Noah Levick

Sixers managing partner Josh Harris discusses LeBron James meeting, general manager search and more

Sixers managing partner Josh Harris discusses LeBron James meeting, general manager search and more

“It’s been really insane.”

Those were the first words Sixers managing partner Josh Harris used Wednesday to describe the team’s offseason. It’s hard to disagree with him.

Speaking Wednesday with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Amy Fadool, Harris discussed why he’s encouraged by the team's getting a meeting with LeBron James’ representatives, what he’s looking for in his next general manager, and more.

On the significance of the Sixers being the only team James’ representatives met with besides the Lakers
“It’s a big deal. LeBron obviously carries a lot of weight and certainly people were pretty focused on the Sixers anyway and the strength of our program, but certainly it underscores that. Other potential free agents, trade partners, they notice. Obviously re-signing JJ [Redick] and Amir [Johnson] and adding Wilson [Chandler] and [Nemanja] Bjelica allowed us to strengthen our team. So I think we’re going to get better next year, certainly in the regular season and then advance further in the playoffs. We’re one of the three teams in the East — Toronto, Boston and us, certainly with LeBron going to the West. We’re going to be here for a long time and we’re focused on winning a championship for the city, like we’ve been saying.”

While James didn’t actually personally talk with the Sixers, you can understand why Harris would tout the meeting as a success for the organization despite James signing with the Lakers. His comment about the Sixers' being “one of the three teams in the East” is also interesting — the Bucks, Pacers and Wizards might have something to say about that. But there’s no denying that, with James in Los Angeles, the Sixers have a legitimate chance at an Eastern Conference title. 

On the experience of being in a meeting for a high-profile free agent like James
“It was great, it was exciting. We’re focused on it going forward; next year we have a lot of cap space. Philly is a great free-agent destination right now with our two young stars, Ben [Simmons] and Joel [Embiid], Markelle [Fultz] hopefully our third star — we’ll see  — Dario [Saric], [Robert] Covington, JJ Redick and the culture that Brett Brown’s built, the new gym in Camden, Philly is a great city. And people are focused on where we are. There’s a bunch of free agents next year. Clearly we have the trade market we’re working on. I think that we’re going to have a lot of opportunities and keep focusing on how to make our team better.”

Harris is correct that there will be plenty of free agents on the market next year, including Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler and Kevin Love. And with the contracts of Redick, Johnson, Chandler and Blejica all up after this season, the Sixers will have plenty of cap space next offseason as things stand. Of course, as Harris says, their current focus is on "the trade market" and the big name that reportedly remains available, Kawhi Leonard.

On the search for the Sixers’ next general manager
“We’re just getting focused on it now, given everything with free agency and the draft, and also the other GMs are in the same place. We’re looking for the right person. One of the things that [former president of basketball operations] Bryan Colangelo did really well was, we built a great staff, whether it be [vice president of basketball operations and chief of staff] Ned Cohen or [vice president of analytics and strategy] Alex Rucker or [vice president of player personnel] Marc Eversley or [Delaware Blue Coats general manger] Elton Brand, we have a lot of great people. It’s very consensus-oriented, there’s a lot of people in the dialogue, and we want to make sure we find the right fit for that. It’s not going to be easy. My guess is it’s going to take awhile. And we’re obviously focused on doing it as quickly as possible, but at the same time I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations — it could take a little while. So we’re just starting that.”

Harris clearly hasn’t had a great sense of urgency in finding a new general manager, and it continues to sound like he isn’t in a hurry. The timing of the Colangelo scandal couldn’t have been much worse for the Sixers. Rushing to hire someone before the start of the draft or free agency would probably not have been a smart move, especially given how much Harris and the Sixers value the team element of front-office decision-making. 

Monday, The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported that Harris would prefer to hire someone with previous GM experience. In those comments, Harris also used the phrase “consensus-oriented,” as he did Wednesday, so it appears that finding a candidate who can work well as part of a group is definitely a priority.

But the bottom line is, as trade talks with the Spurs reportedly continue for Leonard, Brett Brown is still the man in charge.

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5 Sixers summer league observations: Zhaire Smith shows flashes of brilliance in loss to Lakers

5 Sixers summer league observations: Zhaire Smith shows flashes of brilliance in loss to Lakers

If you stayed up into the early hours of Sunday morning on the East Coast to watch the Sixers take on the Lakers in their second MGM Resorts Summer League game, you got to see a number of incredible highlight-reel plays from Zhaire Smith.

However, you didn’t get to see much in the way of outside shooting. The Sixers shot just 38.3 percent from the floor and made only 3 of 29 three-pointers in a 96-79 loss to the Lakers.

Here are five observations from the Sixers’ defeat:

1. Friday night wasn’t a bad debut for Smith, but he showed lot more of why the Sixers think he could eventually be a special player against the Lakers. 

Smith scored his first basket of the night on a nice pump fake and drive to the rim for an authoritative dunk. 

Later in the first quarter, Smith made an impressive play in transition, attacking the lane and dropping off a no-look pass to Cameron Oliver for a dunk. 

At the start of the second, Smith found Oliver again after getting the fast break started with a steal, and Oliver’s dunk was high on style points.

Smith vs. Villanova product Josh Hart was a fun matchup to watch. Hart has a full season of NBA experience, but Smith held his own. Overall, Smith defended well, although he did get caught up on a couple screens.

