Getty Images

LeBron James says arms race at top of East “because they ain’t gotta go through me”

13 Comments

Philadelphia traded for Tobias Harris (and brought in some depth with players such as James Ennis and Mike Scott). That prompted Milwaukee to respond and trade for Nicola Mirotic. Then Toronto upped that and made a deal to bring in Marc Gasol. Boston stood pat (although they were happy on Thursday because Anthony Davis is still a Pelican) but has been playing much better basketball the past few weeks and has looked as good as anyone in the East.

Why the arms race at the top of the East?

LeBron James has a theory, one he told to Joe Varden of The Athletic.

“Those top teams in the East, yeah, they’re going for it,” James told The Athletic. “Toronto is going for it, Milwaukee’s going for it, Philly. Boston believes they can do it, too. They know they ain’t gotta go through Cleveland anymore.

“Everybody in the East thinks they can get to the Finals because they ain’t gotta go through me.”

LeBron isn’t entirely wrong here — him leaving did throw open the door in the East.

That said, would things be that different if LeBron stayed in Cleveland with some variation of the roster we saw last season? The Cavs didn’t have room to make dramatic improvements, and the fully-healthy Celtics with Kyrie Irving likely would have been the favorite over them, and right now any of those top four teams could have knocked off those Cavaliers, even with LeBron.

 

Without LeBron, however, the second round and beyond of the Eastern Conference playoffs is going to be incredible.

Tobias Harris on staying with Sixers: ‘I’m hopeful it can be a long-term partnership’

3 Comments

Tobias Harris hopes to stay a while with his new team after bouncing around the NBA throughout his career.

Harris was the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal the Philadelphia 76ers made early Wednesday morning to bolster their chances at making a run at a championship. The 26-year-old forward was having a breakout season with the Los Angeles Clippers before coming to his fifth team in eight seasons.

He joins All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, along with Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick, to form perhaps the best starting lineup in the Eastern Conference.

Harris is in the final season of a contract but the Sixers certainly will want to keep him around after trading sensational rookie guard Landry Shamet and four draft picks along with forwards Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala to Los Angeles. Center Boban Marjanovic and forward Mike Scott came to Philadelphia as part of the deal.

“The top of the list for me is winning culture and No. 2 is loyalty,” Harris said Thursday. “Just finding the right situation for team basketball, a winning culture and loyalty from both sides. This team has made a big trade and I’m hopeful it can be a long-term partnership.”

Harris is averaging 20.9 points and shoots nearly 50 percent from 3-point range. He gives Philadelphia another shooter it needed. The Sixers, who were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs last season, are 34-20 and in fifth place in the East.

Harris said he had dinner with coach Brett Brown upon arriving in town and they discussed his role.

“He’s going to let me go play my game and figure things out on the fly,” Harris said. “When you have a team with this much talent, see what works and fueling off each other on the floor. We have a lot of talent but smart players, too.”

Harris is excited to play with Simmons, the talented 6-foot-10 point-guard.

“He’s a beast in the open court,” Harris said. “Matching up against him, the toughest thing is how well he passes the ball and gets other guys involved. I’ve always been a big fan of his game and how he plays, his size and speed and skill level.”

Marjanovic, a 7-foot-3 backup center, provides depth behind Embiid. He averaged 6.7 points in 10.4 minutes played.

“Big fan of (Embiid),” Marjanovic said. “I like how he plays, how he moves. I’m really impressed with that. Now, I’m on the same team. We can both help each other.”

Scott shrugged off a question about added pressure because the expectations have grown for Philadelphia and Marjanovic deferred to Harris, one of his best buddies. Harris handled it diplomatically.

“We understand the team invested a lot in us,” he said. “It was a big move. It was a win-now move. That means a lot. This is already a winning culture and we look to bring our games to it and help as best we can.”

The Sixers made two other moves before the NBA’s trade deadline, sending former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz to the Orlando Magic, according to two people familiar with the negotiations. Philadelphia gets guard Jonathan Simmons, a 2020 first-round pick that the Sixers used to own but was conveyed in other deals. Philly also get a second-round pick this year. Fultz has played in only 33 games since the Sixers traded up to select him No. 1 overall in the 2017 draft.

Earlier, the Sixers added forward James Ennis from the Houston Rockets in exchange for draft considerations, according to a person familiar with the deal. Ennis, who averaged 7.4 points for the Rockets this season, has also played for Miami, Memphis, Houston and New Orleans. He’s a career 36 percent shooter from 3-point range and will add to Philadelphia’s bench depth.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds and AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston contributed to this report.

More AP NBA: http://www.apnews.com/NBA and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: Rockets trading James Ennis to 76ers

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
1 Comment

The Rockets downgraded from Trevor Ariza to the cheaper James Ennis last offseason.

