While the overall moves taken by Daryl Morey and the front office at last week’s trade deadline were fairly divisive, the acquisition of Buddy Hield from the Indiana Pacers was almost universally considered to be a win for the Philadelphia 76ers. The 31-year-old guard has been in Sixers trade rumors since back when Philadelphia was shopping Ben Simmons and Hield was with the Sacramento Kings. A career 40.1 three-pointer shooter, Buddy is willing and able to hoist from behind the arc at a high volume, a skill set sorely lacking on this current edition of the Sixers.
In his press availability, Morey said why he feels Hield was the best player traded at the deadline and why he’s a strong fit in Philadelphia:
“Because he’s good. (Laughs.) Look, with Joel and Tyrese, he puts the fear of God in other teams. The shots are coming; they’re coming in transition, they’re coming deep, they’re coming off actions. You need to pay a lot of attention to Buddy Hield on the court … and that’s super valuable with Joel and Tyrese in opening up things up for them. The NBA is the NBA; there’s very good coaches on the other sidelines. They’re making it very challenging for Tyrese right now. They’re making it very challenging on the rest of our team. That’s what they should do. Buddy Hield’s going to help during this period, but we weren’t as focused on this period. Obviously we need to win games and it’s going to be a battle, but we were focused on (when) the playoffs are here, we have a rotation we know can win at a super-high level. Buddy Hield’s going to play significant minutes in that rotation. The only player that moved teams that was going to play a big role in our rotation was Buddy Hield, and I think what he brings to the table is pretty obvious.”
In just two games with his new club, Hield has already made a big impact, scoring 20 points in Friday’s loss to Atlanta and 23 points in the win over Washington on Saturday. Buddy clearly has the green light from Nick Nurse, going 8-of-21 from behind the arc across the two games. His six assists in each contest also show he’s more than a catch-and-shoot guy, capable of putting the ball on the floor as a secondary playmaker.
After Saturday’s win, Hield reflected on the whirlwind that was his last 36 hours:
“It’s not something I’m not used to, but it was wild. … T.J. McConnell told me about the city and he said how fun it is to be here. And Lloyd Pierce told me how the fans are crazy about basketball and they’re passionate. I’m kind of anxious, I’m kind of excited, because I feel that’s the kind of fan base I want to be a part of. I want them to embrace me, for the good and the bad. But I’m just happy to be a Sixer. I’ve been watching the Sixers my whole life. I’ve watched them every time when we’ve had an off day and they’re playing — try to keep up with the whole league. I’m just happy to be here in the city and happy to turn things around, even though we don’t have big fella. I’m just learning and watching — learning new schemes and terminology from the coaches. … As you get comfortable and everything calms down, we started to figure it out, started to talk, and we had a better second half than the first half. … I’m glad to be here. Thank God for allowing me this opportunity and I’m taking full advantage of it.”
As Hield alluded to, he’s no stranger to moving around, with this being the third time he has been traded mid-season. He provided his reaction to hearing the trade news:
“I think I was in bed. My agent called me before. It happened at, like, 10, but you usually get an update an hour before. … My agent called me, and she’s in L.A. You hear that stir in her voice; she’s just waking up, it’s 6 o’clock in the morning her time. She gave me the news and says there’s a deal possibly 75 percent done. I said, ‘For Philly?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah.’ I was like, ‘Well, I’ve been hearing that for a long time and it never happens.’ But I’m glad to be here, glad to be a Sixer. The fans and everybody have been great embracing me, welcoming me to the city. I can’t wait to know about the city, and for you guys to tell me about what to do and where to go. I’m just taking it day by day, man. Soaking it all in.”
While Joel Embiid is currently sidelined post-meniscus procedure and set to be re-evaluated in about a month, the Hield acquisition was at least partially about finding someone who could play well off the MVP big man. Hield was asked about whether he’s thought about pairing with Embiid and said the following:
“No, I haven’t thought about it, but I’ve played against him and I’ve seen what we’ve done to them — trapping, sending double teams. It’s always like, ‘Dang, these guys are getting some good shots.’ Time will tell, when that happens. We’re excited for him to get back as soon as he can be healthy. Whenever he comes, I’d love to be able to play with him and embrace that moment.”
