Daryl Morey

Atlantic Notes: Thybulle, Morey, Siakam, VanVleet, Mazzulla

Sixers swingman Matisse Thybulle wasn’t actively involved in extension negotiations with the team leading up to the season, letting his representatives handle those discussions, as Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Thybulle, who didn’t sign a new deal by Monday’s deadline and is now on track to reach restricted free agency in 2023, is OK with playing out his contract year.

“It’s not my negotiations,” he told Pompey. “So I trust my agents. If it wasn’t the right time, then I trust that it will be when we get to the next offseason.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • In a fascinating profile for The Ringer, Kevin O’Connor takes a deep dive into Daryl Morey, sharing several behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the Sixers‘ president of basketball operations and examining his ongoing quest for a championship. Within the story, star center Joel Embiid takes a veiled shot at former 76ers executive Bryan Colangelo, telling O’Connor, “Since I’ve been here, all of the GMs were really smart, except one.”
  • The Raptors didn’t work out extensions this offseason with either Pascal Siakam or Fred VanVleet, prompting Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca to wonder if the team will end up regretting that, given the NBA’s rapidly rising salary cap. While Siakam can’t sign a new deal until next July now that Monday’s deadline has passed, VanVleet remains eligible for an in-season extension (if he declines his 2023/24 player option), but that seems like a long shot.
  • Joe Mazzulla, thrust into the Celtics‘ head coaching job less than a month ago after Ime Udoka was suspended for the season, looked ready for the big stage in Boston’s opening night victory over Philadelphia, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “From the start of the game, his confidence, you could see, is oozing out,” guard Marcus Smart said. “Usually, most coaches are trying to figure things out, and he comes right in like he’s doing it for years.” Jaylen Brown agreed with Smart’s assessment: “Joe is tough as nails. Even when in the midst of everything, all the turmoil, when you looked into his eyes, you could tell he was ready.”

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Sixers, House, Knicks

In an interview with Nick Friedell of ESPN, Ben Simmons said it felt “surreal” to be back on the court with the Nets this preseason after 16 months away from the game. After dealing with both physical and mental health issues, Simmons said he finally got to return to a place where he’s “comfortable.”

Simmons addressed several topics in the discussion, including the negative public perception of him, his future in Brooklyn and everything that went wrong with the Sixers. He said he’s looking forward to his first game in front of Philadelphia fans on November 22.

“I can’t wait to go there, yeah. But for me, everything’s an experience and a learning situation,” Simmons said. “So for me I’m able to learn something that I’ve never been through before. I’ve never been traded and played against a team that I got traded from. (Kevin Durant) has, (Kyrie Irving) has, a lot of guys have, but I’ve never been in that situation so — you have to go through it. Ky went back to Boston, and he didn’t play well, but it’s a lot. We’re people, too. We want to go out there and prove everyone wrong.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey acquired four former Rockets players during the offseason, but the one-time Houston general manager says he didn’t deliberately try to put the team back together, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Morey signed P.J. Tucker, Danuel House and Montrezl Harrell and traded for De’Anthony Melton, reuniting them with ex-Rockets star James Harden. “If you have had a player, whether it be with [coach Doc Rivers] or myself, it can lower the risk,” Morey said. “Because you don’t really know a player until you’ve worked directly with them on your team. So I do think there’s an information advantage when you’ve worked with them before. … It all sort of fell, and it’s created a pretty interesting and, I think, positive dynamic because there is a lot of familiarity, both with the players together and also the coaching staff.”
  • After playing for three teams last season, House knows what he needs to do to earn consistent minutes with the Sixers“My role is just to be energy,” he said (video link). “Be the guy to make stuff happen. Make plays happen, make a shot, knock down a shot, get a rebound, pass the ball, set the play up, run the play, set the screen, whatever the team needs pretty much. I’m just here to give away myself. Like I said earlier, I’m not really worried about accolades. As long as we win, I feel like that’s my biggest accolade.” 
  • Peter Botte of The New York Post (subscription required) identifies Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson and Derrick Rose as the most pivotal players for the Knicks‘ upcoming season. Botte also notes this will be an important year for coach Tom Thibodeau and team president Leon Rose after last year’s disappointment.

