76ers

Sixers react to Ben Simmons' taking first legitimate three-point attempt

Sixers react to Ben Simmons' taking first legitimate three-point attempt

We all knew it would come at some point, we just didn’t know when.

Ben Simmons has had countless opportunities to take a legitimate, wide-open three, but in 135 career NBA games, he hadn’t done so.

Until Sunday (see story).

Early in the third quarter of the Sixers’ 143-120 win over the Lakers (see observations), Simmons casually rose up and took a three from the right wing. 

Me personally, I was getting ready to run the play and then literally I just saw the ball go over [my head] and then I was like, ‘Oh, s---!’” Joel Embiid said. “He caught me off guard. I’m in a position where I’m like, ‘OK … what just happened?’ 

“But I thought it was in. It was in and out. I wish it would’ve been in, but he’s been working on it. Every day we tell him, ‘You got to shoot it.’

Embiid’s reaction probably encapsulated how just about everyone who’s watched Simmons’ young career reacted.

As brilliant as Simmons has been in capturing a Rookie of the Year award and an All-Star selection, he’s received his fair share of criticism for his lack of a shot. At times it’s hurt the 6-foot-10 point guard as defenders — much like LeBron James, who basically sat in the lane Sunday — sag off of him, knowing he’s not a threat.

So why take the three now?

“I didn’t really think about it too much,” Simmons said. “I think I’m just being more aggressive, taking more open shots. Grow my game in that way. I think I’m getting there. It takes time, but I’m going to get there.”

Elton Brand has assembled something that appears to be special in acquiring Tobias Harris to join the team’s starting five. Harris’ elite shooting and scoring ability have added a unique dynamic, but Simmons has struggled in the two games since Harris’ arrival.

He turned the ball over nine times against the Nuggets Friday. On Sunday, he turned the ball over just twice and was more aggressive in looking for his shot, but finished just 3 of 13 from the field.

While the numbers didn’t bear it out vs. the Lakers, Simmons’ willingness to shoot should help this offense a great deal. As the season enters its final third, Brett Brown has spoken with Simmons about expanding his game and what it could mean for the team as a whole.

Apparently, that message was received.

A little bit like everybody. I was like, ‘OK …’” Brett Brown said when asked about his reaction to Simmons’ three attempt. “He and I spoke about this notion for a little bit in the past 24 hours. What’s going to happen in the third third of the season? How do we better help you prepare for the playoffs?

“We all have memories of the Celtics series. So somewhere in the middle we have a window of [26 games] left and I’d like to try some of this stuff  prior to the All-Star break and take off with it in the final third.

Don’t expect Simmons to become a three-point specialist overnight. For the season, he’s hit just 14 of 67 shots (21 percent) from beyond 10 feet.

He can learn something from the career of one of his newest teammates.

Harris is now an elite shooter from beyond, but he certainly didn’t come into the league like that. In his first five seasons, Harris took just 2.4 threes a game and hit only 33 percent. Over his past two seasons, Harris is over 42 percent and taking over five attempts a game.

Simmons doesn’t have to reach that level, but anything close would make him as close to unguardable as you can be.

“Just to see that confidence. For him to be able to take it, that’s the first step,” Harris said. “This is coming from somebody, my first couple years in the league, I wasn’t labeled a three-point shooter. The first step is confidence and then next after that is reps and continued reps. Once he starts being able to knock that three down, he’s going to be the full package out there.”

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Sixers' new starting five is on Sports Illustrated cover

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@SINow

Sixers' new starting five is on Sports Illustrated cover

If you're a Sixers fan, you better hope the Sports Illustrated cover jinx is not a real thing.

The Sixers' new, formidable starting five is on this week's cover of SI, posing around the words "Process This." You'd imagine Sam Hinkie is reading with pride. 

Interesting to note how all five guys have a hint of a smile besides Joel Embiid. His competitive side sometimes gets overshadowed, but Embiid definitely looks like he means business on the cover with that cold stare into the camera.

Tobias Harris wishes his teammates had gone all-in on the smile.

In the issue, The Crossover staff at SI re-previews the highly competitive Eastern Conference, taking stock of where the Sixers, Celtics, Bucks and Raptors stand after an eventful trade deadline.

So did Philly just build the most talented team in the East — or a very expensive runner-up? Whatever the answer, the experiment seems an appropriate extension of the Process," Andrew Sharp writes. "You don’t have to love every move, but you can’t help but admire the ambition.

Fair enough. 

Eleven years ago, Elton Brand was on the cover.

The question then was, "How far can Elton Brand take the Sixers?" It's still a relevant question, although at this point, the Sixers' fate falls largely on the team Brand has helped assemble. But there's no doubt Brand is again a big part of the Sixers' return to the national spotlight.

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What should Sixers' rotation be for playoffs?

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USA Today/AP Images

What should Sixers' rotation be for playoffs?

After Sunday night's All-Star Game, we still have three days to kill before the Sixers are back in action. 

Today, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick discuss who should be part of the Sixers' playoff rotation. 

Tuesday, they'll look at how the Sixers can overcome the Celtics, and Wednesday they'll review their expectations for the rest of the season.

Hudrick

Brett Brown has said that his rotation will be at 10 players for now and will go down to nine when the playoffs come. You could make the argument that number should perhaps be eight given how elite the starting five is.

Looking at the five bench guys now, Brown has mentioned that veteran Mike Scott is a lock as the backup four. You figure T.J. McConnell will also be in as the backup point guard. Brown also seems determined to see how much he can use Boban Marjanovic. The other two guys off the bench should be James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons, without a doubt.

Jonah Bolden has been the odd man out, but that may not continue into the postseason. He lost his job as Joel Embiid’s backup really by no fault of his own. He’d been doing a nice job as the backup five and makes a ton of sense as a rim protector that is capable of switching onto guards and can hit the occasional open three.

As we saw in the game against the Celtics, Marjanovic is a liability against bigs like Al Horford and Daniel Theis with the ability to hit shots from the perimeter. Marjanovic was exposed big time in the pick-and-roll, already a sore spot for the Sixers.

With McConnell, he seems more like a matchup-type player as he can be exposed by bigger guards. That’s where the Jimmy Butler point guard experiment comes into play. If I were Brown, my playoff bench would be Scott at the four, Bolden at the five and then either Ennis or Simmons as a backup wing while Butler runs the point. The nice thing about having useful, versatile pieces is you can match up against other teams and also swap players that maybe don't have it on a given night.

If the starters all play around 40 minutes, that leaves about 40 minutes — 13 apiece — for three players. That should be manageable given the strength of the starting unit.

Levick

The playoff rotation is going to have to be largely matchup-dependent. That’s a good thing.

The Sixers now have the personnel to adapt off the bench to most situations. For instance, if you’re playing the Bucks and have to deal with the threat of Brook Lopez as a three-point shooter, you’d likely prefer Jonah Bolden’s quickness and ability to defend away from the rim over Boban Marjanovic. If you’re playing the Hornets, Jonathon Simmons could get more minutes as a physical defensive option against Kemba Walker. T.J. McConnell might play a more prominent role against the Celtics, a team he thrived against last postseason.

Furkan Korkmaz should not be part of the equation; Simmons, Ennis, McConnell and Mike Scott all offer more reliable value. Korkmaz is dependent on hitting three-point shots, and he hasn’t done that consistently. And unlike Korkmaz, Simmons, Ennis, McConnell and Scott all have playoff experience.

We also shouldn’t forget about Zhaire Smith. According to general manager Elton Brand, the expectation is still that he’ll play this season. If Smith gets back on the court and his stint with the Blue Coats goes well, he deserves a shot to show what he can do this year at the NBA level. And if Brett Brown likes what he sees, Smith’s perimeter defense and athleticism could be an intriguing playoff option. 

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