Markelle Fultz

Markelle Fultz Moved To Bench Role

Tim Bontemps of ESPN is reporting that the Sixers, fresh off a trade for All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler, will start Butler, Ben SimmonsJoel EmbiidJ.J. Redick, and Wilson Chandler against the Magic in tonight’s game in Orlando, meaning last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz, is now officially coming off the bench after starting the team’s first 15 games.

However, head coach Brett Brown is still maintaining an outward showing of support for Fultz, saying “He’s great, he’s great. He understands, and we can’t say this enough, [Sixers general manager Elton Brand] said this … He’s got so many people in this program that genuinely care for him… He’s done nothing wrong. He’s done nothing wrong.”

Per Bontemps, Fultz will now serve as Simmons’ primary backup, likely getting somewhere in the range of 10 to 15 minutes per night. Fultz has played better when not playing without Simmons and therefore having the ball in his hands more, so it will be interesting to see how he handles this new role.

Fultz remains positive, saying “my mindset, as soon as I step on the court, is to help my team win. Every time I step on the court, every time I go in the game, my goal is to be a great teammate and help my team get the W.”

Sixers Notes: Butler, Open Roster Spot, Fultz

Jimmy Butler made his first public comments as a Sixer today, speaking to reporters at a press conference introducing him to the media. Butler, who referred to himself as an “incredible” human being and teammate when asked about his past relationships with teammates, said he expects Philadelphia to be an ideal fit for him, as ESPN’s Ian Begley relays.

“When guys go out there and they know how to play basketball, which everybody on this roster does, it’s all going to fall into place,” Butler said. “I don’t think that anybody is going to step on anybody’s toes. I think everybody still has the same job to do and everybody’s expected to be the same player that they’ve always been.”

Butler added that he likes the idea of him, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid making up a “Big Three” for the Sixers, and also insisted he’s not focusing on maxing out his earnings by signing a five-year maximum salary contract at season’s end.

“I already got enough money to have me and my family for the rest of my life,” Butler said, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link). “It’s not about the money. I’ve got to be able to love where I’m at and have a great chance to win a championship.”

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • As Begley details, new Sixers GM Elton Brand said on Tuesday that he spoke to several of Butler’s former teammates and coaches and they all had nothing but praise for the 29-year-old, making the decision to pull the trigger on the trade an “easy” one. “We hope he sees a fit here. We hope that we see the fit there this season because we know what kind of talent he is,” Brand said. “He’s a superstar player so we’re definitely looking forward to having those (contract) discussions, but we can’t have those yet.”
  • Asked about the newly-opened spot on the Sixers’ 15-man roster, Brand indicated that the team will take its time to “evaluate the landscape” rather than rushing to add a 15th man, tweets Derek Bodner of The Athletic. Bodner had previously suggested (via Twitter) that Philadelphia will likely simply focus on adding a shooter with that opening rather than specifically targeting a power forward.
  • It remains to be seen how Markelle Fultz‘s role will be impacted by Butler’s arrival, but head coach Brett Brown remains committed to developing the former No. 1 overall pick, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “He’s got insulation around him, and he’s got a coach that believes in him, that will continue to play and develop him, and that’s that,” Brown said of Fultz.
  • Speaking of Fultz, he and trainer Drew Hanlen are apparently no longer on speaking terms, tweets Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. Fultz worked with Hanlen throughout the summer, but their relationship reportedly deteriorated within the last month. Liberty Ballers provided a few more details in a pair of tweets.

Latest On Jimmy Butler Trade To Philadelphia

The Timberwolves and Sixers agreed on Saturday to one of the biggest trades in recent years. Jimmy Butler is headed to Philadelphia, while Dario Saric and Robert Covington headline the package that Minnesota is receiving.

We have more news to pass along on this blockbuster:

