76ers

Ben Simmons withdraws from Australian national team's summer exhibition games vs. USA and Canada

Ben Simmons withdraws from Australian national team's summer exhibition games vs. USA and Canada

Ben Simmons will not be matching up against Team USA this summer.

Basketball Australia released a statement Sunday saying that Simmons will not play in the team's exhibition games leading into the FIBA World Cup.

Simmons had previously announced that he won't be participating in the World Cup as he prioritizes preparing for the upcoming season with the Sixers, but he'd been planning to play in the exhibition games in Australia.

"With our focus being to win a medal at the 2020 Olympics, the Boomers' preparation in the lead up to the world championships is of the utmost importance and me not playing allows the team to create the chemistry they need to compete at the highest level and qualify for the Olympics," Simmons said in the statement, per The Age's Roy Ward

The Australian team has games scheduled on Aug. 16 and Aug. 17 in Perth against Team Canada, and on Aug. 22 and Aug. 24 in Melbourne against Team USA.

Jonah Bolden will feature for the Australians. Tobias Harris has withdrawn from Team USA, while rookie Marial Shayok was one of 29 players invited to the Canadian team's training camp. 

The FIBA World Cup begins in China on Aug. 31, with Team USA's first game on Sep. 1 against the Czech Republic. The Americans play the Turkish national team on Sep. 3. Furkan Korkmaz, who starred for Turkey in World Cup European qualifiers last summer, is on the team's 26-man preliminary roster. 

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Why is there a basketball hoop traveling through Philadelphia during protests?

Why is there a basketball hoop traveling through Philadelphia during protests?

Over the last week, you’ve likely seen, read about, participated in or experienced in some way protests against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd.

You might also have noticed a basketball hoop rolling around Philadelphia. 

NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Marc Farzetta recently talked with Philadelphia native Stephania Ergemlidze, who’s responsible for the traveling games of 1-on-1.

“Basketball is the one way I know how to spread love and I know how to bring people together,” Ergemlidze told Farzetta, “so it was a no-brainer.”

Ergemlidze said that she was cognizant of not wanting to detract or warp the messages of protestors. Philadelphians gathered on Saturday for the seventh straight day in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“That was something I was very, very nervous about,” she said. “What way can I do it where I’m not actually distracting from the protests? My goal was not to distract from the protests. My goal is to amplify it and show the positive sides of things, because right now I feel like they’re sharing a lot of negatives, like rioting and looting, but there’s also a lot of peaceful protesting going on.”

You can watch Ergemlidze’s interview with Farzetta in the video above. 

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Would a neutral site help or hurt the mercurial Sixers?

Would a neutral site help or hurt the mercurial Sixers?

The night the NBA season was suspended back on March 11, we were all wondering about the possibility of the league playing games without fans.

The last player the Sixers media got to speak with was Glenn Robinson III. As he sat at the podium six feet away from us, he pondered what it might be like to play a game with no fans and what might be done to account for a quiet gym.

"I think how they play music when we're on defense, and offense they kind of play the instrumental in the background — maybe they turn that up a little bit," Robinson said. "Maybe they got the fake fans that cheer in the background, so maybe we can do that. That'd be interesting for us to do, is act like there's more fans here."

A reporter mentioned that fake fan noise wasn't a bad idea.

"I'll take that credit," Robinson joked.

Almost three months later, not only do empty stands appear to be a reality, but games at a neutral site in Walt Disney World are part of the return-to-play format approved by players and owners.

While it’s unknown whether the NBA heard Robinson’s idea, that is reportedly a notion the league is considering, with fake crowd noise provided by the folks at NBA 2K.

For the Sixers, the situation will be especially difficult to grasp. They were on pace to have the widest gap between their home and road record in NBA history. 

The happiest place on Earth for the Sixers was the Wells Fargo Center, where they boasted a preposterous 29-2 record. On the road, they had as many wins as the rudderless Knicks with an abysmal 10-24 mark. To make matters worse, the Sixers finished 0-4 in the state of Florida this season with two losses each in Miami and Orlando.

It's hard to know if having no true home-court advantage will hurt the Sixers or their opponents more.

The stakes will be much higher than the previous four games in the Sunshine State, or any game before the season was suspended, for that matter. The Sixers will have two or three “preseason” games and just eight regular-season games — which they absolutely need — before the playoffs begin.

Brett Brown has always referred to the last third of the season as a sprint. This time line is even more accelerated. Perhaps that’ll force his players to have a heightened focus and put their road woes behind them.

“Of course, [playing with no fans is] going to have some level of an impact,” Brown said to reporters on May 15. “I do feel just the mere fact that we'll be playing again might be able to sort of minimize whatever awkwardness playing in front of zero fans is going to teach all of us.”

For those of us at home, the lack of crowd noise, however unfortunate, could add an interesting dynamic. If Joel Embiid is telling an opposing center that they can’t bleeping guard him, we may hear it. When Tobias Harris gets hacked on his way to the lane with no whistle, we may hear the earful he gives the official. When Ben Simmons throws down a rim-rocking dunk, we may hear him bellowing.

It’s uncharted territory for every person involved.

“I think it will be almost comical,” Brown said, “like the communication with referees and the back and forth with players and the rest. I mean, think about that, so much of it really is drowned in 20,000 people — there won't be at all. And so how it will play out, I don't know. None of us have ever done this.”

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