Robert Covington

Atlantic Notes: Okafor, Jackson, Mills, Covington

The Nets led the Wizards by 40 points at one point in Friday’s win in Brooklyn but recently acquired big man Jahlil Okafor never left the bench. Okafor only played in two games with the Sixers before he was traded to the Nets. The team will not deviate from their plan of using Okafor until he’s in optimal physical shape, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes.

The Barclays Center fans chanted “We Want Okafor!” in the late stages of the game. Head coach Kenny Atkinson said it was tempting to send Okafor into the game but the team’s plans for Okafor are long-term.

“Yeah, I heard it, and I respect the fans and I understand they want to see him,” Atkinson said. “I think we’ve stated from the beginning there’s a plan for him. We’re going to stick with the plan. It was tempting, but again I think we want to put him in the best position to succeed. So we’re going to stick with the plan. I think that’s a little more down the line.”

Okafor, 22, has appeared in just one game with Brooklyn since the trade, posting 10 points and four rebounds in a loss to the Raptors on December 15.  General manager Sean Marks has not given a definitive date on when Okafor should be in shape but estimated the former third overall pick is possibly two weeks away from regular playing time.

Check out other news from the Atlantic Division below:

Atlantic Notes: Covington, Siakam, Porzingis

While the common reaction may be to tout Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as prime examples of The Process paying off, Keith Pompey of The Inquirer writes that Robert Covington may be a better example.

Covington, now a coveted (and well-paid) three-and-D specialist, was an unpolished, lanky three-point shooter when the Sixers picked him up during the 2014/15 season. It was head coach Brett Brown who challenged him to round out his game.

The Process, Pompey writes, was about developing young players amid all the years of tanking so a completed project like Covington – who now averages 16.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, not to mention 3.7 threes per contest at a .491 clip – is as fine an embodiment as any of the Sixers’ transition.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • With D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin in street clothes, now is Isaiah Whitehead‘s time to earn playing time at the point guard position, Greg Joyce of the New York Post writes. “I think I’ve matured a lot since last year,” Whitehead says of the fluctuations in his role with the Nets. “I don’t think I would have been able to handle that last year. But I’ve matured a lot, knowing it’s for the better. … I think I reacted well to it.
  • Second-year forward Pascal Siakam has made an impact on Raptors games with his relentless energy level, Michael Grange of Sportsnet writes. “He don’t get tired,” teammate DeMar DeRozan says. “I don’t understand it. Y’all should see him before practice. He’s out there doing all types of drills, already sweating and everything. It’s crazy to see.
  • An eclectic offseason training regime can be credited, at least in part, with Kristaps Porzingis‘ emergence as a superstar this season, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. The Knicks big man trained with a professional boxer and went on a safari in South Africa.

Sixers Renegotiate, Extend Robert Covington’s Contract

NOVEMBER 17, 2:35pm: The Sixers have officially announced Covington’s new contract, confirming the deal in a press release.Robert Covington vertical

“Robert Covington is a prime example of what hard work, dedication and commitment can lead to,” president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said in a statement. “Rob’s growth as a player on both ends of the floor makes him one of the most versatile and effective wings in the league, while his contributions of character and professionalism feature prominently in our evolving organizational culture. This extension is both well-deserved, and a really great story.”

NOVEMBER 15, 6:06pm: Sixers forward Robert Covington has agreed to a four-year extension valued at $62MM, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The official signing of the renegotiation/extension is planned for Friday, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link).

The new deal includes a renegotiated sum for this year, followed by four more seasons, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic (Twitter link). Philadelphia has roughly $15MM in available cap room, and all of that is expected to go to Covington on top of the $1,577,230 he is already making.

Bodner breaks down Covington’s new deal as $16,698,103 for this season, $10,018,862 for 2018/19, $10,820,371 for 2019/20, $11,621,880 for 2020/21 and $12,423,389 for 2021/22. (Twitter link). Those numbers aren’t yet official, but Bodner is confident that they’re very close to what the finalized deal will look like (Twitter link).

Today is the first day Covington is eligible to alter his current contract because it is the third anniversary of its signing. He had just been waived by the Rockets when the Sixers picked him up in November of 2014. He has developed into a reliable two-way player and has become a fixture in Philadelphia’s starting lineup.

Covington is averaging a career-high 16.8 points through 13 games, along with 5.7 rebounds and elite-level defense. He finished fourth in last year’s voting for Defensive Player of the Year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sixers Notes: Covington, Free Agency, Brown, Fultz

The new extension for Robert Covington leaves the Sixers with two possible free agency strategies for the future, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN. The team could skip next year’s market and try to get J.J. Redick ($23MM) and Amir Johnson ($11MM) to again sign one-year deals close to their current salaries. That would give Philadelphia roughly $30MM to chase free agents in the summer of 2019. The Sixers figure to improve through the draft while they wait as they have their own pick for 2018 and an 86.9 chance to get the Lakers’ selection, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index.

