76ers

Ben Simmons will have one crowded trophy case

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Ben Simmons will have one crowded trophy case

Ben Simmons picked up Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors for games in January. It's the second time in three months Simmons has won the award, with Jayson Tatum winning in December.

Including last season, the Sixers have accounted for seven of the last nine Eastern Conference Rookies of the Month — Simmons twice, Dario Saric twice and Joel Embiid three times.

Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz earned the award for the West.

Simmons averaged 17.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists in January, leading all rookies in assists, steals (1.42) and tying for first in scoring. Among the highlights was a 19-point, 17-rebound, 14-assist triple-double against the Bulls.

The Sixers went 7-5 in January. 

Overall this season, Simmons is first among rookies in rebounds (7.8), assists (7.3), steals (1.8) and minutes per game (35.1). He joins LeBron James and Russell Westbrook as the only players in the league with at least 700 points, 300 boards and 300 assists.

Simmons will represent Australia on the World Team for the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend.

Elton Brand's respected career as a player is what Sixers need right now in a general manager

Elton Brand's respected career as a player is what Sixers need right now in a general manager

Maybe we should have known this was coming from the Sixers.

Sure, they looked into a bevy of candidates for their vacant general manager job after Bryan Colangelo’s Twitter scandal rocked the organization.

There were the reported big-name misses such as Houston general manager Daryl Morey and former Cleveland Cavaliers exec David Griffin. There were also the other capable external candidates that included Utah Jazz assistant general manager Justin Zanik and Houston Rockets vice president Gersson Rosas.

Of course, in-house guys Ned Cohen, Marc Eversley and Alex Rucker were each given a legitimate shot at the job.

However, looking back on things, perhaps Elton Brand should have been recognized as the man for the job all along.

Not because of his front-office pedigree. Let’s be honest here, Brand was just in a uniform as recently as the 2015-16 NBA season when he played 17 games during his second stint with the Sixers. 

He followed that up by retiring (for the second time) and joining the franchise as a player development consultant. That lasted just nine months before the 39-year-old was named general manager of the Delaware Blue Coats and another year before he was tabbed as vice president of basketball operations.

While that’s an impressive rise up the ranks, it doesn’t scream out as the extensive résumé of someone prepared to take over the controls of a 52-win team on the cusp of being a serious championship contender.

But Brand has one major characteristic that is critical to the Sixers at this moment: respect. After the Colangelo mess unraveled in unprecedented fashion, the Sixers’ current players — and future ones — need someone in a position of power that understands them and that they can trust.

While the present group insisted the words of Colangelo — or his wife — from the multiple burner Twitter accounts didn’t bother them, that was not completely true. No one wants to be talked about, especially when the words come from a person who is supposed to be on your side.

“It was hurtful because of the stuff that was said in those tweets,” Joel Embiid admitted during an interview with ESPN before last month’s NBA Africa Game. “But at the end of the day, I know who I am as a person, as a player. And I know a lot of people, they're always telling me I'm great but I have a lot of stuff to work on. And actually, I appreciated everything that was said about me because if it was true — even if it wasn't — that stays in my mind. And it makes me want to get better. The stuff where they were saying I wasn't happy, that makes me want to work harder on my body. Or if they're saying that I couldn't do anything, it makes me want to work harder and get better. So, actually, I love it. I appreciated it. It was great. It was great for my game.”

What's even better for Embiid's game? Having a general manager in place that knows the game himself and holds such high regard around the league that other teams/players will at least listen to his sales pitch. That's what comes with being a veteran of 17 NBA seasons and one of the classiest individuals you will ever meet.

Now we're not saying Brand's promotion will turn the Sixers into the league's top destination for free agents or that he's going to suddenly start fleecing teams in trades. Not at all. He's going to have his work cut out for him as a novice in a cutthroat business.

The thing is, he's always been willing to put in the work. Brand's career on the court should tell you that, and now he's bringing that same determination to his new role. With plenty of help, of course.

“More generally, my focus is NBA prep and travel and working,” Brand said of his mindset in June. “We’re doing it collectively and supporting Coach (Brett) Brown and Marc Eversley and Alex and Ned with all the things we’re doing there. That’s actually my main focus. The G League has been on the back burner because of that.”

Now it’s his sole focus. That’s an entirely different kind of Philly max.

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With Elton Brand hire, Sixers take a page out of the Super Bowl champs' playbook

With Elton Brand hire, Sixers take a page out of the Super Bowl champs' playbook

Collaboration.

You have heard Eagles owner Jeff Lurie say that he wanted it to be a collaborative effort with Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson. That is what the Sixers’ ownership group is looking for as well.

The franchise wants this to be a collaboration and believes in group decisions.

The Sixers looked both inside and outside the organization and found out that Elton Brand is the best fit for them. I'm told that the Sixers were very impressed with Brand's vision for the future, his preparation, his familiarity with the team and the NBA. He is a good face for the Sixers' organization after Sam Hinkie and Bryan Colangelo.

When Brand goes to sell a free agent on coming to Philly, he has first-hand experience about that process. He knows what that player is looking for and what he is going through. He has the credibility to sell the city, the team and everything the Sixers can offer. He also is very well respected by NBA owners, players and agents and is very well connected.

He always did everything in his career with class. And when the Sixers needed someone to come in a few years ago as a player/mentor for the younger players, they chose him.

The Sixers like that setup and the people they already have in place. They did not want to disrupt that structure. Promoting Alex Rucker to executive vice president of basketball operations, leading their analytics and strategy department, shows you how much they value analytics. They believe that Brand is the best man to lead this team into the future and to marry the ideas of basketball and analytics people together.

“The Old School Chevy” has the keys to hopefully drive this team to a championship someday.

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