Finalized Trades, Coach Interviews, Anticipated Hibernation: A Non-MCW Sixers News Roundup

Finalized Trades, Coach Interviews, Anticipated Hibernation: A Non-MCW Sixers News Roundup

That Boy Jrue sure seemed to enjoy his honeymoon, as his vacation with new bride Lauren Cheney ended up delaying his trade to New Orleans--which could technically have been made official on Wednesday--until yesterday, when he finally became a Pelican, being formally introduced as the team's new point guard. As previously reported, Holiday's departure (along with the #42 pick in this year's draft, Pierre Jackson) comes in return for the #6 overall pick (and top-rated talent pre-draft) Nerlens Noel, and a future New Orleans first-round pick, which is permanently top-five protected. Noel remains on the shelf for some time as he recovers from his ACL tear, but at least GM Sam Hinkie no longer has to pretend like he's not even a part of the team.

In similar news, the Sixers' trade with the Rockets for troubled prospect Royce White and Turkish rebounding machine Furkan Aldemir for not much of anything in return has also officially gone through. News of this is mostly interesting for the way it was presented by the Sixers' PR, who framed the trade as a deal for Aldemir, with White as more of a footnote. This would seem to go a long way towards confirming the oft-posited theory that the Sixers aren't really all that interested in White, whose crippling anxiety struggles Hinkie got to witness first-hand as an assistant in Houston last year, but that they really see something in Aldemir, the 53rd pick in the draft last year. In any event, neither player is likely to contribute much to the Sixers next season.

With these moves finalized, I don't expect a lot of further activity for the Sixers this off-season--there may be a roster spot or two to be filled out by minimum guys, but most of the big-name free agents are already spoken for at this point, and the few remaining don't really make much sense for Philly anyway. There's always the possibility of more Jrue-like rebuilding trades to come, shedding players like Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, but my instinct is that those trades, if they are to happen, will come over the course of the season, rather than during the summer. Not a certainty by any means, but I'd bet that the roster they currently have is basically the one they'll take to the pre-season, if not opening night.

Of course, there is one important move still to be made for the Sixers, presumably: Hiring a head coach. You may have heard that the Sixers are the last team to still be searching for a coach, which is true, and furthermore, nobody in the organization seems to be treating the matter with any degree of urgency--we'll get one when we get one, seems to be the general approach. The team is making at least one proactive move, however, as CSN reports that the Sixers will interview Celtics assistant Jay Larranga, formerly in the hunt for the C's head gig that eventually went to Butler coach Brad Stevens. Hard to have much of a reading on that potential hire, but I'm mostly in favor of the Sixers going Young Unrpoven Assistant over Deposed Proven Curmudgeon or what have you. More to come on that if it seems like it's going to pan out.

What a crazy off-season it's already been, though, for the Sixers and the league at large. Certainly made the comedown from the high of the playoffs a lot more manageable for us NBA junkies out there.

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

PITTSBURGH -- For Flyers coach Dave Hakstol and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, tonight’s Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Penguins brings back memories.
 
Hakstol coached North Dakota in an outdoor hockey in college, while Gostisbehere participated in one as a freshman at Union College.
 
For Hakstol, however, this whole idea of outdoor hockey began when he was growing up in central Alberta in the small town of Drayton Valley.
 
“I think everybody’s got great memories of growing up outdoors,” Hakstol said. “We had a back creek that we could shovel off. I’m sure everybody could sit back and tell you stories of playing on the outdoor rinks.
 
“For me, most recently, I’ve got two kids growing up playing on outdoor rinks, backyard rinks. It’s pretty cool. It takes you right back to the heart of the game.”
 
Hakstol’s outdoor coaching experience came during a game between Nebraska-Omaha and his North Dakota squad in 2013 at the “Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice.”
 
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Hakstol said of the event. “It’s just a different feel. It’s an ideal scenario.”
 
He said while tonight's game is special, it’s still about the points, first and foremost.
 
“You are cognizant of everything that surrounds the event and the game,” Hakstol said. “Yet for us, it’s two points. We’re fighting for every point here. That is going to paramount.”

Gostisbehere played at Fenway Park in 2012 for Union in a game against Harvard. That night, Union won, 2-0, to become the first ECAC club to ever win outdoors.
 
“I played at Fenway Park against Harvard and it was fun,” Gostisbehere said. “That was my freshman year and the only one I ever played in.
 
“Good crowd. It wasn’t packed obviously, but it was a night game. The ice was really good. It was really cold, too. It was pretty cool.”
 
As warm as it was Friday here -- a historic 78 degrees -- temperatures will begin in the 40s tonight at Heinz Field and then drop. It rained this morning but has since ceased.
 
“The biggest thing for me was to take a second, look around,” Gostisbehere said, admitting he failed to do that in college and won’t make that mistake again.
 
“Just cherish it a little bit. You are so focused on the game, it’s tough. That was biggest thing for me. It was such a blur. Just being in college and having the opportunity to play at Fenway Park was pretty awesome.”

This will the Flyers first-ever outdoor affair in Pittsburgh.
 
“It’s pretty exciting and I’m glad to be part of it,” Gostisbehere said.