76ers

Sixers top Jazz to open road trip with 5th straight win

Sixers top Jazz to open road trip with 5th straight win

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SALT LAKE CITY – Figuring out how to guard Ben Simmons is a puzzle many NBA teams can't solve. The Sixers’ rookie keeps finding ways to contribute and impact a game – even when his shot isn't falling.

Simmons offered his latest evidence of that ability in helping the Sixers claim their fifth consecutive victory with a 104-97 win over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night (see observations). He peppered the stat sheet with all sorts of impact stats as usual – 16 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks.

For Simmons, it is part of a continued quest for excellence. He wants to build a reputation as a winner, plain and simple. And he'll do everything to bring his team along with him.

“I'm not happy with losing,” Simmons said. “I feel like that defines me and that's just the way the game is. People are defined by how many rings they have. For me, I just want to win and while I'm in the league be one of those guys that's a winner.”

Simmons isn't just winning, he's elevating his game to a whole new level. He notched his seventh double-double in 10 career NBA games, becoming the first NBA rookie to have that many double-doubles in their first 10 games since Shaquille O' Neal did it 11 straight times to start the 1992-93 season.

Figuring out how to contain Simmons on either end of the court is a little like playing with fire. One way or another, teams end up being burned. Still, teams have to account for what he can do to influence a game as a 6-foot-10 point guard with loads of athleticism, an incredible wingspan and unmatched passing abilities for a big man.

“He's unique,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I think everyone game plans against him, in one way or another, because he is the engine.”

One area where Simmons made his greatest impact against Utah came on the defensive glass. Simmons posted a career-high 12 defensive rebounds. It allowed him to get out and push the ball and set up some quick shots in transition.

The Sixers capitalized. As a team, they shot 12 of 27 (44.4 percent) from the perimeter. Dario Saric led the way with a career-high five three-pointers – part of his season-high 25 points. JJ Redick and Robert Covington each hit three three-pointers apiece. They finished with 20 points and 14 points, respectively.

When Simmons can rebound and push the ball like he did against the Jazz, the Sixers become a team that's almost impossible to guard.

“You’ve got to be ready to run when you play with Ben,” forward/center Richaun Holmes said. “It's an exciting way to play.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown said that Simmons grew tremendously after having the NBA equivalent of a redshirt year when he sat out last season with an injury. It allowed Simmons to watch the game and learn about it from a different perspective. Brown felt like it opened the door for him to get himself a little more acclimated to the pro game before diving in with both feet.

“None of us can dismiss the benefit that Ben Simmons had of effectively being a redshirt and taking it all in and not necessarily in real time,” Brown said. “The NBA is so unforgiving.”

If Simmons could turn back the clock, he would have erased the injury that cost him an entire season. Now, in hindsight, he can see where it helped him learn and grow. The biggest thing it taught him is learning how to be patient and pick his battles.

Now that he's on the court, he's going full speed and progressing at a rate that surprises even the coaches that worked with him from Day 1.

“I think it definitely helps, but you can't actually compare it to playing,” Simmons said. “I think I've learned more just being on the court and actually playing and seeing different teams and sets than watching. But it did pay off to be able to watch and learn the game.”  

Sixers rookie Landry Shamet, Shake Milton receive good (!) injury news

Sixers rookie Landry Shamet, Shake Milton receive good (!) injury news

Finally, some good health news, Sixers fans.

While Zhaire Smith continues an unfortunate trend of Sixers’ rookies suffering injuries, two other 2018 draft picks are progressing.

First-round pick Landry Shamet (sprained right ankle) and second-round pick Shake Milton (stress fracture in his back) are both asymptomatic, the team said Monday.

Shamet has been cleared for “light basketball activities” while Milton can “resume limited basketball activities.”

Shamet, a guard out of Wichita State, got banged up in the first half of the Sixers’ first summer league game against the Celtics. Shamet logged just 12 minutes before suffering the ankle sprain. He hit 2 of 5 from three for six points during the stint.

Milton never got the opportunity to play in summer league having suffered his injury during the pre-draft process. The 6-foot-6 guard/forward out of SMU is on a two-way contract with the Sixers, meaning he’ll spend the majority of his season with the Delaware Blue Coats and can spend no more 45 days with the big club.

