Sixers hold another team-building event with ping pong tournament

Photo courtesy of the Sixers

Sixers hold another team-building event with ping pong tournament

CAMDEN, N.J. — First a surprise visit from Charles Barkley at Brett Brown’s house, then a spirited ping pong tournament in the city. 

The Sixers held another training camp team-building event Thursday night at Spin Philadelphia. Players and staff took part in a field-of-64 competition in which Jerryd Bayless topped Brett Brown for the title. 

"Any time somebody brings their own ping pong paddle, you know you're in trouble,” Brown said at practice Friday. 

Bayless delivered his A-game. He credited his skills to playing in matches at Boys and Girls Clubs growing up. The veteran guard wasn’t that concerned about his competition, anyway.

“It’s not that hard,” Bayless said of beating Brown. 

When asked about knocking out his teammates en route to the finals, he laughed, “Yeah, they’re not that good either.” 

Bayless ultimately met his match when he faced off against a 14-time ping-pong champion from Sweden. 

“Any pros, they can beat me,” he said. “But if you’re not a pro, you’re probably not going to beat me.” 

Brown took his loss in stride. Not surprisingly, he used a basketball reference to accept the defeat.

“I said to Ben (Simmons) and Markelle (Fultz), ‘If Washington and LSU could’ve got to the finals of the NCAA Tournament and you would’ve just got crushed, you would’ve been embarrassed on national TV vs. not making it, which one would you choose?’” Brown said. “They said, I’d rather go to the Finals and be crushed. 

“I said, ‘Well, that’s what happened to me. I was crushed in front of the team.’”

That’s not to say Brown’s appearance in the title round should be discounted. He beat strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Simmons along the way. 

“Coach Brown beat me, I’ll give him that,” Simmons said. “I wasn’t sure if he was going to be quite the player, but I was a little rusty.” 

Brown has incorporated non-basketball activities throughout training camp. Earlier in the week, the team got together at his house where the Sixers arranged for Barkley to speak with the players. 

“Everybody had a really good time,” Bayless said of ping pong. “We’ve had four really good days here. Trying to get away from this for a night and then pick it back up today I think was a good idea. It was really a lot of fun.” 

(Photos courtesy of the Sixers)

Sixers hope they have Embiid tonight vs. reigning MVP

AP Images

Sixers hope they have Embiid tonight vs. reigning MVP

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is listed as questionable while the Sixers need all hands on deck to defend Russell Westbrook.

The big man's status tonight is uncertain 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

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."