76ers

Result of NBA Finals best argument for Sixers to #RunItBack

Result of NBA Finals best argument for Sixers to #RunItBack

As Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors got to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy Thursday night, Sixers fans couldn’t help but wonder what could’ve been.

But the shoulda, coulda, woulda mentality doesn't help anyone. Forget the four bounces. Forget the thought that perhaps the Sixers matched up better against the Bucks. Forget that the Warriors were depleted.

What’s done is done. But watching what Toronto did on its way to a title was the biggest argument for the Sixers to #RunItBack.

It’s going to be tight, but they can — and should — bring Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris back. This iteration of the Sixers took the NBA champs to seven games. They actually had them on the ropes in Game 4 with a chance to go up 3-1 before Leonard put the team on his back.

When GM Elton Brand made the move to acquire Butler back in November, he said he was hoping it wouldn’t be a rental. Brand said the same thing when he traded for Harris before the trade deadline. Making moves for two players on the last year of their deals was super risky, but the indication all along from the Sixers is that they wanted to keep the core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Butler and Harris intact. The result of the Finals should only strengthen that desire.

Imagine this team having an offseason together. Picture a healthier Embiid and an improved Simmons returning to the practice facility for training camp. Perhaps Harris takes another leap after having his finest NBA season. Maybe Butler, knowing he’ll be finishing out his career in Philadelphia, will feel rejuvenated alongside teammates he grew to enjoy being around.

The front office will have to get creative in the way it assembles the rest of the roster. JJ Redick has become such a big part of what the Sixers do and really had a bounce-back playoff run. The team will have to use one of their exceptions to bring back Redick for another season (the amount of those exceptions is not yet determined). James Ennis and Mike Scott would be welcomed back, though Ennis may have played himself into a better contract elsewhere. The Sixers will also need contributions from young, cheap players like Zhaire Smith and one or two of the team's five draft picks. As we saw in these playoffs, backup center should be a priority, so Brand will have work to do there as well.

If the Sixers do bring back the same starting five, they'll almost undoubtedly find themselves paying the luxury tax. That's something managing partner Josh Harris has said on multiple occasions would not be an issue with the ownership group. As long as Butler and Harris want to be back, there's no reason the Sixers shouldn't be able to get it done.

The Eastern Conference landscape is as volatile as ever. The Raptors are the defending champs, but will Leonard return or bolt for the West Coast? The Bucks have plenty of housekeeping to worry about with free agents Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez and restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon. The Celtics are a total enigma with Kyrie Irving likely leaving and the team reportedly trying to make an all-in move on Anthony Davis. The Nets and the Knicks have the cap space to land a pair of superstars, but a lot can happen between now and the start of free agency.

What we know is the Sixers gave the NBA champions all they could handle. That’s more than any of the Raptors’ opponents can say. 

The Sixers owe the players and the fans the opportunity to see this thing through and #RunItBack.

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Sixers Talk podcast: Training camp is coming

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NBC Sports Philadelphia/YouTube

Sixers Talk podcast: Training camp is coming

Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick go back and forth about JJ Redick's comments about the importance of team dinners, five Sixers landing on SI's top 100, and Joel Embiid saying he has lost 25 pounds.

• Discussing nuggets about Jimmy Butler and the quadruple doink from JJ Redick's appearance on the Lowe Post.

• Sports Illustrated's Top 100 for 2020 came out. The rankings are mostly fair but the guys have one gripe.

• Joel Embiid said he lost 25 pounds ... but he clearly didn't lose his sense of humor.

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JJ Redick believes Sixers needed more team dinners on road last season

JJ Redick believes Sixers needed more team dinners on road last season

Sixers fans are generally excited about the team's new roster construction heading into the 2019-2020 season, but there's no doubt the sharp shooting of JJ Redick will be missed.

Redick took his talents down to the bayou and will suit up for the New Orleans Pelicans this season. Redick joined ESPN NBA insider Zach Lowe on Lowe's podcast this week to talk about his new opportunity. They also reflected a bit on his time with the Sixers and the tough loss to the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors in the playoffs after four bounces of a Kawhi Leonard desperation shot.

Redick is open about the fact that the decision to move on to New Orleans was partly financial.

"I never got the sense that [the Sixers] didn't want to bring me back. Unfortunately, it came down to a little bit of economics," Redick said.

Jimmy Butler's decision to move on to the Miami Heat obviously precipitated that move. Redick speaks highly of Butler regardless of his decision.

"I love Jimmy. I would play with Jimmy again," Redick said. "He is in the upper tier of two-way players and in the upper tier of offensive players in the NBA, period."

So Redick has moved on to New Orleans, but it's tough not to think back to what could have been. There was a point in the Toronto series where Redick believed the Sixers were capable of winning the NBA championship last season.

"Joel [Embiid] and I spent some time together after the season and we talked about it. It was Game 4 [against Toronto] for us. We lost that game and I felt like, for most of that game, we had control, not just that game but that series. We had a chance to go up 3-1. That was the opportunity that we missed. You lose that game and it's 2-2 and you've got to win 2 out of 3 against Toronto, and that's a tough task."

One other interesting nugget from Redick's time in Philly was his sharing that he believed they didn't do enough team dinners on the road.

"I wish, I've tried, I wish, the team meal on the road is huge. I think it's huge. We didn't do it enough last year in Philly. We tried. It wasn't enough. Some of that, look, nobody wants to be forced to go to dinner. It's got to be real and authentic."

Some other choice quotes from the pod below.

On Ben Simmons getting a jumper.

"Ben works. He worked all of last offseason. I witnessed him during the season get his shots up after practice every day. I think he'll be able to shoot at some point. A lot of it is confidence. He can shoot a high enough clip when he's shooting spot shots that it should translate to shooting threes in a game. The video that went viral, looks to me like he's shooting with some confidence there."

Lowe also asked Redick about the dagger shot in Toronto.

"I was on the bench," Redick said. "I sort of had that perfect angle 'cause as soon as the ball had come inbounds, I sort of walked onto the baseline. Not on the court, but onto the baseline so I could get a straight-on view of the action. My memory may be a little jogged but my arms were crossed, I was watching the ball bounce around the rim, and it went in. I'm not sure I had any initial reaction, I think it was just shock. Part of you wants to walk off the floor and punch a wall and the other part of you, if I'm the Raptors, I'd want to dap up the people that I had just played a seven-game series against. I stayed on the court and talked to Kyle, Marc, Kawhi, Danny and those guys. Told them I hope they win a championship and walked off. Then you get back to the locker room and you see the emotion, I was obviously feeling emotional, then Joel started crying. Those are the sorts of moments that you don't forget. As much as you don't forget the shot, the aftermath of moments like that, you just don't forget. There's just a lot of raw emotion."

You can listen to Redick's entire conversation with Zach Lowe right here.

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