Smith, the 16th overall pick acquired in a draft-night trade with the Suns, suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot and underwent successful surgery last week. There’s been no timetable for his return.

Both Shamet and Milton offer something the Sixers covet: shooting. Shamet shot 44 percent on 5.1 threes a game in 71 games. Milton was also proficient, shooting 43 percent on 5.1 attempts from distance in 87 games.

The Sixers’ rotation should be a tough one to crack this season, but being healthy for camp would be a fine start for Shamet and Milton.

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Despite Jamal Crawford's praise, Sixers should be wary of signing veteran free agent

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Despite Jamal Crawford's praise, Sixers should be wary of signing veteran free agent

Despite coming up empty in their goal of star hunting this summer, the Sixers are still currently one of the more desirable franchises in the NBA.

They reached the second round of the playoffs last season behind two up-and-coming stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Plus, the organization has a respected head coach in Brett Brown, state-of-the-art training complex, an intense fan base and much more to offer.

At least that’s how free-agent scorer Jamal Crawford views things.

“I like their city. I like how into it they are about basketball. I like their knowledge of basketball, how passionate they are,” Crawford said of Philadelphia last week to Brandon Robinson on Scoop B Radio. “I’ve always loved coach Brett Brown. I’ve been on record. I’ve been a fan of his for years. He just needed talent, and now he has that. He added Ben Simmons, I love his game. I love Jo-Jo. They’re both among my favorite players in the league to watch. Markelle (Fultz) is like a little brother to me. Obviously, he went to the University of Washington, and we talk every other day. JJ Redick is like a brother to me. We’ve been through wars together, so there’s so many things to love about Philadelphia for sure.”

That’s high praise from a three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner. High enough to the point that he would want to suit up for the Sixers?

“I think for me, especially being out there as a free agent, something could work out,” Crawford said. “I would be honored to play there, but things obviously have to take its course and I kind of got to sit back, but who wouldn’t want to play there?”

Well, that cleared things up. 

Now the Sixers, in a new position with players openly offering their services to them, have to be clear too: Crawford isn’t the answer.

No, not “The Answer” although Crawford does have some legendary crossover moves of his own. The 18-year veteran simply isn’t the right fit for this Sixers squad.

For all of Crawford’s accomplishments over nearly two decades in the NBA, the 38-year-old has been on a steady decline. His scoring has dropped in each of the past five years until he posted 10.3 points a night last season with Minnesota, his lowest mark since he averaged 10.7 a night way back in 2002-03.

While Crawford attributed his struggles with the Timberwolves to limited minutes, that doesn’t have anything to do with his efficiency or lack thereof. Crawford shot 41.5 percent from the field and 33.1 percent from three-point range in 2017-18. Those numbers aren’t outliers either as he has career averages of 41.0 percent field goal shooting and 34.9 percent three-point shooting.

And it’s not just the scoring itself. It’s also how Crawford scores the ball. Even though he received only 20.7 minutes per game with the T-Wolves, Crawford was 13th in the entire league in isolation frequency with 19.8 percent of his possessions coming in a one-on-one setting. For comparison, Simmons was the highest Sixer in isolation frequency at 9.0 percent (87th in the NBA).

It’s understandable the Sixers might be still be looking to replace the veteran scoring off the bench lost by the departures of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, but Crawford’s game doesn’t exactly scream the pace-and-space mantra preached by the club.

That just shows how Crawford isn’t an ideal fit offensively. We won’t even get into the defensive end of the court (*cough* Crawford had a defensive rating of 112.9 last season, which means opponents averaged that many points per 100 possessions he was on the floor, good enough for 490th out of 523 total players *cough*).

Crawford does still have a place in the league. He’s a volume scorer that can potentially get hot on any given night and pour in 30 points. He’s also great in the locker room, a reason he took home Teammate of the Year award in '17-18.

But with the above signs of decline as well as T.J. McConnell and a rejuvenated Markelle Fultz penciled in as the Sixers’ reserve backcourt, there might not be the opportunity in Philadelphia that Crawford is seeking out.

Part of the Sixers now being desired is having the power in their hands. This might be a perfect time to use that to their advantage and ignore Crawford’s interest.

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