Sixers trade Richaun Holmes to Suns; Jonah Bolden inks 4-year contract, source confirms

Sixers trade Richaun Holmes to Suns; Jonah Bolden inks 4-year contract, source confirms

The Sixers are not quite done making moves this offseason.

The team on Friday sent big man Richaun Holmes to the Suns for cash considerations. The Sixers also signed 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden to a four-year deal, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania first reported the trade and Bolden's signing.

With these moves, the Sixers’ roster remains at 15 players, but that could change if the team finds a way to rid themselves of Jerryd Bayless’ contract — say, in a trade with Cleveland (see story).

The writing has been on the wall for Holmes. Now entering his fourth year, the 2015 second-round pick struggled to find a role in Brett Brown’s rotation last season with a healthy Joel Embiid and veteran Amir Johnson in the fold. While he offered energy, athleticism and weakside rim protection off the bench, Holmes lacked discipline defensively, something Brown hasn’t tolerated during his tenure.

Bolden will essentially take Holmes’ spot on the roster as a developmental big. With quicker feet defensively, Bolden has more versatility to guard fours. While his summer league performance was underwhelming offensively, Bolden did impress defensively, especially against No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton. It’s important to note that the third and fourth years of Bolden’s deal are not guaranteed, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

Drafted by the Sixers out of Bowling Green State, Holmes flashed at times but was only able to get into 48 games this season, averaging 15.5 minutes a contest. He averaged 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 156 career games with the Sixers.

A native Australian, Bolden attended UCLA for one year before heading overseas to play for FMP Beograd of the Adriatic League. As a draft and stash this past season, Bolden played for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and tested his skills in the EuroLeague. He averaged 7.2 points and six rebounds in 20.8 minutes a game. He’s shown flashes of a jump shot but shot just 31 percent from three this season abroad and 24 percent in summer league action.

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Why there's hope that Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons can figure this thing out

Why there's hope that Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons can figure this thing out

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were hit with questions about their fit and chemistry during All-Star weekend in Chicago. It’s not surprising. It’s a narrative that’s dominated all other Sixers storylines.

Both players talked about their mutual respect for each other and their relationship was evident during one especially playful moment in Sunday’s game.

After the team’s first practice coming out of the break Wednesday, Brett Brown said he expected his All-Star duo to have each other’s back.

“It kind of is newsworthy because there's so much talk about, can they coexist? How do they play together? Are we gonna play fast? Are we gonna play slow? … To be in Chicago and to talk about one another in that environment on different teams, it didn't surprise me.”

Lost in the pair getting along so swimmingly during All-Star weekend is that their chemistry on the court was perhaps the best we’d ever seen it the Sixers’ win over the Clippers last Tuesday. Both players were dominant as L.A. struggled with the size and skill of Embiid and Simmons.

One of the reasons for that dominance is an action called a snug pick-and-roll. You’ve likely seen it run sporadically over the last couple seasons. It’s essentially a pick-and-roll on the low block with Simmons as the ball handler and Embiid as the screener.

Because there isn’t a ton of space to operate in that action, the Sixers hadn’t had much success running it. It requires chemistry and decisiveness. Against the Clippers, it was easily the most we’ve seen it. More importantly, it was the most success Embiid and Simmons have had with it. 

It’s sort of a microcosm for them on the court. Things weren’t going to click overnight because they’re not a seamless fit. It was always going to take time.

But that game provided hope that this pairing could work yet.

“We've always touched it and at times it really was maybe one of the lowest efficient plays that we ran,” Brown said. “And so we persevered. I still think when you fast forward this thing out and they're both like 30 and 28, that's going to be a primary look for those two. ... We'll continue to look at that, but it's deeper than just sort of an action. I think growing those two with that spirit and different places on the floor interests me a lot.”

Everything with the Sixers begins and ends with Embiid and Simmons. No matter what moves are made around them in the future, it will likely all come down to how they play with each other. 

Even their teammates know it.

