Seltzer's Notebook | After Strong Opening Month, Simmons Looks Forward; Embiid Backs Up Talk

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

Simmons Status Check

While not made public, it would be hard to imagine the votes for KIA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month having been anything short of almost unanimous in favor of Ben Simmons. The Australian received the honor Friday afternoon, on the heels of cranking out historic numbers in October and November.

The media availabilities in the hours before Saturday’s back-and-forth bout with the Detroit Pistons provided the first opportunities to pick the brains of player and coach about Simmons’ recognition.

“I think I’ve played alright so far,” said Simmons. “There’s a lot of improvement I need to make - turnovers, defensively I need to be better, and obviously rebounding, I need to be consistent with that.”

Brett Brown, when asked Saturday to give a progress report on Simmons, began his response by citing the areas that the Sixers’ coaching staff is trying to help the LSU product shore up.  

“It’s his free throws, and his finishing,” Brown said. “How are you finishing, and what hand are you finishing with? That interests us, and what are you going to do at the line?”

Brown has liked that regardless of whether Simmons makes or misses from the stripe, he takes his shots confidently.

As for the ways in which  Simmons has impressed Brown, where to start?

Heading into Monday’s pairing with the Phoenix Suns, Simmons was averaging 17.9 points, 9.4 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and 2.1 steals per game, the latter two figures ranking sixth and second in the NBA, respectively.

“I think the surprise for me, when you see what he’s done so far to earn [Rookie of the Month] accolades, I just can’t believe what he does to litter stat sheets,” continued Brown. “He is all over the place, in good ways.”

Brown believes that in respect to Simmons’ defense in particular, the 21-year old is just “scratching the surface” of what he can become. He’s also been encouraged that Simmons has held up well at the point man spot while logging 35.8 minutes per game.

“Littering stat sheets, endurance, continued growth in the areas we’ve identified - finishing and free throws - and the fact that he’s just sort of grabbed the position and played the position with tremendous poise to me are the reasons he earned that award,” said Brown, “and I would suspect it was a runaway vote.”

Based performance, you’d certainly have to think that’s how things played out. 

Embiid Exudes Endearing Confidence

There’s been plenty to glean from the first 50 outings of Joel Embiid’s playing career, not the least of which is that the big man has shown he’s capable of backing up big talk with a big game. Such was the case again Saturday, when he notched 25 points and 10 rebounds in an anticipated pairing with Detroit Pistons double-double machine Andre Drummond.

Afterwards, during an interview on NBA TV, Embiid’s confidence was on full display.

Brett Brown, for one, seems to love Embiid’s swagger, and his willingness to embrace a challenge.

“It’s part of his gamesmanship,” Brown said Saturday. “He winds it up, he doesn’t hide from any of it. When you come out and say, ‘I’m the best defensive player in the NBA, and I want to be the Defensive Player of the Year,’ and you say that with a completely straight face...he very much is drawing a line in the sand.

“That’s his style, that’s Joel. I think in a good way, his young teammates feed of that.’