Paul George

How Clippers reportedly landing Kawhi Leonard, Paul George impacts Sixers

How Clippers reportedly landing Kawhi Leonard, Paul George impacts Sixers

This has arguably been the craziest offseason in NBA history with so many stars changing places and shifting the balance of power.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more nuts, Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers said hold our beers.

In the wee hours Saturday, it was reported that the Finals MVP Leonard will sign a four-year max deal with the Clippers.

But wait, that’s not all …

L.A. also swung a deal for MVP finalist Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder “for a record-setting collection of draft choices,” per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This comes just a year after George signed a max deal with the Thunder.

So how does all this affect the Sixers? Well, good news, bad news.

The good news is that with Leonard out West and Kevin Durant likely not playing for the Nets this season, the Sixers have as good a chance as anyone to come out of the East. The bad news … well …

There are two legitimate juggernauts in the Western Conference with the pairings of Leonard and George and LeBron James and Anthony Davis with the Lakers (see story). And let’s not forget about the Warriors or the Rockets, who’ve run things in the conference the last couple years.

There is a path for the Sixers to become the best team in the East, though.

The Bucks will still be tough with the league’s MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Despite losing Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee did well to bring back Brook Lopez and George Hill and sign guys like Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez. While it lacks the star power of others, it looks to be the deepest team in the league.

Brooklyn, though much more formidable than it was a year ago now with Kyrie Irving, will not quite be at the upper echelon of the conference with Durant’s Achilles injury and uncertain timetable. The Celtics are a bit of wild card. They signed Kemba Walker, who should flourish in Boston, but lost Irving, and more importantly Al Horford. The Raptors went on a historic run last season, but without Leonard, it’s difficult to see them repeating that journey. They’re still dangerous, but not quite like they were.

The Sixers still have plenty to sort out. Will the starting five feature enough shooting and scoring? Will Tobias Harris continue to improve and look more like the Clippers version? Will Horford and Joel Embiid be a good fit? And the most important question of all: Will Embiid and Ben Simmons be motivated by last year’s playoff defeat and make the necessary improvements to join the NBA’s elite?

With Leonard heading out to Hollywood, the East is truly up for grabs. The Sixers should have as good, if not better, chance than anyone to take it.

But beating one of the West teams in the Finals? That would be a tall order.

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Sixers fans need to relax about team's offseason

Sixers fans need to relax about team's offseason

Here’s a brief message that some Sixers fans can use right now: relax.

Remember that you have a team with two budding superstars that reached the Eastern Conference semifinals just last season and should only be headed upward from here.

Sure, there’s going to be some level of disappointment when Brett Brown proclaimed the Sixers were going “star hunting” this summer only to come up empty on the free-agent market outside of re-signing their own players.

But, more than anything, how things transpired for the Sixers over the past few weeks should let you know that much more goes into landing a free agent than simply basketball.

Look at the first major domino to fall in free agency, Paul George. The five-time All-Star didn’t hesitate to make his decision and announced he was rejoining the Oklahoma City Thunder at a Russell Westbrook party shortly after midnight on July 1.

Despite the Sixers being in the mix for George, the Thunder always had the upper hand. The Thunder had George in the fold for a full year after acquiring him from Indiana last summer and used every day to convince him OKC was the right place to move forward.

“They honestly check the boxes where I needed those boxes to be checked from what a player wants and needs out of a front office, out of a medical group, out of teammates, out of coaching staff,” George said during exit interviews. “I mean, honestly, they can't say it anymore [than] that. They checked the boxes on what needs to be checked.”

Even with George on the market, the Sixers always had their top focus on the biggest available fish in the game: LeBron James. They even secured a meeting with James’ camp, albeit only with agent Rich Paul and not the three-time champion himself. 

Still, the Sixers, with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid leading the way, were serious contenders for James as Paul confirmed.

"The teams that he looked at, he looked at for guys like Ben Simmons,” Paul, who is also Simmons’ agent, said on NBA TV during a summer league game. “There's a reason why he looked at Philadelphia, but ultimately he chose the Lakers.”

And what ultimately made James join the Lakers, no matter what his representatives say to the contrary, had little to do with basketball. James has turned himself into an entertainment mogul, so who better to learn from than Magic Johnson? 

After all, King James reportedly already had dinner in Los Angeles last week with Al Pacino and Leonardo DiCaprio

We all love Philadelphia, but those types of Hollywood power brokers aren’t exactly making reservations for restaurants on Broad Street.

So the Sixers swung and missed on George for familiarity and James for off-court opportunities. 

Perhaps you can swallow missing out on two of the game’s best players, but now role players are spurning the franchise too? That’s enough to push a Sixers fan over the edge … until you dig a little bit deeper.

Nemanja Bjelica had his qualifying offer with the Minnesota Timberwolves rescinded and immediately jumped to the best situation for him when he reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Sixers.

However, Bjelica informed the team he was backing out of the deal and returning to Europe. That was until fellow Serbian and Kings general manager, Vlade Divac, came calling. Now the two sides are apparently deep in discussion on a multi-year contract.

Once you push through the initial wave of confusion, you find out that Bjelica simply didn’t want to move his family to Philadelphia for a year and be back on the hunt next summer. He was seeking what most of us do in a new job, which is stability. 

While that may seem a bit unreasonable for an NBA reserve big man, you can’t blame a guy for trying. And now it appears he may find some of what he desired in Sacramento.

Back here in Philadelphia, the Sixers are surely second-guessing what happened to their star hunt this offseason. While it came up empty-handed, the Sixers — and their fans — have to understand that so much more factors into securing a free agent than what actually takes place on the court and is not a red flag on the franchise.

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How do Sixers stack up in competition for LeBron James?

How do Sixers stack up in competition for LeBron James?

So the mad news bomber, Adrian Wojnarowski, dropped some napalm Sunday morning. The ESPN NBA insider extraordinaire is reporting that the Sixers will meet with LeBron James' representatives in Los Angeles on Sunday. James apparently will not be on hand.

What does this mean?

So, you’re saying there’s a chance?

First off, they are in the game. This may not be much of a consolation prize if the Sixers don’t reel in the biggest fish in the sea, but you’ve got to be in it to win it. It also speaks to how far the club has come from a 10-win laughingstock to one of less than a handful of teams he would even consider.

Kawhi tie

Marc Stein of The New York Times is reporting part of the Sixers' sales pitch to James is they believe they have a real chance to land Kawhi Leonard in a deal with the Spurs. With Paul George opting not to go home to L.A. and staying put in Oklahoma City, Leonard could be the piece that sways James. Both the Sixers and the Lakers have the assets and cap space to pull off a Leonard deal. The Spurs hold the cards here for now. The Lakers could offer Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and more. The Sixers have reportedly discussed a trade package internally that involves Dario Saric, Robert Covington and Miami's 2021 unprotected first-rounder. Slight advantage: Lakers.

Brett Brown spent 15 years in the Spurs organization working alongside Gregg Popovich and with Leonard for a couple of years. There is a strong relationship there on both fronts. Also, San Antonio may not want to move Leonard in the same conference. Advantage: Sixers.

If you use the George/OKC blueprint, it’s worth the gamble of giving up quality players and picks just to get Leonard (who can opt out of the final year of his contract next summer) in-house to show him what this franchise and city are all about (see story). Playing alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, being coached by Brown and embraced by a city that is obsessed with this basketball team could be intoxicating enough to make Leonard want to stay in Philly long term. James believing Leonard to Philly is a legit possibility with Embiid and Simmons, that’s how a possibly made-up mind changes.    

Home-court advantage

Unfortunately for the Sixers, James' decision may not come down to basketball. It may be as simple as he and his family want to live full-time in Los Angeles. If that’s the case, all bets could be off. Conversely, if it is about hoops, winning titles and furthering his legend, James needs to ask himself, if Leonard isn't dealt to the Lakers then how far is he going in the Western Conference with Ingram, Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and possibly a DeMarcus Cousins? Can they even reach a conference final? The East would be an easier path and Simmons, Embiid, Saric, and Markelle Fultz are a better core. Cleveland shouldn't be written off but considering their personnel and cap situation, this has the feel of a two-horse race with the Lakers and the Sixers.

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