Robert Covington

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Sixers, Holiday, Celtics, Raptors

While some star players may play reduced roles in the final days of the regular season to ensure they’re fresh for the postseason, Sixers center Joel Embiid is looking to go in the opposite direction. After logging nearly 36 minutes on Tuesday in his fourth game back following a knee procedure, Embiid suggested he’d welcome a big workload again on Friday and Sunday, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (subscription required).

“Playing as many minutes as possible,” Embiid said when asked what he needs to do to get ready for the playoffs. “.. The next one, I hope the game’s not close, but if it is, to go over that 35-minute mark. Try and get to 40 and then the last game of the season, same thing.”

While the 76ers won’t want to push their franchise player too hard so soon after his return, they’re still battling for positioning in the Eastern Conference playoff race and have a chance to claim a top-six spot with victories in their final two games. Embiid is also still working on getting his conditioning back to its pre-injury level and may get a chance this weekend to build chemistry with a relatively healthy Sixers roster.

“We haven’t played with the full crew yet,” Nicolas Batum said on Tuesday, according to Pompey. “I think the next game will be finally the one. We will have Tyrese (Maxey) and KL (Kyle Lowry) back. We got Joel. We just miss RoCo (Robert Covington). … I think we are more focused on (players returning than seeding). We are focused on how we can be the best team past (Sunday).”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • In a mailbag for The Philadelphia Inquirer (subscription required), Pompey addresses several Sixers-related topics, indicating that he doesn’t expect Tobias Harris to be moved to the bench and confirming that Paul George is expected to be the team’s top free agent target this offseason.
  • Jrue Holiday will turn 34 this June, so he knows that the four-year, $135MM extension he signed with the Celtics this week could be his last NBA contract, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Holiday said it was a “pretty easy” decision to sign that deal and to remain in Boston. “I think mutually we just came to an agreement and felt like this was what was best for not only me, but for the team and, just hope it works,” Holiday said. “I want to be here. I want to win multiple rings. I’ve heard people say that here plenty of times, so I’m ready for that.”
  • Holiday’s extension ensures that the Celtics‘ top six players will be under contract for next season and reduces the team’s projected 2025 tax bill, but it raises some questions about the club’s long-term cap situation, according to Brian Robb of, who explores the possibility of an eventual extension for Derrick White and considers how long Boston can keep its core intact.
  • Who’s to blame for a miserable Raptors season? Michael Grange of explores that question, ultimately suggesting that Toronto’s front office probably deserves more criticism than it has received for the current state of the team.

Sixers Notes: Oubre, Embiid, Hield, Harris, Melton, Covington

Sixers small forward Kelly Oubre Jr. is reveling in Philadelphia’s new outlook on playoff life with the return of superstar center Joel Embiid, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“It’s like the first day of school again,” Oubre said after the team beat the Thunder 109-105 Tuesday, in part thanks to Embiid’s 24-point, seven-assist, six-rebound night. “You’re kind of coming back from spring break or winter break, and you know you’ve got your friend back. He’s the cool guy in class that we’ve definitely been missing… But that’s our team. We built this team around him, and we have to continue to just polish the pieces around it so we can be a well-oiled machine.”

The Sixers followed up Tuesday’s victory with a big win over Miami on Thursday, pulling within a half-game of the Heat for the No. 7 spot in the East and one game of Indiana for No. 6.

In his two games back, Embiid is averaging 26.5 points, 5.5 assists and five rebounds. Embiid had been away from the club for eight weeks following a meniscus injury, and in that time the Sixers have fallen from the top of the Eastern Conference into the play-in tournament bracket.