Another path would be to let Redick and Johnson leave next summer and enter the 2018 free agent market with about $25MM in cap space. Marks sees that as risky because the top two players available, LeBron James and Paul George, are unlikely to consider Philadelphia, and the next three, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus Cousins, don’t represent positions of need.

What the Sixers need most is shooters, Marks notes, and both Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler will be free agents in 2019. He adds that the organization’s window for using cap space will end after the 2019/20 season when Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot will become restricted free agents if they are not extended before then.

There’s more news out of Philadelphia:

  • Covington set a record for the largest single-year renegotiation in history by increasing his salary from $1.6MM to $16.7MM, Marks tweets. He is the eighth player in the past 20 years to have his contract renegotiated.
  • Sixers coach Brett Brown sees his young team as “ahead of schedule” in its quest to become a contender, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. With a 7-6 record heading into tonight’s game, Philadelphia is off to its best start in five years. “I do feel that way,” said Joel Embiid. “Me personally, I’m still not there yet and we are still learning how to play with each other. … We are definitely ahead of the curve.”
  • First-round pick Markelle Fultz is participating in practice drills and he tries to work his way through a shoulder problem, Pompey writes in a separate story. Fultz, who has been diagnosed with a scapular muscle imbalance along with soreness in his right shoulder, hasn’t appeared in a game since Oct. 25 and doesn’t have a target date to start playing again. “I think that’s just up for the [doctors], not me to decide,” Brown said. “What I can control is having him with the team, the design of his workouts – those types of things. In relation to a time frame, that will be determined by our medical staff.”

Sixers, Robert Covington On Track For Extension

Veteran forward Robert Covington will become eligible for a contract renegotiation next Wednesday, and he and the Sixers are on track to get something done quickly, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). ESPN’s Zach Lowe expressed a similar sentiment, writing today that a new deal between Covington and the 76ers should be done “within days” after he becomes eligible.

Covington, who will turn 27 next month, is technically already eligible for a veteran extension. However, he will become renegotiation-eligible on November 15, a date which represents the three-year mark since he signed his current contract. A straight extension would significantly limit the amount of money Covington is able to receive — a renegotiation and extension would allow him to receive a substantial raise for the 2017/18 season using Philadelphia’s cap room.

As Stein notes (via Twitter), the widespread expectation is that Covington will receive about $15MM in extra salary for the current season, with subsequent years of his contract being worth a little less than that. In a piece earlier this year, Derek Bodner laid out the specifics for how a Covington extension and renegotiation could work, and how it could give the Sixers more cap flexibility in future years by being structured with declining annual salaries.

Philadelphia only has about $84MM in salary on its books for 2017/18 at the moment, giving the team plenty of room below the $99MM cap to use on a new deal for Covington. Without that cap space, the Sixers would only be able to go up to about $9.4MM as a starting salary for the three-and-D forward, and that figure would apply to next season, not this season.

Although he has been a reliable part of the Sixers’ rotation for years, Covington has played some of the best ball of his career early in 2017/18, averaging career-bests in PPG (16.1), FG% (4.80), and 3PT% (.500) so far. He’s also considered a strong defender on the perimeter, with head coach Brett Brown stressing the forward’s importance to the club on “both sides of the ball,” as Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer relays.

Despite the fact that Covington, who has been on a minimum salary contract throughout his five-year career, is on the verge of his first big payday, he doesn’t sound eager to get too involved in next week’s negotiations.

“If it happens, it happens,” Covington said of an extension, per Pompey. “I’m not too focused on that right now. I just focused on how I play on the court, because my production alone will separate me and put me in a position to where it forces their hand.”

We ranked Covington 11th in our most recent 2018 free agent power rankings. Unless negotiations with the Sixers hit a snag, it sounds like we’ll be able to remove him from the list entirely when we complete our next update.

Bulls, Hawks Most Likely Suitors For Okafor?

The Bulls and Hawks appear to be the most likely landing spots for Jahlil Okafor, according to TNT’s David Aldridge, who cites league sources in his latest report at However, the Sixers continue to hold out for “at least a draft pick,” Aldridge writes.

While it’s not clear if Aldridge is referring to a first-round pick or just a decent second-rounder, his report sounds similar to one from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski last week. Wojnarowski indicated that the 76ers remain committed to acquiring some sort of “asset” in exchange for Okafor, who has asked to be traded or bought out.

[RELATED: Jahlil Okafor confirms he wants trade or buyout]

The Bulls and Hawks are both very much in rebuilding mode, with just two wins apiece so far this season, so a move to acquire a 21-year-old with Okafor’s pedigree would make sense for either team. However, both clubs figure to maintain a tight hold on their draft picks, and – like Boston – would almost certainly be unwilling to part with a first-rounder for Okafor.

