76ers

Andre Iguodala's moment, the Andrew Bynum trade and the brink of the Process

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Andre Iguodala's moment, the Andrew Bynum trade and the brink of the Process

On May 10, 2012, Andre Iguodala hopped onto the scorer’s table at Wells Fargo Center, celebrating the Sixers’ dramatic Game 6 win in the first round over the Bulls, the franchise’s first playoff series victory since 2003. 

Three months later, he was a Denver Nugget.

Game 6, which will re-air Wednesday night on NBC Sports Philadelphia, is memorable on its own, a low-scoring thriller. The Sixers’ season ended with a Game 7 loss in Boston, the conclusion of a series later featured in Uncut Gems. Adam Sandler’s character, a desperate jeweler/gambler named Howard Ratner, encourages Kevin Garnett to “step on Elton Brand’s f---ing neck.” 

There aren’t yet any movies that we know of about the trade that sent Iguodala to the Nuggets and brought Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia, but it’s a deal that invites re-examination. In the four-team, 12-player trade, the Sixers received Bynum and Jason Richardson, and they gave up Iguodala, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and a protected first-round pick.

The clearest takeaway from the trade is that the impact was, on the surface, borderline disastrous. Bynum never played a game with the Sixers because of injuries, including a bowling-induced setback. Richardson only played in 52 games. Harkless, now in his eighth season, is a solid NBA player. Vucevic was an All-Star last season with the Magic and has averaged 17 points and 10.7 rebounds since leaving the Sixers. Iguodala won three championships with the Warriors and earned a Finals MVP award. 

The trade’s failure also expedited the beginning of “The Process.” With Bynum out, Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen started at center. Kwame Brown even started 11 games in his final NBA season. The team finished 34-48 and missed the playoffs, and Doug Collins resigned as head coach. Sam Hinkie took over in May, trading Jrue Holiday on draft night in exchange for Nerlens Noel and the Pelicans’ 2014 first-round pick. He hired Brett Brown in August. 

If the Sixers had never traded for Bynum, they likely would have been a playoff team in the 2012-13 season, even after Lou Williams — their leading scorer in 2011-12 — signed with the Hawks. Iguodala was coming off an All-Star year, while a rookie Harkless would presumably have had a good shot at taking minutes from players like Dorell Wright and Nick Young. Collins removed Vucevic from his rotation in the playoffs the year prior, but it seems very possible his opinion of the big man would have shifted.

“How many teams can give up Andre Iguodala, Moe Harkless and Nik Vucevic and have nothing in returning playing?,” Collins asked after a February loss to Orlando. “That’s tough to overcome, right? That’s just the facts. … Nik Vucevic had 19 rebounds tonight. Spencer had one. I think Lavoy had two.”

Allen had four rebounds that night, but that’s obviously besides the point. 

Collins would have been coaching a team with hopes of making a run. Though the Sixers had been fortunate in that first-round series against Chicago the year before, with the Bulls suffering injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, their aspirations wouldn’t have been entirely delusional. Any notion of winning the Eastern Conference or pushing for an NBA title would have been absurd — the Sixers weren’t going to win a series against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat. But, at a bare minimum, they would have been a step or two above mediocre. They could’ve easily convinced themselves it wasn’t necessary to do anything drastic, that they were on the right track.

The team traded for Bynum instead, and Hinkie came in unconcerned with immediate, conventional respectability. He accumulated assets, played the odds and gave himself chances to select players like Joel Embiid. His approach turned off many fans who didn’t enjoy watching fringe NBA players set historic losing streaks. 

Without the Bynum trade, the Sixers probably never would have considered that path, and they likely would have stayed the course on a different, more traditional process built around Igoudala, Holiday and Vucevic. It would've been so much easier to justify hovering a couple of rungs below title contention, remembering that night Iguodala leaped on the table and hoping it wasn't a fluke. 



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Sixers' Tobias Harris narrating backyard wild turkeys is quarantine comedy gold

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@tobiasharris/Instagram

Sixers' Tobias Harris narrating backyard wild turkeys is quarantine comedy gold

Tobias Harris is separated from rookie cult hero and internet goofball Matisse Thybulle, which means he had to find other ways to populate his Instagram stories with comedy.

Enter a bunch of wild turkeys in Harris's backyard.

It's unclear where Harris is riding out the NBA's season suspension, but wherever it is, he was greeted Thursday afternoon by a few preening turkeys, a welcome sight for anyone bored of looking at the same eight things in their house every day.

Harris, of course, whipped out his phone and opened up Instagram, and started filming - and narrating - the impromptu wildlife.

You're gonna want to turn your sound on:

Is... is Harris narrating these turkeys' prospective sex lives? He definitely is, isn't he?

It's all amazing, but Harris getting spooked by the aggressive turkey at the end is an absolute highlight for me. Does he not trust the integrity of those windows?!

Again, we don't know where Harris is spending his time away from basketball, but judging by the fowl play, it might be New Jersey. The Garden State is known for its hordes of wild turkeys - there are roughly 20,000 living in the state - and the Sixers' practice facility is of course located in Camden.

Between Thybulle adding a Roomba as a pet, and now Harris's encounter with wild turkeys, it's certainly been an interesting few weeks of social distancing for the Sixers.

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Celtics' Jayson Tatum weighs in on Joel Embiid-Nikola Jokic best center debate

Celtics' Jayson Tatum weighs in on Joel Embiid-Nikola Jokic best center debate

Boston Celtics star guard Jayson Tatum has caused some headaches for the Sixers over the last few years, and will likely continue to do so, but it seems he has a healthy respect for his Philadelphia rivals.

Tatum, who kept busy during social distancing Wednesday night with an Instagram Live, was first asked about the best player in the league, and then asked for his MVP pick, two classic questions - he called LeBron James the best player, and said James was going to win MVP.

Then things got a little more interesting.

Tatum was conducting the IG Live with Pep Stanciel, a basketball skills coach who has worked with NBA players in the past, and Stanciel managed to get Tatum to name the league's best player at each position.

Here's Tatum's all-league starting lineup, per NBC Sports Boston:

Point Guard: Stephen Curry
Shooting Guard: James Harden
Small Forward: LeBron James
Power Forward: Anthony Davis
Center: Joel Embiid

You're not going to hear a lot of complaints about that list from NBA fans, though I bet the most objections would wind up with Embiid as the starting center.

The argument over the NBA's best center has been a hotly-contested topic for a couple years now, with the emergence of Embiid and Nikola Jokic as two position-breaking stars who can sort of do it all. 

Embiid is an unstoppable, bullying presence in the paint who puts opponents in foul trouble and dominates the rim on the defensive end. Jokic is a visionary passer who uses his height and creativity to his advantage, both in the half-court and in transition. 

They're both fantastic, and just different enough that the basketball world has sort of reached a stalemate on who is an all-around better center.

Is Tatum showing his Eastern Conference bias, considering he faces Embiid more often? It's certainly possible. But Embiid is also just really, really good.

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