76ers

Jimmy Butler responds to report he 'aggressively challenged' Brett Brown, Sixers' offense

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Jimmy Butler responds to report he 'aggressively challenged' Brett Brown, Sixers' offense

CAMDEN, N.J. — With his upper-respiratory infection gone and back practicing, Jimmy Butler finally got his chance to respond.

It’s been three days since a report surfaced that Jimmy Butler “aggressively challenged" Brett Brown and that the dialogue between the two was “disrespectful” during a film session in Portland.

Brown stated his case again Saturday that the report was “overrated” and normal dialogue between NBA player and NBA coach in 2019. Butler agreed.

We’ve been talking damn near every day. Trying to figure everything out and how we can make everyone work. Not just for myself but for everybody. I’m telling you it’s a player and a coach conversation. I think that if you’ve followed me long enough, you know if I was being confrontational because I don’t think I could hide it very well.

The report stated that a big point of contention was the Sixers' lack of pick-and-rolls, something Butler used much of in the past and has had success with. The Sixers use more dribble handoffs, something that Brown acknowledged Butler is not a huge fan of.

While Butler mentioned that he believed the issues to be more on the defensive end and more about critiquing himself, he did voice his opinion about his usage during the aforementioned film session.

I think what the whole thing was, I would say with me being here a lot of things are different. A lot of things that you used to run with the other personnel that was here — I’m a different player than [Robert Covington] and Dario [Saric]. That’s all I was saying, and then other guys had something else to say, but I think in the end it was a positive thing because everybody got what they needed to say out.

It’s not as if Butler and the team haven’t had success since his arrival. It’s been just 21 games and the team is 15-6 with the four-time All-Star in the lineup. Butler admitted that the team has been struggling to find consistency and that’s been a point of frustration.

Butler and Brown speak 1-on-1 "damn near every day," but Butler said he wouldn’t characterize any of the conversations he had with Brown as “confrontational.”

Butler wasn’t sure where the report came from and he didn’t seem to care. What he does know is how all this attention will stop: Winning.

To tell you the truth, I hope my teammates, the staff, organization — I hope they don’t pay attention it like I don’t pay attention to it. Obviously everybody wants to tell me about what’s going on. I can’t help what people think. I go back to what I always say: People are going to like me — great. People are going to dislike me — OK. I can’t control that. I can only control who I am, who I know I am, what the people around here think and know me to be and then try to be the best basketball player out there on the court … 

“I’m telling you, you’re all not going to be talking about that no more [with more wins]. We just got to keep winning. Win three, four, five in a row and y’all going to go, ‘Oh, we’re on a win streak now!’ Not going to worry about anything that happened in a film session.

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With richest contract in Sixers history, all eyes are on Tobias Harris

With richest contract in Sixers history, all eyes are on Tobias Harris

They say the only constant in life is change. 

You don’t have to tell Tobias Harris that. Harris has played for five teams in eight seasons so the Sixers’ roster upheaval this summer doesn’t faze him much.

The biggest change for the forward is something he’s craved for years: The opportunity for stability and, as Mike Scott would say, to “cash out.”

He has that now after signing a five-year, $180 million deal. It’s the richest contract in Sixers franchise history. With that come expectations for Harris and the Sixers. The team is banking on the 27-year-old to continue his NBA ascension and help realize their championship aspirations.

And Harris believes he’s ready to accept that challenge.

The press conference at the team’s practice facility last Friday welcomed Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Kyle O’Quinn and Raul Neto and welcomed back Harris and James Ennis. Harris’ role on the court became a big topic. 

When Harris arrived from the Clippers, he was coming into a situation where Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and JJ Redick were established and Brett Brown was still trying to figure out how to use Jimmy Butler. With Butler in Miami and Redick in New Orleans, the pecking order has changed. 

While it probably wasn’t fair to expect Harris to fit seamlessly into that situation in just 27 regular season games — many without a healthy Embiid — he’ll have an entire offseason and training camp to assume a larger role.

I know last year, when you come over from a trade, with the talent level of this group, obviously had to sacrifice for the unit,” Harris said. “But I know my game, I know how I continue to improve year after year, and I look to come into next year with that type of energy, that type of fire to improve my game and show different parts of my game, too. Obviously being more with the ball in my hands in different situations, and I'm ready for that. I've been working out all summer to get ready for that position, just to help our team grow and get further than we were last year and contend for a championship. That's the only thing on my mind.