  • Butler had shown an interest in Philadelphia long before Saturday. Butler scheduled a free agent meeting with the Sixers  in 2015, when they were still in the early stages of building a contender, before he re-signed with the Bulls, Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated tweets.
  • If Butler agrees to a max contract with Philadelphia, Markelle Fultz‘s long-term prospects with the organization would be in serious doubt, Zach Lowe of ESPN tweets. There are plenty of other questions regarding how Fultz fits with core group that Philadelphia has assembled and the team’s brass will closely monitor how all the personalities mesh, Lowe adds. The top 2017 pick is averaging just 8.9 PPG and 3.6 APG  in 24.3 MPG and will now have to compete with another All-Star for touches.
  • Minnesota avoided sending Butler to a Western Conference contender, one of the goals it set in trade talks involving the disgruntled swingman, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN notes (Twitter link). The Rockets had been mentioned prominently as a possible destination but even a package of four future first-round picks couldn’t entice the Timberwolves to send him to a conference rival. The Sixers became the most viable trade partner once the Heat pulled Josh Richardson out of trade discussions, Wojnarowski adds.
  • The Sixers were prepared to offer a similar package to the Spurs to acquire Kawhi Leonard this summer, Fischer reports in another tweet. Philadelphia was willing to give up Saric, Covington and a first-rounder to San Antonio before the Spurs opted to deal Leonard to the Raptors. The Spurs’ decision to decline the Sixers’ offer thus far seems like a wise move, considering Saric’s early shooting slump (30% from long range), Jabari Young of The Athletic tweets. Toronto’s package, with DeMar DeRozan as the centerpiece, has helped San Antonio get off to a 6-4 start despite a rash of injuries.
  • Buyout candidates will be even more intrigued to join the Sixers for the stretch run, Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype tweets. Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli joined Philadelphia in that fashion last season, Kennedy adds, and the incentive for players seeking a ring to hop on Philadelphia’s bandwagon has dramatically increased.
  • The Timberwolves considered three offers from different teams before picking the Sixers’ package, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets.
  • Philadelphia will likely move J.J. Redick back into the starting lineup because his 3-point shooting will be needed on the first unit, Keith Smith of RealGM tweets.
  • The earliest that Butler could make his Sixers debut, once the trade is finalized, is Wednesday against the Magic, Wojnarowski adds in another tweet.

Sixers Notes: Brown, McConnell, Redick, Fultz

Philadelphia was projected to be among the best teams in the East, but that status appears far away after Sunday’s 25-point loss in Brooklyn, writes Marcus Hayes of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Sixers dropped to 0-5 on the road and 6-5 overall, causing coach Brett Brown to call the performance “unacceptable” and say, “We’re not among the Eastern Conference royalty.”

He also suggested that the team’s problems stem from a roster that leans heavily on youth. For all their talent, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are young players whose NBA experience has been limited because of injuries. Markelle Fultz, the first choice in the 2017 draft, has gone through a similar experience.

“If you were to go back and just study Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, John Wall — if you took, like, 10 great players, looked at the first few years, and did some division — and say, ‘It looks like it plays out to about this,'” Brown said. “You’re going to see: It’s not soon. … It’s the reality of the ages of the people that we have.”

There’s more this morning out of Philadelphia:

  • Brown is calling reserve guard T.J. McConnell a “tremendous teammate” for the way he is handling a reduction in playing time, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. McConnell got on the court for about five minutes at the end of last night’s game, following a pair of DNPs. He has dropped behind Fultz in the rotation and is averaging just 13.7 minutes per game, down from 22.4 a year ago. “As a competitor, I know it’s hard,” McConnell said. “But I have to continue being a good teammate and work hard in practice and get better and stay in shape. I’m not going to pout about it. I’m just going to be ready when my name’s called.” McConnell is in his fourth season with the team, but still doesn’t have a guarantee on his $1.6MM contract.
  • Rich Hofmann of The Athletic examines the Sixers’ problems on offense and finds that the team doesn’t have enough players who can create their own shot and no reliable 3-point shooters outside of J.J. Redick. He notes that Philadelphia hasn’t found replacements for Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli, who were both lost in free agency.
  • The Sixers and Celtics are both experiencing the pains of trying to work key players into their rotations, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. In Philadelphia’s case, it’s Fultz, who still hasn’t solved his shooting woes.

Sixers Pick Up Options On Simmons, Fultz, Saric

The Sixers have exercised their 2019/20 team options on Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, and Dario Saric, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Those decisions, which were due on October 31, don’t come as any surprise.

Simmons’ fourth-year option will lock in his $8,113,930 cap hit for 2019/20, though it’s Fultz’s third-year option, worth $9,745,200, that is the priciest of the bunch. Saric’s fourth-year option is more modest, with a value of $3,481,986. In total, the three options will tack on about $21.34MM in guaranteed money to Philadelphia’s cap for next season.

Simmons and Saric are now on track to become eligible for rookie scale extensions during the 2019 offseason. The 76ers will have to make one more option decision on Fultz, with that decision on his 2020/21 option due a year from now.

Philadelphia must make one more rookie scale option decision by Wednesday, with Furkan Korkmaz‘s $2,033,160 third-year option for 2019/20 also outstanding. A recent report suggested that option was a good bet to be exercised, but if the team announces its decisions on the other three options without mentioning Korkmaz, that won’t bode well for him. The cap hit on his option wouldn’t be much higher than the minimum salary, but declining it would help the Sixers maximize their cap space.

