Philadelphia 76ers

Southeast Notes: Dragic, Napier, Smith, Holiday

Goran Dragic has a new five-year deal worth more than $85MM with the Heat, and he also has more responsibility and a stronger roster around him than ever before, notes Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post. Dragic only has played in one NBA postseason, but odds are that’ll change by this spring.

“There’s definitely more pressure now,” Dragic said to Lieser. “You need to show people that you’re worth that money. I know I have my spot, but you need to prove to everybody that you deserve it. There’s pressure, and you need to deal with it. I can do that.”

See more on an ex-Heat point guard amid the latest from the Southeast Division:

  • Shabazz Napier likes his new surroundings with the Magic and wasn’t surprised when the Heat traded him in the offseason, observes Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel. “During the summer you hear lot of rumors. What actually happened, I wasn’t too surprised at all. If it hit me where I didn’t know about it, then I’d be surprised,” Napier said. “But I kind of had a feeling they kind of needed to get some trades off. I sensed it because I have a great agent [Rob Pelinka], not because I felt they wanted me to get out of there. It’s just sometimes it’s business. They needed extra money and they didn’t need the luxury tax and what not.”
  • The Sixers made Ish Smith an offer to return, and the Kings and Suns offered him deals, too, before he instead signed with the Wizards, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Sixers seem like they could have used him, but Smith faces long odds to stick for opening night in Washington, since he has a non-guaranteed deal on a roster with 15 fully guaranteed contracts, Pompey writes.
  • Justin Holiday, one of the few members of the Warriors championship team to depart Golden State this summer, is hoping to follow in DeMarre Carroll‘s footsteps as an under-the-radar signee who blossoms with the Hawks, as Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders details. Holiday’s two-year deal with Atlanta is for the minimum salary, as Basketball Insiders scribe Eric Pincus shows. “The main thing that appealed to me was how the team played,” Holiday said. “Just how coach [Mike Budenholzer] goes about doing things here. I guess DeMarre leaving, obviously that made it available for me to come. So that has to be a big reason why I’m here, but I guess I didn’t focus as much on him not being here. I just think the way they do things here is the main reason why I felt like this was a good place for me to come.”

The Beat: Keith Pompey On The Sixers

Keith Pompey

Keith Pompey

Nobody knows NBA teams better than beat writers, save for those who draw paychecks with an NBA owner’s signature on them. The reporters who are with the teams they cover every day gain an intimate knowledge of the players, coaches and executives they write about and develop sources who help them break news and stay on top of rumors.

We at Hoops Rumors will be chatting with beat writers from around the league and sharing their responses to give you a better perspective on how and why teams make some of their most significant moves. Last time, we spoke with Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman about the Thunder. Click here to see all the previous editions of this series.

Today, we gain insight on the Sixers from Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. You can follow Keith on Twitter at @PompeyOnSixers, and check out his stories right here.

Hoops Rumors: GM Sam Hinkie said that he feels like the difference between where the Sixers are now and where they were two years ago is “night and day.” Is that exaggeration, or do you think the Sixers have really made that much progress?

Keith Pompey: Some not familiar with the 76ers would label Hinkie’s comments as an exaggeration. However, he’s actually right when you consider the Sixers finally have several players that fit into their long-term plan on the floor. They added the shooter they wanted to get with their second first-round pick in the 2014 draft in Nik Stauskas. Jahlil Okafor will be the first top-10 draft pick to play as a rookie. They’re also excited about this summer’s additions to their staff. So yes, they are night and day even though this an inexperienced and young team.

Hoops Rumors: As you alluded to, Jahlil Okafor will become the first top-10 pick to take the floor for the Sixers in the same year that he was drafted since Hinkie took over as GM, barring something unforeseen in the next few weeks. Do you think the Sixers hold him in higher regard than anyone else on the roster?

Keith Pompey: They don’t hold him in higher regard than anyone else on the roster. They see him as one of the core pieces, not the core piece. Noel and Joel Embiid (if healthy) will be the other core pieces in the future.

Hoops Rumors: Do you think the Sixers view Nik Stauskas as likely to develop into a cornerstone piece or as just one of many players on the roster with a vague possibility of panning out?

Keith Pompey: The Sixers hope that he can develop into a cornerstone player. However, they realize that will be up to him. He has a lot to prove this season following his struggles last season in Sacramento. As we learned with the Michael Carter-Williams trade, the Sixers aren’t afraid to part ways with projected cornerstone players that don’t pan out.

Hoops Rumors: A strong chance exists that the Sixers will have four first-round picks in 2016. If it still looks that way at the trade deadline, do you think they would attempt to move one or more of them for an intriguing veteran?

