76ers

Ben Simmons turns Saturday's boos into cheers Monday in Sixers' blowout win

Ben Simmons turns Saturday's boos into cheers Monday in Sixers' blowout win

Ben Simmons did not have a great day Saturday.

The Sixers’ point guard had an uninspiring performance in the team’s Game 1 loss. The crowd let him know about it. He then let the crowd know how he felt about them voicing their displeasure.

It went over as poorly as you would’ve expected.

But as quickly as Philadelphia fans will turn on you, they’re just as quick to open their arms back up. 

Simmons on Monday won the Wells Fargo Center crowd back over in a 145-123 drubbing of the Nets in Game 2 of the first-round series (see observations)

Aggression seemed to be the buzzword for Simmons at practice Sunday and he made sure it wasn’t just talk. 

“Ben’s ability was driven through just a really aggressive mentality,” Brett Brown said. “Connected a lot of the dots on defense and then to the [51-point third quarter] we had, was significant. When I go back and start accumulating, ‘How did we get that many points?’ or ‘How did we reduce them to this many points?’ driven by they had zero three-point shots, you’re going to see [Simmons] featured a lot.”

Simmons took the ball to the rim off the opening tip. He missed the shot, but it noticeably set a tone for Simmons and the entire Sixers’ offense. 

Simmons went on to record his second career playoff triple-double, posting 18 points (8 of 12 shooting), 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Four players in franchise history recorded a triple-double in a playoff game while shooting at least 65 percent: Wilt Chamberlain, Charles Barkley, Maurice Cheeks and now Simmons. Only three players in NBA history have averaged at least 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the playoffs (minimum 10 games): Magic Johnson, LeBron James and Simmons.

For as much as we’ve all gone over Simmons’ struggles in the postseason, it’s fair to note that he’s had his share of special performances.

Monday night will go down as one of his finest.

“I mean, he’s the point guard,” Joel Embiid said. “When you see him play with that type of energy, it picks you up, it lifts you up and it makes you want to play the same way. I thought tonight Ben was fantastic, and that’s the energy we need for the rest of this series and the playoffs.”

Simmons gave the sellout crowd some energy as well.

Midway through the first quarter, Simmons grabbed the rebound off a D’Angelo Russell missed three. He took it all the way to the rim with a strong finish against Jarrett Allen. On his way down the other end of the court, he raised his arms, imploring the crowd to get louder.

And they obliged. It was a cool moment that signified Simmons and Sixers fans moving on from Saturday’s mess.

While offense is great, Simmons also got the place jumping with his defense. He’s done a fantastic job on Russell, holding the All-Star guard to 16 of 41 shooting (39 percent) through two games. He shut Russell out during the Sixers’ dominant third quarter.

When he made a great defensive play, stealing a bad Allen pass away from Russell and finishing at the other end, he evoked the great Allen Iverson, cupping his ear to the crowd.

“I was thinking about the boos from last game,” Simmons said jokingly. “I got a lot of love for this city and the fans here. Every time I step on the floor I try and play as hard as I can. I was just showing that. The hustle I try and give each and every game is not only for my teammates, my family, it’s for the city.”

All seems to be forgiven.

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Source: Sixers, Ben Simmons reach 5-year deal worth $170 million

Source: Sixers, Ben Simmons reach 5-year deal worth $170 million

While it felt inevitable, it is now official.

The Sixers have signed All-Star Ben Simmons to a rookie max contract extension for five years and $170 million, a team source confirms to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Shams Charania of The Athletic was the first to report the deal.

While Simmons still has work to do on his jump shot and game as a whole, there was more risk in not getting this deal done. It was a no-brainer for both sides. 

Simmons, who will turn 23 later this month, was a first-time All-Star in 2018-19. It’s clear the Sixers view the Australia native as a franchise player for years to come.

(more coming...) 

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James Ennis won Brett Brown's 'quiet tournament' last season, but a new one could be coming for Sixers in 2019-20

James Ennis won Brett Brown's 'quiet tournament' last season, but a new one could be coming for Sixers in 2019-20

By early May, when James Ennis had outscored the Raptors’ bench through the first three games of the Sixers’ second-round playoff series against Toronto, Brett Brown’s “quiet tournament” felt like a distant memory.

About three months earlier, though, Ennis hadn’t left the Sixers’ bench in a game against the Celtics. Jonathon Simmons and Furkan Korkmaz instead combined for 25 minutes in a 112-109 loss to Boston on Feb. 13 as Brown experimented with the newest version of his team, searching for an adequate second-unit wing. Neither Simmons or Korkmaz are currently on the Sixers’ roster.

“It was tough at first because I was unsure if I was going to play,” Ennis said at his exit interview on May 13. “Me and Jonathon were play one game, sit one game, so it was kind of rocky at first. But I got more games under my belt, got more comfortable, and it just took off like that. I appreciate the staff believing in me, Elton Brand bringing me here and Coach Brown allowing me to play.”

Ennis’ spot seems secure for the upcoming season. The Sixers, as Brand noted at Friday’s press conference, are grateful he stuck with the team for less than his market value. Mike Scott is another known quantity off the bench, a player who gives you shooting, versatility, toughness and indelible quotes. Kyle O’Quinn will provide “much-needed depth at the center spot,” Brand said. When healthy, Raul Neto was a solid backup point guard for the Jazz, with three-point shooting ability (37.7 percent for his career) and a solid assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5 assists and 0.9 turnovers per game last season).

Thanks to those veterans, the Sixers should have a decent idea of what they’re getting from their bench. And, with 13 players on the active roster, the team could still add two more pieces. But don’t be surprised if another “quiet tournament” develops in 2019-20, with Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle at the center of the conversation.

Brown was bullish in May about Smith’s chances of factoring into his rotation this season, raving about everything from Smith’s “perseverance and love of basketball” to his defensive abilities.

Smith’s shot, Brown said, “will be the thing that ultimately makes his package whole.” The hyper-athletic 20-year-old made 5 of 16 three-point attempts in summer league (31.3 percent) and 6 of 16 (37.5 percent) in six games at the end of last season. Outside of his jumper, Smith has flashed the knack for making plays in transition, hunting offensive rebounds, cutting smartly and passing intuitively. It remains to be seen how well those other tools will convey in the NBA, though it’s worth considering Smith’s track record of learning new skills at a quick pace and his eagerness to put in the necessary work

Thybulle, selected 20th in this year’s draft and acquired by the Sixers in a trade with the Celtics, plans to play right away. Brand is on the same page.

“We need that piece that can step in right now,” he said on June 21.

There’s little uncertainty about what Thybulle can provide or the role he’ll play. His job will be to get his hands in passing lanes and detonate plays defensively with his impressive anticipation and closing speed. Offensively, he’ll be asked to convert spot-up threes at a respectable rate. The rookie did well in that regard during summer league, making 11 of 28 long-range shots (39.3 percent). 

Playing Smith and Thybulle together at times is an intriguing idea. The pair didn’t take long to form a connection. Thybulle mentioned at summer league minicamp that he was trying to “mimic” Smith, and the two shared some laughs in Las Vegas. There might be a “tournament” at times between the two for minutes, but there could also be an alliance if Brown is willing to tolerate a few youthful errors. As we contemplate the possibilities in July, plenty of options are on the table. Shake Milton could also be a factor at both guard spots.

We can say with plenty of confidence, however, that the 2018-19 edition of Brown’s “quiet tournament” was won in a landslide by Ennis. The 2019-20 version looks to be up for grabs. 

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