76ers

It looks like Sixers have another dynamic duo in Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons

It looks like Sixers have another dynamic duo in Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons

Almost two weeks ago, Sixers head coach Brett Brown said Ben Simmons faced the “biggest adjustment” playing with Jimmy Butler.

It’s fair to say that adjustment has gone smoothly.

As our national NBA insider Tom Haberstroh detailed, Simmons and Butler have excelled offensively when they’ve shared the floor (see story).

When Butler’s been on the court, Simmons has usually been there with him; he’s played 31.8 of his 33.8 minutes per game with Simmons.

In the 254 minutes Butler has played with Simmons, the Sixers have a 115.1 offensive rating. In the 16 minutes he’s played without him, the team’s offensive rating is 89.2. It’s a very small sample size, but the early returns are encouraging.

Simmons has already assisted on 16 of Butler’s field goals, and the Sixers’ newest star is 25 for 55 (45 percent) on passes from Simmons.

“He’s a basketball player,” Butler said of Simmons on Thursday. “Point guard, point forward, whatever you want to call him, I think he does everything in his power to help us win games. Whatever he has to do, he’s going to do it to the best of his ability. He’s a young guy but the way that his mind works, it’s like a vet. He’s one of the leaders here and he really does want to win. He’s constantly in the gym putting in the work. Whenever you have a guy like that at the head of the snake, it’s hard to do.”

Along with Butler and Simmons, the JJ Redick-Joel Embiid pairing has been excellent as usual for the Sixers.

That duo has played the most minutes of any two-man Sixers pairing and has a plus-10.6 net rating. Their creative, constantly evolving two-man game has a seemingly infinite number of options. Last season, Embiid and Redick had the 10th-best net rating of any two-man unit in the NBA at plus-12.8 (minimum 1,000 minutes).

Though Embiid and Simmons were fourth-best in that category last season, they haven’t been quite at the same level this campaign — the pair has a plus-4.1 net rating together.

And, as Habestroh notes, Embiiid and Butler haven’t gelled yet, though you’d expect their pairing to improve as Brown incorporates more pick-and-rolls between the two in the Sixers’ offense, something he’s said he’d like to do.

Taking a step back, the potential of the Sixers’ new starting unit is vast. The five-man group of Butler, Redick, Simmons, Embiid and Wilson Chandler has a plus-15 net rating in 95 minutes, the fourth-best mark of any five-man group in the NBA that’s played at least 90 minutes.

If Butler continues to develop his chemistry with Simmons, there’s a real possibliity the Sixers could wind up having two of the best duos in the NBA, or even three if Embiid and Simmons can return to last season’s form together.

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Al Horford makes a donation for coronavirus relief in Dominican Republic, regions where he's played in United States

Al Horford makes a donation for coronavirus relief in Dominican Republic, regions where he's played in United States

Al Horford has donated $500,000 to support coronavirus relief in the Dominican Republic, as well as in each region of the United States where he's played for a team, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

Horford’s father Tito was the first Dominican-born NBA player, and Al was born in the country. The family later moved to Michigan, where Horford attended Grand Ledge High School. He went to the University of Florida and has played for three NBA cities — Atlanta, Boston and Philadelphia. 

Several other members of the Sixers organization have also made charitable donations during the coronavirus pandemic. Joel Embiid has pledged to donate $500,000 to COV-19 medical relief efforts. Ben Simmons launched “The Philly Pledge,” an initiative which encourages donations to Philabundance and the PHL COVID-19 Fund that’s received support from a wide range of Philadelphia athletes, among them teammates Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, Norvel Pelle and Marial Shayok. 

Sixers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer have made several donations related to coronavirus relief, including to Philabundance and to CHOP and Cooper Hospital.

Limited partner Michael Rubin aims to have his company Fanatics produce a million masks and gowns for hospital and emergency healthcare workers. 

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Sixers Home School: The night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan

Sixers Home School: The night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan

There's a lot of home schooling going on right now, so why not use some of this time to learn more about the history of your favorite teams? In this edition of Sixers Home School, we look back at the night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan.

In a vacuum, rookie Allen Iverson crossing over the legendary Michael Jordan on March 12, 1997, at what was then known as the CoreStates Center was impressive enough.

Putting it into context makes you understand just how big of a deal it was at the time.

The 21-year-old Iverson was having a strong rookie campaign after the Sixers drafted him No. 1 overall. He was still a month away from setting an NBA rookie record with five straight games of 40-plus points. He wasn’t sporting what would become his trademark cornrows — though he did rock them when he won MVP of the Schick Rookie Game. 

This night was when he began to really put a bow on what would turn into a Rookie of the Year season.

As for Jordan and the Bulls, they were ho humming their way to a 69-win season and their fifth title in seven years. Jordan was 33, and though his game had evolved, he was as dominant as ever. Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman provided all the help he would need.

But on this night, it wasn’t about the Bulls, who celebrated receiving their championship ring ceremony by trouncing the Sixers and shutting down Iverson earlier in the season.

This was about the kid from Hampton, Virginia. The six-foot guard from Georgetown that grew up idolizing His Airness, but also told a coach back in high school that he was good enough to take him. 

“I remember the first time I played against him,” Iverson said in his Hall of Fame speech. “I walked out on the court and I looked at him, and for the first time in my life a human being didn’t look real to me.”

Though the first time the two actually talked was not necessarily cordial.

“The first time I ever talked to him was that year playing in the Rookie Game,” Iverson said in an interview with Complex. “I’ll never forget it because he said, ‘What’s up, you little b----?’ I’ll never forget it.”

Whether the moment provided extra motivation or what, Iverson was at times the best player on the court — which, given who was on the court, is a hell of a statement.

Iverson would finish with a game-high 37 points and foul out in a four-point loss. No, the Sixers didn’t win that night, but the fact that Iverson nearly willed a team full of guys like Scott Williams, Mark Davis and Rex Chapman to a victory over that juggernaut was remarkable.

But over the course of time, nobody remembers — or really cares — who won that game. It was the moment A.I. crossed over M.J. It wasn’t quite a torch-passing moment as Jordan would go on to win another MVP and championship, but it was a clear indication that Philadelphia had drafted a star.

That highlight dominated every sportscast the following day and had Sixers fans' imaginations running wild.

The legend of Iverson only continued to grow from there as he became one Philadelphia’s most celebrated athletes and joined his idol in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

Years later, he spoke to Jordan about the moment he got him with his legendary crossover.

“I went to a Charlotte game and I was telling him how much he meant to me and how I rocked with him,” Iverson went on to say in the interview with Complex. “He was like, ‘Man, you don’t rock with me like that because you wouldn’t have crossed me like that.’”

For as much as Iverson had idolized Jordan, his desire to beat him and be the best outweighed that.

“I always knew that once I got to the league, I was going to try my move on the best,” Iverson said, “so he was just a victim that night.”

That night, a star was born and a legacy was just beginning.

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