Sixers trade Holiday for Noel, first-round pick

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Sixers trade Holiday for Noel, first-round pick

It was a monumental night for new Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie. During his first draft with the team, Hinkie seemed to have his hands in at least a dozen trades or proposals for trades.

“The exact status quo wasn’t going to get it done,” Hinkie said after the draft.

In the end, Hinkie just may have pulled off one of the biggest surprises of the night.

A league source confirmed the 76ers have acquired the draft rights for No. 6 overall pick, forward/center Nerlens Noel. To get Noel, the Sixers had to give up their All-Star point guard, Jrue Holiday and the No. 42 overall pick.

The Sixers will also get a first-round pick, protected through the top five spots, from New Orleans for the 2014 draft. The Sixers will also send the 42nd overall pick, Pierre Jackson, to the Pelicans in the deal.

While the Sixers used the No. 11 overall pick to draft 6-foot-6 point guard Michael Carter-Williams from Syracuse University (see story), they dealt their No. 35 pick to Washington for two picks and then traded away one of those picks.

When the dust finally cleared past midnight, the Sixers had Noel, Carter-Williams, a protected first-round pick in 2014 and Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi, a 6-foot-7 high-energy forward from Iran (see story).

However, the trading of Holiday for the 6-foot-10, 228-pound Noel was a game-changer.

Hinkie, per NBA regulations, was not allowed to comment directly on the trade.

“It was a challenging night in many ways with one gut-wrenching phone call,” Hinkie said, perhaps alluding to the call to Holiday to tell him he had been traded. “All in all, though, I think it was the right thing to do.”

In trading Holiday and getting two lottery picks, the Sixers solved some salary-cap issues. Holiday is set to begin a four-year, $41 million contract next season.

The draft-day wrangling under Hinkie makes one wonder if high-priced players like Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner or Spencer Hawes could be on the move, too.

With Holiday off the books, the Sixers have approximately $35.3 million earmarked for salaries in 2013-14, not including the two first-round picks. If the cap is set at $58 to $60 million, the Sixers could have a little more wiggle room.

That also opens the door for the big question: What do the Sixers do with Andrew Bynum, the huge acquisition from last summer? The Sixers can offer Bynum a max deal or use him for a sign-and-trade. With Bynum and/or the 6-foot-10, 228-pound Noel in the frontcourt and first-round picks slated for next season, the youthful Sixers could be quite formidable.

Noel, who played just 24 games at the University of Kentucky in his only season at the school, was projected by most experts to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft for Cleveland. However, Noel may have slipped to No. 6 in the draft because he tore his ACL in February.

Noel will not be ready to play by opening night as he continues to recover from his ACL surgery.

The Sixers with another big man with bad knees?

However, Noel was named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year by averaging 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals in 32 minutes per game.

Meanwhile, it was assumed that Holiday was the player the Sixers were going to build around. The All-Star guard turned 23 just two weeks ago and had improved every season he has been in the NBA. The 2012-13 season was the quintessential breakout year that many predicted for Holiday. On opening night, Holiday signed a four-year contract extension, later, he earned his first All-Star berth and at age 22, he became the undisputed leader of the Sixers.

There’s more: Holiday was fourth in the NBA in assists with eight per game and 10th in minutes per game with nearly 38.

But Holiday needed help in the backcourt and with Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala departed for other teams last year, the Sixers didn’t give it to him. With no backup point guard to help with the minutes or to give Holiday a chance to move off the ball to the two-guard spot, the All-Star was second in the league with 3.7 turnovers per game and at the end of the season admitted he was fatigued.

Chalk it up to all those minutes, the demanding position of point guard and the added responsibility taken on as the team captain, and the breakout year came with a price for Holiday.

But in New Orleans, Holiday will be teamed in the backcourt with point guard Greivis Vasquez, who averaged 9.0 assists per game, as well as veteran guard Eric Gordon, who has averaged 18.0 points per game in his five years in the NBA.

