76ers

In Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle, Sixers have options who can hang with perimeter scorers

In Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle, Sixers have options who can hang with perimeter scorers

Despite being 15-6 and 10-0 at Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers have the worst offensive rating in the NBA in fourth quarters (101.6). They scored only 18 points in the final period of a 103-94 win Monday night over the Jazz, a game they led by as many as 26 points.

“I get a kick out of it,” Brett Brown said. “I ask myself sometimes the question, too — who’s the closer? And what we should all admit is we have options. We have a variety of people on a given night that you might be able to go to and through.”

The notion that the Sixers have viable offensive options they can rely on late is, after 21 games, a bit tenuous. The idea that they have multiple players who can guard an opponent’s best scorer, though, is much easier to buy.

Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle shared the defensive duties on Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and held him to 18 points on 6 for 19 shooting. Mitchell and the Jazz were playing the second game of a back-to-back and the fifth game of a road trip, so that likely had something to do with his off night. But Simmons and Thybulle played a significant role, too.

Thybulle swiped three steals and now has 29, the most among rookies, while Simmons recorded four and has 46, the most in the NBA. 

They both savor the chance to defend the opposition’s top threat. 

“I just love guarding great players,” Simmons said. “It's one of those things where I take that challenge upon myself. I wanted to guard Joe [Ingles] a little bit too, so I really don't mind who I'm put on. It's always going to be a challenge, so I enjoy it.”

Thybulle’s minutes have fluctuated early in his rookie season. With Josh Richardson out for a third straight game because of right hamstring tightness — a team spokesperson called his absence “precautionary” and said the Sixers hope he will be able to return within the next couple of games  — there was more of an opening for Thybulle against the Jazz.  

Brown seemed to be telling himself pregame that he needed to give his rookie a little more leash.

“At times I should have a higher tolerance level for his wild decisions defensively,” he said.

About three hours later, Brown gave Thybulle an extended run in the second quarter, then inserted him into the lineup for the start of the second half in place of Furkan Korkmaz and put him on Mitchell.

Thybulle was grateful for the opportunity to defend Utah’s top scorer, who entered Monday night averaging 24.9 points per game.

“Yeah, that’s why we love basketball, just the competitive nature of it,” he said. “To be given the challenge of guarding the other team’s best player is an honor in and of itself, but then also the challenge of it is exciting for me, just as a competitor.”

Brown can put up with the occasional unwise gamble or overeager foul by Thybulle when the rookie is knocking down outside shots and filling a simple “3-and-D” role. Thybulle, after making all three of his three-point attempts Monday, is 16 for 37 (43.2 percent) from long range.

“I thought that he played more tame,” Brown said. “I thought that he took the shots that he should have shot — under-control shots, his shots. And I thought that he made some defensive plays that were timely. It’s still really interesting for me to see how much ground he covers and getting fingernails on balls and hands on balls.”

For Thybulle and the Sixers, it remains to be seen if all those skills will travel. The Sixers’ unbeaten home mark is in sharp contrast to their 5-6 road record, and the disparity in Thybulle’s performances is especially stark. 

He’s shot 12 for 16 from three at home, 4 of 21 on the road.

And, when Richardson returns, Thybulle will perhaps again need to acclimate to uneven playing time — although Brown did say he “sure is still going to play.”

He insists that his sporadic usage hasn't bothered him.

“I’ve just chalked it up to being a rookie,” he said. “I just go with the flow, I take what I get and try to make the most of what I have out there.”

Brown admitted Monday that he didn’t expect to have Thybulle be able to hang with and sometimes frustrate opposing perimeter scorers the way he has as a rookie. 

“… He has surprised me. It doesn’t entirely surprise me because of what you could see deflection-wise and athletically, that he’s able to do some things in that regard. His shot has surprised me. And I think that the human being, he’s just elite. He’s a great person and he’s a legitimate teammate, a prideful learner. That side of it I think is as important as the athletic side. I think the partnership equals you can expedite improvement quicker, maybe, then with most.”

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Sixers broadcaster Marc Zumoff calls a day in the life of guy stuck at home

Sixers broadcaster Marc Zumoff calls a day in the life of guy stuck at home

The city of Philadelphia absolutely wishes we were currently watching the Sixers right now in the middle of a championship run.

Alas, live games are on hold for the time being, so there's a Marc Zumoff-sized void in our lives.

But given all of the extra free time broadcasters and media personalities have lately, Marc Farzetta was able to create the dream of longtime Sixers play-by-play man Zumoff calling his daily life at home.

"Farzetta rises from his slumber!" Zumoff begins as Farzetta gets out of bed. "Farzetta scoops, packs, and sips. Yes!" Zoo continues as Farzy makes his daily espresso.

Not only is Zoo doing the play-by-play, but he passed it over to his broadcast partners Alaa Abdelnaby and Serena Winters for the assist at one point.

The execution is as crisp as a Ben Simmons alley-oop to Joel Embiid. Hopefully we'll get plenty more Zoo, Alaa and Serena in our lives sometime soon.

Jerry Stackhouse tries to set record straight on scrimmages with 17-year-old Kobe Bryant

Jerry Stackhouse tries to set record straight on scrimmages with 17-year-old Kobe Bryant

At 17 years old, Kobe Bryant was scrimmaging against professional athletes and Philadelphia college stars, about to embark on a 20-year NBA career.

He impressed in those scrimmages with his skill and bravado. But, according to Jerry Stackhouse, Bryant wasn’t big on passing. 

Stackhouse, now the head coach at Vanderbilt, spent the first two-plus years of his career with the Sixers before being traded to the Pistons and matched up with Bryant in those scrimmages.

What happened with Kobe was nobody really wanted to play with Kobe,” he said on The Woj Pod. “[Former La Salle star and NBA player] Lionel Simmons, you used to always see him pulling Kobe to the side, like, ‘Man, you gotta pass the ball! You gotta learn how to do this!' Because the older guys were from Philly. … These stories kind of take on a life of their own. And yes, Kobe had some good days scoring the ball, because he could handle it so well. But he had tunnel vision at that point. You had pickup games, sometimes he didn’t even get picked up. 

“But again, because he’s so been great since this, these stories go back of ‘Oh, he beat Stackhouse one-on-one.’ Come on, man. Me at 20 years old, can you imagine a 17-year-old beating me consistently? I’d have hurt him first, real talk. Just physically, that could never happen to me. Did we play one-on-one? Yes. Did he beat me, did he maybe win a game? Yes. Did he consistently beat Jerry Stackhouse at 20 years old when he was 17? Hell no. I’m putting an end to that story. … Was he super talented and everyone saw great potential in him? Yes, but those scenarios … of Kobe Bryant, they’re a little bit of a different story when you go talk to people that were actually in the gym. 

Stackhouse noted that it took a little time for Bryant to adjust to the NBA game, which is true. The Lower Merion High School graduate played only 15.5 minutes per game as a rookie. Of course, he went on to make 18 All-Star Games, win five NBA championships and become one of the best players of his era. 

Though Stackhouse wanted to set the record straight on those one-on-one games with Bryant, he was still amazed by his ability at such a young age.

“This kid was unbelievable,” he said. “Just his ball handling ability … he grew up, obviously, emulating Michael Jordan.”

However, the members of the Philadelphia basketball community who were in the gym for those scrimmages were apparently ruthless in their critiques.

“I vividly remember the old heads from Philadelphia,” Stackhouse said, “[they're] like, ‘Come on, man, you gotta pass the ball! That ain’t how you gotta play!’” 

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