Ben Simmons to face LeBron James and Cavs tonight

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Ben Simmons to face LeBron James and Cavs tonight

Updated: 5:38 p.m.

Ben Simmons will play against the Cavaliers tonight for his first matchup vs. the defending Eastern Conference champions. The Sixers have been game planning for him to guard LeBron James.

"Tonight I'm going to start on J.R. (Smith)," Robert Covington said after shootaround Monday. "We're going to throw different matchups at LeBron. We're going to start Benny on him. But we're going to see how the game goes and get a feel for how we're going to defend him."

Simmons, who was officially listed as questionable in the morning, missed Saturday's win over the Magic because of left elbow soreness. He was taking free throws after Monday's shootaround wrapped up. Simmons' teammates weren't overly concerned about the extent of his injury.

"I think he's fine tonight," JJ Redick said. 

The questionable status meant a 50 percent chance of playing. 

But Simmons' own tweet Monday seemed to indicate he would face the Cavs.

And now it's official: Simmons is good to go against "King James."

James on Simmons
Which leads us to the face-off between Simmons and James. The two have had a close relationship since Simmons entered the league because they are represented by the same agency. They've worked out together in the offseason but have yet to compete in a regular-season game.

Simmons has drawn comparisons to the future Hall of Famer after playing fewer than 20 games. There are similarities in their frames, ball-handling skills and abilities to attack the basket. James is leaving all that on the court.

"You guys do that comparison stuff," James said at Cavs shootaround. "I think Ben is his own makeup of speed, power, quickness, ability to pass the ball but have a feel for the game. Ben is Ben. I am who I am."

James isn't making the game about their matchup, either.

"It's not about me vs. Ben," he said. "It's about the Cavs vs. the 76ers. We want to continue to play good ball. They've been playing good ball, especially at home. So it's not about me vs. him at all."

James on Embiid
One player James has seen play the Cavs before is Joel Embiid. The big man averaged 22.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists against them last season and he's only gotten better since then.

"He's good," James said. "He's very good. Very talented. Multi-dimensional, can shoot the ball from the outside, can get to the post, footwork, up-and-unders, plays with a lot of energy, and he's funny too. Very funny. Very funny guy."

James on the Eagles
James roots for the Browns and Cavs. Talent recognizes talent, though, and he's seeing it in quarterback Carson Wentz, who's led the Eagles to an NFL-best 10-1 record.

"I've got three guys that I love watching play: Tom Brady, Antonio Brown mixed with Le'Veon Bell — they're on the same team so I get an opportunity to watch the same guys at the same time — and my favorite player right now is Carson Wentz."

James went on to give his own analysis of why the quarterback has been so successful in the Eagles' 10-1 season (see story).

"I told my brother earlier in the season that I just love the way he plays the game," James continued. "The way he's able to get to his progressions throughout a three-step drop or five-step drop and then if everything breaks down, his ability to run, get outside the pocket. He can make passes or get yards with his feet. Very smart player, from the outside looking in, obviously. And they've got a really good team."

NBA admits mistake that leaves Sixers scratching their heads

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NBA admits mistake that leaves Sixers scratching their heads

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers were right.

The Sixers argued they should have set up at halfcourt, not fullcourt, for a decisive final possession of double overtime in Friday’s game against the Thunder. After a closer look following their triple-overtime loss, the NBA ruled the Sixers were proved correct. 

“After review, it was determined that the 76ers called timeout with 00:01.2 remaining on the game clock, which was prior to Saric's (PHI) dribble. Therefore, they should have been given the opportunity to advance the ball into their own frontcourt for the inbound,” the NBA Officiating’s Last Two Minute Report noted.

The confusion occurred at the end of the second overtime. Dario Saric got a defensive rebound and the Sixers called a timeout before he dribbled the ball. Because of this, the Sixers should have been allowed to set up a final play in the halfcourt, which is exactly what they had practiced and called.

But the referees made a last-second change as the Sixers were setting up. The Sixers were told they had to inbound from fullcourt, which would have been the case if Saric had dribbled before the timeout. The Last Two Minute Report indicated he, in fact, did not. 

“Respect that they are that transparent, but complete disappointment that it can happen,” Brett Brown said Sunday. “You really scratch your head. It’s significant.”

Every play, every basket can make a difference for a team fighting to make the playoffs. The Sixers were confident they could have won the game with the halfcourt play. Instead, they dropped back down to .500 and currently 10 in the Eastern Conference.

“Those things you need to avoid to give yourself every chance to win,” Brown said. “We can point to many other things that were self-inflicted wounds that we’ve got to do better. But when it’s that exposed and that prominent of an environment with 1.2 seconds left, it’s disappointing. But like I say, they’re transparent. I respect the fact they admitted it and we move on.”

Joel Embiid out Monday against Bulls; 2 other Sixers sidelined

Joel Embiid out Monday against Bulls; 2 other Sixers sidelined

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid does not play both games of a back-to-back, but whether he plays in either of the Sixers' next two matchups will have to be determined.

Embiid is not traveling with the Sixers to Chicago for Monday’s game against the suddenly-streaking Bulls, who have won five straight. The big man usually plays at home in these scenarios, and considering he played 49 minutes in Friday’s triple-overtime loss, the decision was expected.

Embiid’s availability for Tuesday at home against the Kings, though, has not been finalized at this point. This is not surprising either being two days ahead of the game. Embiid, who has been dealing with back tightness, did not participate in practice Sunday. The Sixers will evaluate, monitor, and go through treatment with Embiid before making their call.

“Unsure at this stage,” Brett Brown said Sunday. “I do know he’s categorically out tomorrow and we’re going to learn more about him being available when we come back [for] Sacramento, I’d expect in the next 24 hours.”

The Sixers do know they will be without another two players for some time.

Trevor Booker will miss at least the next two games after suffering spraining his left ankle Friday. The newly acquired reserve will be reevaluated in approximately five-to-seven days.

Even though Booker was traded to the Sixers less than two weeks ago, he already made an impact on the second unit. Brown has seen enough over the last four games to know what the team will be missing.

“His toughness,” Brown said. “He’s got a motor. He plays with such a spirit. He’s a man. He’s a pro. He’s been in the league for a while. He gets it. It’s everything that you miss. It’s really everything this team needs.”

Furkan Korkmaz likely will be sidelined even longer. The rookie suffered a Lisfranc injury on his left foot while playing for the Delaware 87ers on Dec. 15 and is out indefinitely. The Sixers recalled Korkmaz from the G League and he is going through evaluation and testing. There is no timetable set for Korkmaz at this point.  

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons described the injury as, “Lisfranc (midfoot) injuries result if bones in the midfoot are broken or ligaments that support the midfoot are torn. The severity of the injury can vary from simple to complex, involving many joints and bones in the midfoot.”

Korkmaz has been going back and forth between the Sixers and their G League affiliate in Delaware to get playing opportunities as part of his development in his first NBA season.