Keith Pompey: Don’t rule out anything. The Sixers have shown that they will make any move to advance the franchise.

Hoops Rumors: The Sixers signed Kendall Marshall for four years and $8MM, a relatively cheap deal that’s nonetheless the most lucrative free agent contract Hinkie has handed out to date. Do you think the Sixers made the expenditure because they believe Marshall has a decent chance to become the long-term solution at point guard, or were they just looking for a stopgap at a position of need?

Keith Pompey: Kendall Marshall will get every opportunity to show that he can become a long-term solution at point guard. Marshall will determine if he’s a stopgap or not. But if the Sixers get a chance to upgrade the position, they’ll do it in a heartbeat. Personally, I see him as a long-term backup.

Hoops Rumors: I’ll ask you this one since you were the reporter Markieff Morris talked to when he made his trade demand: Are you surprised that he now says he wants to be with the Suns?

Keith Pompey: I’m not surprised, because Markieff Morris’ trade value dropped after saying he no longer wanted to play there. His best option was to become a happy camper and make people think things are mended with the organization to drive up his trade value.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Sixers, Celtics

Terrence Ross is entering a huge season because he has not received a contract extension and while the Raptors could offer one, it is more likely that they decide that they would rather pay more for a sure thing next summer than less for an enigma now, Eric Koreen of The National Post writes. Ross would need to display more consistency this season to drive up his market value, Koreen writes. That might be more challenging this year, Koreen adds, because DeMarre Carroll essentially took Ross’s starting spot and now Ross will be counted on to provide an offensive spark off the bench.

Here’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Perry Jones, who was once considered a can’t-miss lottery pick, understands his long-term future in the league is at stake right now with the Celtics, especially considering how prospects like Anthony Bennett have been cut loose lately, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe writes. Jones, whom the Celtics acquired from the Thunder, is not guaranteed to make the regular season roster, Washburn adds. Jones’ best opportunity, according to Washburn, would be at small forward.
  • David Lee is eager to play in Boston this season following his trade from the Warriors because he is a fan of the Celtics‘ history and tradition, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald details.
  • Jerami Grant, who was drafted 39th overall out of Syracuse, and JaKarr Sampson, who went undrafted out of St. John’s, are two players surprisingly expected to make an impact defensively for the Sixers, Bob Cooney of The Philadelphia Daily News writes.

Central Notes: George, Robinson, Hoiberg, Rose

Paul George still doesn’t sound like a fan of his new position or the Pacers‘ new lineup, tweets Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star. Indiana is experimenting with George as its starting power forward, a move brought on by David West signing with San Antonio and Luis Scola going to Toronto. “I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot,” George said tonight after Indiana’s preseason opener. “I don’t know if this is my position.” George also implied that he’s not the only Pacer unhappy with the strategy. “It’s not just myself,” he said. “The four other guys out there, it’s an adjustment for them. We’re all talking (Twitter link). … A couple other guys are uncomfortable with how we’re going to run it. It’s new to everyone (Twitter link).”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Pacers president Larry Bird says he tried for a year to acquire Glenn Robinson III, according to Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star. The 21-year-old caught Bird’s eye during a preseason game last year as a member of the Timberwolves. Robinson played just 21 games in Minnesota before being cut in March, but the Sixers claimed him on waivers before the Pacers could grab him. He signed with Indiana this summer. “He sees something he likes in me, and it makes you feel good,” Robinson said. “I mean, he’s Larry Bird.”
  • Veteran guard Kirk Hinrich tells Mike McGraw of The Daily Herald that new coach Fred Hoiberg is bringing a faster pace and more relaxed atmosphere to the Bulls. It’s a drastic change from Tom Thibodeau, who was known for his intensity and his grind-it-out style. “Fred’s really calm,” Hinrich said. “He teaches. He’s a very good teacher, makes his points, but he’s calm.”
  • Derrick Rose will learn the Bulls‘ new offense from home while he recovers from a facial injury, McGraw writes in a separate story. Rose had surgery this week after fracturing an orbital bone below his left eye during Tuesday’s practice. He is not expected to resume basketball activities until October 14th. “We’re going to actually get over there and watch some film with him today, because again, we’ve added new sets, new things,” Hoiberg said Saturday. “So we’ll get him caught up by a couple of coaches going over and seeing him at his house.”

