76ers

Sixers teammates believe Joel Embiid is worth every penny

Sixers teammates believe Joel Embiid is worth every penny

BOSTON — Joel Embiid didn't have to be in the building to be the topic of conversation.

The Sixers reacted strongly to his new deal — a five-year, $148 million extension, per a league source (see story) — before their game against the Celtics.

Embiid trained in Philadelphia on Monday and will rejoin the team tonight. Here's what his teammates had to say before they could even say congrats in person.

Ben Simmons
“He’s a beast. As soon as he hits that court, I can’t name one person who’s going to stop him. Honestly, there’s nobody that can compete with him in his position. There’s no one.” 

Jahlil Okafor
“He deserves it. I’m really happy for him. It wasn’t a surprise to me. You’ve seen how good of a player he is. He’s an even better person.” 

T.J. McConnell
“I don’t think anyone is more deserving after what they’ve been through. To go through two injuries back-to-back years and then come out and do what he did last year, he deserves every single dollar of that ...

“It’s a sense of relief and security. You don’t want a guy like that to go anywhere else. I know the city is really excited. He’s pretty much the go-to guy, the man, and we love having him.” 

Dario Saric 
“For sure he deserves that money. He’s the guy. Everybody knows he will bring us to another level. I cannot wait to see him on the court, to play, to show who we really are. In those 31 games, he showed good talent. He means a lot for our team. I hope he will stay healthy. If he stays healthy, this team is totally different.”

Nik Stauskas 
“Very well-deserved. Obviously there are going to be people who question it just because he hasn’t played that many games. But for us to see him in practice and saw him over those [31] games he played last year, if he’s able to stay healthy, I think he’s worth every single penny.

“We all believe he can be one of the best players in the world. He has a physical skill set in terms of strength and size that not many people in this league have. He also has a jump shot, he has a handle, he has a touch around the rim that not many big men have. Just really a special combination.”

Robert Covington
“Hey, get that bag. Get that bag. He deserves it. Definitely [when] a healthy player, he’s one of the best players in this league without a doubt.”

Richaun Holmes
“He’s great on both ends of the floor. He’s a great player. He just affects the game in so many different ways. [He] can dominate, give us the guy to throw the ball in the post, anchor the defense. It’s going to do nothing but make us so much better.”

Nemanja Bjelica spurns Sixers, reportedly talking deal with Kings

Nemanja Bjelica spurns Sixers, reportedly talking deal with Kings

What exactly is going on with the Sixers?

After missing out on LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and any and all superstar free agents this summer, even their bench, fill-out-the-roster type of guys are dodging the Sixers like a plague.

The latest being forward Nemanja Bjelica, who was in Philly (but not really) for just a bit longer than Eagle-for-a-second Frank Gore.

Bjelica, 30, reportedly agreed to a deal with the Sixers on July 5, providing a boost off the bench and an upgrade over Ersan Ilyasova. 

That was all grand until Tuesday, when news broke that Bjelica had spurned the Sixers and was going back to Europe, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

But in the greatest (or lamest) twist in a strange and sad offseason for the Sixers, Bjelica is now looking to stay in the NBA and is working toward a deal with the Sacramento Kings, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania. That can't be right. No one would willingly sign with the Kings.

Bjelica posted career bests in points (6.1) and three-point percentage (41.5) last season. While he would have been a nice bench addition, it's not the end of the world. But it sure isn't a great look that the Sixers were toyed with and lost out to a lowly team like the Kings. 

After the Bryan Colangelo debacle and the star-hunting strikeout, we're officially at the "Player X would rather sign with the Kings" stage of the offseason.

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What now for Sixers after Kawhi Leonard trade to Raptors?

What now for Sixers after Kawhi Leonard trade to Raptors?

LeBron James is a Laker. Kawhi Leonard is a Raptor.

The Sixers went star hunting and came up empty. So now what for a team that won 52 games but is likely one more superstar away from winning a title?

You may not like this answer, but the correct course of action is … nothing — at least not this offseason.

The only star that could possibly be available is the Timberwolves’ Jimmy Butler — if you choose to believe the rumors. Butler, who is an outstanding two-way player, will be 29 entering next season and has an expiring deal. He already forced his way out of Chicago and reportedly wants to force his way out of Minnesota. How much are you giving up for that?

On a smaller scale, the Sixers lost Nemanja Bjelica, who reportedly agreed to sign with the team for the mid-level exception. The Serbian forward decided instead to take his talents back to the EuroLeague ... or maybe not. Bjelica certainly wasn’t a star but he appeared to be a solid bench piece that might’ve actually been an upgrade from Ersan Ilyasova. So what should the Sixers do with their MLE?

Nothing — again, at least this year.

Who do you want that’s left? Joe Johnson? Michael Beasley? Jamal Crawford? That’s three hard no’s for me.

The Sixers should go into camp with what they have and let the competition play out. Maybe they’ll figure out what to do with Jerryd Bayless’ deal or waive Richaun Holmes or sign Jonah Bolden or make a small trade, but this roster is mostly set. And that’s fine.

This team, that again won 52 games, should be better. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons should only improve. Markelle Fultz can only go up. Dario Saric took a huge leap in Year 2 and we know the kind of worker he is. Wilson Chandler is an upgrade over any player the Sixers had on the bench last year, especially when you factor in defense.

They’re not the favorites to win the East, nor should they be. But that’s fine. With the Warriors continuing to load up and James now out West, what chance does any team in the East have? (Zero is the answer, by the way). 

Fast forward to next offseason. Leonard, Butler, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving are among a loaded free-agent class. Any one of those players would be a fit and a huge upgrade for the Sixers and they’d be joining the team at the right time. Embiid and Simmons will both be a year more mature and developed and the Warriors will be a year older with their cap situation tighter.

As for the MLE, if the Sixers go star hunting again next offseason and wind up with someone like Leonard, they could use it on a ring-chasing, veteran mercenary. That’s much more valuable than one year of Johnson, Beasley or Crawford on a team that doesn’t have a realistic shot at a title next year.

Brett Brown may have set a tough bar for the offseason. When he did his now infamous star-hunting presser, it raised expectations from the fan base. Since the Sixers came up empty in their quest, most look at the offseason as a bad one.

There’s no nice way to put it: Missing out on James and Leonard sucks for the Sixers. But all is far from lost. Name another team in the NBA that has two superstars the caliber of Embiid and Simmons both under the age of 24. You can’t because such a team does not exist.

Would the Sixers have been better off if they landed a star this offseason? Of course. But now knowing that they swung and missed, their best course of action is inaction — for now.

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