NBA Investigating Sixers’ Free Agency Moves For Tampering

The NBA is investigating the Sixers‘ free agency moves for possible tampering and “early contact,” according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

As Wojnarowski details, James Harden declined his $47.4MM player option and instead took a pay cut by signing a two-year, $68.6MM deal with a second year player option. That gave the Sixers the flexibility to use their full mid-level exception to sign P.J. Tucker and their bi-annual exception to sign Danuel House — two of Harden’s former teammates with the Rockets under president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, who is now with Philadelphia.

Marc Stein first reported that the Sixers were likely to face a tampering investigation, and he was also one of the first reporters to link Tucker to Philadelphia, with rival teams reportedly convinced that Tucker was signing a three-year deal for the mid-level multiple days before free agency officially opened.

Some around the league have wondered whether the Sixers and Harden already have a future deal in place, which is against the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Wojnarowski notes. Such a handshake agreement would involve declining his player option in 2023 and signing a lucrative new contract at that time.

The Sixers are complying with the investigation, Wojnarowski adds. The Knicks are also likely to face a tampering investigation due to an early free agency agreement with guard Jalen Brunson, as Fred Katz of The Athletic wrote last week.

The Heat (Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade last summer) and Bucks (Bogdan Bogdanovic deal that fell through in 2020) both lost their 2022 second-round picks as a result of previous tampering investigations, and the Bulls will lose their 2023 second-rounder for their early sign-and-trade agreement for Lonzo Ball in 2021.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Williamson, Sims, Anunoby, Morey, Harden

The speculation over Zion Williamson‘s future with New Orleans has Knicks fans dreaming of acquiring the 2019 top pick. Williamson’s former coach and current TV analyst Stan Van Gundy scoffs at the notion that big-name players want to go to New York, Ethan Sears of the New York Post relays.

“No matter how many times people have proven they don’t want to play for the Knicks, the Knicks have this idea that everybody in the league wants to play for the Knicks,” Van Gundy said on the Dan Le Batard Show. “Now, what is the last time it actually happened that somebody came and tried to get their way to New York? Like, never in the last 20 years? But still the Knicks and Knicks fans think everybody is trying to get to the Knicks. I’m not saying [Zion] won’t end up there — there’s all kinds of ways people can end up somewhere — but this idea that everybody wants to be a New York Knick, I mean if that were the case, then they wouldn’t be as bad as they’ve been for the last 20 years.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau played rookie center Jericho Sims ahead of Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson on Friday, which may signal a shift in philosophy, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Thibodeau typically relies on veterans, so it was unusual to see a late second-round pick get 18 minutes of playing time. “We’ll see how it unfolds. Taj did a good job for us,” Thibodeau said. “Nerlens did a good job for us. Jericho, the opportunities that he’s had, he’s played well. So just let him get in there; let him gain some more experience.”
  • Raptors forward OG Anunoby will get a second opinion on his injured finger, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. An X-ray revealed that Anunoby had a fractured right ring finger and would miss some games. The trip to the specialist will presumably clarify a recovery timeline.
  • James Harden, who made his Sixers debut on Friday, wanted to play with Joel Embiid “for a long time,” president of basketball operations Daryl Morey told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne“James is a basketball genius,” Morey said. “And he’s been wanting to play with Joel for a long time. I think he’s always thought Joel was, like, the perfect guy to pair with him.”

And-Ones: Blue, Pargo, Morey, G League Ignite

NBA alum Vander Blue has signed a new deal to play for Club Atletico Peñarol in Uruguay, per Dario Skerletic of Sportando. Most recently, Blue played with Mexican club Libertadores de Queretaro, where he averaged 21.7 PPG, 3.7 APG and 1.8 SPG during the team’s 2021/22 season.

