76ers

Sixers marvel at Robert Covington's transformation

Sixers marvel at Robert Covington's transformation

Updated: Friday, 3:45 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — The Sixers have been through one contract extension already this season. The players were thrilled for Joel Embiid and his payday, for everything he overcame with injuries and the way he had excelled in such a short period of time in the league.

Now it’s Robert Covington’s turn, and there’s a different type of appreciation for the reported four-year, $62 million deal he is set to receive (see story). The team made the extension official Friday, but did not confirm the reported terms of the deal.

"Robert Covington is a prime example of what hard work, dedication, and commitment can lead to," president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said in a statement Friday. "Rob's growth as a player on both ends of the floor makes him one of the most versatile effective wings in the league, while his contributions of character and professionalism feature prominently in our evolving organizational culture. This extension s both well-deserved, and a really great story."

Covington’s success is a triumphant underdog story, an example of how dedication can transcend an NBA hopeful into a solidified starter. 

The Sixers on Wednesday reacted to the news of Covington's  extension with a theme that echoed around the locker room: well deserved. 

T.J. McConnell
“Coming from a guy who’s also undrafted, I don’t think people realize how hard it is to do what he’s done. To get to where he’s at now, he’s more than deserving. He’s put in the hours. Everything he’s been through in this city and with this team, it’s so well deserved and I’m proud of him.”

Richaun Holmes
“Dinner’s on him (laughs). He deserves it. Cov, we’ve all seen how hard he’s worked since he got here. He tried to turn himself into a tremendous player and he has.”

Nik Stauskas
“For the last couple years, he’s a guy that’s been overlooked. He’s constantly been working on his game and trying to improve himself. The fact that he’s been such a valuable asset to this team and he’s been shooting the ball at such a high percentage, he’s been able to defend some of the other teams’ best players, I think the contract speaks for itself. It’s very well deserved and I think it’s only going to help this team moving forward.”

Amir Johnson
“He’s definitely been playing out of his mind. … It shows how his work ethic is and how he carries himself. … Coming from the D-League, playing in Houston, and now being here in Philly, it’s showing how hard he worked and deserves this new deal he’s getting.”

Dario Saric 
“Now he will really get money where he deserves. I’m really happy because he deserves it. He’s working so hard every day. He always stays after practice, tries to work on his game." 

Jerryd Bayless
“You can see the improvement he’s shown from even last year when I first got here to this year. Well deserved and good for him. Offensively, right now he’s obviously playing out of his mind. It’s great. Defensively, he’s done a lot of good things. He’s handling a lot of passes, he’s deflecting passes, and he helps us."

Sixers put bench under construction, but is second unit now any better?

Sixers put bench under construction, but is second unit now any better?

After a relatively quiet offseason, the Sixers’ roster has suddenly turned into musical chairs over the past few days.

In are Mike Muscala and Jonah Bolden. Out are Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Richaun Holmes.

Not exactly earth-shattering moves, but moves nonetheless.

Of course, all of those changes were directed at the Sixers’ bench. That’s because the team already has one of the best starting rotations in the entire NBA. The Sixers’ five-man combination of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid was plus-21.4 points per 100 possessions in 600 minutes of action together last season.

The reserves were a different story. The Sixers’ bench was among the league’s worst scoring-wise in 2017-18 before buyout veterans Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova pumped life into the group. With that duo on the squad, the Sixers posted a 20-3 record to close out the regular season and made quick work of the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

Those results changed against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Sixers’ bench was exposed defensively and smothered on offense in the five-game series.

“I’ve said on record, and I’ll say it again, I believe that anything that kind of matters, you’re probably going to bump into the Celtics,” Brett Brown said during the Sixers’ exit interviews. “So they’re always going to be sort of on our mind in relation to how do you compete with them?”

Competing with the Celtics and beating them are two very different things.

Did the Sixers’ tinkering with their bench put them any closer to knocking off their longtime rival? That’s a tough one to answer right now.

Despite shipping away Anderson, Luwawu-Cabarrot and Holmes, you can argue that the Sixers’ second unit will still be more athletic next season. A fully healthy Markelle Fultz will likely start out as the sixth man, and we know he’s got some incredible bounce to his game. Zhaire Smith already gave a glimpse of what type of athlete he is during summer league. And while 31 years old, Wilson Chandler can still rise up to throw it down.

Defensively is where that athleticism should really shine for the latter two. The rookie Smith has continually said defense is his best skill as he was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive team during his lone season at Texas Tech. Chandler possesses the ability to defend both forward spots and takes pride on that end of the floor.

Meanwhile, Muscala and Bolden aren't anywhere near leapers of Holmes' caliber. However, they are still bigger bodies that have the ability to move their feet to keep up with their man. That’s in addition to known hustlers T.J. McConnell and Amir Johnson putting forth their maximum effort guarding opponents.

But is that enough when a healthy Celtics team gets its projected roster back and rolls out a reserve lineup of Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes?

If the Sixers are unable to contain Boston’s talented starters and deep reserve blend, they might really run into problems trying to keep pace with offense of their own now that they lack a serious three-point threat outside of Redick. Belinelli and Ilyasova, who both departed moments into free agency, gave the team a one-two punch off the bench that could drain shots from anywhere. Now the only serviceable shooter in a backup role is the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Muscala (a career 37.8 percent shooter from long range). Kyle Korver, anyone?

The bench reset was necessary if the Sixers planned on getting to the next level. Is it enough to put them on the same level as the Celtics or will they remain green with envy?

We’ll see.

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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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