Landry Shamet recalls ‘whole spectrum of emotions’ after trade from Sixers to Clippers

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Landry Shamet recalls ‘whole spectrum of emotions’ after trade from Sixers to Clippers

When Landry Shamet first arrived in Philadelphia, he seemed mature beyond his years, confident that he would be a successful NBA player without feeling the need to boast about it.

He’s now a year removed from the trade that sent him to the Los Angeles Clippers, which means he’s spent another year learning how to be a professional. Part of that job is answering questions from the media. What he learned from JJ Redick, a mentor for Shamet during his rookie year, has apparently been a popular one.

“I’ve answered that question a million times,” Shamet said Tuesday before the Clippers’ walkthrough at Wells Fargo Center, “but yeah, we just talked yesterday. He’s just a friend. He’s somebody I’m glad to have a relationship with, glad I got to play with when I did. Learned a lot from him as a rookie. He kind of taught me how to work, what that looks like — being a pro. He was great.”

Tuesday night’s game will be Shamet’s first against the team that drafted him No. 26 in 2018. Since then, he’s adjusted to life on a different coast, shot 42.1 percent from three-point range and capped a 31-point playoff comeback.

He recalled Tuesday how he felt when he learned of the trade that shipped him to Los Angeles and brought Tobias Harris to Philadelphia. 

A lot. Everything. When it happened, it was a whole spectrum of emotions. But ultimately, I ended up where I’m supposed to be. I have a great situation, great people around me. I’m happy about it. I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s just part of my big story. 

Shamet said he keeps in touch with former teammates Redick and T.J. McConnell, as well as Monty Williams, who left the Sixers to take the Suns’ head coaching job.

“I’ll see faces tonight that I haven’t seen in a while,” he said, “and it will be cool to kind of reconnect a little bit.”

With Shamet returning, it’s natural to reflect on what was, and to wonder what might have been if general manager Elton Brand hadn’t pulled the trigger on that deal. Most teams in the NBA would be happy to take a 40-plus percent three-point shooter, though it's of course not that simple. Outside shooting has been a season-long concern for the Sixers, who are 17th in three-point percentage and 23rd in attempts.

Harris has been positive for the Sixers in a variety of ways — averaging nearly 20 points per game, improving his defense this season and being a genuine, well-liked presence.

“The basketball we know, but he’s one of those sunshine guys,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said of Harris. “He’s just a great guy. He really is a fantastic guy to have around. There’s never a darkness when you’re around him. It’s just light. He’s extremely coachable. He’s a good one, for sure.”

His outside shooting, however, has not met expectations. He’s gone from a 42.6 percent three-point mark with the Clippers to 35.3 percent since joining the Sixers.  

There's obviously much more than three-point shooting, but it’s an increasingly important part of the game, and it’s Shamet’s specialty. For him, there’s nothing to be gained from fixating on the past.

Shamet’s last game at Wells Fargo Center was against the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors and current teammate Kawhi Leonard. Late in the fourth quarter that night, he curled around a Joel Embiid screen, sunk a three off a Ben Simmons’ inbounds pass and, lying on the ground next to cheering Sixers fans, looked poised for a four-point play opportunity after contact from Pascal Siakam. Instead, Shamet was called for an offensive foul and the Sixers’ comeback effort lost steam.

It’s an unusual final memory, but it's not what Shamet had on his mind Tuesday.

“Yeah, it is cool, walking around Philly, going to eat, just seeing a lot of places that I was familiar with,” he said. “It’s a different feeling. It’s my first time experiencing coming back to a city after being traded. I have nothing but love for the city and the people here. A lot of good memories. I’m just excited to play tonight.”

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Will Sixers be in an advantageous position if season resumes?

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Will Sixers be in an advantageous position if season resumes?

On so many levels, the Sixers’ season hasn’t gone as planned. Even before the coronavirus pandemic forced the NBA to suspend play, the team was in an unenviable spot.

If the regular season is over, which seems like a distinct possibility, the Sixers would finish as the East’s sixth seed. A combination of fit, underperformance — especially away from the Wells Fargo Center — and injury put them there.

But if the NBA does resume at some point, where does that leave the 2019-20 Sixers?

There’s a train of thought that this break could benefit the Sixers. It’s a fair line of thinking. In fact, there may not be a team that would benefit more. 

Ben Simmons, who has been sidelined since Feb. 22 with nerve impingement in his lower back, will have more time to recover. Back on March 11, before we learned later that night that Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for coronavirus, Simmons spoke before the Sixers’ game against the Pistons. 

The All-Star point guard said he had “no pain” and was “confident” — though he did not give a timeline for his return. Earlier that day, the team released a statement which said Simmons would be re-evaluated in three weeks. That would put the re-evaluation at around April 1, with no indication the NBA season will resume any time soon.

Other than Simmons, the other four members of the regular starting lineup have dealt with injuries this season. 

Joel Embiid tore a ligament in his left ring finger and had a left shoulder sprain. Josh Richardson has dealt with injuries to both hamstrings, among other things. While Tobias Harris (right knee contusion) and Al Horford (left knee soreness, left hamstring tightness) haven’t missed much time, they’ve also been banged up this season.

