Josh Harris

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Kanter, Robinson, Musa

Sixers center Joel Embiid is joining forces with team managing partner Josh Harris and co-managing partner David Blitzer on a $1.3MM contribution to fund testing for 1,000 health care workers in the Philadelphia region, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reports. The donation has been confirmed in a team press release.

Embiid said he learned that “testing for COVID-19 antibodies has the chance to let health care workers know if they are immune to the virus.” The big man notes that the workers who have immunity can work in “risky environments” and donate blood to help patients recover. Embiid’s partnership with team ownership should quell speculation that he has a fractious relationship with the organization which could eventually lead to his departure.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics center Enes Kanter remains hopeful that the remainder of the season, or at least the playoffs, can be played, The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach writes. “We are competitors man, so we want to go out there and finish the season,’‘ Kanter said on Zoom. “Especially, like, it’s crazy — we actually have a really good chance to go out there and win a championship.”
  • Knicks center Mitchell Robinson might have the league’s most team-friendly contract, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. The big man has a $1.66MM salary for next season with a $1.8MM team option for 2021/22, Berman notes. The Knicks’ net rating improves by 5.3 points per 100 possessions with Robinson on the court, Berman adds.
  • The Nets’ European players — Dzanan Musa, Rodions Kurucs and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot — have been separated from their families indefinitely during the coronavirus pandemic, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes. Travel restrictions prevent them from reuniting with their families. “They are coping, and their families are coping with this. But that’s really difficult,” Nets GM Sean Marks said. “Their families are completely separated. They’re not in the same time zone, they’re in completely different countries, and obviously there is a travel ban in place.”

Atlantic Notes: Walker, Smart, Embiid, Raptors

Kemba Walker‘s left knee is feeling better, but the Celtics guard won’t know how it’s going to respond to competition until he gets to test it against someone, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Walker has gotten plenty of time to rest since the league shut down three weeks ago.

“The knee is doing well,” he said. “It’s difficult because I don’t have anyone around to give me treatments or anything like that. I have to do my own stuff, which I’m trying to do as much as possible; try to stay on top of things.”

Walker developed swelling in the knee during the All-Star break. He had it drained, then received a shot of Synvisc to ease the soreness and minimize swelling. He’s waiting out the hiatus like everyone else and hoping for a chance to try out the knee under game conditions.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Now that Celtics guard Marcus Smart has recovered from the coronavirus, he will donate blood in hopes that it will help to find a treatment for COVID-19, according to ESPN. Three other players who tested positive for the virus also plan to make blood donations, but they haven’t been identified. The league office reached out to team doctors over the weekend to encourage players who tested positive to give blood samples to the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.
  • Joel Embiid‘s response to a plan by Sixers majority owner Josh Harris to reduce some employees’ salaries while the league is shut down raises questions about his long-term future with the team, suggests Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harris changed his mind about the pay cuts, but not before Embiid made a public offer to help everyone who would have been affected. Ford claims Embiid’s relationship with the organization has always been “fractious” and states that embarrassing the owner may lead to an eventual parting.
  • In a conference call with reporters, Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said potential extensions for himself and coach Nick Nurse won’t be discussed while the league is on hiatus (Twitter link from Eric Koreen of The Athletic). The team is currently paused with no talk of extensions or contracts for anyone, adds Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). “It’s not where our minds are at right now,” Ujiri said. “This is a crucial time for the world. Those things will come.”

Sixers Reverse Course On Reducing Employees’ Salaries

Sixers ownership has reversed course on a plan to reduce certain employees’ salaries, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Full-time 76ers employees who earn at least $50K annually were informed on Monday that their salaries would be temporarily reduced by up to 20% as the NBA remains on hiatus, as Marc Stein of The New York Times details. Those employees were told that the new measures would apply to pay checks from April 15 through June 30, with health benefits and 401(k) plans unaffected, says Stein.

Sixers majority owner Josh Harris, whose Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment also owns the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, confirmed those plans in a statement today, but indicated they won’t be moving forward.

“Our commitment has been to do our best to keep all of our employees working through this very difficult situation. As part of an effort to do that we asked salaried employees to take a temporary 20% pay cut while preserving everyone’s full benefits — and keeping our 1,500 hourly workers paid throughout the regular season,” Harris said. “After listening to our staff and players, it’s clear that was the wrong decision. We have reversed it and will be paying these employees their full salaries.”

The measures, which have now been nixed, wouldn’t have affected any players. They also wouldn’t have applied to employees on contracts, including members of the coaching staff or certain front office executives, Stein notes. Only “at-will” employees would have been required to accept the salary reductions, Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter).

