Ben Simmons

Will Sixers be in an advantageous position if season resumes?

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Will Sixers be in an advantageous position if season resumes?

On so many levels, the Sixers’ season hasn’t gone as planned. Even before the coronavirus pandemic forced the NBA to suspend play, the team was in an unenviable spot.

If the regular season is over, which seems like a distinct possibility, the Sixers would finish as the East’s sixth seed. A combination of fit, underperformance — especially away from the Wells Fargo Center — and injury put them there.

But if the NBA does resume at some point, where does that leave the 2019-20 Sixers?

There’s a train of thought that this break could benefit the Sixers. It’s a fair line of thinking. In fact, there may not be a team that would benefit more. 

Ben Simmons, who has been sidelined since Feb. 22 with nerve impingement in his lower back, will have more time to recover. Back on March 11, before we learned later that night that Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for coronavirus, Simmons spoke before the Sixers’ game against the Pistons. 

The All-Star point guard said he had “no pain” and was “confident” — though he did not give a timeline for his return. Earlier that day, the team released a statement which said Simmons would be re-evaluated in three weeks. That would put the re-evaluation at around April 1, with no indication the NBA season will resume any time soon.

Other than Simmons, the other four members of the regular starting lineup have dealt with injuries this season. 

Joel Embiid tore a ligament in his left ring finger and had a left shoulder sprain. Josh Richardson has dealt with injuries to both hamstrings, among other things. While Tobias Harris (right knee contusion) and Al Horford (left knee soreness, left hamstring tightness) haven’t missed much time, they’ve also been banged up this season.

All of this to say, maybe this break — as unfortunate as it is for the sport and for the world, really — winds up benefiting the Sixers. Everyone will be back to Point A when/if play resumes. If you’ll recall, the Sixers started this season 5-0. It seems like a distant memory, but it happened. Perhaps returning to full health will ignite a similar run.

Now, for the glass half-empty version.

Though being healthy will help, it won’t solve the myriad issues the Sixers had with their roster construction this season. If both Embiid and Horford are healthy, Brett Brown seems hellbent on trying to make the combo work. So far this season, the evidence has been against that being fruitful.

Richardson and Harris have had their moments this season, but neither has been exactly what the Sixers expected. Richardson’s skillset is one the Sixers need, but he’s on pace to have the worst three-point shooting season of his career. While Harris has been solid, he hasn’t been the near-max player the team thought they were getting.

As for Simmons, he was playing easily the best basketball of his career before his injury and seemed to be a legitimate candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Will he be able to round into form and get ready for the playoffs in a hurry after such a long layoff?

Then the seven-foot, 280-plus pound elephant in the room — will Embiid be in good enough shape to play in an NBA game when the time comes?

The Sixers may be the most mystifying team in the NBA. It’s entirely possible they come out guns blazing, get their act together and go on a run. It seems just as feasible that their fit issues fester, and they’ll get bounced in the first round.

So while the basketball hiatus may benefit the Sixers, they’d still have to take advantage.

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Ben Simmons launches 'Philly Pledge' to help support coronavirus relief efforts

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Ben Simmons launches 'Philly Pledge' to help support coronavirus relief efforts

Ben Simmons announced on Friday that he’s launched “The Philly Pledge,” which encourages Philadelphians to donate to two local organizations, Philabundance and the PHL COVID-19 Fund, helping with coronavirus relief. 

Philabundance is a hunger relief organization, and the PHL COVID-19 Fund aims to “help our nonprofit community navigate near-and longer-term challenges from COVID-19 and ensure that critical resources remain available for those in our community who need it most.”

Mayor Jim Kenney commended Simmons for the initiative.

“At a time like this, it is important and inspiring to see our city come together, and for celebrities such as Ben [to use] their platforms to spread messages of unity and generosity toward each other,” Kenney said Friday at a press conference. 

Joel Embiid has pledged to donate $500,000 to COVID-19 medical relief efforts.

