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Report: Spurs preferred Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons in Kawhi Leonard trade

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Summer in the NBA was a little odd this year. Things happened quickly with LeBron James heading to the Los Angeles Lakers, and after Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors, things sort of settled down. Everyone seems to be waiting for the summer of 2019.

Meanwhile, conversations are still abound when it comes to Leonard and where he ended up this year. Eventually, the Raptors were able to put together a package around DeMar DeRozan that put Leonard in Ontario for the upcoming season. Beyond? We don’t know about that yet.

Many were underwhelmed with the haul the San Antonio Spurs reigned in for their former No. 1 player and Finals MVP. Leonard obviously tanked some of his trade value by letting his desires to leave Texas (likely for LA) but DeRozan didn’t seem like fair value.

That left many to speculate what kind of deals the Spurs could have put together, and perhaps which they turned down. Even further, which deals might San Antonio been rebuffed on?

According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Sixers turned down San Antonio’s feeler for a deal involving either Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons. Rumor had it that Markelle Fultz could have been on the table, but Lowe shut that down.

Via The Lowe Post at around 28:00:

“There is no evidence that the Spurs wanted Fultz. I’ve been told the Spurs never asked for Fultz, and actively didn’t want Fultz, and in fact wanted one of the two big guys.”

The conversation between Lowe and Sixers guard JJ Redick was an interesting one, with other tidbits coming from the sharp-shooting veteran. Redick went into detail about how he felt the media treated Fultz last season, and also mentioned that he thought LeBron heading to the Lakers had been years in the making.

There has already been some reporting that Leonard has purchased property in Toronto rather than renting, which could be a sign that Leonard wants to stay. It could also be that he’s getting into the real estate speculation game in Canada’s largest city. Who knows with that guy?

Perhaps the most unfortunate part of Leonard heading to a team like Toronto, where it is unclear whether he would like to stay, is that we have to have much of the same conversation we had about him as we did the entirety of this past season. That storyline was boring to start with, and it’s stretched beyond the possibility of any kind of satisfying answer.

Good luck with that one, Raptors fans.

Misadventures stall progress for 76ers

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

After an extended period of mediocrity then several years of tanking, the 76ers won 52 games and reached the second round, their best season since Allen Iverson led them to the 2001 NBA Finals.

But Philadelphia sure didn’t get the typical stability that follows a breakthrough like that.

The 76ers experienced plenty of disorder this offseason – some welcomed, some not, some between and most of it in service of adding another star.

The Process was always built on the understanding that acquiring multiple stars is both extremely difficult and all but necessary to win a championship. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, a combination many teams would envy, aren’t enough for Philadelphia.

That’s a reason the 76ers ousted Sam Hinkie, who drafted Embiid and positioned Philadelphia to make the easy call of drafting Simmons. Hinkie executed his vision smartly, but also callously. It’s hard to tank for that long without upsetting people, and the perception he turned the franchise into an embarrassment only grew. So, the 76ers turned to an executive with a more acceptable reputation around the league.

That decision that came home to roost this summer, as Bryan Colangelo’s tenure ended in a scandal far more tawdry than anything under Hinkie.

We still don’t know precisely what happened with those burner Twitter accounts, but the 76ers determined Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, ran the accounts and he mishandled private and sensitive information. The 76ers didn’t find proof he knew about the accounts, and he denied prior knowledge. But it shouldn’t be lost the team’s investigation was impeded by Bottini deleting the contents of her cell phone. Also remember: Two days after news broke of the accounts’ existence, Colangelo was still denying any knowledge of anything about them. In the midst of the biggest scandal of his career, his wife never came clean to him? That is the most unbelievable part of this saga.

So, the 76ers rightfully dumped Colangelo, even though it left them without a general manager for the draft and free agency. With that void in leadership, LeBron James, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard all ended up elsewhere.

Unable to get that additional star via trade or free agency, Philadelphia used most of its cap space on J.J. Redick and Wilson Chandler.

