Sixers Rumors

Atlantic Notes: Achiuwa, Hartenstein, Lowry, Barnes, Quickley

Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa took over the starting power forward position over the past 10 games in Julius Randle‘s absence and has played some of the best basketball of his career during that stretch, The Athletic’s Fred Katz writes. Achiuwa is averaging 14.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks in his last 10 outings, including three games with more than 15 rebounds.

Achiuwa flew under the radar when he was moved to New York in the trade for OG Anunoby, but he’s been one of the team’s steadiest contributors after uneven stops in Miami and Toronto to begin his career, Katz writes. Playing under coach Tom Thibodeau has unlocked aspects of Achiuwa’s game, including effective fake dribble handoffs.

You knew there was versatility to his game,” Thibodeau said. “But we didn’t understand the dribble handoff part of it, all those things. And the offensive rebounding is something that we liked from the start. We knew he was very effective with that.

The Knicks will have some decisions to make once Randle returns to the lineup, but Achiuwa is making a strong case to be included in a fully healthy rotation, according to Katz.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein returned to the court on Thursday after missing three games with injury. However, according to New York Post’s Stefan Bondy, Hartenstein left the arena with “a little frustration” about his minutes because they differed from his ramp-up plan. Hartenstein said he was supposed to hit the 21-minute mark but he only played 11 in a win over the Sixers.
  • Kyle Lowry made his debut with the Sixers on Thursday, scoring 11 points, four rebounds and five assists while receiving a standing ovation in front of his hometown crowd. “It was an amazing atmosphere and the ovation that I got was awesome. I was happy,” Lowry said, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “I was pissed that we lost and we were in that situation, but it was a great moment. Now for me it’s about winning basketball games.” Lowry was born in Philadelphia and played college ball at Villanova.
  • When the Raptors acquired Immanuel Quickley, they added an athletic guard who can shoot the ball — an ideal complement on paper to star Scottie Barnes. While there have been some bright spots with the pairing, The Athletic’s Eric Koreen observes that it’s still a work in progress. Each player is playing individually well, but Toronto is looking for more synchronicity with the duo, per Koreen.

Sixers’ Melton Returns Friday After Lengthy Absence

Sixers guard De’Anthony Melton returned from an 18-game absence on Friday vs. Cleveland, tweets Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Melton, who last played on January 12, has been dealing with a lumbar injury in his back.

The 25-year-old had started all 33 games in which he appeared this season prior to Friday, when he came off the bench on a minutes restriction. Melton, one of the team’s best defenders, has averaged 11.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.2 APG and 1.6 SPG on .393/.363/.827 shooting in 29.1 MPG through 33 contests.

Veteran forward Nicolas Batum had also missed the past nine games leading into the All-Star break with a hamstring injury prior to Thursday, when he played 18 minutes in the loss to New York. While he was technically available for the back-to-back Friday, he hasn’t actually played through three quarters, likely just to be cautious because he’s 35 and soft-tissue injuries are tricky.

As our tracker shows, Melton and Batum are two of a possible 14 free agents for the Sixers in 2024. That’s the highest FA total in the league — the Lakers are second with up to 11.

Melton, who is also eligible for a veteran extension, is making $8MM in 2023/24, while Batum makes $11.7MM.

The Sixers are currently 32-23, the No. 5 seed in the East.

Sixers Ignoring Chatter From Patrick Beverley

  • Patrick Beverley has been taking shots at his former team on his podcast since being traded to Milwaukee, but the Sixers are choosing to ignore them, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Coach Nick Nurse and Kyle Lowry, who’s taking over Beverley’s role in Philadelphia, have been among the targets. “I’m not a podcast watcher, but he’s a friend of mine and that’s his competitive nature,” Lowry said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to play against him, as always.”

Sixers Notes: Lowry, Batum, Melton, Embiid, Covington

Philadelphia native Kyle Lowry wasn’t hoping to play for the Sixers earlier in his career, but he feels ready now, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Lowry, who had his first practice with his new team on Wednesday and is expected to be ready for Thursday’s game, explained why he didn’t try to join the Sixers before now.

“You never want to play at home because there’s so much going on. It’s a hard place to play when you go back home,” Lowry said. “But at the end of the day, it’s a dream come true, because I’m actually being able to play in front of my friends and family and people I cheered [for] as a Sixers fan growing up. Now, I’m prepared to do it. When you’re younger, you’re not really prepared to do it. But at this in my time in my career, I’m prepared to do it.”

