CAMDEN, N.J. - "See you next year."
That's how Marco Belinelli signed off in his final press conference of the season Thursday. Whether or not Belinelli and the Sixers' other veteran free agents will be back next year is of course still uncertain, but all four players were emphatic that they want to stay in Philadelphia.
Thirteen-year veteran JJ Redick said that - along with the culture and talent of the team - the unique experience of playing in Philadelphia is one of the factors that draws him back.
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"I don't want to offend any of the other places I've been or teams I've been on, but this was probably my favorite year of my career," Redick said. "Playing in Philly is its own experience and our fans, the city, the buzz about sports and about this team was amazing. I think I said this on media day: ‘the first time I'll ever play in a real sports town.' And it definitely lived up to those thoughts. It was awesome to play in Philly."
That's not to say Redick will automatically come back to the Sixers without considering other possibilities. He's pragmatic about the free agent process and said he'll weigh contract length, total value, winning and proximity before deciding his next destination.
"I'm sure we all hope that I am back," he said. "The numbers can get tricky. It's not my job to worry about that. I'll let [general manager] Bryan [Colangelo], my agent and the events of the next two months play out, and we'll make a decision."
Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, both of whom were bought out by the Hawks mid-season, each spoke highly of their relationships with coach Brett Brown when discussing why they would like to return.
"I really love to play for Coach Brown," Ilyasova said. "The way he coaches, for me, he's more like a player-coach. He communicates with players with a high level, and you always knew what to expect from him. I think the most important thing for the players is just to know what coach wants from you, and just deliver."
Belinelli is grateful for the opportunity Brown and Colangelo gave him to resurrect his career with a winning team.
"We really have a great relationship, me and Coach Brown," Belinelli said. "With Bryan, too, when I was in Toronto, Bryan was there, so we know each other. But Coach Brown is great. He gave me the possibility to come here, and [I was] really born again after a couple years in Sacramento, Charlotte, Atlanta, and he gave me the possibility to be myself. That, for me, was really important."
Amir Johnson, a 13-year veteran like Redick, echoed his teammate's sentiments when reflecting on his first year with the Sixers.
"From the players to the fans, it was probably one of the greatest seasons I've played during my 13-year career," Johnson said. "It was awesome, man."