76ers

Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott outline biggest factors in free agency

Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott outline biggest factors in free agency

CAMDEN, N.J. — Tobias Harris paused before answering the question, which concerned the risk of the Sixers acquiring three players on expiring contracts in a bid to win now. Seated next to him was his 7-foot-3 friend Boban Marjanovic, who gave him a quick glance.

Mike Scott jumped right in. His thoughts on the matter were simple.

“I don’t give a s---,” he said. “I just want to play and win.”

Harris, the marquee name at the Sixers' introductory press conference Thursday for their three new players from the Clippers, was more diplomatic. He did, however, agree with the gist of what Scott had to say.

Mike said it really nice. … Obviously they invested a lot in all three of us. When we talk about what things go into a player’s decision, loyalty is one of them. It was a big move and it was a win-now move, and a win-big move, now. I think all of us can say that means a lot. This is already a winning culture. We just look to bring our games to it and help the best way we can. 

Though the Sixers want to keep their new Big 4 of Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Harris intact beyond this season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the logistics of doing so might prove difficult. And Scott didn’t want anyone to forget about another former Clipper who has plenty of value for the Sixers.

As Harris started to talk about the firepower of Butler, Embiid and Simmons, Scott interrupted him.

“JJ Redick, too,” Scott said.

And Harris agreed.

“Put some respect on his name,” he said. 

Harris, as expected, didn’t make any dramatic reveals about whether he plans to re-sign with the Sixers, though his response to a question about what he’ll prioritize in free agency was telling.

This offseason will be the first time the 26-year-old Harris has total say over where he plays basketball — he’s never been an unrestricted free agent before. In his eighth NBA season, he just joined his fifth team. Based on his comments, it would be surprising to see Harris go anywhere if the Sixers fulfill their potential and play basketball into June. 

Top of the list for me is winning culture, No. 1. No. 2 is just loyalty. I’ve been traded a couple times now, but just finding the right situation for team basketball, a winning culture, and loyalty for both sides — those are the three top things. This team has made a big trade for myself and hopefully this can be a long-term partnership and we can make it work. I’m excited for that. … Winning basketball games is just the key focus right now.

It’s not Scott’s job to care about the risk of trading for a trio of players on expiring deals, and it’s not Harris or Marjanovic’s either. Harris wants to “make it work,” but, on the eve of his first game with his new team (against the Nuggets, at 7 p.m. on NBCSP), he can’t know yet what it’ll take to make that happen. Although, it does sound like he has an idea.

“When you have this much firepower all around, that’ll be a challenge for us,” he said, “but it’s also not a bad challenge to have. We just gotta come together and build the chemistry fast.”

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Sixers at Magic: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

Sixers at Magic: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The Sixers (47-26) are looking to get back on track against the Orlando Magic (35-38) after a disappointing loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.

Here are the essentials for tonight's game: 

•  When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
•  Where: Amway Center
•  Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
•  Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch: 

The playoff race

The Magic are looking for a fifth straight victory, but even more than that, their playoff hopes are on the line. Orlando is sitting one game behind the Miami Heat for a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and after tonight they are about to embark on a tough road trip. Orlando has a lot on the line.

His former team

JJ Redick is lights out against the team he played his first seven seasons with. Redick is shooting 62.1 percent from deep against Orlando this season, and his 17.7 points per game career average against the Magic is the best he’s had against any opponent. The numbers would say Redick is due for another big night …

Orlando’s defense

I’ve got a stat that might surprise you. Orlando has the second-best defensive rating since the All-Star break (104.5). They give up the fewest second-chance points to their opponents and are first in defensive rebounding percentage (all since the All-Star break). This is not a team the Sixers can underestimate. Taking care of the ball must be a huge focus.

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Sixers' week ahead: A possible playoff preview, Tobias Harris' slump, Jimmy Butler's return to Minnesota

Sixers' week ahead: A possible playoff preview, Tobias Harris' slump, Jimmy Butler's return to Minnesota

While the sting of a disappointing loss in Atlanta is still fresh, the Sixers have a chance to redeem themselves Monday night in Orlando.

They’ll also host Brooklyn in a possible playoff preview and catch up with an old friend in Minnesota Saturday.

Here’s a look at the Sixers’ week ahead.

Hoping to find the Magic

Whether it was a letdown coming off a couple big wins or them taking a hungry young Hawks team too lightly, the Sixers simply didn’t show up Saturday night.

Their defense in the first half was horrendous as they allowed 74 points, the most they’ve surrendered to an opponent in a half this season. They struggled with a familiar issue, failing to stifle rookie Trae Young in the pick-and-roll.

But as Brett Brown alluded to postgame, it wasn’t strategy. It was execution.

“We had probably three or four different [adjustments] from blitzing to switching to hedging to dropping,” Brown said. “If you really dug in and looked at that, you would have seen that. I can’t say that any of them were incredibly effective, but they did force us to try and make different adjustments in the pick-and-roll.”

Expect a better effort Monday against a Magic team that’s fighting for its playoff life.

Tobi will come around

Tobias Harris was a monster in his first eight games as a Sixer, averaging 21.9 points while shooting 55 percent from the field and 42 percent from three. In his last 11, he’s down to 17.3 points on 45 percent from the field and 31 percent from three.

Harris is having an All-Star-caliber season, but every player — especially shooters — has their ups and downs. JJ Redick is a perfect example. He wasn’t hitting anything after the All-Star break and then followed it up with a torrid five-game stretch in which he shot 55 percent from three.

Whether it’s fatigue — he’s played in all 74 games for his teams this season — or just a rough patch, Harris deserves the benefit of the doubt given his recent track record. Also, it’s better that he gets this kind of slump out of the way now instead of mid-April. 

Playoff preview?

The Nets have given the Sixers fits this season. Guards D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie have scorched them, averaging a combined 51 points while both shooting over 55 percent in three matchups this season.

The only Sixers’ win was because of a furious comeback capped off by a ridiculous Jimmy Butler game-winner. In fairness, the teams haven’t squared off since Dec. 12 and Butler was out of the lineup — Furkan Korkmaz started in his place — in a three-point Sixers’ loss. This isn't even the same Sixers team.

If the playoffs started today, this would be the first-round matchup. It would behoove the Sixers to show up Thursday in front of their home crowd.

The return of Jimmy

Butler will return to Minnesota for the first time since the drama of his trade request ultimately landed him on the Sixers. 

While Butler was relatively quiet in the Sixers’ blowout win back on Jan. 15, he’s been a force recently. Over his last five games, Butler is averaging 23.8 points a game. 

The two most encouraging signs are his free throws and threes in that span. Butler has been aggressive getting to the rim, averaging 8.8 free throw attempts a game. Him attempting 3.2 threes and hitting 38 percent from there is a huge boon for his fit alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

The Sixers will also see Dario Saric for the second time as an opponent. Saric was such a key part of the Sixers’ playoff run last season, but has struggled to carve out a consistent role with the Timberwolves. Robert Covington, the key asset in that deal, is sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Covington hasn’t played in 2019.

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