76ers

How Sixers will ramp up Ben Simmons, other key players for NBA restart

How Sixers will ramp up Ben Simmons, other key players for NBA restart

The Sixers have transitioned into the next phase of their stay at Disney World.

After an initial mandatory quarantine period, players have been cleared to leave their rooms. The team’s practice Saturday afternoon was its first since March 10. Back then, reporters stood behind a table at the team’s practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, and spoke to players from a distance. Saturday, the dialogue was through Zoom.

There are a lot of new protocols for everyone to get used to, but Brett Brown was glad to have his team together again.

“To see our team and everybody’s got their sort of elbow bumps going down the aisle of the bus, and to see the team again under one bus roof, it’s fantastic,” he said. 

Brown is adapting to the new conditions and still determining exactly how he’ll coach his team during this period. He did, however, have a firm answer on how often he plans to play Ben Simmons as the Sixers ramp back up. Simmons had missed the team’s final eight games before the season was suspended with a nerve impingement in his lower back, but he said on July 2 that he’s feeling healthy and has added muscle

I think in general when you look at the scrimmage situations, you’re going to see something that’s quite frugal,” Brown said. “I believe when it gets into the regular-season games, you’re going to see normal numbers that I’ve played him. And so that answer isn’t delivered because of anything to do with health. It’s delivered just because I think that’s the way that I want to do it, and the way that I will do it with (Joel Embiid) and Tobias (Harris), as examples, because of their stature more than anything to do with health.

Embiid had been sidelined for five games in late February and early March with a left shoulder sprain. Harris has more minutes than any NBA player this season and played through a right knee issue earlier in the year.

The Sixers are set to have scrimmages on July 24, July 26 and July 28, and to resume play on Aug. 1 against the Indiana Pacers. 

Nobody in the NBA has experienced anything like this situation before, which Brown acknowledged. He’s in a position of attempting to find and capitalize on opportunities for normalcy while also making the best of the circumstances, with many restrictions in place. 

“This thing is fluid,” Brown said, “but I believe it will be normal in relation to no mask and me being able to look at Ben and Jo and talk to them (at practice),” Brown said. “Personally, I feel like it’s not normal. You’re going to have to feel different things through of how you deliver a message and how you coach a team again, and I’m excited to be able to do that.”

‘An open mind’ about concerns 

Harris’ outlook is an important one for the Sixers. He’s clearly viewed as a leader, someone his teammates respect and have talked to often while play has been suspended.  

In his first meeting with local reporters since before the hiatus, he gave his thoughts on players who have expressed their opinions on the league resuming, ranging from disagreement to doubt to hesitation. Joel Embiid said he “hated the idea,” while Shake Milton said he doesn't think the NBA should be playing.

Just try to understand their perspective, just to hear them out with an open mind,” Harris said. “Everybody takes this in a different way. You can look at it in many different facets, with what’s going on in the world, whether coming out here is safe or not as safe for some guys. Guys leaving family, guys being free agents. So everybody has a little bit of doubt in their mind with everything. 

“Just hear them out, understand them. Try to do our best with it. So I think that’s the best thing we can do. But everybody’s going to have their own type of inner feelings about it, and that’s not to say that mine is right or theirs is right … so just hearing them out.

The Bobi and Tobi Show? 

As the Sixers acclimate to the Disney environment, Harris has already received a visit from a familiar face. He had a fun exchange Friday with Boban Marjanovic, and there might be more “Bobi and Tobi” antics to come.

“Obviously it’s always good to be around Bobi and see him — as you saw yesterday, him in front of my hotel room,” Harris said. “It’s always light-hearted, it’s a fun thing. I definitely look forward to catching up with him while I’m out here. There’s some things in the works.”

At some point, perhaps a month or two down the line, this new routine might become comfortable for Harris and the Sixers. But it understandably sounds like that’s going to take a while. 

"Obviously there’s so much involved in it, from food to sleep to making sure we’re stretching right,” Glenn Robinson III said. “It kind of feels like a summer camp with everything going on. It’s easy to get distracted or caught up in everything, but our eyes are just on practice, getting better and just making sure that we’re good, as far as the team.”

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Sixers Talk podcast: A lot more questions than answers right now

getty-joel-embiid-injury.jpg
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Sixers Talk podcast: A lot more questions than answers right now

On this edition of the Sixers Talk podcast, we discuss the health of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, whether the All-Star duo should stay together and much more.

