Figuring out what roles Sixers' Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III will play in NBA restart

Figuring out what roles Sixers' Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III will play in NBA restart

Alec Burks has become used to bouncing around the country for business purposes. He’s played for five teams over the last two seasons.

Though he traveled from Kansas City to Camden, New Jersey, to participate in mandatory individual workouts at the Sixers’ practice facility and will head with the team to Orlando on Thursday for the planned resumption of the NBA season, he considered staying in one place for a little while longer. For a very good reason.  

“I think when I found out my wife was pregnant, that’s when maybe I wouldn’t play,” Burks said Monday in a video conference call, “but she’s not due until December. I feel like if … the majority of the team (was) going to play, then I was going to play. If the majority of the team wasn’t going to play, then I probably would’ve thought more about it. I want to go to war with my teammates. Let’s just hope for the best and everybody stays safe.” 

Burks and Glenn Robinson III, his former Warriors teammate, have had especially bizarre stints with the Sixers. Both players had been enjoying career-best seasons with Golden State. The Sixers agreed to acquire them early on a Thursday morning in February, and the pair learned about the trade on a red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York. Robinson didn’t play until Sunday, while Burks waited until the next Tuesday to make his Sixers debut as he attempted to ease into yet another career transition. 

In late February, Robinson made comments in an interview with Basketball Insiders about not understanding his role, which he later said “got a little blown out of proportion.” A 40 percent three-point shooter this season with the Warriors, Robinson missed his first 10 threes after the trade, then made 6 of his next 11. Burks, who arrived with a reputation as a streaky player, scored in double figures six times off the bench but also had 2 for 7, 2 for 10 and 3 for 13 shooting performances. 

Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Josh Richardson were all injured at one stage during Burks and Robinson’s initial spell with the team this season. With all starters available to play, where do the two fit in now? 

“I don’t think I’ve played a game where everybody was healthy and playing,” Burks said. “So I don’t know. I guess we’ll just see how that goes. Coach has a lot of time, he’s going to game plan the rotations going into this. I guess we’ll all just see.” 

Burks did mention that Brown “hinted” to him what his role might be. Brown employed Burks often as a primary ball handler before the league's hiatus, a job he did well. In 47 pick-and-roll possessions as a Sixer, Burks created 52 points. That level of production likely isn’t sustainable, but it’s not an extreme outlier either. He produced 0.92 points per pick-and-roll possession with Golden State, which is in the 68th percentile in the NBA. 

Though Burks frequently started off the ball, Brown liked looping him up to the top of the key, giving him a high ball screen and letting him make something happen. Even in lineups where Shake Milton or Richardson bring the ball up the floor, Burks’ apparent comfort in that basic “Loop” action should mean he’s still viable as a ball handling option.

“I was used in a lot of different roles … because of injuries,” Burks said. “I still don’t know what’s going to happen with the playoffs. We’ve gotta get down there and get around each other, and see how it plays out in training camp and into the games. ... I think I built some chemistry up with a couple of the guys. I think that’s the most important thing I’m probably going to bring, because I only played 10, 11 games.”

Robinson talked with Brown on his journey from Gary, Indiana, back to Philadelphia and got an idea of where he stands.

I’m not a risky person at all, so I drove from Indiana back to Philly, nine hours,” he said last Thursday. “I gave Coach a call while I was riding back, while I was kind of listening to music and just thinking about some things. So I got a chance to catch up with him. It was good to have that talk. I think it was great for everyone to have a couple months where you watch film and we all got a chance to kind of reset and restructure.

“I watched a ton of myself from the time I was here. … What can I do to help the team get better? Talking to Brett, I obviously know that we have a lot of wings and we’re all going to come in competing, just like every other training camp. I’ll leave it to him to see what happens, but I’m definitely doing my job and going to be professional, and come in ready for training camp.” 

Burks and Robinson will now try to impress at training camp — in Disney World, during a pandemic — play well in eight seeding games and, should everything still be running smoothly, help the Sixers win playoff games. If all goes well, they’ll likely accrue more experience in Orlando than their current combined 23 games as Sixers.  

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

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

NBA Rumors: Buddy Hield's comments should have Sixers fans intrigued

NBA Rumors: Buddy Hield's comments should have Sixers fans intrigued

The Sixers haven't even started the playoffs, but a potential offseason storyline is already bubbling up.

Kings guard Buddy Hield has been long tied to the Sixers as a potential trade target, from insider chatter to fan speculation, to his accidental (?) fueling of those rumors when he liked an Instagram post earlier this year with a hypothetical trade moving him to Philly.

So when the Kings' season ended Thursday, and Hield was asked if he's comfortable with his role off the bench in Sacramento heading into next season, his answer raised some eyebrows.

Including, I'd imagine, some in Philadelphia.

Here's what Hield had to say:

[Hield] provided a series of short answers during a Zoom session with reporters and offered a cryptic response when asked if he could be content with his role going into next season.

"Y'all know me," Hield said. "Y'all know how I talk. Y'all know how I feel. Y'all can read me well, so I'll let y'all answer that yourselves."

Pretty spicy. That doesn't sound like someone who wants to stay where he is!

Hield signed a four-year extension with Sacramento last October, but the Kings regressed in their first year under head coach Luke Walton, and The Athletic reported in February that Hield, unhappy with his role, might be eyeing a move elsewhere.

It doesn't sound like Hield's concerns about his role have changed much since then. If he's unhappy, he could theoretically ask for a trade - or Sacramento could pre-emptively try to get something for the still-young shooter.

I examined the potential fit back in April, including the hypothetical Hield-for-Horford deal from that fateful Instagram post:

In terms of contract length and salary hit, the Hield and Horford deals are strikingly similar, and Hield's game would be an instant improvement for the Sixers' offensive spacing: he's a two-guard who shoots a career 41.1 percent from deep, and can create his own shot. Plus, he's substantially younger than Horford.

Will the move happen? If the Kings deem their relationship with Hield unfixable, it's possible. Horford hasn't fit well in Philly, but he's still a savvy veteran with a good track record. And Hield would certainly check the boxes for the Sixers' front office.

Hield shot 39% from deep this year on 9.5 (!) three-point attempts per game, is a career 41% three-point shooter over 315 games, and would be a perfect match for the Sixers. 

We'll see.

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: 
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19 / YouTube

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

2020 NBA playoffs: Schedule for Sixers-Celtics series is set

2020 NBA playoffs: Schedule for Sixers-Celtics series is set

The Sixers’ second playoff series against the Celtics in three seasons is on the horizon, and we now know exactly when it will begin.

The series will kick off Monday at 6:30 p.m., the Sixers’ first postseason game since Kawhi Leonard’s indelible buzzer-beater in Game 7 of the second round on May 12, 2019. 

Below is the full schedule, with all times Eastern Standard Time:

Game 1: Monday, Aug. 17 — Sixers at Celtics, 6:30 p.m. 
Game 2: Wednesday, Aug. 19 — Sixers at Celtics, 6:30 p.m. 
Game 3: Friday, Aug. 21 — Sixers vs. Celtics, 6:30 p.m. 
Game 4: Sunday, Aug. 23 — Sixers vs. Celtics, 1 p.m. 
Game 5: Tuesday, Aug. 25 — Sixers at Celtics, TBD
Game 6: Thursday, Aug. 27 — Sixers vs. Celtics, TBD 
Game 7: Saturday, Aug. 29 — Sixers at Celtics, TBD

Of course, Games 5 through 7 will only be played if necessary, and there’s no such thing as a true home game when the teams are playing at Disney World during a pandemic. The Sixers do have PA announcer Matt Cord virtually handling starting lineup introductions, plus the Wendy’s Frosty Freeze-out and other trademarks of a usual home game. They were 29-2 at Wells Fargo Center this season before the NBA’s hiatus, the best home mark in the league. 

Led by All-Stars Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum, Boston should be favored in this series against a Sixers team missing Ben Simmons. The 24-year-old had surgery Monday to remove a loose body from his left knee, leaving the Sixers reliant on Joel Embiid and complementary pieces like Josh Richardson and Al Horford. Tobias Harris, who has averaged 22.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in the Sixers’ seeding games, will also likely need to elevate his game. 

Embiid is listed as questionable because of left ankle soreness for the team’s final seeding game Friday night at 9 p.m. against the Rockets. He had a short night Wednesday vs. the Raptors after being hit on the right wrist and had negative X-rays on his hand.

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: 
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

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