Jacob Pullen

Sixers waive Covington's childhood friend

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Sixers waive Covington's childhood friend

The Sixers waived Jacob Pullen, who had been on the team under the newly-designed two-way contract, on Thursday.

Pullen came to the Sixers with a lengthy résumé playing overseas. The 28-year-old guard turned down international offers this season to give the NBA another shot. 

He saw the majority of his playing time with the Delaware 87ers, where he posted 15.7 points, 4.4 assists and 1.9 rebounds in 28.4 minutes over 14 games. 

Pullen played in just three games for the Sixers, averaging 0.7 points in 2.0 minutes.

Being on the Sixers was also a reunion with longtime friend Robert Covington. Pullen and Covington knew one another from playing basketball growing up in the Chicago area (see story)

The two-way deals were implemented this season, allowing teams to use the players both on the NBA and G League levels (a maximum 45 days in the NBA). Each NBA team can sign two players to a two-way contract in addition to the 15-player roster. James Michael McAdoo is also on this deal for the Sixers.

How Sixers got in holiday spirit

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How Sixers got in holiday spirit

NEW YORK — Holiday music could be heard in the Sixers' locker room shortly before their Christmas Day matinee game against the Knicks. 

Veteran Amir Johnson scrolled through his phone, selecting songs to set the tone of the season. Around the room, boxes of Beats by Dre headphones were at each locker, a gift from Ben Simmons. Players talked about their families making the quick trip from Philadelphia to New York City to be together. 

Monday was a work day for the Sixers, but the team still was in the holiday mood.

The Sixers kicked off Christmas early with a Secret Santa before leaving for Toronto last week. It's an annual tradition by Brett Brown, one the players look forward to.

"It's dope," Johnson said. "It brings the team together. It's just something fun, gets your mind off of basketball. It shows you what Christmas is about — giving and sharing." 
 
The gift givers will remain anonymous for the sake of maintaining the secret in Secret Santa. Players could keep their gift or swap it with a teammate based on their number in the selection order. 

Richaun Holmes held on to his limited edition Air Forces Ones. Johnson did the same with his Louis Vuitton scarf and matching hat. 

Trevor Booker received Creed cologne and traded it to Justin Anderson for an MCM backpack. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot got a watch he exchanged with Jacob Pullen for a Common Project backpack. After all the Secret Santa transactions, Pullen ended up with a Gucci wallet. 

"It keeps you in the Christmas spirit," Holmes said. "Being around great guys like this, always wanting to give, it makes it fun to be around them and it brings us closer together."

The Sixers then gave a gift back to Philadelphia — a victory over the Knicks

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.