(0:32) — Embiid suffers an injury and Lillard drops 51.
(9:16) — Don't expect a deep playoff run.
(14:30) — More pressure on Shake Milton or Josh Richardson going forward?
(21:41) — Will Brett Brown get a pass if the Sixers don't succeed?
(34:39) — Here we go with the trading Embiid or Simmons talk again.

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Sixers' Joel Embiid discusses being 'mad at the whole world' earlier in season, love for fans on JJ Redick's podcast

Sixers' Joel Embiid discusses being 'mad at the whole world' earlier in season, love for fans on JJ Redick's podcast

Joel Embiid has talked plenty this season about authenticity, the idea of struggling with how to be himself and have fun on the floor.

On The Old Man & The Three Podcast with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter, Embiid provided more honest insight into those issues. 

I won’t lie, during the season I was not myself,” he said. “I was not there. I just wasn’t comfortable. The offense wasn’t the same, basketball was not the same to me. The way things happened last summer, it was just so frustrating, so I was kind of mad at the whole world and I was just like, ‘Eh, whatever. I’m just coming to work and I’m going to do my best,’ but I wasn’t playing up to my standards. 

“And it was hard. It was a big change, but you adjust. Every year is going to be different, and this year was different. But I still believe. We’ve got a big chance to make it happen. We can win the whole thing.

Embiid, who left Sunday night’s game vs. the Blazers in the first quarter with a left ankle injury, misses his creative, unpredictable two-man game with Redick. In general, he found things easier in an offense with Redick and Jimmy Butler. Offseason acquisitions Al Horford and Josh Richardson have not complemented him as well. The team is 17th in offensive rating this year after finishing eighth last season. 

“Defensively, like you said, we’re pretty good,” Embiid said. “We’re big … we can switch a lot. But offensively, it just wasn’t there. We had our offense, but at times it was not the right offense. The offense we’ve been using the past four, five years, that wasn’t the offense for this team. It was completely different.

"You don’t have a JJ Redick, you don’t have a Jimmy Butler who’s going to do the pick-and-rolls. But I think we’re getting it. I think the last month that we spent in the bubble has helped us a lot. I think we’ve come closer.”

The three-time All-Star also went into depth about the dynamic between himself and Sixers fans, which notably included a shushing gesture during a Feb. 9 game vs. the Bulls, and discussed why he didn’t play to the crowd as much this season.

“I didn’t do that as much this year because there was a lot going on,” he said. “From last summer going into this season, not being myself, not dominating as I usually do — there was just no passion. I just played without it. I think I got used to it. And then, finally, when I decided to react because they booed me, I shushed them and they got mad. 

“That was a game-changer. I have a lot of love for the fans in Philly. That’s just passion. They understand me; our relationship is different. I love them, they love me, they understand me. They know what I’m about, I know what they’re about, I know what they want. They just want to win. They just want a winner and they just want a championship. You’ve just gotta play hard and push yourself, always give it 100 percent.”

Of course, it’s uncertain when Embiid will next play in front of non-virtual fans. When Redick raised the idea of a “bubble” again being necessary to play the 2020-21 season during the coronavirus pandemic, Embiid was not enthusiastic.  

“There’s no chance,” he said. “I don’t think it’s happening. You’ve gotta find a way. Hopefully, by then it’ll be better, we will find some more solutions to what’s going on right now. To expect being in the bubble for eight months, that’s unlikely. I don’t know if I can do it. There’s no chance.”

On a lighter note, Redick had an amusing story about his visit to the Sixers’ practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, as the team pitched itself to him in free agency. His future head coach was thinking more about Xs and Os than Redick putting pen to paper. 

“I come to the facility at 12:01 a.m. — this is July 1, 2017,” he said. “I show up to the facility at 12:01 a.m. and I’m getting a tour of the facility. I see the offices, I see the locker room, I see the weight room. And as we’re walking from the weight room through the court, back to Bryan Colangelo’s office, Brett (Brown) stops us and he starts running two-man game with me and Jo. And we’re in street clothes — I have a blazer on and we’re doing DHOs.”

The former teammates also talked about the natural evolution of their two-man game, Embiid’s emotions after Kawhi Leonard’s Game 7 buzzer-beater last year and much more. You can listen to the full podcast below. 

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