There’s more out of Philadelphia:

  • Sixers swingman Buddy Hield, who joined the team at February’s trade deadline, is looking forward to developing his chemistry with Embiid, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I just think he does provide open looks,” Hield said. “He’s just so good in the short roll, and his big body, and he’s always [being double-teamed, so] teams overlook guys and you just have to be ready for the catch-and-shoot.”
  • Sixers forward Tobias Harris, who hurt his left knee late in the win over the Thunder, missed the team’s matchup against the Heat tonight due to that knee injury, per Pompey (Twitter link). Pompey tweets that imaging indicated Harris incurred a bone bruise, but he may only be sidelined for a game or two, a source tells The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • The Sixers are still hoping that two key role players will, like Embiid before them, return to the hardwood before the end of the season, writes Pompey in another piece. Starting shooting guard De’Anthony Melton has been on the shelf for the club since February 27 with lumbar spine bone stress. Combo forward Robert Covington hasn’t played since December 30 due to a left knee bone bruise. “I think we’re still trying,” head coach Nick Nurse said. “I think they’re getting on the court. That’s always a good sign so I think they’re still a little ways away… I don’t think we’ll rule them out unless we absolutely have to for good, but we’ll see.”

Sixers Notes: Harden, Melton, Covington, George

In the days leading up to his return to Philadelphia on Wednesday, James Harden wasn’t eager to speculate about how he might be received by his former home crowd, as Law Murray of The Athletic writes, telling reporters that he “didn’t care” and that he was more concerned about helping the Clippers get out of their recent slump.

Harden accomplished what he set out to on Wednesday, finishing with 16 points and 14 assists in a 108-107 win over the Sixers. He was on the receiving end of plenty of boos from the Philadelphia faithful over the course of the evening and admitted after the game that it didn’t come as a surprise. However, he also contended he didn’t understand the motivation for those boos.

“I expected it,” Harden said, according to Murray. “They don’t know what it was about. But I expected it. So it is what it is. I don’t even know why they were booing, I don’t think. You ask them. They probably don’t know why they were booing.

“… For me, personally, I feel like I did everything I needed to do in the sense of, in the year prior, taking myself off of the max to help the team get better,” Harden continued. “For this city, you know what I mean? And for myself, obviously. But to win a championship. So things didn’t work out. I wanted to get paid. They weren’t talking. So it is what it is. You move on, everybody’s happy, life is good. And I mean, everybody’s looking forward.”

Harden accepted a $33MM salary rather than picking up his $47MM player option in 2022/23, but the boos on Wednesday suggest that move didn’t earn him enough goodwill in Philadelphia for Sixers fans to forgive and forget his decision to demand a trade a year later.

Harden, who blasted Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey last summer due to his belief that Morey failed to keep certain promises, replied, “Hell no” on Wednesday when asked if he believes he’ll ever reconcile with the veteran executive, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harden also said he hasn’t stayed in touch with 76ers star Joel Embiid.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • The Sixers’ loss on Wednesday was a controversial one, with referee crew chief Kevin Scott admitting after the game that a foul should have been called on a drive to the basket by Kelly Oubre on the game’s final play, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Oubre and head coach Nick Nurse expressed their frustrations to the game’s referees after the final buzzer and had to be pulled away by assistant coaches (Twitter video link). Oubre apologized to the refs during his post-game media session for “losing his cool.”
  • Nurse told reporters prior to Wednesday’s game that he’s optimistic that both De’Anthony Melton (back) and Robert Covington (knee) can return before the end of the regular season, tweets Derek Bodner of PHLY Sports. Of the two, Covington is closer to getting back on the court, according to Nurse.
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer is skeptical that the Sixers’ reported interest in Paul George will result in the star forward ending up in Philadelphia, writing that it looks more like a leverage play as the free-agent-to-be discusses a new deal with the Clippers.
  • In case you missed it, Nurse also discussed Embiid’s recovery from knee surgery on Wednesday.

Sixers Notes: Harden, Maxey, Harris, Oubre

The James Harden trade saga is a distant memory for the Sixers as they prepare to face the Clippers on Sunday, writes Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harden began the season with Philadelphia, but he demanded a trade after a falling out with president of basketball operations Daryl Morey over what Harden considers to be broken promises in contract negotiations. After publicly blasting Morey multiple times, disrupting training camp and threatening to hold out, Harden was shipped to L.A. in a November 1 deal.

“I don’t know if anybody’s even mad anymore,” coach Nick Nurse said. “Are they?”

