Tobias Harris

Atlantic Notes: Zion, Raptors, Loyd, Moreland, Sixers

The Knicks apparently won’t have to worry about Zion Williamson demanding a trade if they win the lottery. Williamson said on Friday that he would “love to play” for the Knicks if they drafted him, Adam Zagoria of the New York Times tweets. The Duke freshman made the remark during a Final Four press conference while accepting the Oscar Robertson (Player of the Year) Award. He went on to say he’d be happy to go wherever he was drafted.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors made a number of cost-cutting moves during the course of the season that saved an approximate $18MM, as Blake Murphy of The Athletic details. Waiving Lorenzo Brown, dumping the salaries of Malachi Richardson and Greg Monroe, trading three players for Marc Gasol, getting Gasol to waive his trade kicker, and signing players to 10-day contracts to meet roster requirements all contributed to a healthier bottom line.
  • The Raptors still have an open roster spot heading toward the playoffs and will likely sign a player, Murphy writes in the same story. Guard Jordan Loyd’s two-way contract could be converted to a standard contract and center Eric Moreland, who recently played on a 10-day contract, is another candidate. Veteran center Marcin Gortat could also be in play.
  • The 76ers believe their powerhouse starting lineup will be the difference in the playoffs, even though they haven’t played much together, Michael Lee of The Athletic reports. They’ve gone 8-2 in games that Tobias Harris, J.J. Redick, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler have all been available to play. “Although that starting group hasn’t played that much basketball together, especially relative to the other teams, the excitement is to take the talent we have and quickly try to maximize that,” coach Brett Brown said.

Atlantic Notes: Kawhi, Sixers, Russell

Like Paul George, Kawhi Leonard was traded to an unexpected suitor with one year left in his free agency, despite rumors that he wanted to end up in Los Angeles. George, who was sent from Indiana to Oklahoma City, was considered a lock to end up with the Lakers, but shocked NBA fans and experts alike by choosing to sign long-term with the Thunder.

A year after George opted not to go to Los Angeles, the Clippers are widely considered to be the favorite for Leonard, who was traded from the Spurs to the Raptors in 2018. Given their similar career paths, George has spoken to Leonard about his own experiences, he confirmed last week (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca). However, PG13 declined to reveal what sort of advice he offered to Kawhi.

“That’s between us,” George said.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • While it remains to be seen if they’ll be able to lock him up long-term, the Raptors have to be pleased with how things have gone with Kawhi Leonard so far, says Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun. As Wolstat details, Leonard has seemed happy with how the team has handled his health concerns so far. “It’s big,” Kawhi said, when asked about working in tandem with the Raptors and their medical staff. “You have to be able to play for people that you trust and them being able to see what you feel and you just move from there and try to get better together.”
  • Will the Sixers re-sign both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris this summer? Or will they bring back one or the other? Or neither? Sean Deveney of Sporting News examines the four possible outcomes, citing one source who says there’s “almost no chance” that Butler returns and Harris doesn’t. Harris staying and Butler leaving is considered the most likely scenario, according to Deveney.
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report takes a deep dive into D’Angelo Russell‘s upcoming free agency, exploring whether the RFA-to-be point guard is worth the max to the Nets — or another team. Pincus expects Russell’s next deal to ultimately fall between Zach LaVine‘s (four years, $78.8MM) and Devin Booker‘s (five years, maximum salary) in terms of value. That’s a pretty big window, so it’ll be interesting to see how D-Lo’s free agency plays out.

Atlantic Notes: Kawhi, Harris, Dolan, Stevens

Many of the players on the current Raptors roster weren’t a part of the team during its repeated playoff failures in recent years and won’t have that weight on their shoulders this spring. Plus, the fact that LeBron James is no longer in the Eastern Conference bodes well for a deeper postseason run for Toronto in 2019.

Still, as Sporting News’ Sean Deveney outlines, the Raptors will face a different sort of pressure this year, since their success in the playoffs figures to go a long way toward determining whether Kawhi Leonard sticks with the franchise beyond this season.

“I think the Lakers are out, but the Clippers are the ones who think they have a shot at him if they decide to go that route,” one front office executive told Deveney when asked to handicap Kawhi’s future. “You hear a lot, he still wants to be on the West Coast. But give that group in Toronto all the credit in the world. They’re making it a tough decision for him. It might come down to just, ‘All right, how did the playoffs go, and how far are we from a championship?'”

In an effort to make Leonard more comfortable in Toronto this season, the Raptors have carefully managed his workload, holding him out of the lineup once every week or two to make sure he’ll be at 100% by the time the postseason rolls around. So far, it’s working — the Raptors hold the No. 2 seed in the East, Leonard is fully healthy after missing all but nine games a year ago, and the star forward sounds pleased with how the plan has played out.