However, according to Stein, some additional members of the organization had been asked to participate in the rollbacks as well — Sixers GM Elton Brand was among those who had agreed to take a temporary pay cut. Wojnarowski tweets that coaches and executives whose salaries couldn’t be unilaterally cut were initially given until Thursday to agree to a salary reduction of 20%. Per Woj, many were reluctant to give back that money, particularly since their employment situations beyond this summer are uncertain.

As Wojnarowski tweets, other team owners were keeping an eye on the situation in Philadelphia. Those owners were weighing their own desire to save money against the potential PR backlash that such a move would generate. Presumably, based on the negative PR the 76ers faced and the quick reversal that followed, no other teams will immediately enact similar plans.

Sixers part-owner Michael Rubin actually contributed to that PR backlash that helped push the club to change its plans — Shams Charania of Stadium (video link) reports that Rubin wasn’t believed to be part of the decision to reduce employees’ salaries and was said to be “upset” and “outraged” by it.

Meanwhile, before the 76ers’ change of heart, star center Joel Embiid announced that he’s pledging $500K to COVID-19 medical relief efforts in the community and that he was committed to helping Sixers employees who would suffer financial hardship in light of the team’s salary reductions (Twitter link via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN). With the Sixers no longer planning to reduce employees’ salary, Embiid’s financial commitment beyond that $500K for coronavirus purposes no longer appears necessary.

Sixers Expect To Pay Luxury Tax In 2020/21

Sixers managing partner Josh Harris anticipates that the team will be a luxury tax payer for the 2020-21 season, as he told Rich Hofmann of The Athletic in a Q&A session that also included GM Elton Brand.

Harris said there “are definitely issues” that come with being a taxpayer, including some roster restrictions. But he has no qualms about that prospect.

“If that’s what it takes to win, we’re going to do it,” he said.

The luxury tax threshold is approximately $132.6MM and Philadelphia is currently a few million below that number. However, the Sixers already have nearly $144MM in contract guarantees for next season. That’s due in large part to Ben Simmons‘ max extension. He’ll jump from $8.11MM this season to $29MM in the first year of that extension. The combined salaries for Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid and Al Horford next season total up to more than $91MM.

Harris and Brand provided some other interesting insights in the Q&A:

  • Harris expects the team to get deeper in the playoffs and everyone is accountable:  “I think we all feel some pressure. Elton does. I do. Brett and the players all want to deliver for the city,” he said.
  • Harris had hoped Jimmy Butler would re-sign but was impressed by the way the front office shifted gears to re-sign Harris, acquire Josh Richardson in a sign-and-trade with Miami, and bring in high-profile free agent Horford. “He obviously had a lot of choices and we’re happy for him that he’s with a great organization,” Harris said of Butler. “But for us, the job that Elton and his team did to pick up Al Horford and Josh Richardson on the heels of that and to get Josh Richardson back in a sign-and-trade obviously, I watched it from the inside and it was incredible.”
  • Brand presents Harris with various scenarios in free agency and trades to spell out how each move would impact the bottom line: Brand told Hofmann how he breaks it down to his boss. “Hey, these are our options. If this happens, I don’t know, but this player could be available, this player could be available, this player could be available. This looks like a 50-win season, this looks like a 55, our penetration could be this in the second round to the Eastern Conference Finals, to the finals. If we lose this player and can’t do a sign-and-trade, we’re going to be here.”

Brett Brown Will Remain Sixers’ Head Coach

Brett Brown will return as the Sixers’ head coach next season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Philadelphia’s managing partner Josh Harris informed Wojnarowski of the decision.

Harris, Brown and GM Elton Brand met on Monday to discuss offseason priorities, including the draft and free agency, Wojnarowski adds.

Brown, 58, has been the head coach in Philadelphia since the 2013/14 season. He guided the Sixers to 52 and 51 regular-season wins during the past two seasons, but the team has been eliminated in the conference semifinals both years. Philadephia took Toronto to the limit but fell in Game 7 Sunday on Kawhi Leonard‘s last-second field goal.

Prior to the series finale, a report indicated that Brown would likely lose his job unless the Sixers reached the NBA Finals.

If the Sixers had parted ways with Brown they would have paid him not to coach. He was handed a three-year extension last May by former president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo.

Several Philadelphia’s players, including J.J. RedickJimmy Butler and Joel Embiid, expressed support for Brown after the heart-wrenching loss on Sunday and that may have helped his cause.

