Brett Brown spent Ben Simmons' entire missed season teaching him to be a great PG

Brett Brown spent Ben Simmons' entire missed season teaching him to be a great PG

Ben Simmons may have only played his first pro game a couple of short weeks ago, but he's been learning and mastering the NBA game from Professor Brett Brown since the moment he joined the Sixers organization.

Simmons has been so impressive in the first 20 games of his NBA career that he's already getting the Lee Jenkins-Sports Illustrated feature story treatment.

Jenkins makes the obvious comparisons to the great LeBron James given their size and amazing ability to see the game. 

Ben and LeBron described their relationship like that of a little and big brother.

They're not the same player, as Jenkins writes, but there are plenty of similarities and a very interesting mentoring situation exists between an all-time legend and a youngster who hopes to be one and has a legit chance to see it through. There's a ton to digest in the article, like Simmons having the super-quick reflexes of the Karate Kid -- "A fly buzzes by his head and he catches it with a wave of his right hand" -- so the whole piece is worth a read for any basketball fan.

The part that I found most interesting and worth highlighting here was the education Ben went through during his season on the bench. Simmons got his Masters in Running the Point in just one year under Professor Brett Brown's tutelage. 

The debate over Simmons’s position raged inside the 76ers’ offices throughout the summer of 2016. Coaches finally decided on power forward, and for the first three days of training camp, that’s where he stayed. The injury gave Brown time to reconsider. “I want to try something,” Brown told Simmons, shortly after foot surgery. “I want to grow you as a point guard.” Every few days, they met in Brown’s office to watch video of LeBron James, as well as the best oversized ballhandler of all: Magic Johnson. “Here’s the play,” Brown would start. “What do you see? Why do you see that? Well, what read would you make? If they hedge in this pick-and-roll, tell me what’s open. Tell me why.” When they finished talking, Brown sent Simmons to the grease board. “Draw this play,” he’d say clasping his hands. “And this,” brushing his shoulder. They juxtaposed James’s Finals cut-ups with Simmons’s Montverde clips.

Brown had suffered 199 losses in three seasons, and was headed for 50-plus more, yet he invested all his spare time in a rehabbing rookie who wouldn’t touch the floor for a year. Who knew if he’d even be employed then? During road trips, Brown asked Simmons to text him observations at half, and at home games, assistant coach Billy Lange sought him out on the bench for feedback. This was college, for somebody who didn’t think much of college, as the One and Done Showtime documentary illustrated. Simmons still worries that college programs don’t fully prepare their brightest members for the next step. “Getting you ready to live that lifestyle,” Simmons says, “teaching you to take care of your money, take care of your body. If you’re not going to pay them, at least pay them in that way.” 

Just another reason to love Brett Brown. And who better to model Ben's game after than LeBron and Magic?

So when you watch Simmons go out every night and do something amazing, be it a triple double or approach a rare 20-20 night, know that he wasn't simply sitting at home playing video games all of last season while his teammates worked hard in the gym. He was studying the game's all-time greats and getting quizzed by the likes of Brett Brown in real time.

"For a rookie he is extremely poised — way more poised than I ever could have imagined," veteran teammate JJ Redick said of Ben. Now you partly know why.

Strive for greatness and all that. Ben Simmons certainly is.

Eagles fans give MetLife Stadium a real fan experience

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Eagles fans give MetLife Stadium a real fan experience

First, it was StubHub Center in Carson, California, on Oct. 1. Then it was the Los Angeles Coliseum last week.

This time, on Sunday, it was a turnpike drive to MetLife Stadium. 

Eagles fans travel — we know that. An Eagles game in North Jersey? It's nothing new, Eagles-Giants, no matter how big of a ghastly mess the New York football Giants are right now, will always attract plenty of Birds fans. But this is quite something.

Eagles fans on Sunday gave MetLife Stadium — which has been open for seven years now — a baptism of what real fan experience looks like, writes the New York Daily News' Gary Miles:

Thanks to the Eagles fans, we found out MetLife Stadium can actually be as loud as Giants Stadium used to be. This is the eighth year for the new stadium and it hasn't jumped like the old place.

It's hard to say more than 50% of the stadium were Eagles fans, but they seemed to account for 75% of the noise, even more down the stretch when they were chanting, "Defense, defense, defense," on the Giants last drive.

This was worse than late in the 1978 season when fans burned tickets, rented an airplane to fly over the stadium pleading for the end of bad football and hung Wellington Mara in effigy from the mezzanine.

The Eagles fans invaded and the only retribution was cops handcuffed a fan wearing an Eagles No. 11 jersey and escorting him through the bowels of the stadium after the game.

