Aussie Sim­mons part of global re­vival plan for 76ers

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

WASH­ING­TON: Aus­tralia’s Ben Sim­mons, last June’s NBA Draft top pick now side­lined by a frac­tured right foot, is part of a global ini­tia­tive aimed at re­viv­ing the NBA’s woe­ful Philadel­phia 76ers.

Along­side fel­low NBA new­com­ers Joel Em­biid of Cameroon and Dario Saric of Croa­tia, Sim­mons will be called upon to help ad­vance the for­tunes of a club that went an NBA-worst 10-72 last sea­son, barely beat­ing the all-time worst full-sea­son record of 9-73 set by Philadel­phia’s 1972-73 squad.

Just four sea­sons after win­ning just nine games, the 76ers made a run to the 1977 NBA Fi­nals. A decade after the NBA’s worst-ever sea­son, they were league cham­pi­ons. It’s that magic the Six­ers seek to re­peat as new young tal­ent ma­tures.

In the 33 sea­sons since the 1983 crown, the 76ers reached the fi­nals only in 2001, los­ing to the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers. Over the past 13 sea­sons, they have won only one play­off se­ries. They haven’t reached the play­offs since the la­bor-dis­pute short­ened 2012 campaign. They haven’t had a win­ning 82-game sea­son since 2004-05.

So it’s no won­der that Sim­mons, who broke his right small toe Septem­ber 30 in the 76ers’ last train­ing camp scrim­mage, had a up­date posted on In­sta­gram that sounds like the same sort of mes­sage the team needs.

“Turn­ing a neg­a­tive into a pos­i­tive is never easy,” Sim­mons wrote. “Thanks to ev­ery­one for the sup­port and love. Look­ing for­ward to com­ing back stronger and bet­ter.”

Six­ers coach Brett Brown said that Sim­mons is in a walk­ing boot and con­ducts his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion work in the team’s train­ing com­plex, em­pha­siz­ing learn­ing about the NBA, im­prov­ing his health and work­ing on his shoot­ing.

“There’s a por­tion that is ed­u­ca­tion, where we will sit and show him dif­fer­ent things on tape and ed­u­cate him in the league. It’s class­room stuff,” Brown said.

“And then there’s stuff where he will sit in a chair and get his el­bow un­der the ball un­til he can ac­tu­ally stand, where we have a chance to help grow his shot.”

In an NBA gen­eral man­agers poll, 70 per­cent said that in five years, Sim­mons will be re­garded as the top player from this year’s NBA rookie class.

Em­biid, Saric ad­just to NBA

The 76ers have barely said hello to Em­biid, the 22-year-old, 7-foot (2.13m) cen­ter they se­lected third in the 2014 draft, but he has scored 10.3 points and grabbed 5.5 re­bounds a game in pre­sea­son play.

“As far as game shape wise, I’m not 100 per­cent,” Em­biid said. “I still get tired. In prac­tice, we’ve got to work on that.”

Em­biid says he is quickly ad­just­ing to the NBA’s speed and phys­i­cal style. “When I look out on the floor, I don’t see him take plays off,” Brown said. “He’s re­ally try­ing to push him­self. I feel like he is on path to arrive on open­ing night in a re­ally good place.”

Saric, 22, was taken 12th by Or­lando in the 2014 NBA Draft but played in Turkey the past two sea­sons be­fore sign­ing with the 76ers in July. He is av­er­ag­ing 8.4 points and 4.0 re­bounds in NBA pre-sea­son games.

Saric seeks con­sis­tency after shoot­ing 9-of-13 in two pre-sea­son games, then go­ing 2-for-19 un­til mak­ing his last three in a row.

“I rush the last cou­ple games,” Saric said. “Maybe be­cause I’m still young, I tried to maybe show the peo­ple I can shoot, I can play maybe be­cause I’m a lit­tle so ex­cited to show ev­ery­thing. Maybe I need to slow down, step-bystep, and if I do that, I think ev­ery­thing will be fine.”

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