76ers

Elton Brand will look at buyout market, but he sounds pleased with Sixers' new bench

Elton Brand will look at buyout market, but he sounds pleased with Sixers' new bench

CAMDEN, N.J. — Tobias Harris is by far the biggest name the Sixers added before Thursday’s trade deadline. The subtraction of former No. 1 Markelle Fultz warranted a few headlines too.

But general manager Elton Brand also acquired four other players — Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott, Jonathon Simmons and James Ennis, transforming the Sixers’ bench.

At a press conference Friday, Brand detailed the roles he expects those four can fill. 

With Marjanovic, the tallest player in the NBA at 7-foot-3, it’s not too complicated. 

“He’s bringing great frontcourt depth behind Joel [Embiid], for sure. He wasn’t a throw-in. ... We look forward to having him on the court, create a mismatch out there, and defend the rim. One of our key needs was rim protection, and he certainly brings that.”

The 39-year-old Brand actually played with Scott during his time on the Hawks. He praised Scott’s toughness and three-point shooting (39.1 percent this season).

As for Simmons and Ennis, Brand expects the pair will bolster the Sixers’ depth on the wing.

Ennis, who averaged 7.4 points and 2.9 rebounds this season for Houston, doesn’t have any elite skills, but the five-year veteran should be able to provide a little bit of everything for the Sixers. Simmons, the player the Sixers acquired in the Fultz trade, has a reputation as a strong perimeter defender.

“Very athletic, tenacious defender,” Brand said. “He can shoot, he can score. Very physical, rugged defender. I think the city is really going to like him a lot.”

The notion that Simmons “can shoot” is not backed up by the stats — he’s 22.9 percent from long distance this season, 31.2 percent for his career. Simmons did have surgery to address a torn ligament in his right wrist in the offseason, which appears to have affected his shot. 

“We studied it,” Brand said. “We think he’s close to being back where he was pre-injury. Again, we’re excited to have him.”

Before taking any questions Friday, Brand issued an opening statement. His words were bold, but they didn’t feel incongruous after the deals he’d made the past two days.

“We believe we’re in position to contend now, and our moves reflect that belief," he said.

Are those four new pieces off the bench enough for Brand, or does he think more help is needed via the buyout market?

“We’re always going to look to see how we can improve our team,” he said. “I think last year we got lucky at the buyout market. I think we’re good now, but if something comes up we’re surely going to look at it.”

When pressed later about whether more wing depth specifically was required, his response was clear.

We’re always going to look. But I like our team, I like where we are, and I think we’ve added enough depth. But we’re still going to look, of course. 

Meanwhile, there remains a real possibility rookie Zhaire Smith and 21-year-old big man Justin Patton have an impact for the Sixers this year. Patton has grabbed 22 points and 12 rebounds in two G-League games as he works his way back from a Jones fracture in his right foot.

Though there would appear to be less of a rush now to get Smith back on the floor, it couldn’t hurt for the Sixers to have an excellent athlete with the potential to be a very good NBA perimeter defender. Brand isn’t deviating from he what he said about Smith back in December — he said Friday that Smith is still progressing well after suffering a Jones fracture in his left foot in August, then enduring serious medical complications after an allergic reaction — and the Sixers still expect him to return this season.

External additions, though, sound less likely. Brand has proven he’ll probe the market and pounce on any chance to improve the Sixers, but he feels better about where the team stands, and how the bench looks, than he did a couple days ago. 

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Joel Embiid thinks idea he can't be effective with Ben Simmons is 'BS'

Joel Embiid thinks idea he can't be effective with Ben Simmons is 'BS'

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both rejected the notion that they’re incapable of playing together effectively Saturday at All-Star Weekend in Chicago. 

”I think it's BS, because when you look at the last couple years, the last two years that we've been playing together, it's not a problem,” Embiid told reporters, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “This year it's only been a problem because our offense has struggled.

"It's definitely going to be better after the All-Star break. I mean, just look at the last two years, what we've been able to do. I think it can work, and it's going to work."

The Sixers were indeed very good when the pairing shared the floor the past two years. Lineups with Embiid and Simmons had net ratings of plus-15.5 in 2017-18 and plus-7.8 in 2018-19. This season, that number has dropped to plus-1.3.

"It takes time," Simmons said. "Not everything is perfect. Not everything works right away. I love playing with Joel. I think he's an amazing talent, a guy I respect for his game, and I know he feels the same way about me. We continue to go the right way. There's so many different things that we haven't tried. We've got a lot of talent. It's scary how good we can be."

On Feb. 5, Embiid suggested he was having to detract from his own offensive game for the greater good.

“How we played last year, obviously a different structure, the ball movement was better, and this year we've got different players,” he said. “I’ve sacrificed a lot, trying to make everybody feel comfortable, and that's normal.

“We've all got to sacrifice and if it means taking less shots just to make sure everyone is happy and keep winning, then that's what we've got to do. But at the same time, we've still got to understand what's going on around us and how we can help each other be better.”

Pertinent statistics don’t seem to support the idea that Embiid has had to sacrifice much. While his usage rate has dropped from 32.7 to 30.3, his post-ups per game are identical (8.1) and his three-point attempts per 36 minutes are nearly the same (4.6 this year, 4.4 last year). 

However, until Brett Brown’s major adjustment Tuesday night vs. the Clippers, he’d been in a starting lineup with Al Horford, a pairing that hasn’t been beneficial for either player. Embiid and Horford are the only Sixers' two-man lineups with at least 400 minutes together to have a negative net rating (minus-1.1) and have been poor offensively.

As for Embiid and Simmons, the two were strong against the Clippers, both personally and as a combination. They complemented each other well in the high and low post as Embiid had 26 points and nine rebounds and Simmons posted 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

Brown said it was “arguably the best game those two have paired up with” since he started coaching them. 

Simmons will be on Team LeBron and Embiid will be on Team Giannis for Sunday night’s All-Star Game. 



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Jimmy Butler explains why he commented on Joel Embiid's Instagram post

Jimmy Butler explains why he commented on Joel Embiid's Instagram post

Joel Embiid decided Monday night to post a photo on Instagram of him shushing Sixers fans, with the caption, ”You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

It was a quote Jimmy Butler knew well. 

In an interview Saturday with NBA TV at All-Star Weekend in Chicago, Butler said that was the motivation for his comment on Embiid’s post. The two will be teammates again on Team Giannis in Sunday’s All-Star Game. 

“To me, Joel Embiid, he’s not a 76ers player," Butler said. “That’s my brother, that’s my guy. I went through the trenches with him. It has nothing to do with that. But, because I did comment, it damn near broke the Internet. I posted the caption first. … I did that in Minnesota, and so that’s why I commented.”

There you have it. 

Embiid, of course, aimed to clarify his social media posts on Tuesday.

“If you boo and someone is going to shush you, you’ve gotta be OK with it,” he said. “It’s all love. I understand where [the fans are] coming from, but I do know that they’ve got my back.”

Butler, who’s set to play in his fifth All-Star Game, also touched again on leaving the Sixers for the Heat this offseason in a sign-and-trade.

“I don’t think anybody owes me an apology,” he said. “It is what it is. I guess at some point in time, stuff tends to get out. But I guess I’m not the bad guy after all.”

He sounded very confident about the prospect of facing the Sixers in the playoffs. Miami is 35-19 and in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, 1.5 games ahead of the Sixers.

“I think that our team can match up with that team well,” Butler said. “Keep those problems over there and we’ll get y’all in the playoffs — we’re gonna win.”

You can watch Butler’s full NBA TV interview below. 



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