76ers

Vegas gives Sixers best odds to land LeBron James

Vegas gives Sixers best odds to land LeBron James

It’s all happening.

Despite LeBron James willing the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, the Sixers are considered the favorites to land the King.

There’s been no shortage of excitement for a possible James arrival in Philly. Sixers fans have been following the breadcrumbs in hopes LeBron will want to team up with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and company.

James has taken the Cavs to the Finals in four straight seasons against the Warriors. The last time LeBron’s team didn’t make the Finals was during his first run in Cleveland during the 2009-10 season.

At 33, James had the best season of his career and is having the best individual postseason of his career. He’s averaging 34 points a game and shooting 54 percent from the field in 41.3 minutes a game in the playoffs.

Trey Burke showing why Sixers brought him here

Trey Burke showing why Sixers brought him here

When Trey Burke had an opportunity to sign with the Sixers this summer, he jumped on it.

He expressed his desire to get back to winning, like he did at Michigan when he was named national college player of the year. The fact that he’d be playing in the city where his idol Allen Iverson starred was also a great perk.

But ultimately, he just thought he had the skills that could help the Sixers and allow him to earn minutes. In Wednesday night’s 109-104 win over the Knicks, Burke proved that and more. 

Trailing by as many as 17 points in the third quarter, Brett Brown was looking for answers. He went to a lineup featuring Burke and Ben Simmons. It’s been a pairing Brown has been reluctant to go to, but it wound up winning the Sixers the game.

“We ended up leaning on Trey Burke as a two,” Brown said, “somebody that could do some stuff off a live ball and I thought his intensity changed the pace, the speed, the energy in the gym.”

When Burke had his first exposure to the Philadelphia media in a conference call, he said he was excited about the possibility of not only competing to back up Simmons, but also play alongside the young All-Star. Burke’s speed suits Simmons’ skill set. As does his ability to shoot the basketball and create his own shot.

Having two proficient ball handlers on the floor allowed the Sixers to get out and run and put the Knicks back on their heels.

“He gets it, I can just run and go. If I can get it, he can just run and go,” Burke said. “It’s our first time playing together so I can’t sit up here and be like, ‘Oh, we love playing with each other.’ But I loved that out there. I liked what I saw. I think coach liked what he saw, as well. I think we complemented each other well. We’ll see going forward.”

Burke numbers weren’t mind blowing (nine points, two assists), but he helped loosen things up.

As Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton both struggled defensively, Brown turned to Simmons to slow down New York’s guards. As Simmons took the game over on both ends, Burke was able to help by using his speed and quickness to take attention away from Simmons.

He also got a timely bucket during the team’s run and helped the Sixers close out the game thanks to his ability to take care of the basketball.

I kept searching trying to find something,” Brown said. “We tried Furk, I went away from him. We tried Shake, I went away from him. ... And then, as I said, you end up going to a point guard, a scoring point guard, like Trey is and treating him like A.I. Letting him just kind of run off the ball and looping him up and giving him the ball and put him in pick-and-rolls. I thought he was really good, but the iterations to get to that were frustrating.

Burke’s NBA road has been a winding one. After falling short of expectations as a top-10 pick, Burke has bounced around from Utah to Washington to New York to Dallas. He hasn’t followed his hero Iverson’s career trajectory, but he’s learned to star in his role.

He didn’t start the season as a regular contributor but has earned minutes recently as the Sixers’ backup point guard in front of Raul Neto. Burke admitted that the irregularity in playing is something that would’ve affected him when he was younger.

Now, he’s ready for whatever opportunity presents itself.

Knowing that I’ve been through it, knowing that I’ve turned it around,” Burke said when asked how he stays prepared. “Last year, playing in the G League … then, playing 30 minutes a night. So, situations can change depending on the mentality that you approach the day with. Besides all of that, just faith. It’s easier said than done. But you’ve gotta have something you can lean on when things get tough. Because we’re humans as well. We go home, face realities like everybody else.

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More on the Sixers

The story of the best day of Furkan Korkmaz's life is adorable

The story of the best day of Furkan Korkmaz's life is adorable

Furkan Korkmaz hitting a game winner for the Sixers in Portland earlier this month was a great moment for Philadelphia fans.

It was the best day of Korkmaz's life.

At least that's the story as told by ESPN's Zach Lowe who has a fantastic look at the state of the Sixers this morning with a focus on the great chemistry surrounding the team this season off of the court.

Lowe's piece opens with a scene in Portland that is just adorable:

The Philadelphia 76ers mobbed Furkan Korkmaz after his winning buzzer-beater in Portland on Nov. 2, but what they have cherished more than the win is the night that unfolded afterward. Tobias Harris organized a gathering at a local club to celebrate. Every player on the trip came but Al Horford, who says he was more or less a DNP-OLD.

They toasted Korkmaz. At one point, Josh Richardson approached Korkmaz and asked what he was feeling. "This is the best day of my life," Korkmaz replied with an earnestness that surprised Richardson. Mike Scott raised his voice an octave to imitate Korkmaz's giddiness in a separate conversation at the club: "'I never felt like this beforeeeeeeee!'"

Korkmaz has been a different player this season, one coach Brett Brown hopes to turn into a serious "bomber" from deep. He's gone from a fringe player on the roster to a guy who has filled in on the starting line up at times this season, including last night against the New York Knicks.

There's plenty of team bonding happening in the Lowe piece and we're also informed that Joel Embiid is a steakhouse kind of guy, which seems about right. There's also a scene in which Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are watching a Lakers game in the team's hotel lobby while on the road. 

You love to see it. 

The chemistry off the court is improving dramatically this season, hopefully that starts to translate to the work on the court. It'd be nice to see Korkmaz have a few more of the "best days of his life" before this season is over.