When the trade became official Wednesday afternoon that sent James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers, Robert Covington became the 11th player in Sixers history to have multiple stints with the team. He joined the likes of Allen Iverson, Moses Malone, Billy Cunningham, Elton Brand and Ish Smith.
It only took one conversation with franchise cornerstone Joel Embiid for Covington to feel right back at home.
“Joel talked shit, per usual,” Covington said when he was re-introduced to reporters after practice on Wednesday, “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.”
Embiid is about the only part of the franchise that hasn’t changed since Covington was traded away from the Sixers in November of 2018, but that’s still plenty comforting to him.
“This is where I put my name on the map. It feels great to be back,” Covington said. “This organization has been very special to me. For everything to come back into the fold, it’s a new feeling of relief. I’m thankful that I get to come back for a second go-round.”
Covington is someone who’s had a lot of turbulence in his career. As an undrafted rookie, he only broke into the league on a tanking Sixers team after a cup coffee with the Daryl Morey-led Rockets. Since becoming an established 3-and-D wing in his first Sixers stint, he’s played for four different teams over five seasons, his last stop in L.A. being the most tumultuous.
While being in and out of the Clippers rotation frustrated him, it was his custody battle for his daughter that dominated his thoughts last season.
“That was where my focus was. She’s my world,” Covington said. “Once I was able to get through all of that fully is when I was truly able to just solely focus on that.”
Only now that that has been settled has Covington found relief.
“I have so much peace of mind and I’ve literally just developed that mindset of control what you can control. And if you do the right thing, good things will add up. And faith gives it a meaning.”
He isn't just happy to be back. he’s hungry to prove he is still a rotation player in the NBA. Despite shooting 39% from deep last season, Covington only appeared in 48 games and averaged just 16 minutes a game for the Clippers last season. Both were easily the lowest of his career.
As someone who will be a free agent next summer, it makes him all the more hungry.
“Last year was a rough year for me, not playing,” Covington said. “That was the first time. Coming in where I kind of made my name, it’s a great opportunity for me.”