Tobias Harris

2020 NBA return format: Why NBA's return format is a blessing for Sixers

2020 NBA return format: Why NBA's return format is a blessing for Sixers

The NBA's Board of Governors has agreed on a format to return to play, but here’s an unfortunate reminder that the Sixers weren’t in an advantageous spot when play was suspended on March 11.

They sat sixth in the Eastern Conference, likely out of reach of anything better than the four seed. What’s worse is they were beset by injuries, baffling road woes and underperformance from some of the team’s high-priced talent.

The league announced on Thursday it will play eight more regular-season games starting on July 31 — and that’s great news for the Sixers because they need all eight of them.

Let’s begin where everything begins with the Sixers: Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

Before the stoppage of play, Simmons had missed eight games with a nerve impingement in his lower back. Prior to us finding out about Rudy Gobert’s positive test for COVID-19 and the league’s decision to suspend the season, Simmons addressed the media that night. He said he had “no pain” and seemed to have a positive outlook on his injury overall.

On May 5, GM Elton Brand said he was "optimistic" Simmons would be ready if a return to play happened. Brand did admit, though, that Simmons’ ramp-up period may be a little different from other players since the All-Star point guard hasn’t played in a game since Feb. 22. These eight games will be invaluable for Simmons to get his feel back.

While the rest may have been good for Simmons, it may have been a bit of a mixed bag for Embiid. Sure, the break likely gave Embiid time to rest his body, but the All-Star center has admitted in the past that he can get out of shape easily with too much time off. At 7-foot and 280-plus pounds, Embiid will need these eight games to get his fitness level up so that Brett Brown can play him “about 38 minutes” a night in the postseason.

Then there’s Josh Richardson, whose first season with the Sixers has been mired by injuries. Multiple hamstring injuries and a concussion have cost Richardson 17 games. He also had a wrist issue in his right shooting hand that he played through. We’ve seen Richardson struggle to get his shooting touch back after long layoffs. He’s hit just 32.7 percent of his threes this season, which would be the lowest mark of his five-year career. When healthy, Richardson has had a couple excellent stretches. Perhaps he can use those eight games to find his form.

But all the health in the world won’t mean much if the Sixers don’t get the best out of their high-priced starting five.

The struggles of Al Horford have been well documented. Brought in to space the floor with Embiid and be an elite backup center, Horford has really only provided half of that equation. The five-time All-Star is on pace for his worst shooting season since 2014-15. While Horford is a clear upgrade over Boban Marjanovic and Greg Monroe, the pairing of Embiid and the veteran big offensively has been plain bad.

The duo of Embiid and Horford has an offensive rating of 100.6. That’s almost six points worse than any of the Sixers’ two-man pairings last season (minimum 500 minutes). It doesn’t take an analytics wizard to see that it hasn't worked.

Brown has been hellbent on making the pairing work despite fairly strong evidence that it does not. The best blueprint for the Sixers was their win over the Clippers right before the All-Star break. Horford did not start but closed the game out in an impressive win. Perhaps these eight games will allow Brown to get the duo going or, more reasonably, see that it won’t work and go in a different direction.

Last but certainly not least is the man who signed the richest contract in Sixers history. Tobias Harris has not been bad by any stretch. In fact, you could make the argument that he's been the team's most reliable and consistent player this season. But is that worth over $32 million this season?

Harris was re-signed to be a leader — a role he's filled well — and to be a scoring complement to Embiid and Simmons. During that trio's time together, they've all scored 20 points in the same game once. These eight games are crucial for them to figure out how to coexist.

There will be several teams that will benefit from getting eight more regular-season games. Teams like the Pelicans and Trail Blazers have a legitimate shot to earn a playoff spot.

But there's no doubt the Sixers need every regular-season game they can get.

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Malcolm Jenkins to Drew Brees: 'Sometimes you should shut the f--- up'

Malcolm Jenkins to Drew Brees: 'Sometimes you should shut the f--- up'

Update: Drew Brees apologized on Thursday morning. 

Drew Brees said Wednesday he still feels kneeling during the national anthem is "disrespectful," as protestors across the nation speak out about institutional racism.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback said in 2016 that he "wholeheartedly" disagreed with then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the anthem as a way to protest racism in the U.S. and in the country's police system.

On Wednesday, Brees returned to those words amid displays from citizens, including fellow athletes, across the country.

Many, including former Eagles safety and Brees' current teammate Malcolm Jenkins, believe Brees is missing the point of the current national conversation.

Jenkins posted a lengthy response to Brees' comments on his Instagram in a video, which he later deleted. 

Here's what Jenkins said in the now-deleted video:

Quite frankly I'm hurt, and I'm not okay. I saw Drew Brees' comments, and they were extremely disappointing, extremely self-centered, and just shows a complete lack of awareness or care for the plight of teammates, your peers, and your countrymen. For you to talk about the reasons why you respect the flag, and the national anthem, because your grandfathers both served and fought for this country, shows that you're so unaware of the history of my grandfather, and others whose grandparents fought for this country in those same wars. 

And when they came back to this country, they didn't get a hero's welcome. They were met with violence for wearing that uniform. The same people who put their lives on the line for you, and your ancestors, came back to this country and were treated less than men, or beaten up and snatched off of buses for wearing their uniforms. Cut out of society and marginalized, even though they put their lives on the line for you. So to assume that, because you have a perspective about the flag and what it means to you, and the national anthem, and that everybody else should have the same mentality - it's just completely unaware that my grandfather's experience is way different than yours.

And so I'm somebody who protested during the national anthem. Not against the national anthem, but against police brutality, and the systemic racism that is plaguing our country. And if you can't see - now, in 2020, with the whole nation on fire and people screaming for equality and that this is enough - and you can't, with the same vigor that you like to denounce the protest during the national anthem, denounce the murder of George Floyd, denounce the murder of Breonna Taylor, denounce the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, denounce systematic racism, commit yourself to making this country better without criticizing those who have exhausted every single resource they have to make this country better, and this country has not stepped up to the plate. You have not stepped up to the plate. To stay silent when your peers are screaming from the mountaintops that we need help, our communities are under siege, and we need help. What you're telling us is, 'Don't ask for help that way. Ask for it a different way. I can't listen when you ask that way.' 

We're done asking, Drew. People who share your sentiments, who express those and push them throughout the world, the airwaves, are the problem. And it's unfortunate, because I considered you a friend, I looked up to you as somebody I had a great deal of respect for, but sometimes you should shut the f**k up.

Jenkins said he deleted the video because he "knew it [would] be more about the headlines".

After Jenkins deleted the first video, he uploaded a second, different video. Here's what he said:

I promise you this... the onslaught of s**t that we have to deal with is f***ing crazy right now. Drew Brees, if you don't understand how hurtful, how insensitive your comments are, you are part of the problem. To think that, because your grandfathers served in this country and you have a great respect for the flag, that everybody else should have the same ideals and thoughts that you do is ridiculous. And it shows that you don't know history. Because when our grandfathers fought for this country, and served, and they came back, they didn't come back to a hero's welcome. They came back and got attacked for wearing their uniforms. They came back to people, to racism, to complete violence. 

And then here we are in 2020, with the whole country on fire, everybody witnessing a black man being murdered at the hands of the police, just in cold blood, for everybody to see, the whole country's on fire, and the first thing you do is criticize one's peaceful protest? That was years ago, when we were trying to signal a sign for help, signal for our allies, for our white brothers and sisters, the people we considered to be friends, to get involved. It was ignored, and here we are, now, with the world on fire, and you still first continue to criticize how we peacefully protest, because it doesn't fit in what you do? And your beliefs? Without ever acknowledging the fact that a man was murdered at the hands of police in front of us all, and it's been continuing for centuries. That the same brothers that you break the huddle down with before every game, the same guys that you bleed with and go into battle with every single day, go home to communities that have been decimated. 

Drew, unfortunately you're somebody who doesn't understand their privelege. You don't understand the potential you have to actually be an advocate for the people that you call brothers. You don't understand the history, and why people like me, people of my skin color, whose grandfathers fought for this country, who served, and I still protested not against the national anthem but against what was happening in America, what the fabric of this country stands for. If you don't understand that other people experience something totally different, then when you talk about being the brotherhood, and all this other bulls**t, it's just lip service, or it's only on the field. Because when we step off this field and I take my helmet off, I'm a black man walking around America, and I'm telling you - I'm dealing with these things. My communities are dealing with these things. And your response to me is, 'Don't talk about that here. This is not the place.' Drew - where is the place, Drew?

I'm disappointed, I'm hurt, because while the world tells you that you're not worthy, that your life doesn't matter, the last place you want to hear it from are the guys that you go to war with, and that you consider to be allies and to be your friends. Even though we're teammates, I can't let this slide.

Both times, Jenkins also included this caption with his posts:

I’m tired...

As I was trying to muster up the energy and find the words to address Drew Brees’s comments I recorded this video. Before I could post it, Drew reached out to me to discuss his point of view.

All in all, I’m still posting this video because it’s important for anyone who wants to consider themself an ally to know how these words and actions affect those who you want to help. Drew’s words during his interview were extremely painful to hear and I hope he rectifies them with real action.

Here's how Brees had explained his stance in an interview with Yahoo! Finance:

I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America, or our country. 

Let me just tell you what I see, what I feel, when the national anthem is played, and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army, and one in the Marine Corps. Both risking their lives to protect our country, and to try and make our country, and this world, a better place. So every time I stand with my hand over my heart, looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that's what I think about. 

And in many cases, it brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed - not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the 60s, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point. 

And is everything right with our country right now? No, it's not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do, by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we all can do better, and that we are all part of the solution.

 

Brees' comments have drawn blowback from many others in the sports world, including other Philly athletes. 

Eagles cornerback Darius Slay voiced his displeasure:

Sixers forward Tobias Harris expressed his displeasure:

Eagles safety Jalen Mills weighed in:

Eagles running back Miles Sanders retweeted this tweet from Titans wideout A.J. Brown:

Eagles cornerback Rasul Douglas retweeted this tweet from Lions safety Jayron Kearse:

Sixers forward Mike Scott retweeted this tweet from Bleacher Report's Taylor Rooks:

Former Eagles running back Jordan Howard also chimed in:

Brees' comments come after a number of prominent white athletes, including Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, have tried to use their voices and platforms to lift up the voices and experiences of black people in the United States who are tired of not being heard and understood.

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Sixers' Tobias Harris delivers strong message about racism, police brutality in personal essay

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Sixers' Tobias Harris delivers strong message about racism, police brutality in personal essay

In an essay published Wednesday morning in The Players’ Tribune, Tobias Harris delivered a strong message about racism and police brutality in America while also providing insight into how his perceptions about race have been shaped. 

The piece is headlined, “Y’all Hear Us, But You Ain’t Listening.” Harris begins by framing the conversation about the death of 46-year-old black man George Floyd, who was killed last week in police custody when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, while the three other officers on the scene were fired but haven’t been charged.

“But if we gon’ talk about what happened to George Floyd,” Harris writes, “there needs to be a baseline acknowledgement of the reality: A white police officer killed an unarmed black man, and he was able to do it in broad daylight, with three other cops watching, because of the color of his skin.

“And don’t reply to me with, ‘Oh, but this person did this.’ Don’t try and make excuses, or say this isn’t about race. In a lot of my conversations with white people lately, I’m getting that statement over and over again: ‘Let’s stop making this about race.’” 

Harris draws a sharp juxtaposition between President Donald Trump’s characterization of protestors against stay-at-home orders in place because of the coronavirus pandemic and Trump's language about protestors who have marched around the country in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. 

Last month, armed men took over the steps of Michigan’s capitol building. To protest the QUARANTINE.

And what did the President call them?

'Good people.'

But we go out and protest that another black life has been taken senselessly, and we’re 'THUGS.'

Come on.

This is why black Americans are angry.

Harris writes that “the killing of Trayvon Martin was a turning point for me.” 

“When he was killed, all because he looked ‘suspicious’ for wearing a black hoodie at night in his own neighborhood, I realized that that could have been my brother,” he writes. “Once you really sit with that, it’s a really scary feeling. I had to get out of my own NBA bubble, and understand that there’s a different world out there. Not everybody can get in a nice car every day, drive to work, come home, work out, and be O.K. People go through different s---. Every. Single. Day. I had to come to grips with that.”

He later reflects on the obligation he feels to speak on behalf of black people who don’t play in the NBA or have celebrity status and cites the late Muhammad Ali as an inspiration.

The way I look at it? If people in my community are oppressed, then so am I. Shout out to Muhammad Ali, one of the biggest role models in my life, for showing the way. He was never scared to take a stand against INJUSTICE.

"I’ve also had to get uncomfortable in knowing who I am — knowing that, yeah, I made it to the NBA, and that’s changed some things for me in terms of how I’m treated. I don’t have it the same as the next person. I’ve come to grips with the fact that yes, I’m black, but that dude that’s getting pulled over by a cop in his car, he don’t have the luxury of that officer recognizing him.

"That’s the problem. The difference between a cop recognizing you or not shouldn’t be life or death. 

Harris says he’s glad he protested on Saturday in Philadelphia after regretting a missed opportunity to march in Orlando in 2013, about a year after Martin’s death.

“On Saturday in Philly, it was about a togetherness of people pushing out a message. And that message was really about respect. It was about people respecting others, and understanding their hurt and their pain.”

Another interesting topic Harris covers is the deficiencies he sees in what kids are taught about black history, and his individual efforts to fill in knowledge gaps. He also covers his own work mentoring young people in the Philadelphia area and the disparities he’s observed “between a school in North Philly out here, and a school in the Main Line of Lower Merion.”

The entire piece is worth a read. 

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