The 6’4″ shooting guard out of Marquette, 29, logged parts of three seasons in the NBA for the Celtics and Lakers, playing a total of 10 NBA games, including one start, and ultimately averaging 13.4 MPG. He last saw league action for five games during the 2017/18 NBA season with Los Angeles.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • After leaving Napoli Basket last month, former NBA guard Jeremy Pargo has signed a new G League deal and will join the Windy City Bulls, tweets JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors. Pargo, a Chicago native, played with the Grizzlies, Cavaliers, Sixers and Warriors during three NBA seasons. The 35-year-old combo guard holds NBA averages of 4.8 PPG, 1.8 APG and 1.0 RPG across 86 contests.
  • As a recent guest on The Colin Cowherd Podcast, Sixers GM Daryl Morey shared some bold concepts for changing the NBA regular season’s schedule and playoffs structure (hat tip to Ryan Glasspiegel of the New York Post). Morey proposed cutting the league’s current 82-game regular season schedule to 58 contests. “Every team plays every [other] team two times,” he said. “The playoffs, I 100 percent agree, shorter is better… I would have it one-and-done,” Morey said, suggesting that every postseason round be reduced from seven games to a single contest. “There’s a reason everyone tunes into every game at huge ratings in the NFL. It is literally one-and-done.”
  • Six prospects from the NBAGL club the G League Ignite, point guard Scoot Henderson, wing Dyson Daniels, shooting guard Jaden Hardy, and forward MarJon Beauchamp, plus big men Michael Foster Jr. and Fanbo Zeng, participated in the festivities for the NBA’s 2022 All-Star Weekend. Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated evaluated the Ignite players during a recent two-game stint prior to the weekend, five of whom (Henderson being the lone exception) could be selected for the NBA draft this year. Woo indicates that Henderson, Daniels, Hardy and Beauchamp all appear likely to be first-round picks.

Sixers Notes: Championship Potential, Simmons, Maxey

With just 24 games between now and the playoffs, it will be a challenge for the Sixers‘ new superstar duo of James Harden and Joel Embiid to mesh quickly enough to make the team a legitimate championship threat this spring.

However, head coach Doc Rivers‘ plan isn’t to work out the kinks this year and focus on winning a title in 2023. As Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes, Rivers fully believes the team is capable of a championship run this spring and wants to make the most of the opportunity.

“I always think right now,” Rivers said on Thursday. “I’ve been in this league too long. And I always go back to [the Celtics’ 2007/08 NBA championship team.] Kevin [Garnett] and I talk about it all the time. I remember the first year during training camp we had a meeting and they were saying, ‘Man, we have to get it together. This might not be the year. But by next year, we might…’ I said, ‘Next year? Are you guys kidding me? Next year one of you can get hurt.’

“I know it’s short. I know it’s going to be hard to get it together. But having said that, the time is always now.”

Here’s more on the 76ers:

  • Appearing on the Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said he believes Ben Simmons was dealing with mental health struggles in Philadelphia, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays. “I believe him. He was going through something,” Morey said. “And it was just whether or not we could’ve gotten to the point where we would have him play basketball for us,”
  • During the same interview, Morey said he should have communicated better with Simmons when the Sixers were originally trying to acquire Harden from Houston in 2021, and that he “should have had a better relationship” with the former No. 1 overall pick. “I think knowing how sensitive he was to public comments that that behooved us to be, just organizationally, more careful on that,” Morey said, per Feldman. “I think it’s important you know your top players and their different spots where you have to pay attention.”
  • Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey will replace injured Kings guard Davion Mitchell in Friday’s “Clutch Challenge,” a shooting competition that will take place prior to the Rising Stars final, the league announced in a press release. Maxey will team up with Toronto forward Scottie Barnes in the event.
  • In case you missed it, we asked on Thursday whether the Sixers or Nets are better positioned for a deep playoff run.

Harden Directly Asked Nets’ Marks, Tsai For Trade To Sixers

For much of the 2021/22 season, Nets guard James Harden insisted during conversations with general manager Sean Marks and team owner Joe Tsai that he wanted to remain in Brooklyn beyond this season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne (Insider link). And initially, signing a long-term deal with Brooklyn was Harden’s preferred option, since he could always force a trade down the road if he needed to.

However, as the season progressed, Harden began talking to various player agents to get advice about how best to make his way to Philadelphia, according to ESPN’s duo. As Wojnarowski and Shelburne detail, the Nets would often quickly learn what Harden – who has a reputation for being passive-aggressive rather than confrontational and was worried about the optics of making another trade request – was saying to agents and other third parties.