Hart looked like the best player on the floor, showcasing his versatile offensive game. He finished with 24 points, most of it against defenders other than Smith. 

While it will continue to take time for Smith to get comfortable on the wing, he cuts well off the ball and seems to have a good feel for how to fit in an offense. The Sixers made a concerted effort to involve Smith more offensively. 

“We're trying to get him to be as aggressive as he can," Sixers summer league head coach Kevin Young told reporters after the game. "Especially with Shamet going out, there's more opportunity for someone to be that offensive guy. I don't think it's innately in his DNA, but this is a great environment for him to explore that."

In the second half, Smith forced a few shots and missed a couple open three-pointers. But he kept making incredibly athletic plays, throwing down a putback dunk, slamming in a lob off a baseline out-of bounds play and converting an and-one with a smart cut to the rim and strong finish. 

The hang time on the lob was absolutely ridiculous.

He scored a team-high 16 points, shooting 6 for 13 from the floor and 3 for 3 at the foul line, with three assists and three steals. 

"First one I might be a little nervous," Smith said after the game, "but this game I was relaxed. Talked to Coach [Brett] Brown. He said I played like a 'C' last game, try to get to a 'B.' I did good last game but just do better and be relaxed, play like yourself. It's the summer league; you're going to get better and you're going to learn." 

Smith probably won’t have many (if any) plays called for him in the regular season, so it will be important for him to contribute as a cutter, offensive rebounder and three-point shooter. 

2. Furkan Korkmaz couldn’t do it again. The night after his incredible 40-point performance against the Celtics, Korkmaz struggled to find that same shooting stroke against the Lakers. He had four points, shooting 1 for 9 overall and 0 for 7 from long range.

He missed an open three-pointer from the right wing on the Sixers’ first possession, and that set the tone. To be fair to Korkmaz, the Sixers’ offense didn’t generate many open looks for him, so he had to try to create scoring opportunities on his own. 

"In the game, I wasn't feeling good, wasn't feeling in shape," Korkmaz said. "It was back-to-back games. Everybody was focused but sometimes you are making shots, sometimes you are missing. Today was maybe one of my worst games." 

Can Korkmaz earn a spot in the rotation? He obviously shouldn’t be judged solely on this rough outing or on his offensive explosion Friday night. But he’ll have another opportunity to impress Brett Brown and make a case for earning minutes off the bench in the Sixers’ next contest Monday night against the Wizards at 5:30 p.m (NBCSP+).

3. Like in the first game, it was a mixed bag from Jonah Bolden. On a positive note, he seemed comfortable grabbing rebounds and quickly looking up-court to start fast breaks. 

But Bolden couldn’t ever assert his will on the game. He’s 3 for 10 from the floor overall in summer league. A second quarter air ball from long range was a low moment. Just like last summer, there’s a lot to like about his game, but it also seems rough around the edges. He's said he plans on playing for the Sixers this season, but you'd think the team would feel a lot better about the idea of bringing him over if his game was more refined.

Bolden had five points, four rebounds and three steals in 23 minutes.

4. The Sixers’ offense was not the prettiest thing to watch, which you expect in the second game of summer league. 

Down 17 early in the third quarter, the Sixers found a little more of a rhythm to avoid being completely blown off the floor, though the Lakers extended their lead late after the Sixers cut it to single-digits at one stage. Demetrius Jackson had a couple strong drives to the hoop in the second half, while Askia Booker had nine points on 4 for 11 shooting after going scoreless against Boston. 

Oliver was another bright spot, posting 12 points and eight rebounds. 

5. It’s a shame for the Sixers that Landry Shamet’s summer league campaign was cut short by a right ankle injury (see story). You sense that Shamet, a smart playmaker at Wichita, could’ve helped get the Sixers’ offense flowing.

It also just would’ve been great to experiment more playing Shamet both on and off-ball. For Shamet, it’s a missed opportunity to acclimate to the increased physicality of the NBA and start to find his niche at the next level, although he said he can still gain something from his summer league experience. 

"Just watching and learning," Shamet said. "I've been in this situation before where I've had to watch with my foot injuries. There's a lot of information still to be taken in, lot of learning. That'll be no problem, it'll just be something where I continue to take information in." 

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Sixers sign Landry Shamet to rookie contract

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sixers sign Landry Shamet to rookie contract

Both Sixers’ first-round picks in this year’s draft are now officially part of the team.

The Sixers on Wednesday officially signed Landry Shamet, the No. 26 selection in the draft. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Two days earlier, they signed Zhaire Smith

Shamet, known for his sharpshooting and intelligent playmaking, averaged 14.9 points and an American Athletic Conference-best 5.2 assists per game as a junior at Wichita State, shooting 44.2 percent from three-point range.

According to Kevin Young, who will coach the Sixers in summer league, Shamet will play mainly as a two-guard, although he will get some minutes at the point guard spot as well. Shamet has experience at both guard positions in college, and that versatility is one reason he was attractive to the Sixers.

After four physical days of minicamp, Shamet is looking forward to summer league. The Sixers’ first game in Las Vegas is Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the Celtics. 

“Little beat up,” Shamet said. “Obviously, that was expected. It’s a physical game. But overall I feel really good, excited. [Wednesday] was probably our best practice yet, guys looked really good. We’re starting to click and gel and get to know each other really well. Overall, learned a lot and just excited to get out to Vegas.”

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