“We’ve been doing a great job of making sure that nothing flares up or gets out of control,” Leonard said this week, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link). “It’s just been great. I’m just happy that I’m able to play… It’s amazing. I feel good and we have something to look forward to.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Within his look at several contenders for the 2019 NBA championship, Sam Amick of The Athletic writes that a source close to Tobias Harris has “raved” about Sixers general manager Elton Brand. While that doesn’t guarantee that Harris will re-sign with Philadelphia in free agency, it’s certainly a positive sign, Amick notes.
  • During a Tuesday radio appearance, Knicks owner James Dolan strongly hinted that the club has heard from certain players and/or agents, and suggested that he believes the Knicks will have a “very successful offseason when it comes to free agents.” While those comments raised some eyebrows, a lawyer familiar with the NBA’s tampering policy tells Marc Berman of The New York Post that Dolan worded them carefully enough to avoid running afoul of the league’s policy. “If an agent walks up to [president] Steve Mills and says, ‘Clear cap space, player X wants to come,’ and Steve doesn’t engage, then it’s not tampering,” the lawyer said. “It appeared Dolan was pretty careful to make it seem like that was the deal.”
  • Count former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers among those who isn’t ready to place the blame on Brad Stevens for Boston’s struggles this season. In fact, Rivers still has full confidence in the C’s despite their up-and-down year. “They’re going to be fine,” the Clippers’ coach said, per Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. “They are as good as anybody in the East and as talented as anybody in the NBA. And when the playoffs start, I think everybody will see that.”

Tobias Harris Talks Sixers, Trade, Future

The Sixers are in a much better position to sign Tobias Harris to a long-term contract than they would have been if he had remained in Los Angeles this season, since they now hold his Bird rights. But even before he was sent to Philadelphia in a pre-deadline deal last month, Harris had the 76ers on his list of potential free agent landing spots, he told Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Speaking to Charania, Harris touched on a handful of other topics, including his ability to play alongside and communicate with Sixers stars Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, and Ben Simmons, the trade that sent him from L.A. to Philadelphia, and his future beyond 2018/19.

Here are a few of Harris’ notable comments from the discussion:

On the process of meshing with three other star players in Philadelphia:

“I’m motivated by the challenge. With my game, I can play with anybody. I can be productive with whoever is around me and let my game shine the way it should. I play for the love of the game. I was excited by the challenge of coming into a group where we had work to do.”

On whether he was surprised by the Clippers’ decision to trade him:

“I was a little surprised, but it’s the business. They were going in another direction, obviously, so I wish them the best in that direction. At the end of the day, I can only control where I’m at. I want to grow with everybody here. I came here with an open mind about this group, and just excel in any role. I know the kind of player I am, what I bring to any team.

“Of course a part of me is like, ‘Damn, I did my thing, and still…’ But that just goes to show the game and the business aspect of it. I feel people around the league see my game and know my game. They have respect for my game. The 76ers viewed me that way.”

On whether he’s focused on remaining in Philadelphia beyond this season:

“It would be selfish of me to not come into this situation with an open mind to make this work for the long-term. That’s where my mindset is at. I’m a loyal guy to where I am, and if I feel that loyalty back, that is how I operate. For me, it’s just making it work here and figuring out how it will go. So far, it’s been really good. Gotta show that loyalty.”

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Hayward, Harris, Leonard

The Celtics have been slumping but Kevin Durant believes they’ll be dangerous when the playoffs arrive, as the Warriors star told a group of reporters, including ESPN’s Nick Friedell. Durant, whose team faces Boston on Tuesday, believes the Celtics are “still getting used to each other” but they’ll be a tough out in the postseason. “They’re right up there at the top,” Durant said. “They’ve been losing a couple games, but they’ve got the top talent, some of the top talent on that team, so they’ll be fine once the playoffs start.”

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • Gordon Hayward‘s agent promises that his client will return to All-Star form next season. Mark Bartelstein made the comments in a WEEI interview that were relayed by NBC Sports Boston’s Nick Goss. “My guess is he doesn’t get his game all the way back where we’re accustomed to seeing it until next year,” Bartelstein said of the Celtics forward. “He’s going to need a summer to get back in the gym and get back in the laboratory and the weight room and build on everything he did last year. But there’s not a doubt in my mind. He’ll be an All-Star in this league many, many times over.”
  • Sixers coach Brett Brown is a big Tobias Harris fan and hopes the team re-signs him, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Brown praises Harris not only for his play on the court but his off-court persona. “I hope he’s a Philadelphia 76er for a long time,” Brown said. Harris, who will enter unrestricted free agency this summer, has enjoyed the ride with his new team since being dealt by the Clippers. “I like it here,” he said. “It’s been a good start that we’ve been able to have, a good group of guys, and the team has a lot of potential.”
  • The Raptors’ load management strategy with star Kawhi Leonard shows disrespect to the team’s fans, Damien Cox of the Toronto Star argues. Leonard has sat out 18 games this season, including an overtime loss in Detroit on Sunday in which many Raptors fans crossed the border to see the game. While the ultimate goal is to have a healthy Leonard for the playoffs, he’s making a huge salary and fans buy full-price tickets to watch him play. To simply shrug off his participation in regular-season basketball is a snub to fans, Cox contends.