Well done, Eagles fans. Well done.

Grading the Eagles' 34-29 win over the Giants in Week 15

Grading the Eagles' 34-29 win over the Giants in Week 15

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Grading the Eagles' 34-29 win Sunday afternoon over the New York Giants at the MetLife Stadium (see breakdown):

Nick Foles: 24/38, 237 YDS, 4 TD

Foles was far from perfect, missing his share of open receivers. He also wasn't afraid to stand in the pocket and take a hit or push the ball downfield. Foles threw a touchdown pass on four of the Eagles' six trips inside the red zone. Perhaps most importantly, he avoided the negative plays, taking only one sack and finishing the game without a turnover. You can't ask for much more from a backup.

Grade: A

Jay Ajayi: 12 ATT, 49 YDS, 2 REC, 40 YDS

The Eagles went with a running back by committee approach in the first half to only middling results. In the second half, they turned the reins over to Ajayi, who quickly racked up the offense's long gains of the day — a 22-yard rush and a 32-yard reception. Not sensational production by any means, but at least there weren't any fumbles.

Grade: C+

Nelson Agholor: 9 TAR, 7 REC, 59 YDS, 1 TD

The performance of these receivers with the backup quarterback at the helm is deserving of some respect. Agholor led the team in receptions and receiving yards, and Alshon Jeffery added four receptions for 49 and a score. Torrey Smith drew a pass interference penalty to set up six for the Eagles as well. With or without Carson Wentz under center, this is still a dangerous bunch (see Roob's observations).

Grade: A-

Zach Ertz: 9 TAR, 6 REC, 56 YDS, 1 TD

Another week, another stellar game for Eagles tight ends. Ertz picked up right where he left off with a big day after missing the previous week, while Trey Burton tacked on two receptions for 15 yards and a score as well.

Grade: A

Chance Warmack: Started at left guard

Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled with the speed of All-Pro defensive end Olivier Vernon off the edge, allowing four quarterback hits and a sack. Warmack had trouble keeping his feet and reaching his landmarks is the running game. Of course, you can only expect so much when the left side of the O-line consists of backups. Vaitai and Warmack were adequate, even very good at times, and settled in as the game went along to the point where protection was actually solid in the second half.

Grade: B+

Brandon Graham: 4 TKL, 2 TFL, 1.0 SK

The Giants rely on quick passes, negating the Eagles' pass rush to some extent, but the defense was able to generate some mild pressure. Vinny Curry had a sack erased by a penalty in the secondary, and Fletcher Cox got to the quarterback on a two-point conversion attempt. Otherwise, it was a quiet day up front, though the Giants were limited to 75 yards rushing on 3.3 yards per carry.

Grade: B

Nigel Bradham: 11 TKL, 1 TFL, 2 PD

Both Bradham and Mychal Kendricks with nine tackles were extremely active, as the Giants worked the middle of the field hard with their power running game and short slants. Bradham had a chance to put the game on ice late in the fourth quarter but dropped what could've been an easy interception.

Grade: B

Ronald Darby: 5 TKL, 3 PD, 1 INT

The secondary got off to a horrendous start, allowing 14th-year veteran Eli Manning to set a career high with 252 yards passing in the first half of a game. Darby's interception and 37-yard return while trailing 20-7 in the second quarter flipped the momentum a bit. The coverage was perfect, and Darby's run to the Giants' 20-yard line was even better. Manning went back to work in the second half, racking up 427 yards and three touchdowns. This was supposed to be the 31st-ranked passing offense in the NFL. Not good.

Grade: C-

Eagles: 3 blocked kicks

Derek Barnett blocked an extra point attempt in the first quarter, which turned out to be a huge play. Kamu Grugier-Hill followed up Darby's pick with a blocked punt on the following possession. Malcolm Jenkins blocked a field goal, too. And Jake Elliott was perfect on field goals and extra points. Yet, Najee Goode nearly undid all of it. Goode's totally unnecessary neutral zone infraction on a Giants punt in the third quarter extended a failed drive, eventually resulting in a touchdown. The rest of the unit bailed him out.

Grade: A-

Eagles' record: 12-2

This was not Jim Schwartz's best work. The Eagles' defense seemed wholly unprepared for the exact same offense the Giants ran against them in Week 3 — the same offense they run every week. There's no reason for Manning to go over 400 yards. None. Some of the issues were the poor play on the part of the defensive backs, but the game plan was questionable as well.

Otherwise, great job by Doug Pederson to rally the troops after falling behind by 13 in the first half. It didn't look like the offense dialed anything back at all with Foles under center, which was the right call, too. When the team scores 34 with the backup quarterback, the coach is doing something right.

Grade: B-