Ben Simmons says he won't tolerate an old Sixers trend
Simmons says he won't tolerate an old Sixers trend that originally popped up on NBC Sports Philadelphia
When Julius Randle faked a handover to RJ Barrett and started a drive to the edge, Tobias Harris tried to push his feet forward with the curtsey. He ran straight into teammate Ben Simmons' sturdy 6-foot-10 frame.
Randle came in for a dunk, New York took an early 6-1 lead and it seemed very likely that the Sixers would begin their 2020-21 schedule with a game too close to compete against an inferior opponent to claim.
More mishaps followed, but the Sixers played a tight defense for much of Saturday night, keeping the Knicks at 38.6 percent and winning by a healthy 109-89 lead.
"We got the lead, we lost the lead a bit, but I think it was just our mentality to know we had to improve," said Simmons. “We have to hold each other accountable, defensively and offensively. … We have to play at a high level every evening. We can't take breaks with anyone, especially teams that we should beat. "
The Sixers' improved defensive focus coincided with a brilliant stretch from Simmons in the second quarter that included a blocked RJ Barrett three-pointer that eventually led to a long-range Seth Curry jumper (assisted by Simmons). Barrett shot 2 for 15 on the night and rarely created room, confidence or much positivity against Simmons while the Australian recorded 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal.
Given that Simmons' athletic talents are sometimes particularly effective when he plays a weaker opponent, one might be inclined to dismiss his performance as a good game against a bad team.
Head coach Doc Rivers, who stopped by Bill Fitch on Saturday to become the tenth-winning coach in NBA history, didn't seem to think Simmons night should be discounted.
"Ben, he has so many skills," said Rivers. "And we're trying to get them all out of him. I thought defensively he was great. He used his height, his length. His instincts are amazing, something I didn't know until now when I was training him.
"And then at the other end I was thinking at the pace he was playing and forcing action - we got three just because Ben Simmons pushed the ball on the floor, created actions in the paint, and kicked guys out. I thought he was great tonight. "
As it grows, it is interesting to observe the relationship between the rivers and the Simmons. We thought Rivers's résumé as a former NBA point guard and an accomplished, experienced coach would give him more authority and credibility than Brett Brown. However, successful relationships are usually not one-sided. Simmons shared some details on Saturday about the early stages of working with his new trainer.
"At Shootaround today, Doc and I cleared something up in just a few words," said Simmons. “We took out a few words that confused me with some of our sets and pieces. I slowed the game down a bit, tried to get better readings and the right readings for my teammates. Playing for a different coach is different. He sees different things. I also see different things. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can from him and get better for this team. "
There is nothing magical about the presence of Rivers. He alone won't unlock any nonexistent areas of Simmons 'game or end the Sixers' misadventures on the road. The team is now 1-0 away from the Wells Fargo Center after playing 10:24 in real street games last season. The Sixers' game against the Cavs on Sunday night is a good opportunity to take another small step in the right direction.
If Seth Curry and Danny Green's jumpers don't fall, and Andre Drummond goes to great lengths against old enemy Joel Embiid, Cleveland could stop any momentum the Sixers might build. However, Rivers likes the idea that the team isn't too dependent on its stars.
"If we rely on a man or two, we won't win," he said. "But if you can get everyone involved ... your two leads will still all get their numbers, but what they do and what I love so far, Jo and Ben Seth, Tobias (Harris) and everyone else around make them better." Player, and that's what we want from them. "
Five Sixers scored a double-digit hit against the Knicks, with Embiids 27 points a game high. The ball movement in the second half was crisp.
"At one point it felt like the Harlem Globetrotters, we passed and moved the ball so many times," said Simmons.
Rivers has encouraged Simmons to play in a way that is conducive to this free running style, but the 24-year-old knows that if he doesn't meet a certain standard, he will hear about it.
"... he believes in us," said Simmons. "He believes in everyone's abilities. He won't lie to you and tell you to do things you can't do. For me, he tells me certain things. Like tonight, an example would be," Be confident. Be continue to be aggressive. Attack the rim. "And when I do that, he praises me and lets me know that I'm doing a good job. And that just gives me more confidence to keep going, to get to the edge and make games for my teammates.
"But on the other hand, he'll keep it with you too. If there's something you need to work on, things he sees out there that you may not see, he'll let you know. This is all about that." to help each other get better. And he does that with everyone, which is great. "
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