When the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Jimmy Butler from Minnesota in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Jerryd Bayless, two of the more storied players of The Process were gone. Covington went from the G League to NBA First-Team All-Defense. Meanwhile, Saric came over from Anadolu Efes and developed into a solid contributor, despite his slow start this season, and one of the biggest fan-favorite Sixers.
Trades are never easy. Dario Saric was hit hard with the news that he thought was never come to happen. He had a heartfelt conversation with Brett Brown when the deal went down, but the same can't be said about Robert Covington.
Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer spoke to Covington about the trade and the former Sixer found out about things on social media before hearing from Brown and general manager, Elton Brand.
He said that when Brown called him, the conversation was cold and simple. He was told that he’d been packaged in a trade for Butler. That was all.
“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."
Covington originally signed with the Sixers in November 2014 before inking a multi-year deal three years later, in November 2017. RoCo will go down as one of the most talked about Process players with the Sixers fan base split on their feelings. Despite his streaky shooting, Covington always brought it on the defensive end and that showed when he earned NBA First-Team All Defense honors. This past offseason, Covington was told numerous times he wouldn't get moved, but that didn't end up being the case.
“I was told over the summer that there was no chance that I would be traded,” Covington said. “But things happen. I talked to Brett numerous times. At the same time, you saw everything that transpired with Kawhi and DeMar [DeRozan, the main principles in the trade that sent Leonard from San Antonio to Toronto], so anything can happen.”
As for Covington's relationship with Elton Brand, the two haven't spoken since the trade. The two once had lockers next to one another and were close, but Brand's transition to general manager has altered that mindset.
“It probably was cold,” Brand said of the split with Covington. “I would talk to those guys about anything and everything ... and now we don’t talk anymore. With my new role and my new job, it’s tough to make those decisions. The relationship is real, but it’s tough because it becomes transactional. I can see how he would think it was cold, for sure.”
“I don’t know if he hates me,” Brand said. “I’m rooting for him. It might make me look bad, but I am.”
The Timberwolves visit Wells Fargo Center on January 15, a game that will feature Saric and Covington, if he's healthy, against their former team. As for how he expects to be received back in Philly, RoCo isn't quite sure.
“I think it’ll be warm, but you never know with Philly," he said with a laugh. “One minute they love you and the next, you never know.”
Since the trade, Covington is averaging 14.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals while shooting 43.3 percent from the floor and 37.2 percent from three-point range. Getting traded involves a lot of change, but both Covington and Saric will now also have to deal with a coaching change as the Timberwolves announced Sunday that they were firing Tom Thibedeau.