76ers

Sixers to meet with LeBron James' reps in Los Angeles

Sixers to meet with LeBron James' reps in Los Angeles

The Sixers at least have a foot in the door.

LeBron James' agent, Rich Paul, is meeting with the Sixers in Los Angeles on Sunday, NBC Sports Philadelphia has confirmed. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news and that James is not expected to attend the meeting.

Per The New York Times' Mark Stein, the Sixers' contingent will include managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer.

Dominoes have started falling across the NBA since free agency opened at midnight. However, the biggest one, James, has kept a relatively low profile.

James and Paul spoke with Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman over the phone just as free agency got underway, per ESPN's Dave McMenamin. Other than that, the only other rumblings surrounding the three-time champion and four-time MVP have been that the Denver Nuggets are attempting to make a hard run at him, according to Yahoo! Sports' Chris Mannix.

The one-time betting favorite to land James, the Los Angeles Lakers, also remain in the hunt. They are still seeking another star player to pair James with, which could include trading for San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard or free agent DeMarcus Cousins, who they reportedly have their own meeting with on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Sixers should relatively easily able to reach the required cap space for a max-level player such as James and can still attract another top-tier talent. Their preference would also be a trade for Leonard, who they feel would put them in “pole position” to lock down James.

Couple that with the chance to play with young studs Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons along with James’ close ties to the Rookie of the Year, and the Sixers should be as attractive a destination as any for the king.

Now it just comes down to the meeting. The Sixers know going in that James’ camp doesn’t want any elaborate free-agent pitch, but will their message be enough?

Stay tuned.

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After unusual path, showman Norvel Pelle doesn't 'mess up' his moment

After unusual path, showman Norvel Pelle doesn't 'mess up' his moment

Norvel Pelle is not the typical NBA player.

A native of Antigua and Barbuda, Pelle was a top recruit out of high school — that part was normal. Then his path went sideways.

The wiry center never played college basketball because of eligibility issues. He traveled to Delaware, Italy, Taiwan and Lebanon before signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Sixers this summer and reaching Friday night, where Brett Brown turned to Pelle, in his third NBA regular-season game, as Joel Embiid’s main backup. 

“It’s just knowing that this opportunity is once in a lifetime,” Pelle told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I worked hard to get here and I can’t mess up. So, just getting the jitters out — obviously there are going to be jitters regardless, but just meditating and staying positive throughout the whole thing.”

In 12 minutes, Pelle was exceptionally active. He had six points, five rebounds, three blocks and a handful of altered shots. Every time Pelle has stepped on an NBA floor, it seems he has been immediately challenged by players on a mission to embarrass him. It hasn’t always gone his way. Julius Randle slammed one in over Pelle in his NBA debut in New York and Kevin Porter Jr. dunked on Pelle last Saturday and then flexed in his face despite the Cavs trailing by more than 40 points. 

A member of the G League’s All-Defensive First Team last season, Pelle sees no shame in taking the occasional ferocious dunk to the face. He’s a showman who enjoys playing to the crowd and feeds off its energy, and he never likes to show any fear. 

“Next play,” he said of his mentality. “Next play, next play, next play. At the end of the day, I’m a shot blocker, so if I get dunked on, I get dunked on — that’s my mentality. Next play.” 

After picking up two early fouls, Pelle waited out a series of pump fakes from former Sixer Jahlil Okafor to record his first block of the night, leading to a Ben Simmons dunk. He then denied a slam attempt by Brandon Ingram, creating a fast break that concluded with a James Ennis three. 

“You know every game he's going to bring you energy,” Simmons said. “He loves blocking shots, just risking his body for those blocks and protecting the rim. I love having him as a part of this team.”

Both Simmons and Brown said Pelle reminded them of Nerlens Noel. Like Noel, Pelle’s offensive game is not too extensive — it’s mostly screening and rolling, lob catching and energy. The defensive package, though, is intriguing.

“Just wanted to see what we have in him,” Brown said. “We had a little taste in New York. I wanted to see more. And I thought he was really good. I thought he was really good. He is sort of Nerlens like to me — rim protector, shot blocker, quick off the floor. I thought he was good.”

It’s uncertain whether Pelle could eventually have a consistent role with the Sixers. The man whose job he temporarily took Friday, Kyle O’Quinn, was signed this offseason to be insurance for Embiid. Al Horford should assume the primary backup center position once he returns from the left knee soreness and left hamstring tightness that’s sidelined him the past two games. 

Pelle’s two-way contract also means he can’t be with the Sixers for more than 45 days between the start of Blue Coats training camp and the end of the G League regular season, and he’s not eligible for the NBA playoffs.

Brown didn’t attribute Pelle’s five fouls vs. the Pelicans to being “undisciplined,” but the big man would likely need to refine his game a bit if he was tasked with a regular role.

