Covington, Saric Make Return to Philadelphia Tonight
On November 12, the Philadelphia 76ers made the first big trade of the NBA season, acquiring Jimmy Butler from Minnesota. In doing so, they added a four-time All-Star to the roster. They also traded away two of the most storied process players -- sending Robert Covington and Dario Saric to Minnesota. It was an out-of-the blue move for the two former Sixers, who return to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night for the first time in a different uniform.
“It was weird. I didn’t know if I should be happy,” Saric told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “There was the some kind of big saga with Jimmy and if he was staying or going or wanted to leave. I was shocked, I felt like my stomach hurt, and I just felt really weird.”
“I didn’t trade myself. I never asked to leave,” Saric said. “Philadelphia was my first NBA home. It always will be.”
Dario and head coach Brett Brown had a teary-eyed phone conversation after the deal, but the same can't be said for Covington. RoCo spoke to Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer in early January, saying that the call he received wasn't what he expected. Covington is expected to miss Tuesday's game with an ankle injury.
“It was really clear-cut and dry,” he said of the phone call. “As far as having that respect level, and for how much we’d been through, I would have thought it had to be completely different, but it wasn’t. Considering how much time relationship-wise and everything that went down. ... It was weird."
All that aside, Brett Brown and the Sixers are excited to see their former teammates.
“I’m just excited to see them,” Brown told Keith Pompey. “I follow them all. I played text tag with Robert the past 24, 48 hours.”
“You saw Robert when nobody even knew about him,” Brown said signing of him on Nov. 15, 2014. “Then we gave him  million dollars. You visited Dario Saric over in Europe even before he came to [our] shores.
“So I’ve been around those guys a long time,” Brown said. “I’ve seen them grow. They are fantastic people. They helped us start a culture, and I truly look forward to seeing them.”
There are lot of memories of the two, but one more recent one sticks out right now.
Prior to the season, when the team regrouped for camp, a funny moment happened between Joel Embiid and Saric. Embiid was giving Dario a hard time about ghosting him over the summer, but there were all smiles and hugs between the two former teammates.
Embiid was close with Dario throughout his time in Philadelphia, so when asked about The Homie, Joel spoke to his personality.
“Dario, that was a funny dude,” Embiid said. “Around the locker room, he was loved. There’s a big hole. There’s someone missing; we definitely miss that."
The Sixers have had some issues with fitting Butler in the offense, but are 19-9 since the deal. Their starting lineup of Simmons, Butler, Redick, Chandler and Embiid has posted an offensive rating of 112.7 since the trade and a net rating of 13.7, which is third best in the league behind Golden State and Oklahoma City.
As for the Timberwolves, they are 16-13 since trading for Dario and RoCo. Right now, they are transitioning to a new coach in Ryan Saunders after relieving Tom Thibedeau of his duties as president and head coach. Covington, when healthy, has been a defensive staple in the Timberwolves lineup while Dario is still adjusting to life on the bench as a back-up.
The Sixers and Timberwolves will tip-off at 7:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia and you can listen live on 97.3 ESPN. Long-time Sixers play-by-play voice Marc Zumoff will be honored throughout the evening to celebrate his 25 years behind the mic with the team.
Oh, and Jerryd Bayless returns to Philly as well tonight. Go Sixers!