Sixers’ Owner Talks Butler, Harris, Expectations

No NBA team has been more aggressive in acquiring immediate help since the 2018/19 season began than the Sixers, who traded for Jimmy Butler in November and Tobias Harris in February. In the wake of those deals, expectations are rising in Philadelphia — the club wants to make a deeper playoff run, and then will have to figure out if Butler and Harris can be re-signed in free agency.

Sixers controlling owner Josh Harris, in attendance at this week’s Sloan Conference in Boston, spoke to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan about those issues, offering some interesting insight. The 76ers are currently projected to match up with the Celtics in the first round of the postseason, and Boston has given Philadelphia a ton of trouble in recent years, but Harris didn’t want to entertain the notion of a first-round exit, suggesting that would be a “very problematic” outcome.

Here’s more from Harris, via MacMullan, on that subject and a couple others:

On how Harris would view the season if the Sixers were to be knocked off in the first round of the playoffs:

“We’d be unhappy. I’d be unhappy. The city would be unhappy. We’re going to work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. We have enough talent on our roster that if we play the way we’re capable of playing, we can beat any team in the East.

“… We want to make sure at a minimum to advance deeper in the playoffs than we did last year. We’ve brought a lot of talent here. They haven’t been together that long, but we’re hopeful we can position them for deep run.”

On the prospect of re-signing both Butler and Harris in free agency:

“We gave up a lot to get Tobias and Jimmy on our team. We think they’re exceptional talents. We’re going to try to keep them. We know we are going to have to pay these guys in an appropriate way. We get it. It’s expensive.

“… The reality is, people like Tobias and Jimmy, there just aren’t that many of them. It’s never perfect, but when make a trade for someone who is expiring, there’s risk involved, we’re hoping we can convince them this is a great place for them.”

On discussing the direction of the franchise with star center Joel Embiid:

“Joel respects our job. He’s our most important player. He’s clearly our future — they’re all an important part of the future — but Joel is exceptional. We generally talk to him about how we are oriented, and what type of players we might be bringing in. We get his advice. In terms of specific conversations, we give him a heads-up.

“At times, it’s not always appropriate because of the other parties involved. You don’t want to compromise who we are talking to or put [Embiid] in an awkward position. “But we’re certainly thinking all the time about how to complement his skill set, which is three-and-D wings, people who spread the court. He’s a dominant presence defensively and he’s dominant in the paint. We need to take the pressure off him so people don’t collapse on him.”

Sixers Notes: Harris, Fultz, Brown, Z. Smith

Tobias Harris has been traded five times since entering the NBA in 2011, but he probably could have ensured stability with the Clippers if he had accepted an $80MM extension offer last summer. However, Harris tells Jonathan Gold of The Washington Post that he was willing to take the gamble in hopes of landing a max deal as a free agent this summer.

“Eighty million is a lot of money,” Harris said. “People said, ‘How you turn that down?’ . . . Look, I know my trajectory. I know when to bet on myself. We looked at the salary cap, looked at free agents, and with all the work I put in, we thought I’d be one of the top guys.”

The acquisition of Harris means “The Process” is now complete in Philadelphia, Gold adds. The team has entered win-now territory and is no longer focused on developing young talent, something it emphasized by trading former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz to Orlando. Harris marked the second aggressive move of the season for the Sixers, who swung a deal in November to acquire Jimmy Butler and are now poised for a playoff run with one of the most talented starting fives in the league.

“I feel like this is the third team I’ve coached this season,” coach Brett Brown said, reflecting on the two major trades.

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Brown doesn’t believe Fultz was being disrespectful with comments he made at his introductory press conference with the Magic, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer“It just excites me to know that I have a coach that’s going to push you to be better and not just going to tell you what you want to hear,” Fultz told reporters, while adding that he looks forward to a “fresh start.” Brown said he has talked to Fultz since then and was assured it wasn’t intended as a swipe at the Sixers’ coaching staff. “He’s a good kid,” Brown said. “He’s a good young man, and, truly, we wish him well.”
  • First-round pick Zhaire Smith probably won’t play for the Sixers this season, but may see some G League action, Pompey tweets. Smith participated in practice today and is considered about 60% recovered from a Jones fracture in his left foot (Twitter link).
  • Although the Sixers’ approach to rebuilding has drawn criticism from many circles, including the commissioner’s office, the franchise has been able to assemble a contender fairly quickly, notes Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

L.A. Notes: Harris, Expiring Contracts, Magic Johnson

The Clippers acknowledge the decision to trade away Tobias Harris was difficult, but they believe it was necessary to build the perennial title contender they envision, writes Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times. Harris was sent to the Sixers last week in exchange for some assets — rookie guard Landry Shamet and a package of draft picks — that could be used to acquire another star, possibly Pelicans center Anthony Davis. They also hope to open enough cap space for two max offers in free agency with an eye on building the NBA’s next super team.

