76ers

LeBron James 'thought long and hard' about playing with Sixers' Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid

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LeBron James 'thought long and hard' about playing with Sixers' Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid

LeBron James seriously considered signing with the Sixers in free agency before deciding to join the Lakers, he told ESPN's Rachel Nichols.

But ultimately, the allure of trying to bring a historically great franchise like the Lakers back to the top drew him to Los Angeles.

Nichols asked James why he chose the Lakers over "going to a team that was closer to winning a championship now." Here's his full response:

I definitely thought long and hard about the possibilities of lining up alongside Ben [Simmons] and [Joel] Embiid, or lining up alongside [James] Harden and Chris [Paul]. I felt like at this point in my career, the ultimate for me — just like when I went to Miami, everyone kind of looks at me joining a super team. I think Miami was [47-35] the year before I joined the team. You look at the Lakers’ record. So I like the challenge of being able to help a team get to some places they haven’t been in a while, and obviously the Lakers haven’t made the playoffs in a few years, but the Lakers’ organization and historical franchise matches up there with all the greats. You can look at the Cowboys, you can look at the Patriots, you can look at Manchester United, the Boston Celtics — these are like historical franchises, and for me to be a part of that, it’s a great moment for not only me but also my family, and the history of basketball in general.

There's a lot to break down there. First of all, it's noteworthy that Simmons and Embiid are the first two names James mentioned. It's an indication that the Sixers were, indeed, serious contenders.

James' response also acknowledges that he sees the Sixers as close to winning a championship, and he's aware he could have immediately boosted their chances of a title.

It's also clear that building up a lesser team and joining a "historical franchise" were two things James highly valued. While that makes sense, it's odd to think that the Sixers might have been a more attractive destination for James if they were still in the earlier stages of "The Process." And, if James likes "the challenge of being able to help a team get to some places they haven’t been in a while," that absolutely would have been there with the Sixers, who haven't made the Finals since 2001 and last won it all in 1983.

James' examples of "historical franchises" definitely wouldn't be teams on any Philadelphia sports fan's list ... the Cowboys, Patriots and Celtics are not exactly the most loved teams in this city.

But for James, joining a team with a prestigious past was important. While the idea of playing with young stars like Simmons and Embiid was attractive to him, the Sixers just didn't meet all his criteria. 

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2019-20 NBA power rankings: Taking stock heading into the second half of the regular season

2019-20 NBA power rankings: Taking stock heading into the second half of the regular season

With the trade deadline a little over two weeks away, every team in the NBA has played at least 41 games.

Let’s take stock as the second half of the regular season begins: 

The top 10

It took the second triple-double of Markelle Fultz’s career Wednesday to snap the Lakers’ nine-game winning streak. 

Jimmy Butler has gotten to the free throw line in every game he’s played besides one this season and is third in the NBA in free throw attempts per game (9.3).

Mike Conley returned from a hamstring injury Saturday for Utah, and the Jazz have 16 of 18.

The Rockets have lost three straight and the Mavs have won four straight, but Dallas has a difficult upcoming schedule with the Clippers and Jazz on tap this week. 

Ben Simmons has been stellar in just about every way besides fourth-quarter scoring for the Sixers in Joel Embiid’s absence and is averaging 21.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.3 assists over his last four games. 

Though Marcus Smart set a franchise record with 11 threes and scored a career-high 37 points in Saturday’s defeat to the Suns, Boston has lost three in a row. 

1. Milwaukee Bucks (38-6) 
2. Los Angeles Lakers (34-8)
3. Los Angeles Clippers (30-13)
4. Denver Nuggets (29-13) 
5. Miami Heat (29-13) 
6. Utah Jazz (29-13) 
7. Dallas Mavericks (27-15) 
8. Houston Rockets (26-15)
9. Sixers (28-16) 
10. Boston Celtics (27-14)

The middle 10

The Raptors shot over 50 percent from the floor in every game this week and could easily be higher in our rankings — it’s tightly bunched in the six through 12 range. 

Memphis has seven straight wins. Ja Morant is mesmerizing, and both he and Jaren Jackson Jr. are shooting over 40 percent on threes. 

Kyrie Irving talked Wednesday at Wells Fargo Center about the Nets requiring “one or two more pieces,” then reached out to teammates to clarify his comments.

Zion Williamson is expected to debut Wednesday vs. the Spurs, exciting news if you enjoy basketball. 

After their trade with the Kings, Portland got 34 points from Damian Lillard and a career-high 30 from flu-stricken Gary Trent Jr., and they still lost by 13 to Oklahoma City.

11. Toronto Raptors (28-14)
12. Indiana Pacers (28-15) 
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-19) 
14. Memphis Grizzlies (20-22)
15. Brooklyn Nets (18-23) 
16. San Antonio Spurs (18-23) 
17. Orlando Magic (20-23)
18. Phoenix Suns (18-24) 
19. New Orleans Pelicans (16-27) 
20. Portland Trail Blazers (18-26)

The bottom 10 

The Bulls’ last win over a team currently in playoff position was on Dec. 14, but Zach LaVine is putting up big numbers, including 42 points Saturday vs. Cleveland, and trying to push for a home All-Star appearance

Sekou Doumbouya, the league’s youngest player, scored 24 points on 10 of 13 shooting Wednesday night at TD Garden. 

It appears that a clear bottom four has separated from the pack. Stephen Curry is targeting a March 1 return, according to The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson. 

21. Chicago Bulls (16-28)
22. Sacramento Kings (15-27) 
23. Detroit Pistons (16-27)
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-27) 
25. Charlotte Hornets (15-29)
26. Washington Wizards (13-28)
27. Cleveland Cavaliers (12-31)
28. New York Knicks (11-32)
29. Golden State Warriors (10-34)
30. Atlanta Hawks (10-33) 



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Sixers Talk podcast: Is Ben Simmons an All-Star? A reunion with Robert Covington?

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Sixers Talk podcast: Is Ben Simmons an All-Star? A reunion with Robert Covington?

On the latest Sixers Talk podcast presented by Wilmington University, Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss Ben Simmons' recent play since Joel Embiid went out with an injury, how alarming the Al Horford situation is becoming, and a possible reunion with Robert Covington.

• No, Simmons hasn't scored late in games, but he's been attacking the rim and causing opponents to make plenty of business decisions.

• How worried should we be about Horford's up-and-down season?

• Would a RoCo reunion make sense? What would you give up?

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