76ers

Ben Simmons' best basketball is ahead of him — and that's a scary thought

Ben Simmons' best basketball is ahead of him — and that's a scary thought

Ben Simmons hinted he was planning to shoot more in Disney World. In practices, he made a believer out of Brett Brown, who did little to lessen the hype.

Then in the Sixers’ win over the Grizzlies in their first scrimmage (see observations), Simmons took multiple three-point attempts, making one.

Simmons potentially taking — and making — open threes confidently and with regularity should be a scary thought for the rest of the NBA.

“I get excited and as I said this [yesterday], it’s the paradigm shift, it’s the spirit,” Brown said in a video conference postgame Friday. “He doesn't flinch. The sport told him I’m open, nobody’s guarding me, shoot it and he did. … There wasn’t any hesitation of what’s next, what decision do I have to make now.”

Yes, it was a scrimmage, but Simmons looked natural attempting outside shots. The fact that he even attempted more than one seems encouraging in itself.

The first came in the first quarter as the ball swung to him in the corner. He came up a little short on it. A similar situation arose in the third quarter on a Tobias Harris drive and Simmons again found himself open in the corner. This time, the shot went down.

Simmons addressed the situation in his typical nonchalant way.

“Just play,” Simmons said when asked about hitting a three. “We’ve been practicing, we’ve been working. Just finding that corner, I’m very comfortable over there at shooting those shots, so I’m glad my team is finding me.”

Simmons taking threes will grab all the headlines, but it shouldn’t take away from his overall performance. Starting at power forward for the first time in his young NBA career, Simmons flourished. He had nine assists (with just one turnover), seven rebounds and three steals in a little under 23 minutes.

The change in position didn’t lessen his impact as a playmaker. In some ways, it might make him a more effective one in the half court with the ability to play at the elbow. We got a small glimpse of what the two-man game between Simmons and new starting point guard Shake Milton can do

And it’s not like the position change takes the ball out of Simmons’ hands completely. He’s one of the most dangerous transition players in the NBA. The Sixers still plan to utilize Simmons’ speed and ability to create in the open floor.

“I can almost simplify it like this: On any missed shot, I want Ben with the ball,” Brown said. “Any time the opposition team misses and we’re running, I want Ben Simmons with the ball and let him get to the rim and dunk or find another shooter. It’s really that clean and that simple.

"On made baskets, when it’s a little bit slower and say Joel [Embiid] takes it out, I want Ben taking off and letting him maybe get something cheap over the top or circling back and playing at that elbow area where it’s hard to sag and he’s one dribble at the rim.”

Moving to the four didn’t affect Simmons much defensively. A potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate and All-Defensive First Team selection, Simmons showed off what makes him so special on that end. 

Simmons can guard just about anybody on the floor. The last time the Sixers played the Grizzlies, he was tasked with guarding the explosive Ja Morant, who stands at 6-foot-3, and basically shut the Rookie of the Year favorite down. On Friday, Simmons was mostly charged with defending the 6-foot-11 Jaren Jackson Jr.

The NBA’s leader in steals and defensive loose balls recovered showed his disruptive nature all game long. He helped the Sixers force Memphis into 14 turnovers in the first half. 

He’s still making adjustments offensively, but the move to the four won’t mitigate his defensive prowess.

“I can guard 1-5, I can play everywhere,” Simmons said, “but catch me in those positions and I love those spots. I work on getting touches from those spots, my footwork there. Just got to keep working and take what’s given.”

Simmons didn’t necessarily agree with Brown’s “paradigm shift” assessment but conceded that this is the next step in his evolution as a player.

“I think just changing the style of play, I guess … not really,” Simmons said. “I’m taking what they give me. I’ve been working on the three ball and shooting, so I’ve been feeling comfortable. Still getting to the rack too, I can attack and find my guys. … Still trying to play my game and trying to evolve and be a better player.”

Already a two-time All-Star, Simmons just turned 24 earlier this week. We’ve already seen what he can do at 6-foot-10 with guard skills offensively. He’s taken his game on the defensive end to another level this season. If the three becomes a normal part of his game to the point where defenses can’t sag off him, that should be a frightening thought for the rest of the league. 

Even scarier is that Simmons’ best basketball appears to be in front of him.

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Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid (left ankle) out against Suns; Ben Simmons has surgery

Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid (left ankle) out against Suns; Ben Simmons has surgery

The Sixers’ injury update on Monday was a long one. 

Joel Embiid is out for Tuesday’s game against the Suns with the left ankle injury he sustained in the first quarter Sunday vs. the Blazers. He’ll be undergoing treatment and evaluation at the team’s practice Monday night.

Brett Brown wasn’t sure if Embiid would play Wednesday vs. the Raptors, but he expects the three-time All-Star to appear again before the postseason and indicated he doesn't view the injury as serious. The Sixers’ last seeding contest has been officially assigned for Friday at 9 p.m. against the Rockets. 

“I do expect him to,” Brown said. “That’s just one man’s opinion. Nobody’s doing cartwheels over, ‘It’s something severe,’ one. Two, I do believe it would be good for him to play before the playoffs begin.”

Josh Richardson, who scored 34 points against Portland, will rest Tuesday. Tobias Harris is questionable with right ankle soreness and Al Horford is questionable with left knee soreness. Harris hasn’t missed a game this season, while Horford said in July, “I probably wasn’t where I wanted to be” physically earlier in the season but felt “in a much better place” after being able to rest during the NBA’s hiatus. 

The length of the injury report is not surprising after Brown on Sunday seemed receptive when asked about possibly restricting minutes for key players in the team’s final three seeding games.

“I think it’s true ... where you want an honest sort of medical assessment of anything that equals a potential problem — you just want to avoid (it),” he said. “And landing the plane and entering the playoffs from this vision line of a bubble and time off and tiptoeing on pins and needles where you don’t want people to get injured, and then still find a rhythm, that’s a slippery slope. 

“You mentioned Jo. I think the question extends to people like Al Horford, as an example. Making sure Tobias is in a place where we can manage his minutes going forward and still find that balance of trying to compete and find a rhythm.”

Ben Simmons was the other player on Monday’s report. 

The 24-year-old had successful surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee, the team said, performed by Dr. Chris Dodson from Rothman Orthopaedic Institute. He’ll begin rehabilitation in Philadelphia immediately and will have a post-operative evaluation in approximately two weeks. 

Mike Scott, who missed the Sixers’ first three seeding games with right knee soreness, said he’s feeling well now. He saw time as a small-ball center against the Trail Blazers, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds, and will likely assume a key role on Tuesday.

“Just a little swelling,” he said of his knee. “Had to get it drained, so it was kind of holding me down a little bit, but it feels better now. Got it drained, so feeling a lot better.”

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Sixers Talk podcast: A lot more questions than answers right now

getty-joel-embiid-injury.jpg
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Sixers Talk podcast: A lot more questions than answers right now

On this edition of the Sixers Talk podcast, we discuss the health of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, whether the All-Star duo should stay together and much more.

(0:32) — Embiid suffers an injury and Lillard drops 51.
(9:16) — Don't expect a deep playoff run.
(14:30) — More pressure on Shake Milton or Josh Richardson going forward?
(21:41) — Will Brett Brown get a pass if the Sixers don't succeed?
(34:39) — Here we go with the trading Embiid or Simmons talk again.

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