However, the Sixers’ roster could look much different next season with three starters — Butler, Redick and Tobias Harris — becoming free agents.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Brown, Williams, Harding

The playoffs opened with three upsets, but nobody had a worse day than the Sixers, writes Michael Lee of The Athletic. Philadelphia’s problems go beyond the final score, as nearly every fear about the team heading into the postseason came true. Joel Embiid‘s sore knee, Ben Simmons‘ limited shooting range, the lack of a bench, defensive concerns and chemistry issues were all on display as fans booed loudly in a loss to the Nets.

Some observers believe the Sixers compiled the most talented starting unit in the league by trading for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, but those five players only took the court together 10 times in the regular season. And with Butler, Harris and J.J. Redick all headed for free agency, the team could easily break apart if the postseason doesn’t go well.

An even greater concern might be Embiid’s physical condition. Bothered by tendinitis in his left knee that limited him to eight games after the All-Star break, Embiid wasn’t sure if he could play until 15 minutes before Saturday’s contest began. He lumbered up and down the court for much of the afternoon, settled for outside jumpers and was frequently targeted by the Nets on defense.

“I tell him all the time, it’s about him being healthy,” Butler said. “Yeah, he can help us but at the same time, he can hurt us if he gets worse. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely want Jo out there. But we want him healthy.”

There’s more this morning out of Philadelphia:

  • Managing partner Josh Harris passed on a chance to give coach Brett Brown a vote of confidence before yesterday’s opener, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harris has commented before that it could be “problematic” if the team doesn’t make a long playoff run. “What I meant by it is that all of us – Brett, [general manager] Elton [Brand], me, a lot of us, the players on the team. We have high expectations. So that is what I meant,” Harris said when asked about Brown’s future.
  • The Sixers won’t stand in the way of any assistant who gets a head coaching opportunity, Brand told Pompey in the same story. They granted permission yesterday for Monty Williams to interview for the open job with the Lakers, where he and Tyronn Lue appear to be the top candidates. “We respect that, the chance to have more responsibility and be a head coach,” Brand said. “For anyone on our staff to have a deeper role, we will honor that. We don’t want dysfunction, we don’t want distractions, but it is what it is.”
  • Lindsey Harding was promoted this week to player development coach, the team announced on its website. She joined the organization prior to this season as a pro personnel scout.

Sixers’ Owner Talks Butler, Harris, Expectations

No NBA team has been more aggressive in acquiring immediate help since the 2018/19 season began than the Sixers, who traded for Jimmy Butler in November and Tobias Harris in February. In the wake of those deals, expectations are rising in Philadelphia — the club wants to make a deeper playoff run, and then will have to figure out if Butler and Harris can be re-signed in free agency.

Sixers controlling owner Josh Harris, in attendance at this week’s Sloan Conference in Boston, spoke to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan about those issues, offering some interesting insight. The 76ers are currently projected to match up with the Celtics in the first round of the postseason, and Boston has given Philadelphia a ton of trouble in recent years, but Harris didn’t want to entertain the notion of a first-round exit, suggesting that would be a “very problematic” outcome.

Here’s more from Harris, via MacMullan, on that subject and a couple others:

On how Harris would view the season if the Sixers were to be knocked off in the first round of the playoffs:

“We’d be unhappy. I’d be unhappy. The city would be unhappy. We’re going to work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. We have enough talent on our roster that if we play the way we’re capable of playing, we can beat any team in the East.

“… We want to make sure at a minimum to advance deeper in the playoffs than we did last year. We’ve brought a lot of talent here. They haven’t been together that long, but we’re hopeful we can position them for deep run.”

On the prospect of re-signing both Butler and Harris in free agency:

“We gave up a lot to get Tobias and Jimmy on our team. We think they’re exceptional talents. We’re going to try to keep them. We know we are going to have to pay these guys in an appropriate way. We get it. It’s expensive.

“… The reality is, people like Tobias and Jimmy, there just aren’t that many of them. It’s never perfect, but when make a trade for someone who is expiring, there’s risk involved, we’re hoping we can convince them this is a great place for them.”

On discussing the direction of the franchise with star center Joel Embiid:

“Joel respects our job. He’s our most important player. He’s clearly our future — they’re all an important part of the future — but Joel is exceptional. We generally talk to him about how we are oriented, and what type of players we might be bringing in. We get his advice. In terms of specific conversations, we give him a heads-up.

“At times, it’s not always appropriate because of the other parties involved. You don’t want to compromise who we are talking to or put [Embiid] in an awkward position. “But we’re certainly thinking all the time about how to complement his skill set, which is three-and-D wings, people who spread the court. He’s a dominant presence defensively and he’s dominant in the paint. We need to take the pressure off him so people don’t collapse on him.”

