Robert Covington

Sixers-Lakers observations: Joel Embiid posts career-high 46 points

Sixers-Lakers observations: Joel Embiid posts career-high 46 points

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — After a summer of hype and banter, it was all about Joel Embiid in the Sixers’ 115-109 win over the Lakers at the STAPLES Center on Wednesday night.

The Sixers’ first matchup of the season against the Lakers had nothing to do with LaVar Ball or swapping insults. Embiid put together a ridiculous 46-point performance, including 28 in the second half. He shot 14 for 20 from the field, 16 for 19 from the line and 2 for 3 from beyond the arc. Embiid added 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks (more on the history behind the numbers). Did I mention, he did all of that in 34 minutes?

Ball, on the other hand, disappeared on the court. He scored only two points off 1 for 9 shooting from the field and 0 for 6 from three. Ball grabbed five boards and dished two assists in 21 minutes. He did not play in the fourth quarter.

The Sixers improved to 8-6 overall with the win and capped off their five-game road trip with a 3-2 mark.

• It was just another day at work for Ben Simmons. He recorded his ninth double-double with 18 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists in 39 minutes (see highlights). He also added five steals.

Simmons continued to elevate. He had two dunks in the opening four minutes alone. The matchup between Simmons and Kyle Kuzma turned out to be more intriguing to watch than Simmons and Ball. Simmons and Kuzma are similarly matched in height. 

• The Sixers’ 13-point lead halfway through the first quarter was nearly erased by the end of the frame when the Lakers closed on a 9-3 run. Second quarter, repeat. The Sixers lost hold of a 10-point advantage with two minutes to go in the half and were up just four after two periods. 

• The third was bookended by ties. The Sixers went cold at the end of the quarter, scoring just three points in the final 4:51 as the Lakers took an 84-83 lead. The Sixers fed off Embiid in the fourth and outscored the Lakers 10-5 to end the game. 

• The three-point shooting was hard to watch. The Lakers went 3 for 26 (11.5 percent) from long range, which barely edged out by the Sixers’ 7-for-32 (21.9 percent) performance. JJ Redick uncharacteristically shot 0 for 8 from distance in 34 minutes and Dario Saric struggled (1 for 7). 

On the other side, an 0 for 5 Brook Lopez added to Ball’s 0-for-6 outing. 

• The young potential of each team was obvious as was the inexperience at times, from turnovers to runs to technical fouls. The Sixers gave up 15 points off 16 turnovers. 

• Before the game, Robert Covington’s teammates echoed the same sentiment around the locker room about his contract extension: well-deserved. The four-year deal is not finalized yet (see story)

• Kuzma didn’t just try to dunk on Embiid, he tried to demolish the basket. He ended up drawing the foul, but showed zero hesitation going up against the Sixers’ big man. 

• Injury update: Jerryd Bayless (left wrist), Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) and Nik Stauskas (right ankle) were sidelined on the Sixers’ bench. Larry Nance Jr. (left hand) was out for the Lakers. 

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.”

Sixers stats: Embiid turnovers, Simmons' length, shooting like Warriors

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Sixers stats: Embiid turnovers, Simmons' length, shooting like Warriors

Some fun Sixers stats ahead of tonight's game against the Lakers.

We'll avoid the Ben Simmons triple-double stuff that has been all over the internet all season.

The Sixers still have a lot to clean up. Today, we'll take a look at Joel Embiid's high turnover rate, Ben Simmons' defensive impact and some shooting stats that are comparable to the Warriors.

Robert Covington
• Covington is 48 for 96 (50 percent) from three. He's made one more three than Steph Curry in 25 fewer attempts. He's made five more threes than Paul George in seven fewer attempts. He's made 11 more threes than DeMarcus Cousins in 11 fewer attempts.

• Covington's shooting this high a percentage while still letting it fly often. His 3.7 threes made per game are tied for second in the NBA with Eric Gordon, behind only James Harden (4.3).

• A year after leading the NBA in deflections, Covington ranks fourth with 45. He's behind George (61), Thad Young (54) and Kent Bazemore (51).

Ben Simmons
• Simmons' length is already apparent on defense. He's contesting 4.3 threes per game, according to NBA.com, which is third-best in the NBA, behind only Jerian Grant and Anthony Davis.

• Simmons' ability to finish at the rim is uncommon, especially for such a young player. He's shooting 70 percent at the rim compared to 35 percent on his other 111 shots. That includes a 32 percent mark (24 for 76) on jump shots.

Joel Embiid
• Embiid is 30 for 90 (33 percent) on jumpers. A year ago, he was 38 percent.

• Among players who have played as many total minutes as him this season, Embiid has the eighth-highest rate of turnovers per 100 possessions (20.1 percent).

The seven players with higher turnover percentages are Draymond Green, Dwight Howard, Ricky Rubio, James Johnson, Jeff Teague, Tyson Chandler and Josh Richardson.

• Embiid's usage rate is still through the roof. When he's on the court, he touches the ball a ton. The only four players with higher usage rates than Embiid are James Harden, Kristaps Porzingis, D'Angelo Russell and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

T.J. McConnell
• The Sixers' backup floor general is averaging 8.4 assists per 36 minutes. That's more than LeBron James, Teague, Draymond, Simmons, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry, among many others.

Team stats
• The Sixers are making 12.7 catch-and-shoot chances per game, second-most in the NBA behind only the Warriors (14.2).

• The Sixers lead the NBA with 10.9 catch-and-shoot threes made per game. The Warriors are second at 10.0

• The Sixers actually have one of the NBA's worst field goal percentages on drives this season at 41.4. Only the Kings, Blazers, Bulls, Clippers and Jazz have been less efficient.

• They're still playing the league's fastest pace. That includes the NBA's fastest offensive pace and sixth-fastest average defensive speed.

• The Sixers are averaging 17.3 post-ups per game on offense and 3.5 field goals made. It's a lost art, but they have Simmons and Embiid. Both figures are third-highest in the NBA behind the Knicks and Spurs.