We’re tracking all of the 2019/20 rookie scale option decisions right here.

Sixers Notes: Saric, Draft History, Korkmaz, Injuries

Dario Saric‘s slow start may be related to the time he spent this summer with the Croatian national team, but he doesn’t plan to stop representing his home country, relays Mike Sielski of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Saric shot just 26.5% from 3-point range and 37% overall in the Sixers’ first five games, which coach Brett Brown believes is related to a year-round work schedule.

“I don’t think it’s anything to do with the league scouting him differently,” Brown said. “I think it maybe does have to do with a little bit of burnt energy. It’s the toil of a summer. … This notion, that you play 12 months and you’re really in a good flow, is a myth. It is a myth. People need rest.”

However, Brown doesn’t expect Saric to change his priorities. As a former Olympics coach with Australia, Brown understands the passion of international competition. The NBA has long embraced the idea of players representing their native lands and it means too much to Saric to consider changing.

“Absolutely, I think I would be a better player if I didn’t play five, six years on the national team,” he said. “I think I would be a better player. But at the end of the day, everything is winning. You want to win with the national team.”

There’s more today from Philadelphia:

  • Costly draft mistakes have forced the Sixers to rely on trades or free agency to add a third star to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The organization used high lottery picks on Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, who were both traded away for little return, and chose Michael Carter-Williams ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2013. They couldn’t sign free agents LeBron James or Paul George this summer, while Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Raptors. Pompey states that the pressure for a huge move will be intense heading into the last summer for a while that significant cap space will be available.
  • The Sixers are expected to pick up the third-year option on Furkan Korkmaz, even though he doesn’t see much playing time, Pompey adds in the same story. Korkmaz would only make $2.03MM next season, which shouldn’t be enough to affect the team’s free agency plans. Philadelphia has until Wednesday to decide on the option for Korkmaz, along with Simmons, Saric and Markelle Fultz.
  • Injuries are at least partially to blame for the Sixers’ slow start, notes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Philadelphia hasn’t gotten much production outside of Simmons, Embiid and J.J. Redick, but two offseason pickups who were expected to be important parts of the reserve unit, Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala, have both been sidelined by injuries.

Atlantic Notes: McConnell, Vonleh, Morris, Fultz

The Sixers plan to let the season play out before committing to guard T.J. McConnell long-term, according to Keith Pompey of Philly.com. McConnell is eligible for a contract extension, with the 26-year-old set to reach free agency in July on his current deal.

The 76ers have held brief discussions on possibly extending McConnell, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (podcast link), although the sides appear unlikely to reach an official agreement. Philadelphia hopes to keep space for a maximum-salary player in the summer of 2019, when talents such as Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard become free agents.

Several teams have expressed interest in trading for McConnell, including the Suns, Pompey wrote. Philadelphia recently rejected a trade proposal from Phoenix that included a second-round pick.

In 76 games with the Sixers last year, McConnell held per-game averages of 6.3 points, four assists and three rebounds in 22.4 minutes per contest. He scored four points and dished out three assists in Tuesday’s loss against Boston.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • New Knicks forward Noah Vonleh explained his decision to sign with the team this week, as relayed by Zach Braziller of The New York Post. “I felt like this was great spot for me, great opportunity,” he said. “Young team, being able to play with a bunch of guys around my age, a bunch of guys who have been in similar situations as me, being former lottery picks, teams giving up on them pretty quick. I felt like it was a good group to come join.”
  • Marcus Morris is prepared for the uncertainty that comes with earning minutes on the Celtics, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Morris could be asked to play major minutes on some nights, and significantly less minutes on other nights. “The only thing I can do is go out there and be effective with the minutes I’m given and that’s my whole motto during the season,” he said.
  • The Sixers could find more success by playing Markelle Fultz off the bench, Marcus Hayes of Philly.com opines. Fultz started in the first half on Tuesday, then came off the bench in the second half behind J.J. RedickHe finished with five points on 2-7 shooting from the floor.

Sixers Notes: Morey, Offseason Changes, Fultz

When a July report indicated that the Sixers tried and failed to lure Daryl Morey away from Houston, it appeared that those discussions didn’t go far — Philadelphia reportedly received permission from the Rockets to talk to Morey, but the veteran executive decided to remain in his current job.

According to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com, however, Morey didn’t turn down the Sixers’ advances out of hand. One source close to the process tells Arnovitz that discussions got “pretty far down the road” before Morey elected to stay in Houston.

