Sixers execs felt they were in the running for LeBron James

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LAS VEGAS -- LeBron James didn't take long to make his decision to go to Los Angeles, but the Philadelphia 76ers felt that James "strongly" considered them before choosing the Lakers.

Speaking about their meeting with James' agent, Rich Paul, and Klutch Sports at the start of free agency, Sixers managing partner Josh Harris and coach and interim general manager Brett Brown reflected on the Sixers' chances of teaming James with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

Although they were complimentary of how focused and smart James' team is, the Sixers felt the sting of not landing the premier free agent in the game while seeing Paul George re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"I think they considered us very strongly," Harris said of James' group Monday at the Las Vegas Summer League. "I think he -- I would be speculating on how he makes his decisions, and I don't want to do that -- but I think that they were really serious [about Philadelphia]. The fact that they took the meeting with us was something that they didn't view lightly, so I think that they were very serious about it."

Ultimately, James chose to join the Lakers and live in Los Angeles, where he has two homes and will join a promising young core of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart to go with experienced veteran playmakers including new additions Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson.

The Sixers believed they had a more promising foundation with Embiid, Simmons, Dario Saric and Markelle Fultz while being in the easier to navigate Eastern Conference. Right after the sting of James' decision, the Sixers turned their attention back to free agency.

Philadelphia has agreed to deals to bring back guard JJ Redick and forward Amir Johnson and add forward Nemanja Bjelica while acquiring Wilson Chandler. The 76ers are considered to be suitors for Kawhi Leonard if the San Antonio Spurs opt to trade him.

Harris, whose team is still searching for a general manager to replace Bryan Colangelo, discussed in generalities the challenge of trying to add a significant star to the Sixers' core and what that might cost.

"For every significant player that is a star that we have the ability to get, whether that is in free agency or trades or developing Markelle, we are focused on each one of those players," Harris said. "Not all of them fit, but a lot of them do. Certainly, if you sign them as a free agent, you get them for free. If you have to give up a lot of stuff, you factor that in and take that into account. Just from our point of view, we are on a great trajectory right now, almost without it. I think we certainly would add, and more than we would, we are really spending hour after hour trying to figure out how to add and try to manage those types of risks.

"Whether it be certainly a lot of the players you would trade for, there are risks that they are not going to be with your team, you don't necessarily have them on a long-term contract," Harris continued. "So we talk about this stuff endlessly and how to manage those risks. If the right situation comes where we can acquire somebody that will really add value to our program and the cost of it isn't prohibitive, then we will move forward and do that. If that doesn't come along for whatever reason, we will keep moving forward with our program. Just based on what we did this offseason, we are going to get better and move closer to our goal, which is that NBA championship that we keep talking to. If we get the right deal, we will do it."

Brown said Fultz, last year's No. 1 overall draft pick who played in 14 games and averaged 7.1 points, has been in California making strides on his shot and conditioning and could be primed for a breakout season.

"I have a gut feel that he feels good about himself and he is confident," Brown said. "He looks it when I am with him. He feels and looks confident. Then I started seeing the progression of his shot, and I start listening to him tell me about his shot, it confirms that he is feeling good."

"So I feel like the path to date has been money, the people that have been around him and the coaches that we have put with him, and with me going back and forth and Joel is close to him out there, I think it is fantastic. It is insulation, I think it is productive, and I feel just so excited to see him play NBA basketball and show why he was the first player chosen in the NBA draft. I have tremendous optimism and confidence that he is going to have a helluva year next year. I believe that completely and just really excited to see him with us and bring him back into our program on a full-time basis."