The Philadelphia 76ers reportedly plan to sign 26-year-old forward Robert Covington to a four-year contract extension.
He is expected to sign his deal within the next 48 hours, according to reports. But it’s been a long road, however, for Covington to finally feel comfortable.
Recently noted by writer Jake Fischer, the NBA star was once told by a high school trainer that he would not earn a D-I scholarship. Covington proved the trainer wrong and as a senior, he was named West Suburban Conference Player of the Year near Chicago.
Covington then ended up playing college ball at Tennessee State because he was offered a scholarship. During his sophomore season, he led his conference in games played and had the third-best field goal percentage.
Per Basketball-Reference, Covington ranks sixth-overall in conference history for points produced. Despite his impressive play, he went undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft.
He ended up playing in the summer league for the Houston Rockets and signed a multi-year deal with the squad. However, Covington played just seven NBA games during his rookie season and was mostly relegated to the developmental league. He was named Rookie of the Year in the D-League that season, mostly known for jacking up three-point attempts.
While he was eventually waived by Houston, the Detroit Pistons affiliate selected him with the first overall pick in the developmental league draft. Except he never played a game for the Grand Rapid Drives, eventually signing with the Sixers.
Tom Ley wrote about why he thought Covington was just a placeholder back in November 2014 (via Deadspin):
“Which brings us back to Robert Covington. The Sixers did not sign Robert Covington or any of the other undrafted scrubs that populate the roster because they are looking for good basketball players who can help them win basketball games. They signed him because they only have to pay him $816,482 to go out and do things like shoot 1-of-5 from the field in 17 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs. Robert Covington is in Philly to help the Sixers lose.”
However, not all that glittered was gold. Even though he served his role as a 3-and-D player like Bruce Bowen enough to keep a starting position with the team, there was plenty of room for improvement.
Writers began to wonder if the Sixers should bench Covington in favor of Nik Stauskas back in November 2016. But if you flash forward, of course, Stauskas has logged just 19 minutes so far this season.
Two months later in January 2017, fans in Philadelphia showered Covington with boos as he was in a shooting slump. Around this time, head coach Brett Brown and teammate Joel Embiid both encouraged the forward to keep shooting (via Vice Sports):
“Like Brown, teammates are in Covington’s ear, massaging the understandably fragile psyche of a man who isn’t getting the results he’s used to. They know how valuable he is to this particular team, inside an organization that’s ready to build … Those guys will need space to be at their best—and when Covington is at his best, he can provide it.”
Covington said the fans could boo all they want but he was going to keep playing hard, no matter what, and that his teammates had his back.
This season, he has been an integral part of the identity for Philadelphia and has reminded fans to Trust The Process. He currently ranks in the Top 10 for Real Plus-Minus, per ESPN.
His hustle and tenacity on the court can make players around him better and he will be a valuable contract with his team for years to come.