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Sixers right to be out on Jimmy Butler, wait for better opportunity

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Sixers right to be out on Jimmy Butler, wait for better opportunity

It appears the Sixers are out of the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes ... or were never really in it, to begin with.

Initially, the Sixers were one of the teams rumored to be interested in the four-time All-Star, but a report surfaced Thursday that the team is not involved and had nothing more than “preliminary discussions” with Minnesota, per Sam Amick of The Athletic.

So another star-hunting mission gone array, even with a new GM in the fold? Not exactly.

Butler is a very good, two-way basketball player that would make Elton Brand’s team better immediately. He’s a difference-making wing for a team that could truly use a difference-making wing.

But his fit just isn’t perfect. He’s never been an elite three-point shooter, most of his points are scored in isolation and this is the second time he couldn’t play nice with other stars. The Sixers need to surround Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons with shooters, Brett Brown’s offense relies on pace and space, and it doesn’t seem ideal to bring Butler into a situation where he’d be playing second or third fiddle.

That’s not even bringing up the possible compensation and the max deal Butler would then expect. Giving up any combination of Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric and the Heat’s unprotected 2020 first-round pick doesn’t seem worth it given the aforementioned factors. As far as giving him a max deal, Butler will turn 30 when that deal kicks in. Embiid will be 25 and Simmons will be 23.

You were right to be in your feelings about missing out on LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. Butler just isn’t quite at that level. LeBron is the best player on the planet. When healthy, Leonard is an MVP-caliber player. Butler is more like a top-15 player at best.

Here’s the positive you can take from all of this: star players are constantly shaking loose in the NBA. In a couple of years, the following stars have all been involved in trades: Leonard, Paul George, Chris Paul (albeit under different circumstances), Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins and Blake Griffin. Now Butler is likely on the move. It makes sense that Brand put in a preliminary call, but it makes even more sense that he's seemingly passed on Butler.

It’s only a matter of time before the right star in the right scenario is on his way to Philly.

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Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris outduel LeBron James, Anthony Davis in impressive win

Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris outduel LeBron James, Anthony Davis in impressive win

BOX SCORE

With no Joel Embiid or Josh Richardson and LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the vaunted Lakers in town, things didn’t seem to line up well.

Apparently, you can throw everything out the window when the Sixers are at home.

Led by Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris, the Sixers took down the best team in the West, 108-91, in a turnover-filled game at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night.

The win improves the Sixers 21-2 at home, tied with the Bucks for best in the NBA, and 30-17 overall. They’ll host the Golden State Warriors Tuesday night (7 p.m./NBCSP).

Here are observations from the win:

Containing the King

James had five turnovers in the first half and Simmons and Matisse Thybulle were a huge part of that. 

In an early possession when Thybulle got switched onto James, James wisely decided to use his sizeable weight advantage and back the rookie down. To Thybulle’s credit, he hung in there and then was able to use his lightning-quick hands to poke the ball away from James. Thybulle had four steals in the first half.

In the first quarter, Brett Brown stuck to his usual substitution patterns. Then he adjusted and matched Simmons up with James. James is arguably the best player on the planet and he’s going to get his (29 points, eight assists and seven rebounds), but Simmons didn’t make it easy.

James passed Kobe Bryant for third on the NBA's all-time scoring list in third quarter. He nearly sparked a comeback, but the Sixers did enough down the stretch to keep the Lakers at arm's length.

Harris and Simmons carry the load

With Embiid and Richardson out, the Sixers are missing 38.4 points a game. They needed other players to step up and carry the scoring load. Harris and Simmons did just that.

With Simmons attracting much of the attention, Harris took advantage of the various mismatches he had. He muscled the smaller Danny Green. He drove by the bigger Dwight Howard. He hit threes (3 of 8), he was strong in the midrange, he got to the basket — it was a game that truly showed off his scoring versatility.

He finished with 29 points on 10 of 20. 

After a down game in Toronto, this was the version of Simmons we’d seen since Embiid went down. He was decisive, aggressive and attacked the rim with authority. While L.A. was trying to claw back in the game in the fourth, he drove right by Green, outmuscled him and slammed with two hands. He had another big and-one drive on Green with just under three minutes left.

He had 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. He did have five of the Sixers' 23 turnovers, but you'll live with that when he's playing like this.

A.D. vs. Horford

Coming in, you figured Anthony Davis and Al Horford would be matched up. It was a fun one to watch. The savvy veteran and 26-year-old superstar were going at each other hard.

It looked like head coach Frank Vogel wanted to attack Horford, but the 33-year-old looked spry and up for the challenge. Davis’ stat line looks good (31 points on 13 of 22), but a lot of that damage came with Horford out. 

With Embiid out, Horford’s play has been up and down. He was definitely up in this one. He had 16 points and nailed a pair of huge threes and a midrange fadeaway with the Sixers clinging to a lead late in the fourth.

Shake up in the starting lineup

Down two starters, Brown started second-year guard Shake Milton. Milton fumbled a Simmons’ pass on a cut to the lane, but that was one of the few things that went wrong.

Milton essentially filled Richardson’s role as the ball handler next to Simmons. They had something going with the dribble handoff early that led to a couple easy baskets.

To his credit, Milton also stood tall as James came at him on a couple drives. It took serious guts. Despite nothing eye-popping on the stat sheet (seven points, nine rebounds, three assists), Milton looked like he belonged out there.

Tough break for Zhaire Smith

Second-year guard Zhaire Smith saw his first NBA action of the 2019-20 season. Unfortunately, he got just under three minutes in before suffering an ankle sprain. He did not return.

It’s a tough break for the 20-year-old who’s already been through so much. The 2018 first-round pick essentially had a redshirt rookie year after suffering a broken foot and a serious allergic reaction. He's spent most of this season in Delaware with the Blue Coats.

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LeBron James passes Kobe Bryant on all-time scoring list

LeBron James passes Kobe Bryant on all-time scoring list

LeBron James on Saturday moved into third place on the all-time NBA scoring list. 

He reached the milestone with a driving layup in the third quarter of the Lakers’ game against the Sixers, passing Bryant’s 33,643 career points.

James was congratulated by PA announcer Matt Cord for his achievement.

Both Bryant and James entered the NBA directly from high school. 

Bryant was born in Philadelphia. He spent much of his childhood in Italy, where his father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, played professional basketball, before returning to the Philadelphia area and starring at Lower Merion High School.

James, the much-hyped No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft, is one of the most decorated players in NBA history, with 16 All-Star selections, four MVP awards and three championships. He’s eighth all-time in assists and, at 35 years old, leads the league in assists this season. 

"He's arguably the greatest player to ever play our sport," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said Saturday. 

Brett Brown said Friday he wasn’t worried about James possibly overtaking Bryant against his team.

It’s not on my mind. I have been in the league long enough to see LeBron come in the league … and I’ve seen the evolution of him. I stand back and I am amazed at how good he is for how long he has been good for, the duration of his time in the NBA, how he handles himself with kids and the media — he doesn’t ever seem to feature with stuff going on at 2 in the morning and the next’s day front page. 

“I think he’s class, and he’s a champion, and he’s incredibly important to our league. To feel at all the need to come in and if he scores whatever number you just said against [us] ... I don’t care. I want to beat the Lakers and it doesn’t enter my mind, that side of the equation of defending him or the Lakers.”

For James to become the top scorer in NBA history, he’ll still have to pass Karl Malone (36,928 points) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points).

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