76ers

Tobias Harris-Boban Marjanovic Q&A: Philly cheesesteak, hobbies, more

Tobias Harris-Boban Marjanovic Q&A: Philly cheesesteak, hobbies, more

By now, you’ve heard about "Bobi and Tobi," the legendary duo of Boban Marjanovic and Tobias Harris, a friendship that started in Detroit, blossomed in Los Angeles (see the Bobi and Tobi show!) and is now destined for new heights here in Philadelphia.

Everything you’ve heard about these two is true. Harris, a 26-year-old, 6-foot-9 small forward from Long Island, New York, and Marjanovic, a 30-year-old, 7-foot-3 center from Serbia, feed off each other in a way that I can best describe as something that just makes you feel good to be around.

I caught up with both of them to ask a series of random questions and I think after reading this, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

What are you obsessed with outside of basketball?

Boban: *Quickly* Food.

Tobias: That would be mine, too. *Turns to Boban* You're more obsessed with Counter Strike.

Boban: OK, cars.

Tobias: Mine is food.

If you weren't playing basketball, you would be _____.

Boban: The guy on the farm. A farmer.

Tobias: Principal at a school.

Boban: I'd be a prince of my ...*laughs too hard to finish his sentence*

How do you like your Philly cheesesteak?

Boban: Chicken, no onions, pickles and can I put ... ketchup?

Serena: It's however you like it!

Boban: Then yes.

Tobias: Steak, onions, peppers, cheese, little extra cheese, ketchup for sure.

Favorite book?

Tobias: I've got a lot. A lot ...

Boban: I hear that question often.

Tobias: I would say one of my favorite books is "Blood Brothers," a documentary about Malcolm X.

Boban: I don't have one, but it's funny because my wife loves Harry Potter and, not about the movie, but I know everything because we have a lot of those books and I know everything [because] she taught me. So that's *laughs* my favorite book. 

Biggest pet peeve?

Tobias: When this guy ...

Boban: *Cuts Tobias off* What is pet peeve? 

Tobias: Something that annoys you ...

Boban: Not sleeping on time, for him, not me.

Tobias: Yeah, if I'm woken up, like someone wakes me up or stops me from going to bed at the time that I'm supposed to ...

Boban (to Tobias): You tell mine.

Tobias: I don't know.

Boban: You see, you don't even know me! I hate when someone talks behind my back. And also rolling eyes ...

Favorite thing about Tobias?

Boban: I help him and he helps me. Mostly me helping him. *laughs*

Favorite thing about Boban?

Tobias: He's a nice guy. Very nice.

One thing you bring with you wherever you go?

Tobias: Cellphone.

Boban: Tobias! *The laughter has turned into a roar at this point, and they proceed to dap*

Are you afraid of anything? Spiders or anything like that?

Tobias: Yeah, all those bugs. All of 'em.

Boban: No bugs, but what is the name of the bird? *Boban makes a woooo sound at this point*

Tobias: Owl. 

Boban: I'm not afraid, but I don't like to see them. 

I’ll be honest, my cheeks hurt from laughing and smiling with these guys at this point. Sixers fans, we’re in for a fun rest of the season with these two!

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Brett Brown gives insight into Sixers' post offense with Ben Simmons and with Joel Embiid

Brett Brown gives insight into Sixers' post offense with Ben Simmons and with Joel Embiid

While some of the Sixers’ offense is based around designed, structured actions, Brett Brown prefers to put his players in organic environments conducive to their success.

NBC Sports Philadelphia talked with Brown on Friday about the Sixers’ movement off Ben Simmons in the post and the differences with the team’s post offense around Joel Embiid. We got some insight into his thought process and details about how he wants to develop certain aspects of the Sixers' offense.  

‘Explosion’

According to Brown, “the very large majority” of the Sixers’ cutting when Simmons receives the ball in the post falls under the organic category.

We get the ball to Ben and there’s different actions that can happen behind it. The term that we use is 'Explosion.' There is a randomness to possibilities that has helped us. But the real key is movement. Playing static is not how we want to play with Ben Simmons on a back down.

The improvisation of “Explosion” makes it unpredictable. Below, after Jimmy Butler cuts to the rim, JJ Redick comes from the left corner to the left elbow to free Joel Embiid with a back screen. 

Redick often will raise his arm and move toward a teammate’s defender like he’s going to set a screen before sharply accelerating on a cut. He jogged over from the right wing to the right elbow against Sacramento, in the direction of Willie Cauley-Stein. But instead of screening for Embiid, he continued all the way to the rim.

Embiid slid over from the right elbow to the left elbow in Milwaukee to set a cross screen for Redick. Simmons waited for Redick to arrive for a handoff, and the 13-year veteran was fouled by an off-balance Eric Bledsoe.

The Sixers’ options out of “Explosion” aren’t limited to Simmons distributing the ball to others. 

“It’s still stuff we hope to get better at,” Brown said, “because, apart from his ability to pass out of it and the movement behind it, there’s still the ability or recognition that he can score.”

All the off-ball movement around Simmons is usually effective at drawing away potential help defenders and giving him room to score, as he does below against Corey Brewer. 

Simmons is also savvy at recognizing when defenders are too focused on cutters and not enough on him. Devonte’ Graham and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist both bit hard on Simmons’ fake handoff to Redick.

A different world

The Sixers’ post offense around Embiid has different underlying principles, which Brown says stem from his days as an assistant coach with the Spurs.

A little bit more static, a little bit more set the table, where Joel can be comfortable with his outlets. I’ve just pretty much replicated what we did with [Tim] Duncan for 12 years in San Antonio. We go to floor spots and use that as starting points, and then other things happen from those starting points.

When Embiid gets the ball in the post, the Sixers like to have men stationed on the weakside short corner, weakside corner, weakside wing and top of the key. Besides the player in the short corner — typically Simmons — everyone is well behind the three-point arc, behind the “four-point line.” 

The possession below against the Bucks illustrates the setup the Sixers prefer. James Ennis throws the ball into Embiid and slides over to the top of the key, while Simmons takes his spot in the right short corner, with Redick on the right wing and Mike Scott in the right corner.

You can see D.J. Wilson helps off Simmons late in an attempt to double team Embiid, but the Sixers’ spacing around their big man is designed to make effective double teams a challenge. Wilson doesn’t arrive in time to deter Embiid.

Double teams are more dangerous when the Sixers fail to occupy their proper floor spots and put Embiid in positions where he can be “comfortable with his outlets,” as Brown says.

Simmons hands it off to Embiid on this fast break vs. the Kings and, after he takes a couple of dribbles, it’s evident Embiid is in trouble. He doesn’t know where his outlets are, he’s being harassed by Harry Giles and Brewer, and he ends up trying to force a pass to Ennis.

While not being in the preferred floor spots for Embiid is an issue, being in the right spots doesn’t guarantee success. 

Everyone is where they're supposed to be on the play below, but because there’s zero movement around Embiid, it’s not too difficult for Brewer to double team off Harris at the top of the key and nearly strip away the ball. Embiid gets bailed out with a foul call. 

Brown acknowledged that more movement around Embiid might make double teaming him more difficult, or at least cause teams to be more wary of the idea. 

Maybe. The floor spots with Joel are not intended to be like, you just go there and stand. Those are the floor spots that you’d put Manu [Ginobili] in and Danny Green in — you move behind it. … I think that as the playoffs happen, as this season starts to unfold, one of the areas that we are looking at is what we call slashing. You can take home plate and somebody turns their head, and you’re going against a lot of blind defensive players that don’t know what’s going on behind you. The slashing and Tobias and Jimmy interests me a lot. And I think that we can do better with the movement behind Joel as it relates to the starting points.

Sometimes the defense dictates how the Sixers should cut when Embiid has the ball down low. The Bucks had Tony Snell looming as help on the left baseline on the play below, completely ignoring T.J. McConnell in the right corner. Embiid dribbled to the middle of the floor and McConnell found the gap in the defense.

For Brown, though, proactive movement is of greater interest. On this play vs. Sacramento, everyone started to jog over to their floor spots as Embiid got the ball. Rather than mindlessly park himself in the right corner, Simmons did well to jump in front of Nemanja Bjelica, earn position at the front of the rim, and draw a foul. 

