Sixers picking up T.J. McConnell's option

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T.J. McConnell at the press conference after his exit interview on Thursday.

The 76ers said Friday they will exercise the team option on T.J. McConnell’s contract for the 2018-19 season.

The Sixers have until June to formally pick up that final year of the deal, which calls for the reserve point guard to earn a $1.6 million non-guaranteed salary next season.  He would become an unrestricted free agent after next season if the Sixers don’t extend his contract.

“Like I said, I want to be here,” McConnell said. “So I’m excited they picked it up. But that’s not going to change how I approach every day.

“I’m going to have that same chip on my shoulder that I always had, and I have to continue to do that.”

The team has not approached McConnell about receiving a contract extension past next season.

“We are going to let more time play out to decide just how to treat T.J., and attempt to reward him for what he has done for this program,” Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said. “The reality is that you cannot reward everyone or have everyone fit as you move forward and as you make big decisions that affect the ultimate makeup of your team.”

If McConnell becomes an unrestricted free agent, the Sixers might not be able to afford and/or justify paying him his value once he hits the open market in July, 2019. The team is prepared to pay starting point guard Ben Simmons a lucrative contract once his rookie deal is up.  McConnell is going to be offered a nice salary from other teams. So the Sixers must ask themselves if they’re willing to pay what McConnell is worth, considering he’ll be, at best, Simmons’ backup. That being said, McConnell was the Sixers’ most impressive point guard in their Eastern Conference semifinals series with the Boston Celtics.

His averages of 5.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists and shooting 66.7 percent on three-pointers in 15.5 minutes in 10 postseason games are misleading. He was the major reason the Sixers won Game 4 of their series with Boston, starting the game  alongside Simmons and responding with a career-high 19 points in a 103-92 victory.

McConnell, who started Game 5,  also had the best plus/minus of any player  in the series at plus-41, slightly ahead of Boston’s Al Horford’s plus-40. The 26-year-old McConnell also had the highest offensive efficiency rating of any player in the postseason.  He scored 1.31 points per possession; Cleveland’s Kyle Korver is second at 1.23.

McConnell said he’s sure that becoming an unrestricted free agent will be in the back of his mind next season.

“But right now, I’m focused on getting better as a player,” he said, “and helping this team take the next step to get past the second round.”

The Sixers have until June to pick up the team option on backup center Richaun Holmes’ contract for next season. Like McConnell, he’s slated to make $1.6 million.

NBA admits to late mistakes that hurt Sixers in Game 5

The NBA announced late Thursday that its officials missed two key calls in the closing seconds of the Celtics’ 114-112 series-deciding victory over the Sixers in Game 5 of the Eastern semis.

The league’s Last Two Minutes Report stated that Celtics center Aron Baynes committed a foul and guard Marcus Smart traveled after intercepting a long pass in the closing seconds. Neither infraction was called by the officials.

The report said Baynes should have been called for a foul on Joel Embiid’s potential game-tying layup with 14.6 seconds left. Baynes, according to the report, made “contact to Embiid’s arm that affects his shot attempt near the rim.'” The Sixers trailed by two points at the time, and Embiid would have gone to the foul line for a chance to tie the score had a foul been called.

The report also said the officials missed Smart’s traveling violation with 1.5 seconds left after he had intercepted Ben Simmons’ desperation heave. Down by two points, the Sixers would have had another opportunity to knot the score or win the game had the traveling been called.

Bryan Colangelo to have contract extension talks with  Brett Brown

Bryan Colangelo’s disclosing his intention to sit down with coach Brett Brown to discuss a contract extension for him is far from a surprise.

Josh Harris, the team’s co-manager partner, said on April 14 that he is “invested in keeping Brett here for a long time.”

So Colangelo, the Sixers’ president of basketball operations, merely confirmed what Harris stated before the Sixers hosted the Miami Heat in Game 1 of their opening-round series.

The final season of Brown’s two-year extension is 2018-19.

“It happens all the time, but I don’t think it’s the healthiest of situations with coaches going into a season with one year remaining on their contracts,” Colangelo said. “It impacts so many aspects of what you’re doing.

“So I’m hopeful for the appropriate time we sit down and have some discussion with respect to his situation, and he realizes just how much we value him as the coach of this program.”

Pierce gets Atlanta Hawks job

Lloyd Pierce said ‘The Process’ was about developing much more than players. He spoke of how he developed with the 76ers as an assistant coach since being hired in the fall of 2013.

On Friday, his 42nd birthday, he was rewarded. Multiple sources confirmed that he is accepting the Atlanta Hawks head coaching job. ESPN first reported the news. Pierce, who will receive a three-year deal, will be formally introduced on Monday.

All signs pointed to Pierce being Atlanta’s next coach. He met with the Hawks for the third time Friday. That’s when it became clear they were going to offer him the job.

The meeting was with Hawks officials, including general manager Travis Schlenk. Pierce had an initial meeting with Schlenk last week, then had an informal dinner meeting with Hawks majority owner Tony Ressler on Tuesday in Boston.