76ers

Robert Covington is the perfect Philadelphia athlete

usa-robert-covington-fans.jpg
USA Today Images

Robert Covington is the perfect Philadelphia athlete

It’s hard to understand the Robert Covington hate, but he’s easily the most polarizing athlete in Philadelphia. 

The mere mention of Covington’s name either brings deep vitriol or glowing admiration in the case of Process truthers. It's so odd that Covington is also revered by the national media, but ripped by his own fan base. That's the antithesis of every Philly athlete.

In writing this column, I’ve mentally prepared myself to be bombarded by angry comments and tweets. I know I won’t win the detractors over by giving you the analytical side of things. Telling you he finished eighth in the NBA in real plus-minus — just behind Anthony Davis and in front of Kyle Lowry and Russell Westbrook — likely won’t sway you.

But maybe I can appeal to your emotional side by proposing that Robert Covington is the perfect Philadelphia athlete.

(Hang with me here for a second.)

Covington is the ultimate underdog. He was recruited by just two schools — Tennessee State, where he attended, and Sacramento State — coming out of high school. After a successful college career, he didn’t receive an invite to the pre-draft combine and went undrafted. 

As a pro, he toiled away in the D-League before Sam Hinkie plucked him from the Rockets’ organization after Houston waived him. He then endured “the process,” which included a 10-win season among other embarrassments.

He’s turned all of that into a starting job on a playoff team, a nice contract extension (side note: the “Covington hasn’t hit a shot since he got his new deal” comment is the laziest and dumbest thing ever; during the Sixers’ 16-game win streak to close the season, he shot 39 percent on almost seven attempts from three a night) and being named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team. He’s been recognized as one of the top-50 players in the NBA by two respected outlets. Sylvester Stallone couldn't write this stuff.

All of that with the humility to match.

“It does [feel good to be named a top-50 player], but it’s just a testament to hard work,” Covington said at practice Thursday. “Can’t settle for nothing. That’s just a ranking to me honestly. It’s about something about last year based off of how we played, but it’s a whole different year, you can’t get caught up in what you did last year.”

Covington has obvious weaknesses as a basketball player. He can be an insanely streaky shooter, he doesn’t do well when asked to put the ball on the floor and he’s not a great finisher at the rim. These are issues he’s always had but that really came into focus during last season’s playoff loss to the Boston Celtics.

But do you expect a guy who came from nothing and had to work his tail off to get everything he has to just rest on his laurels? Of course not. Covington is well aware of his shortcomings and you better believe he’s doing everything in his power to correct them.

He talked extensively Thursday about his training sessions this offseason. He’s watched a ton of film and realized it’s not just the technical aspect of his dribble and finishes. He’s been focusing on how defenses are playing him and reading and reacting in the moment.

Covington is far from the perfect basketball player. He’s not an All-Star and certainly not the third star the Sixers are looking for. 

But he’s worked hard to become the player he is and that should be enough to earn him the respect of all Sixers fans.

More on the Sixers

Which Sixer has the most to gain in 2019-20 season?

Which Sixer has the most to gain in 2019-20 season?

With training camp getting closer, there are plenty of topics to discuss involving the 2019-20 Sixers. Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick.

In this edition, we ask: Which Sixer has the most to gain this season?

Hudrick

There are a few strong candidates — including the guy Noah has below — but to me, Josh Richardson has the most to gain.

Richardson is an ascending player that just turned 26 on Sunday. He was a key cog in Erik Spoelstra’s rotation because of his defensive abilities. He’s long and versatile, a perfect combination for the Sixers’ starting unit. His defense should shine alongside the Sixers’ elite defensive pieces. He’ll be tasked with guarding ones, but it’s a challenge he should be able to handle and excel with.

During last season in Miami, Richardson took on a much bigger offensive role. While at times he shined, it was clear that he’s not meant to be a team’s No. 1 option. He won’t have to be that for the Sixers. The space he should get with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons should help immensely. Richardson also did well in dribble handoffs, something that was a staple of the Sixers’ offense with Embiid and JJ Redick. Brett Brown can explore the Richardson-Embiid two-man game with Redick’s departure to New Orleans.

One of Richardson’s most attractive qualities is his contract. The Heat have some pretty horrendous deals against their cap, but Richardson’s signing was likely their shrewdest. He’ll make $10.1 million this season and $10.8 million in 2020-21, per Spotrac. That’s a relative steal for a wing player of his capabilities. He has a player option for 2021-22 and that's where he has the most to gain. If Richardson performs well and helps the Sixers make a deep playoff run, his value should be extremely high as a 29-year-old free agent.

