76ers

What if rumored Tracy McGrady trade to Sixers happened?

What if rumored Tracy McGrady trade to Sixers happened?

For what felt like Allen Iverson’s entire career with the Sixers, the team was looking for an ideal sidekick.

Whether it was Toni Kukoc or Matt Harpring or Glenn Robinson or Chris Webber, the right fit never seemed to come to fruition.

There was one reported attempt to trade for a Robin to Iverson’s Batman that was thwarted by Stephen A. Smith — yes, that Stephen A. Smith. If you don’t know the story, the Sixers and Raptors supposedly had a deal in place in December of 1999 which would’ve sent McGrady and a first-round pick to Philadelphia for Larry Hughes.

Smith, then a columnist for the Inquirer, reported the agreement. After the news got out there, the Raptors allegedly got cold feet. Smith has confirmed this story to be true.

So, what if that trade goes down? Do Iverson and McGrady form one of the greatest backcourts in NBA history? Does it not work because there simply wouldn’t have been enough shots to go around?

McGrady started his Hall of Fame career playing next to a superstar in Vince Carter. The duo seemed to be creating something special in Toronto, but McGrady chose to return closer to home by signing with the Magic in 2000. The only reason the Raptors explored a trade in 1999 was McGrady’s pending free agency.

While Toronto fans can ponder what could’ve been, so, too, can Lakers fans. Jerry West apparently had his eyes on McGrady coming out of high school in 1997. West envisioned McGrady forming a dominant trio with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

While that never came to fruition, McGrady acknowledged that he’d heard that story before. On ESPN’s The Jump in 2017, McGrady talked about how he might’ve fit in L.A. playing next to Bryant.

“My career took a turn when I went to Orlando because I had to become a scorer because I didn’t have Grant Hill [because of injury]. I was always the player like a Scottie Pippen type — share the ball, defend the best player. That’s what I did in my three years in Toronto. I would’ve been that player alongside Kobe Bryant.”

When you look at McGrady’s final season in Toronto, it’s not hard to imagine him taking on a Pippen-like role next to Iverson. As a 20-year-old, McGrady averaged 15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.1 steals in 1999-00. That stat line lines up favorably next to Pippen’s career averages.

But would he have been comfortable in Iverson’s shadow after seemingly not enjoying being in Carter’s? As McGrady said, he went to the Magic thinking he’d playing alongside Hill, who at the time was one of the best players in the league and still ascending. Orlando also courted Tim Duncan in that wild offseason.

The bigger question is, would Iverson have been on board with McGrady as a running mate?

It wasn’t that long ago that the Sixers thought they had a dynamic duo of the future in Iverson and Jerry Stackhouse. That situation wound up being a disaster for the Sixers as there was a constant struggle between the two over whose team it was.

“I do remember them always having kind of a fight for whose team it was going to be,” former Sixer Scott Williams said on the Sixers Talk podcast, “because it had gone from the 80’s when it was the Los Angeles Lakers and Magic Johnson or the Boston Celtics and Larry Bird to becoming Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls or Charles Barkley and the Philadelphia 76ers. 

“So the league started to market players differently. They started putting players in front of the teams. And I think when these guys came in here starting in the mid-90’s, they started saying, ‘I want to be that guy whose name goes before the team’s.’ So, there was always that confrontation about who’s going to be the star of the show and it didn’t lead to good chemistry among the rest of us.”

It could’ve just been those specific players that couldn’t mesh. As mentioned, McGrady signed in Orlando with the idea of playing next to Hill and also had a successful stint in Houston playing with Yao Ming. It’s feasible that he could’ve done a similar thing with Iverson.

But was that the best strategy to suit Iverson’s strengths? The team’s best playoff run happened in 2001, when a roster full of tough, defensive-minded players surrounded the high-volume shooting guard. 

Though all of us may have yearned for that perfect Iverson sidekick, maybe the fact is he didn’t need one.

“Everybody in Philadelphia always had this idea that we needed another scorer to play with Allen,” former Sixers head coach Larry Brown said on the Sixers Talk podcast. “They brought in Glenn Robinson, they brought in Chris Webber at one time, they brought in Toni Kukoc, they brought in Matt Harpring — we can go on and on and on. But it was our belief, and my personal belief, that you had to surround Allen with the right kind of guys.”

Given the way McGrady’s career went as a two-time scoring champ, it may be hard to picture it all working out.

But if he would’ve played a Pippen role next to Iverson and possibly re-signed with the Sixers the following offseason, that could’ve been a dangerous basketball team for a long time.

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2020 NBA return format: NBPA approves return to play format

2020 NBA return format: NBPA approves return to play format

A day after the NBA’s Board of Governor’s approved a 22-team return to play format, the NBPA did so Friday evening, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

All 28 player reps approved the plan, which would see 22 teams head to Walt Disney World in Florida to finish out the 2019-20 season beginning July 31. The league will play eight regular-season games with the possibility of a play-in tournament for the eighth seed. The playoffs will follow the traditional format.

One of the new pieces of information presented Friday is that there will also be two or three preseason games before the season resumes.

On TNT Thursday night, commissioner Adam Silver said the league is in the “first inning” in its quest to return to play. The NBA suspended the season on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. 

According to Charania, players will undergo testing every day and there will be a minimum seven-day quarantine for any player that tests positive. If a player does contract the virus, play would continue.

“Of course we’ve always been looking for whether or not there is an appropriate and safe way that we can resume basketball,” Silver said, “and knowing that we’re going to be living with this virus for a while. … We’ve been exploring with the players whether there can be a new normal here.”

Another sticking point was a tentative date of Nov. 10 to start training camps for the 2020-21 season. Oct. 12 would be the last possible date for Game 7 of this year’s NBA Finals under this return-to-play plan. The NBPA told the players it’s “unlikely” the 2020-21 season would start on Dec. 1 and that it’s still being negotiated, per Charania.

With no fans in the stands, the two sides have also discussed pumping fan noise in courtesy of NBA2K.

The league and NBPA are still continuing to work out the health and safety details in the weeks leading up to a return.

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2020 NBA Draft profile: Jordan Nwora is a proven scorer, shooter

2020 NBA Draft profile: Jordan Nwora is a proven scorer, shooter

Jordan Nwora

Position: Forward
Height: 6-7
Weight: 225
School: Louisville

Six months ago, Jordan Nwora seemed like a lock to be selected in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft. Nwora was the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, poised to lead Louisville to a big season and cement his status as one of the best players in all of college basketball.

By all accounts, he had a very good — if not great — junior season. Nwora averaged 18 points and just under eight rebounds per game for a Louisville team that finished with a 24-7 record. He was named First Team All-ACC and finished second in conference player of the year voting behind Duke’s Tre Jones.

Yet here we are looking ahead to the draft and Nwora is considered a fringe first-round pick who is more likely to be selected in the second round. 

So, what went wrong? There are a couple theories. One, Nwora struggled in a handful of marquee games last season. He scored just eight points on 2 of 10 shooting in a loss at Kentucky and was held to six points on 3 of 12 shooting at Duke a couple weeks later. To make matters worse, he scored a total of seven points in back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and Clemson in mid-February.

There are also doubts as to whether Nwora showed enough improvement between his sophomore and junior seasons. Does he work hard enough? Is he committed to improving his game? These are questions that will follow Nwora as the draft approaches.

Strengths

Nwora is a proven scorer. He averaged 17 points as a sophomore and 18 points as a junior. He did so wearing a target on his back, particularly this past season. Opponents game planned to slow him down and he still put up big numbers against very good competition. 

He’s also a very efficient three-point shooter. Nwora shot better than 37 percent from long range during his sophomore year. He was even better last season, making 40 percent of his three-point attempts. His combination of size and shooting ability is very attractive to NBA talent evaluators.  

Weaknesses

Ball handling and defense top the list. Nwora should be an effective spot-up shooter in the NBA but his ability to create his own shot is questionable. His ball handling skills need significant improvement to be considered NBA-ready.

There are also legitimate concerns about his ability to defend on the pro level. Is he quick enough to guard smaller players on the perimeter? Is he strong enough to hold his own in the paint and on the boards? If Nwora ends up slipping to the second round, the defensive question marks will be the biggest reason why. 

Fit

Nwora could very well be selected early in the second round. The Sixers currently own the 34th and 36th picks and they need shooters. Nwora certainly fits that description. 
    
The Sixers could target him for his shooting ability and live with his shortcomings on the defensive end of the floor. Nwora to the Sixers isn’t a far-fetched scenario and definitely warrants serious consideration.  

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