Rookie Sim­mons on the de­fen­sive for 76ers

Head Coach Brown wants to see prized No. 1 pick fo­cus on de­fen­sive side of ball

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jack McCaf­fery jm­c­caf­fery @21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Jack­McCaf­fery on Twit­ter

Brett Brown wel­comed the No. 1 over­all pick in the last NBA draft to train­ing camp Tues­day at Stock­ton Uni­ver­sity, aware that he may have to be­gin with a cer­tain level of tact.

POMONA, N.J. >> Brett Brown wel­comed the No. 1 over­all pick in the last NBA draft to train­ing camp Tues­day at Stock­ton Uni­ver­sity, aware that he may have to be­gin with a cer­tain level of tact.

For that, the Six­ers’ coach gave him­self a place in coach-speak his­tory with this ini­tial anal­y­sis of Ben Sim­mons’ first of­fi­cial pro­fes­sional basketball prac­tice.

“The world is go­ing to be eas­ier for him,” Brown said, “if he locks into NBA de­fense.”

Since 95 per­cent of the Six­ers’ camp prac­tices are closed to the press, even though they are open to dozens of spec­ta­tors, there can be no real anal­y­sis of the way Sim­mons de­fended dur­ing Train­ing Camp Day 1.

That hint from Brown, how­ever, was a cool blast of pure basketball po­etry.

“It’s al­ways a strug­gle when new guys come into the NBA on of­fense,” Brown said. “It is a well-de­fended league. It is a well-scouted league. He is play­ing for the first time against men. And where I think he can con­trol his own des­tiny the soon­est and the eas­i­est is by lock­ing into de­fense.

“He is phys­i­cally gifted. He is 6-foot-10, 245 pounds with a real bounce to his game. And I try to sell that to Ben. And he em­braces that. We’re go­ing to turn him loose in open court. He’s go­ing to re­bound and lead breaks. We’ll give him the ball in some sit­u­a­tions. But for him to drive his own car and con­trol his own des­tiny, the sim­plest way is through the de­fen­sive end. And that’s my mes­sage to Ben this week.”

In the brief chunk of a con­trolled scrim­mage open to the me­dia Tues­day, Sim­mons seemed com­fort­able han­dling the ball, but was play­ing on a wing, de­spite his point-guard skills. Such was the loose way Brown out­lined his plan on Draft Night, declar­ing Sim­mons a four-man, re­mind­ing that it is the abil­ity to guard an op­pos­ing player that of­ten dic­tates a player’s po­si­tion.

Sim­mons is 20. He has time. Just the same, that was his first morn­ing Tues­day in what El­ton Brand had de­clared to be a “blood bath” for front­court play­ing time. A summer league, it was not.

“The com­pe­ti­tion is a lot higher,” the rookie ob­served. “So that means I have to pick up my game a lot more. I am look­ing for­ward to that.”

Brown’s chal­lenge to dig in and guard some­body did come through with­out gar­ble.

“That’s the thing that we are go­ing to work on the most,” Sim­mons said. “We are go­ing to be a de­fen­sive team, com­ing in with that mind­set, de­fense first.”

While cel­e­brated for his court vi­sion and abil­ity to score in­side with both hands, Sim­mons had been crit­i­cized in his one sea­son at LSU for his out­side shoot­ing. The Aus­tralian took three three-point­ers in his ab­bre­vi­ated col­lege ca­reer, made one, and shot 67 per­cent from the line. A day af­ter in­sist­ing that he was not wor­ried about his shoot­ing, there Sim­mons was af­ter prac­tice Tues­day, work­ing alone on his foul shots.

“It was just rep­e­ti­tion,” the left-handed shooter said. “It was just stay­ing fo­cused and keep what I have to do in the back of my mind.”

He will have to score, in­side and from the line. He has that abil­ity. But Brown’s quick em­pha­sis on what hap­pens at the other end made it clear what will likely keep Sim­mons on the floor. For­tu­nately for the Six­ers, Sim­mons had at least one rea­son Tues­day not to be over­whelmed by the chal­lenge.

“A lot of it is sim­i­lar,” he said, when asked if the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and calls at the de­fen­sive end were new to him. “Be­cause Brett coached in Aus­tralia, a lot of the terms were what I grew up know­ing. So once I heard them, it kind of clicked.”

That will help him ad­just to that new level of play.

“As soon as guys lose on this court, you see how frus­trated they get,” he said. “So that’s a good sign. I think ev­ery­one is will­ing to put in that work and get to the next level. And I think we have a great team.”


Philadel­phia 76ers’ Ben Sim­mons poses for a pho­tog­ra­pher dur­ing me­dia day at the NBA basketball team’s prac­tice fa­cil­ity, Mon­day.

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