How a young Ben Simmons shaped future of point guards

How a young Ben Simmons shaped future of point guards

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The thought of being a forward in the NBA never entered Ben Simmons' mind.

No matter how tall he was going to grow up to be, he wanted to be a guard. If he didn't fit the conventional role, he would carve one out for himself.

"As soon as I was on the court, my dad told me to be creative and do what you want at a young age," Simmons said. "And he told me to dribble as soon as I got a rebound. That was just always on my mind. I never thought about being a big guy and going to the post."

The connection between Simmons' father, Dave, and the Sixers is well-known by now. Long before Simmons was born, Brett Brown coached his father in Australia, where he played professionally for over 10 years.

While Brown was very familiar with Dave Simmons' game, the younger Simmons' style would be anything but familiar to the NBA. Dave Simmons helped develop his son into a 6-foot-10, 250-pound point guard.

And the 2016 No. 1 pick at that.

"Him being a professional, he knew I was going to be athletic and tall," Simmons said of his father. "To give me the biggest advantage was to tell me to dribble and do things that guards would do because there wasn't anybody else really doing that in Australia."

Simmons often changed teams in Australia as his father sought out coaches that could foster his unique style and provide him the opportunity to experiment on the court. There was no blueprint for his game. He picked up crafty moves from AND1 mixtapes while harnessing the power of a post player.

"I watched Allen Iverson growing up and guys like that and 'Bron (LeBron James)," Simmons said. "So the way I play is just who I've watched."

Now the global basketball world is watching Simmons. He is averaging 16.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 1.8 steals in his rookie season. His early numbers have tied him to Oscar Robertson and he has drawn comparisons to Magic Johnson.

There's no replica of Simmons currently in the NBA. For now, he and oversized ball handlers like Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo are anomalies. But undoubtedly, there are talented young basketball players watching Simmons break traditional roles. Perhaps Simmons is just an early example of making non-traditional roles ... traditional. 

"Maybe in a few years we'll see a lot of guys our height doing the same thing," Simmons said. "So it'll be normal."

Sixers catch fire from 3-point range in win over Hornets

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Sixers catch fire from 3-point range in win over Hornets


The Hornets put up a fight before the Sixers locked in for a 108-94 win Monday at the Wells Fargo Center. 

The Sixers’ 14-point victory was closer than the final score reflects. They trailed the Hornets by as much as seven and went through 11 lead changes and six ties. The Hornets overcame a 4-for-21 shooting performance in the third quarter to tie the game halfway through the fourth before the Sixers pulled ahead for their 39th win of the season (39-30). The Hornets fell to 30-41.

• The Sixers signed Marco Belinelli with the vision of him being a JJ Redick-type player in the second unit. The veteran got hot in this game, scoring 21 points off the bench. Belinelli shot 5 for 9 from three in 24 minutes. Overall, the Sixers drained 18 shots from distance on 44 attempts (40.9 percent).

• Ben Simmons posted his ninth triple-double of the season (11 points, 12 rebounds, 15 assists, zero turnovers), ironically just hours after pointing out the wear and tear of the NBA schedule is catching up. Before the game, he said the team has been “kind of mentally fatigued.” 

“It's just frustrating,” Simmons said. “Missing plays or just messing up on the floor, turnovers, rebounds that you should have gotten, it's just the little things that kind of get under your skin.”

• In the battle of the bigs, Joel Embiid emerged on top with 25 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks. (He also committed nine turnovers). Dwight Howard (10 points, four rebounds) and Amir Johnson (five points, one three-pointer, seven rebounds) were involved in a throwback big man matchup, circa 2005. Both centers were drafted straight out of high school. The Sixers had the advantage on the boards, 60-40. 

• Justin Anderson earned first-quarter minutes after a solid showing in the Sixers’ previous game. He finished with seven points, four boards and two assists in 20 minutes. Dario Saric, who's been a reliable offensive contributor, scored just five points. 

• Kemba Walker bounced back from his offensive struggles in the previous matchup between the two teams to lead the Hornets with 24 points, eight rebounds and six dimes. 

• Nicolas Batum (left Achilles soreness) did not play. The Hornets missed his 11.9 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. 

• Eagles Michael Bennett and Malcolm Jenkins took in the action.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder snap Raptors' win streak

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Russell Westbrook, Thunder snap Raptors' win streak

TORONTO — Russell Westbrook had 37 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds for his fifth straight triple-double, Steven Adams scored 25 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Raptors 132-125 on Sunday, snapping Toronto's winning streak at 11.

Paul George scored 22 points and Carmelo Anthony had 15 as the Thunder extended their winning streak to six. Corey Brewer scored 10 points for Oklahoma City.

DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points and Kyle Lowry fouled out with 22 points and 10 assists as the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors suffered just their sixth home loss of the season. Toronto is 29-6 at Air Canada Centre, the best home record in the NBA.

DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and Raptors coach Dwane Casey were all ejected in the final minute for complaining to the officials. DeRozan was incensed after not getting a call on his drive with 30 seconds left, and picked up two technicals in the following 22 seconds (see full recap).

Davis leads Pelicans past Celtics
NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis had 34 points and 11 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the banged-up Boston Celtics 108-89 on Sunday night.

Second-year pro Cheick Diallo had a season-high 17 points and Nikola Mirotic added 16 for New Orleans, which was desperate to win after dropping four of its previous five while in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

Davis capped his night by hitting a baseline fallaway as he was fouled by Abdel Nader to make it 106-85 with 3:35 to go. The shot brought the crowd to its feet as Davis stumbled toward the sideline, where he exchanged high-fives with several fans before walking to the foul line to hit his foul shot.

The play capped a 22-6, fourth-quarter run to blow open what had been a tight game for most of the first three quarters (see full recap).

Harden scores 34 as Rockets hold off Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS — James Harden had 34 points and 12 assists, and Houston held off a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 129-120 on Sunday night for the Rockets' 26th win in 28 games.

The West's top team led by as many as 25 before the Timberwolves, holding on for dear life in a tightening playoff race, pulled within five in the fourth. The loss dropped the Wolves into the eighth playoff spot after they started the day in a three-way tie for fifth.

Harden had 11 points in the final 6:34, including a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left that effectively secured the win.

Chris Paul and Clint Capela each had 16 points for the Rockets.

Jeff Teague led Minnesota with 23 points, Andrew Wiggins had 21, and Karl-Anthony Towns and Jamal Crawford each added 20 (see full recap).