Could we be headed for a Robert Covington Philadelphia reunion this season?
The former Sixers forward and Process Legend, Covington sat down with Law Murray of The Athletic and opened up recently. And we’re keeping an eye on the situation just in case the Clippers wing finds himself traded back to the team that truly gave him his pro start.
James Harden wants to join the Clippers, and while Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey might prefer that he stays, it seems there’s a real chance a deal gets done at some point in time. And that might well bring Covington back, since players like him, Marcus Morris and Nic Batum are all on expiring salaries.
By now you know RoCo’s story. He went undrafted in 2013 but signed with the Houston Rockets. He only appeared in seven pro games for the Rockets, but wound up winning G League All-Star Game MVP and Rookie of the Year for the Rio Grande Vipers in 2014.
Sam Hinkie, who would leave his Assistant GM role in Houston to takeover as President of the Philadelphia 76ers, scooped RC3 up as a free agent by Fall of 2014.
A few years later, he was considered one of the most valuable contracts in the NBA and would earn All-Defensive First Team honors for the 2017-2018 season. Covington was a key starter on a 76ers club that won 52 games under Brett Brown that year. It marked the first time the franchise cracked the half-century win mark since Allen Iverson’s MVP campaign and NBA Finals run back in 2001.
Covington proved such a valuable 3-and-D wing, that he even became the centerpiece in the 2018 trade that landed Jimmy Butler in Philly.
(Imagine that, Josh Harris’ collaborative decision making entity thought they needed to trade Mikal Bridges away in order to go star hunting when all they actually had to do was trade Covington and Dario Saric to land a top-10 player entering his prime.)
Covington has since bounced around from Minnesota, back to Houston, to Portland, to L.A. where he wound up falling out of Ty Lue’s rotation almost entirely last season.
Out of the rotation...behind Marcus Morris, Russell Westbrook, and Mason Plumlee?! Ty Lue, what’s going on over there?
Per The Athletic:
“Murray: Have you gotten a chance to talk to T. Lue?
Murray: Do you think that conversation will happen at some point?
Covington: If it do, it do. If it don’t, I won’t dwell on it. I focus on control, what I control, and I go out and do my job. Whatever happens, happens. I haven’t talked to T (Lue) since the season ended.”
He doesn’t sound like he’d be thrilled to return to the Clippers’ bench.
Covington only appeared in 48 regular season games, and logged just 16 minutes per game when active one season ago, despite shooting 39.7 percent from three.
And it’s given him a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
Robert Covington got the short end of the stick last season due to the Clippers’ surplus of wings.— The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) August 11, 2023
It’s why he’s more motivated than ever.
RoCo discussed his lost season and how he’s handling a fresh start with @LawMurrayTheNU ⤵️https://t.co/pPYOlq7Bp6 pic.twitter.com/haEQLc7RxU
It didn’t make much sense that Morris, not nearly the help defender Cov has been, would play over him so often.
So could he have just had his Al Horford in OKC season where he got to rest some achey legs and revive himself a bit? I’m skeptical Cov can throw the clock back in Philly as far as Horford has in Boston, but I can see a theoretical fit, for sure.
Per Murray’s feature, there may be a few other synergies in play to keep an eye on here:
“On this particular August day, Covington played at the invite-only pro pickup runs at UCLA facilitated by Rico Hines, who is now on Nick Nurse’s coaching staff with the Philadelphia 76ers. As trade talks come and go, Covington got to play with younger Clippers teammates such as Terance Mann, KJ Martin, Bones Hyland, Brandon Boston Jr., and rookie Jordan Miller against the likes of Toronto Raptors’ (Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, Gradey Dick, Jalen McDaniels), Philadelphia 76ers’ (De’Anthony Melton, Paul Reed, Mo Bamba), and NBA G League Ignite. Also in attendance: Frank and 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.”
Nick Nurse hired Rico Hines (who has long organized summer games NBA players frequent) to his coaching staff earlier this offseason.
It’s certainly noteworthy that Morey was in attendance to keep an eye on names like Mann, Hyland and Covington too.
RoCo’s one year $11.6M expiring contract would dovetail tidily with Morey’s apparent win this year but don’t take on long-term salary and cost his Sixers the chance to be big-time players in free agency next summer plan.
Our Paul Hudrick explained how OG Anunoby now feels like a perfect fit for the Sixers. Could Covington (a Process O.G. #pun) provide some stopgap 3-and-D play before they pursue a turbocharged version in Anunoby next summer?
While many of us remember Covington as a beloved, hard-working player and symbol of the team’s transition from 10-win seasons to true contenders, there was also another story.
He was a bit of a polarizing figure among pockets of fans, since as a streak shooter, some would get on him and boo during the inevitable cold patches. (Danny Green, Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris have all experienced some of the same; Harden figures to join them if he suits up to begin the coming season.)
Covington has not exactly kept his feelings to himself either.
Former Sixer Robert Covington (IG user atf_33) chimes in on Ben Simmons' reception last night: pic.twitter.com/HXqu4kReiE— Austin Krell (@NBAKrell) March 12, 2022
“Philly at his finest, now you see why [Ben Simmons] wanted out,” Covington wrote on Instagram back in 2022.
And then when that remark “blew up” he reminded us he loves it here... “boos n all.”
Y’all kill me I never said anything bad about Philly lol. Stop blowing what I said out of proportion. Smh that’s the problem with social media trying to find something out of nothing. That’s Philly fans all day. Didn’t I resign there lol? So of course I loved the city. Boos n all— Robert Covington (@Holla_At_Rob33) March 12, 2022
Much of this boo-or-support-a-struggling player stuff is top of mind for Phillies fans lately. Just ask Trea Turner.
Standing ovation for Trea Turner.— SPORTSRADIO 94WIP (@SportsRadioWIP) August 4, 2023
The city of brotherly love. pic.twitter.com/dOJ9TZNfsT
Finally got it right— Joel “Troel” Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) August 5, 2023
TREA!!!!— Jack Fritz (@JackFritzWIP) August 5, 2023
And Morey has spoken on more than one occasion about how his job here is made more challenging by the need to find players with the right makeup to succeed in a tough town.
Nick Nurse was no longer the Vipers’ G League Coach when Cov played there, but Rob is apparently open to a team who would give him more minutes than he can currently bank on in L.A.
So maybe if Rico Hines and Cov link up during this summer run, and if eventually a trade gets consummated bringing a Process OG home, Philly fans could blow him away with some love...yes, even if it’s a dreary day in January and he’s missed his last four triples.
I for one would welcome him back with open arms if that’s how it all played out.