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Raptors, Lopez, Jones

After enduring another year of change, the Sixers are optimistic that they are headed in the right direction, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. With training camp wrapping up today, Philadelphia has just four healthy players on its roster — Nerlens Noel, Hollis Thompson, JaKarr Sampson and Jerami Grant — who participated in the 2014 camp. Even though the turnover has been constant since he took over, third-year coach Brett Brown sees hope. “I think the culture is trumping the talent right now,” he said. “I feel like the system of coaches knowing what we all want, what I want. The system of what we do with recovery, how we travel, how we eat, how we act. I think that is trumping the improved talent that we have.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Frontcourt newcomers Bismack Biyombo and Luis Scola are eager to fit in with the Raptors, according to Eric Koreen of The National Post. Both players signed free agent deals in July, with Biyombo receiving a two-year, $6MM contract and Scola agreeing to one year at about $3MM. “I’ve gone from one coach to another one and this and that,” Biyombo said of his experience in Charlotte. “Those are not excuses. But I think over the past four years, I was able to learn a lot of things within those ups and downs. And that’s helped me to grow as a player, and more than anything as a person. Being here lets me show the other side of me.”
  • Brook Lopez is adjusting to a new point guard after the Nets bought out Deron Williams‘ contract over the summer, writes Matt Mazzeo of Lopez, who enjoyed his first offseason in four years without rehabbing an injury, is trying to develop chemistry with Jarrett Jack“Each point guard takes getting used to in that regard,” Lopez said. “It’s just seeing what they like to do, what they benefit from doing and let them play to what makes them successful.”
  • After three disappointing seasons, Perry Jones hopes to break through with the Celtics, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. The former Baylor star never established himself in Oklahoma City and was traded to Boston over the summer. “The biggest benefit is he’s a positionless player in a positionless league,” said coach Brad Stevens. “And so to me, Perry needs to soar with the strengths at the position he’s at.”

Atlantic Notes: Thomas, Knicks, DeRozan

Knicks coach Derek Fisher is focusing on his squad’s intangibles and professionalism, rather than lament the fact that New York didn’t land any of the top names in free agency, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. “Character, professional mindset,’’ Fisher said when listing the team’s strengths. “You’re not in the NBA if you’re not talented. We don’t have to get into who’s talented. The character of our group and the way we’re approaching what’s going on daily, those are going to be the strengths. We’ll have rough nights, rough stretches. We have the beginnings of at least a group able to handle some of the adversity and setbacks that come with a long NBA season. The basketball part will take care of itself as long as we become a team. We have the type of guys that are interested in being a team.’’

When asked if the professionalism he was speaking of was an improvement over last season’s team, Fisher said, “It’s just different. Until the season starts and we figure out who we are, you can’t really say it’s better. But it’s different. We’re all different. Teams have different strengths and weaknesses. The strength of this particular group is not in having what people consider the sexy names or guys who didn’t come play with our team, but guys who truly want to be here. I think it’s going to help us.’’

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers owner Josh Harris admits that while he wishes that his team was further along in its rebuild, he is content with the progress that is being made, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “I think we are making progress,” Harris said. “I’m an impatient person at heart. I would rather get to the end point as fast as possible. But at the same time, the goal is still the same goal: to be an elite extremely competitive team that goes deep in the playoffs. But at the same time, there aren’t shortcuts to it. So you have to react to the realities . . . I certainty wish it was going faster. But at the same time, I’m happy with the progress.
  • Since being acquired at last season’s trade deadline, Isaiah Thomas has been the Celtics‘ best player, and this coming season will provide him with an opportunity to take the next step toward being recognized as one of the top players in the league, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders writes.
  • DeMar DeRozan is eligible to opt out of his current deal with the Raptors and become an unrestricted free agent next summer, but he is adamant about wanting to focus on the coming campaign, and not his next pact, Eric Koreen of The National Post relays. Discussing the wealth of questions he receives about next season, DeRozan told Koreen, “I hate that, honestly. I never speak about it. With me, I’ve always been that one player: I’ve been loyal. I’ve been every single thing you can think of here. I think people don’t understand how much pride I take in playing [in Toronto]. A lot of times when I do get asked that, it kind of frustrates me. Everyday I wake up, I take pride in being the longest Raptor here. People bring up third or whatever in franchise scoring — there is so much stuff like that.

Atlantic Notes: Anthony, Smith, Bargnani, Scola

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is not known as a vocal leader, which is something that he doesn’t intend to change, Ian Begley of writes. “I lead in my own way,” Anthony told Begley. “I will speak up from time to time, but that’s just not who I am, that’s not my personality.” Anthony’s leadership takes on other forms, like him organizing offseason workouts in Puerto Rico back in August, Begley notes.

