With Manu Ginobili retiring, a look back at just how close he came to joining Sixers

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With Manu Ginobili retiring, a look back at just how close he came to joining Sixers

You can hear just about anything being said in the Wells Fargo Center crowd during the guts of a Sixers game. A lot of the phrases aren’t safe to print in this space.

But imagine hearing this collective scream from the Philadelphia faithful: Ginobili!!!!!

While franchise legend Charles Barkley coined the yell that undoubtedly comes out when Manu Ginobili pulls off a sweet play, the newly-retired lefty came extremely close to donning a Sixers jersey of his own.

Just a couple of summers ago, with the Sixers fresh off a 10-win season, head coach Brett Brown was in desperate need of some help. Joel Embiid still had not suited up in an NBA game yet and Ben Simmons had only been the No. 1 overall pick for around a week.

Brown had his sights set on someone who could provide the Sixers with a jolt on the court and leadership in the locker room. More importantly, the coach wanted someone he could trust.

That player was Ginobili, who happened to be a free agent following the 2015-16 season. Brown spent tons of time in the trenches with the Argentinian during his stint as a Spurs assistant for over a decade and the two developed a close bond. 

“He was basically the guy assigned to me,” Ginobili said of Brown to reporters before a Sixers’ win over the Spurs in February 2017. “We spent a lot of time together. We worked out a lot of hours. I absolutely love the guy. High-quality coach, even higher quality guy, fun to be around. I’m completely biased talking about him. I really appreciated him. He’s one of my favorite people, not coaches.”

The Sixers put the full-court press on Ginobili with a reported offer of between $16 and $17 million for the first season and $30 million total over two seasons.

That was far more than the San Antonio Spurs’ first reported offer of a one-year, $3 million contract. But Ginobili insisted it was his relationship with Brown — not the money — that really made the Sixers attractive. 

“The fact that Philadelphia had a great coach and a person I appreciate so much as Brett Brown, made it more appealing in the case the Spurs didn’t happen,” Ginobili told The Vertical in July 2016. “But the Spurs happened and they always had the priority.”

In the end, the Spurs upped the ante on the one-year deal to $14 million to keep Ginobili around. But until the pen was put to paper, Brown held out hope.

“No doubt because it was that sort of confirmed,” Brown said on The Woj Pod in December 2017 about anticipating adding Ginobili to the Sixers. “Things change. I thought it would almost go that way, but you get excited and you trick yourself to think, ‘Well I’ll be damned. He’s actually coming to Philadelphia.’

“Like I said, as it’s played out I think it’s played out just as it should have. He can end his career right probably where he should be.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Ginobili played another two seasons in San Antonio before announcing his retirement on Monday after 16 years with the Spurs. The decision capped off an illustrious basketball career that featured four NBA championships, two All-Star appearances, a Sixth Man of the Year award and countless international accomplishments.

The Sixers were likely better off by not signing Ginobili too. They preserved the sizable cap space that would have went to the veteran reserve and still had their young core develop organically.

But, man, it would have been something to see that lethal Euro step rolling through the lane at the Wells Fargo Center for an and-one and fans blurting out “Ginobili!”

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Brett Brown is willing to tinker as he figures out Sixers' offense, reintegrates Joel Embiid

Brett Brown is willing to tinker as he figures out Sixers' offense, reintegrates Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — It’s difficult to glean much of value in a basketball sense from a night that was far more about honoring Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the seven other victims of Sunday’s helicopter crash than about the Sixers’ winning a game.

As far as the Sixers’ 2019-20 season is concerned, though, Joel Embiid returning to play after missing the past nine games because of a torn ligament in the ring finger of his left hand was significant.

Brett Brown said Wednesday that the topic of reintegrating Embiid offensively was “what’s most on my mind.” The Sixers went 6-3 without Embiid, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds vs. the Warriors, though they had a 104.8 offensive rating during that stretch, 28th in the NBA. 

