76ers

Simmons does 'hardest thing to guard' in triple-double effort

Simmons does 'hardest thing to guard' in triple-double effort

BOX SCORE

On Australian Heritage Night at the Wells Fargo Center, Ben Simmons showed why Brett Brown believes “he will end up the best basketball product ever out of the country.” 

The rookie made a 19-point, 17-rebound, 14-assist triple-double look effortless in the Sixers’ 115-101 win over the Bulls Wednesday (see observations).

“I think the style of game, him rebounding, it allowed him to put his thumbprint on this game in a big way early,” Brown said. 

Simmons dominated from the start, grabbing 11 rebounds and scoring eight points in the first quarter. He became the first member of the Sixers to pull down at least 11 boards in a quarter in eight years, since Samuel Dalembert did it in 2010. 

He had an 11-point, 13-rebound double-double by halftime, and reached the triple-double mark in just the third quarter.

Simmons’ stat line particularly stands out because he did it in only his 43rd career game. He joined Oscar Robertson and Alvan Adams on the top-three list of most triple-doubles through 50 games. When it comes to this season, Simmons ranks third behind only Russell Westbrook and LeBron James in triple-doubles. 

Simmons, who is averaging 7.9 rebounds per game, had not been attacking the glass as much recently. In his previous seven games played in January, Simmons had five or less rebounds in as many matchups. That includes just one against the Raptors and two against the Celtics. He made a concerted effort facing the Bulls. 

“I think just being on the boards and making it one of those things where I’m actually trying to get boards and going to the boards every time I can,” Simmons said. “I'm usually getting those rebounds. I think I went away from it the last couple weeks. It was one of those things where I was just doing it. I had to be reminded.”

Perhaps more significant than getting the rebound is what Simmons does after he’s gained possession. The 6-foot-10 point guard uses his combination of speed, strength and ball-handling to run the fast break. That unique skill set gives Brown flashbacks to Hall of Famers. 

“He can rebound and take off,” Brown said. “I still think that’s the hardest thing to guard. Back in the day, you’d see Charles Barkley do that and rebound, lead a break. It’s hard to defend that with the exception of maybe the high kickout, the high outlet, that’s maybe the second-most effective way. You’d see Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson do it all the time. 

“I thought in the first half there was a lot of what we call dribble-out backdowns where he was out there, nobody was ahead of him, he’d turn and play and find other people on the other side of the floor or spin off and finish himself.”

Joel Embiid noticed those game-changing attributes, as well as another possible push. Simmons, who finished third among fan votes for Eastern Conference guards, was not named an All-Star reserve by head coaches.

“I felt like he was just focused from the get-go,” Embiid said. “We played tough defensively, especially the first quarter, so there was a lot of rebounds to grab and he was extra aggressive offensively. Besides Australia Night, I think that he just wanted it tonight and him not making [the All-Star Game] might have had something to do with it, too.”

Simmons answered “no” when asked if he was motivated by the voting results. He was selected to the World Team for the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game, along with Embiid and Dario Saric.

“Things happen. They happen for a reason,” Simmons said. “I wish I did make it but it’s going to be hopefully plenty more years.”

With games like this, he's on the right track. 

Former Sixers guard named HOF finalist

usa-maurice-cheeks.jpg
USA Today Images

Former Sixers guard named HOF finalist

Former Sixers player and head coach Maurice Cheeks on Saturday was named a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Other candidates include Grant Hill, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and former Sixer Chris Webber.

Cheeks, a four-time All-Star point guard and member of the 1982-83 championship team, spent 10 seasons with the Sixers before stints with the San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks and New Jersey Nets. He averaged 12.2 points, 7.3 assists and 2.3 steals a night in 853 career games. Cheeks ranks in the top-five in NBA history in both assists (7,392) and steals (2,310). He was also voted to the NBA All-Defensive team five times.

Currently an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cheeks was the Sixers' head coach from 2005-2008, but was fired after a slow start to the 2008-09 season. He was also the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers and Detroit Pistons. He has a 305-315 career record and has made the postseason three times in nine seasons.

Sixers show they're ready to take over the world

Sixers show they're ready to take over the world

LOS ANGELES — The Sixers made their mark among the NBA’s top young talent on a global scale.

Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Ben Simmons (Australia) and Dario Saric (Croatia) all started for Team World Friday in the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game. They helped kick off All-Star weekend with a 155-124 victory over Team USA. 

Simmons recorded a double-double, which is becoming clockwork for the point guard (22 in the regular season, six triple-doubles). He posted 11 points off a perfect 5 for 5 from the field and 1 for 1 from the line. Simmons added 13 assists, six boards and four steals. 

This game was, in a way, a double statement for Simmons. It was an an opportunity to make a case for Rookie of the Year, with fellow contender Donovan Mitchell competing on Team USA. Mitchell notched seven points (3 for 10 from the field, 1 for 6 from three), seven assists, two rebounds, five steals and two blocks.

The Rising Stars contest also was a chance for Simmons to start an early bid for the 2019 All-Star team. He was popular among the fan votes but was not selected as one of four replacements required because of injuries. 

Simmons projects he will be playing in the All-Star Game “hopefully next year.” When it came down to why he was not on this season’s list, Simmons replied, “I think just votes.” 

Saric continued his offensive momentum with 18 points, including 4 for 7 shooting from three. He has scored in double digits in his last 35 games leading into the All-Star break. Saric also grabbed three rebounds and dished five assists. 

“I’ve always got the wish or dream in my life one day to be part of something big like this, even if it’s the Rising Stars game,” Saric said of participating in All-Star weekend. “I think it makes my family proud, my friends from my hometown, or all the people who were around me during my [growth as] a basketball player.”

Embiid logged the least playing time of the Sixers’ trio as he prepares to compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge Saturday and start in the All-Star Game Sunday. He missed the Sixers’ last game on Wednesday because of right ankle soreness. Embiid scored five points and two rebounds in less than nine minutes. 

“On Sunday, I expect to go harder,” Embiid said (see story). “I’m going for that MVP. Guys better make sure they find me because I’m looking to have a good game.”

Not listed on the box score: Embiid and Simmons going 2 for 2 as roving reporters. Check out their journalistic skills when they got the mic Friday to interview each other (see video).