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Sixers veteran big man Amir Johnson wins NBA's Hustle award

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Sixers veteran big man Amir Johnson wins NBA's Hustle award

Ben Simmons wasn’t the only Sixer to walk out of Monday’s NBA awards ceremony with a trophy.

Teammate Amir Johnson became the second-ever recipient of the league’s Hustle award.

“This is definitely an honor,” Johnson said. “I pride myself on doing the little things on the court and I just want to say thank you to my teammates and coaches. This award means a lot.”

The Hustle award is given to the NBA player with the highest aggregate hustle score each year. The score is calculated on: 

• Players who played a minimum of 50 regular season games and at least 15 minutes per game.

• Five hustle stats: screen assists, deflections, loose balls recovered, charges drawn and shot contests.

• Players were compared by position (G/F/C) within each statistic on a per-minute basis.

• Within each statistic, a metric was calculated for each player based on his relative performance.

Johnson, in his 14th season overall and first as a Sixer, averaged 2.5 screen assists, 1.0 deflections, 0.7 loose balls recovered, 0.08 charges drawn and 5.5 contested shots per game. He added 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds a night as the team's primary reserve big man.

The veteran beat out Indiana’s Thaddeus Young, Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr., Simmons and Anthony Davis to claim the award.

“Amir Johnson is a true professional and meant so much to our team and locker room this past season,” Sixers head coach and interim general manager Brett Brown said in a statement. “His work ethic and grit had a significant positive impact on our program and culture, and I couldn’t be happier that he’s been recognized with this award.”

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This is the version of Wilson Chandler the Sixers need

This is the version of Wilson Chandler the Sixers need

When the Sixers acquired Wilson Chandler for “cash considerations” this offseason, it seemed like a great move.

The Nuggets, flush with young talent on the perimeter, were looking to get free of Chandler’s $12,800,562 cap hit. The Sixers, looking for a useful veteran, were happy to oblige.

Unfortunately, the Sixers hadn’t quite gotten the same player that they saw in New York and Denver through 29 games. 

There have been flashes — like the Christmas Day game against Boston — but no consistency. 

It’s been a tough transition for Chandler. Being traded from an organization you spent nearly a decade with isn’t easy. 

Nor is adjusting from being primarily used as a small forward for your career and now being asked to play more stretch four. Nor is getting used to playing alongside three All-Star caliber players.

“It’s been a tough process for me but I think I’m starting to figure it out,” Chandler said postgame Tuesday while sharing the podium with Joel Embiid. “Just playing off Jo and Ben [Simmons]. Knowing when to be aggressive and where to find my shots.”

There haven’t been many moments for postgame talks with the media for Chandler this season and Embiid made sure to bust his chops.

“You’re f------ trash,” you could hear Embiid jokingly whisper to Chandler while he attempted to answer a question about his fit. Chandler laughed before telling Embiid to “chill out.”

But all in all, it’s been a rough go for Chandler, who has missed 15 of the team’s 45 games. Every time it seems like Chandler might be able to start rolling, another health issue creeps up.

First, it was the hamstring strain that cost him the first nine games of the season. As he was recovering from that, he suffered a bruised quad that lingered. That was followed by the upper-respiratory infection that’s passed through the team.

He appeared to turn a corner in Boston, but in the seven games he played in following the overtime loss to the Celtics, Chandler averaged just 4.7 points and shot 31 percent from the field (23 percent from three).

In Tuesday night’s blowout win over the Timberwolves, the 31-year-old combo forward gave yet another glimpse of what he can provide this team. 

He scored 14 points, tied for his second-highest point total of the season. He shot 5 of 7 from the field and 4 of 6 from three. He also added five rebounds and four assists in 25 minutes, showing off the all-around game he can provide.

Even with Chandler struggling, the Sixers’ starting lineup was lethal. If he makes shots like Tuesday? Good luck.

A new wrinkle Brett Brown spoke about postgame was pairing Embiid and Jimmy Butler on the court more. An offshoot of that is that Chandler got to spend more time on the wing — something the 12th year veteran admitted he felt more comfortable with.

A healthy and comfortable Chandler could spell trouble for Sixers opponents. With a brutal stretch coming up, the Sixers will need this version of Wilson Chandler.

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Annelie Schmittel's path to becoming the Sixers VP of player development

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Philadelphia 76ers

Annelie Schmittel's path to becoming the Sixers VP of player development

When Annelie Schmittel was growing up in the small town of Zell, Germany, her father always thought she would work in sports. 

Schmittel, on the other hand — who was a high jumper in college at Winona State University in Minnesota — was pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism and was on a path to becoming a foreign journalist or news correspondent. 

Schmittel also never thought her one year of studying abroad as a high school foreign exchange student in Black River Farms, Wisconsin, would turn into 14 years in the United States, and lead her to become the Sixers VP of player development.

 “This is part of this whole thing now,” Schmittel said, “being able to show other people or young girls or industry leaders in sports and other male-dominated fields that, if the Sixers can do this, and open up this kind of opportunity to a female, there is no reason that they shouldn't.”

Like many who grow up playing sports, when she stopped competing, she realized how much she missed that environment. While completing her master's degree in sports management, she started to realize she could help athletes.

When Schmittel started her research in college athletics, it was when Twitter had just started to become a thing. And Schmittel started to see a lot of her student-athletes tweet things that shouldn’t be in a public forum.

Whereas most colleges and coaches wanted to simply ban their athletes from using social media, Schmittel was focused on how to use it properly — how athletes could use their own platform and their own voice positively.

Schmittel dove into her research, on the quest for expertise that could set her apart from all of the former male athletes that were usually chosen for player development positions. 

Once she got to the University of Florida to earn her Ph.D., she was interested in crisis communication — what happens when athletes get in trouble and how can they repair their image? 

After months of emails and meetings and uncertainty, Schmittel landed a job in player engagement with the Raiders. That same year the NFL had just transitioned away from hosting the rookie symposium and teams took control of their own programs. 

Schmittel helped build the curriculum for the Raiders so the players could learn more about things like finances and social media usage. She organized trips to places like Facebook headquarters, so they could gain a deeper understanding. 

All of this prepped her for when she would stumble across the Sixers job posting. Despite not looking to leave the Raiders or the NFL, the Sixers intrigued her. 

You are always looking for teams that are going through change, that are innovative by nature. How much the Sixers were investing in the people that work here and the culture and the types of people that they bring in … I felt like it was a place where the leadership felt really strongly about player development and the role that it plays, not only off the court [but] on it, and that’s unique and impressive and exciting.

It was more than just Schmittel’s experience in the NFL — though that was a big part of it — that put her above the rest of the 550 applicants. 

“I've been in the NBA for 12 years, and that was far and away the most important hire I've ever done,” said Alex Rucker, executive vice president of basketball operations. “At its core level, player development is about relationships and trust, being able to work with people in an intimate way. This is stuff we really, really care about and we're passionate about, so how do we work together? Because that kind of an ecosystem often creates friction and can become an adversarial thing, simply because we care so much, and her ability to navigate that in a really safe and positive way is really interesting.”

While with the Raiders, each program was tailored to the teams' needs and what they felt like the player needed at that point in their career, something she’d like to do here.

“It’s not a player development program for the Sixers,” Rucker explained. “It's 17 different player development programs for 17 athletes and they are wildly different, and our ability to win championships almost relies entirely on those 17 individuals …

“And that's Annelie's core strength really, is seeing the bigger picture and everyone's role within it.”

And what about that whole being a female in a male-dominated industry?

When I took this job, I didn't even consciously think about what having a female in this position, what kind of attention that alone could cause. And I say this often, I look forward to the day, when a female gets a position, any job, whether it's in sports media, or in a sports leadership position or in any male dominated field, where it is no longer ‘Wow, they hired a woman,’ but the stories become they hired the best person for that particular job. 

But on the flip side, it's been really humbling and exciting and mind blowing, how many messages, I've received from young girls or from dads saying, ‘Hey, I'm raising a daughter and I just want you to know that you are a role model, and I would like to know what I can do to raise my daughter so that she can get a role like yours.’ So if me being in this role can help a young girl at home or somebody that is on this path working towards pro sports or collegiate sports, or any male dominated field, if they can see me as an example and say ‘OK, this is somebody that did it, so I can do it too.’ Then, that is awesome.

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