CAMDEN, N.J. — Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz have been waiting for this day. For Simmons, it has been a year since he suffered a season-ending injury in training camp. For Fultz, it has been months since draft night in June.
The rookies went through their first practice of camp on Tuesday. They also got their first experience playing together in a unique guard pairing.
"I love it," Fultz said. "You don't know what's going to happen. He's going to push it sometimes, I'm going to push it. I get to run the floor, I get to set screens for him, he gets to set screens for me. It's unpredictable.
"I feel sorry for the teams that are going to have to go against it."
Simmons (6-foot-10) and Fultz (6-foot-4) both played point guard throughout practice. The Sixers intend to start Simmons at the one. They drafted Fultz first overall because of his ability to complement Simmons off the ball.
Simmons, who suffered a Jones fracture last year, is adjusting to the responsibilities that go along with being the point guard.
"I see a lot more [than last training camp]," Simmons said. "I know where people should be on the floor. I get them into their positions now, so it's a little bit different. I've got to be a vocal leader now. In terms of that, that just takes time."
The Sixers expect a learning curve with such a young backcourt. This was the first step in developing that duo.
"It was easier than I thought," Fultz said of the first practice. "Going in, I think I put it so hard on myself that it couldn't be nothing but easier. It was still tough, but I still enjoyed it."
The Sixers are not quite done making moves this offseason.
The team on Friday sent big man Richaun Holmes to the Suns for cash considerations. The Sixers also signed 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden to a four-year deal, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.
Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania first reported the trade and Bolden's signing.
With these moves, the Sixers’ roster remains at 15 players, but that could change if the team finds a way to rid themselves of Jerryd Bayless’ contract — say, in a trade with Cleveland (see story).
The writing has been on the wall for Holmes. Now entering his fourth year, the 2015 second-round pick struggled to find a role in Brett Brown’s rotation last season with a healthy Joel Embiid and veteran Amir Johnson in the fold. While he offered energy, athleticism and weakside rim protection off the bench, Holmes lacked discipline defensively, something Brown hasn’t tolerated during his tenure.
Bolden will essentially take Holmes’ spot on the roster as a developmental big. With quicker feet defensively, Bolden has more versatility to guard fours. While his summer league performance was underwhelming offensively, Bolden did impress defensively, especially against No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton. It’s important to note that the third and fourth years of Bolden’s deal are not guaranteed, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic.
Drafted by the Sixers out of Bowling Green State, Holmes flashed at times but was only able to get into 48 games this season, averaging 15.5 minutes a contest. He averaged 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 156 career games with the Sixers.
A native Australian, Bolden attended UCLA for one year before heading overseas to play for FMP Beograd of the Adriatic League. As a draft and stash this past season, Bolden played for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and tested his skills in the EuroLeague. He averaged 7.2 points and six rebounds in 20.8 minutes a game. He’s shown flashes of a jump shot but shot just 31 percent from three this season abroad and 24 percent in summer league action.
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The Sixers have been searching for a way to end their partnership with Jerryd Bayless for some time now. And while a resolution may finally be coming into shape, it’s far from a sure thing.
The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey first reported Thursday that the Sixers have had discussions with the Cleveland Cavaliers about a trade involving Bayless and Kyle Korver.
However, The New York Times’ Marc Stein added Friday that while a potential deal involving the two sides is “possible” it’s also “far from certain.”
Bayless has one year remaining on his contract at $8.57 million.
Korver has two years left on his deal for $7.56 million in 2018-19 and $7.5 million the following season. Of that 2019-20 salary, only $3.44 million is guaranteed if Korver remains on the team after July 7, 2019. The money becomes fully guaranteed after that point.
Any deal for the Cavaliers to take on Bayless would likely also involve a draft pick going back to Cleveland. The Sixers currently have control of most of their own assets, including six total second-round selections in the next two drafts.
Korver, who spent the first four-plus years of his career with the Sixers, is still getting it done in the NBA at 37 years old. The veteran sharpshooter played in 73 games regular-season games last season for the Cavs and averaged 9.2 points a night on 43.6 percent three-point shooting (sixth-best in the NBA).
Meanwhile, Bayless fell out of the rotation in Year 2 of his three-year, $27 million contract with the Sixers. The 29-year-old guard was a DNP-CD for 39 of the Sixers’ final 40 games, including playoffs, with the lone appearance being a showing for 1:44 in the team’s Game 1 blowout loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
In all, Bayless played in just 39 contests and averaged 7.9 points (41.6 percent shooting from the field and 37.0 percent shooting from three-point range).
“It wasn’t easy,” Bayless said during exit interviews of his diminished role as the season went on. “This whole year from an individual standpoint wasn’t the easiest. But, at the same time, when you’re around a group of guys that we had and the success that we had, it made it easier.
“I’m really grateful that I was able to be a part of this organization this year. We’ll see what happens moving forward.”
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