Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid give back to local communities

Philadelphia 76ers

Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid give back to local communities

A day after arriving in Philadelphia after a week-long preseason trip to China, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid were out giving back to their communities. 

The first stop for Simmons was William Cramp Elementary School in Kensington, a designated Community School by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

Despite the 80-degree weather, Simmons was helping the kids gear up for winter, handing out brand new coats with Operation Warm, a national nonprofit that creates high-quality coats for children in need. 

“There have been far too many children in the past that haven’t come to school in the winter, because they don’t have a coat,” principal Deanda Logan said. “We are so appreciative.”

But, it was really the time and attention that Simmons was giving to the kids that made all the difference. 

Whether he was shagging balls for the students that were trying to impress him with their jump shots or laughing with them as they were poking his biceps, the best part about the day was the genuine smiles on the kids' faces. 

(And this isn’t just me saying this because it was a community event — watch this video and see for yourself).

And I wasn’t kidding about the biceps…

For Embiid, his first stop was to the local Boys & Girls Club in Northeast Frankford.

After announcing his new partnership with Under Armour (see story) and passing out goodies in the parking lot, Embiid made his way into the gym to hang out with 200 local kids.

“As far as being in the community, helping people — people that don’t have a lot or anything at all, just me giving back here is the first step,” Embiid said.

As the kids chanted, "Trust The Process," Embiid had a message for them.

“My main thing is also that you gotta stay humble. Being from Africa, I learned that … At 16 years old, I left my whole family. I didn’t know how to speak English, I came to a country that I didn’t really know anything about. I just want to show them that anything is possible.”

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The fan responsible for JJ Redick's big night

The fan responsible for JJ Redick's big night

When JJ Redick told me in our postgame walkoff interview (after the Sixers beat the Magic) that he told this “guy courtside” before the game that he was going to hit eight three-pointers, I had to find out: Who is this “courtside guy” and did this actually happen?

Turns out, it most definitely did. 

Before you see the video (oh, yes, there is video proof!), you’ve got to understand the backstory.

It all started when Jared Satkoff, a 32-year-old courtside seat holder, read the NY Times article in May last season about JJ’s “meticulous routines” which included eating the same meals, taking the same two-hour naps, and of course having the same pregame routine before every game. 

You see, Satkoff could relate -- he too eats the same food every day and plans out his clothes for the week and subscribes to the notion of “decision fatigue” but that’s a story for another day.

So before the next game, Jared made sure to tell JJ how much he appreciated him sharing his story, and Redick gave him a “hand pound.”

That “hand pound” was the first of what has now become an additional part of Redick’s routine. 

At first, Satkoff wasn’t sure if JJ would remember him this season, but when the first preseason game rolled around, the pregame hand pound was back in action.

Until the second preseason game, when Satkoff was about eight feet from his normal spot, and Redick was taken aback.

“Dude you threw me off, you’re not in your normal spot.” 

So Jared laughs and says: “True or false: Am I part of your pregame routine?”

From one meticulous man to another, Redick’s smirk said all Satkoff needed to know.

“I sound like such a 32-year-old groupie,” Jared laughs over the phone. “But I’m a grown man, and I just think it’s so cool because I respect his routine.”

It didn’t end after Redick delivered eight threes either (one of which turned out to be the game-winner). Before the postgame shoutout, Redick bolted over to Jared after the game.

“I told you!”

“The fact that he ran over to me…I’m like A. That’s cool as s--- and B. It just shows he’s a class act, it really is. I don’t know many other players that would actually do that.” 

And now for the video evidence.

By the way, Satkoff is going on vacation Nov. 9, when the Sixers play the Hornets.

He plans to tell Redick. Since he’s a part of it now, he doesn’t want to mess with his routine.

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Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Joel Embiid unlocks 'unguardable' level

Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Joel Embiid unlocks 'unguardable' level

Much like the rest of the Sixers, Joel Embiid got off to a slow start Saturday night. He had four points on 2 of 6 shooting and was a minus-13 in the first quarter.

“We started off the game pretty bad,” Embiid said after the Sixers’ 116-115 win over the Orlando Magic. “At one point, I think we were down 16.”

That’s right, but you knew the big fella wouldn’t be held down for long. Whether it was just finding a rhythm or getting amped up by going against his protege Mo Bamba, Embiid started rolling after the opening period.

He torched the Magic in just about every way imaginable. There were the bully ball post moves, the sweet midrange jumpers, one highlight-reel Euro step and even a few threes.

“That was good because I wouldn’t have shot any threes for the rest of the season if I didn’t make one today, but I’m glad I did,” said Embiid, who finished with 32 points, 10 boards and three assists. “It opened up my game and I feel like that’s where I always talk about being unguardable, unstoppable, but making threes just takes you to another level. It is something that I have to focus on. I’ve been focusing on it for the past few days. It is something that I have to keep focusing on because it makes me really unguardable.”

However, Embiid put up a zero in one category that truly makes him dominant: turnovers. The All-Star has struggled with giveaways throughout his young career, but he became the first Sixer since GM Elton Brand in 2011 to have at least 30 points and 10 boards without a turnover.

“A lot of people just think I’m a big man, but I’m a basketball player,” Embiid said. “I am able to do everything that a basketball player can do. From playmaking and scoring to just passing the ball and just being a leader and post presence.”

Closing time for McConnell
With the game hanging in the balance and primary ball-handler Ben Simmons sidelined by back tightness, Brett Brown had a decision to make. Would the head coach put the ball in Markelle Fultz’s hands and give the 20-year-old a critical learning experience? Or would Brown go for the comfort and energy of handing T.J. McConnell the keys?

Brown chose the latter as McConnell finished off the game at point guard for the Sixers.

“Just T.J’s experience,” Brown said of why he picked McConnell. “You get to a stage going into the fourth like, ‘How are you going to sub that? How are you going to play that out? So immediately I probably shrunk it down to that type of rotation. You saw you try to manipulate it where you can get Joel a good rest and JJ (Redick) a rest but then end back with that group. Markelle was a part of that. Then T.J. coming back in, that was my plan for that reason.”

“I thought, ‘Oh my god. I hope that won’t go in.’”

-Dario Saric on Terrence Ross’ 42-foot rainbow to give Orlando the lead with 1:24 remaining in the game

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