But even Ennis’ minimum salary has proven too costly to the Rockets.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

This puts the Rockets in line to save $3,009,236 – $2,432,123 in luxury tax and $577,114 in Ennis’ remaining salary. Now just $2,669,057 over the tax line, Houston could try to dodge the tax altogether.

More likely: The Rockets will remain in the tax and sign bought-out players. Unloading Ennis via trade rather than releasing him just makes opening the roster spot cheaper.

Ennis has been OK for the Rockets, but their trade for Iman Shumpertprimarily about cutting costs – made Ennis expendable. He’s more likely to contribute in Philadelphia.

The 76ers already made their big move by trading for Tobias Harris. They also added Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott in that deal. But Philadelphia badly needed depth, and Ennis – a versatile forward – adds more.

Philadelphia will likely waive Malachi Richardson, who was just acquired with a second-round pick in a Raptors salary dump.

Three Things to Know: Sixers go all-in right now, Clippers set up future all-in push

Leave a comment

Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Sixers go all-in right now, Clippers set up future all-in push with a blockbuster trade. If you needed evidence of why Philadelphia needed to go all-in for a playoff push — if GM Elton Brand needed more evidence of what would happen to his team in the postseason — the game against Toronto Tuesday night provided it. Kawhi Leonard’s defense disrupted everything Philly wanted to do, while on the other end of the court he was attacking and getting to the line. Toronto was getting good looks and making them while making Philadelphia work. The result was a 119-107 win that showed The Sixers where they stood.

So the Sixers went all-in with a blockbuster trade: Philadelphia gets an All-Star level player in Tobias Harris, plus big men Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott. However, the price was high in future assets, because the Clippers got Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, the Sixers’ 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected), an unprotected 2021 first-round pick (via Miami) and second-round picks in 2021 and 2023 (via Detroit).

The Sixers’ starting five is now the second best one in the NBA: Ben Simmons, J.J. Reddick, Jimmy Butler, Harris, and Joel Embiid. Harris brings three-point shooting (43 percent this season), shot creation and much more, he is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. How good is Harris? He dropped 34 on Charlotte Tuesday night including hitting the game-winner.

With this move, Philadelphia jumps into the middle of the conversation with Boston, Toronto, and Milwaukee for which team that could make the Finals out of the East.

The Sixers still need to add depth and shooting off the buyout market, but Scott is an upgrade as a stretch big off the bench and Marjanovic can give them quality minutes against second-string bigs they may well see in the playoffs (plus will be an instant fan favorite). This starting/closing five — and coach Brett Brown can stagger them throughout the game and keep a couple of these guys on the floor at all times — will not get pushed around by Toronto or anyone else.

The Sixers now will have to pay to keep this team together — Butler and Harris are free agents this summer, and don’t forget Simmons will have his rookie contract extension coming up in a couple of years. Joshua Harris will need to break out the checkbook — and the Sixers knew that going in. Can they keep Redick on the roster through all of that (he’s a free agent this summer, too)? It’s going to get expensive, but that is the price for putting a contender together.

Los Angeles sacrificed this season with this trade. The Clippers were fighting to hold on to the eight seed but took a step back in the short term. The Kings are one game back, but it’s the Lakers — now with LeBron James healthy again (keep reading No. 2 below for more on them) — just 2.5 games back that likely climbs past the Clippers to nab the eight seed. (Minnesota is four games back and could get in the mix if you believe in them. I do not.)

What the Clippers set up is the future. The team is expected to be a serious player for Kawhi Leonard this summer, but now they are one Danilo Gallinari trade away from having two max contract slots (according to ESPN’s cap guru Bobby Marks). More than that, the Clippers landed one of the most coveted picks floating around the trade market — Miami’s 2021 unprotected pick. Also, if the Clippers miss the playoffs they keep their first-round pick this season (otherwise the Celtics get it). And they now have a quality shooting guard in Shamet to pair with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the backcourt.

It sets up bold moves.

The Clippers were on Anthony Davis’ short list of teams he would re-sign with. Now the Clippers have serious assets for a potential trade: Some combination of Miami pick, their own lottery pick this year, Lou Williams and/or Avery Bradley (if the Pelicans want to stay competitive, as is rumored), plus one or more of Montrezl Harrell, Gilgeous-Alexander, or Shamet. Do not underestimate how tempting that Miami pick will be for teams.

Los Angeles looked at itself, looked at the West, and decided to play for another day — and be able to go all-in when they do. That is a power move. Good on Lawrence Frank, Jerry West, and the rest of the Clippers organization. They gave up an All-Star but got a potential franchise-changing package back.

2) So maybe those trade rumors are affecting the young Lakers. Wow, this was ugly. Trade rumors can distract young players not used to seeing their names in packages sent to New Orleans or anywhere else, and if the player is on social media (and they all are) it hits them in the face every time they pick up their phone. It showed on the court Tuesday.