Sixers fans are certainly hoping and waiting for Embiid to get back, but in the present, Philadelphia roster’s is severely limited by injuries and illnesses. Hield seems to approach the situation with a no-excuses mentality:
“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you in the NBA. There’s no crying in basketball. My coach always said that at my high school in the Bahamas, so you’ve got to figure it out. First day, from the physical straight to the arena; watching film on the plane and trying to figure out the schemes. You never really figure out everything until you play. … It’s the first day of school, man. Know your new classmates and know your new teachers, which are the coaches. Figure out how everyone talks and communicates. You’ve got to be professional and embrace it. The end goal is to win a game. No matter what happens, we’ll be happy to get a win. I feel like the energy in the second half, we’ll carry it over. Out of the last couple games, I feel like that was the best energy given. So I’m really excited to keep building with this group.”
Hield elaborated further on a question about learning the team’s schemes on the plane:
“We played Philly I think three times already. So I see some plays like, ‘OK, that makes sense.’ So just trying to figure out how to play with guys. I haven’t played with Maxey yet. I’m excited to play with him because he’s a fast guy and he goes downhill. So me ghost screening, blurring, and trying to make confusion … because I’m a guy that wants the defense to (be confused) and make them react. … Just trying to figure it out, man. Kelly is aggressive. Cam’s a steady point guard who can score. So just figuring out your teammates — and when we put all the pieces together and get big fella, it’s going to be another challenge. But it’s not going to be a challenge, because we already know what they’re going to do to him.”
After the Washington win, Tyrese Maxey spoke to reporters in D.C. about playing with Hield and the different things they can do together:
“The sky’s the limit, honestly. I was just (talking to) Buddy. He was like, ‘Man, it’s crazy. You can get downhill on those ghost screens; they try not to leave me.’ … They’re never leaving his body. But it’s been great. More than just his basketball, his IQ and his energy have been great. Him and Cam Payne, they’ve been awesome. We appreciate them.”
Head coach Nick Nurse was asked about running stack pick-and-rolls, and the importance of using Hield and Maxey as screeners:
“First of all, that’s an action that we run, but it’s also an action Buddy’s run for a bunch of years, right? So we knew that was one of the three things that we would put in, because we’ve had to guard him in that. And actually, Cam did a good job in it, too. He ended up with a driving layup or an open three on a couple of them as well. You’ve got to kind of take your choice there on what’s open on that. You mentioned Maxey: I talk about the nights that he’s getting doubled in his pick-and-rolls and making the right play. Well, we also have been getting him off the ball and getting him a lot of shots coming off of pin-downs and things like that. So that’s kind of a similar thing. It’s not a pin-down, but it is coming from underneath to out and turning. So I think that’ll be important for Tyrese in that as well.”
Like Maxey, Hield seems to be another player willing to go above and beyond in terms of putting the work in to improve his game:
“I just love the game. I’m very passionate about it, whether the result is good or bad in the game. I always stick to my routine that I’ve done since college. And I feel like that brings me so much joy, being part of the game. My family’s not here, so especially when I’m out here, I have more time to just relax, be at peace and just work. Wherever I go, I want to give it my all and make the best of it. I came from the Bahamas; nothing was given to me. So everything I have, I’m very appreciative of. Playing a big stage on this just brings joy to me, my country. I’ve got to represent myself, my family and my country. I never take that for one bit, because there’s always some kid in the Bahamas looking at me each and every year when I go back home. Hopefully I can inspire him to be not me, but better than me. That’s always my goal. Whatever opportunity I have on the basketball court to put extra work in, I’m going to take advantage of that.”
Sixers fans are certainly happy to have Hield here, and he’ll need to continue firing away when the team faces the Cleveland Cavaliers with a depleted roster yet again Monday.