In addition to a reunion with Harden, this weekend in Los Angeles is providing a homecoming for two of the players the Sixers received in the trade, Pompey adds. KJ Martin told reporters he still considers the city to be his home, and Nicolas Batum spoke to a group of French media members following Friday’s game with the Lakers. Robert Covington didn’t make the trip as he rehabs a bone bruise in his knee, and Marcus Morris was traded again in February and later signed with Cleveland.

One Sixers player who’s especially excited to face Harden is Tyrese Maxey, who said he learned a lot during the time they were teammates.

“I tell him all the time [that] he did a lot for me in his short time here,” Maxey said. “Not just for my basketball skills, but for my basketball mind and my basketball confidence. I’m already a confident person. But when James Harden — as somebody who’s an MVP, scoring champ, assist champ, all those things — believes in you [and] he wants you to go out there be ultra-aggressive, even when he’s on the court and Joel (Embiid)’s on the court, you can’t do anything but appreciate that.”

There’s more on the Sixers:

  • With Harden gone and Embiid sidelined due to meniscus surgery, Maxey is seeing much different looks from opposing defenses than he did at the start of the season, observes Mark Medina of Sportskeeda. Teams are focusing their coverage on Maxey, who said he studies other players to see how they deal with it. “I watch a little bit of Donovan Mitchell, a little bit of Jalen Brunson and a little bit of Kyrie Irving when he was in Boston,” Maxey said. “I’ve watched guys that were either primary or secondary scorers that have gotten trapped, blitzed and different things like that. … They’re able to manipulate the defense and get their teammates open.”
  • In a separate story, Tobias Harris talked to Medina about the ups and downs he has faced this season and the challenge of trying to remain competitive without Embiid. “The big thing is weathering the storm and figuring out ways that we can get better and continue to build off the positives on what we’ve been able to show,” Harris said. “We have to hold the fort down until we get the big fella back and all of our pieces are all together. Hopefully we get (De’Anthony) Melton back as well.”
  • Kelly Oubre has embraced Bruce Lee’s “be water” philosophy as he adapts to a constantly changing role, Pompey adds in another piece.

Sixers Notes: Lowry, Embiid, Covington, Bamba, Harris

Kyle Lowry had some extra motivation on Monday night as he faced the Heat for the first time since they traded him in January, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Miami sent Lowry to Charlotte in that deal, and after a buyout, he signed with his hometown Sixers shortly before the All-Star break. Coach Nick Nurse noticed a difference in the veteran guard as he prepared for his 12th game with his new team.

“I don’t know if it’s for (the Heat) or he’s finally starting to settle in,” Nurse said. “He was being a little ornery at shootaround today, and he hasn’t been yet. So it looks like he’s getting back to more of himself there.”

Lowry played an important role in Monday’s victory, Pompey notes, burying a three-pointer with 3:09 remaining in the game to give Philadelphia a 93-87 lead, then converting a reverse layup to push the margin back to six points with 1:36 left. He scored 16 points, his high in a Sixers uniform, and said he’s feeling more comfortable after a long layoff in the middle of the season.

“Nick said it to me today, he said ‘welcome back’ a little bit before in the morning,” Lowry said. “But I think it’s just one of those things I understand what our team needs sometimes. I’m not trying to overstep boundaries. I’m trying to help my teammates. And I know one thing about coach, he’s going to always let me be me. He trusts me and I trust him.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • The Sixers are just 12-22 without Joel Embiid, who’s recovering from meniscus surgery, and Monday marked the third time this season they’ve won two straight games without their starting center, Pompey adds. Although the team remains optimistic that Embiid can return sometime next month, Tyrese Maxey said it’s also important to establish an identity without him. “Going into the NBA season you don’t plan to not have somebody,” Maxey said. “I mean, especially an MVP like Jo. So once you get into that situation, you have to kind of reconstruct things. Reconstruct minutes, reconstruct rotations and all of that takes time.”
  • Embiid was able to participate in practice Sunday for the first time since hurting his knee, Pompey states in a separate story. Nurse said he was limited to “non-contact stuff,” and a timeline still hasn’t been set for his return. Robert Covington, who has been sidelined since December 30 with a bone bruise in his left knee, also took part in non-contact drills.
  • With Embiid sidelined, Mohamed Bamba has started nine of the last 10 games at center, Pompey notes in another piece. Bamba said it’s easier to get into the flow of the game as a starter. “It’s all about establishing myself early on in the game, defensively,” he said. “When you’re coming off the bench, you kind of have to catch a rhythm as quick as possible. You tend to chase big plays. When you chase big plays, you chase home runs. It tends to either go really well or really bad.”
  • Tobias Harris missed his second straight game on Monday with a sprained right ankle, Pompey tweets.