Sixers Optimistic Butler Will Stay Put

Sixers managing partner and owner Josh Harris is both determined and optimistic that Jimmy Butler will remain with the team beyond this season, as he told USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt and The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

The Butler trade was made to give the franchise a third star alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and become a serious championship contender. It wouldn’t have happened unless the Sixers were convinced they could keep Butler, who can opt out of his contract this summer, in the long run.

“We’ve been saying since the summer we’ve been looking for another star and we felt we needed another shooter, a three-and-D wing, someone like Jimmy,” Harris told Zillgitt. “They’re hard to find at this elite level. We know who we have to get through to win the East. It’s obvious who it is. We think this is a piece we needed.”

While Butler became a major distraction around the Timberwolves, he’s been a model citizen since joining the Sixers. And Philadelphia anticipates that its gamble will pay off in the long run in the form of a multi-year contract.

“Our goal is to have elite talent under contract for a long time,” Harris told Charania. “That’s what we’re interested in.”

Both reporters offered insights into the trade discussions involving Butler. The Sixers eventually agreed to deal Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and a future second-rounder for Butler and throw-in Justin Patton.

  • The Timberwolves initially asked for another starter in addition to the trio the Sixers dealt, according to Zillgitt.
  • Minnesota narrowed its offers to three teams, with the Pelicans and Rockets being the other finalists, according to Charania.  New Orleans dangled forward Nikola Mirotic and a first-round pick, while Houston was willing to part with guard Eric Gordon and two first-rounders.
  • The Sixers initially offered draft picks and other large contracts, Harris told Charania. Markelle Fultz was discussed in the Butler talks.
  • Other suitors, such as the Lakers, wanted to wait until the December 15th date when signed free agents could be included in a deal for Butler, Charania added.

Latest On Sixers’ GM Search, Front Office

11:40am: The Sixers have issued a press release officially announcing the promotions noted below.

11:17am: While the Sixers are identifying new general manager candidates to meet and interview, the team hasn’t ruled out the possibility of leaving its interim front office structure in place to start the 2018/19 season, managing partner Josh Harris tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

“We prefer to find an elite talent who can lead us, but we aren’t going to compromise,” Harris said.

Sixers head coach Brett Brown has served as the team’s interim head of basketball operations since Bryan Colangelo‘s ouster in June, but several members of Philadelphia’s front office besides Brown have been very involved in personnel decisions during the offseason.

Those key voices include Ned Cohen, Marc Eversley, and Elton Brand, all of whom are receiving promotions, Wojnarowski reports. Cohen will become an assistant general manager, Eversley will be the senior VP of player personnel, and Brand will be named the VP of basketball operations. Alex Rucker will also receive a promotion, according to Wojnarowski, who says Rucker will become the 76ers’ senior VP of analytics and strategy.

According to Wojnarowski, after initially targeting top general managers around the NBA – such as Daryl Morey of the Rockets – the Sixers have been gathering information on up-and-coming candidates in recent weeks. In other words, the new pool of contenders figures to include execs who would be more readily willing to make the move to Philadelphia.

Reports have indicated that the Sixers aren’t necessarily looking for a new general manager who will make all the final decisions on his own, but rather a candidate who is willing to collaborate with those existing voices in the front office on personnel moves. While Harris would love to find that executive as soon as possible and doesn’t want Brown to hang onto the head of basketball operations title for the long term, he tells Wojnarowski that the club is very comfortable with the current management group.

“I think we have one of the best, if not the best, situation in the NBA – particularly for the leader of a front office,” Harris said. “We have great young players, lots of cap space and stable ownership willing to invest and spend in the team. We’re going to be patient and try to find the right person. The next year is going to be incredibly important for us, and we have a real desire to find the right person now – but if not, we are incredibly comfortable with the existing staff and we’ll move forward from there.”

Sixers Hope To Keep Brett Brown Long-Term

Coach Brett Brown has only one season left on his contract after this year’s campaign, but the Sixers hope to keep him on the sideline for the foreseeable future.

“I’m invested in keeping Brett here for a long time,” owner Josh Harris told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer prior to Saturday’s 27-point Game 1 win.

He added that the Sixers are different than other sports franchises, as it places an emphasis on longevity and creating a positive culture. Harris, who also owns a majority stake in the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, believes that Brown has proven to be the right man for the job, despite having a career 127-283 regular season record.

“I think he should be coach of the year,” Harris said. “I think that Brett was clearly an amazing coach before this year in terms of his player development skills, and his vision and the culture that he built.

“This year was the first year that he was really tested in terms of his in-game tactics and how he ran the team and wins. We were judging him by wins. Go win some games. He delivered in spades. We over-exceeded expectations. …I hope he’s here for a long time.”