76ers

Ageless LeBron James proving his potential worth in free agency

Ageless LeBron James proving his potential worth in free agency

LeBron James made his NBA debut on Oct. 29, 2003. 

Fourteen years and nearly seven months later, he scored 44 points in a critical Eastern Conference Finals game and passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the all-time leader in postseason field goals made. 

At 33, James is not showing signs of slowing down.

That’s why potentially hitting the free-agent market ahead of his 16th season puts him in a unique situation for teams pursuing the coveted MVP candidate.

This is a point in most NBA careers when players begin to wind down. The wear and tear of more than 1,100 regular-season and 230 playoff games start to catch up. The grind of 40.7 minutes a night this postseason alone should be a grind. 

But James is not most players. He seems to be immune to breakdowns that tend to happen after 15 years of ultra-high level basketball. The three-time NBA champion has played in every game this season. 

Veterans often sign shorter-term deals or take less money to play for a contender. James, though, isn’t a supplementary contributor. He is the go-to. 

James is following up his 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.1 assists (including 18 triple-doubles) from the regular season with 33.7 points, 8.7 boards and 9.0 assists in the playoffs. On Monday, he became the first player since Allen Iverson in 2001 to score 40 points in six games during a single postseason.

James once again will be the most sought-after player on the market as he approaches free agency. He has a $35.6 million player option next season with the Cavaliers. It remains to be seen where he will be suiting up next season, whether he stays in Cleveland or shakes up the league and goes elsewhere. 

The Sixers are among the teams with salary cap flexibility to go after James. President of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo and head coach Brett Brown have been candid about the need for additional talent to take the Sixers to title contention (see story)

“I think that another high-level free agent is required,” Brown said. “I feel like we have the ability to attract one. At some point, when the time is right, I think we need help to win a championship.” 

Colangelo said, “To say this group can do it now, they obviously proved they couldn’t. Adding another talent and another piece is certainly something we’re striving for.”

The Sixers have been measured in their free-agent acquisitions to maintain flexibility for scenarios like this. While making a major commitment to a 15-year veteran usually is a financial risk, James has proved he’s anything but the usual. 

Sixers at Thunder: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Thunder: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

After falling apart in the fourth quarter Wednesday night for the second time in their past four games, the 7-4 Sixers are back in action Friday.

Here are the essentials for tonight’s game against the 4-7 Oklahoma City Thunder:

When: 8 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia 
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

‘It’s a little bit of everything’

After starting 5-0, the Sixers have lost four of their last six games. The two wins, at home against Charlotte and Cleveland, weren’t easy, either.

What’s gone wrong, outside of the obvious issues with shooting and turnovers, and the minimal time the regular starters have played together?

“It's a little bit of everything,” Ben Simmons told reporters Wednesday night. “There's some things that we definitely need to touch up that I'm sure we'll go back to the film and watch. But it's a long season.”

This is a winnable game for the Sixers, but it’s another one they could lose if they play a couple of rungs below their top level. Oklahoma City is 4-3 at home and has a fascinating backcourt of 34-year-old Chris Paul and 21-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, one of the players shipped to the Thunder in the Paul George trade. Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 20.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists in his second NBA season. 

Harris’ nasty slump 

Tobias Harris is in a terrible slump, having missed his last 23 three-point attempts. He’s now shooting 20.4 percent from three-point range this season, second-worst among all players with at least 40 long range attempts. 

Brett Brown wants Harris to shoot himself out of it (see story).

The situation is starting to resemble that of a No. 3 hitter who hasn’t picked up a hit in a week and desperately wants to just find a hole in the defense and feel what it’s like to stand on base again after making solid contact. Harris will have another chance to break out of it in Oklahoma City.

Some positive recent history 

The Sixers won the last time they were in Oklahoma City, snapping a 19-game losing streak against the Thunder on Feb. 28.

Joel Embiid was out that night, but he’s expected to return tonight after sitting Wednesday (injury management/left knee soreness). Jonah Bolden, who actually started vs. the Thunder back in February and had 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting in the Sixers’ win, is on assignment with the Delaware Blue Coats.

Harris scored 32 points in that February game, his high as a Sixer. 



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How Ben Simmons blocks out distractions to get to better mental state

How Ben Simmons blocks out distractions to get to better mental state

It seems like nowadays everyone is glued to their phone screens. It can consume your time and social media can be a major distraction.

That’s what Ben Simmons came to realize over the last year. 

“I’ll be on my phone when I need to, but if I’m with my family or friends, I’m typically not on it all the time,” Simmons said. “It’s a distraction. Phones are great but they’re also sometimes on the bad side depending on what you’re look at, whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, whatever people are saying. You got to be present, be in the moment.”

There is plenty of negativity on social media — especially for a young, All-Star player like Simmons.

What he’s found is that if he doesn’t focus on what other people are saying about him, it puts him in a better mental state ahead of games.

“Staying off your phone before games, locking in, not letting others determine how you feel mentally,” Simmons said. “Lesser distractions for me, the better I play, which I love. I love going into a game not having any worries besides my teammates or winning a game.”

In an open interview, which you can watch above, Simmons discussed how his focus has changed and how he’s not letting outside voices affect his preparation or play on the court.

NBC Sports Regional Networks has launched a multi-platform campaign on mental health and men's health, HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports, for the month of November. You can find more information about the initiative here.

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