Is Justin Anderson a keeper? Brett Brown letting him shoot enough to find out

Is Justin Anderson a keeper? Brett Brown letting him shoot enough to find out

Brett Brown has had Justin Anderson for all of six games, so he's not yet rushing to judgment about whether or not the 23-year-old swingman is a keeper.

But he's liked what he's seen so far.

"The more time that we spend with him, I'll be a better judge of how quickly he picks things up, a better judge of what you think peoples' ceilings might be," Brown said after Anderson's 19-point game against the Bucks Monday.

"It's been such a quick snapshot that it's unfair really to project out. I think that, from my gut feel, when you talk with him and ask him different questions, there's a good vibe that comes out of that conversation and you feel like there possibly is a keeper because he ticks so many skill packages."

Anderson has had 19 points in two of his last three games, shooting 8 for 12 against the Knicks and 9 for 16 against the Bucks. In the Milwaukee game, he went 0 for 6 from three and 9 for 10 from two, also contributing six rebounds and three assists.

Anderson, acquired on trade deadline day from the Mavericks for Nerlens Noel, has also brought the Sixers a sorely needed infusion of energy during this down period. He's already proven to be the best dunker on the team and the second-most active defender to Robert Covington.

As with most swingmen, Anderson's ceiling will be determined by how well he shoots from long range. In 112 NBA games, he's taken 224 threes and made just 28.1 percent of them, an ugly figure.

If the Sixers can ever get Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on the court at the same time, they're going to need to surround them with 3-and-D players like Covington. If Anderson can become another complementary piece, he could have a role on their second unit.

"Does he fit how we want to play? Can he play fast? Can he make a shot? Does he have a toughness?" Brown asked rhetorically. "Defense, pace and space. From time to time he shows, yes he can, in all three of those categories.

"When you look at his age, his body and physical gifts, I get excited to coach him."

If it was 1985, you could look at a player like Anderson and say, "Drive to the basket, finish in traffic, play some D and you'll have done your job." But in today's NBA, if you're a 2 or a 3 and you can't shoot from distance, you're just not that valuable.

With much more opportunity for playing time as a Sixer, Anderson will have the chance to keep shooting threes in game situations. You can take as many wide-open treys as you want in practice, but those are no match for live game reps.

"Luckily, I now have a coach who's super cool, who comes down to the end of the bench and he says, 'Because this team is so long, space out even further. Shoot with confidence, be cocky with your shot,'" Anderson said, referring to the Bucks' length. 

"As a player, when you hear that, it just gives you that thing in your mind that you let all doubt go, it doesn't matter what you're shooting, you take the best three available.

"One of the first things that [Brown] told me when I got traded is that he thinks that I can improve my three-point shooting. He likes the way I shoot the ball, thinks I have a nice stroke. He said I'm gonna take a lot of threes and there may be a lot of misses, but we're going to keep taking them.

"For him to tell not just me that but the whole team, it shows his trust in our ability to shoot the basketball and we've just got to keep letting it go."

The Sixers lack a go-to scorer and rely on constant ball movement, so Anderson will have many more opportunities to let 'em go this season.

How much progress he's able to make in that department will determine whether he becomes a valuable piece in the Covington mold or just another player who came through town during the process.

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

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."

Best of NBA: LeBron James triple-double lifts Cavaliers over Lakers

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Best of NBA: LeBron James triple-double lifts Cavaliers over Lakers

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 59th career triple-double in front of Lonzo Ball and his brothers, Kevin Love scored 28 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers won for the 16th time in 17 games, 121-112 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

James finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to move a tie with Larry Bird for sixth place on the career triple-doubles list. He also put the Lakers away with a dunk and short runner in the final two minutes.

Love scored 13 in the third quarter, when the Cavs opened an 11-point lead on the way to their 10th straight home win. Jose Calderon added a season-high 17 points for Cleveland.

Brandon Ingram scored 26 for the Lakers and Ball had 13 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

It was the first on-court meeting between James and Ball, the Lakers' highly touted rookie whose outspoken father LaVar has brought both attention and animosity toward his son.

LaVar Ball, who did not attend the game, launched his "Big Baller Brand" to promote his three talented sons. James gave them an in-person lesson in the business of basketball (see full recap).

Lee, Knicks top Nets after Porzingis exits
NEW YORK -- Courtney Lee scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half, Michael Beasley added 15, and the New York Knicks held on to beat the Brooklyn Nets 111-104 on Thursday night after losing star forward Kristaps Porzingis to a sore left knee early in the second half.

Porzingis motioned to the bench with 9:25 remaining in the third quarter after contesting a shot made by Brooklyn's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The Knicks' leading scorer had scored 13 points in nearly 18 minutes in the first half.

Enes Kanter had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who earned just their second road victory of the season. Their only other one was Oct. 29 at Cleveland.

Spencer Dinwiddie had 26 points for the Nets, who have dropped the first two games to their city rivals. Hollis-Jefferson added 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting and Caris LeVert added 15 (see full recap).

Drummond helps Pistons snap 7-game skid
ATLANTA -- Andre Drummond had 12 points, 19 rebounds and a career-high nine assists, Tobias Harris added 19 points and the Detroit Pistons snapped a seven-game slide with a 105-91 victory over the NBA-worst Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night.

Avery Bradley finished with 18 points and Langston Galloway scored 17 as Detroit won for the first time since beating Phoenix on Nov. 29.

Ersan Ilyasova had 23 points, John Collins scored 15 and Dennis Schroder had 10 assists for Atlanta, which dropped to 6-22 and has lost three in a row.

The Pistons never trailed after Galloway's 3-pointer early in the second quarter. They led by 13 at halftime when Galloway hit a 20-footer in the closing seconds and went up by 22 on Reggie Bullock's floater midway through the third.

Detroit recovered from a 103-84 home loss Tuesday to Denver, a performance coach Stan Van Gundy called one of the worst "I've ever had to coach" in over 850 career games (see full recap).