Re-signing Redick (one year, $12.25 million) was especially important given Ersan Ilyasova’s and Marco Belinelli’s departures in free agency. Ilyasova (two years, $14 million guaranteed from the Bucks with an unguaranteed third season) and Belinelli (two years, $12 million from Spurs) were important cogs on last year’s team due their shooting. The 76ers were +42 in the playoffs when Ilyasova and Belinelli shared the court and -3 otherwise – a remarkable split for a pair of reserves.

But Philadelphia clearly didn’t want to limit its long-term star-acquiring flexibility. So, matching multi-year contracts for Ilyasova and Belinelli was a no go.

That’s why trading for Chandler was at least logical. Though overpaid, he’s on an expiring contract can can still pay. The 76ers also got second-round consideration for taking him from the tax-avoiding Nuggets.Still, it seems Philadelphia could have gotten a better free agent for that money, someone good enough to justify passing on the Denver picks.

Keeping a theme, the 76ers lost Nemanja Bjelica when he determined the one-year room exception didn’t provide him enough stability. Why he didn’t figure that out before agreeing to the deal with Philadelphia is on him, but the 76ers paid the price for his defection to the Kings on a multi-year deal.

So, still in need of a stretch big with Ilyasova and Bjelica out of the picture, Philadelphia traded Justin Anderson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot for the Hawks’ Mike Muscala, who, naturally, is on an expiring contract. Because Muscala is a four/five (to Bjelica’s four/three), the 76ers dumped reserve center Richaun Holmes for cash. They also re-signed backup center Amir Johnson to a minimum contract for – you guessed it – one year.

Not only are the 76ers preserving 2019 cap space, they’re also stockpiling assets for their star search. On draft night, they traded No. 10 pick Mikal Bridges – who profiles as a solid role player and would have acclimated nicely to Philadelphia, where he grew up and played collegiately at Villanova – to the Suns for No. 16 pick Zhaire Smith and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick. That Miami pick has major upside and could be valuable in a trade with a team moving its star and rebuilding.

Philadelphia left the draft with Smith, No. 26 pick Landry Shamet and No. 54 pick Shake Milton. The 76ers also signed last year’s second-rounder Jonah Bolden to a four-year contract. It’s a nice haul of young talent to add to Philadelphia’s stockpile.

But none of those players is the star the 76ers clearly seek. After undercutting themselves, they at least did well to give themselves a chance to try again next year.

That said, maybe they already have the additional star they desire. Markelle Fultz suffered through a miserable rookie year due to the yips. Whether injury was the cause or effect barely matters now. If he finds his groove, that could swing the franchise’s fortunes for a decade. His development might be more important to Philadelphia’s offseason than any signing, trade or draft pick.

I believe Fultz has improved over the summer. But I just can’t project he’ll return to the star track that made him the No. 1 pick a year ago. That’s too big a leap of faith. Even major advances could still leave him well short of stardom.

But he is the biggest variable in offseason that saw Philadelphia lose helpful contributors, fail to maximize its ample cap space and move one year closer to Simmons joining Embiid on max contracts that will limit flexibility.

At least they’re still in strong shape for next summer.

Offseason grade: C-

Ben Simmons responds to Twitter user making fun of his shooting

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Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons took just eleven 3-pointers during his first full NBA season last year. As most of you know, Simmons did not make a single shot from beyond the arc.

Simmons’ shot form is not ideal, and it makes sense that he wasn’t exactly a gunner from deep after watching his college career. Still, that didn’t make Simmons an inefficient player for Philadelphia last season, and if he can develop any kind of range it will help space the Sixers offense.

His inability to shoot or make 3-pointers has become a bit of a meme on Twitter following former Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo (or his wife’s) alleged tweet telling him to, “Shoot a 3 you coward.” Fans are still going after Simmons during the offseason and now it appears that Simmons feels comfortable firing back. After one Twitter user strafed Simmons this week, the 76ers point forward responded.

