Game Recap | Pre-Season Starts With Promise
Ever since Ben Simmons decided to leave Australia, and pursue his basketball career in the United States, his native country has followed along with great interest.
And while hoop heads from Down Under probably didn’t need the prodigious point man to display just how good he is at the expense one of the country's domestic clubs, he obliged anyway.
Simmons was terrific in Friday’s pre-season opener, finishing with 14 assists, eight points, and eight rebounds in a 104-84 victory over Melbourne United.
The United, which hails from Simmons' hometown, and claims Simmons’ father, Dave, as one of its most prominent alums, had no answer for the reigning Rookie of the Year.
Simmons had a say in the first 14 points of the night, and the Sixers never looked back.
“It was a good matchup, physicality-wise,” said Simmons.” You’re always going to get that from Australian teams, the physical side. I think that’s just the way we play. I love it. It’s a good test for us, to the way we play and the way we handle ourselves. They definitely brought that.”
All said and done, many of the top players in the Sixers’ rotation performed well. Joel Embiid got into a groove as the game progressed, tallying 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Markelle Fultz, meanwhile, received a starting nod alongside Simmons in the Sixers’ backcourt. The 2017 no. 1 pick was sharp both on and off the ball, and posted 14 points on 6 for 11 shooting, to go with four assists in 23 minutes.
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1. Markelle Fultz delivers strong showing in starting role.
Despite battling a good amount of adversity last season, Fultz had an easygoing, confident aura about him throughout the off-season, and during the first week of training camp as well. Perhaps more encouraging than the final line the 20-year old produced, he carried that same, smooth vibe onto the court Friday, in a starting assignment no less. The game represented an encouraging first step.
“It was amazing, especially putting in the work I put in this summer, just for coach to put me in that position, it felt unbelievable,” Fultz said of starting. “I was just happy to have the opportunty, and I think I did a pretty good job taking advantage of it.”
2. Ben Simmons rejects your typecast.
Even last season, when Simmons was expertly handling the Sixers’ top point guard duties, and Fultz was on the sideline, Brett Brown would drop hints about a future in which Simmons would get more opportunities to play on the block, while Fultz handled the ball. There were glimpses of this dynamic sprinkled throughout Friday’s exhibition contest. Simmons seems to be all for it.
“I don’t look at myself as a point guard or a power forward or anything like that,” Simmons said. “I’m a player. Once I step on the floor, there are things I can do that anybody else can do. Set picks, post-up, put the ball up, score the ball. I just want to be an all-around player, I don’t want to limit myself to any one position.”
3. Returning with fond memories.
Casper Ware has only played in nine NBA regular season games since turning pro in 2012, all with the Sixers in 2013-2014. That was Brown’s first year in Philadelphia.
Now one of Melbourne United’s top players, Ware said Friday that the “atmosphere” Brown created inside the Sixers’ locker room was one of his biggest takeaways from the experience.
“You would never have known that we were like 17-and-something,” said Ware. “He just came in every day with a great attitude. He wanted to make you work and you wanted to work for him. He came in happy, smiling and talking to everybody, that’s what I remember from that.
“He went to everybody and said, “How you doing? How’s your morning?” That’s a good sign, you want to play hard for a coach like that.”
Markelle Fultz, giving the people what they want.
S P L A S H
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) September 29, 2018
'Gram of the Game:
For their final pre-season appearance stateside, the Sixers will take on the Orlando Magic Monday at The Center. Orlando made another coaching change during the off-season, bringing in former Charlotte head man Steve Clifford, a lifelong friend of Brett Brown’s. New to the Magic’s roster this year is Westtown School product Mo Bamba. The big man was chosen sixth overall in the 2018 draft.