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Which Sixers will be back? Oubre, Hield, Payne share initial thoughts on free agency 

The Sixers have a long list of free agents this summer.

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In one way or another, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey is set for an active summer.

Morey’s 2023-24 Sixers team was full of players on expiring contracts. Now, with the Sixers knocked out of the playoffs by the Knicks, he’ll ponder all the team-building possibilities around All-Stars Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. 

Free agency is always multifaceted, but here’s what the unrestricted free agents in the Sixers’ playoff rotation said late Thursday night about their futures: 

Kelly Oubre Jr. 

The Sixers added Oubre in late September on a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal. 

He was much better than the typical player on that contract, averaging 15.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists. 

“I just want to be loved for me,” Oubre said. “I don’t know about the business side of it. I mean, I do, but I can’t tell you what I know because I represent myself right now. At the end of the day, I want to go to somewhere where they respect and they love me. It’s been nothing but love here of course. 

“So at the end of the day, I feel as if there’s unfinished business and a lot of things to be done — a lot of work to get better and to get us back here past this threshold that Sixers fans have been wanting to get past for so long. I feel as if I kind of failed because we didn’t get past that.

“I’ve got to just reflect, talk to my family, and sit down and work on the next steps here. But today, I just bask in whatever we’re in right now — this moment, this aura of losing a playoff series — and just use that fire.” 

Oubre regularly had high praise for Sixers head coach Nick Nurse, who worked at developing the 28-year-old wing’s passing and defensive focus.

“He’s the best coach I’ve played for, straight up,” Oubre said. “It’s just his savviness. And he’s a rock star for real, so I can get with that. And he also coaches me tough. He understands what he expects of me, and he expects me to go out there and do it. But I just have to exceed expectations like I’ve always tried to do.”

Buddy Hield 

During the regular season, Hield played more than any NBA player in 19 years — 84 games between the Pacers and Sixers.

He then made three ineffective playoff appearances, stayed on the bench for Games 4 and 5, and gave the Sixers a sensational shotmaking jolt in Game 6 with 20 points and six long-range jumpers. 

Back in February, Morey called him “the best player that was traded at the trade deadline.”

On Hield’s end, what would he like next? 

“I’m here now,” he said. “Yeah, we didn’t get things done how we wanted, but I’d like to be in Philly again. Philly, they traded for me and I feel like they want me, too. To me, I look at it like I came to the party late. … Right now, Philly’s the priority for me.

“We’ll see when it comes down. My agent is one call away and we’ll figure something out. But if not, I’ll put my head down and keep working, and I’m sure God is going to open up doors for me and for others.” 

Nicolas Batum 

Embiid had his locker next to Batum’s and conversed in French with the 35-year-old forward. He enjoyed playing alongside the selfless, well-rounded veteran.

At this summer's Paris Olympics, Embiid will suit up for Team USA and Batum will represent the host nation. We’ll see what comes after that for Batum, who moved to the Sixers from the Clippers in the Halloween James Harden trade. 

“I could feel the passion of this city for sports, for the Sixers, and I fit right away,” he told reporters. “That first game, I came in against the Wizards and I could feel it. Those fans … when you get booed, I said, ‘OK, get right. It’s tough right now, so you’ve got to play better.’ This city’s not for everybody. They’re happy, I think. I tried my best. … It was fun. 

“I’m sorry, guys, that we couldn’t have a better playoff run. You guys showed up and that was amazing tonight. The support was great. In the city, people were really cheering for us. That was cool.” 

Kyle Lowry 

Lowry signed in February off the buyout market, finally joining his hometown team.

The 38-year-old reunited with Nurse, started next to Maxey, and appreciated the chance to help a young star learn the nuances of running a team.

“We just lost so I’m not even thinking about anything but figuring out how to get some sleep tonight,” Lowry told reporters, “because I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep with the way we lost the game. I had a great opportunity to be a part of two superstars in this league and for me, it was a joy to be around them. We’ll see what happens in the next couple months.”

Cameron Payne 

Traded from Milwaukee to Philadelphia at the deadline, Payne earned his way into Nurse’s postseason rotation with confident, crafty, always-energetic play.

He said he “absolutely” wants to return to the Sixers. 

“I love Philly,” Payne said. “I think Philly loves me. I like the vibes so far. Everybody’s rocking with me here. I guess I kind of set a good tone here, made a good impression. Hopefully, I’ll be back. I like this locker room. I like this (locker) right here. Hopefully, I’m back.” 

Tobias Harris 

Harris signing elsewhere surely makes tons of sense for both him and the Sixers.

After his scoreless Game 6, Harris said he was “not really thinking about” whether he’d just played his last game as a Sixer. 

Over his five-year Sixers contract, Harris played 378 regular-season games and 57 playoff games. His 575 made three-pointers are fourth in team history.

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