Sixers Notes: Hield, Covington, Melton, Payne, Martin

Buddy Hield wasn’t surprised by the deal that sent him from the Pacers to the Sixers at last month’s trade deadline, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Philadelphia was in the market for shooters, also pursuing ex-Pistons marksman Bojan Bogdanovic, who wound up in New York, sources tell Fischer. Even though he hasn’t been on the court yet with Joel Embiid, who suffered a meniscus injury in late January, Hield is glad to be with the Sixers and believes they can become an effective combination.

“You want to go to a team that wants you. You don’t want to go to a team where you’re a piece and it’s like, ‘We’re gonna try this out,’” Hield said. “Other teams are trapping Embiid, so having a three-point shooter to keep guys honest, I know the reason why I was traded here.”

Hield is averaging 15.5 points per game since joining the Sixers while shooting 44% from the field and 42.2% from beyond the arc. He’s also landed a consistent role in the starting lineup, something that didn’t happen in Indiana as coach Rick Carlisle experimented with different backcourt starters alongside Tyrese Haliburton. Hield said he enjoyed the Pacers’ up-tempo approach, but he didn’t believe he had a future with the team after extension talks failed to produce a new contract.

“If a team doesn’t want to re-sign you, we asked them early and you know how it is. It’s the game,” Hield said. “They say they want to sign you and then after it doesn’t happen, the conversations don’t really keep going on the phone, and it’s like talking to a wall, and nobody’s responding back. But after that, you’re under contract, and you have to, like, honor your contract. So it’s one of those deals where you just gotta come in every day and be professional. But I know that the whole vibe was so different.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • The Sixers say Robert Covington will be reevaluated in about a week for a bone bruise to his left knee and could resume on-court activities in seven-to-10 days, tweets Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. De’Anthony Melton, who is battling a lumbar spine injury, has started an “offloading” program and will be reevaluated in approximately two weeks.
  • Cameron Payne said he was at about 70% because of the flu Tuesday night, but he opted to play because Tyrese Maxey is in concussion protocol, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I was like, ‘I’m 30 years old. Get out there and play, sick or not,’” Payne said. “‘Just get out there and help your team.’”
  • KJ Martin has been effective in his new role as a small-ball big man, observes Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports. Martin was seeing an uptick in his playing time before missing three games with an injury last week.

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.

Sixers Rumors: Brogdon, Bogdanovic, Hield, Morris, Covington

The Sixers contacted the Trail Blazers about Malcolm Brogdon, but Portland appears reluctant to move him, sources tell Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports. Neubeck hears that Philadelphia is attempting to add a combo guard who’s comfortable either running the offense or playing off the ball. That description fits Brogdon, who handled both roles while winning Sixth Man of the Year honors last season in Boston.

An efficient shooter throughout his career, Brogdon is connecting at 44% from the field and 41.2% from three-point range this season. He’s currently making $22.5MM and is owed the same amount for 2024/25, and the Blazers are content to hold onto him unless they’re “bowled over with an offer,” according to Neubeck.

Neubeck reports that the Sixers also made exploratory calls to the Hawks about Bogdan Bogdanovic, but Atlanta is asking for a high price in return. Part of Bogdanovic’s value stems from his team-friendly contract, which pays him $17.3MM next season and $16MM in 2025/26 with a $16MM team option for 2026/27.