Although the former third overall pick still has plenty of potential, his contract situation makes him a tough sell. Because his fourth-year option was turned down, Okafor will be an unrestricted free agent next July, and the team carrying him as season’s end won’t be able to offer him a contract with a starting salary higher than about $6.3MM, the amount of his declined option. So if Okafor were to be traded now and then enjoyed a breakout year with his new team, that club may not be able to re-sign him.

Okafor would like resolution sooner rather than later, but as Aldridge notes, it’s possible that the Sixers will hang onto him as insurance against a potential Joel Embiid injury, or in order to use him as a salary-matching piece in a deadline deal.

The 76ers don’t want to take on any extra salary in a potential Okafor trade, since they want to have the flexibility to renegotiate Robert Covington‘s contract after November 15 and to retain cap space for next summer, says Aldridge. Philadelphia is also reluctant to buy out Okafor, according to Aldridge, since they believe it would take the division-rival Celtics “about 30 seconds to scarf him up.”

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Saric, Covington, Fultz

Joel Embiid‘s teammates believe the Sixers made the right move by rewarding him with a five-year extension, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Embiid is slated to receive $148MM, but the value could go as high as $178MM if he meets certain criteria. There are also several salary cap protections to guard the organization against further injury for Embiid, who has played just 31 games in three seasons. “Have you seen him play? He’s a beast,” Ben Simmons responded when asked about the extension. “I can’t name one person that can stop him. Honestly, there’s nobody that can compete with him at his position. No one.”

Embiid is still recovering from “minor” surgery in March to fix a torn meniscus in his left knee. The Sixers were hoping to have him ready for the October 18 season opener, but rehab has been going well and Pompey suggests he may play in Friday’s preseason finale. Embiid’s last game before the surgery was January 27.

There’s more this morning out of Philadelphia:

  • Embiid’s cap hit for next summer will be either $25.2MM or $30.3MM, depending on whether he meets the qualifications for the 30% max, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic. If Embiid is only at the 25% max, Philadelphia will have about $53.34MM in committed salary heading into next year’s free agent sweepstakes. That leaves roughly $47.6MM, but that figure will be reduced by draft picks and option decisions. The Sixers may have two first-rounders if they land the Lakers’ pick, and they have to determine whether to extend rookie-scale contracts for Jahlil Okafor ($6.3MM in 2018/19), Dario Saric ($2.5MM) and Justin Anderson ($2.5MM) by the end of October. Bodner writes that the Sixers are certain to pick up Saric’s option, but Okafor and Anderson are less definite. Philadelphia also has team options on T.J. McConnell and Richaun Holmes valued at $1.6MM each, but those don’t have to be addressed until June 29.
  • The team’s most important remaining salary decision involves Robert Covington, Bodner adds in the same piece. Starting November 15, Covington will be eligible to have his contract renegotiated or extended. He will become a free agent with a $3MM cap hold next summer if nothing is done.
  • Rookie guard Markelle Fultz may still be suffering the effects of a right shoulder injury, Pompey relays in a separate story. The first overall pick had to sit out Friday’s game and is shooting just 29.2% from the floor in the preseason. “I think his shoulder is affecting him more than he lets on,” coach Brett Brown said. “You can tell with his free throw, you know, trying to get that ball up. Its follow from his body. But he’s been working on just trying to get that thing rehabilitated.”

Atlantic Notes: Miles, Morris, Covington, Olynyk

C.J. Miles and Norman Powell enter the Raptors’ training camp as the primary contenders for the starting small forward spot, coach Dwane Casey told Doug Smith of the Toronto Star and other media members. The winner in the competition will join guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, power forward Serge Ibaka and center Jonas Valanciunas in the starting five. Miles, the former Pacers swingman, was signed by Toronto as a free agent in July. “It could be either one,” Casey said.Delon Wright may see some minutes at the three because he’s a versatile young man. Bruno (Caboclo) gives you a standstill shooter.” The spot opened up when DeMarre Carroll was dealt to the Nets in July.

In other developments around the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics forward Marcus Morris will miss the start of training camp Tuesday until his trial on an aggravated assault charge in Arizona is resolved, Chris Forsberg of reports. His brother, Wizards forward Markieff Morris, is also on trial on in the felony case. Marcus Morris was acquired by Boston this summer in the deal that sent guard Avery Bradley to the Pistons.  The Morris brothers face possible prison time and discipline from the NBA, including a minimum 10-game suspension if they are found guilty, Forsberg adds.
  • Sixers forward Robert Covington strikes an optimistic note that an agreement will be reached regarding an extension or renegotiation of his current contract, Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets. Covington, who stands to make less than $1.6MM this season, is in the unusual position of being eligible for an extension or renegotiation. It can’t be finalized until November 15, the three-year anniversary of when Covington signed his current deal.
  • Power forward Kelly Olynyk never wanted to leave the Celtics, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe notes. The Celtics’ brass kept in touch with Olynyk during the Gordon Hayward free agent saga, Washburn adds. When Hayward agreed to join Boston, Olynyk’s rights were renounced to create cap space and he soon signed with the Heat.

