You can see the improvement he’s shown from even last year when I first got here to this year. Well deserved and good for him. Offensively, right now he’s obviously playing out of his mind. It’s great. Defensively, he’s done a lot of good things. He’s handling a lot of passes, he’s deflecting passes, and he helps us."