Sixers hold final pre-deadline practice, battle 1-on-1 before facing Boston


The Sixers’ final practice before the trade deadline took place as scheduled Tuesday.

Notably, that did not happen last season, when Sixers head coach Doc Rivers canceled practice and a few players fired up half-court shots while waiting for big news to break.

“Well, it’s much different than last year,” Rivers said Tuesday. “Last year we had a trade happening in the middle of practice, if you remember. And we all pretty much knew who the trade involved. So that was a tough one last year.”

James Harden as a Sixer is no longer a novelty in any way. The 33-year-old has capitalized on a full offseason to be a very strong lead ball handler — albeit not an All-Star — for the 34-18 Sixers. 

There’s no drama surrounding Harden’s deadline fate this season, although Rivers acknowledged that trade-related buzz is hard to completely avoid. 

“I’m sure it has an impact on our team a little bit, because I think everybody on our team other than Joel (Embiid) and James has been mentioned at least once,” he said with a laugh. “But listen, in two days it’s over with and we can get back to playing.”

The Sixers do have one contest left before Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline, and it’s a relatively significant for a regular-season game. They’ll visit the defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics on Wednesday night.


Boston is at the top of the East standings, three games ahead of the No. 3 Sixers. Whether or not the Sixers catch the Celtics, they saw last season how important regular-season series can be. The Bucks, Sixers and Celtics all had 51-31 records. The Sixers lost both tiebreakers, faced a pesky Raptors team in Round 1, and ultimately lost to the Heat in the second round. 

Three of their final 32 games are against the Celtics, who beat the Sixers on opening night despite a stellar performance by Harden. 

“I just think any of the times you play a good team, it has more juice,” Rivers said. “I don’t know if it has more meaning, but it has more juice to it. But again, you catch a team in the regular season and we could be coming off a stretch, they could be playing well, they could have injuries. 

“That’s why you just don’t overdo a regular-season game, except for Boston’s a team you have to beat to get to the Finals, because they’re the Eastern Conference champions. So might as well get in the habit now.”

Rivers said Tuesday’s practice was not especially intense following a frustrating loss Sunday to the Knicks. However, his players exhibited ample competitiveness once the official session wrapped up. Harden, PJ Tucker, Danuel House Jr., Georges Niang, Montrezl Harrell and Paul Reed all matched up in King of the Court-style 1-on-1 action. Niang is not the most nimble or intimidating among that group — and he’d gladly tell you the same — but he had a good day. 

Though Niang knows he generally shouldn’t stray much from catch-and-shoot three-pointers in games, he enjoys incorporating subtle skills like off-rhythm drives and side-step jumpers. 

“I think I’m just a basketball fanatic,” Niang said. “I love the game. When I’m at home, I’m always watching it. One-on-one I think is how everybody came up. … I think it just brings you back to the joy of the game and why you play — talking smack and defending someone 1-on-1; there’s no help. 

“But implementing those things in my game I think is just me always trying to improve in my role, whether that’s defenses are guarding me differently or there’s new, creative ways I can get my shot off … because God didn’t bless me with a 40-inch vertical.”

Niang insisted that he’s not preoccupied with pre-deadline rumors. 

“Someone gave me the best advice,” he said. “They’re like, ‘The NBA is how little can you actually give an F, but actually give an F?’ I can’t control any of that, so why consume my mind with something I have zero control over? All I control is my attitude, my effort, and how I treat other people. And hopefully, if I get traded, that carries on to where I’m at. 


“But other than that, you have to trust in the hard work and who you are, and that no matter where you go, you’re going to land on your feet. So I don’t want to get too deep on you, but I really don’t think about it at all.”

De’Anthony Melton, meanwhile, admitted that it can be fascinating to think about how different the league might look in a few days. 

“We’re in a business,” Melton said. “The biggest thing I feel bad for is people who’ve got to move their family, move their kids, stuff like that. But we understand it’s a business. We come to work every day and we get to play the game of basketball. 

“It’s a tricky business, but at the same time, I ain’t going to lie, it’s a little entertaining … just to see. There’s so many potentials and all this stuff. It’s just cool to see sometimes, but I don’t get into none of it. If it happens, it happens.”