“I mean, it really stinks because you love the guy and what he means to the team,” president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said about losing Harris. “But what you have to do, you have to fast-forward and close your eyes and visualize. In order to build a sustainable championship contender, there are going to have to be some really hard and tough decisions to be made.”

Owner Steve Ballmer has instructed Frank and team consultant Jerry West to build for the future without sacrificing this season. The Clippers entered the All-Star break eighth in the West at 32-27 and remain confident they can make the playoffs without Harris.

There’s more news from Los Angeles:

  • The Clippers were active at the trade deadline, but because they brought in so many players with expiring contracts, another roster shakeup is likely in the offseason, notes Dan Feldman of NBC SportsIvica ZubacJaMychal GreenGarrett Temple and Wilson Chandler all have expiring contracts and may not return next season, depending how successful the organization is in free agency.
  • Lakers president Magic Johnson believes the NBA has a different tampering standard for him than the rest of the league. In a video clip tweeted by Carolina Blitz, Johnson refuses to comment about the possibility of signing Kemba Walker this summer. “You know I can’t answer any questions about no players because every time I do it, I get fined, but anybody else do it, they don’t get fined, so I’m going to stay away from that,” Johnson said.
  • In the wake of their failed attempt to land Davis, the Lakers have a leadership gap that has to be addressed by Johnson, GM Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and LeBron James, writes Andy Kamenetzky of The Athletic.

Sixers Notes: Brand, Harris, Embiid, Milton

Since taking over as the Sixers‘ general manager during the 2018 offseason, first-time GM Elton Brand has taken a pair of huge swings, completing separate trades for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. The team’s aggressive approach to collecting talent stands in stark contrast to the slow, deliberate “Process” of the last few years, but as Michael Lee of The Athletic writes, the 76ers believe the time is right to start going all-in in search of a title.

“I think our window is now,” principal owner Josh Harris said. “I hope that we’re a championship contending team. What we’ve said is that we want to advance further in the playoffs, for sure and we’re going to try our hardest to be a championship contending team this year. Obviously, that’s what everybody wants to do, but I think we’re positioned with enough talent to do that.”

While those blockbuster trade represented a new approach to roster-building for the Sixers, they didn’t necessarily come as a huge surprise, since Brand has talked throughout his tenure about the club’s window opening due to the rapid growth of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

“Our opportunity is now,” Brand said, per Lee. “Who knows how long this window is going to be open?”

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Tobias Harris has fit in nicely with the Sixers through his first few games in Philadelphia, and spoke about his smooth transition, as Lee relays in the piece linked above: “I’m pretty smart. I pretty much knew a lot of what they ran before getting here. I just look forward to being a sponge, soak everything and get as much info as possible. It’s the same approach, but also, getting your mind right helping a team, being able to do something that they’ve been wanting to do for some time now. So it’s expectations, but you’ve got to keep working everyday and build towards that.”
  • After sharply criticizing the officiating in Tuesday’s game against Boston, Joel Embiid was hit with a $25K fine on Wednesday, the league announced (link via ESPN.com). Embiid concluded his post-game podium appearance on Tuesday night by declaring, “The referees f—ing suck,” an apparent reference to a play in the final minute when he was hit across the arm by Al Horford and no foul was called.
  • Rookie guard Shake Milton, who is on a two-way contract with the 76ers, underwent surgery this week to repair a fracture in his right hand, the club announced in a press release. Milton has only appeared in 13 games so far for Philadelphia this season, so his absence won’t impact the team’s rotation. He’ll be re-evaluated in about two or three weeks.

Atlantic Notes: Brand, Nets, Atkinson, Irving

After years and years of asset collection and patience being the primary focus of the Sixers‘ plans, Elton Brand has dramatically changed the team’s course of action in a few months. First it was trading for Jimmy Butler. Then this past week, Brand took it to another level by trading several future assets for Tobias Harris, effectively creating a “big four” in Philadelphia.

These moves were made because Brand’s mindset is that the Sixers are in a position to contend for a championship right now. As Brian Seltzer writes for the 76ers’ team website, Brand is acting with a sense of urgency and focus on building a true championship team this season.

Should the 76ers re-sign both Harris and Butler, the team would instantly become one of the more expensive in the league, but Brand should be satisfied with the group of talent he has assembled for the foreseeable future.

There’s more from the Atlantic division: