Seltzer’s Notebook | Simmons Incorporating New Moves; Team Shows Swagger

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

Brown Enthused By Simmons’ Progress

Monday night marked the latest impact performance from Ben Simmons, and his highest-scoring showing to-date. 

Behind a second-half outburst, the point man poured in 27 points on 13 for 24 shooting. He went into intermission with 5 points, having gone 2 for 9 from the field. 

Brett Brown was encouraged to see Simmons go on the attack, and that an evolution to the rookie’s offensive game helped him do so.

 “He’s now starting to be able to come to jump stops, and gather himself,” Brown said after Monday’s 107-86 victory over the Utah Jazz. “I think, as we watch LeBron [James] over his career, straight line [driving] doesn’t all the time work. You need some semblance of order and balance.”

Brown felt Simmons did that against Utah.  

“He took off, he got where he wanted to,” said Brown. “We put him in a lot of deep corner pick-and-rolls, but that thing we’ve been working on  - he’s been working on - I think he did a great job coming to some jump stops.”

Flip it over to the other end of the floor, and Brown sounds even more excited about Simmons’ defensive development, especially given how the Aussie’s covered his positional counterparts lately. 

“I think the thing that nobody really writes about or talks about, and I think that they should...we’ve been putting Ben on point guards,” said Brown, using Simmons’ recent match ups with Golden State’s Steph Curry as an example. “That’s a funny transition. That’s where [Simmons] has exceeded, at times, expectations for me. The numbers are eye-popping, albeit early, but he’s really done a really good job with his length guarding point guards with that starting group.”

As of Tuesday, Simmons ranked third in the NBA with 2.0 steals per game, and first among guards (or, is it fourth among forwards?) with 9.2 rebounds per tilt.  

Playing With Swagger

Even with the integration of a couple seasoned veterans this past summer, the Sixers remain relatively green. According to RealGM, the club is second-youngest in average age, at 24.7 years old.

Nonetheless, Brett Brown has liked that his squad, with Joel Embiid as its ringleader, has been competing with swagger throughout the opening month of the season. 

“I try to promote it,” Brown said Monday. “I want them feeling great. I want them playing with an edge. We wear our heart on our sleeves, and make no apologies about it. I know this is a city that down deep wants that swagger.”

Brown, however, also understands that an appropriate balance needs to be struck. He felt the Sixers found one during Saturday’s explosive first half against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

“I hope that the fans enjoy watching this team play,” said Brown. “They pass the hell out of it, they coexist just well. There’s a little bit of chest-thumping from time to time, and Joel will send out a tweet to keep us all on point, and life moves on. I don’t think any of that crosses the line of lack of discipline, or lack of respect for our sport.” 

Embiid Focused on Real Estate

In the first quarter of the 2017-2018 NBA season, no player has gotten more post up opportunities on average than Joel Embiid, who receives a league-leading 14.9 per game. The big man has made the most of these chances, too, generating an NBA-high 9.6 post up points per game.

Despite his success and comfort in this area, Embiid still wants to tweak his offensive approach.

“I feel like I still got to spend a little more time on the block,” he said Monday, pointing to his historic 46-15-7-7 game against the Los Angeles Lakers as evidence. 

“When I spend time on the perimeter, it’s more about how the plays are called. It’s also about opening up the offense, because I feel like I attract a lot of attention, so it opens up driving lanes -- when bigs are on me they have a tendency not to help, and that’s good for the team. I still feel like I need to do a better job of living on the block, just like I did against the Lakers. It worked pretty well in our favor.”

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