Learning their new team’s sets and core concepts will take a little time.
For half of the four players who joined the Sixers in the James Harden trade, the city is a comfortable spot. Morris is a Philadelphia native and Covington established himself in the NBA over 297 games as a Sixer from 2014 through 2018.
“This is where I put my name on the map,” Covington said Wednesday. “It feels great to be back. … I’ve seen the amount of hours that went into the development here. It’s just amazing to be back. I’m thankful for the new opportunity under (head coach Nick Nurse).
“This organization has been very special to me. For everything to come back into the fold, it’s a feeling of relief. I’m thankful that I get to come back for a second go-round.”
Covington’s 707 made three-pointers as a Sixer are second in franchise history. Allen Iverson is first with 885.
“I just talked to him,” Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said, “and he was like, ‘I’m breaking that record,’ so let’s have that.”
Morey last had Covington on his team a decade ago, when the 3-and-D forward appeared in seven games for the Rockets and was a D League standout.
Covington also caught up with Joel Embiid.
“Joel talked s—, per usual,” Covington said with a smile. “He’s always been himself. He’s a s— talker. He comes in, had that grin on his face, and was like, ‘You ready to make some shots?’ First thing. Me and Joel, even though I’ve been away, we still have had a close relationship.”
The 34-year-old Morris played high school basketball at Philadelphia’s Prep Charter and went to college at Kansas, like Embiid. He began his NBA career in Houston, then spent time with five more teams before coming home.
“It’s surreal, man,” he said. “It’s one time in my career to be able to play in front of the people I grew up in front of, that watched me my entire career in high school, college — even middle school and AAU. And my family. It’s surreal.”
Morris expects it’ll be a better environment for him than in Los Angeles.
“I just think, the way the team I was on in previous years … I didn’t feel like I was myself,” he said. “I was always on the West Coast. We all know there’s a big difference with East and West. I know I wasn’t myself; I know I wasn’t half myself.
“So being able to come home and being able to play in front of different fans, embracing the fans and embracing the fanbase, being able to see my family a lot, it’s going to be a different atmosphere for me.”
Morris’ rookie season included 11 games in the D League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
Nurse coached him there.
“It was a really good experience,” Nurse said. “He was young. I was younger. … He’s got talent, he’s got size, he can put the ball in the basket. I love his toughness, think he’s a competitor. I’ve always stayed in really good touch with him ever since then, so I’m excited to see him here. And I think positionally, he can guard up, too, because of his strength and size.
“So we’ve just got to see, but I like him as a player and as a competitor for sure.”
Morris, Covington and KJ Martin worked after shootaround Thursday morning to catch up on the Sixers’ plays, walking through the fundamentals with assistant coaches.
Players in that sort of learning mode wouldn’t normally get major minutes, although Nurse didn’t rule anything out Wednesday. Batum (personal reasons) is out, but it appears the other three will be in uniform for the game.
At a minimum, Covington and Morris know the lay of the land.
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