Sixers' Covington continues to show he belongs

OAKLAND, Calif. - As the 76ers continue to search for hidden gems, it has become apparent that the team has found a keeper in Robert Covington.

Covington won't blow you away with acrobatic moves to the basket. But the in-season acquisition can shoot with the NBA's best and is an effective scorer.

While teammates Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel grab the headlines, Covington keeps turning in solid efforts.

The 6-foot-9 swingman took an average of 11.8 points and a three-point percentage of 43.3 into Tuesday night's game against the Golden State Warriors at the Oracle Arena. Covington made his ninth straight start. He has been a welcome addition to the starting lineup, averaging 15.4 points and 6.3 rebounds in this previous eight starts.

Not bad for an undrafted player whom the Sixers called up from the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA Development league on Nov. 13.

"Everybody probably looked at it like it being a new transition from the D-League to the NBA," Covington said. "They didn't think I would do the same thing that I did down there on this level."

After Covington signed a rookie free-agent deal with the Houston Rockets in July 2013, the team assigned him to its D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. He averaged 23.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.40 steals and 1.36 blocked shots in 42 games.

Covington was named the D-League's rookie of the year, was a first-team all-league selection and was the MVP of the All-Star Game.

He was waived by the Rockets on Oct. 25, three days before they opened the season. But he proving that he can play in the NBA with the Sixers.

In his fourth game, Covington made all four of his three-point shots in a loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 22. He finished with 14 points. That performance impressed Knicks all-star Carmelo Anthony.

"The kid Covington came in at the end, I'm looking at the sideline, I'm like, 'Is he a shooter? How should we guard him?' " Anthony told the media after the game. "They're like, 'Just put a hand up.' He came out and hit four threes in a row."

Covington's career high for made three-pointers is six. He did that twice. He made 6 of 10 on the road against the Brooklyn Nets on Dec. 12. Then he shot 6 for 8 against the Charlotte Hornets at Wells Fargo Center seven days later.

Covington is starting to show positive signs on the defensive end, too. He blocked eight shots over the last six games heading into Tuesday's contest after having two blocks in his first 19 games.

"I just want him to really take great pride in guarding, because he can shoot," Sixers coach Brett Brown said of the next step for Covington. "It's always with the great scorers: Can they play both sides of the ball? . . . So that's his challenge."

Sixers rookie Nerlens Noel (sprained left ankle) played Tuesday against the Warriors. His status was questionable on Monday. The Sixers were without two starters in shooting guard Hollis Thompson (upper respiratory infection) and Luc Mbah a Moute (left calf strain.)

kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

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