Brett Brown

Sixers still unsure whether Fultz will return this season

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Sixers still unsure whether Fultz will return this season

Will Markelle Fultz play this season or won’t he? 

With 14 games left before the playoffs, that is the constant question for the Sixers. 

“I truly don’t know,” Brett Brown said Friday. 

The Sixers have not put a timeframe on making a decision about Fultz’s availability for the remainder of his rookie year. He has not played since Oct. 23 because of a right shoulder injury, which affected his shot early in the season. 

“We speak internally but we really haven’t set a hard date, X amount of games, X date,” Brown said. “We’re letting this thing sort of play out. I do understand, we understand, that at some point very soon some final decisions will have to be made.”

Videos of Fultz shooting after practices, shootarounds and during pregame drills have provided insight into his progress. Each release is watched on replay as Sixers fans yearn to see the complete turnaround of his offense. 

“The marketplace and you (the media) see what we see too: We see him getting better,” Brown said. “I also know that this decision that we’re speaking of will be generated very much in a collaborative spirit led by him. We have medical people, we have coaches, we have Markelle Fultz, the player. It’s all kind of fluid.”

The Sixers (38-30) are entering a key stage in their schedule in which every game is counting toward their playoff positioning. Incorporating a new player into the rotations, which Brown has been tightening up, could present challenges with such little time left in the regular season. Fultz also would need to adjust to the pace of the NBA game and get immersed in a system where he could take on some ball-handling responsibilities. 

Brown said the potential reward would outweigh the risk if Fultz were cleared to play. 

“What he does in open court, what he does with a live ball, I think that he’s very different than any player that we have,” Brown said. "What I see in practice at times, you understand completely why he was the first person chosen in the NBA draft.”

For a situation with so many complexities over the course of the season, Brown's reasoning for wanting to play Fultz is very simple.

"Because he can make us better," Brown said. 

Wait, Ben Simmons might not be a PG forever?

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Wait, Ben Simmons might not be a PG forever?

NEW YORK — Ben Simmons was on the verge of becoming an All-Star NBA point guard in only his first season. But is that position set in stone for the rest of his career? Not necessarily, according to Brett Brown.

"I think to anoint him 'you're only a point guard forever' is not in my mind," Brown said before the Sixers' 118-110 win over the Knicks. "I think it's going to be a one (point guard) or a four (power forward), that's where I see him."

Simmons doesn't have his sights sets on an or in this situation. 

"Definitely a one, not four," Simmons said. "I don't want to play a four. I mean, I'll play the four but I don't want to be predominantly in the four position because I feel like I can do a lot more from the point guard position, as you've seen."

The 6-10 Simmons has been powering through the one spot and setting milestones along the way. He passed Magic Johnson for second-most triple-doubles by an NBA rookie (eight) with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists Thursday against the Knicks. Simmons now ranks second among rookies behind only Oscar Robertson, who holds the record at 26. 

He also joined Oscar and Magic as the only three players to reach 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in a rookie season. Simmons is averaging 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals in 34.5 minutes. 

Despite those stats and Simmons' pass-first mentality, Brown still sees an opportunity at power forward. 

"There could be advantages with other four men, slower four men, trying to guard him," Brown said. "Right now, I try to post him a lot. I think that's offensively, if the game is slowed down, where he can have the most impact. But I think four-one, one-four is sort of where my mind is at, tilting more to a one." 

All of this is not to say Simmons is replacing Dario Saric in the starting lineup at power forward tomorrow. It still remains to be seen how the Sixers pair Simmons and sidelined rookie Markelle Fultz, who can play point and shooting guard. The design of rotations could also change because of additions in free agency. 

"We'll look at that as our team's future unfolds," Brown said.

In the meantime, Simmons knows where he wants to be on the court. 

"If he tries to (move me to power forward), I'll let him know," Simmons said with a smile. "We have such a great relationship where I can talk to him. I wouldn't be opposed to trying it, but if it just didn't feel right then obviously I'd let him know."

Embiid ditches tape for dominance in Sixers' comeback

Embiid ditches tape for dominance in Sixers' comeback


NEW YORK — Joel Embiid brushed off concern over taping his left wrist Thursday leading up to the Sixers’ game against the Knicks.

“It’s just swag,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 118-110 win (see observations). “I just wanted to look swaggy, so I thought it was a great look for me. Some type of new swag. That’s why I had it.”

Embiid’s wrist was taped during morning shootaround and pregame warmups. He did not wear it during the game. 

“It’s been feeling weird lately, but I don’t think it’s anything,” Embiid said. “I’ve been playing alright, so I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.” 

Embiid played more than alright Thursday at Madison Square Garden. He erased any uneasiness of a potential injury with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. The big man scored 13 points in the first quarter alone. 

With 2:26 to go in the game, he blocked an attempted layup by Emmanuel Mudiay that would have given the Knicks back the lead.

“He was the major reason we won tonight,” Brett Brown said. “Joel was our bell ringer tonight. Tomorrow is his birthday. It was a good present we all had with his performance tonight.”

The sight of Embiid's wrist probably would not have raised an eyebrow for most players — athletes wear medical tape every game — but the center’s lengthy injury history and his importance to the Sixers were enough to cause concern.

He is averaging 23.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. After playing under medical restrictions to start his career, Embiid has appeared in 12 straight games. 

Embiid is slated to spend his 24th birthday taking on the Nets Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.