That’s definitely leadership,” teammate Lance Thomas, who participated in those workouts, said. “Him putting us in a position where we can start the season before the season starts is big time. Getting to know everybody on the squad, everybody becoming familiar with each other, it’s important.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Sixers allowed Ish Smith to depart via free agency this summer despite him being the team’s most productive point guard last season, because the franchise wanted to develop its younger players, writes Bob Cooney of The Philadelphia Daily News. “It’s hard to deny that Ish was good for us,” coach Brett Brown said. “We decided to go younger and try to uncover somebody that can be with us for a long time, maybe because of the age aspect, and I support the club’s decision to do that. We’ll all be better able to make more accurate assessments in a month or so. Nobody’s really jumped ahead of the pack yet.
  • After missing a total of 191 games over the last five seasons, Nets offseason signee Andrea Bargnani‘s goal is to remain healthy for a full campaign, Roderick Boone of Newsday relays. “The main thing I’m looking for is being healthy, and being on the floor and contributing to the team’s success,” Bargnani told Boone. “I just want to be a part of it. We have a great group of players and I want to be on the court. I want to be able to help them. Sitting out, obviously, was very frustrating and so I really don’t want to do that again. I just want to be healthy and stay on the court. That’s it.
  • Luis Scola is looking to be more than just a mentor to his younger teammates on the Raptors, and he feels that he has plenty left to contribute on the court for his new squad, writes Mike Ganter of The Toronto Sun. “I am sure my experience can help but I also believe I can help on the court as well,” Scola said. “To me if I am helping I am happy in whatever aspect of the game. If it’s in the court, outside the court, or both or in the locker room, all those things would be welcome to me.” The 35-year-old inked a one year deal with Toronto back in July.

And-Ones: Bender, Wall, Durant, Brown, Lawson

European phenom Dragan Bender will make his U.S. debut in Chicago tonight for Israel Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv for the first of a pair of exhibitions against EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, as Zach Links of Hoops Rumors first reported he was likely to do. The 17-year-old has stirred no shortage of excitement, as international journalist David Pick writes for Bleacher Report. Almost all 30 NBA teams are set to scout the contests, with the Celtics, Nets, Mavericks, Grizzlies and Bucks among them, sources tell Pick. Hornets GM Rich Cho will be there, too, tweets Jake Fischer of SI Now. The Nuggets, Sixers and Magic have had talks with Maccabi officials about the 7’1″ power forward, Pick also hears. Bender is well ahead of where 2015 No. 4 overall pick Kristaps Porzingis was at the same age, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress told Pick. Givony has Bender as the fifth-best prospect in next year’s draft, while Chad Ford of ranks him seventh.

“The only thing ’17 years old’ about him is his mustache,” Maccabi coach Guy Goodes said to Pick.

See more on Bender and other NBA news here:

  • Bender turns 18 next month, so he’ll turn 19 in 2016 and thus be eligible for early entry for the upcoming draft, but it’s not a given that he’ll declare, as Maccabi GM Nikola Vujcic, who also serves as Bender’s guardian, explained to Pick for the same piece. Vujcic suggested to Pick that Bender won’t enter the draft unless he receives a commitment from a team picking in the top three to five selections and suggested that he might decide to stay overseas for a while even if he is drafted.
  • John Wall says he and Kevin Durant are “really close” and reiterated that he’ll make a recruiting pitch to the former MVP who hits free agency next summer, though he adds that he’ll be cautious not to take an overbearing approach, as the Wizards point guard explains to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders.
  • The Nets declined to waive Markel Brown by Tuesday’s guarantee date, so his $200K partial guarantee jumped to a full guarantee on his $845,059 minimum salary, notes Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). That gives the Nets 13 fully guaranteed contracts among the 20 players they have in camp.
  • The Rockets are trying to minimize their risks with Ty Lawson, having told him that they’ll provide a ride for him to any destination at any time, according to TNT’s David Aldridge, who writes in his Morning Tip column for Lawson, for whom Houston traded this summer despite two DUI arrests in six months, has been on his best behavior so far, Aldridge notes.

Sixers Notes: Hinkie, Embiid, Brown, Landry

Sixers owner Josh Harris admits that it’s difficult to watch his team lose, but he insists that he doesn’t want to sacrifice the franchise’s long-term rebuilding plan, notes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Harris is still supportive of GM Sam Hinkie, pointing to the work he’s done via trade, and he doesn’t question the team’s decision to draft Joel Embiid third overall last year despite the fact that he’s likely to miss a second season in a row because of his ailing right foot, as Tom Moore of Calkins Media observes (All Twitter links).