Finally, with the trade deadline fast approaching, Harden directly told Marks and Tsai that he would prefer to play for the Sixers, asking the GM and team owner on a FaceTime call to send him to Philadelphia, sources tell ESPN.

The Nets told him they would only make a deal if it was a good one for the organization, which Harden understood. While the two sides agreed at that point that Harden wouldn’t play until after Thursday’s deadline, the former MVP appeared to have already checked out on the team, according to Wojnarowski and Shelburne, who say Harden informed management he was headed to Houston on Wednesday to wait out the deadline.

Here’s more from Wojnarowski and Shelburne on the Harden/Ben Simmons blockbuster:

  • Marks and Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey engaged in plenty of posturing in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline before eventually getting more serious late on Wednesday night, sources tell ESPN. Up until that point, Marks had listened to a couple of Morey’s trade pitches, but rebuffed them.
  • According to Wojnarowski and Shelburne, when the two sides reengaged and eventually neared the finish line on Thursday, Marks told Morey he needed to hang up the phone to run the proposed deal by Tsai, prompting Morey to yell, “Stay on the f—ing phone!” Marks jokingly replied, “We’re dropping F-Bombs now, Daryl?” He ultimately got Tsai’s approval to move forward on the trade.
  • Simmons’ agent Rich Paul met with Nets star Kevin Durant and Durant’s business partner Rich Kleiman nearly a month ago and pitched the idea of a Harden/Simmons swap, per Wojnarowski and Shelburne. Durant initially wasn’t interested in the idea, but the equation changed after he injured his knee and Harden became increasingly disengaged during his absence.
  • Harden doesn’t have a direct history with Sixers star Joel Embiid, but has always been a fan of the center and pushed Morey to trade for him when they were both in Houston, according to ESPN’s duo. “James respects players who do a good job defending him,” one source said. “And Joel has always done that.”
  • Although Simmons never got over what he viewed as a lack of public support from head coach Doc Rivers following last spring’s playoff loss to the Hawks, the two men had been speaking again in recent weeks, with conversations “increasing in substance,” per Woj and Shelburne. However, their final conversation on Thursday was mostly just an exchanging of pleasantries, sources tell ESPN.

Morey Expands Trade Options Due To Embiid’s Stellar Season

Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has expanded his trade options due to the MVP-caliber play of Joel Embiid, but he remains cautious about making a blockbuster deal prior to next month’s deadline, he said in an radio interview on 97.5 The Fanatic (hat tip to Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com).

Morey acknowledges that the play of Embiid and his teammates makes him more motivated to upgrade the team for a championship push.

“I think with how great Joel is, our line has moved down a little bit. Because Joel has lifted us to contention by his sheer will of greatness this year, that does the number of deals we would do more likely,” Morey said. “It’s more likely that we can find ones that get us into the top few contention because of how great Joel is playing. So we are sitting right now at a better chance of a trade that actually helps Joel and the Sixers.

“[Before], we absolutely need to get an impact player, but there’s an impact player that has to be in the top 30 of the league. Because Joel is playing amazing and has lifted us into probably five percent plus title odds just on his play, now we might be able to do it with a top-40 player who’s a great fit.”

Of course, the main path to making such a deal would be to move Ben Simmons. Throughout the season, Morey has put an exorbitant price tag on Simmons. Morey’s comment suggests he’s more open to getting a package that won’t include a “top-30” player.

As Neubeck speculates, Morey may be trying to motivate a potential trade partner such as the Kings to include a promising player like Tyrese Haliburton, who could eventually develop into an All-Star.

Morey admits that he’s “frustrated” by not having a “whole team” due to Simmons remaining inactive.

“We do have a big chunk of our pretty constrained salary that we can pay the players not playing,” he said. “That’s very frustrating…and then there’s teams that are frustrated because they’re losing or not quite as good as they thought they would be, and that’s creating a lot of chatter.”

Yet he’s not necessarily optimistic that the chatter will lead to an impactful trade.

“It won’t be because we don’t want to do it, it will be because for whatever reason, I mean I can tell you that these other 29 teams, none of them wake up and say, ‘Hey, today, how can I help the 76ers get better?'” he said. “They’re all worried about their own teams. The main reason I say less likely than likely is it takes two or three to tango. Trades are not easy to construct in this league, there’s a lot of risk aversion, there’s a lot of decision-makers that have to be hurdled.”