The idea of giving Harris a max contract — granted he took $10 million below the max — wasn’t necessarily a no-brainer. He’s never been an All-Star and last season was just the second time he’s been to the postseason and the first time his team advanced beyond the first round.

But the Sixers are counting on Harris to continue his trajectory. Last year was easily his finest NBA season. If he’d spent the whole year in the East, he likely would’ve played in his first All-Star game. He scored a career-high 20 points a game and shot just below 40 percent from three. There’s a reason Elton Brand paid a hefty price to acquire Harris.

It certainly didn’t go as planned for Harris and the Sixers. Harris was inconsistent both in the regular season and playoffs, but his postseason performance was especially marred by a rough Game 4 against the Raptors in which he shot just 7 of 23 and 2 of 13 from three. A couple more makes and perhaps the Sixers would’ve returned to Toronto with a commanding 3-1 lead.

Did the pieces ever quite fit for the Sixers last season?

Not as well as they should've,” Harris said. “We had good little spurts of it but they weren't really consistent for us. I felt like what we got out of it as much as we could've in that timeframe with the different types of games, different types of personalities or whatnot. We needed more time. We needed more time, we needed more cohesiveness. That's something that we have now, so we have to really maximize that fully.

Butler was tremendous in the playoffs as a shot creator and clutch shot maker and Redick played a critical role in the Sixers’ offense.

But “the different types of games” and “personalities” should help Harris flourish. Replacing Butler and Redick with Horford and Richardson will likely help with ball movement, something Harris has said since he arrived in Philadelphia that he thrived with.

At times toward the end of the season, Harris did initiate the offense occasionally. He showed an ability to run the pick-and-roll as a ball handler — something Brown hasn’t run a ton of in the past, but did with Butler. There also could be potential with Harris to run a little of the two-man game with Embiid. Embiid and Redick were deadly using dribble handoffs. If Harris shoots at the level he did in Los Angeles, running that with Embiid could be equally lethal.

Harris is ready to assume a similar role to Butler, but also sees an opportunity for his teammates to shine in clutch situations.

A lot of times what we ran for Jimmy was high screen-and-roll, put the ball in his hands,” Harris said. “I've been best with the ball in my hands for some years now. I definitely think of myself as being that person with the ball in their hands. I look at us as a team, also. I think if a guy has it going or there's a mismatch, we can excel at that. That's what I really work for, those type of moments and opportunities.

So now he has stability. He secured the bag, as the kids say. He’s also looking at a role as one of the team’s focal points offensively.

There's certainly added pressure, but in Harris’ case, change is good.

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

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

It felt inevitable, and now it’s done.

The Sixers have signed All-Star Ben Simmons to a rookie max contract extension for five years and $170 million, a team source confirmed 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. For Simmons, it’s obvious: This is the most money for the most years he can possibly get. For the Sixers, it avoids the possibility of a major headache next offseason.

The Sixers could’ve let the season play out and let Simmons become a restricted free agent next summer, meaning they would’ve had the right of first refusal. Part of it is peace of mind for Simmons. He can play this season without that potential extension looming over him. It’s also peace of mind for the team. They know the cap situation and won’t have to answer constant questions about “why they don’t believe in Simmons” or something to that effect.

While the Sixers could’ve certainly matched any offer Simmons would have gotten as a restricted free agent, it’s a super dangerous game to play. The Sixers are going to be right up against the cap for the foreseeable future with Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid and Al Horford all locked in. Another team could have had Simmons sign an offer sheet for a shorter term — the shortest term a team can offer is two years — but for a higher salary. If you match that, it could mess up your cap plans and you’d also only have Simmons for two years. It's similar to what the Nets did with "poison pill" offer sheets to players like Tyler Johnson in the past. You also run the enormous risk of souring what’s been a good relationship between the player and the team.

And it appears Simmons isn’t taking the new extension and higher expectations lightly. After making an announcement earlier this summer that he’d be playing for the Australian national team in the FIBA World Cup this summer, Simmons may be changing course. He’s now reportedly “doubtful” to play for Australia so he can “spend his full offseason preparing only for the Sixers season,” per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. He’s already had an active offseason on social media, posting photos of himself working out with other NBA players – including Harris – in Los Angeles with trainer Chris Johnson. Johnson has trained several NBA players, including the departed Jimmy Butler.

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 – that’s the biggest reason this came together so quickly.

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