On eve of Sixers summer league debut, Ben Simmons eager to prove worthy of No. 1 pick

On eve of Sixers summer league debut, Ben Simmons eager to prove worthy of No. 1 pick

SALT LAKE CITY -- When it comes to measuring his potential as a pro basketball player in the NBA, Ben Simmons isn't thinking like other rookies. Simmons is already looking at the top players in the league and seeing what he needs to do to bring his game up to their levels.

How he compares with other rookies doesn't matter to the former LSU star. Faring well against the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durrant is a greater driving force in his development.

“Those are the guys I have to be facing, so I have to get ready for them,” Simmons said. “I respect everybody. I don't fear anyone. So when we go into every game, I'm willing to put in the work to win.”

Simmons will get his first chance to show what he can do for the Sixers when they meet the Boston Celtics in the Utah Jazz summer league opener on Monday. The Sixers will also play the San Antonio Spurs and the Jazz this week before facing the Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors next week in the Las Vegas summer league.

He and fellow first round draft pick Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot practiced with the summer league team for the first time on Sunday, a day after they signed their rookie contracts.

The native Australian showed a little rust on day one, but it didn't diminish the thrill Simmons felt finally lacing up his shoes and getting out on the court again.

“It feels so good to be a part of a team,” Simmons said. “Just being on the court. It's the first time I've played since my final game at LSU.”

The spotlight will be fixed on the Sixers' top pick throughout his time in the Salt Lake City and Las Vegas – on and off the court. Being the No. 1 overall pick creates a natural target. Simmons knows other rookies want nothing more than to prove themselves at his expense.

Not only is he anticipating getting everyone's best shot, he's welcoming it.

“I know a lot of people will be coming for me because I got that No. 1 spot,” Simmons said. “It's always been like that for me since high school. Everyone has always wanted to go at me and have that shot. It's fun. I love getting the challenge.”

Simmons made a good first impression with the Sixers' coaching staff on his first day of practice. His size, his athletic play and his passing ability drew praise from head coach Brett Brown. In his limited time seeing Simmons so far, Brown already likes how Simmons is fitting into the team culture with his unselfish play.

Brown saw this kind of potential from Simmons during his lone season at LSU. In 33 games with the Tigers, Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 34.9 minutes per contest.

"He just finds awesome joy and enthusiasm in sharing the basketball and that becomes contagious," Brown said.

Simmons is the latest talent to come out of a burgeoning Australian basketball pipeline. He is the second top five pick from the country in the last three seasons after the Jazz selected Dante Exum fifth overall in 2014. Exum is a close friend and former teammate of Simmons. He described the Jazz point guard as being like a brother to him.

Simmons sees both he and Exum making it to the NBA as a positive sign for the sport's growth in his home country. Their success, he believes, will only make it easier for other Australians to pursue their NBA dreams.

“There's a lot of talent back there,” Simmons said. “A lot of Australian players coming into the NBA helps kids back home get recruited. It's a lot easier for them to adjust this system and get a lot more looks from colleges.”

NBA admits mistake that leaves Sixers scratching their heads

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NBA admits mistake that leaves Sixers scratching their heads

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers were right.

The Sixers argued they should have set up at halfcourt, not fullcourt, for a decisive final possession of double overtime in Friday’s game against the Thunder. After a closer look following their triple-overtime loss, the NBA ruled the Sixers were proved correct. 

“After review, it was determined that the 76ers called timeout with 00:01.2 remaining on the game clock, which was prior to Saric's (PHI) dribble. Therefore, they should have been given the opportunity to advance the ball into their own frontcourt for the inbound,” the NBA Officiating’s Last Two Minute Report noted.

The confusion occurred at the end of the second overtime. Dario Saric got a defensive rebound and the Sixers called a timeout before he dribbled the ball. Because of this, the Sixers should have been allowed to set up a final play in the halfcourt, which is exactly what they had practiced and called.

But the referees made a last-second change as the Sixers were setting up. The Sixers were told they had to inbound from fullcourt, which would have been the case if Saric had dribbled before the timeout. The Last Two Minute Report indicated he, in fact, did not. 

“Respect that they are that transparent, but complete disappointment that it can happen,” Brett Brown said Sunday. “You really scratch your head. It’s significant.”

Every play, every basket can make a difference for a team fighting to make the playoffs. The Sixers were confident they could have won the game with the halfcourt play. Instead, they dropped back down to .500 and currently 10 in the Eastern Conference.

“Those things you need to avoid to give yourself every chance to win,” Brown said. “We can point to many other things that were self-inflicted wounds that we’ve got to do better. But when it’s that exposed and that prominent of an environment with 1.2 seconds left, it’s disappointing. But like I say, they’re transparent. I respect the fact they admitted it and we move on.”

Joel Embiid out Monday against Bulls; 2 other Sixers sidelined

Joel Embiid out Monday against Bulls; 2 other Sixers sidelined

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid does not play both games of a back-to-back, but whether he plays in either of the Sixers' next two matchups will have to be determined.

Embiid is not traveling with the Sixers to Chicago for Monday’s game against the suddenly-streaking Bulls, who have won five straight. The big man usually plays at home in these scenarios, and considering he played 49 minutes in Friday’s triple-overtime loss, the decision was expected.

Embiid’s availability for Tuesday at home against the Kings, though, has not been finalized at this point. This is not surprising either being two days ahead of the game. Embiid, who has been dealing with back tightness, did not participate in practice Sunday. The Sixers will evaluate, monitor, and go through treatment with Embiid before making their call.

“Unsure at this stage,” Brett Brown said Sunday. “I do know he’s categorically out tomorrow and we’re going to learn more about him being available when we come back [for] Sacramento, I’d expect in the next 24 hours.”

The Sixers do know they will be without another two players for some time.

Trevor Booker will miss at least the next two games after suffering spraining his left ankle Friday. The newly acquired reserve will be reevaluated in approximately five-to-seven days.

Even though Booker was traded to the Sixers less than two weeks ago, he already made an impact on the second unit. Brown has seen enough over the last four games to know what the team will be missing.

“His toughness,” Brown said. “He’s got a motor. He plays with such a spirit. He’s a man. He’s a pro. He’s been in the league for a while. He gets it. It’s everything that you miss. It’s really everything this team needs.”

Furkan Korkmaz likely will be sidelined even longer. The rookie suffered a Lisfranc injury on his left foot while playing for the Delaware 87ers on Dec. 15 and is out indefinitely. The Sixers recalled Korkmaz from the G League and he is going through evaluation and testing. There is no timetable set for Korkmaz at this point.  

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons described the injury as, “Lisfranc (midfoot) injuries result if bones in the midfoot are broken or ligaments that support the midfoot are torn. The severity of the injury can vary from simple to complex, involving many joints and bones in the midfoot.”

Korkmaz has been going back and forth between the Sixers and their G League affiliate in Delaware to get playing opportunities as part of his development in his first NBA season.