As the 76ers’ search for a new head of basketball operations continued following their failed bid for Morey, a consensus begin to build that it was important to maintain continuity in the front office, per Arnovitz. That’s one reason why Elton Brand was the eventual choice for the general manager job.

“When you live with these guys over three months, from draft and free agency, you appreciate what we already had,” head coach Brett Brown said, per Arnovitz. “Elton was always going to be a general manager at some point, in some city. And it might as well be here, and it might as well be now.”

According to Arnovitz, multiple league insiders viewed the decision to promote Brand and give him the title of GM (rather than president of basketball operations) as a “statement of control” by Sixers ownership — if they get cold feet on Brand down the road, they could always bring in a veteran executive above him. For now though, he’s running the show in Philadelphia.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Arnovitz’s feature on the Sixers, which is worth checking out in full, also includes details on how Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are shaping the franchise’s culture and identity, and the lessons Embiid was taught by Tim Duncan during his rookie year in 2014/15.
  • Replacing Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli on the second unit will be one of Brown’s biggest challenges this season, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. In 23 games after that duo was acquired in February, the second unit averaged 41.6 PPG and improved its three-point percentage from 32.2% to 35.2%. Mike Muscala and Wilson Chandler, acquired in trades this summer, are projected to replace them in the rotation but both are batting injuries, Murphy adds.
  • Late first-rounder Landry Shamet had a productive preseason and that opens up more options for the second unit, Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes. Shamet, a 6’5” point guard, had a pair of double-digit games while mostly working alongside J.J. Redick. “I think it went about as well as it could have,” Shamet told Todd. “I didn’t surprise myself, that’s kind of the way I look at it.”
  • Markelle Fultz will start the season opener and Redick will come off the bench, Jon Johnson of KYW 1060 Philadelphia tweets. The 2017 top overall pick will be starting for the first time. Fultz only appeared in 14 regular season and three postseason games as a rookie. Redick, who averaged a career-best 17.1 PPG last season, hasn’t come off the bench in a regular season game since the 2013/14 season.

(Dana Gauruder contributed to this post.)

Sixers Notes: Chandler, Muscala, Covington, Fultz

It appears Wilson Chandler‘s hamstring injury will linger at least a couple of weeks into the regular season, coach Brett Brown says in a video tweeted by Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Chandler, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Nuggets, has been sidelined since straining his left hamstring September 28 in an exhibition game against Melbourne United.

“My experience with hamstrings is one that reminds you that it rarely is less than a month,” Brown said. “And it’s not like he’s 20 years old. … We don’t need to rush him back into doing anything, and when his body says he’s ready to play, that’s when he’ll play.”

Brown added that no timeline has been set for Chandler to return, but repeated that it should be about a month from the original injury. The Sixers open their season Tuesday against the Celtics.

There’s more news out of Philadelphia:

  • The Sixers ran into another social media issue today that gave new GM Elton Brand his first public relations test since taking the job, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. The father of Mike Muscala allegedly posted inflammatory comments about Jimmy Butler on his Twitter account, which drew immediate condemnation from Brand. Muscala apologized for the incident and Brand absolved him of any blame. “Having known Mike since his rookie year in 2013-14 when we were teammates, I am also certain these posts are in no way reflective of his own personal beliefs,” Brand said. “Mike has always been a great teammate and ambassador for the game of basketball, and he has never shied away from using his platform to do good in the community. He has our organization’s full support.”
  • Robert Covington endured extreme roster turnover and some of the worst losing in history during his first two seasons in Philadelphia, but he has become the team’s longest-tenured player and an example to his younger teammates. In an interview with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, Covington talks about how those early years molded him. “Coach Brown looks at me as one of the leaders, if not the leader, of this team because of everything I’ve faced and just how I’ve handled everything,” Covington said. “He looks at me as one of the strongest people on this team.”
  • Brown plans to stick with his preseason strategy of starting Markelle Fultz at shooting guard in the first half and J.J. Redick in the second half, relays Tom Moore of The Bucks County Courier Times. Both players say they’re on board with the unconventional arrangement.

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Fizdale, Nets, Green

Sixers guard Markelle Fultz will look to establish himself as the team’s third star this season, with the 20-year-old coming off a campaign that saw him play just 14 games.

Fultz, the No. 1 pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, spent a considerable amount of time working on his jumpshot and overall game this offseason with trainer Drew Hanlen. The former Washington prospect believes he can fill the Sixers’ need for a third star throughout the upcoming season.

“I kind of like when people doubt me and say ‘Look for another star,’ “ Fultz said, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I see myself as that player. I just work every day to become better.

“I really don’t look at other people’s goals [for him], but I definitely look at it to see myself as that next player that can step up in that role.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division: