After the Sixers’ loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last Friday, the team faced questions about slow starts, pick-and-roll coverage and defensive rebounding.
After Friday night’s 123-98 victory over the Washington Wizards (see observations), everyone was buzzing about Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler’s matching white headbands.
Such is life when you’ve won seven of eight games, including two straight blowouts.
Eight Sixers scored in double-figures on Friday, as no starter had to play more than 25 minutes.
Simmons had 13 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, and shot a perfect 5 for 5 from the field, 3 for 3 from the foul line.
He explained the origin of the headbands.
“I’ve just been wearing it in practice,” Simmons said. “[Jimmy] said if I wear it, he’s going to wear it.”
Butler tested the headband out in an unconventional look at Thursday’s practice, wrapping it around his hoodie.
Headband and hoodie look today from Jimmy Butler. pic.twitter.com/lvr0fgk4dM— Noah Levick (@NoahLevick) November 29, 2018
He had a smile on his face, but head coach Brett Brown thought the headbands had a deeper symbolic meaning.
They are defensive brothers. They’re blood brothers — that band to me signifies a bonding, a defensive bonding. I’ve asked Jimmy to put Ben under his wing and really help Ben be all he can be defensively. Ben was our bell ringer tonight. … I thought he was excellent. So that’s what it is. It’s a bonding of defensive brothers, the headband.
Brown said before the game that “defensive accountability” is the biggest area in which Butler, in his early days as a Sixer, has helped Simmons. He believes Simmons can be “as good a defender as he wants to be.”
Having a notorious defensive competitor like Butler around can't hurt Simmons’ growth on that end of the floor.
The two had a 112 defensive rating when they shared the floor in Butler’s first eight games with the team, but it would be a surprise if that number doesn’t significantly drop.
Following another quality defensive team effort, every Sixer who sat down at the microphone postgame was in a joking mood.
T.J. McConnell smiled and gave a “no comment” when asked about the headbands.
Joel Embiid said he was “kind of disappointed. I was expecting them to score at least 40 points or 50.”
Butler said, in jest, that he wanted the No. 25 but “for some reason” the team wouldn’t give it to him.
He said rookie Landry Shamet got a “firm pat on the tail” in exchange for giving up No. 23.
If the Sixers keep blowing teams out, fashion choices will stay in the spotlight, not turnover problems or Brown’s substitutions.
As Butler put it, “the headband is in right now.”
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