76ers

Robert Covington seeking to expand game beyond 3-point shooting

Robert Covington seeking to expand game beyond 3-point shooting

Robert Covington led the Sixers in three-point attempts the past two seasons. That most likely will change, not just because of the additions of guards JJ Redick and Markelle Fultz.

This summer, Covington has been expanding his offensive game as he enters his fifth NBA season. 

“I’ve been working on a lot more stuff off the dribble, a lot of different finishes, different floaters, different ways to get to the basket,” Covington said last week at the Sixers’ Summer Shore Tour in Stone Harbor, New Jersey. “[I’ve been working on] creating also because I know a lot of people know I can shoot already, but I have to broaden aspects of my game.”

Covington shot 33.3 percent from three off 6.1 attempts per game. He took 413 shots from long range compared to 210 at the rim, according to BasketballReference.com

The small forward’s outside looks will be dispersed with his new teammates. The Sixers invested $23 million in Redick to be a sharpshooter, among other roles. Last season, Redick attempted 468 treys, tied for 14th in the league with Kyle Lowry. 

Covington is on board with changing up his shots to fit into the Sixers' system.

“The core is going to be dynamic because it’s so versatile,” he said. “There’s so many skill sets that a number of guys can play different positions. We have that chemistry, that grit, that fight in us. Guys want to make us get better. The intensity of everything is going to be heightened this year because of the guys we have."

Covington and Joel Embiid likely will be the only two starters that carry over from last season. Fultz, Redick and Ben Simmons are likely to round out the starting five, with the 6-foot-10 Simmons taking on point guard responsibilities.

“It’s going to be very good for us because we’re going to be able to switch a lot,” Covington said. “It’s going to make us that much more versatile, that much more deadly as a team. Then we’re going to have depth, guys on the bench that can come in and do the same thing. To have people that come in and fill that void that we have, there won’t be much letdown.”

Covington’s first three seasons with the Sixers were about rebuilding and trying to build a foundation amid injuries. That includes Covington, who underwent surgery in April to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee. He said he “absolutely” will be ready for training camp in late September. Feeling healthy on a revamped roster, Covington finally can look ahead beyond the regular season. 

“It’s thrilling because we've got that same expectation [as the fans to make the playoffs],” he said. “The way things are opening up, opportunity is definitely there. It’s just a matter of us seizing it."

Former Sixers guard named HOF finalist

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USA Today Images

Former Sixers guard named HOF finalist

Former Sixers player and head coach Maurice Cheeks on Saturday was named a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Other candidates include Grant Hill, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and former Sixer Chris Webber.

Cheeks, a four-time All-Star point guard and member of the 1982-83 championship team, spent 10 seasons with the Sixers before stints with the San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks and New Jersey Nets. He averaged 12.2 points, 7.3 assists and 2.3 steals a night in 853 career games. Cheeks ranks in the top-five in NBA history in both assists (7,392) and steals (2,310). He was also voted to the NBA All-Defensive team five times.

Currently an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cheeks was the Sixers' head coach from 2005-2008, but was fired after a slow start to the 2008-09 season. He was also the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers and Detroit Pistons. He has a 305-315 career record and has made the postseason three times in nine seasons.

Sixers show they're ready to take over the world

Sixers show they're ready to take over the world

LOS ANGELES — The Sixers made their mark among the NBA’s top young talent on a global scale.

Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Ben Simmons (Australia) and Dario Saric (Croatia) all started for Team World Friday in the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game. They helped kick off All-Star weekend with a 155-124 victory over Team USA. 

Simmons recorded a double-double, which is becoming clockwork for the point guard (22 in the regular season, six triple-doubles). He posted 11 points off a perfect 5 for 5 from the field and 1 for 1 from the line. Simmons added 13 assists, six boards and four steals. 

This game was, in a way, a double statement for Simmons. It was an an opportunity to make a case for Rookie of the Year, with fellow contender Donovan Mitchell competing on Team USA. Mitchell notched seven points (3 for 10 from the field, 1 for 6 from three), seven assists, two rebounds, five steals and two blocks.

The Rising Stars contest also was a chance for Simmons to start an early bid for the 2019 All-Star team. He was popular among the fan votes but was not selected as one of four replacements required because of injuries. 

Simmons projects he will be playing in the All-Star Game “hopefully next year.” When it came down to why he was not on this season’s list, Simmons replied, “I think just votes.” 

Saric continued his offensive momentum with 18 points, including 4 for 7 shooting from three. He has scored in double digits in his last 35 games leading into the All-Star break. Saric also grabbed three rebounds and dished five assists. 

“I’ve always got the wish or dream in my life one day to be part of something big like this, even if it’s the Rising Stars game,” Saric said of participating in All-Star weekend. “I think it makes my family proud, my friends from my hometown, or all the people who were around me during my [growth as] a basketball player.”

Embiid logged the least playing time of the Sixers’ trio as he prepares to compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge Saturday and start in the All-Star Game Sunday. He missed the Sixers’ last game on Wednesday because of right ankle soreness. Embiid scored five points and two rebounds in less than nine minutes. 

“On Sunday, I expect to go harder,” Embiid said (see story). “I’m going for that MVP. Guys better make sure they find me because I’m looking to have a good game.”

Not listed on the box score: Embiid and Simmons going 2 for 2 as roving reporters. Check out their journalistic skills when they got the mic Friday to interview each other (see video).