‘When we drafted Joel, it was a good risk to take. I was really disappointed [about the news of his second foot surgery],” Harris said. “When you talk to the doctors, they’re quite optimistic. You have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”

See more from Philadelphia:

  • Harris and Hinkie didn’t talk about an extension for coach Brett Brown, whose contract expires at the end of the 2016/17 season, but they made it clear they’re fond of him. “I give Brett an A for the job he’s done. He’s an incredible player development person,” Harris said, according to Moore (Twitter links). “I hope and expect Brett to be around the team for a long, long time.” Hinkie believes Brown has also excelled in ways that aren’t readily apparent, as Pompey relays“I’m proud to see all of you like Brett Brown as much as I like Brett Brown,” Hinkie said to reporters, including Moore, as he pointed to stories about the idea of an extension“It’s been a real pleasure — and I suspect it’ll continue to be a real pleasure — to work with him. He and I have a great relationship. He’s been a fantastic partner.”
  • Carl Landry is still about five or six weeks away from a return following June 2nd surgery to repair a torn ligament in his wrist, but Hinkie indicated that the team intends for him to stick around despite his status as a veteran who’s making a relatively sizable amount of money, as Pompey details. His $6.5MM salary is the highest on the team. “We talked a lot about this situation and how it’s different the way people might perceive it [as nothing more than a salary dump], and the importance of his voice and how that might matter,” Hinkie said. “That doesn’t take away from his game. I think he will be able to play fine.”
  • Nik Stauskas, whom the Sixers acquired along with Landry via trade this summer, regrets approaching his rookie year last season with trepidation, as he tells Pompey for a separate piece. “Coming into last year, I had no clue what to expect,” Stauskas said. “I was a little bit nervous, maybe a little bit scared. Coming into the NBA for me was almost a different ball game. Looking back on it, that was probably one of the biggest mistakes I made. It’s still just basketball. It just happens to be with different players in a different league.”
  • Undrafted rookie Christian Wood has just a $50K guarantee on his deal with the Sixers, but he’s looked impressive so far, Pompey opines. Brown has praise for the power forward, and particularly for the development of his three-point shot.

Atlantic Notes: Ross, Nets, Turner, Sixers

2014/15 Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams departed via free agency to the Lakers this offseason, and the Raptors will look to Terrence Ross to help replace his production off the bench, writes Eric Koreen of the National Post. “The first guy that comes to mind is Terrence Ross,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said of the swingman. “Not only just a scorer, but he’s got to come in and defend. He had an off year last year defending. He knows it. We know it.”

Casey was pleasantly surprised by how vocal a player Bismack Biyombo is on the court, Koreen adds. “I knew [he was a good communicator] just talking to the coaches from Charlotte. I knew that about him,” Casey said. “I didn’t know before they told me. I wouldn’t have guessed it. Great communicator. He’s probably going to be the captain of our defense as far as a guy who can go vertical, block shots, communicate. … Now we’ve got to get everybody else, even the guards to join in on the party, especially in transition.” Biyombo signed a two year, $6MM deal with Charlotte during the summer.

Here’s more from out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Mikhail Prokhorov once again stated that he has no intention of selling controlling interest in the Nets franchise, Rod Boone of Newsday tweets. The Russian is reportedly working toward a deal that would give him 100% ownership of both the team and the Barclays Center.
  • The Nets are currently under the luxury tax threshold, but Prokhorov said he would have no problem going “far above the line once again, but it would have to be for the right opportunity”, Tim Bontemps of The New York Post tweets.
  • The Raptors are hoping that their offseason additions will make for a more cohesive roster and usher in a new on-court identity for the franchise, Koreen writes in a separate piece.
  • Celtics swingman Evan Turner has an extremely tradeable contract, with him set to earn $3,425,510 in 2015/16, the final year of his deal, but he would prefer to remain in Boston, A. Sherrod Blakely of relays. “I like Boston, I like the town and the city; the restaurants are pretty good too,” Turner said. “I like Boston; I genuinely would like to stay here. I’ve been places where I hated it.” Turner didn’t specify which city’s charms it was that he didn’t appreciate, but for reference, he has previously played in Philadelphia and Indiana.
  • Italian coach Andrea Mazzon is joining the Sixers‘ D-League affiliate in an unspecified, but important role, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando reports.
  • Sixers GM Sam Hinkie said that the team tried to make a bigger splash in free agency this summer than it did, but many of the better players didn’t change teams, Tom Moore of Calkins Media relays (Twitter links). However, the GM is happy with the organization’s progress, saying that it feels like “night and day” from when training camp began two seasons ago, Moore adds.

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