Coach Nick Nurse told Bontemps that Lowry looked sharp at practice and is already familiar with much of the system after their time together in Toronto. The 37-year-old point guard said he understands his duties, which are to get the most out of Tyrese Maxey and provide some veteran wisdom as the team prepares for the playoffs.

“My job is to do everything I can to make this team and this organization better,” Lowry stated. “No matter what the role is, what the minutes are, what the situation is. My job is to be a professional and help Tyrese get better, help this team get better, help coach get better and help everybody get better.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • The Sixers’ injury situation appears to be improving, Bontemps adds. Nicolas Batum, who has been sidelined since last month with a strained left hamstring, is listed as questionable for Thursday, and De’Anthony Melton, who’s dealing with a back issue, is expected to return soon. “There were two or three starters, sometimes four starters, not playing, so we certainly need some of those starting guys back,” Nurse said.
  • The team remains optimistic that Joel Embiid will be able to return from his meniscus injury before the end of the regular season, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said on NBA Today (Twitter link from Philly Sixers Galaxy). “They don’t want to put any time frame on it until he starts ramping up,” Shelburne said, “but I’m told he went to practice [yesterday], he got there early to see how everything was in the morning … his enthusiasm is there.”
  • Robert Covington hopes to be able to increase his on-court activities during the next two to three weeks, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. He’s suffering from a bone bruise in his left knee and will be reevaluated in 10-to-14 days, Pompey adds.

Pacific Notes: Podziemski, Green, Kuminga, Rivers, Harden

First-round pick Brandin Podziemski has been a revelation for the Warriors, quickly becoming an integral part of the team. The Athletic’s Anthony Slater details how Golden State’s front office became enamored with him and how quickly he earned a spot in the rotation.

However, the Warriors guard feels he has a much higher ceiling.

“I want to be an All-Star,” Podziemski said. “You know, (Jonathan Kuminga) has taken that next step of really being in that conversation. To see his growth just this year has been pretty special. So going into the summer after this year elevating my game to another level, doing the things that I’m deficient in now and making them as efficient as possible, I think I can get there.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • While Draymond Green contacted super-agent Rich Paul in an unsuccessful effort to get LeBron James to consider a trade from the Lakers to Golden State, Green told Warriors owner Joe Lacob to hold onto the team’s blossoming young forward in any trade discussions. “The one thing the NBA does not want to see, is Anthony Davis and Kuminga together for the next 10 years. That would be scary!” he said in an NBA on TNT interview (Twitter link).
  • Former Sixers coach Doc Rivers was consulted by the Clippers before they acquired James Harden from Philadelphia, he told Tomer Azarly of Clutch Points. Rivers has since taken over the Bucks’ head coaching job. “I was the one, obviously, they consulted,” Rivers said. “They made calls and I was one of the guys who said it would be a great deal for them because I thought he fit them better than he would fit the Sixers team. I think he’s a perfect fit there. It’s a league. We talk. They just talked, asked questions, and I was on board early.”
  • Speaking of Harden, Mark Medina of describes how the Clippers guard has made changes to his game to fit in with his current teammates. That includes his mindset on the offensive end. “My job for this team is to touch the paint and get the shot, make the shot and make the game a lot easier for teammates,” Harden said. “Whether I have my step-back going or getting to the paint, I’m going to make a play for a teammate.”

Maxey Calls All-Star Selection "Surreal"

  • Free agent Danuel House Jr. is weighing a number of options, including interest from the Hawks, according to the Pat Bev Pod (Twitter link). Considering the source is another current player like Patrick Beverley, who was teammates with House in Philadelphia up until the trade deadline, this info would appear to be very credible. House was traded, along with a second-round pick, by the 76ers to the Pistons, who quickly waived him.
  • Speaking of the Sixers, Tyrese Maxey made his first appearance as an All-Star over the weekend. He was humbled by the honor, he told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Honestly, as a kid, I grew up saying I’d be an All-Star and those different things,” Maxey said. “But when it actually comes to light and it comes to something that you are and you see your name on the list, it’s kind of surreal. I know a lot of hard work went into it. I got what I deserved, but to still actually see it come true is like crazy.”

Darius Bazley Signs 10-Day Deal With Sixers

FEBRUARY 20: Bazley has officially signed with the Sixers, according to a team press release.

FEBRUARY 19: The Sixers will sign Darius Bazley to a 10-day contract, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The 23-year-old big man has been playing with Philadelphia’s G League affiliate in Delaware since being waived by Brooklyn prior to the start of the season. Bazley is averaging 20.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 18 regular season games with the Blue Coats, and Charania points out that he recently had a 38-point, 15-rebound performance.