Morey also doesn’t want to make a deal for some well-known players that will only marginally help their chances of reaching the Finals.

‘That will hurt Joel, that will hurt the 76ers, that will hurt our whole roster in the long run more than if we’re patient,” Morey added.

Thus far, there’s hasn’t been an offer that comes within the range of what Morey is willing to do, according to the radio station’s Twitter feed (link). Morey did say there are trade packages with the Kings that could work, but doubts he’ll get such an offer, which may require a third team.

Sixers Notes: Roberts, Simmons, Fox, Haliburton, Embiid, Drummond

Outgoing NBPA executive director Michele Roberts blames the Sixers‘ front office for the acrimonious standoff with Ben Simmons, as Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer relays. Roberts addressed the situation in a SiriusXM Radio interview.

“Candidly, I think a lot of this stuff could be resolved if everyone behaved like a grown-up,” she said. “I think what’s happening in Philadelphia frankly is ridiculous and I don’t know why we’re playing chicken with each other. It just strikes that this is something that could be worked out. It’s difficult.”

We have more on the Sixers:

  • Speaking of Simmons, the front office continues to ask for a massive haul in return for the disgruntled playmaker, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports. That is a source of frustration for some opposing team executives. It’s believed that president of basketball operations Daryl Morey is still hoping Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal will eventually be made available, perhaps this summer.
  • Could Sacramento wind up being Simmons’ destination? Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com explores that possibility with the notion that De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton are no longer considered untouchable.
  • The 76ers went with a jumbo look against the Magic this week and outscored Orlando 11-6 during that four-minute stretch, Derek Bodner of DailySix.com notes. Andre Drummond and Joel Embiid shared the court and limited the Magic to one offensive rebound during that time. However, the Twin Towers combination is not something the team should do very much, due to the issues it would create with the perimeter defense, Bodner opines.

Sixers’ Morey: Simmons Trade Could Take A While

Appearing today on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey made it clear he’s in no rush to trade Ben Simmons for less than what the Sixers believe he’s worth.

People should buckle in, this is going to go a long time,” Morey said, according to Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com (Twitter link).

Morey added that if the Sixers can trade Simmons for a “difference-maker,” they’ll do it, but confirmed the club has no interest in moving the three-time All-Star for role players. In Morey’s view, Philadelphia’s best chance to win a championship would be by either getting Simmons back on the court or waiting until an impact player hits the trade block.

I would ask the question to Sixers fans: would you rather eliminate a distraction or have lower playoff odds?” Morey said, per Neubeck and Rich Hofmann of The Athletic (Twitter links). “I’m willing to go through mud, muck, barbed wire…we’ll go through whatever it takes…what we’re doing right now gives us the best chance to win the title.”

The standoff between Simmons and the Sixers has seemingly grown more uncomfortable this week. The 25-year-old reported to the team, but has resisted engaging physically or mentally in practices and was suspended for the season opener for conduct detrimental to the team. Reports today indicated that he will meet with team leadership on Friday to discuss his playing status after skipping a scheduled individual workout on Thursday.

While Simmons seems to have little interest in suiting up again for the 76ers after demanding a trade in the offseason, Morey’s comments on 97.5 The Fanatic today suggest the club won’t be pressured into making a deal sooner rather than later.

You’re going to think I’m kidding, I’m not. This could take four years,” Morey said (Twitter link via Neubeck). “… We’re in the prime of Joel (Embiid)’s career…this is not a day-to-day (issue). Every day, we are going to expect Ben Simmons to be back here, or we trade him for a difference-maker.”

Multiple reports today indicated that Simmons complained of back stiffness and received minor treatment before being cleared by the team’s medical staff. That back tightness hadn’t been treated or mentioned as an issue before today, a source tells Neubeck.

If he has a legitimate injury, that would be a reason for Simmons to miss practices and games while still being paid. However, it sounds like the team doesn’t view Simmons’ back tightness as a serious issue. Multiple sources who spoke to PhillyVoice about Simmons’ suspension earlier this week were prepared for him to use a health-related explanation to avoid playing in Friday’s game, Neubeck says.