Raul Neto

Sixers know what they're getting in Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III, and it's not a 'magic bullet'

Sixers know what they're getting in Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III, and it's not a 'magic bullet'

Raul Neto lost one former Utah Jazz teammate and gained another on Thursday.

The Sixers waived Trey Burke and traded for Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks, who spent the first seven-plus years of his career in Utah. They also dealt James Ennis to the Orlando Magic.

Neto has a very high opinion of Burks.

“He was injured a lot while I was there, so I could see he was a hard worker, always positive, always trying to help the team,” Neto told reporters before the Sixers’ loss Thursday night to the Bucks. “He's obviously a great player, a talented player. He can score in many ways and he plays hard, so I think he is going to be good for us.

“It's crazy, because I've always said he is one of the most talented players I have been around, he just hasn't found his rhythm in this league. I remember in Utah, he had a couple of back-to-back games where he scored 28, 30 point. … Offensively, he is just so talented. He can score in any kind of way, can shoot the ball, draw fouls, can score in the paint. He is a really good player.”

Though he ultimately won the competition between himself and Burke in the sense that he’s still on the roster, Neto did not play Thursday. Shake Milton instead took over backup point guard duties in addition to continuing in his role as a replacement starter for Josh Richardson, who’s missed the past six games with a left hamstring strain. A team spokesperson said Wednesday that Richardson is nearing a return. 

Neto’s 19-point first half last Tuesday vs. Golden State was a pleasant surprise for the Sixers. He’s shot 0 for 14 since that game. 

Rapid bursts of scoring are much more in character for Burks than for Neto. With the Warriors, he had 13 20-plus point performances, albeit on a team that has the worst record in the NBA. 

As head coach Brett Brown adjusts to having Burks and Robinson, he'll at least have a personal familiarity with the 26-year-old Robinson. The two were together briefly when Robinson played 10 games as a rookie on the 2014-15 Sixers. Brown also knows Robinson’s father, Glenn “Big Dog Robinson,” since Brown was serving as the Spurs’ director of player development when Robinson was with San Antonio for the final stop of his 11-year NBA career.

“Glenn, who I've had before, kind of a two-way player, can make shots,” Brown said.  “I think he's shooting 40 percent from three and has grown his defense. He's good people. When you started coaching people's fathers, you know you're getting old.” 

This trade deadline for the Sixers was certainly not as earth-shattering as last year’s. While Brown will have to figure out how to allocate minutes, rotations and roles, it won’t be anything like incorporating Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, Boban Marjanovic, Ennis and Jonathon Simmons. The urgency with this team is more about fixing problems with the current pieces than adjusting to new ones. Brown also believes that Burks and Robinson’s skill sets “fit in incredibly well.”

“I think that there is always a consistency with rosters that all coaches seek,” he said. “Your point about that hasn’t been the way we’ve done things in my days in Philadelphia is true. But I think in those times, you kind have had to do it. I think that the group we have now is more than capable and I look forward to just taking the group ... and getting out of this losing slump, trying to fix our problems. 

“I think that you’re more apt and able to do that with the group that we have than thinking there’s a magic bullet out there to fix things. For those reasons, the group that I am left with, I’m excited to continue with.”

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Sixers players show support for new WNBA CBA

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Sixers players show support for new WNBA CBA

The WNBA and players union made huge strides on Tuesday when they came to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement that increases pay, improves travel accommodations, and provides better support for motherhood, amongst additional improvements.

It also brought awareness to those, including myself, that didn’t fully realize the extent for the limited support WNBA players receive.

For many, what might’ve seemed standard, are huge wins for the WNBA.

A brief overview:

• Seats now upgraded to economy plus or comfort plus (players will still travel commercial).

• Individual hotel rooms on the road (prior, this was reserved only for veterans).

• Full salary while on maternity leave (in the old CBA, a player could earn as little as half of her base salary if she missed the season due to pregnancy or childbirth).

• Significant salary bump for league’s highest-paid players (from an annual base salary of $117,500 to $215,000).

• Minimum salary for players with two years (or less) experience increased to $57,000 (from $41,965), and for three years (or more) to $68,000 (from $56,375).

• Potential to earn 50-50 revenue split with the league (currently estimated around 20 percent. In the NBA, it is near 50-50).

Sixers guard Josh Richardson voiced his support to NBC Sports Philadelphia on Wednesday.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Richardson said of the new CBA. “The last CBA was not super player friendly and I’m glad to see they get a bigger percentage and hopefully it can just keep increasing.”

“As a basketball player, I have sisters who play and who have put just as many hours as myself to play the game,” Tobias Harris said. “I think it’s good that now they can have an upgrade in pay to entice them for what they do, and I think it’s great they came to an agreement on that, and it’s well overdue.”

“I think it’s a huge step and I hope it continues because there are some other things that we want them to continue to get and showcase,” Al Horford said. “I was very happy when I saw the news that they would be getting some of those just basic things that they absolutely deserve.”

One of the biggest issues surrounding the WNBA is the fact that so many women have to go play overseas in their “offseason,” to be able to make a decent living.

This means that many professional women’s basketball players are playing year-round, something that Horford said he realized after training with Diana Taurasi early in his NBA career.

“No. 1, I think about the travel, and No. 2, having to play a sport year-round, and the fact that now the salaries have increased, I think that will help, maybe them not wanting to go overseas and playing so much.”

Under the new CBA, the average salaries are expected to increase to $130,000.

“It’s a grind,” Horford said. “I couldn’t imagine playing a full NBA season, and then having to go play overseas in the summer. I think it’s a huge step and we hope that things continue to fall in line because of that.”

Mention that full maternity leave was not part of the old CBA and players' eyes widen.

“That was ridiculous,” Harris said.

“It’s messed up,” Richardson said. “I just don’t think it’s how it should be working …”

“That was crazy,” Shake Milton said. “I don’t understand, they have to put everything on hold and have a child and don’t get paid? That’s wild to me.”

“I didn’t know all of that, but now I do know,” said Raul Neto. “It’s crazy.”

There’s one area where we can all agree.

“Changes that were long overdue,” Milton said.

“That deal should have been in place a long time ago,” Harris said.

“I just think a lot of people need to wake up and see that if you genuinely like basketball, you would have to like the WNBA. I think with this deal, more and more people should have appreciation for what they’re doing.”

And the future looks a little brighter for young girls wanting to be professional basketball players.

“I think it’s a big step for young girls that want to be basketball players, because if you want to be a basketball player and you see all the struggles, it’s something that kind of makes you step out of sports,” Neto said.

“It will be so good for the game of basketball in general, and for younger girls growing up, that can look at it as an outlet,” Milton said. “Before, a lot of people might not have stuck to it or chose that path just because of that. They deserve it, so it’s huge.”

“Those girls can play, they can really play,” Horford said. “Honestly, I’m just very happy that they are going to get more fair opportunities.”

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Don't look now, but the Sixers may actually have depth

Don't look now, but the Sixers may actually have depth

Before the 2018-19 season, the bench was a big concern for the Sixers. The trades for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris hurt their depth even more.

Fast-forward to now and Brett Brown almost has an embarrassment of riches. For the second straight game, 10 players contributed for the Sixers. On Sunday, it was in a much-needed 114-106 win over the Hornets in the team’s return to the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

The roster has so many viable basketball players that rookie Matisse Thybulle, who was such a huge part in the team getting out to a 5-0 start, was a DNP-CD Friday night in Denver and got only garbage time minutes against Charlotte.

And that’s with Ben Simmons missing the last two contests with a Grade 1 sprain of the AC joint in his right shoulder. With that, point guard Raul Neto and Trey Burke have seen a bump in their minutes and both have risen to the challenge.

Some of that has come at the expense of Thybulle.

“So, the flexibility that I have to play different people based on the injury to Ben Simmons as an example,” Brown said, “or with Denver, where we dealt with some flyers, I felt more comfortable going with the point guards doing that. It is the second game [Thybulle didn’t play]. I think like I said in the pregame press, it's just part of his life — it's the evolution of being an NBA rookie on a really good team. I'm mindful of keeping his spirit up and his confidence up and communicating with him on some of the things that I just said."

Neto has gotten the starting nod the last two games, but Burke has seen his first action of the season. While they were in clear competition during training camp and the preseason, neither player won the backup point guard role as Josh Richardson assumed those duties.

Both veteran players kept their head down and awaited their opportunity. With Simmons out, both have relished their chance to play.

Burke signed for the chance to win a championship and play for the team his idol Allen Iverson starred for during his Hall of Fame career.

But he also thinks he’s capable of delivering on the court.

“I'm a competitor, man,” Burke said. “I feel like I can help this out team with my skill set. I'm going to continue to work hard, continue to get better each and every day. But it felt great to get out there, second game. Still trying to get in a rhythm, be on the same page with guys. This win does a lot for our confidence coming off three straight losses."

The emergence of Furkan Korkmaz as Brown’s “bomber” off the bench has also complicated things for Thybulle.

Since hitting the game-winning three and salvaging the only win of the Sixers’ four-game West Coast swing in Portland, Korkmaz has looked like a totally different player. 

But really the turnaround started on Oct. 30 in a win over the Timberwolves. In the first three games of the season, Korkmaz just hit 1 of his 6 attempts from three and lost minutes to Shake Milton. Since then, he’s hit 18 of 36, a ridiculous 50 percent over his last six games.

More than that, there’s a confidence the 22-year-old Turkish wing is playing with that we hadn’t seen in his first two seasons here. His 17-point performance Sunday was needed.

“We were joking with him after Portland, saying he's a new man, but he is starting to play like it, too,” Tobias Harris said. “It's always good, a game like tonight for him to come off the bench and make three threes, score 17 points — that's a big lift for us."

All of this and we haven’t even mentioned James Ennis and Mike Scott, the only two feasible options off the bench during last season’s playoff run, or Kyle O’Quinn who has been so effective that he’s forced Brown to find minutes for him.

"That's a huge boost for us,” Harris said. “Obviously last year it was something we were trying to figure out. This year, even with guys that have been out and injured in games — Ben's out, so we get the backup play from Raul and Trey. Both of them have played really well. 

“There's a lot of great pieces. Matisse is a young player on our team who's going to continue to find his way throughout an NBA season. James has come out and played well. [We have] Mike off the bench. Our bench has given us a great spark, especially when they're called upon, too, each and every game. We've got a lot of depth. We've got a lot of guys who can play and help our team win."

Don’t look now, but the Sixers may actually have a bench.

 

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