76ers

Elton Brand practicing patience, staying flexible ahead of NBA trade deadline

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Elton Brand practicing patience, staying flexible ahead of NBA trade deadline

The NBA trade deadline is coming in hot. 

Kristaps Porzingis was traded. Anthony Davis wants to be traded. The Grizzlies are open to trading their long-time core.

Then there are the Sixers, who we’ve barely heard a peep from since they made the boldest move of the NBA season in acquiring Jimmy Butler back on Nov. 12. That could be disappointing to fans, but in reality, it looks like the Sixers are playing it right.

The dust is settling from the Porzingis trade and a player like Wesley Matthews could be bought out and would be an excellent option for the Sixers (see story). If Davis is moved, that could affect multiple teams, depending on where the All-NBA big man is shipped. Same with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.

Patience and flexibility are not sexy terms, but they make sense for the Sixers. There’s been nothing linking them to the Davis sweepstakes — which makes total sense — and there hasn’t been any link to Conley or Jrue Holiday or any other big name with a big contract. 

That’s because Elton Brand made his splash move. The first-year GM made the organization’s biggest trade since Moses Malone. There’s no doubt Butler has made this team better and more playoff-ready against the East’s elite. It’s also clear that Butler and company need a little more help (see story).

But don’t be surprised when it’s someone like the Pistons' Reggie Bullock or the Hawks' Dewayne Dedmon as opposed to Holiday or Davis. You may be disappointed to read that, but you shouldn’t be. The Sixers have star power. It’s depth that will get them on par with the Bucks, Raptors and Celtics.

It’s understandable, then, to wonder why then they haven’t retained Corey Brewer. While Brewer became a cult hero for his efforts against James Harden, the Sixers have not re-signed him after his second 10-day deal expired. They’re essentially valuing an empty roster spot ahead of the deadline over retaining Brewer. There’s a chance no team signs Brewer ahead of the deadline, preferring the same flexibility. If he's out there after the deadline, the Sixers could look to bring him back.

Surely Brand placed calls on the bigger fish. That’s more than likely just due diligence, but things can change quickly, as they did with Butler. Even if the Sixers wanted to make another big splash, they likely don’t have the assets (see story) — unless there’s a team that really loved Markelle Fultz pre-draft that’s in dire straits for a young guard. 

Making money match in the NBA is extremely difficult. The Sixers’ “best” contract to move would be Wilson Chandler’s expiring deal for a little under $13 million. The issue there is that any deal involving Chandler is a lateral one. 

There’s been criticism of Chandler because his overall offensive game this season hasn’t been in line with his career output, but the 31-year-old combo forward has been a solid piece to the team’s starting five. His length, instincts, versatility and physicality have been a welcome addition defensively. And though he’s struggled with injuries and inconsistency on the other end of the floor, he’s still shooting 39 percent from three.

Other than Chandler, the Sixers have Fultz at a little over $8 million, but it doesn’t seem likely he’ll get moved — mostly because it’s hard to place a real value on him. The team just has four big contracts and a lot of small ones.

So instead of guaranteeing Brewer a roster spot for the rest of the season or trading a 20-year-old guard at his lowest value or trading away part of the team’s starting five, the Sixers are remaining patient and flexible.

And it’s the right move.

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How the Sixers are trying to help Tobias Harris snap out of it

How the Sixers are trying to help Tobias Harris snap out of it

They say that shooters shoot.

Tobias Harris has been shooting plenty — they just haven’t been going down.

After going 0 for 11 from three on Tuesday night against the Cavs, Harris went 0 for 3 and 3 of 13 overall in the Sixers’ loss to the Magic in Orlando Wednesday (see observations).

The last three Harris hit was in the first quarter of the Sixers’ loss in Phoenix on Nov. 4. He’s missed his last 23 attempts since.

When Harris was acquired from the Clippers last season, he was shooting 43.4 percent from downtown in a healthy sample size.

So what the heck is going on?

“I'm not making shots, I'm not in a rhythm,” Harris said to reporters postgame. “That's it. Obviously, it's easier said than done but I'm going to find my rhythm and once I do those shots are going to be there and they're going to be able to be made. Until then, I'll watch film and see the looks I can get, see the easy ones I can get to, but when they're not going for me, get to the free throw line. 

“In the fourth quarter I thought that was two questionable whistles, a travel and offensive [foul]. So those are two turnovers that kind of affected our fourth quarter. But I just gotta find a rhythm. That's it.”

On top of missing, Harris just looks indecisive. During early parts of the season, he appeared to be passing up open shots. In his pregame availability before Tuesday’s win, Brett Brown made a point to talk about needing Harris to have a scorer’s mentality.

Over the last two games, Harris seems like he doesn’t know when to shoot the basketball. After shooting so poorly from the outside against Cleveland, in Orlando he appeared to just get caught in between while trying to drive to the basket more.

It just seems like Harris is in his own head.

“I think it's just human nature,” Brown said. “He wants to please, he wants to shoot the ball, he wants to score, we need him to score.”

Harris is an easy target for fan ire. GM Elton Brand gave up an awful lot to get him before last year’s trade deadline. During the summer, the Sixers gave Harris a five-year, $180 million deal — the richest in franchise history.

But to his credit, Harris hasn’t made any excuses. He faced the music Wednesday night after not playing well and not feeling well.

Brown mentioned Tuesday that Harris had been dealing with an illness. Harris didn’t want to take the easy way out and attribute that to anything.

“When I get out there and play, I'm playing,” Harris said. “I'm under the weather, yeah, but if I get out there and play, I believe I can go.”

Forget the big contract and disappointing start for a second — Harris is a worker. He’s worked on his game tirelessly to rise to the level he did last season in L.A. During the offseason, he stepped up as a leader that all of his teammates are eager and willing to follow. He’s been depended upon by the young players and veterans alike.

Now, it may be Harris who needs their support.

“Tobias has had great looks and he's a great player, great shooter,” Ben Simmons said. “I mean, at times, everybody gets down when they're not playing their best game. They know that they can do better. But he's one of those guys. He's always positive. And we all believe in him.”

The Sixers’ road trip continues Friday with a date with the Thunder. Oklahoma City is the site of Harris’ finest game as a Sixer. On Feb. 28 of last year, Harris poured in 32 points and led a tough road win without Joel Embiid.

Maybe the memory of that game will spark something in Harris.

If that doesn't work, what else can you really say?

“Keep shooting,” Brown said. “Don't listen to any of you guys. Don't read anything. Keep shooting.”

After all, shooters shoot.

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Sixers Talk podcast: What is going on with Tobias Harris?

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Sixers Talk podcast: What is going on with Tobias Harris?

Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss Tobias Harris' struggles continuing, Ben Simmons' unwillingness to shoot the ball, and why Matisse Thybulle isn't seeing more playing time.

• Another rough night for Harris. What the heck is going on?

• Simmons was strong, but still refuses to shoot the basketball outside the paint.

• Should Thybulle be getting more minutes?

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