Via Twitter:

I’m not sure how many 3-pointers we will see Simmons take next season, but if he is like most NBA players we should see some kind of on-court response — even if it’s minimal — given the amount of razzing Simmons has received online. NBA players these days seemingly can’t follow the No. 1 rule of the Internet: don’t read the comment section.

Beats by Dre now official headphone of the NBA

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All the players were wearing them anyway.

And Beats by Dre already had deals with LeBron James, James Harden, Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum, Karl-Anthony Towns, and other NBA stars. Plus Beats throws the best All-Star Weekend party going.

On Wednesday, the NBA announced a new leaguewide deal to make Beats by Dr. Dre the official headphone, wireless speaker and audio partner of the NBA, Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), NBA G League and USA Basketball.

“Beats revolutionized the music industry and has become one of the most innovative and culturally-influential brands in the world,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “Through our partnership, we have an exciting opportunity to merge sports, pop culture and technology to deliver unparalleled experiences and premium products to our fans.”

To be honest, it’s hard to picture Silver wearing a pair of Beats (and what would he be listening to, Chronic? Compton?), but this is a smart business deal. NBA players were already a walking ad for Beats every time they entered an arena so might as well make it official and have some money exchange hands. Everybody scratches everyone else’s back.

“I always want to be the best and work with the best. That’s why I joined the Beats fam – they have the best headphones and they made them a style icon when no one else thought of electronics that way,” Harden said in a statement. “Whether I’m traveling, working out or decompressing after a game, I can’t imagine listening to anything without them. Beats loves basketball and always works to tell the stories of their favorite players. I’m excited to see what they do with the NBA.”

As part of the deal, Beats will provide product to players and have a larger presence during marquee events including NBA All-Star weekend, the NBA Draft and more. Plus they will strike separate deals with teams, meaning soon you can get your own Lakers/Celtics/Knicks/Bucks/whatever Beats.

Beats is ultimately owned by Apple, which paid a whopping $3 billion for the company back in 2014, although that was more about the streaming software Beats had (now at the heart of Apple’s streaming service) as it was the headphones.

Some partnerships are natural, this feels like one of them.

Report: 76ers want GM who’ll collaborate with minority owner, others on decisions

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The 76ers reportedly tried to hire Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and looked into pursuing Spurs general manager R.C. Buford.

Why didn’t Philadelphia lure either big-name executive to replace disgraced Bryan Colangelo/interim Brett Brown?

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer on the “Yahoo Sports NBA: Chris Mannix” podcast:

Yes, they want a name general manager. But they’re also looking for someone who doesn’t have the final say, so to speak. They want to do it all like a group decision.

There’s a guy in the ownership group. His name is David Heller.

He’s one of these guys from New  York. When Sam Hinkie was the GM, from what you hear, is he was a guy who was basically running the meetings, and he had a heavy hand in the decision making. And at this particular time, he again has a heavy hand in the decision making.

And when you look at the fact that they have Joel Embiid, they have Ben Simmons, and they have all these other guys, they feel as if the model that they have works. So why tweak it? Also, it’s one of those things where they’re heavy analytics based. Brett Brown has a say. They trust Brett Brown. So, you feel like, right now, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

I don’t blame Heller for that. If I had enough money to buy an NBA team, I’d run its basketball operations. That’s a perk of the purchase. Why spend all that money not to do the most fun job?

But the 76ers’ confidence in their current setup seems misplaced. After all, they ousted the architect of this rising team, Hinkie. Even if he collaborated closely with Heller, Hinkie was still a huge part of the setup that got Philadelphia here.

So, the 76ers will have to embrace an at least somewhat altered front-office structure. As long as that includes dispersed power, they’ll have a hard time attracting an established general manager. Proven executives like Morey and Buford want to make the calls, not merely influence them.

Either structure can work. There are pros and cons to both. Philadelphia just ought to realize where it stands.