76ers

Ben Simmons, Glenn Robinson III and Sixers aren't forgetting about issues bigger than basketball

Ben Simmons, Glenn Robinson III and Sixers aren't forgetting about issues bigger than basketball

Even as basketball activity ramps up and workouts have shifted from voluntary to mandatory, Brett Brown estimated Wednesday that “99 percent” of the team’s conversations in recent Zoom calls have been about racial injustice.

At first glance, it might seem a bit incongruous to be focusing on issues bigger than basketball with your head coach. But it’s something his players appreciate.  

“I think Brett, that’s one thing I’ve loved about him since ... my rookie year,” Glenn Robinson III said Thursday in a video conference call. “Yes, we’re basketball players and we come in and we have a job and we’re here to work, but he’ll flip our minds and flip our brains to get us thinking, just to get us to open up the discussion and communicate more with each other.

"He does a great job of that. Lately, the Zoom calls, he’ll keep basketball to a minimum, 3-5 minutes talking about that. He’ll go straight into everything that’s happening in the world, Black Lives Matter and what do we think about it. He wants to hear our opinion and hear from his players. 

“You don’t get that a lot, and the great coaches do that. Steve (Kerr) was doing that when I was with the Warriors, (Gregg) Popovich does it. I heard about it from my dad. A lot of coaches will do those type of things to keep that engagement going with the team. And it’s just important for us to know that Coach cares about us.

For better — and arguably for worse in this tumultuous historical moment — basketball is a distraction. When we’re wondering about Robinson’s role or Ben Simmons’ health, our attention is drawn away from other issues. That’s a concern which was expressed recently by a coalition of players led by the Nets’ Kyrie Irving and the Lakers’ Avery Bradley. 

If Brown and the Sixers want to make a deep playoff run when the season resumes at Disney World, at some point those team conversations will likely have to contain more than 3-5 minutes of conversation about basketball. 

Simmons is determined to use his platform regardless. On June 2, he called President Donald Trump “cowardly” on social media for threatening military force against those protesting against racism and police brutality around the country, and he advocated for “equality and unity.” He is not planning on neglecting those topics now that the resumption of the season is getting closer.

In a conference call Thursday, Simmons shared his outlook as someone who grew up in Australia with an African American father and an Australian mother. 

Just being an African-American Australian kid growing up back home, there’s always been racism that the indigenous people of Australia — I’d even compare them to the Native Americans here — that don’t get treated fairly," Simmons said. “They don’t have the same opportunities, they don’t have great healthcare, they don’t have opportunities to learn, they don’t have the safety that the majority of people will have back home. 

“So for me seeing the incident with George Floyd and so many other people, it’s not fair. I believe in equality. I think at the end of the day, everybody deserves the same opportunities. Hopefully we can do that for the kids back home in Australia. My team and I have been working very hard to come up with a few ideas and things to do back home to give those people who don’t have the opportunities to get an education. … At the end of the day, that’s what everybody’s asking for, is equality.

The NBA is planning to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the courts at Disney World, ESPN reported last week. Additionally, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told The Athletic’s Michael Lee that the union is looking into a project to address police accountability. But, if the season is able to conclude with a champion despite the risks of playing during a global pandemic, it’s not difficult to imagine racial injustice and police brutality fading further into the background of many fans’ minds. 

“It’s never a shut up and dribble situation,” Thunder point guard Chris Paul told reporters last week on a conference call. “You’re going to hear us.”

Robinson sounds like he's on the same page as Paul. He’s proud of the non-profit foundation he founded, Angels are Real Indeed (ARI), which has a mission of “empower(ing) fathers with essential resources that will allow them to be the best dads they can be” and “provid(ing) assistance to fatherless children and families.” 

The foundation has partnered with organizations that support Black people in Robinson’s hometown of Gary, Indiana, and has launched a fundraising campaign, with Robinson pledging to match donations. He is also donating $22 to the ARI Foundation for every point he scores this season.

“I think it’s very important,” Robinson said. “We’ve heard a lot of players talk, and whether you agree or not, I think it’s very important we don’t forget about everything that’s going on with the restart of basketball.

"I know a lot of players have that goal in mind. … I’m from Gary, Indiana, which is a rough city. I think the families there, the kids there, they need people to give back. Without me giving back to that city, who else is doing it? So it’s very important to me.”

Robinson, who said with a smile that Brown has expressed interest in helping the ARI Foundation, has a proposal to provide greater visibility to organizations like his own. 

“I think the NBA should allow player-led foundations to be represented while we go play,” he said. “I think that there should be some type of fundraising aspect for that. I want to give the world my platform, as a Sixers player. I have teammates who want to do the same thing and have their own platforms that I think should be recognized by the world. 

“We put a lot of hard work into that and many of us come from cities that really, really need that help. I think it would be a great idea to just give the world our platforms that we work on and try to build a brand for ourselves and our teams every day. That’s just my idea.”

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Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid (left ankle) out against Suns; Ben Simmons has surgery

Sixers injury update: Joel Embiid (left ankle) out against Suns; Ben Simmons has surgery

The Sixers’ injury update on Monday was a long one. 

Joel Embiid is out for Tuesday’s game against the Suns with the left ankle injury he sustained in the first quarter Sunday vs. the Blazers. He’ll be undergoing treatment and evaluation at the team’s practice Monday night.

Brett Brown wasn’t sure if Embiid would play Wednesday vs. the Raptors, but he expects the three-time All-Star to appear again before the postseason and indicated he doesn't view the injury as serious. The Sixers’ last seeding contest has been officially assigned for Friday at 9 p.m. against the Rockets. 

“I do expect him to,” Brown said. “That’s just one man’s opinion. Nobody’s doing cartwheels over, ‘It’s something severe,’ one. Two, I do believe it would be good for him to play before the playoffs begin.”

Josh Richardson, who scored 34 points against Portland, will rest Tuesday. Tobias Harris is questionable with right ankle soreness and Al Horford is questionable with left knee soreness. Harris hasn’t missed a game this season, while Horford said in July, “I probably wasn’t where I wanted to be” physically earlier in the season but felt “in a much better place” after being able to rest during the NBA’s hiatus. 

The length of the injury report is not surprising after Brown on Sunday seemed receptive when asked about possibly restricting minutes for key players in the team’s final three seeding games.

“I think it’s true ... where you want an honest sort of medical assessment of anything that equals a potential problem — you just want to avoid (it),” he said. “And landing the plane and entering the playoffs from this vision line of a bubble and time off and tiptoeing on pins and needles where you don’t want people to get injured, and then still find a rhythm, that’s a slippery slope. 

“You mentioned Jo. I think the question extends to people like Al Horford, as an example. Making sure Tobias is in a place where we can manage his minutes going forward and still find that balance of trying to compete and find a rhythm.”

Ben Simmons was the other player on Monday’s report. 

The 24-year-old had successful surgery to remove a loose body in his left knee, the team said, performed by Dr. Chris Dodson from Rothman Orthopaedic Institute. He’ll begin rehabilitation in Philadelphia immediately and will have a post-operative evaluation in approximately two weeks. 

Mike Scott, who missed the Sixers’ first three seeding games with right knee soreness, said he’s feeling well now. He saw time as a small-ball center against the Trail Blazers, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds, and will likely assume a key role on Tuesday.

“Just a little swelling,” he said of his knee. “Had to get it drained, so it was kind of holding me down a little bit, but it feels better now. Got it drained, so feeling a lot better.”

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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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