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By Mike Sandrolini
PROVISO | Proviso West product Robert Covington, a mainstay on an up-and-coming Philadelphia 76ers’ squad, recently had a team option on his contract for the 2017-18 season picked up by the NBA club.
Covington is set to make $1.57 million this upcoming season—a bargain considering the money that has been thrown around the NBA during free agency so far this summer. James Harden of the Houston Rockets, for example, just received a four-year, $228 million extension (that’s $57 million per season) while Los Angeles Clippers’ star Blake Griffin—coached by Proviso East standout product Doc Rivers—re-signed with the Clippers for five years and 173 million (or $34.6 million per season).
However, Covington will be receiving a large payday at some point going forward over the next year. He is eligible to renegotiate his contract with the Sixers starting Nov. 15—the day three years ago that he first signed with the team as an undrafted free agent. At that point, the Sixers can offer him a three-year extension. If both sides can’t reach an agreement, Covington becomes an unrestricted free agent following next season.
Covington, 26, a Bellwood native, had arthroscopic surgery to repair a slight tear of his lateral meniscus in April after injuring the knee in March. He is expected to be ready to go by the start of training camp.
The 6-9 Covington emerged as a top-tier defender last season. He led the NBA in deflections per game (4.2) and was fourth in steals (1.9). Opponents who he guarded also shot 3.4 percentage points below their averages. Covington routinely drew the toughest defensive assignment for the Sixers throughout the year, guarding the likes of Lebron James, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, just to name a few. He finished fourth in the voting for NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
The Sixers have a wealth of young talent and are expected to make a jump in the standings next season—if not make the playoffs—after being an NBA bottom-feeder for several years. They had the No. 1 pick in last month’s NBA Draft, selecting University of Washington point guard Markelle Fultz. Fultz joins last year’s No. 1 pick, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid (the third overall pick in the 2014 draft), JJ Redick and Dario Saric.
PARIS LEE PLAYING PROFESSIONALLY IN BELGIUM
Paris Lee, a former Proviso East all-stater, wasn’t drafted by an NBA team in June and wasn’t picked up by any team to participate in the NBA Summer League. Lee has since gone overseas and signed just a few days ago for two seasons to play point guard for the Telenet Port of Antwerp Giants of Basketball League Belgium (BLB), the highest tier level professional league in Belgium. Lee announced the signing on his own Instagram account. “Everybody(’s) path is different. Blessed to say I just signed my first professional contract to play the game I love,” Lee said in an Instagram post.”
P-Lee was the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year during his senior season at Illinois State last winter. He averaged 13.2 points, 5.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 2.22 steals per game, which put him among the top 20 in steals in the country last year.
STERLING BROWN SIGNS WITH BUCKS
Lee’s teammate at Proviso East, Sterling Brown—whose rights were acquired by the Milwaukee Bucks in a trade with the 76ers on draft night—recently signed a three-year contract with the Bucks.
“I feel good to be here,” Brown told NBA.com. “Everybody welcomed me with open arms. I’m really excited. I’ve been watching (the Bucks) the last few years. The team has got potential; they made it to the playoffs last year and I see a lot that we can do. I see where I can come in, fit in and make a difference.”
“In Sterling we saw a guy that was a tremendous shooter and he’s got a great body,” Bucks GM Jon Horst told NBA.com. “We think he can play multiple positions and defend multiple positions—maybe even the 1, possibly the 2 and 3. He’s got a high character and a pedigree. His brother, Shannon, played in the league for a long time.
“There’s a lot of things we felt that fit the Bucks’ team—his character, his passion, his talent for the game, the IQ he plays with. We think he can help us get to the next level. We’re really excited to have him as part of our franchise.”
Brown tallied 16 points for the Bucks in a summer league game vs. the New Jersey Nets on July 9. On July 12, he scored 12 points in a loss to the Sacramento Kings. The Bucks’ summer league squad is stationed in Las Vegas.
“I felt good. I felt comfortable out there,” he told NBA.com. “I just had to get my rhythm back. I just had to get that rhythm and it felt really good. I’m just looking to come out here to win and play aggressive on both ends of the floor.”