Robert Covington is here to help the Sixers win and get paid handsomely for it

In a 2014 post entitled, “The Philadelphia 76ers Are A Godless Abomination,” Deadspin described Robert Covington as the poster boy for former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s tanking “Process“:

“The Sixers did not sign Robert Covington or any of the other undrafted scrubs that populate the roster because they are looking for good basketball players who can help them win basketball games. They signed him because they only have to pay him $816,482 to go out and do things like shoot 1-of-5 from the field in 17 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs. Robert Covington is in Philly to help the Sixers lose.”

So, it is fitting that, less than 48 hours from the window in which the 76ers can renegotiate and extend Covington’s bargain-basement contract, with Philadelphia (7-6) above .500 through 13 games for the first time in five years and in line for an Eastern Conference playoff seed, the 26-year-old submitted the signature performance of his young career as the Sixers won for the seventh time in 10 outings.

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Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will rightfully steal 76ers headlines, and they weren’t so bad themselves in Monday’s 109-105 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, but nobody has crawled through the 500 yards of s***-smelling foulness that was the last few years in Philadelphia quite like Covington, and he will be handsomely rewarded for it as soon as Wednesday, when he can sign a hefty contract extension.

Covington was a model of efficiency against the Clips, scoring a career-high 31 points on just 12 shots (a line that’s been matched only once a year this decade). His 5-for-8 shooting from 3-point range improved his accuracy from beyond the arc to exactly 50 percent (48-of-96), ranking him among the best high-volume long-distance shooters in the league and reportedly earning him this distinction:


And they couldn’t have come at a better time. The Sixers trailed 94-90 entering the final five minutes on Monday (the NBA’s very definition of “clutch“), and Covington delivered arguably the two biggest shots of the evening — a 3-pointer from the left wing over the outstretched arms of Wesley Johnson to cut the deficit to 94-93 and a step-back three in the final minute to give the 76ers the lead for good:

He closed out the evening with four straight free throws to get his career high and hold off a Clippers team that cut Philadelphia’s lead to 105-104 on an Austin Rivers triple with 11 seconds remaining. Covington added six rebounds, four assists and four steals, playing the sort of defense that earned him a handful of All-Defensive votes last season. He finished a plus-10 in 35 minutes. It was sublime.

And it was the last taste Philadelphians will have of Covington before he becomes eligible for an extension on Wednesday, so news of a new five-year deal somewhere between $50 and $70 million should come with less of an appetite to criticize a longterm deal for the once undrafted free agent out of Tennessee State University who was unceremoniously released by the Houston Rockets in 2014.


Covington entered training camp declaring his intent to re-sign with the organization that gave him a second chance and stuck with him through the ups and downs of three relatively productive years on a roster once built to lose and finally on the verge of fulfilling the promise of the Process.

And the team is reportedly determined to reciprocate. NBA.com’s David Aldridge noted before the season that “there’s an extension for Robert Covington that’s all but completed,” and New York Times scribe Marc Stein followed with this report late last week on the impending renegotiation window:




As NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman outlined, the Sixers can use the entirety of their remaining cap space to bump Covington’s current $1.57 million salary to almost $17 million this season with a sharp drop-off next season and 8 percent decreases thereafter for a total five-year package around $50 million. The declining cap figure makes sense for the 76ers, who will look to surround their young talent with veteran contributors in the years to come, but given the deals doled out to lesser players over the last few summers, Covington may demand smaller pay cuts that push his total haul closer to $70 million.

Regardless, if we will learn anything from this week, it’s that the Sixers will sign Robert Covington because they are looking for good basketball players who can help them win basketball games.

Yet, even after Covington submitted a career night days before he becomes a Sixer through 2022, the 6-foot-9 wing was overshadowed by Simmons and Embiid, the fruits of Philadelphia’s draft Process.

“They’re two of the best players in the league already,” Sixers guard J.J. Redick told reporters after they beat the Clippers. “They’re both MVP-caliber players. They’re fantastic and we’re all along for the ride.”

Simmons’ first seven baskets were all dunks on a series of rolls, drives, cuts and run-outs. He finished with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting (all nine of his buckets came within 3 feet of the rim), 12 rebounds and four assists, another impressive performance in a series of them on his way to Rookie of the Year.

And then there was Embiid, who enjoyed a career night of his own. He scored a season- and game-high 32 points, and his 16 rebounds and 36 minutes were both career bests. If that weren’t enough to measure his value, the Sixers outscored the Clippers 86-63 in Embiid’s time on the court, and they were outscored by a 42-23 margin in the 12 minutes Amir Johnson spelled the Cameroonian 7-footer.


Not only that, but the brash 23-year-old made his presence felt by anyone who dared cross his path. Embiid warmed up by openly mocking Clippers backup center Willie Reed on both ends of the floor:


Then, he moved on to their All-Star frontcourt, getting DeAndre Jordan to bite on an up-fake from the high post, driving past the All-NBA big man with one easy dribble, dunking with a fluidity not seen in most centers, and then staring down prolific poster-dunkmaster Blake Griffin for good measure:


Soon enough, Embiid broke out what is quickly becoming his signature phrase:


When he fouled out Jordan with a little more than two minutes left, Embiid started in on the L.A. fans:


And when it was all over, Embiid went back at both Clippers centers:


Covington, Simmons and Embiid combined for 85 of Philadelphia’s 109 points on 29-of-46 shooting (63 percent) to go along with 34 rebounds, 10 assists and five steals. Lineups featuring those three finished plus-17 in 24 minutes against the Clips and are now outscoring opponents by 13 points per 100 possessions in 183 minutes together, operating at elite levels both offensively (108 points per 100 possessions) and defensively (94.9 points allowed per 100 possessions). This is the Process realized.

Simmons and Embiid may appear at the top of that bill, but the curtain never opens on the Process without the players who built this stage, and nobody put in that work these last few years quite like Robert Covington. He is in Philly to help the Sixers win, and he’s finally about to be rewarded for it.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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