Brown has tailored the Sixers’ post offense around Embiid in a way that plays to his strengths, just as he has with Simmons. And, though he continues to trust his players to make good things happen in advantageous situations, he knows the Sixers and Embiid might benefit from a little more of the off-ball movement characteristic of “Explosion.”

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'Unstoppable' Joel Embiid has eventful and dominant night in win vs. Celtics

'Unstoppable' Joel Embiid has eventful and dominant night in win vs. Celtics

It seemed like the psyche of the entire fan base depended upon Wednesday night’s game.

It’s no secret the Celtics have owned the Sixers recently. And when Boston held an 11-point lead at the half, the thought of “here we go again” likely crept into the heads of the Wells Fargo Center crowd. 

Enter Joel Embiid.

The All-Star center was dominant in the Sixers’ 118-115 win over the Celtics (see observations), posting 37 points and 22 rebounds in 41 minutes — the second-most minutes he’s played this season.

“Jo has done that countless amount of times this year so it’s no surprise to you, it’s no surprise to me [or] to anybody else watching this interview,” Jimmy Butler said. “He is a force to be reckoned with, man. He does it all. He’s carried us night in and night out. We’re grateful for it. We need him healthy moving forward.”

As his eight-game absence after the All-Star break showed, as Embiid goes so go the Sixers. After he struggled during the team’s most recent loss to Boston, a lot was made of Al Horford’s effectiveness in guarding him.

Embiid took note and learned from that matchup.

I figured out that when I play low and I’m in attack mode and I want to get to the rim, I’m basically unstoppable and I’m going to get to the free throw line,” Embiid said while wearing a hoodie that read "BBQ CHKN." “Tonight I felt like I was aggressive from the start and I’ve got to have that same mentality every night.

To say Embiid was able “to get to the free throw line” would be a gross understatement. He lived at it, making an absurd 20 of 21 from the line. If that sounds like a rare feat, it’s because it is. Embiid is the first seven-footer in NBA history to take 20 foul shots in a game and shoot at least 95 percent from the foul line, per Basketball Reference.

Two of those free throws were rewarded by virtue of a flagrant foul. Marcus Smart, who was sent to the floor via an Embiid screen, thought it would be a good idea to then shove Embiid while his back was turned. Smart was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected. The play seemed to ignite Embiid — who was hit with a technical — and 20,000-plus people that were looking for any reason to go crazy.

But for as special as Embiid was on the offensive end of the floor, it was again his defense that truly propelled the Sixers. The box score shows only one block, but it was arguably the biggest play of the game.

First, you need to go back to the beginning of the game. The Sixers’ switch-heavy defense burned them early as Embiid got matched up on All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, who hit a couple first-quarter threes. There were other plays where Embiid was switched on to Irving that ended in a foul — one of those being questionable enough to provoke a rare technical from Brett Brown. 

With the Sixers clinging to a 116-113 lead with 30.7 seconds left, Embiid found himself on Irving yet again. This time, Embiid allowed Irving to slip to the basket but was able to recover to block the shot without fouling.

It’s a play not many seven-footers could make.

Look, we're asking a lot of Jo,” JJ Redick said. “It's a tough cover because if he switches onto Irving or [Terry] Rozier, that's a tough cover. If they do the throw back to Horford and he's got a long closeout, that's nearly impossible, so we're asking a lot of him. It was a huge defensive play. And really, it was almost two plays — it was the block and then the defensive rebound after that.

Having the best season of his young career and with MVP-type performances like Wednesday, Embiid has shown a touch of humility … just a touch.

He hasn’t been talking as much trash on social media — though he did have a little fun postgame — and he’s been much more complimentary of his opponents.

But after a game like this, his emotions were running high as he declared himself “the best defensive player in the league” during his walk-off interview with ESPN. 

A reporter offered him a chance to walk back the comment. 

He, of course, doubled down.

“I just said it again. I am. I always say it. I say it all the time,” Embiid said. “I try to do the best job I can with my teammates’ help. I really focus on that end and one of my goals is to win the Defensive Player of the Year. I’m going to keep doing my job and try to help us defensively.”

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