Sixers limited partner Michael Rubin said Thursday that his company Fanatics aims to produce a million masks and gowns for hospital and emergency healthcare workers

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Kevin Negandhi on anchoring SportsCenter with no live sports: 'It's surreal'

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NBCSP

Kevin Negandhi on anchoring SportsCenter with no live sports: 'It's surreal'

During this time of social distancing, we’re checking in with those in the Philly sports world to see How They’re Keeping Busy. Up next, anchor for ESPN's SportsCenter and Temple University alum Kevin Negandhi.

What’s it like anchoring one of the biggest sports news shows in the world during a time with no live sports?

Kevin Negandhi: Surreal. It's definitely a challenge because you want to find a way to give the viewer the ability to escape. Wherever we turn, everything is different. We're in a different studio, we're reporting on teams and leagues are affected; the Olympics being postponed. We're all feeling the impact of coronavirus. There have been a handful of segments where we can talk about the NFL. It was great having breaking news -- I thank Tom Brady! -- that happened in the middle of our show Tuesday. To me, that was fun because we get to talk about scenarios when we're in this little bubble of the sports world that we're all craving to get back into. I miss it.

We still try to have some fun. The other day Karl Ravech and I did a five-minute highlight reel of the Top 10 Sweet 16 Moments. Man, that was awesome. That's the kind of stuff that keeps you coming back and wanting more while also doing our job and providing a service of letting everybody know what's going on with the leagues.

I know you’re a big Sixers guy. What’s your gut feeling on the timing of the shut down with the championship aspirations they had?

KN: I look at it this way, if this allows Ben Simmons to get his back heeled up, I'm all for it. If this allows Joel Embiid to rest his body and get ready for a playoff run, I'm all for it. I'm one of those guys who deals with the reality and tries to find the positives. If this time off allows those two to get their bodies ready for a six-week stretch, come on now. Let's find the positives.

Are you getting your Philly sports fill? Watching old games? YouTube?

KN: You know what I did on Wednesday night. I hyped my 6 and 7-year-old sons, before I went into work and I said, "Listen, the Eagles pick at No. 21 in the draft next month, we're going to target a wide receiver after seeing how free agency played out. Tonight, when I get home. We're going to go on YouTube and look at the top five to ten receivers. But there's one specific guy I want to watch. The three of us are going to watch it." So when I came home from work, first thing my 7-year-old said when I got home was, "Let's go, let's hit YouTube and look at the receivers." We focused on Justin Jefferson from LSU because many mocks have him going to Philly. We watched a ton of YouTube highlights so now they have some context when the draft comes around. Then I had to let them know that Jefferson could be gone at No. 21 and they'd have to prepare for that. We may have to go with another receiver, but I think we're targeting wide receivers.

You may want to send your reports to [Eagles GM] Howie Roseman.

KN: You know what, I think the way the Eagles have done their entire free agency, it's with the goal of getting two or three receivers in this draft. It continues the theme of making sure Carson Wentz is the strongest voice in the locker room on the offensive side.

Any tips for everyone stuck at home who may be stressed?

KN: Honestly, get outside if you can and get those endorphins going, especially when you're cooped up with kids. Even if it's just a 20-40 minute walk around the neighborhood, try and be active. We're making up games in the house with the kids, pop-a-shot tournaments, all sorts of stuff to be engaged and active. I think the most important thing for anybody is to do something active.

Is there specific content you’d recommend to others? Anything you’re binge-watching/reading/listening to?

KN: Aside from watching everything on Disney+ over and over and over -- I couldn't get the song from Frozen 2 out of my head the other day when I was on the SportsCenter set, nothing worse than that -- I'm binging Better Caul Saul. Really great show. I'm flying through that. Eventually I'll get to Tiger King on Netflix. While we live in a crazy world, I'm not sure why I'm going to spend more time watching a crazy show. It's a good outlet. One small little guilty pleasure I do every now and then, I watch Super Bowl 52. There's nothing better. I still get goosebumps at a variety of moments.

Is there a local business or charity you’re supporting during these tough times?

KN: I've always been a big supporter of the Special Olympics. They always need as much support as they can get to make sure they have activities. The impact it has on communities and families is huge. In times like these, it can be tough. So if people can give anything, no matter how small, it makes a difference.

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