All of this to say, maybe this break — as unfortunate as it is for the sport and for the world, really — winds up benefiting the Sixers. Everyone will be back to Point A when/if play resumes. If you’ll recall, the Sixers started this season 5-0. It seems like a distant memory, but it happened. Perhaps returning to full health will ignite a similar run.

Now, for the glass half-empty version.

Though being healthy will help, it won’t solve the myriad issues the Sixers had with their roster construction this season. If both Embiid and Horford are healthy, Brett Brown seems hellbent on trying to make the combo work. So far this season, the evidence has been against that being fruitful.

Richardson and Harris have had their moments this season, but neither has been exactly what the Sixers expected. Richardson’s skillset is one the Sixers need, but he’s on pace to have the worst three-point shooting season of his career. While Harris has been solid, he hasn’t been the near-max player the team thought they were getting.

As for Simmons, he was playing easily the best basketball of his career before his injury and seemed to be a legitimate candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Will he be able to round into form and get ready for the playoffs in a hurry after such a long layoff?

Then the seven-foot, 280-plus pound elephant in the room — will Embiid be in good enough shape to play in an NBA game when the time comes?

The Sixers may be the most mystifying team in the NBA. It’s entirely possible they come out guns blazing, get their act together and go on a run. It seems just as feasible that their fit issues fester, and they’ll get bounced in the first round.

So while the basketball hiatus may benefit the Sixers, they’d still have to take advantage.

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Can Elton Brand and the Sixers fix what went wrong with roster construction?

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Can Elton Brand and the Sixers fix what went wrong with roster construction?

The Sixers had so many options heading into free agency last July.

We don’t know yet exactly when free agency will begin this year because of the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and the suspended NBA season. Whenever it does happen, though, the Sixers won’t have as many possibilities. 

The decisions to give Tobias Harris a five-year, $180 million contract and guarantee Al Horford $97 million over four years are the two clear, primary reasons the Sixers won’t be in an especially flexible position. In Year 1, those moves haven’t panned out as GM Elton Brand and the front office would have hoped.

In one major way, Horford has actually provided what the Sixers expected. As a backup center, he’s been quite good — the Sixers have a plus-5.2 net rating when Horford is on the floor and Joel Embiid is off it. He’s been much better than a hodgepodge of Amir Johnson, Boban Marjanovic, Greg Monroe and Jonah Bolden. 

However, many of the reasonable concerns that came with signing Horford have come to fruition. The Horford-Embiid pairing has the worst net rating of any two-man Sixers lineup that’s played at least 500 minutes together. If you want an idea of just how poor the offense has been when the two have shared the floor, consider this: Their 100.6 offensive rating together is almost six points worse than any of the Sixers’ two-man pairings last season (minimum 500 minutes). 

Though Brett Brown was talking about aiming to further develop Horford and Embiid together as recently as the day before the season was suspended, that combination is a problem. It’s not what the Sixers would have planned when they signed Horford, but the decision to move him out of the starting lineup in February was very sensible.

Horford has shot more three-pointers than ever in his career, but not at an efficient rate (33.7 percent, his worst mark since the 2014-15 season). We thought he’d likely decline in the later years of his contract and be costing the Sixers money at 35 or 36 years old. To put it bluntly, he’s cost the Sixers money in his first season, and has not fit well. 

Harris, in his ninth NBA season, has improved defensively, is second on the Sixers in scoring (19.4 points per game) and, after an 0-for-23 nightmare of a stretch, has shot 39.1 percent from three-point range. He’s the only Sixer to have played in every game, and younger players like Matisse Thybulle and Marial Shayok have praised his mentorship. All of that matters and is positive, but Harris has not been worth $32.7 million this season.

The main question now — outside of when basketball will return, of course — is whether the Sixers can repair their mistakes.

Is there a team out there that would be willing to take on Horford’s contract and give up any value in return? The Kings, who reportedly were expected to make a “massive offer” to Horford in free agency, are one team it would make sense to engage. Sharpshooter Buddy Hield would presumably be the name of interest.

Trading away Harris looks much less likely, although we’ve learned not to rule anything out during Brand’s brief tenure. It’s difficult to imagine the Sixers receiving a worthwhile return, and Brown and Brand have often portrayed Harris as being an emerging player. They believe he’s going to get more and more comfortable and effective as a primary scoring option.

Josh Richardson, who’s suffered a variety of injuries in his first year a Sixer, is on a team-friendly deal. He shouldn’t be untouchable, but his perimeter defense and shot creation are important for this team, and they come at a good value.

Ben Simmons and Embiid are not what’s wrong with the Sixers and should not be traded at this stage. The pieces around them are the issues. Of course, judgement of whether those are issues the Sixers can overcome is incomplete. We don’t know yet how this roster would fare in the playoffs, and Brand has insisted his team was built with the postseason in mind. 

The Sixers would currently have a first-round pick in the draft — the top-20 protected Oklahoma City Thunder pick they acquired in the Markelle Fultz trade would convey — and that’s one of the ways they should be able to improve their roster. They’ve hit on Landry Shamet, Shake Milton and Thybulle in the draft over the last couple of years. With how Brand has constructed the team, targeting a perimeter player who can shoot, capably create his own shot or do both would appear an obvious priority.

Fundamentally, nobody envisioned this NBA season unfolding the way it has. Whatever is next and whenever the offseason eventually begins, the Sixers will have to discern the best methods to address the unpleasant surprises of this season. 

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