Embiid wasn’t worried about any of that. 

“I told him if he got the minutes, he would probably lead the league in blocks,” he said. “He has a chance to become a fan favorite, so he should just keep doing whatever he’s doing.”

After all the empathic dunks and dramatic poses and swatted shots in foreign gyms, Pelle had time to reflect Friday night. 

“This was more than what I expected,” he said. “I’m appreciative of everything and everybody. I’m taking it day by day, moment by moment, opportunity by opportunity and just go out there and do what I have to do.”

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Tobias Harris delivers, Norvel Pelle brings the energy (and the blocks) as Sixers top Pelicans

Tobias Harris delivers, Norvel Pelle brings the energy (and the blocks) as Sixers top Pelicans

BOX SCORE 

The Sixers’ home record is still unblemished.

They beat the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night, 116-109, to move to 20-7 on the season and 14-0 at Wells Fargo Center. This was New Orleans’ 11th straight defeat. 

Tobias Harris scored a team-high 31 points on 12 for 20 shooting, helping the Sixers to overcome an uneven effort. 

Here are observations on the win: 

Harris and Simmons strike the right balance 

Yet again, Harris struck the right middle ground between letting the game come to him and forcing the issue offensively.

He scored nine points in the third quarter, including a three from the right corner when the Sixers were searching for something to wake them up. 

For Harris, this was another game in which he seemed to both understand and provide what the Sixers needed. 

Simmons imposed his physical advantages well and finished with 24 points, 11 assists and just one turnover. He missed three of his first four free throws when New Orleans turned to the "Hack-a-Simmons" strategy, then converted his next four.

Norvel Pelle, undeterred 

Two-way player Norvel Pelle initially received the backup center minutes over veteran Kyle O’Quinn.

In his third NBA regular-season game, Pelle quickly picked up two fouls on aggressive challenges at the rim. The 26-year-old was, as usual, undeterred. He blocked former Sixer Jahlil Okafor, leading to a Simmons dunk on the other end, then swatted Brandon Ingram’s dunk attempt and watched from the floor as the Sixers started a fast break that ended in a three by James Ennis.

Pelle earned First Team All-Defense honors last season in the G League with the Delaware Blue Coats. After an unconventional route to the NBA that took him to Taiwan, Lebanon and Italy, he’s flashed some of the same skills that made him a star attraction at his other stops. On Nov. 30, Brett Brown said he thought Pelle was “an NBA player.”

Whether or not his chance comes with the Sixers, Pelle took another step toward showing he has a future in the league Friday night, though his fouls (five in 12 minutes) are a concern. Despite the irregular playing time and uncertainty about when he’ll have opportunities, he was ready to go vs. the Pelicans. 

“Preparation is the main thing, especially being on this level,” he said Nov. 12. “Getting your number called and coming in, doing what you’ve gotta do — that’s the main thing. Focusing on your job and excelling at that job. I’ve learned moving forward, just be ready. Always be ready.”

What the Sixers do with him moving forward will be interesting. Since he’s signed to a one-year, two-way deal, he can spend a maximum of 45 days with the Sixers between the start of Blue Coats training camp and the end of the G League regular season. He’s currently ineligible for the NBA playoffs. 

Pelle had six points, five rebounds, three blocks and two assists.

Redick’s return 

JJ Redick had 19 points on 6 of 15 shooting in his return to Philadelphia. The 35-year-old guard, who signed a two-year, $26.5 million deal with the Pelicans this offseason, shared his thoughts on Joel Embiid, Simmons and the Sixers’ new offensive identity earlier in the day (see story).

The Sixers showed a tribute video for Redick in the first quarter. 

Redick beating Furkan Korkmaz back door and then sprinting around screens to create a small gap for a leaning three a few minutes later was an odd sight, even if the plays themselves were familiar. 

A lousy stretch

The Sixers started the way they were supposed to, taking a 39-23 lead after the first quarter.

Their defensive execution went downhill from there as the Pelicans went on a 48-31 run to take the advantage.    

Redick, Ingram and the Pelicans deserve part of the credit for their shotmaking, but the Sixers’ defensive intensity — fighting over screens, boxing out, closing out — all deteriorated. 

They looked like a team playing the second game of a road-home back-to-back, confident that their superior talent would win out in the end. Their surge to retake the lead was impressive, though the way they finished the game did not inspire confidence.

Embiid not quite as dominant 

The night after his 38-point, 13-rebound performance vs. the Celtics, Joel Embiid did not reach that same elite level again.

He did look to attack favorable matchups in the first half against Derrick Favors and Okafor and yes, he appeared to be having fun. 

Embiid just wasn’t as efficient as he’d been in Boston (24 points on 6 for 16 shooting), though he mostly did well when double teamed. He had 11 assists and four turnovers over the back-to-back. 

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