76ers

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

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Photo courtesy of Sixers' Twitter account

Ben Simmons takes 4 families on holiday shopping spree

Four families gathered in a roped-off waiting area adorned with Sixers decor inside of a Philadelphia Target store. They were told they were getting a surprise Thursday evening, but they didn't know who or what until a car pulled up outside ... and Ben Simmons walked through the door.

Simmons gave each family a $1,000 shopping spree right then and there. The room erupted in cheer.

"Beautiful," a mother exclaimed at the news. One child put his head in his hands in disbelief when he saw Simmons. Another said, "This is the best day ever."

"It's one of those things I always wanted to do growing up," Simmons, who came up with the idea for the shopping trip on his own, said. "It's the perfect time, season of giving. It just means a lot for me to be able to do this for some families."

The towering 6-foot-10 point guard walked through the store on Monument Road with each family and helped them choose their gifts along the way. 

They headed straight to the toy section, where the children piled in Legos, dolls and anything else that grabbed their attention. Then it was on to electronics. One child filled his cart with video games and a gaming system. Another family selected a television and soundbar. 

Shopping carts accumulated quickly as the kids ran in and out of aisles with bright smiles on their faces.

"Seeing them pick out what they want, not having to worry about it, I think that was the biggest thing," Simmons said. "It was a great time. I had a lot of fun, can't wait to do it next year."

The recipients were selected through Unity in the Community, a nonprofit organization based in South Philadelphia. Each had been through tough times in the past year and this trip helped to put the happy in their holidays.

"They can enjoy it now," Simmons said. "It's great for them to have no worries, especially on Christmas."

Sixers 127, Bulls 108: Markelle Fultz's 1st regular-season 3-pointer and Ben Simmons' triple-double headline win

Sixers 127, Bulls 108: Markelle Fultz's 1st regular-season 3-pointer and Ben Simmons' triple-double headline win

BOX SCORE 

When Markelle Fultz got the ball, it felt a little bit like the Flyers were on the power play — there was a chorus of “shoot!” from the Wells Fargo Center crowd. Two minutes into the game, despite the Bulls' Cameron Payne playing well off him, Fultz turned down a generous invitation at a wide-open three-pointer from the left corner and dribbled into traffic instead.

It wasn't what the crowd came to see, and it wasn't an encouraging sign for Fultz or the Sixers. To Fultz's credit, however, he didn't stop shooting.

The fans went wild when he made his first regular-season three-pointer early in the fourth quarter.

He finished with 12 points on 5 for 15 shooting after an extended fourth-quarter stint with the game out of Chicago's reach.

Fultz was the man in the spotlight Thursday night, but the Sixers' two dependable stars led the team to a home-opening win, 127-108. Here are some observations from the first victory of the season:

• Ben Simmons recorded his first of what will be many triple-doubles this season, posting 13 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, and it almost doesn't feel worthy of more than a cursory note — that's how easy he makes it look. Outside of his reliable stat-sheet stuffing, Simmons' defense has been incredibly impressive. Brett Brown's preseason goal of Simmons making an All-Defensive team seems very attainable.

• Joel Embiid attempted only five free throws in the opener against the Celtics. That’s not going to happen very often this season. Embiid was his usual dominant self in the low post against the Bulls and rookie Wendell Carter Jr., posting 30 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. He made 12 of his 14 free throws. 

• The Sixers' best five is still clearly last season's starting lineup. The 18-0 run that group went on early in the third quarter turned a surprisingly close game into the blowout most expected.

• Bobby Portis and Zach LaVine were on fire early for the Bulls. The two combined for 28 points on 11 for 12 shooting in the first quarter, as the Bulls posted 41 points in the period. The Sixers didn’t allow 40 or more points in a first quarter all of last season. 

• Brown’s usage of Fultz against the Bulls was much closer to the plan he outlined at the beginning of the season, with the emphasis on getting Fultz as many minutes as possible at the point. Brown mostly either played Fultz when Simmons sat or put Simmons at the four when Fultz was in the game. Fultz ran the point late in the first and early in the second quarter for an intriguing lineup with shooters JJ Redick and Landry Shamet on the wings. 

• Brown told reporters pregame he expects to be without new acquisitions Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala “for a while.” Chandler is out with a hamstring strain suffered in the Sixers’ first preseason game, while Muscala is sidelined with an ankle sprain. 

Those absences have opened up a spot for the rookie Shamet, who played well against the Bulls after scoring just one point in 12 minutes in his NBA debut. Shamet had 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting from three-point range on Thursday.

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More on the Sixers

Introducing 'Sixers Outsiders', premiering October 20 on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Introducing 'Sixers Outsiders', premiering October 20 on NBC Sports Philadelphia

NBC Sports Philadelphia, the home of the Authentic Fan, is launching “Sixers Outsiders”, a new, interactive program for Sixers fans, by Sixers fans.

Hosts Tyrone Johnson and Krystle Rich –- both huge fans -- will provide their own unique take on that night’s game, with interaction on social media. “Sixers Outsiders” makes its debut on Saturday, October 20 immediately following “Sixers Postgame Live” on NBC Sports Philadelphia and the MyTeams by NBC Sports App.

During “Sixers Outsiders” Johnson (@TyJohnsonNews) and Rich (@KrystleRich) will provide viewers with the hottest takes, insightful analysis, and spirited commentary with interaction from fellow fans on social media. Fans can get a sneak peak of their new show this Thursday, October 18 during “Sixers Postgame Live.”

Johnson is currently the producer for The Mike Missanelli Show which is simulcast on NBC Sports Philadelphia. He previously produced the nationally syndicated Buck Sexton Show for iHeartMedia. In addition to his previous work at 97.5, Tyrone’s other experience includes time spent at Wall Street Journal Radio, New Jersey 101.5 and WHYY-FM/Philadelphia.

Rich, a South Jersey native, is coming from Los Angeles, California where she served as a Sports Reporter for Time Warner Cable Network (now Spectrum SportsNet). She produced her own 30-minute show and reported on professional athletes and famous influencers. Rich is also a two-time award winning producer for the NFL Network/Digital Media in L.A. Rich also worked on shows like “NFL Fantasy Live.”