As for the Sixers, the future is a little cloudy, though Hinkie hopes to change that.

“We will take the steps to be future focused,” Hinkie said.

Best of NBA: Jaylen Brown, Celtics use 5-point possession to top Pistons

Best of NBA: Jaylen Brown, Celtics use 5-point possession to top Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Jaylen Brown sank a 3-pointer from the right corner while being fouled with 37.6 seconds remaining, part of a five-point possession for Boston that lifted the Celtics to a 104-98 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night.

The Celtics were down 96-95 when Brown connected while being fouled by Marcus Morris. Brown missed the ensuing free throw, but Detroit couldn't come up with the rebound, and Tobias Harris was called for a loose-ball foul. Marcus Smart added two free throws to put Boston up 100-96.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 33 points. Andre Drummond had 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Pistons, but he went 1 of 11 on free throws and was taken out for some key possessions toward the end to prevent Boston from fouling him.

Lakers crushed by Spurs in first home game since front office shakeup
LOS ANGELES -- Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs routed the Lakers 119-98 on Sunday in Los Angeles' first home game since Magic Johnson took over the franchise's basketball operations.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 points for the Spurs, who have won four straight and nine of 11.

Pau Gasol added 15 points against his former team, and the Southwest Division leaders had little trouble with the Lakers, who have lost four straight and 15 of 19.

Five days after owner Jeanie Buss put Johnson in charge of basketball operations, the Lakers' dismal season still hasn't changed much, although new Lakers acquisitions Corey Brewer and Tyler Ennis got limited playing time.

Rookie Brandon Ingram scored a season-high 22 points as the Lakers fell to 19-41, ensuring their fourth consecutive non-winning season (see full recap).

Antetokounmpo scores 28 as Bucks hold off Suns
MILWAUKEE -- Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points, Tony Snell made a clinching 3-pointer from the corner in the closing seconds and the Milwaukee Bucks held off the Phoenix Suns, 100-96 on Sunday.

Michael Beasley added 17 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 15 as the Bucks swept the two-game season series with the Suns. Greg Monroe finished with 14 points and Snell had 13.

TJ Warren led the Suns with 23 points. Alan Williams scored a career-high 17 points and tied his season high with 15 rebounds, while Devin Booker added 15 points and Eric Bledsoe had 11.

Clinging to a one-point lead, the Bucks came out of timeout with Monroe inbounding the ball to Antetokounmpo. He dribbled the clock down before passing to Brogdon, who whipped the ball to Snell in the corner. Snell hit a 3 with a defender flying at him.

Sixers see light after latest round of roster turnover

Sixers see light after latest round of roster turnover

By the time reporters were admitted to the Sixers' locker room some 75 minutes before Friday's home game against Washington, the nameplates above the cubicles previously occupied by Nerlens Noel and Ersan Ilyasova had long ago been changed.

Where Noel once sat, in the corner nearest the shower room, there was now a "47 Splitter" nameplate for veteran center Tiago Splitter, who came over from Atlanta in the deal that sent Ilyasova to the Hawks two days earlier.

Where Ilyasova once sat, between Robert Covington and Dario Saric, there was now a "23 Anderson" nameplate for second-year forward Justin Anderson, acquired from Dallas (with Andrew Bogut, who is expected to head to Cleveland once his contract is bought out) in the trade that sent Noel there.

Across the locker room, there was no nameplate at all above the space once filled by rookie guard Chasson Randle. He had been cut when the two trades went down, collateral damage in this latest upheaval, this latest change to an ever-changing landscape.

Out in the hallway a few minutes earlier, coach Brett Brown had reinforced the message general manager Bryan Colangelo delivered to reporters during a news conference earlier in the day -- that all this had been necessary. Noel and Ilyasova are destined for free agency this summer (Noel will be restricted, Ilyasova unrestricted). The Sixers were unlikely to match any outside offer Noel is sure to attract, and just as unlikely to give Ilyasova the long-term deal he craves.