Three Huge Decisions Awaiting Sixers

The Sixers are facing three decisions this fall that will affect the future of the franchise, writes Derek Bodner of The Athletic (subscription site).

Philadelphia hasn’t posted a winning record since going 35-31 in the lockout-shortened 2011/12 season, but years of acquiring draft picks and other assets seem ready to pay off. The Sixers appear to have the talent on hand to be perennial playoff contenders, but Bodner identifies three immediate issues that must be resolved.

  • Will Robert Covington receive an extension? Covington started all 67 games he played last season and is expected to keep that role at small forward for 2017/18. The team’s best perimeter defender and a career .354 shooter from 3-point range, Covington will make less than $1.6MM in his fifth NBA season. Headed for free agency next summer, he is in a unique situation that lets him either extend his current contract or renegotiate the entire thing, including the upcoming season. Bodner speculates that Philadelphia may use some of its $15MM in remaining cap money to boost Covington’s salary for 2017/18 and save on the rest of the contract. Nothing can happen until November 15, the three-year anniversary of when Covington signed his current deal, and sources tell Bodner there is interest in a long-term relationship.
  • Will Joel Embiid receive an extension? Embiid posted massive numbers during his rookie season, although the team played him in just 31 games with limited minutes so there wouldn’t be a repeat of the injuries that wiped out his first two NBA seasons. Without an extension, Embiid will be a restricted free agent next summer, but the injury risks make it a difficult decision as Bodner notes that Embiid hasn’t been cleared for five-on-five activity at camp. Bodner speculates that 60 games of being healthy could be enough for Embiid to land a maximum offer. He adds that Embiid will have an $18.3MM cap hold next summer, which will affect the Sixers’ plans in free agency. Bodner suggests a compromise where the Sixers commit to a max yearly average with only part of it guaranteed. He relays that the front office has talked to Embiid’s representatives about an extension and there appears to be mutual interest.
  • Will Jahlil Okafor‘s option be picked up? The third pick in the 2015 draft has been a disappointment in his first two seasons, although injuries have been a factor. Okafor would make more than $6.3MM in 2018/19 if the team exercises its option, which could cut into its ability to make a max offer to free agents. Also, Embiid is clearly the center of the future if he stays healthy, so it’s hard to envision a significant role for Okafor. The Sixers could elect to pick up the option and try to rebuild Okafor’s trade value, but Bodner sees that as a risky strategy.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Fultz, Covington, Doyle

The Celtics are unhappy that the Cavaliers are asking for more compensation in the Kyrie Irving trade and may be planning a hard-line response, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. The Celtics front office believes it was fully honest about the condition of Isaiah Thomas when the teams discussed his injured hip prior to completing the deal. The Cavaliers seem to think that Thomas is months away from returning to action, according to Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link), who also speculates that Boston could offer to include Terry Rozier to get the trade completed. (Twitter link).

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • A pair of Sixers players are vowing to be ready when training camp opens next month. Markelle Fultz, the top pick in the draft, told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly that he is optimistic after suffering a lateral sprain to his left ankle during the Las Vegas Summer League (Twitter link). Robert Covington, who was shut down for the season in late March with a slight tear of his lateral meniscus, also expects to be fully healed by camp (Twitter link).
  • Rookie point guard Milton Doyle is confident that he can earn a roster spot in Brooklyn, according to a story on NetsDaily. A first team all-Missouri Valley Conference player last season at Loyola, Chicago, Doyle signed a training camp deal with the Nets in early August. He caught the eyes of team officials by averaging 10.5 points per game during summer league play, but he may be ticketed for the G League.
  • Phil Jackson’s reign as president of the Knicks didn’t turn out the way he hoped, but New York Liberty president Isiah Thomas doesn’t think Jackson harmed his legacy, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. “Believe me, Phil, myself, Donnie Walsh, Larry Brown, Lenny [Wilkins], all of us go back and try to figure out, man what did we do wrong?,’’ Thomas said. “If we can do it all over again, what would we do different? That’s the thing we love in New York. It brings out the best in you as a person because you really get pushed to the wall in terms of trying to figure out how to win and put it together and satisfy the fan base. That’s why we all want to crack that egg.” Thomas also praised Carmelo Anthony for the way he handled a string of negative comments from Jackson.