“Those two are the guys that keep this thing moving and they have to really embrace each other and have that respect for each other’s games,” Tobias Harris said. “Their games are different, their games are different styles, but in a way they both do complement each other on the floor — I’ve said that since the day I got here and I truly believe it. When they are out there and they are both dominant, like the Clipper game, you can just see it’s like they played together since they were young kids. … Those two, especially and most importantly, have to continue to embrace that night in and night out for us to be a successful team.”

This season hasn’t gone as the Sixers would’ve hoped when Brown brazenly said he wanted the No. 1 seed in the East. That’s not happening — and the two seed isn’t exactly within the Sixers' grasp, either.

Still, for all the talk about being an imperfect fit and coexisting, Embiid and Simmons have 27 games to get this thing right and lead the Sixers on a deep playoff run.

“I would be lying if I didn't say I was thrilled to read what I read [from the All-Star Game], but it doesn't surprise me,” Brown said. “I just think it validates to the rest of the sort of basketball hoop world that life's not as bad as sometimes it's made out to be here in Philadelphia.”

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What we know about Al Horford's role and the Sixers' rotation

What we know about Al Horford's role and the Sixers' rotation

CAMDEN, N.J. — Al Horford says he did not spend his All-Star break mulling over his role on the Sixers.

He went to Florida, attended a court naming ceremony in Gainesville for his former college coach, Billy Donovan, and stepped away from professional basketball for a few days.  

Wednesday, he returned to practice with his teammates and dutifully fielded questions. 

Has he been given an indication that he’ll continue to come off the bench?

“I believe so,” he said.

How does he feel about that?

“It’s what the team needs right now,” Horford said, “and that’s what we’re doing.”

Head coach Brett Brown confirmed he’ll stick with what worked in the Sixers’ win last Tuesday over the Clippers, when Horford had been a bench player for the first time since 2007. 

I think that for the moment we're going to try to throw that rotation as you saw against the Clippers,” he said. “With 27 games left, my mindset is to take this next period of time — seven, 10, whatever games — and really get precise and purposeful with our rotation, and then take that run home and polish it up.

“I think that 27 games is an eternity by NBA standards, and so there'll be a portion of what I just said that we want to crystallize the rotation, give thought and reward competition to some of the things that are still competitive. And then in that run home, final 20 games, 15 games, just tighten stuff up. And in my experience doing this, there is ample enough time to pull off what I just said.

As for who will take Horford's spot in the starting lineup, Brown said, “at times it’ll be dependent upon matchups.”

Furkan Korkmaz started last Tuesday, while Glenn Robinson III opened the second half. Brown seemed to indicate Alec Burks can be taken off the list of possible candidates in articulating how he plans to use the 28-year-old. 

“Alec needs to be put in a situation where he can score,” Brown said. “I’m looking at him as sort of an instant offense type off the bench. He can be given the ball, he can be put in pick-and-rolls. I like him more probably in the middle of the floor with a pick-and-roll than a sideline with a pick-and-roll. I think that he can be a primary ball carrier for a while. … I feel like his primary role and his primary asset, his skill set is he can score.”

Horford does not think his responsibilities will shift dramatically. He played 28 minutes Tuesday, about three below his season average. Most notably, only nine of those minutes were with Joel Embiid. Before the Clippers game, Embiid and Horford had shared the floor for 14.3 minutes per game and had the worst offensive rating (98.7) and worst net rating (minus-1.1) of any two-player Sixers pairing with at least 300 minutes together this season.

“I don’t think it changes much, to be honest,” he said. “I’m going out there and defensively, setting the tone for our group, making sure that I’m helping people on the defensive end. And offensively, wherever I get my spots, make plays or be ready to shoot. It’s pretty much the same.”

Tobias Harris was unsurprised by Horford’s matter-of-fact approach to no longer starting. 

“Just a professional,” he said. “Everything we’ve already known about him. As a group and as a team, we’re still trying to figure it out, see what works best. Just to have that mentality and be able to do what could be a great move for our team and see if it works, it just shows a winning attitude, winning mentality. We’ll see if it works.”

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