With Kawhi Leonard joining Clippers, James Ennis says Sixers can 'walk to the Finals in the East'

With Kawhi Leonard joining Clippers, James Ennis says Sixers can 'walk to the Finals in the East'

James Ennis is awfully confident the Sixers are the team to beat in the East.

The veteran forward is re-signing with the team on a two-year deal, his agent Scott Nichols confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Noah Levick (see story). He took a veteran minimum deal despite more lucrative offers being on the table, per Nichols.

Ennis is in Las Vegas and took in the Sixers’ summer league loss Wednesday (see observations). When asked by the Inquirer’s Keith Pompey about why he re-signed, he was pretty candid.

You don’t expect him to say much less, but it’s a fairly brash statement from the 29-year-old. The Sixers will still face stiff competition in MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, the team that finished with the best record in the NBA last season.

Ennis was acquired by the Sixers in a second-round pick swap at the trade deadline with the Rockets, one of Elton Brand’s more underrated moves. He was their best reserve in the playoffs, especially during the seven-game series against the eventual champion Raptors.

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Marc Jackson tearfully remembers his friend Kobe Bryant

Marc Jackson tearfully remembers his friend Kobe Bryant

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Marc Jackson knew Kobe Bryant during his early days in Philadelphia, when the two were working toward their grand NBA dreams.

On Sunday evening, after the sudden, tragic death of Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash (see story), Jackson discussed how he learned of Bryant's passing, and recounted some of his fondest memories from his time training with Bryant when they were kids.

"It's just a shame. It's a bad day. It's a very horrible day, not just in sports but in life," Jackson said. "Because this guy — this guy, from the very first moment I met him. He's a day off the plane from Italy, and we're working out with John Arnett, he was 12 at the time. I was 15, 16. We're working out at Temple, he's this 12-year-old lanky kid. We finished working out, it must've been about two, three hours, and afterwards he got ice on his knees. I said, 'What are you doing, getting ice on your knees?' He's like, 'I'm trying to have a long career.' He was 12 and I was 15, and I remember looking at him and laughing, like, 'That's interesting.' 

"And I'll never forget the time when he was getting ready to make a decision about whether he was going to college or the NBA. We were working out of Temple. He had this thing called 'Crown,' where he was trying to dunk on you, and he'd say he was going to 'Crown' you. That stuff just started going through my head.

"Now I'm just thinking about his wife and his children, and I'm thinking about his mother Pam, and I'm thinking about Coach Joe, who was one of my first coaches when I first started playing the game. I'm looking at that and thinking about that, and then I just have 1,100 emails, texts, and phone calls, in a matter of hours. It's just to say, he's a very important person."

You can listen to Jackson talk more about Bryant in the video above.

Remembering Kobe Bryant's final game in Philadelphia

Remembering Kobe Bryant's final game in Philadelphia

Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine who died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California (see story).

For Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star, his final game in Philadelphia was a meaningful moment in his basketball career. He was born in the city and went to Lower Merion High School in Ardmore.

“I wasn’t expecting that type of reaction, the ovation,” he said after the Lakers’ game against the Sixers on Dec. 1, 2015. “It was emotional. I’m deeply appreciative beyond belief. It was really, really special.”

You can watch the video above for a look back at Bryant’s last game in Philadelphia.