Levick 

As far as contracts are concerned, there aren’t many obvious candidates for players with the most to gain. Backup point guards Raul Neto and Trey Burke, big man Kyle O’Quinn and young players Furkan Korkmaz and Jonah Bolden might qualify on the basis of not having any guarantees beyond this season, but I’m not going with any of those players.

I think Tobias Harris has the most to gain for the Sixers this season, even if he did sign a five-year, $180 million contract this summer. This isn’t about the money, though. 

With Jimmy Butler gone, Harris will now likely be looked to as the Sixers’ primary perimeter scoring option. He won’t need to carry the entire offensive load — Ben Simmons is dangerous in transition and improving in the post, Joel Embiid is dominant down low, Al Horford can do a little bit of everything and Josh Richardson averaged 16.6 points per game last year. But Harris now has the go-ahead to be the best version of himself offensively.

“I just wanted to adapt,” he said on July 12 about his role after joining the Sixers last season. “Not to be complaining about comfort or whatnot. I just wanted to be that guy who puts everything to the side and it’s about winning. Was that hard for me? Not hard for me with who I am, but for my own game, it was hard.”

Before joining the Sixers, Harris was among the top 20 percent of the league as a pick-and-roll ball handler in points per possession for four straight seasons, per NBA.com/Stats. I expect the Sixers to try to cater toward Harris’ strengths more this year. I also think it’s logical to predict Harris will shoot closer to his 42.6 percent mark from three-point range over 87 games with the Clippers than the 32.6 percent he shot from long range with the Sixers.

There’s no money to be gained for Harris, but a first All-Star appearance would be meaningful. It’s a very realistic possibility. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Sixers to host Blue X White Scrimmage at 76ers Fieldhouse in Delaware

Sixers to host Blue X White Scrimmage at 76ers Fieldhouse in Delaware

In what’s become a tradition, the Sixers will host their annual Blue X White Scrimmage on Oct. 5.

Your first chance to see the new-look squad will come at the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware, home of the team’s G-League affiliate, the Blue Coats.

In years past, it’s also been an opportunity for the fans to see the players in a more laid-back setting. The players that have been here have enjoyed participating.

They’re great. Our players get it,” team president Chris Heck said to NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Our players understand how important Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley is to the 76ers and they’re excited to get the season started. We open training camp on Oct. 1, and this will be the first chance for anyone in the area to see our players play in what we think will be a very exciting and winning season for the 76ers.

There are an awful lot of new players to see, including two-fifths of the starting lineup with Al Horford and Josh Richardson coming on board. It will also be the fans' first chance to see rookie first-round pick Matisse Thybulle and veteran pickups Kyle O’Quinn, Trey Burke and Raul Neto live as Sixers.

Part of the reason for the move to Delaware is to accommodate the demand for tickets. The 161,000-square-foot-complex held its first Blue Coats game on Jan. 23, and has also held Cardi B and O.A.R. concerts, plus large-scale corporate events and local high school graduations, in addition to youth camps and weekly academies for basketball, soccer, lacrosse and volleyball.

As the team has continued to improve, the need for more space has heightened.

It has grown in the sense where it’s harder and harder to provide as many seats to the demand that’s out there,” Heck said. “It was really important for us to move it down to Delaware this year because our fan base in the first state is so strong and so close to Philadelphia as well. This is the perfect opportunity to re-launch the Fieldhouse, by bringing Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and the likes of all our team, including Brett Brown, back down to Delaware to launch our season.

The event is definitely fan- and family-focused. It will have an entire fan zone that will feature inflatable games, face painters, balloon artists and additional carnival games. Fans can also participate in an NBA-style combine. They can also win prizes from Chick-fil-A and TruMark Financial, receive free haircuts for their kids by Maestro’s Classic and register their children ages 4 to 14 for the 76ers Kids Club, presented by Five Below.

The Fieldhouse features indoor and outdoor, multi-purpose artificial turf fields, Titus Strength and Condition Center and Nemours Center for Sports Medicine.

If you’re looking to score tickets, you must sign up for the SixthMan Fan newsletter. More information on how to secure tickets will be communicated through the SixthMan Fan newsletter in the coming days. Both Sixers’ and Blue Coats’ season ticket members will receive access to a presale featuring a limited amount of free tickets. 

The Sixers are expecting a game-like atmosphere.

I think it will be exactly what it’s like during any of our games and any time our players are a part of the community — which will be loud and fun and energized and positive,” Heck said. “That’s why I think this city and the Delaware Valley as a whole has embraced the 76ers so much over the last several years. We are a team that represents the community and that’s fun.



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers