76ers

For once, Robert Covington steals the show

For once, Robert Covington steals the show

It’s usually easy to notice when Robert Covington doesn’t play well. Missed threes, getting torched by the opposing star, bad fouls — the signs are obvious.

It’s not always as clear to recognize when Covington does play well, but everyone who watched the Sixers beat the Hornets on Saturday night, 105-103 (see observations), was reminded how important Covington is to this team.

Head coach Brett Brown said postgame Covington was the Sixers’ bell ringer (the player Brown chooses to ring a miniature replica Liberty Bell in the locker room after a win), and that’s no surprise. 

Covington was excellent on both ends of the floor. Defensively, he was his usual, disruptive self with two steals and four blocks. Covington was tasked with guarding Kemba Walker, who entered averaging 30.8 points per game on 49.2 percent shooting. Walker scored 37 on Saturday, but he shot 11 for 31.

Much of his success came when Covington was off the floor. Covington guarded Walker late in the fourth quarter, and he shut him down when it mattered. 

“Robert Covington played an amazing game on Kemba, made it tough for him to score,” Ben Simmons. “But also, you know, it’s Kemba, so he’s always going to score. But I thought he did a great job.”

A lot of what Covington excels at doesn’t show up in the box score —  another 20-point, 10-rebound night from Joel Embiid is often going to get more headlines than solid off-ball defense and deflections.

Covington takes on the responsibility of guarding the opponent’s best player most nights. Through the first five games, he hadn’t played to the First Team All-Defense standard he set last year, and the Sixers' defense overall had't been very good. in fact, Covington's 112.7 defensive rating was actually second-worst on the team heading into the game vs. Charlotte. 

But against one of the better scorers in the NBA, Covington knew he needed to be at his best.

“Short, quick, shifty, quick burst speed,” Covington said of Walker. “But I gotta guard some great superstars each and every night. So it was just another one of those tasks that I had to buckle down. We needed a win, so I had to do whatever it takes.”

Offensively, Covington hit perhaps the biggest shot of the game for the Sixers, a three-pointer from the right wing with just under two minutes remaining to put the Sixers up, 105-101. His 18 points (4 for 7 from three-point range) were needed on a night in which Simmons made just 5 of 20 field-goal attempts.

Covington knows his contributions tend to fly under the radar and he says that doesn’t bother him.

“From the outside looking in, a lot of people don’t understand what all goes into it,” he said. “You can’t get caught up in that. The people who understand the way the game is and how everything goes can get a better feel for it, how everything happens. You just can’t get caught in what they’re saying, you just have to focus in.” 

There probably won’t be many more games this season where Covington’s value is so apparent to the casual observer. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are usually going to steal the show.

But on Saturday night, Covington made it obvious how integral he is to the Sixers’ success.

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2020 NBA return format: NBPA approves return to play format

2020 NBA return format: NBPA approves return to play format

A day after the NBA’s Board of Governor’s approved a 22-team return to play format, the NBPA did so Friday evening, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

All 28 player reps approved the plan, which would see 22 teams head to Walt Disney World in Florida to finish out the 2019-20 season beginning July 31. The league will play eight regular-season games with the possibility of a play-in tournament for the eighth seed. The playoffs will follow the traditional format.

One of the new pieces of information presented Friday is that there will also be two or three preseason games before the season resumes.

On TNT Thursday night, commissioner Adam Silver said the league is in the “first inning” in its quest to return to play. The NBA suspended the season on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. 

According to Charania, players will undergo testing every day and there will be a minimum seven-day quarantine for any player that tests positive. If a player does contract the virus, play would continue.

“Of course we’ve always been looking for whether or not there is an appropriate and safe way that we can resume basketball,” Silver said, “and knowing that we’re going to be living with this virus for a while. … We’ve been exploring with the players whether there can be a new normal here.”

Another sticking point was a tentative date of Nov. 10 to start training camps for the 2020-21 season. Oct. 12 would be the last possible date for Game 7 of this year’s NBA Finals under this return-to-play plan. The NBPA told the players it’s “unlikely” the 2020-21 season would start on Dec. 1 and that it’s still being negotiated, per Charania.

With no fans in the stands, the two sides have also discussed pumping fan noise in courtesy of NBA2K.

The league and NBPA are still continuing to work out the health and safety details in the weeks leading up to a return.

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2020 NBA Draft profile: Jordan Nwora is a proven scorer, shooter

2020 NBA Draft profile: Jordan Nwora is a proven scorer, shooter

Jordan Nwora

Position: Forward
Height: 6-7
Weight: 225
School: Louisville

Six months ago, Jordan Nwora seemed like a lock to be selected in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft. Nwora was the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, poised to lead Louisville to a big season and cement his status as one of the best players in all of college basketball.

By all accounts, he had a very good — if not great — junior season. Nwora averaged 18 points and just under eight rebounds per game for a Louisville team that finished with a 24-7 record. He was named First Team All-ACC and finished second in conference player of the year voting behind Duke’s Tre Jones.

Yet here we are looking ahead to the draft and Nwora is considered a fringe first-round pick who is more likely to be selected in the second round. 

So, what went wrong? There are a couple theories. One, Nwora struggled in a handful of marquee games last season. He scored just eight points on 2 of 10 shooting in a loss at Kentucky and was held to six points on 3 of 12 shooting at Duke a couple weeks later. To make matters worse, he scored a total of seven points in back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and Clemson in mid-February.

There are also doubts as to whether Nwora showed enough improvement between his sophomore and junior seasons. Does he work hard enough? Is he committed to improving his game? These are questions that will follow Nwora as the draft approaches.

Strengths

Nwora is a proven scorer. He averaged 17 points as a sophomore and 18 points as a junior. He did so wearing a target on his back, particularly this past season. Opponents game planned to slow him down and he still put up big numbers against very good competition. 

He’s also a very efficient three-point shooter. Nwora shot better than 37 percent from long range during his sophomore year. He was even better last season, making 40 percent of his three-point attempts. His combination of size and shooting ability is very attractive to NBA talent evaluators.  

Weaknesses

Ball handling and defense top the list. Nwora should be an effective spot-up shooter in the NBA but his ability to create his own shot is questionable. His ball handling skills need significant improvement to be considered NBA-ready.

There are also legitimate concerns about his ability to defend on the pro level. Is he quick enough to guard smaller players on the perimeter? Is he strong enough to hold his own in the paint and on the boards? If Nwora ends up slipping to the second round, the defensive question marks will be the biggest reason why. 

Fit

Nwora could very well be selected early in the second round. The Sixers currently own the 34th and 36th picks and they need shooters. Nwora certainly fits that description. 
    
The Sixers could target him for his shooting ability and live with his shortcomings on the defensive end of the floor. Nwora to the Sixers isn’t a far-fetched scenario and definitely warrants serious consideration.  

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