Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III joined the Philadelphia 76ers in a mid-season trade with the Golden State Warriors, so they had to learn on the fly. Thanks to the NBA ‘bubble’, they got to start practice at the same time as everyone else.
One of the problems with constant travel plus the long NBA season is that real practices are few and far between. With many players either tired, injured, playing despite being injured, or simply a coach not wanting to push too hard, light practices, walk-throughs and voluntary workouts are the norm when a team gets together on off-days.
So when 6-foot-6 guard Alec Burks and 6-foot-6 wing Glenn Robinson III were traded by the Golden State Warriors on February 6 to the Philadelphia 76ers for a couple of second-round draft picks, there was little chance for them to learn the team’s plays in practice. They had to pick up things on the fly.
The league shutdown due to the pandemic only 12 games after the trade. In his brief time with the Sixers, Robinson struggled initially, missing his first 17 3-point attempts, but was averaging 7.4 points and shooting 52.1 percent from the field when play stopped (and his shooting on 3 was up to 28.6 percent).
Burks, who had been Golden State’s leading scorer at the time of the trade (16.7 points per game), never quite became the microwave scorer the Sixers had hoped for, but he still averaged 10.7 points.
Although there is very little about the league grinding to a halt on March 11 that was good, going dormant for 4 1/2 months, in a way, it might help Burks and Robinson contribute more to the Sixers in the restart.
Since everyone had been away from the team for a long period of time, when they got back together it was basically like the start of season all over, with training camp and exhibition games. This time, Robinson and Burks were there from the beginning.
There were no more picking up plays where they could; figuring out where teammates prefer to work on offense, where to be on defense. Everyone was starting off fresh, and the pair quickly profited from the fresh start.
Robinson was the Warriors’ top wing defender before the trade (not that there was much competition). He is not in Matisse Thybulle’s league as a disruptor but he is more consistent on offense than the rookie.
It was that kind of balance, helpful on both ends of the floor, that coach Brett Brown liked, according to Sixers Wire:
“I think the thing that most stands out for me as it relates to praise for Glenn is the simplicity of his game. He understands his lane. He understands his role. He understands that these two things will rule his day. I’m going to go guard maybe the best wing while I’m on the court that the other team has. I am a defensive-minded off the bench player, this is how I can best my team win.”
Robinson scored seven points in seven minutes of play in the Sixers’ second scrimmage against Oklahoma City. He was looking good until he suffered a hip pointer after a collision at mid-court. He sat out the rest of the Thunder game, as well as the Sixers’ final scrimmage against Dallas. Robinson participated in practice on Thursday.
In the first two scrimmages, Robinson came in as the fourth sub, going into the game for Ben Simmons. Since he is 222 pounds, Robinson can play a little bit of small-ball power forward. It would be surprising if Robinson is not part of the rotation.
With Joel Embiid and Raul Neto as well as Robinson sitting out against Dallas due to (reportedly) minor injuries, Burks had a chance to shine and he took advantage of the opportunity.
Against the Mavs, Burks lit them up for 15 points in 31 minutes of action. Playing a lot at point guard as Simmons and Shake Milton each only played about 20 minutes, Burks showed he could distribute the ball, as he dished out seven assists with no turnovers. He also added four rebounds and two steals.
As probably the only player on the roster who can create his own shot off the dribble, Burks could be called upon to create instant offense if the Sixers offense grows stagnant, which it frequently did during the regular season.
Burks might not have been initially part of Brown’s thinking in putting together the playing rotation, as he only had nine minutes in their opening scrimmage. However, his playing time increased with each contest, so Brown must have liked what he was doing.
Al Horford, Furkan Korkmaz and Thybulle appear to be locks in Brown’s substitution rotation but it looks like Burks and Robinson should join them based on their play in Orlando.
And, having started the restart with everyone else, you can not call Burks and Robinson the New Guys anymore. Now, they are both just one of the guys, and that could prove most helpful to the Sixers’ chances..