Serena Winters

Tobias Harris keeps the Sixers entertained on their bus ride to Toronto

Tobias Harris keeps the Sixers entertained on their bus ride to Toronto

Around 10:30 p.m. Monday night, we were blessed with a Ben Simmons Instagram Live video of "DJ Tobi," Tobias Harris, on the Sixers’ bus from the airport to the hotel.

“There’s a soul plane and there’s a soul bus. You’re on the soul bus, ya dig?”

DJ Tobi then proceeded to interview all the players, coaches and team personnel who entered the bus, as you can see in the videos below, which do contain profanity. 

“State your name, where are you from and where are you going,” head coach Brett Brown said Tuesday morning, laughing about last night’s bus ride. “And when there is a lull, he's got Spotify hooked up, and he's got some hip hop going on.”

“DJ Tobi,” Matisse Thybulle laughed, struggling to find the words for Harris’ performance. “He was putting on a show for everyone. … It was funny because you were seeing people out of their comfort zone.”

With the rigors of an NBA season, and through all the travel, bus rides and plane rides, the value of that type of team bonding can go underestimated.

“It's team bonding,” Simmons told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “We're a pretty close group. We like to have fun and there are a lot of different characters and personalities on the team. … It's awesome. But that's just who we are as a team, everyone just likes to have fun, everyone has good personalities and means well."

Of course, it’s easier when you’re winning, and the Sixers delivered one of their most impressive defensive performances of the year in their win over Brooklyn, led by Simmons and Thybulle.

“We could carry that good energy over,” Thybulle said of the win over the Nets. “But it definitely help to keeps things light because the travel gets tedious and boring.”

For the Brown, it’s yet another characteristic he’s seen blossom out of Harris.

“Leadership comes in all different forms … and he does it naturally,” Brown said.

“It’s what makes team sport, for me, as enjoyable as it gets, when you can win with people that you respect and trust that care. And this group does.”

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Sixers players show support for new WNBA CBA

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Sixers players show support for new WNBA CBA

The WNBA and players union made huge strides on Tuesday when they came to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement that increases pay, improves travel accommodations, and provides better support for motherhood, amongst additional improvements.

It also brought awareness to those, including myself, that didn’t fully realize the extent for the limited support WNBA players receive.

For many, what might’ve seemed standard, are huge wins for the WNBA.

A brief overview:

• Seats now upgraded to economy plus or comfort plus (players will still travel commercial).

• Individual hotel rooms on the road (prior, this was reserved only for veterans).

• Full salary while on maternity leave (in the old CBA, a player could earn as little as half of her base salary if she missed the season due to pregnancy or childbirth).

• Significant salary bump for league’s highest-paid players (from an annual base salary of $117,500 to $215,000).

• Minimum salary for players with two years (or less) experience increased to $57,000 (from $41,965), and for three years (or more) to $68,000 (from $56,375).

• Potential to earn 50-50 revenue split with the league (currently estimated around 20 percent. In the NBA, it is near 50-50).

Sixers guard Josh Richardson voiced his support to NBC Sports Philadelphia on Wednesday.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Richardson said of the new CBA. “The last CBA was not super player friendly and I’m glad to see they get a bigger percentage and hopefully it can just keep increasing.”

“As a basketball player, I have sisters who play and who have put just as many hours as myself to play the game,” Tobias Harris said. “I think it’s good that now they can have an upgrade in pay to entice them for what they do, and I think it’s great they came to an agreement on that, and it’s well overdue.”

“I think it’s a huge step and I hope it continues because there are some other things that we want them to continue to get and showcase,” Al Horford said. “I was very happy when I saw the news that they would be getting some of those just basic things that they absolutely deserve.”

One of the biggest issues surrounding the WNBA is the fact that so many women have to go play overseas in their “offseason,” to be able to make a decent living.

This means that many professional women’s basketball players are playing year-round, something that Horford said he realized after training with Diana Taurasi early in his NBA career.

