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Sixers veteran big man Amir Johnson wins NBA's Hustle award

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Sixers veteran big man Amir Johnson wins NBA's Hustle award

Ben Simmons wasn’t the only Sixer to walk out of Monday’s NBA awards ceremony with a trophy.

Teammate Amir Johnson became the second-ever recipient of the league’s Hustle award.

“This is definitely an honor,” Johnson said. “I pride myself on doing the little things on the court and I just want to say thank you to my teammates and coaches. This award means a lot.”

The Hustle award is given to the NBA player with the highest aggregate hustle score each year. The score is calculated on: 

• Players who played a minimum of 50 regular season games and at least 15 minutes per game.

• Five hustle stats: screen assists, deflections, loose balls recovered, charges drawn and shot contests.

• Players were compared by position (G/F/C) within each statistic on a per-minute basis.

• Within each statistic, a metric was calculated for each player based on his relative performance.

Johnson, in his 14th season overall and first as a Sixer, averaged 2.5 screen assists, 1.0 deflections, 0.7 loose balls recovered, 0.08 charges drawn and 5.5 contested shots per game. He added 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds a night as the team's primary reserve big man.

The veteran beat out Indiana’s Thaddeus Young, Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr., Simmons and Anthony Davis to claim the award.

“Amir Johnson is a true professional and meant so much to our team and locker room this past season,” Sixers head coach and interim general manager Brett Brown said in a statement. “His work ethic and grit had a significant positive impact on our program and culture, and I couldn’t be happier that he’s been recognized with this award.”

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Celtics' Jayson Tatum weighs in on Joel Embiid-Nikola Jokic best center debate

Celtics' Jayson Tatum weighs in on Joel Embiid-Nikola Jokic best center debate

Boston Celtics star guard Jayson Tatum has caused some headaches for the Sixers over the last few years, and will likely continue to do so, but it seems he has a healthy respect for his Philadelphia rivals.

Tatum, who kept busy during social distancing Wednesday night with an Instagram Live, was first asked about the best player in the league, and then asked for his MVP pick, two classic questions - he called LeBron James the best player, and said James was going to win MVP.

Then things got a little more interesting.

Tatum was conducting the IG Live with Pep Stanciel, a basketball skills coach who has worked with NBA players in the past, and Stanciel managed to get Tatum to name the league's best player at each position.

Here's Tatum's all-league starting lineup, per NBC Sports Boston:

Point Guard: Stephen Curry
Shooting Guard: James Harden
Small Forward: LeBron James
Power Forward: Anthony Davis
Center: Joel Embiid

You're not going to hear a lot of complaints about that list from NBA fans, though I bet the most objections would wind up with Embiid as the starting center.

The argument over the NBA's best center has been a hotly-contested topic for a couple years now, with the emergence of Embiid and Nikola Jokic as two position-breaking stars who can sort of do it all. 

Embiid is an unstoppable, bullying presence in the paint who puts opponents in foul trouble and dominates the rim on the defensive end. Jokic is a visionary passer who uses his height and creativity to his advantage, both in the half-court and in transition. 

They're both fantastic, and just different enough that the basketball world has sort of reached a stalemate on who is an all-around better center.

Is Tatum showing his Eastern Conference bias, considering he faces Embiid more often? It's certainly possible. But Embiid is also just really, really good.

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Buddy Hield's Instagram comment adds fuel to Sixers trade rumblings

Buddy Hield's Instagram comment adds fuel to Sixers trade rumblings

NBA players know their social media activity is monitored around the clock, so any likes, comments, or follows that reach the public are noteworthy.

Which is why one Buddy Hield Instagram comment has Sixers fans on high alert.

On Wednesday night, Hield posted a fairly normal social distancing Instagram post for an NBA player, of him working out. Nothing too crazy... until a Philly-area Instagram user with the handle @1kevaan dropped a "Trust the Process" in the comments, and Hield actually responded:

Now, it's no secret that Trust the Process is a Sixers rallying cry. After years of ignoring the phrase during the tanking years, even the team embraced the slogan, and allowed Embiid to introduce himself as "The Process" before games.

So Hield - a 27-year-old digital savvy basketball player who started playing in the NBA right around the same time "Trust the Process" reached the masses - not knowing what the phrase means is unlikely.

It's possible that Hield didn't think to connect the phrase to the Sixers while typing his response. It's equally possible that he did, because Hield's Instagram activity earlier this season pointed fans towards the idea of a Hield-to-Philly move in the first place.

Hield liked an Instagram post posing the idea of a Hield-for-Al Horford swap back in February, and hasn't removed the like in the month-plus since, which at least suggests that it wasn't inadvertent:

Hield signed a four-year extension with Sacramento back in 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.

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.

We'll see!

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