Indiana fans did their part, chanting “LeBron’s gonna trade you” when Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma went to the free throw line.

(The colder one was fans chanting “not worth trading” at JaVale McGee.)

The Lakers were blown out by 42-points by a Victor Oladipo-less Pacers team — but an Indy with some depth that plays hard. From the opening tip, the Lakers looked distracted and out-of-sync. The loss was the largest of LeBron James’ career and led to this on the bench.

Luke Walton and LeBron — it is on both of them — need to rally the team. With the Clippers trading Harris, the eight seed is there for the taking. The Lakers should get it, but they will have to earn it — amazingly because the Kings will play hard and make them earn it. The Lakers are the best team of the ones battling for that playoff spot, they just have to start living up to that potential.

The trade for Reggie Bullock, a good shooter and solid player, will help with that. But the change mostly needs to be internal.

3) John Wall adds ruptured Achilles to his list of injuries, and the Wizards future is now in question. When John Wall had surgery on his heel on Jan. 8, one of the goals was to take pressure off his Achilles and prevent future injuries. But that’s not how things go for the Wizards, who the basketball gods continue to plague with injuries.

Wall slipped at home, fell, and tore his Achilles. He could miss all of next season because of it.

Now what?

In the short-term, nothing changes. Owner Ted Leonsis and GM Ernie Grunfeld have said the team was going to make a push for the playoffs, and they will. (How well that goes is another question, the Wizards are currently the 10 seed, 3.5 games back of the Heat and the final playoff spot.) While teams are calling about Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green, and others (including Bradley Beal), don’t expect the Wizards to be sellers at the trade deadline. Probably.

This summer though, the Wizards need to decide who they are. Again, don’t expect a rebuild, expect a re-tooling around Bradley Beal. They will re-sign Tomas Satoransky. But around that, there could be roster shifts. The Wizards are a bit unpredictable that way, but there should be changes.

The problem is Wall’s four-year max contract is just kicking in, it’s the most untradable contract in the NBA (and was before this Achilles injury), and now $37.8 million in cap space (and climbing for the three years after that) is tied up in Wall. It’s an anchor on any reworking of the roster. Wall is a fighter, he will come back from this, but what the Wizards look like when he does is anyone’s guess.

Report: 76ers trading for Clippers’ Tobias Harris

Leave a comment

The 76ers are going for it.

The Clippers are going for it… soon, but not quite yet.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Derek Bodner of The Athletic:

Tobias Harris could be a game-changer in the Eastern Conference. He’ll be a big upgrade over Wilson Chandler as Philadelphia’s starting power forward. Now, the 76ers’ starting lineup – Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Jimmy Butler, Harris and Joel Embiid – looks complete. Harris is not only talented, his shooting and versatility make him fit well.

Philadelphia paid a big price for him, though.

The Heat’s 2021 first-rounder could potentially be quite valuable, as Miami is mediocre and capped out. Landry Shamet, last year’s No. 26 pick, is having a solid rookie season. And the 76ers are sending their own 2020 first-rounder. (Chandler and Mike Muscala are on expiring contracts and likely included mostly to make salaries match.)

What will the Clippers do with all those assets? They’re chasing stars like Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant in free agency next summer. The extra picks and young players could allow L.A. to trade for a big-time player, too. Maybe Anthony Davis?

Whatever the Clippers do, they’re surely not thinking smaller. They just traded their best player in Harris. This is clearly a set up to something larger later. Extra picks could help facilitate it.

Harris will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he didn’t factor into L.A.’s primary plan. Better to get value for him now if not re-signing him. Paying Harris this offseason is now part of the cost of this transaction for the 76ers, who must also juggle Butler’s free agency.

The Clippers add a slight amount of salary for next season, as Shamet is due $1,995,120. But that’s not much more than the charge for an empty roster spot. They’ll still have a ton of cap space.

And likely a little less prestige. The Clippers are eighth in the Western Conference, but the 10th-place Lakers are rising as LeBron James gets healthy. The ninth-place Kings and maybe even 11th-place Timberwolves are in the playoffs hunt. The Clippers will have a tougher time holding on without Harris. Chandler (once healthy), Shamet and Muscala can help, but not as much as the players surrendered. That’s why L.A. got the picks.

Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott, both on expiring contracts, will provide much-needed depth in Philadelphia. The 76ers are thin after trading two starters for Butler and whatever is happening with Markelle Fultz. It’s also nice Harris and Marjanovic remain together.

Lastly, I wonder whether NBA commissioner Adam Silver regrets so quickly naming D'Angelo Russell as Victor Oladipo‘s All-Star injury replacement. Harris might be more deserving, and now he’s in the East.

Harris got overlooked in a deep Western Conference. In the East, he’s a major player in Philadelphia’s bid to get past the Bucks, Raptors and Celtics.