76ers

Sixers one of the favorites to land LeBron, per Bovada

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Sixers one of the favorites to land LeBron, per Bovada

The Cavs made every effort at the trade deadline to convince LeBron James to stay, trading away half of their team — mostly ineffective veterans — for younger, more athletic players who actually care about playing defense.

Remains to be seen whether that's enough to convince The King to stay in Cleveland. If it's not, the Cavs are going to be in truly awful shape with a bunch of bloated contracts still on the books.

Bovada released its odds Friday, the day after the trade deadline, regarding where LeBron is for Game 1 next season. The Rockets lead the pack, while the Sixers are tied for fifth.

Here's the list:

• Rockets: 5/2
• Cavs: 11/4
• Lakers: 5/1
• Warriors: 6/1
• Sixers: 10/1
• Pistons: 10/1
• Timberwolves: 12/1
• Spurs: 14/1
• Bucks: 15/1
• Knicks: 16/1

Some thoughts on these odds ...

It's pretty silly to give the Sixers the same odds of landing LeBron as the Pistons. Yeah, Detroit has Blake Griffin now, but it also lacks max cap space and is not even close to an appealing destination. At that point, why wouldn't LeBron just stay in Cleveland?

The Sixers remain an intriguing, logical option because of their cap space and young talent. Only a few teams will have the cap space this summer to hand out a max contract. The Sixers, Lakers, Bulls and Hawks are four of them, and you can bet the Bulls and Hawks will not be spending money, nor are they attractive. 

As for the Lakers, the only way LeBron is going there is if they can also sign another star to a max deal — which, at this point, pretty much means Paul George. There's been reported interest from George for years of returning home to L.A., and carving out cap space for a second max deal this summer was certainly why the Lakers traded Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance to Cleveland on Thursday. But wouldn't you think the Cavs would have to have a good idea that LeBron is *not* going to the Lakers to even consider making that trade? If he does end up going there, the Cavs are going to look incredibly bad.

The Rockets could free up enough money to sign LeBron only if they're somehow able to get off of Ryan Anderson's $20 million annual contract, which at this point is close to impossible. Still, Houston makes the most sense because it's such an appealing place to play.

The Warriors thing isn't happening, I'd bet my life savings on that. LeBron has absolutely nothing to gain by going there. The same could have been said for Kevin Durant, but he went there to chase the championship that had eluded him his entire career. LeBron's already won multiple times. Plus, the Warriors would have to get rid of Klay Thompson to make it happen and he might be a better fit for them anyway.

Perhaps the odds change as the season wears on, but as of now this is a good price if you believe LeBron is really coming to the Sixers. They should probably have shorter odds than both the Warriors and Lakers.

Sixers vs. Blazers: 3 storylines to watch and how to live stream the game

Sixers vs. Blazers: 3 storylines to watch and how to live stream the game

The Sixers (38-21) match up against the Portland Trail Blazers (35-23) on Saturday afternoon. Both of these teams look very different since their last meeting in Portland back on Dec. 30, where the Blazers steamrolled the Sixers, 129-95.

Here are the essentials for the Saturday matinee:

• When: 1 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m.
• Where: Wells Fargo Center 
• Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
• Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch.

Bobi

One of the things that remains the same is the Sixers are without Joel Embiid, who is resting with left knee soreness. But this time around, the Sixers have Boban Marjanovic, who is expected to start in his place. In Thursday night’s win over Miami, Marjanovic finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Brown said his tolerance level is "wide" with Marjanovic, as they best figure out how to utilize him in the rotation. The biggest challenge is when opponents go small and are effective in pick-and-roll situations (as the Blazers are). Saturday will be another test.

Twin towers

Without Embiid in the lineup, the Sixers will have their hands full down low, as Enes Kanter made his Blazers debut on Thursday night against the Nets. Kanter finished with 18 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes, backing up Jusuf Nurkic, who recorded 27 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Jonah Bolden, who finished scoreless in his 15 minutes Thursday night, will have another opportunity to show what he can do on Saturday.

Tobi vs. Blazers

It appears that Tobias Harris likes matching up against Portland. In his last two games against the Blazers while a member of the Clippers, Harris averaged 36.5 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 66.1 percent. Not too shabby.

Might he go off again on Saturday?

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Why Sixers feel well-equipped to deal with unique Zhaire Smith situation

Why Sixers feel well-equipped to deal with unique Zhaire Smith situation

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown knows all about lingering injuries, hazy timelines and young, talented players working their way back into game shape.

Zhaire Smith’s situation — while certainly unusual, with the added layer of medical complications stemming from an allergic reaction — is not foreign to him.

With the Blue Coats set to face the Maine Red Claws on Friday night, Smith took part in the Sixers’ light, early-afternoon practice. It was his second official practice with the team. He was assigned to the Blue Coats on Jan. 24 and has been primarily practicing and working out in Delaware. 

“At the start, he did some low-minute cardio,” Brown said. "It’s great to see him sort of run around. … There is a bounce. There really is a bounce. He looks good physically. When that translates into him playing G-League-type stuff, I still don’t have any comment on that. But it’s great to see him run around.”

Smith, acquired by the Sixers in a draft-night trade with the Suns, suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot in August, then had a serious scare with an allergic reaction to sesame, per a team source, a previously undiscovered allergy (see story). He lost significant weight as a result. 

While general manager Elton Brand said on Feb. 7 the Sixers’ moves at the trade deadline did not alter his expectation that Smith would play this season, Brown has been more cautious with his public statements.

Given the Sixers’ recent history, you can understand why he wouldn’t expect a rapid recovery.

What I do have confidence in, and it’s not for a great reason, is we have so much practice over the years with having injured players be out for a significant amount of time. I think that historically we’ve gotten better. We’ve learned from back in the day when we had — pick ‘em — Nerlens [Noel] and Joel [Embiid] and keep on going, Jahlil [Okafor] for that period, and Markelle [Fultz] — just on and on and on and on about long — Ben Simmons — long injuries. I feel like Zhaire has reaped the benefit of studied work, thoughtful work on how do people learn, what’s the environment that can still inspire and educate as there’s clearly disappointment on not being able to play basketball. … How much of that do you feel like he’s absorbed? It’s hard to guess. I think you do know when you start seeing him play. 

Unlike the names Brown mentioned, Smith has spent time with the Blue Coats. It’s a resource the Sixers don’t want to overuse, but for a player like Smith with a raw offensive game who played power forward at Texas Tech, time practicing and playing in the G-League makes sense. 

“We’ve learned that bouncing back and forth is not the way to do it,” Brown said.

Yet Furkan Korkmaz yo-yoed between Delaware and Philadelphia plenty last season. Jonah Bolden has gone up and down a few times this season. 

Brown said it’s ideal for a player to have at least two consecutive weeks with one team, either the Blue Coats or the Sixers, though he treats each player’s situation differently.

Smith is a unique case, but for a team that’s dealt with injury after injury after injury to its rookies, he’s not an unprecedented one.

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