“I like our defense,” Brown said. “I like our spirit. This side of it we hope to grow and get it right.”

Brown had pointed out to the court on Jan. 5 and proclaimed, “This is Joel Embiid’s paint.” While it sounds like that overriding principle hasn’t changed, he seems willing to tinker offensively as he works to best accommodate Embiid, Ben Simmons and his entire team. Simmons was excellent in the absence of Embiid, averaging 21.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 7.9 assists. 

I mean, how can it not?” Brown said of whether the paint was still Embiid’s. “Does it have to be 100 percent of the time? No. We have so many capable post-up players. Go to the second play of the game … you're going to see Joel I think have D'Angelo [Russell] on him … and Ben had Draymond [Green], and Ben had a duck in and could have got it, and Joel was over on the up wing. And Ben looked at it and relinquished it, and Jo sort of went down, sort of to that Malone line, not a deep post catch. 

"So, it's still there, this thing that we're talking about, this spatial thing. … Your question is about the paint. Of course, that's Joel's. That's where his bread is buttered. Last night, I'm bringing him more to an elbow. We can see he's probably easier to go double team at that floor spot. Improving his passing is always on my mind. And so you'll see me bring him up a little bit more to an elbow and play out of that environment as well, but he obviously is our most capable post scorer.

As Brown noted, the Sixers turned to a two-man game Wednesday with Embiid at the elbow and Furkan Korkmaz working around him over and over in the second half. The Sixers have named it “JJ”, Brown said with a smile, for obvious reasons. That action with Embiid and JJ Redick was a staple of the Sixers’ offense over the last two seasons.

Though Brown liked what he saw from that look, he admitted he’s still experimenting offensively.

“We're still playing with stuff and I'm still happy to play with stuff for the next [seven games] before the All-Star break,” he said. “We got Jo back and then at some point you put your hand up and say enough's enough. We got it and we're close.

“If you made me break down how I see the world offensively, I could honestly tell you, ‘I don't like it. We need work. This is on track. This is completely on track. We'll keep it until the playoffs unfold.’ That's how I see it with Joel moving forward as it relates to him coming back in and some of the offensive things we learned from that old group.”

Scott and Horford questionable vs. Hawks 

Al Horford (left knee soreness) and Mike Scott (right knee soreness) are questionable for Thursday night’s game in Atlanta.

The Sixers are 4-0 this season without Horford. Scott hasn’t missed a game yet this year. 

Embiid had 36 points and 13 rebounds on Oct. 28 in the Sixers’ first game of the season against the Hawks, making the game-winning free throws with 5.3 seconds to go.

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Remembering Kobe Bryant's legendary reunion with his high school point guard

Remembering Kobe Bryant's legendary reunion with his high school point guard

Ideas for sports content are a bit like jump shots. Sometimes you’re Kevin Ollie and it’s brick city for days. Then once in a rare while an idea takes on a life of its own, the stars align, the hoop starts to look like an ocean, and you drop 81 and it’s a masterpiece.

That latter was the case for the segment The700Level Show did back in 2015 when Kobe Bryant played his final NBA game in Philadelphia against the Sixers.

We were lucky enough to have The Evster writing and working for the site. Evan was quite the baller in his day and was a point guard for Lower Merion back in the 90’s and teammates with Kobe during the future NBA legend’s junior year there.

It was a great idea to pair Kobe with his old high school point guard but if you’ve ever worked in the sports media world, you know you can absolutely never count on athletes to help deliver on any creative ideas you may be working on.

But you can always shoot your shot.

As you can see in the final product, Kobe and Ev’s relationship was real. The chemistry was still there decades later. All the planning and prep work in the world can’t produce that.

The final video is hilarious. It was one of those rare instances where the final product was even better than you could have hoped for.

Perhaps my favorite part of it all is similar to one my friend Ev will remember as well, “the fact that so many people said we were able to show a side of Kobe they’d never seen.”

Our thoughts go out to Ev and all of those affected by the tragic events in Calabasas.