Bazley should provide some depth to the Sixers’ front line, which has been depleted with the loss of Joel Embiid to meniscus surgery. Assuming he signs on Thursday, Bazley will be eligible for that night’s game against New York, plus four more over the 10-day contract.

After creating three open roster spots through trades, Philadelphia faces a deadline of Thursday to get back to the league-mandated minimum of 14 players. The team filled one opening by signing Kyle Lowry last week.

A first-round pick in 2019, Bazley began his career in Oklahoma City, where he spent three-and-a-half seasons before being traded to Phoenix at last year’s deadline. He appeared in just seven games with the Suns before becoming a free agent last summer. He was selected to participate in the G League’s Up Next Game at All-Star Weekend.

Stein’s Latest: Thompson, Magic, Warriors, Caruso, Hawks, More

While he believes that Klay Thompson will ultimately remain in Golden State and eventually retire as a member of the Warriors, Marc Stein writes at Substack that the Magic have been “increasingly mentioned” as a potential suitor for the veteran sharpshooter, who is eligible to reach unrestricted free agency this summer.

Thompson is eligible to sign an extension with the Warriors at any time between now and June 30, but if the two sides don’t reach an agreement by then, he’ll become a free agent and would be able to sign with any team.

While it’s hard to imagine Thompson ending up with the Magic, they’re well positioned to put some pressure on the Warriors — with Markelle Fultz and Gary Harris on expiring contracts and Joe Ingles, Moritz Wagner, and Jonathan Isaac not on guaranteed contracts for 2024/25, Orlando could generate a significant amount of cap room in the offseason.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Despite a belief that Alex Caruso was essentially off-limits at this month’s trade deadline, the Bulls gave “real consideration” to the possibility of moving him before trade talks with the Warriors collapsed, Stein writes.
  • Stein also confirms that Chicago and Sixers had serious discussions about an Andre Drummond deal, but hears from one league source that the Bulls were only willing to move Drummond if they were able to line up another center to replace him. When no such opportunity materialized, they decided to hang onto Drummond.
  • There’s a sense that the Hawks will make a trade involving one of their starting guards – Trae Young and Dejounte Murray – sooner rather than later. “They know they have to trade one or the other,” one source told Stein.
  • While Mike Budenholzer‘s name has been mentioned in league circles as a possibility for the Nets‘ permanent head coaching job, Stein suggests that Budenholzer could very well be a top candidate for multiple jobs this spring, so he has reason to be patient to see how the head coaching market plays out.

Atlantic Notes: Barnes, Lowry, Brunson, DiVincenzo

The Raptors have lost three games in a row, two of which were blowouts. The 23-point loss to the Spurs on Monday, in particular, showed Scottie Barnes is still figuring out what it means to be a leader, writes TSN’s Josh Lewenberg. Barnes finished that game with just seven points on 20.0% shooting and departed for the locker room with about four seconds left.

Toronto failed to send a message by not disciplining Barnes, Lewenberg opines, pointing to a time early in the 2020/21 season when the team responded to Pascal Siakam leaving a game early by holding him out of the following game.

Lewenberg, The Athletic’s Eric Koreen and’s Michael Grange all explore the topic, writing that Barnes is still in the first steps of figuring out his leading style after Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby all departed over the past year.

For what it’s worth, Barnes downplayed the situation after the game and followed up the performance by scoring 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in a two-point loss to the Pacers right before the deadline.

He is learning what kind of effect he has on [the] team and teammates and everybody,” head coach Darko Rajakovic said. “He’s going through this for the first time in his life, being the face of a franchise, and he’s emotional, but he also needs to learn how to channel those emotions. This is another great learning opportunity for him. That doesn’t mean it’s never going to happen again, but I believe that there’s going to be less and less and much better handling [of] those situations going forward.

We have more notes from the Atlantic Division:

  • Kyle Lowry had multiple options on the buyout market, according to Nick Nurse, but saw the Sixers as his best fit (Twitter link via South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman). Nurse also referred to Lowry as a backup point guard, meaning he’ll help fill the defensive role that opened when the team traded away Patrick Beverley at the deadline.
  • After making his first All-Star and Three-Point Contest appearances, Knicks guard Jalen Brunson is looking to what’s next, according to the New York Post’s Peter Botte. Brunson is taking it game-by-game and day-by-day. “I know a lot of Knicks fans want to put us right in the Eastern Conference Finals. We were one step short last year,” Brunson said. “I think for us … we can’t look forward to the playoffs. We have to focus on every single day, just chipping away and getting better and better.
  • Donte DiVincenzo is having a career year with the Knicks, averaging career highs of 13.6 points and 41.5% from beyond the arc. He’s been especially productive as the Knicks have rocketed up the standings since the New Year. The New York Post’s Stefan Bondy explores DiVincenzo’s ascension from playing at small Catholic school Salesianum to a starting role with a contending team. “I thought he was going to play for money, but I didn’t think it was going to the NBA. I thought it was going to be Italy or something,” Salesianum’s head coach at the time Brendan Haley said. “But he just kept getting better and better. And keeps betting on himself and keeps winning.

