The Sixers’ two most recent additions, Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III, were both active and in uniform Sunday night for the team’s game against the Chicago Bulls. Only one played.
Robinson had a bright start to his second stint as a Sixer, scoring 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting in 12 minutes during the Sixers’ 118-111 win, while Burks did not play.
Head coach Brett Brown had an explanation for why Burks stayed on the bench.
“Just direction, really, from the front office, trying to get things right with [Alec],” he said. “Really nothing. Just trying to give him a little bit of daylight as he comes into the program. Glenn was different, and so I played him.”
Burks and Robinson were able to flesh out the situation in a little more detail.
Me and AB found out on a plane going back to [San Francisco] from New York about the trade,” Robinson said. “I was asleep and they woke me up and told me. So, then we found out we were going to have to travel six more hours. I know he was on a red-eye last night and I got in a little earlier than him. Just glad to be here, ready to basically start tomorrow so I can get in there, learn the plays and get some shots up. I haven’t even been to the new practice facility yet, so I’m excited to do that, too — because we were at PCOM when I was [last] here. Big difference, I heard.
Robinson’s brief first stop in Philadelphia was in 2015, when he played 10 games under Brown as a rookie. He played the final game of that season, an 18-win campaign for the Sixers, alongside Process luminaries like JaKarr Sampson, Henry Sims, Jerami Grant and Robert Covington.
The most obvious of the few similarities between that situation and this one is Robinson was called into duty with minimal time to adjust. He did well under those circumstances Sunday, making intelligent cuts off the ball and seeming as comfortable as a player yet to practice with his new team can be.
“The players have definitely gotten better [compared to 2015], yeah,” he said. “It’s always weird — a new day at a job, that first step, it’s always different. I felt the energy in the building, it’s great to be back. ... Everyone welcomed me with open arms and is glad that I’m back here in Philly. I really feel like I can help this team. Just glad to be wanted. I think that’s the main thing as a player is coming into different situations, whether it’s a trade or you get picked up in free agency, being wanted is a good feeling.
“For Brett to FaceTime almost immediately after finding out the news, I think that says a lot about his character, my character and what they want here.”
Neither Robinson nor Burks have had a chance to speak with Brown about their roles or expectations, though they expect to have greater clarity soon. For Robinson, Sunday was mostly about stepping into a new environment — albeit in a slightly familiar arena, with a slightly familiar face as his coach — and fitting in. Ideally, Robinson’s off-ball movement, three-point shooting (40 percent this season) and defensive versatility will allow him to have a smooth adjustment.
For Burks, it sounds like Sunday was just about coming to terms with his new job.
“It’s been all over the place,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t play tonight, because I was on a red-eye last night and I got in real early, so we came to an agreement that I didn’t have to play tonight. Just with the traveling, I didn’t want anything to happen. It’s been good and bad, you know.”
He was having the most productive season of his career in Golden State, averaging 16.1 points per game and scoring 20 or more on 13 occasions.
Brown sees Burks’ skill at creating offense by himself as a vital one.
“I’m going to be dramatic, but I believe it — this is our sport,” he said before the game. "You have to play off a live ball. … You need somebody that can break down a defense, that can get to the paint — hopefully out of an isolation, out of a live ball. And he can do that. And so I felt that when we didn’t have [Josh Richardson]. You felt that.
“If we’re all honest, with the identifiable skill sets of our guys, it’s not like give it to so-and-so and they’re going to break somebody down, get into the paint and find people — that’s not it. We have very good players with high levels of skills, but that thing you’re talking about is needed. You really need it, and you especially need it when you play late in the season.”
We’ll have to wait to see that ability in action, and to form a clearer picture of how the Sixers will use it. Getting some sleep, practicing and starting to settle into a city across the country from his previous gig will be the first steps.
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