76ers

James Ennis thinks Sixers' bench will be 'bulldogs'

James Ennis thinks Sixers' bench will be 'bulldogs'

CAMDEN, N.J. — With a scrimmage to play tomorrow, the fourth and final day of training camp for the Sixers wasn’t a physical one. Friday’s practice was mostly about “polishing up what we’ve put in,” Brett Brown said. There will be plenty of chances down the line for his team to fully impose their “smash mouth offense and bully ball defense" mentality.

Here are a few notes ahead of Saturday’s Blue X White Scrimmage at 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware:

Building an environment

In the final few minutes of practice, five-man teams on three separate courts ran through baseline and sideline out of bounds plays and drills for specific situations. Brown also had his team do some 5-on-0 work to develop greater comfort with the Sixers’ “A to B” offense

He instructed his starters at one point to play off “B deny,” which is how the offense begins when the point guard, “A,” keeps the ball instead of passing to the trailing big man, “B.”

We’re already familiar with the “organic” style of offense Brown wants his team to have. But what factors into how he approaches baseline and sideline out of bounds plays, after-timeout sets and other special situations?

With the creativity of coaches nowadays where you can come out and they could be sitting in a zone, they could switch one through four, keep five at home, sag the inbounder, pressure the inbounder, there’s just so many things that you’re seeing. And to feel like you’re going to come out with all the answers is really not smart. 

“And so for me, I like to just put them in an environment — and that’s the word, an environment. Then they’ve got to choose different options out of it. That’s the mentality when you’re talking about “need” plays, ATOs, catch shot down three, catch shot down two, need two with time, all that stuff. 

Bulldogs off the bench 

James Ennis had an answer ready to go when asked how he’d characterize the personality of the Sixers’ bench.

“Bulldogs,” he said. “Mike Scott leading us, myself, Furkan [Korkmaz], Kyle [O’Quinn] and whoever is on the second team will be bulldogs ready to get stops.”

Ennis and Scott will be key members of that second unit, but the full composition of the bench is still up in the air. The backup point guard competition will be one to watch at Saturday’s scrimmage and likely throughout the preseason, and there are a ton of names in the mix on the wing. 

Brown said Wednesday he expects the rotation will comprise 10 or 11 players in the beginning of the regular season, so Zhaire Smith, Matisse Thybulle, Korkmaz and Shake Milton all might see opportunities to earn minutes.

While Smith and Thybulle are both renowned for their defense, they’re not identical players. If the rotation is indeed a large one at first, the idea of playing them together and showcasing their different defensive strengths in tandem is intriguing.

They both are very, very good defensive players,” Brown said. “Matisse’s ability off the ball, where he can cover ground and shoot gaps and get in lanes and pick stuff out of the sky with his length stands out. I think Zhaire’s gravity, his center of gravity when he’s just dogging somebody and lower sort of balance levels — he reminds me a little bit of Avery Bradley at times. … They both are tremendous athletes and for sure elite defensive players for their ages. That carryover into an NBA game will be part of their learning curve. But that is sure how they see the world — they play defense.

A different perspective on Simmons' shot 

Brown began his availability with the media Friday with a joke.

“As long as nobody asks me about Ben Simmons’ jump shot or Joel’s health or things like that, I’m happy,” he said.

That subject had come up often the day before, with Brown pushing back against the notion that it should be “the thing” everyone fixates on with Simmons (see story).

Though Brown didn’t address it Friday, Joel Embiid, unprompted, had something to say about Simmons’ jumper when asked about his extended after-practice three-point shooting session.

“Like I’ve always said before, I don’t like shooting threes,” Embiid said. “But this year since we’re going to have Ben willing to take those threes, maybe it’s going to put my game more inside. I’m hoping that he will shoot them, so I do my job, what I do inside.”

Random observation: Embiid was pretty subdued Friday, but he did throw in a jab at new player development specialist Roy Hibbert, a two-time All-Star with the Indiana Pacers.

“Well, I’ve been busting his a--,” Embiid said, “but it’s been good. Another guy with size. He helps a lot. Another guy who’s strong. He’s in the training room every day after we work out because I’m always hitting him. But he’s a great guy.”

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Sixers' Josh Richardson provides behind-the-scenes look at life in Disney World quarantine

Sixers' Josh Richardson provides behind-the-scenes look at life in Disney World quarantine

If you were curious about what life is like for NBA players currently quarantining at Disney World, Josh Richardson likely answered a few of your questions Friday night.

In an Instagram Live, Richardson gave a thorough tour of his room. He showed his wardrobe, gaming setup and various amenities at the Grand Floridian Hotel. 

Though the neighbor situation sounds a bit mysterious to Richardson, given that he’s had to stay in his room, he said he knows Mike Scott is nearby because he could “hear him screaming on his GTA headset this morning.” 

Richardson also gave an update on rookie Matisse Thybulle, who memorably had not satisfied his teammates’ desire for biscuits on a road trip earlier this season. The quantity of biscuits Thybulle dragged on to the Sixers’ flight to Florida was sufficient, according to Richardson.

“Matisse did a good job on the plane,” Richardson said. “He did what he had to do.”

What are Richardson's teammates up to?

Joel Embiid is joking about the food and Tobias Harris has crossed paths again with his old friend Boban Marjanovic.

Ben Simmons is unsurprisingly playing video games, while Marial Shayok caught an old Iowa State game on television.

Soon enough, the Sixers will be able to leave their rooms and play basketball, as long as they return negative coronavirus tests. The team’s first practice is set for Saturday, while its first scrimmage is scheduled for July 24. 

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Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic have been reunited at Disney World ... sort of

Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic have been reunited at Disney World ... sort of

Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic have been reunited. Sort of.

The two old friends are both staying at the Grand Floridian Hotel in Disney World for the NBA's planned return. That doesn’t mean they’re permitted to socialize just yet.

The Sixers arrived in Orlando on Thursday and players remain quarantined in their rooms for the time being. The team’s first practice is scheduled for Saturday.

Friendship finds a way, though.

Although Harris is apparently a bit jealous of Marjanovic’s new friends on the Mavericks.

He had an amusing response Friday morning to a video of Marjanovic palling around with star point guard Luka Doncic. 

A few weeks ago, Harris had forecasted this very situation.

“I know Boban will be trying to communicate with me and trying to link up,” he said to Ernie Johnson in an interview for the "NBA Together" series. “I’m going to have security make sure he’s not able to talk to me.” 

Along with the Mavs and Sixers, the Thunder, Rockets, Nets, Pacers, Grizzlies and Magic are the other teams staying at the Grand Floridian Hotel. There should be opportunities down the line for socializing that don’t involve conversations that are quite as long-distance, as long as everyone stays more than six feet apart and follows all health and safety protocols. 

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