76ers

Sixers managing partner Josh Harris discusses LeBron James meeting, general manager search and more

Sixers managing partner Josh Harris discusses LeBron James meeting, general manager search and more

“It’s been really insane.”

Those were the first words Sixers managing partner Josh Harris used Wednesday to describe the team’s offseason. It’s hard to disagree with him.

Speaking Wednesday with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Amy Fadool, Harris discussed why he’s encouraged by the team's getting a meeting with LeBron James’ representatives, what he’s looking for in his next general manager, and more.

On the significance of the Sixers being the only team James’ representatives met with besides the Lakers
“It’s a big deal. LeBron obviously carries a lot of weight and certainly people were pretty focused on the Sixers anyway and the strength of our program, but certainly it underscores that. Other potential free agents, trade partners, they notice. Obviously re-signing JJ [Redick] and Amir [Johnson] and adding Wilson [Chandler] and [Nemanja] Bjelica allowed us to strengthen our team. So I think we’re going to get better next year, certainly in the regular season and then advance further in the playoffs. We’re one of the three teams in the East — Toronto, Boston and us, certainly with LeBron going to the West. We’re going to be here for a long time and we’re focused on winning a championship for the city, like we’ve been saying.”

While James didn’t actually personally talk with the Sixers, you can understand why Harris would tout the meeting as a success for the organization despite James signing with the Lakers. His comment about the Sixers' being “one of the three teams in the East” is also interesting — the Bucks, Pacers and Wizards might have something to say about that. But there’s no denying that, with James in Los Angeles, the Sixers have a legitimate chance at an Eastern Conference title. 

On the experience of being in a meeting for a high-profile free agent like James
“It was great, it was exciting. We’re focused on it going forward; next year we have a lot of cap space. Philly is a great free-agent destination right now with our two young stars, Ben [Simmons] and Joel [Embiid], Markelle [Fultz] hopefully our third star — we’ll see  — Dario [Saric], [Robert] Covington, JJ Redick and the culture that Brett Brown’s built, the new gym in Camden, Philly is a great city. And people are focused on where we are. There’s a bunch of free agents next year. Clearly we have the trade market we’re working on. I think that we’re going to have a lot of opportunities and keep focusing on how to make our team better.”

Harris is correct that there will be plenty of free agents on the market next year, including Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler and Kevin Love. And with the contracts of Redick, Johnson, Chandler and Blejica all up after this season, the Sixers will have plenty of cap space next offseason as things stand. Of course, as Harris says, their current focus is on "the trade market" and the big name that reportedly remains available, Kawhi Leonard.

On the search for the Sixers’ next general manager
“We’re just getting focused on it now, given everything with free agency and the draft, and also the other GMs are in the same place. We’re looking for the right person. One of the things that [former president of basketball operations] Bryan Colangelo did really well was, we built a great staff, whether it be [vice president of basketball operations and chief of staff] Ned Cohen or [vice president of analytics and strategy] Alex Rucker or [vice president of player personnel] Marc Eversley or [Delaware Blue Coats general manger] Elton Brand, we have a lot of great people. It’s very consensus-oriented, there’s a lot of people in the dialogue, and we want to make sure we find the right fit for that. It’s not going to be easy. My guess is it’s going to take awhile. And we’re obviously focused on doing it as quickly as possible, but at the same time I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations — it could take a little while. So we’re just starting that.”

Harris clearly hasn’t had a great sense of urgency in finding a new general manager, and it continues to sound like he isn’t in a hurry. The timing of the Colangelo scandal couldn’t have been much worse for the Sixers. Rushing to hire someone before the start of the draft or free agency would probably not have been a smart move, especially given how much Harris and the Sixers value the team element of front-office decision-making. 

Monday, The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported that Harris would prefer to hire someone with previous GM experience. In those comments, Harris also used the phrase “consensus-oriented,” as he did Wednesday, so it appears that finding a candidate who can work well as part of a group is definitely a priority.

But the bottom line is, as trade talks with the Spurs reportedly continue for Leonard, Brett Brown is still the man in charge.

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'It's a gift and a curse' — Steve Nash shares his thoughts on Ben Simmons

'It's a gift and a curse' — Steve Nash shares his thoughts on Ben Simmons

On the surface, Steve Nash and Ben Simmons don’t have a ton in common. 

Nash, inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018, shot 42.8 percent from three-point range and 90.4 percent from the foul line in his NBA career. Simmons’ shooting is not a strength.

However, the two chatted Saturday night at Madison Square Garden after Simmons’ 21-point, eight-assist performance in the Sixers’ win over the Knicks (see observations).

Simmons told reporters he talked with Nash, a co-owner of the MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps FC, about soccer.

“He was such a great leader, a competitive spirit,” Simmons said. “Just watching highlights and some of his games, the way he played, he was just relentless. He played through anything." 

Nash sees a lot to admire in Simmons’ game, too. He said he thinks Simmons is worthy of being an All-Star for the second straight season.

Ben’s a generational talent. Crazy athlete, can play multiple positions on offense and defense. Obviously his glaring weakness is the shooting, but he’s so gifted that he can make up for it in other ways, and it’s about finding a way for him to be at his best for this group. And that’s a challenge for this club, is how do all the pieces fit together? Ben’s ability at both ends of the floor is unique and he’s a special, special player. 

“I wouldn’t put it past him to become a reliable shooter at some stage in his career, but he still does so many things at both ends of the floor that if you could find a way as an organization to promote that, you have an incredible, incredible piece. That is a huge challenge — how do all the pieces fit? … I think it’s something that Brett [Brown] and everyone are working through every day. It’s a gift and a curse.

Though his game isn’t much like Nash’s, Simmons said he can still take a lot from the 2004-05 NBA MVP. 

“He’s a legend, so definitely,” Simmons said. “I definitely want to talk to him and pick up things.”

Nash was asked whether Simmons can keep going as an infrequent jump shooter. 

“He can, in the right environment,” Nash said. “If he can figure out how to make some shots in some parts of the court, it can change everything. … He can do so many things. He can change positions four or five times in a game. That in itself is huge. So, how do you absorb that? That’s the challenge. Like I said, it’s a gift and a curse, and they’ll have to figure that out.”

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Tobias Harris trolls Ben Simmons before and after Sixers' win

Tobias Harris trolls Ben Simmons before and after Sixers' win

There are probably quite a few people that would like to be Ben Simmons.

Tobias Harris took that a step further before the Sixers game Saturday night against the Knicks, rocking Simmons' expensive looking neckwear.

The Sixers sweated out a win and snapped their six-game road losing streak at Madison Square Garden Saturday (see observations). Harris had a rough night, going 5 of 13 overall, but he did hit a huge three with 28.2 seconds left off a Simmons’ inbounds pass to give the Sixers a two-point lead.

“I was just trying to get it in,” Simmons told reporters postgame. “I don’t think we had any timeouts left, so I’m glad he came to the ball and put up a great shot. He made it look good.”

The chemistry between the two seems to be paying off on the court.

“He’s locked in,” Simmons said. “He’s been aggressive taking shots. We want him to keep shooting the ball and taking those open looks. He’s a great player."

Postgame, Harris went back into Simmons mode.

The team also had a little fun with Harris’ “Fresh Prince” impersonation.

Simmons had a big night, posting 20 points for the fourth straight game — the first time in his career he's done so. The duo of Harris and Simmons also combined for the biggest defensive play of the game, trapping Julius Randle and causing a turnover with 7.6 seconds left.

Even though Harris accidentally gave Simmons a smack in the face in his haste while celebrating.

The Sixers have won three games in a row and it looks like they’re having fun again.

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