Robert Covington wasn’t able to play last season in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first game in Philadelphia after the 76ers traded him Nov. 12 in the Jimmy Butler deal.
A knee injury suffered on New Year’s Eve ended his season, so all he could do was watch the Jan. 15 game from the bench.
On Wednesday, Covington took the court for the first time at the Wells Fargo Center against his former team, and, as expected, it was emotional.
“It’s a great feeling to see you’ve had a lasting effect on things and to see the faces that you once knew years ago,” Covington, 28, said before the game. “To still show the same love feels great.”
Covington was the first Timberwolf introduced to the crowd, and he received a warm ovation.
While he enjoyed coming back, just being on the court again and contributing as a starter has given Covington an appreciation for the game, he said.
“It feels good to be back to myself, back playing,” he said. “Last year was a rough year. Ultimately, I feel better than I have before, heath-wise. I'm just thankful to be back doing what I love.”
Covington was one of the NBA’s real success stories.
After Houston waived him in October 2014, the Sixers claimed him. He earned a four-year, $62-million contract extension in November 2017.
“When I look back and see some of the guys we have been able to touch and develop, I love when my guys get paid,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said before the game. "I am happy to help them. For Cov to secure a contract, for T.J. McConnell to secure a contract, watching improvement like that … . To see Cov out here in a little while, is something I will enjoy.”
Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders was happy to see Covington back on the court and able to play against his former team.
"Whatever moments Cov gets in Philadelphia with the fans, he deserves, because he gave a lot to this city, and I know this city really showed him a lot of love,” Saunders said.
In 297 games with the Sixers, Covington averaged 12.9 points and 5.6 rebounds. In 2017-18, his last full season in Philadelphia, the Sixers ended a five-year postseason drought and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals, while Covington made the league’s first all-defensive team.