Neubeck has more on the Sixers:

  • Philadelphia has interest in Pacers guard Buddy Hield, but Neubeck cites a “gap in valuation” between the teams that makes it unlikely they can agree on a deal. A source tells Neubeck that Indiana wants a first-round pick in exchange for Hield, while the Sixers are limiting their offer to expiring contracts and second-rounders.
  • The front office is hoping to find a starting-caliber center to replace Joel Embiid while he recovers from a knee procedure. Andre Drummond from the Bulls and Kelly Olynyk from the Jazz are widely reported options, but Neubeck hears that the Sixers have explored other possibilities and will likely sign someone if they can’t work out a trade before the deadline.
  • A source tells Neubeck that Marcus Morris and Robert Covington are the most likely Sixers to be traded. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst had a similar report on his Hoop Collective podcast.

Trade Rumors: Sixers, Wizards, Wiggins, Nuggets, Suns

Within a discussion about the trade deadline in the latest Hoop Collective podcast (YouTube link), Brian Windhorst of ESPN identified the Bucks as one of the most active teams on the trade market, suggested the Nets have explored both buying and selling, and said that he expects the Sixers to make at least one trade by Thursday’s deadline. Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Furkan Korkmaz, and Danuel House are among Philadelphia’s most likely trade candidates, per Windhorst.

During that same Hoop Collective conversation, Windhorst stated he expects the Wizards to make at least one deadline deal, though he’s skeptical it will involve Kyle Kuzma, identifying Tyus Jones as the player more likely to be on the move. Windhorst added that Washington has also had talks involving Deni Avdija, though he’d be surprised if the fourth-year wing is dealt.

Here are a few more trade rumors from across the NBA:

  • In addition to joining the list of teams with interest in Bulls center Andre Drummond, the Sixers continue to scour the trade market for outside shooting, Marc Stein reports in his latest Substack article. Buddy Hield is one potential target, as Jake Fischer reported on Tuesday, and Bojan Bogdanovic is another clear fit, Stein writes. According to Stein, however, the Pistons are seeking at least a first-round pick in exchange for Bogdanovic and have let teams know that their preference is to keep him.
  • After reporting on Tuesday that Dallas’ interest in Andrew Wiggins may be overstated, Stein says he has heard the same about the Bucks‘ reported interest in the Warriors‘ forward. Still, Golden State is expected to continue exploring trade possibilities for Wiggins up until Thursday’s deadline, Stein writes.
  • Appearing on 92.5 FM in Denver on Wednesday, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said he doesn’t expect the team to make a move at the deadline, per Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports (Twitter link).
  • Phoenix doesn’t intend to give up any of its few remaining trade assets for a mere insurance policy, according to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7, who tweets that if the Suns are going to acquire a player, they would need to view that player as someone who would be part of their eight- or nine-man playoff rotation.

Sixers Issue Injury Updates On Melton, Covington

The Sixers will be without a pair of rotation players for the foreseeable future, according to the team, which issued injury updates today on guard De’Anthony Melton and wing Robert Covington, as Derek Bodner of PHLY Sports relays (Twitter links).

Melton (lumbar spine stress response) – who has missed Philadelphia’s past five games, and eight of the past 10 – has completed an “offloading” period and will begin ramping up to return. Although Melton will accompany the team on the five-game road trip that begins on Thursday in Indiana, he remains sidelined for the time being and will be reevaluated in approximately one week.

That recovery timeline suggests Melton will miss at least four more games, since the 76ers are also in action on Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday before concluding their trip in Utah next Thursday.

Covington hasn’t played at all this month due to left knee inflammation and a bone bruise in that knee, having sat out Philadelphia’s past 10 games. He has continued to receive treatment and will remain on the shelf for a while. According to the club, he’ll be reevaluated in three or four weeks.

Melton has started all 33 games he has appeared in this season, while Covington was averaging 16.1 minutes per night in his first 26 games back with the 76ers.

Nicolas Batum, Danuel House, and Patrick Beverley are among the players whose minutes have increased with Melton and Covington unavailable as of late. Beverley has missed the past two games with an illness, resulting in rotation minutes for Furkan Korkmaz.