Simmons will welcome some Magic advice
PHILADELPHIA >> Whether rumor or fact, legend or lie, there has been one persistent whisper since Ben Simmons joined the NBA: Ultimately, he would play for the Los Angeles Lakers.
And while nothing Simmons has said or done has suggested anything but loyalty to the 76ers, there was Magic Johnson Sunday quick to volunteer information about a curious situation.
Asked if, as a 6-foot10 point guard of some achievement, he enjoys watching Simmons project some of the same skills, Johnson pushed the discussion to another level.
“Oh, for sure,” the Lakers’ president of basketball operations said, before the Sixers’ 143-120 victory over the Lakers. “For sure. He reached out to me, not to me directly, to the Lakers, to find out if we could get together this summer. I said, ‘Hey, you’d have to clear it with the league. Everybody. The Sixers sign off. We sign off. The league signs off that nothing is going on.’”
So Simmons, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2020-2021 season, wants to meet with the Lakers’ principal basketball front-office force. Could mean something. Could mean he just wants to become a better basketball player.
“He wants to know how to play the position as a big guard, da, da, da, da, da da,” Johnson said. “It’s fine. I will do that. But if everybody doesn’t sign off, then we can’t get together. But I love his game. I love his vision. I love also that he has a very high basketball IQ. And look at him: The league better watch out. That is a stacked team.”
Simmons barely was guarded by LeBron James early Sunday, the Lakers hinting at what the Sixers can expect from other teams in the playoffs. He settled for eight points, missed a three-point shot, and had seven assists. Afterward, he did acknowledge his interest in any possible tutorial from Johnson.
“To learn from somebody like that would be huge,” he said. “He was in situations where he had to play the ‘five’ and won a championship. And he is in the Hall of Fame. And he is one of those guys, in the position I am in, as a 6-10 point guard, I think he can help.”
Simmons said he did not plan to immediately request permission from the Sixers.
“I am not focusing on that right now,” he said. “I am focusing on my team here and what is going on.” •••
The Sixers traded Mike Muscala last week. He missed exactly one Wells Fargo Center game before returning Sunday with the Lakers.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Muscala said. “But it’s a business. I’m keeping stuff here in Philly in my apartment. I couldn’t get out of the lease yet. So I might try to work out something with one of the guys who got traded here.”
The Sixers sent Muscala to the Clippers with Wilson Chandler and Landry Shamet in a complicated deal. But the Clippers flipped him to the Lakers the next day for Ivica Zubac and the right to waive Michael Beasley.
The Sixers had expected Muscala to be a clean replacement for Ersan Ilyasova, but he had some nagging injuries and was only a 34.2-percent three-point shooter.
Why didn’t it work out for the Bucknell product in Philadelphia?
“I don’t know if that’s true,” Brett Brown said. “I think he achieved what we had hoped he was going to achieve. We all wished people made more shots. But in general, he was good people. There was a toughness about him. He could run a lane. He was a fantastic teammate. And when you look in the rear-view mirror at Mike, I think he achieved what we had hoped.”
Muscala played 13:09 Sunday, providing eight points, including two threepointers.
“Mike was really lastsecond,” Johnson said. “We didn’t know Philly was going to make that move. When they made that move, we looked up and said, ‘Man, a stretch-fourfive could really help us out.’ And we feel good about the trade.”
Among the highlights Sunday was Simmons attempting an in-the-flow three-point jump shot early in the third quarter. He had taken only 13 three-pointers in his career, almost exclusively in end-of-quarter or end-of-shot-clock heaves. He has yet to make one.
The shot failed … but at least it was a shot.
“I wasn’t shocked by it,” JJ Redick said. “I wasn’t shocked by it.”
Seated nearby, Embiid quipped: “You sure?”
Either way, it was … a moment.
“I will start pulling up, but that’s not one of those things that I’m looking at, it’s not everything,” Simmons said. “I’m not focused on just doing that, I’m going to play my game, play my strengths and continue to try and get that.” •••
Plagued recently by stomach distress, Embiid was a game-time decision. He would play 32:23.
“I was feeling a little better today,” he said. “I was still under the weather. But I wouldn’t miss this opportunity to get better, especially with the players we just added. So I felt I had to play this game.”
Magic Johnson, center, attending a reunion of Michigan State’s 1979 national championship team Saturday, was in Philadelphia Sunday to take in Ben Simmons and the Sixers ripping his Lakers team.