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The Philadelphia 76ers swung for the fences and missed, but they believe they took a might cut.
When LeBron James departed from the Cleveland Cavaliers for a second time, he ended up signing a three-year deal for $153 million with the Los Angeles Lakers, with a fourth-year player option included.
Sixers managing partner Josh Harris and coach and interim general manager Brett Brown believe they were in the running to add James to Philadephia’s young dynamic duo of center Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons, along with Dario Saric and Markelle Fultz.
“I think they considered us very strongly,” Harris said of James’ group on Monday at the Las Vegas Summer League, according to a report by Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “I think he — I would be speculating on how he makes his decisions, and I don’t want to do that — but I think that they were really serious [about Philadelphia].
“The fact that they took the meeting with us was something that they didn’t view lightly, so I think that they were very serious about it.”
After James opted for Hollywood, Philadelphia turned its attention elsewhere, bringing back veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick, signing veteran big man Amir Johnson and forward Nemanja Bjelica and dealing for Wilson Chandler from the Denver Nuggets.
The Sixers are considered to be in the thick of the ongoing Kawhi Leonard situation, if and when the San Antonio Spurs decide to move their disgruntled superstar.
While the 76ers are still in the market for a new general manager to fill the vacancy created by the departure of Bryan Colangelo, Harris talked in a roundabout way of attempting to add another star player to Philadelphia’s talented young core and what it would cost to do so.
“For every significant player that is a star that we have the ability to get, whether that is in free agency or trades or developing Markelle, we are focused on each one of those players,” Harris told Youngmisuk when talking about weighing how to go about it. “Not all of them fit, but a lot of them do.
“Certainly, if you sign them as a free agent, you get them for free. If you have to give up a lot of stuff, you factor that in and take that into account. Just from our point of view, we are on a great trajectory right now, almost without it. I think we certainly would add, and more than we would, we are really spending hour after hour trying to figure out how to add and try to manage those types of risks.”
Harris spoke about the risk-reward factor after attempting to add such high-level players to a young, talented group with such a bright future.
“Whether it be certainly a lot of the players you would trade for, there are risks that they are not going to be with your team, you don’t necessarily have them on a long-term contract,” Harris said. “So we talk about this stuff endlessly and how to manage those risks. If the right situation comes, where we can acquire somebody that will really add value to our program, and the cost of it isn’t prohibitive, then we will move forward and do that. If that doesn’t come along for whatever reason, we will keep moving forward with our program.
“Just based on what we did this offseason, we are going to get better and move closer to our goal, which is that NBA championship that we keep talking to. If we get the right deal, we will do it.”
Brown believes Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft who played in just 14 games last season, averaging 7.1 points, is primed for an excellent second season. Fultz has spent the summer in California working on his jumper and his conditioning.
“I have a gut feel that he feels good about himself and he is confident,” Brown said. “He looks it when I am with him. He feels and looks confident. Then I started seeing the progression of his shot, and I start listening to him tell me about his shot, it confirms that he is feeling good.
“So I feel like the path to date has been money, the people that have been around him and the coaches that we have put with him and with me going back and forth and Joel is close to him out there, I think it is fantastic. It is insulation, I think it is productive, and I feel just so excited to see him play NBA basketball and show why he was the first player chosen in the NBA draft. I have tremendous optimism and confidence that he is going to have a helluva year next year. I believe that completely and just really excited to see him with us and bring him back into our program on a full-time basis.”