76ers

Brett Brown: Ben Simmons can be 'elite multi-purpose defensive player'

Brett Brown: Ben Simmons can be 'elite multi-purpose defensive player'

Ben Simmons made it clear this summer he wants to be the Sixers’ point guard. Less than a month from training camp, Brett Brown still is on board with that plan.

“We’ve gone on record, I’ve said what I’ve said and I don’t backpedal from any of it,” Brown said Thursday at the Sixers training complex while previewing his upcoming Coaches Clinic. “I’m excited to give him the ball and continue to grow him.” 

With that vision comes questions that will be played out over the season as the 6-foot-10 Simmons makes his rookie debut after suffering a Jones fracture last training camp. 

The Sixers made significant additions to their backcourt this summer, including point guard Markelle Fultz. How will the Sixers utilize these two No. 1 picks? Part of Fultz’s appeal to the Sixers was his ability to play off the ball and complement Simmons in a one-two combination. 

“Markelle and Ben co-existing and sharing stuff, and Ben running a lane, and Markelle leading the break and bringing it up the floor, that’s going to happen a lot,” Brown said. “Our sport is not static; it’s a free-flowing game. Through sort of that lens, I see those two guys co-existing well.”

Then there’s the defensive end. With this unique lineup, the Sixers will find themselves in mismatches, some in their favor and some against. Brown anticipates Simmons will be tasked with guarding one of the opponents’ best players. He has thought out how Simmons will maneuver through switches and isn’t worried about it. 

“When we start talking about who are we going to start and what are the matchups going to be, the transition defense is always most on our mind,” Brown said. “It would be easier if Ben could guard who guards him and you could just stay there. That’s probably not going to be the case often … 

“How that shakes out, how that plays out with Ben on the other side of the ball, I’m not too concerned about it. I think that because of his versatility, he’s going to be able to put out a lot of fires. I think because of his foot speed and length, if he gets cross-matched on a point guard, I’m OK with that. 

“If he gets sort of buried behind a four-man, he’s been a four-man his whole life, I’m OK with that. I think that his footwork on a five-man, he can get around and front and show his hands and take away the physical aspect of it with quickness. I just feel like he can do a lot because of his physical gifts.”

While the NBA world awaits Simmons’ debut, Brown has had a year to get to know Simmons' skillets during his rehab. Brown believes Simmons will deliver many unexpected facets to his game. 

“When people see his breakaway speed from baseline to baseline and his ability to react, they’re going to say, ‘That is an A-plus athlete,’ ” Brown said. “His vision of trying to make people better and seeing things happen a little bit before most others see it is going to surprise people. I think most importantly out of all of it, I feel like he has a chance to be an elite multi-purpose defensive player.” 

Simmons is among the players participating in voluntary offseason workouts at the Sixers practice facility. Training camp will begin on Sept. 26. 

“I feel that Ben is excited,” Brown said. “I think that he’s just really looking forward to assuming that role.” 

Raptors continue to take care of business at home

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Raptors continue to take care of business at home

TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry scored nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan added 21 and the Toronto Raptors beat San Antonio 86-83 on Friday night to snap a four-game losing streak against the Spurs.

Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Raptors improved to 17-3 at home, the second-best home record in the NBA behind San Antonio's mark of 19-2.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 14 rebounds, Pau Gasol scored 15 points and Patty Mills had 13 as San Antonio lost for the fourth time in six road games. The Spurs are 11-15 away from home.

It had been more than two years since Toronto last beat San Antonio. The Raptors won 97-94 at home on Dec. 9, 2015.

San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili missed his second straight game because of a sore right thigh. Ginobili returned to Texas after the Spurs won at Brooklyn on Wednesday (see full recap).

Beal, Oubre spark Wizards’ win over Pistons
DETROIT -- Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre Jr. had 26 points each, and the Washington Wizards scored 45 points in the third quarter before holding on for a 122-112 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

The Pistons cut a 20-point second-half deficit to four in the fourth quarter, but John Wall made a big 3-pointer to put the Wizards up 107-100. Oubre added a four-point play a few possessions later to push Washington's lead to nine.

Andre Drummond had 14 points, 21 rebounds and eight assists for the Pistons, who have lost four straight.

Both teams were struggling coming into the game. The Wizards lost by 24 at Charlotte on Wednesday, and they fell behind by 15 in the first quarter at Detroit. It was tied at 46 at halftime, though (see full recap).

Nets edge Heat to snap 5-game home skid
NEW YORK -- DeMarre Carroll scored 26 points, Spencer Dinwiddie had 15 and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Miami Heat 101-95 on Friday night.

Brooklyn snapped a five-game losing skid at Barclays Center and a seven-game home losing streak to the Heat.

Caris LeVert and Joe Harris each added 12 points for the Nets. D'Angelo Russell played 14 minutes and went 0-for-5 from the field for Brooklyn in his first action after missing 32 games following left knee surgery.

Hassan Whiteside had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Goran Dragic scored 17 points for the Heat.

LeVert made an acrobatic layup to give the Nets a 95-91 lead with 57.8 seconds remaining and then made a step-back jumper to ice the game at 97-91 (see full recap).

Is a rival upset with Embiid's ASG starter nod?

Is a rival upset with Embiid's ASG starter nod?

While Joel Embiid was sharing his first All-Star nod with his teammates and deciding to move on from his former crush, at least one person wasn’t happy that the Sixers’ center was tabbed as a starter.

Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis feels like he should have garnered that final frontcourt spot in the Eastern Conference.

“Players know,” he said, per the New York Daily News. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

True, Porzingis had more of the players’ support as he finished third in the East in that category compared to Embiid in fourth. 

However, Embiid had the trump card with a pair of third-place finishes in both media and fan voting while Porzingis came in fourth. The fan vote was the main key, as it accounted for 50 percent of the overall tally.

“I feel very blessed to be in this type of position,” Embiid said Thursday. “Thank all the fans out there for the support. It’s been a tough couple of years and I really appreciate it — everybody out there, everybody around me, the whole team, the whole organization, the fans especially, for making this happen. We can only get better from here.”

If Embiid is going to get even better, look out. He’s already averaging 23.9 points (48.7 percent shooting), 11.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.9 blocks per game this season. Oh yeah, he also has the Sixers with a 21-20 record and sitting in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, Porzingis’ overall numbers have gone down every month this season. He’s currently putting up 23.6 points (43.4 percent shooting), 6.9 boards, 1.2 assists and 2.4 blocks a night. And the Knicks have lost 11 of their last 15 games to fall to 20-25.

“Everybody has their own opinion,” Porzingis said. “Fans are one thing. It is what it is. There are a lot of things I could have done better also. It is what it is.”