Six Teams Must Make Roster Additions By March 1

NBA rules allow a team to dip below 14 players on their standard (15-man) roster, but only temporarily. A club can carry fewer than 14 players for up to two weeks, which means the clock is ticking on a handful of teams around the league, who must must make a roster addition at some point in the coming days.

Here are those clubs, along with the deadline for them to make a free agent signing:

Golden State Warriors (Feb. 22)

The Warriors had been carrying 14 players entering the day of the trade deadline on February 8 and dipped down to 13 later that day by trading away Cory Joseph, so they’ll have until next Thursday to fill Joseph’s roster spot.

The Warriors’ most obvious internal candidate for a promotion is Lester Quinones, who has been part of the regular rotation as of late, appearing in each of the team’s past 10 games and averaging 18.8 minutes per night. Quinones’ fellow two-way players, Usman Garuba and Jerome Robinson, haven’t had roles in Golden State this season.

Minnesota Timberwolves (Feb. 22)

The Timberwolves made a two-for-one trade on deadline day, sending out Shake Milton and Troy Brown for Monte Morris. That deal created a second opening on their 15-man roster, which they’ll have to fill by Thursday.

Unlike Golden State, Minnesota doesn’t have a clear candidate for a promotion among its two-way players, Luka Garza, Daishen Nix, and Jaylen Clark. The Wolves could still go that route, but I expect they’ll scour the free agent market to see if there’s a veteran who would make sense as a depth piece for what the club hopes will be an extended postseason run.

New York Knicks (Feb. 22)

The Knicks will actually have to make a pair of roster additions by next Thursday, since they dropped to 12 players on trade deadline day. Taj Gibson has since signed a 10-day contract, but it will expire on Monday night, at which point New York will once again have three open roster spots, two of which will need to be filled.

Gibson is a strong candidate for one of those openings — since he has signed two 10-day deals already, he’d need to get a rest-of-season contract if the Knicks want to keep him. As for the other spot, one report suggested that a two-way or G League player could be promoted, but New York has also been connected to veteran free agents, including former Knick Nerlens Noel.

Philadelphia 76ers (Feb. 22)

A busy trade deadline day saw the Sixers send out five players (Marcus Morris, Furkan Korkmaz, Patrick Beverley, Jaden Springer, and Danuel House) and acquire only two (Buddy Hield and Cameron Payne) in return, creating three open roster spots.

Philadelphia has since filled one by signing Kyle Lowry on the buyout market, but another addition will be required by Thursday. It would be a little surprising if it’s not a center, given that the team has been on the lookout for frontcourt help since Joel Embiid went down with a meniscus injury.

Phoenix Suns (Feb. 22)

The Suns traded four players (Jordan Goodwin, Yuta Watanabe, Keita Bates-Diop, and Chimezie Metu) at the deadline and brought back two (Royce O’Neale and David Roddy), generating two roster openings.

It’s not official yet, but there’s no mystery about who will become the Suns’ 14th man — they’re reportedly finalizing a deal with veteran forward Thaddeus Young. That signing is expected to be completed at some point next week.

Washington Wizards (March 1)

Unlike the other teams on this list, the Wizards’ trade deadline moves didn’t leave them short of the 14-man mark. But they waived Delon Wright on Friday after negotiating a buyout agreement, dropping their standard roster count to 13 players. They have 13 more days to fill that spot.

The lottery-bound Wizards won’t be in the market for a veteran free agent, so I’d bet on an internal promotion. Two-way players Eugene Omoruyi and Jared Butler are both legitimate candidates for standard multiyear contracts.

One more team to watch: Toronto Raptors

The Raptors have a full 15-man roster for the time being, but their 14th and 15th men – Justise Winslow and Mouhamadou Gueye – are both on 10-day contracts that will expire on Monday night. If Toronto doesn’t re-sign one or both players immediately, the club will be on the clock to add a new free agent or promote a two-way player by March 5.