Seltzer's Notebook | Readying for Raptors Re-Match; Special Fans Get Meet & Greets

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

Brown Pulls Positives

The fresh aftermath of Thursday’s 114-109 loss to the Toronto Raptors didn’t cloud Brett Brown’s vision line. Despite the 76ers seeing a 22-point third quarter lead disappear, the head coach still found reasons to be encouraged by his team’s performance, as it continues to work towards turning around recent fortunes.

“I saw great things from this group,” said Brett Brown, particularly pleased with how the Sixers fought on a night they were without Joel Embiid (back tightness) and JJ Redick (right hamstring tightness). “We got up big at home, we ended up losing that lead to a really good team, and we’re disappointed, but I go a few layers deeper, and I see what I see in that locker room, and how they genuinely care.”

To Brown, those intangibles were all good signs. Also promising Thursday was that during several stretches, especially the second quarter, the Sixers shot the ball well, hitting 14 of 21 field goal tries, and going 4 for 7 from the perimeter. They were potent in the paint as well, with 66 points.

Defensively, the Sixers pried away with 14 steals, which matched a season-high. They tallied 15 deflections, too.

“We’re going to get better,” Brown said. “We’re going to get better, we’re going to get healthy, and we’re going to get better.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s re-match with Toronto, Brown sounded as if he’d like the Sixers to be more physical.

“We’ll fix it, we’ll move on, we’ll get better from this,” he said.

No Added Pressure for Simmons to Score

With the Sixers absent Joel Embiid and JJ Redick, who combine to account for roughly 40 points per game, Ben Simmons came out Thursday and tallied a team-best 20 points (9-14 fg). It was the 10th time this season the point man reached the 20-point mark, giving him the third-highest total among rookies (Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell has 13, while Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has 11).

For as much as the Sixers could use a few different scoring options right now during a very short handed stretch, Brett Brown doesn’t plan to put any extra pressure on Simmons to be that primary guy, at least not immediately.

“Let’s admit what he is, and what he is is pretty damn special,” Brown said Thursday.

What makes Simmons so damn special? To Brown, the answer is obvious. It’s not his scoring, but the 21-year old’s prodigious passing prowess.

In Tuesday’s game against Sacramento, Brown thought Simmons’ delivery of passes to spots where teammates could score efficiently was as good as it’s been all season.

“He was an A-plus,” said Brown, “and if you look at the royalty he is in with NBA assist leaders now, that’s pretty darn special.”

As of Friday morning, Simmons was fourth in the league with an average of 7.8 assists per game, trailing All-Stars Russell Westbrook (9.7 apg), LeBron James (9.2 apg), and James Harden (9.0 apg). That’s pretty heady company indeed, and also symbolic of the area where the LSU product can presently offer the greatest impact.  

In respect to high-volume scoring, though, Brown is willing to wait for Simmons’ skill set to undergo further development.

“That’s not who he is right now. I think he can grow to doing that, when he can look at his pull-up more. But the [scoring] pressure, it’s not fair, it’s not wise, not right now.”

Speaking of that pull-up jumper, Simmons calmly and smoothly hit two more Thursday, early in the first quarter, and then again at the outset of the third. That makes him 4 for 4 on mid-range jump shots the past two games.

Brown said Thursday that going forward, he’d like to see Simmons take three to five conscious pull-up attempts per game.

Holiday Sixers Strong Spirit

With Christmas just days away, the Sixers - from front office staff to star players - took the opportunity presented by their final home game of the 2017 calendar year to spread some cheer to a group of young fans from the Delaware Valley.

Another highlight Thursday were the efforts of the Sixers and television broadcast partner NBC Sports Philadelphia to make the evening a special and memorable one for an inspiring, hard-fighting fan.