76ers

Making sense of Sixers' flurry of early moves in free agency

Making sense of Sixers' flurry of early moves in free agency

Tobias Harris is running it back. Jimmy Butler is not, and Josh Richardson is coming to Philadelphia. Al Horford has turned from rival to Joel Embiid's partner in the frontcourt. JJ Redick is reportedly heading to New Orleans. Oh, and fan favorite Mike Scott is sticking around

The Sixers made a flurry of franchise-altering moves Sunday night. "Franchise-altering" is probably an overused phrase, but it's a fair one to describe the first night of free agency for the Sixers. 

We'll have more time to make sense of it all once free agency concludes and the Sixers fill out their bench, but here are a few initial takeaways:

• The Sixers' starting five will presumably be Embiid, Horford, Harris, Richardson and Ben Simmons. That is a massive, defensively imposing starting five. Richardson is the shortest player of the group at 6-foot-6, with the other four players all 6-foot-9 or taller. Factor in Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle off the bench, and the Sixers are going to be very difficult to score against.

• We'll have to wait to learn more details before making full judgement on the sign-and-trade, but Richardson is a good young player (25 years old) under contract for the next three seasons. He's gotten better every season in the NBA, averaging 16.6 points, 4.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game in 2018-19 with Miami. 

• The decision to give Harris a five-year, $180-million deal also had to be motivated by the belief that he'll keep getting better. He had an untimely shooting slump in the second half of the season, but you can understand the Sixers having faith he'll keep growing. He's a great "culture" guy, too, embodying consistent class and professionalism. Harris' production is ultimately what will determine whether his contract is worth it, but the Sixers will like having him around as a human being for five more years. 

• Butler's departure is not shocking, but it still qualifies as a surprise. He seemed to enjoy his role as a leader to two young stars in Simmons and Embiid, and to savor the responsibility of taking over in the fourth quarter. You'd expect more details to be revealed later about why he didn't return to Philadelphia and what the Sixers were offering him. When the team traded for Butler, acquired his Bird Rights and said they'd be willing to pay the luxury tax to retain him and Harris, it was natural to assume Butler would be back.

• We talked a ton about Butler's fit last year, and that's going to again be an interesting question with Horford. Will Brett Brown use him primarily as a traditional power forward, given Horford's three-point shooting ability (37.1 percent from long range on 3.2 attempts per game over the last four seasons)? Will Brown stagger his minutes with Embiid, making Horford the de facto backup center? Does that mean a backup big guy should now be a lower priority in free agency? Regardless, the Sixers got an excellent player who does a lot of things well.

• It's worth noting that Horford is 33 years old. There's a chance the Sixers are paying Horford a lot more than he's worth in the last two years of his deal, and the odds of decline are perhaps higher than they would have been with a five-year deal for Butler, who turns 30 in September. It will be worth it if Horford helps the team win a title at age 33 or 34. 

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Nike knock-offs and 'Jesus Shoes' — the strange and fickle sneaker world

Nike knock-offs and 'Jesus Shoes' — the strange and fickle sneaker world

The sneaker world can be a strange and fickle place. One minute you’re plunking down beaucoup bucks for the shoes you’ve been saving for, the next minute you find out your prized kicks are actually knock-offs from the black market.


Image credit: NBC News

Hey, it happens more often than you think. That scenario unfolded just this past week when almost 15,000 pairs of fake Nikes didn’t make it through customs at LA/Long Beach Seaport! A smooth $2 million plus of fake Off-White Jordan 1’s, Jordan 12’s, Jordan 11’s and Air Max ’97’s, all shipped from China in two containers labeled napkins.

You would probably need two containers of napkins to dry your tears if you put up a stack and a half for a pair of shoes that turned out to be just some Bobos with a fake swoosh. Ugh.

On the flip side, even when you are at an authentic retailer or website — deftly prepared with your credit card information at the ready, not even a freshly refreshed website is the right formula to bring home the shoes you’ve been plotting on for weeks, months or even years.


Image credit: Jesus Shoes Lookbook

Take, for instance, the $3,000 “Jesus Shoes” Brooklyn-based MSCHF put out last Tuesday, which sold out in mere minutes. The designers bought less than two dozen pairs of white Air Max 97’s for retail price, then transformed them by adding holy water blessed from the Jordan River (with some dye added to make the color more vibrant) in the sole of the shoe. They inscribed a Bible scripture in the side (Matthew 14:25, which chronicles Jesus walking on water) and added a mock blood drop on the tongue of the shoe to signify the blood of Christ. Not to mention, a crucifix interspliced through the laces, a red sole to mimic the red shoes worn by many popes and some type of frankincense accent. Crazy.

I personally have about a $200 budget on any pair of sneakers, so you won’t see me paying for wheels that go above $220 retail. Good luck to all of you who back up the Brinks truck for those crispy grails and the hypebeasts who live on the resale market and buy out releases in minutes.

May your toe box never crease and your laces stay clean.

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Sixers are No. 1 in Zach Lowe's NBA League Pass Rankings for second year in a row

Sixers are No. 1 in Zach Lowe's NBA League Pass Rankings for second year in a row

The upcoming NBA season promises to be an entertaining one. Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are among the new arrivals in Los Angeles, Russell Westbrook is teaming up with James Harden in Houston and Zion Williamson is poised to rock rims.

And, according to ESPN's Zach Lowe, the most watchable team in the league this season is the Sixers. They're No. 1 in his NBA League Pass Rankings for the second consecutive season. The Lakers, Bucks, Clippers and Nuggets round out the top-five teams. 

Lowe's rankings grade each team in five categories: Zeitgeist, highlight potential, style, League Pass minutiae and unintentional comedy.

What makes the Sixers deserving of the No. 1 spot?

The Sixers are so weird, big, goofy and loaded with personality -- well, one mega-personality -- they repeat as League Pass champions despite losing the high-wattage curiosity factor of Markelle Fultz," Lowe writes. "I didn't think it was possible.

Lowe goes on to call Joel Embiid "the best trash-talker in the league," raise some interesting questions about how the team's gargantuan starting lineup will play together and highlight "exciting prospects" Matisse Thybulle and Zhaire Smith.

He doesn't even mention Mike Scott, who's hit a game-winning shot during the playoffs, taken a sip of a fan's beverage during a live game and said at media day that, while he's "not trying to be an enforcer ... when the bulls---- happens, I just react on that." There's also James "Ennis the Menace" Ennis, who savors attacking the offensive glass and said this summer the Sixers "can walk to the Finals in the East," and Kyle O'Quinn, who throws delicate bounce passes and enjoys attending Bar Mitzvahs.

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