“No. 1, I think about the travel, and No. 2, having to play a sport year-round, and the fact that now the salaries have increased, I think that will help, maybe them not wanting to go overseas and playing so much.”

Under the new CBA, the average salaries are expected to increase to $130,000.

“It’s a grind,” Horford said. “I couldn’t imagine playing a full NBA season, and then having to go play overseas in the summer. I think it’s a huge step and we hope that things continue to fall in line because of that.”

Mention that full maternity leave was not part of the old CBA and players' eyes widen.

“That was ridiculous,” Harris said.

“It’s messed up,” Richardson said. “I just don’t think it’s how it should be working …”

“That was crazy,” Shake Milton said. “I don’t understand, they have to put everything on hold and have a child and don’t get paid? That’s wild to me.”

“I didn’t know all of that, but now I do know,” said Raul Neto. “It’s crazy.”

There’s one area where we can all agree.

“Changes that were long overdue,” Milton said.

“That deal should have been in place a long time ago,” Harris said.

“I just think a lot of people need to wake up and see that if you genuinely like basketball, you would have to like the WNBA. I think with this deal, more and more people should have appreciation for what they’re doing.”

And the future looks a little brighter for young girls wanting to be professional basketball players.

“I think it’s a big step for young girls that want to be basketball players, because if you want to be a basketball player and you see all the struggles, it’s something that kind of makes you step out of sports,” Neto said.

“It will be so good for the game of basketball in general, and for younger girls growing up, that can look at it as an outlet,” Milton said. “Before, a lot of people might not have stuck to it or chose that path just because of that. They deserve it, so it’s huge.”

“Those girls can play, they can really play,” Horford said. “Honestly, I’m just very happy that they are going to get more fair opportunities.”

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Sixers' Ben Simmons, Jonah Bolden pledge support to those affected by bushfires in Australia

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Sixers' Ben Simmons, Jonah Bolden pledge support to those affected by bushfires in Australia

DALLAS — As Australian NBA players have watched bushfires ravage over 12 million acres of their country from afar, Ben Simmons, Jonah Bolden, Aron Baynes (Phoenix Suns), Ryan Broekhoff (Dallas Mavericks), Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz), Thon Maker (Detroit Pistons), Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs), Matthew Dellavedova and Dante Exum (Cleveland Cavaliers) all started a group chat about what they could do to help.

Partnering with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), the nine players will contribute $750,000 USD toward relief and recovery efforts in support for their country, which is braving through devastation that is far from over.  

Simmons, who's experienced having to evacuate from bushfires as a kid in South Wales, explained the destruction is on "another level."

“I’ve seen pictures and videos and can’t imagine being back home right now,” he said.

“The sheer size of what’s going on,” Bolden explained of the fires that have swept through an area nearly the size of Austria. “The amount of people being affected by it, the wildlife.”

According to the Associated Press, 27 people have died nationwide, and about half a billion animals have been affected, and those numbers will continue to grow.

“Being away while this is happening is obviously devastating,” Bolden said of wanting to be in his country to help. “I just saw something about the U.S. fire fighters that just landed there to help out with the Australian fire fighters.”

For Bolden, he’s trying to focus on what he can do, rather than what he can’t.

“My whole thing is trying to turn it into a positive," he said. "The way I’m trying to look at it is starting with us coming together for the immediate response and continuing that effort for the reform and rebuild. The immediate response is putting out the fires, but then it’s, ‘What can we do next?’ How can we turn it into a positive thing?”

The efforts will continue Saturday night as the Sixers take on the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Both Simmons and Bolden will stand alongside Mavs forward Broekhoff as he addresses the crowd before the game.

“It says who we are as Australians,” Simmons said. “We are going to stick together when our country needs you. We are a very proud country and we come together in times of need.”

It’s bigger than basketball.

“You have people all over the world, you want to think that when things aren’t going their way that other people want to help and continue to build that world love," he said.

For information on how to get involved and to donate, visit here.

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