So, buh-bye.

Brown has grown used to all the tired and huddled masses shuffling through town.

"Historically, we all know how we treat people that walk through a door," he said. "We shake their hand and we say, 'Guard somebody.'"

He settled on the word "appropriate" to describe all the roster turnover.

"There needs to be a frugal and, at times, ruthless approach," he said, "that you genuinely believe that (a certain player is) a keeper, that ultimately can play in the playoffs and ultimately play deep in the playoffs."

That rationale has not exactly sat well with the masses. Not when the haul for two rotational players amounted to two injured 32-year-old centers -- Bogut is always hurt, and Splitter had hip surgery last February -- not to mention a guy who was unable to see regular action for a sub-.500 Dallas club and draft picks of dubious worth.

But if the front office has not inspired confidence, some solace can be taken from what we now see on the court. There are keepers on the roster beyond Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. There are guys the Sixers can hang their hats on. The first two post-deadline games -- Friday's 120-112 victory over the Wizards and Saturday's 110-109 loss to the Knicks -- have proven as much.

Consider Covington. Once a mere spot-up shooter, he can now do a little something off the dribble. And he guards, Carmelo Anthony's last-second dagger Saturday notwithstanding.

Covington had 20 points and 10 rebounds in that game, 25 and 11 against Washington.

Then there's Saric, who makes up for whatever he might lack in athleticism with savvy belying his 22 years. The rookie forward stretched his own double-double streak to four by generating 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds against the Knicks.

He also has the endorsement of Colangelo, who during Friday's presser was asked about the view that the Sixers were returning to their tanking ways this season.

"I think I say Dario Saric, he's the answer (to that question) for us,” he told reporters.

Hey, no pressure, kid.

"Maybe some kind of pressure," Saric said before Friday's game. "For sure it's pressure, but I think I can say it's more attention on me. ... But I will try to put everything on the side. I will try to not think so much about what he said. Of course, it's a positive thing, but I will not try to press myself."

Saric and Ilyasova were close. They shared a position, power forward, and while Ilyasova is from Turkey and Saric from Croatia, they very much spoke the same language.

"He was like some kind of mentor to me," Saric said. "He helped me a lot."

Especially on those occasions when the younger man got down on himself, as he did at times during the first few months of the season.

"He'd say, 'It's one game. We have another game in 24 hours. You need to change your mindset and be ready for the next game,'" Saric said of Ilyasova.

Without his safety net, and with the expectations of the franchise now resting on his shoulders to some extent, Saric put up 20 points and 11 boards while making his 12th career start Friday night and his first since Feb. 2.

In one glittering second-quarter stretch, he hit a step-back jumper from the mid-post when he found himself in a mismatch against one Washington guard, John Wall, then backed down the other guard, Bradley Beal, and scored with the left hand. There was also an elbow jumper, not to mention a lefty post move over Otto Porter.

"The first 10 minutes, I tried to find myself," Saric said. "OK, I got a couple good assists, a couple good rebounds, but still I tried to find myself. It's a new role. I tried to play, tried to run, tried to find the rhythm of the game, which is most important thing in basketball. I got (into) the game after seven, eight minutes, maybe 10 minutes, and I'm happy. I had a good game, you know?"

Anderson didn’t play, but saw nearly four minutes of daylight against the Knicks, missing his only shot. Splitter, recovering from his hip surgery (as well as resultant calf issues), has not dressed for either game.

"Tiago right now is unhealthy," Brown said Friday.

Which is news to Splitter. Asked when he might be available, he said, "I hope soon. I was in full practice with the Hawks. ... I saw the trainer (Kevin Johnson) today. They were happy with what they saw, and see."

Sixers fans, meanwhile, have mostly been seeing red of late. But if they look closely enough, they can see some reason for hope, too.