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."

Without Joel Embiid in Toronto, Sixers 'jumped' in telling loss to Raptors

Without Joel Embiid in Toronto, Sixers 'jumped' in telling loss to Raptors

BOX SCORE

TORONTO — Ben Simmons' double-double feat aside, the Sixers have had little to enjoy about the start to the season.

They were outclassed Saturday night, 128-94, by the Toronto Raptors and have lost their first three games (see observations).

As has been their custom for back-to-back games, center Joel Embiid did not play Saturday after playing Friday in the loss to the Boston Celtics to protect his left knee.

Head coach Brett Brown said he did not expect things to go this way.

“I didn’t,” he said. “I knew the first three games were going to be difficult. I knew coming into this building after a back-to-back was going to be difficult, but you are certainly not expecting it to be that margin of a deficit. I give Toronto credit.

“We have a lot of work to do; we look forward to getting Joel (Embiid) back in this and continuing to learn how to play the group.”

After trailing by as many as 17 points in the first quarter, the Sixers whittled the lead to eight when Jerryd Bayless hit a couple of free throws with 2:22 left in the first half.

Toronto led 62-49 at the half and blitzed the Sixers to open the third quarter with Serge Ibaka scoring eight of their first 10 points of the second half. With 3:12 left in the third, the Raptors led by 29.

“They jumped us, especially at the start of the third, certainly portions of the first period but especially the start of the third and you’re just playing catch up pretty much for the rest of the game after that first almost minute, minute and a half,” Brown said.

“You’re just trying to find some type of order and purpose to end the game with that in mind.”

It was a subdued atmosphere in the dressing room after the game.

The edge surely was removed from another double-double by Simmons.

He had 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Simmons joins Oscar Robertson as the only NBA players to average 10-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in their first three career games.

“It looks great, but I’d rather have a win,” he said. “I’d rather we had three wins than three double-doubles.”

Simmons said he is looking forward to Embiid returning to the lineup Monday against the Detroit Pistons.

He said he could feel the game slipping away Saturday.

“Toward the third, coming out we just didn’t click, didn’t have it together,” Simmons said. “It’s tough without Joel (Embiid), obviously there’s chemistry and then you switch it up, so that comes into it, but we need to learn to play without him, with those back-to-backs.

“We have to stay together as a team, talk it out, get through it, communicate on the court and hold each other accountable. … We have to sit down and look at what we did wrong, that’s with every game, you have to fix your mistakes and come out ready for the next one. It’s a long season.”

It could seem even longer if there aren't signs of improvement.

“Coach Brown has talked since Day 1 of camp about our goal; to build every day, to take something positive every day and I think for tonight, we were unable to do that,” guard J.J. Redick said. “I was just saying if it’s a six-minute stretch where we are doing things well, cutting into their lead, that’s something to build on. I don’t think we did that before but that’s what I was trying to get across.

“I’m a patient person; if we were 0-45 then I’ll start to panic. There are 82 games, we have a very tough schedule to start, we’re a young team, and that’s not an excuse but the reality is the team we played tonight and the team we played in D.C. Wednesday night, they’ve been together a long time and know how to play together. We have to figure out a way to jell quicker and we have to understand and close our margin for error.”

Sixers-Raptors observations: Not much life without Joel Embiid in blowout loss

Sixers-Raptors observations: Not much life without Joel Embiid in blowout loss

BOX SCORE

TORONTO — The Air Canada Centre has become a tough place for the Sixers.

Nothing has changed with a new season.

The Raptors defeated the Sixers, 128-94, Saturday night for their 16th win in the past 17 games against the Sixers, including 10 in a row at the Air Canada Centre.

The Sixers have problems beating the Raptors at home as well as away, which pretty well takes care of all the possibilities.

Say this for the Sixers, after falling behind by 17 points during the first quarter, they had the lead down to eight in the second quarter on a pair of free throws by former Raptor Jerryd Bayless. It was 62-49 for Toronto at the half.

Then there was the second half.

The Raptors raced out to a 72-51 lead early in the third quarter, with Serge Ibaka scoring eight of their first 10 points. Kyle Lowry finished the scoring in the third quarter with a three-pointer to increase Toronto’s lead to 102-71.

• Amir Johnson got the start at center with Joel Embiid missing the second half of a back-to-back to rest his left knee. Johnson knows his way around the Air Canada Centre, having played for the Raptors for six seasons before going to the Boston Celtics for the past two seasons. He received a nice cheer during the pregame introductions and then scored the game’s first basket on a dunk.

• Jahlil Okafor took over at center 5:27 into the first quarter and quickly scored to tie the game at 13, but he was out of the game after playing 2:49 after picking up three quick fouls.

• Ben Simmons had his third consecutive double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He also had eight assists. He already had accomplished something never done before in franchise history entering the game against the Raptors. The rookie forward recorded double-doubles in his first two career NBA games against the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics. He is the 11th player in NBA history to do so.

• Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan was listed as questionable for Saturday’s game because of flu symptoms. No such luck for the Sixers, he was in the starting lineup and looked quite well as he pumped in 15 points in the first quarter on 4 for 4 shooting from the field and a telling seven free throws in eight attempts. He finished with a game-high 30 points.

• As if the discrepancy in free throws has not been enough of a problem in the early going for the Sixers, Markelle Fultz missed three of his first four free-throw attempts against the Raptors. Toronto was 24 for 28 from the line in the first half and the Sixers were 12 for 18. Toronto made 31 of 37 foul shots on the game and the Sixers made 22 of 36. 

• Toronto reserve Lucas Nogueira scored on a breakaway dunk during the third quarter, which may redefine garbage time.

• For those who thought the 17 turnovers committed by the Sixers in each of their first two games were bad, what do you think of 20 turnovers Saturday night?

• Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas was restricted to 15 minutes (five points, four rebounds) because of a sprained left ankle. He had a double-double in the team’s opening game win over the Chicago Bulls.