Seltzer's Notebook | Streak Thoughts, Simmons Assessment, the Benefits of Observation

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

Streak Chatter

It’s now official. At least that’s the opinion of JJ Redick.

The morning after the Sixers earned their fifth consecutive victory with a win Tuesday in Utah, the 12-year veteran shared his take on the club’s current run.

“A winning streak is not a winning streak until it hits five games, so we are in Day 1 of our winning streak,” said Redick, tongue-in-cheek.

The marksman, who’s averaging 15.6 points per game and shooting 43.6% from 3-point territory (44 3fgm), then added more seriously that he feels the team is in a good place, and handling its early-season success well, thanks to the tone set by Brett Brown.

“Whether we win or we lose, it just seems every film session, every team meeting is about constructive feedback, and ways we can continue to improve,” Redick said. “We all know we have a long ways to go.”

“We want to be as basketball perfect as we can,” Brown said Wednesday.

The head coach has been more encouraged by the “vibe in the gym” than the Sixers’ 6-4 record.

“The spirit of the guys is great, it really is great right now,” said Brown. “They believe in what we’re doing, they believe in themselves, they practice hard, the co-exist, they have fun on a bus and on an airplane. When I see that, I assume we must be winning, and we are right now. But it’s so early days. None of us, led by me, are getting ahead of ourselves. We want to get greedy, we want to get even better.”

The Sixers’ five-game spurt is tied with Minnesota for second-longest in the NBA. Boston has won nine games in a row.

Simmons Draws More Praise

There are plenty of ways you could choose to contextualize the impressive breakout start to Ben Simmons’ NBA career.

You could do so numerically, for instance, by noting that no rookie in league history has ever before posted averages the likes of which the Australian point man has put up through his first 10 games, with his 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 8.0 assists per contest.

Or, you could go the less quantifiable route, and simply cull together a montage of all the superlative praise Simmons has already drawn from opposing coaches. The latest came Tuesday at vivint.SmartHome Arena, where Quin Snyder offered this assessment of the 21-year old:

“He’s unique,” said Snyder, now in his fourth season with the Utah Jazz. “I think everybody game plans against him in one way or another because he’s the engine. There aren’t many guys that big who are able to handle the ball as effectively as he is against smaller guys. He presents that problem as much as anything. If you have a smaller guy on him, he’s capable of going into the post and seeing over them. If you have a bigger guy on him, his ball skills - both passing and dribbling - are superior. I think it’s safe to say he’s one of the best passers in the league.

“For his size, I don’t know that anybody handles the ball better. There are a number of things that are there that make him a different player, a unique player. That’s why you see triple-doubles.”

Snyder went on to point out that not only does Simmons himself present a personnel mismatch, his presence in a line-up creates beneficial ripple effects for teammates as well, particularly in transition situations for shooters like JJ Redick and Robert Covington.

“He’s always got a mismatch in one way, shape or form, to be honest with you,” Snyder said of Simmons. “Sometimes the mismatch looks like it’s a mismatch on Simmons, but it’s really a mismatch somewhere else as well.”

Two Coaches, Mutual Pedigree

While not alone among their peers in the following respect, Brett Brown and Quin Snyder, his counterpart in Utah, share lineage to the Gregg Popovich - RC Buford pipeline that has flowed steadily and richly from San Antonio the past two decades.

Brown’s and Snyder’s respective tenures with the Spurs organization even overlapped. Brown was the team’s director of player development from 2002 through 2007, when he was bumped up to Popovich’s bench. That same year, Snyder started a three-season coaching stint with the Austin Toros, San Antonio’s NBA G League affiliate. 

Both constantly curious, worldly, and detail-oriented, Brown and Snyder spoke fondly of their relationship prior to Tuesday’s match-up in Salt Lake City.

“He has a unique ability, and you see it with the way he coaches his team, the connection he’s able to make with his players. He did that for me,” said Snyder, who told stories of how Brown would invite Snyder to sit with him on bus rides, or respond to texts at a moment’s notice. “He’s thirsty as a coach for new ideas and learning. We were able to share a lot. I have that same interest. There was a real connection, and one that I’m grateful for to this day.”  

Perspective Carries Positive Impact

Markelle Fultz is accompanying the Sixers on their Western Conference trip, which Brett Brown considers good and exciting, especially after seeing how Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid benefited from similar experiences during their respective time away from the game.

There were valuable opportunities off the court, through practice sessions, film study, conversations with Brown, and weight training.

“We’re talking about, I think, two great players,” said Brown. “I think Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have a chance to be great. I’ve said in Philadelphia, and I’ll say it here in Utah, I don’t kick those words around irresponsibly. I’ve had a chance to see in my San Antonio life what great looks like, and I think those two have a chance. I think the fact that they sat out, and got older, and bigger, and stronger, and I think smarter, how could that not have helped them? Could they have jumped into the league and done what they’re doing? I think it would have been difficult. I think that they’re better off for it.”