76ers

Ben Simmons on being forgotten in rookie poll: 'They'll remember'

Ben Simmons on being forgotten in rookie poll: 'They'll remember'

CAMDEN, N.J. — If Ben Simmons made one thing clear Monday, it's that he's ready to play.

The Jones fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his right foot that cost him his 2016-17 season has healed. He's been playing 5-on-5 and "dominating the gym." He has no restrictions heading into the first day of camp Tuesday.

And he's eager.

"I'm ready to go," Simmons said during Sixers media day. "100 percent. Cleared to play."

Simmons' answers were matter-of-fact and the 21-year-old's confidence was evident. 

Simmons came into the league with plenty of hype — and the skill to back that swagger. He was the No. 1 overall pick after just one season at LSU. Then the injury to his foot brought the hype train to a screeching halt and would eventually keep Simmons sidelined for the entire season. 

But the year off the court wasn't a total waste. Simmons said the time away allowed him to look in the mirror and mature.

"I just had to grow," Simmons said. "That took time. Different experiences. Obviously breaking my foot I had a lot of time to myself to grow as a person and just really looked at who I wanted to be as a player and a person. I had a lot of time off, so I think I've grown on and off the floor."

One of the things Simmons said he thought long and hard about was becoming a leader. Though Simmons is the third-youngest player on the roster, he's ready to accept that challenge. 

Becoming a leader will certainly help Simmons as he transitions to playing the point guard position. The 6-foot-10 Australian has been playing forward his whole life. Now, head coach Brett Brown has put the ball in his hands.

How does it feel to run the offense?

"It feels normal to me," Simmonds said. "[Brown is] the first coach to finally give me the opportunity. He obviously sees something in me. I believe in myself and I believe I can do it. There's not many people that can guard me off the dribble the full length of the court. It's going to be a mismatch problem a lot of the time."

There goes that confidence again.

It took Simmons a season away to get to this point though. He said he's a much better player than he was at this time last year and "it's not even close." 

Not everyone is convinced of Simmons' success, however. In a recent NBA.com poll of NBA rookies, Simmons barely received any votes for things like "Who will be the Rookie of the Year?" and "Which rookie will have the best career?" In fact, this year's No. 1 pick, Markelle Fultz, was thought of more highly than Simmons.

Maybe some of the rookies forgot about Simmons since he missed all of last season.

"I think that happens," Simmons said when asked about being out of the spotlight. "From social media — the hype or whatever it is. But if you would've said this a year ago you guys would've been putting me at the top of the list. I had a whole year to get better. But I'm fine with that. 

"When I came to the States I was 15 and nobody knew who I was so I feel like I'm kind of back in that stage. I have to prove myself again, which is fine. I'm looking forward to that part."

When pressed on the question of being "forgotten" by other NBA rookies, Simmons' answered confidently:

"They'll remember."

Sixers thankful to have Embiid tonight vs. reigning MVP

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AP Images

Sixers thankful to have Embiid tonight vs. reigning MVP

Updated 5:28 p.m.

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid will play tonight as the Sixers need all hands on deck to defend Russell Westbrook.

The big man's status was uncertain leading up to the game because of back tightness. Embiid missed Sunday's game against the Pelicans with the issue but played a career-high 39 minutes on Tuesday in the Sixers' overtime win against the Timberwolves. 

Embiid was on the court after shootaround draining threes barefoot. He commonly puts up shots without shoes.

The Sixers will require a total team effort against Westbrook. They will have their top perimeter defender Robert Covington back in the lineup after he missed the last two games with a lower back contusion.

Brett Brown will try different looks on Westbrook, but one thing is already known: There's no clear-cut formula to contain the reigning MVP. 

"Russell Westbrook demands a team to guard him," Brett Brown said Thursday. "He comes at you with such cocky aggression. How about the athlete that we're seeing and the mentality of that athlete? It is bizarre to me. That is a fierce, competitive person that just doesn't seem to get tired ... He's amazing to me. He really is amazing to me." 

Westbrook is averaging 22.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 9.9 assists per game this season. All those stats don't really project much considering he's capable of going off for 30, 40 points any given night. He scored 30-plus points in three of his last five games. 

Even though the Thunder are below .500 (13-14), the Sixers are not ignoring the offseason additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Veteran scorers cannot be overlooked, regardless of a team's record heading into the game. 

"[Westbrook] is a special player in our league and he's going to be tough to contain one-on-one so it's going to be a group effort tonight," T.J. McConnell said. "Even with the other two, Carmelo and Paul George, it takes a team and following your principles and playing hard. That's all you can really do." 

• The Sixers will wear their red Statement Edition uniforms tonight for the first time. The jerseys were designed to reflect the history of the franchise and the city of Philadelphia. "Sixers" is written in cursive for the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

• The Sixers are unveiling a sculpture of Maurice Cheeks in front of their training complex in Camden. Cheeks is now an assistant coach for the Thunder. The point guard was a member of the 1983 championship team and earned four All-Star selections with the Sixers. Cheeks' sculpture will join those of Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer and Billy Cunningham already on "76ers Legends Walk."

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

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Photo courtesy of Sixers' Twitter account

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

Four families gathered in a roped-off waiting area adorned with Sixers decor inside of a Philadelphia Target store. They were told they were getting a surprise Thursday evening, but they didn't know who or what until a car pulled up outside ... and Ben Simmons walked through the door.

Simmons gave each family a $1,000 shopping spree right then and there. The room erupted in cheer.

"Beautiful," a mother exclaimed at the news. One child put his head in his hands in disbelief when he saw Simmons. Another said, "This is the best day ever."

"It's one of those things I always wanted to do growing up," Simmons, who came up with the idea for the shopping trip on his own, said. "It's the perfect time, season of giving. It just means a lot for me to be able to do this for some families."

The towering 6-foot-10 point guard walked through the store on Monument Road with each family and helped them choose their gifts along the way. 

They headed straight to the toy section, where the children piled in Legos, dolls and anything else that grabbed their attention. Then it was on to electronics. One child filled his cart with video games and a gaming system. Another family selected a television and soundbar. 

Shopping carts accumulated quickly as the kids ran in and out of aisles with bright smiles on their faces.

"Seeing them pick out what they want, not having to worry about it, I think that was the biggest thing," Simmons said. "It was a great time. I had a lot of fun, can't wait to do it next year."

The recipients were selected through Unity in the Community, a nonprofit organization based in South Philadelphia. Each had been through tough times in the past year and this trip helped to put the happy in their holidays.

"They can enjoy it now," Simmons said. "It's great for them to have no worries, especially on Christmas."