sports

Cavaliers sought trade for T.J. McConnell, sources say

Keith Pompey, STAFF WRITER

Updated: Monday, January 30, 2017, 3:01 AM

Philadelphia 76ers' T.J. McConnell, right, pushes past Brooklyn Nets' Brook Lopez during the first half of the NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Sunday, Jan. 8, 201,7 in New York.

CHICAGO - T.J. McConnell came into the NBA as an undrafted rookie out of Arizona, battling for a final roster spot.

A season-and-a-half later, the point guard has been a major player in the 76ers' turnaround. And opposing teams are taking notice.

The Cleveland Cavaliers approached the Sixers several weeks ago about acquiring McConnell in a trade, according to several sources. The Sixers declined the offer.

The Cavs wanted to put together a deal that would have brought Jordan McRae back to Philly. The Sixers acquired McRae in the second round of the 2014 draft. The Sixers sent him to Australia to play for Melbourne United during the 2014-15 season. McRae was waived by the Sixers on Oct. 26, 2015.

"The best thing for me is to just not pay any attention to it," McConnell said Sunday of trade discussions. "If you go looking for it, you are going to find it. And if you don't, it won't find you."

McConnell said his only focus is on helping the Sixers get better. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder is happy with his situation. He said he loves the team's staff, its coaches and his teammates.

"What more can you ask for?" McConnell said.

Coach Brett Brown acknowledged that the team is not interested in trading McConnell, who is 10-4 as a starter.

"Of course we want to keep him," Brown said. "He's been as big a part of the reason for our recent success as anybody. You can't deny that."

McConnell plays with a spirit that cannot be quantified on a stat sheet. He headed into Sunday night's game against the Chicago Bulls averaging 5.4 points and 5.9 assists. But McConnell primarily served as Sergio Rodriguez's backup until Dec. 30.

He had a career-high 17 assists in a loss to the Boston Celtics in Jan. 6. McConnell also dished out 10 or more assists in three consecutive games. He had 11 against the Atlanta Hawks (Jan. 21), 10 against the Los Angeles Clippers (Jan. 24) and 13 against the Milwaukee Bucks (Jan. 25).

It's easy to see why the Cavaliers are interested. LeBron James wants the team to fill out its bench with a backup point guard. McConnell also has a team-friendly contract.

The Cavs are committed to paying $127.5 million in salaries and $27 million in luxury taxes this season.

McConnell will make $874,636 this season. The Sixers have team options for a little over $1 million in each of the next two seasons, so the Cavs would not have been on the hook for another long-term deal.

Cleveland wanted him to fulfill a role similar to the one Matthew Dellavedova had with the Cavs the last three seasons as Kyrie Irving's backup. Dellavedova signed a free-agent deal with the Milwaukee Bucks in the offseason.

The Cavs have been trying to find a suitable replacement. There are reports that Cleveland is interested in trading for Utah Jazz backup Shelvin Mack, a former Sixer; and Denver Nuggets backup Jameer Nelson, a Chester native and former St. Joseph's University star.

kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

www.philly.com/sixersblog

Keith Pompey, STAFF WRITER

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