Goals, lessons learned, new faces, big dreams, lofty expectations.
Sixers’ Media Day is, in some ways, the beginning — a fresh start. Players talk about putting last season behind them (while acknowledging what they’ve learned) and looking forward to what’s to come. There was an obvious confidence exuded from the team — they know what they’re capable of — yet an awareness that nothing in this league is a given (well, unless you’re the Golden State Warriors, I assume). I was able to attend Sixers’ Media Day on behalf of Liberty Ballers, and the following content contains some of the most notable talking points of the event.
While Sixers’ fans dream of Benny Threesamano, those grounded in reality don’t expect Ben to come out firing three pointers to start this season. Still, some of the rational among us held out hope that Simmons would at the very least be comfortable attempting shots from distance here and there. But Ben took a needle to that balloon of a dream:
"I'm not going to come in and hit threes this season, that's not what I'm going to do," Simmons says while discussing his goals and things to improve this season— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) September 21, 2018
I appreciate the honesty, to be honest.
Players who never shoot threes don’t just acquire a 3PT repertoire over one summer. And it’s possible (I’d say likely) that Ben never develops a 3PT repertoire — that is, the combination of the ability to catch-and-shoot as well as pull-up off the dribble from 3PT land at a 36%+ clip. That’s okay, at least for now. Not perfect, but nothing in this Sixers’ life is perfect. With the right tools around Simmons, it’s not long range or bust. However, Simmons does need to be able to threaten from the mid-range, and to do so, he needs to work on his jumper. It also wouldn’t hurt to improve his scoring around the hoop: while Simmons ranked 12th in EFG% amongst players with at least 900 FGA in 2017-2018, it was obvious to anyone watching that he didn’t have the most aesthetically pleasing shooting touch. According to Ben, he worked on multiple ways to score this summer:
Ben Simmons on his offseason workouts: "Everyday was different. Could be footwork one day. Touch around the rim another day... Getting a lot of shots up and reps, and just trying to correct some things"— Kevin F. Love (@KevinFLove) September 21, 2018
So Simmons isn’t comfortable shooting threes, and he doesn’t care if you know. But he is working on scoring, and that’s the most obvious step to realistic improvement as well as eventually, possibly, at the very least forcing the opposition to guard him at the perimeter.
Simmons was asked about the team’s chemistry, and he responded by noting the confidence and camaraderie that the Sixers’ locker room has developed:
Ben on energy in the builiding "Guys are really figuring it out, and know that we belong in the playoffs. Everybody is happy to see each other. We're like brothers"— Kevin F. Love (@KevinFLove) September 21, 2018
Figuring out the Sixers’ front court rotation is a little bit tricky at the moment. The Sixers have the following centers on retainer: Joel Embiid, Amir Johnson and Mike Muscala. Dario Saric figures to get the most front court minutes outside of the center position, and the Sixers also have Wilson Chandler and Robert Covington, who can both play some minutes at the four when Brett Brown goes small. So how does a rookie like Jonah Bolden get tic? Bolden noted his versatility:
When asked about his role on the team, Bolden notes that he can play multiple positions, be a stretch 4 or 5.— Kevin F. Love (@KevinFLove) September 21, 2018
I wouldn’t expect Brett Brown to pigeonhole his players into one position, and Bolden sounds like he’s ready to move around a bit. I don’t think Bolden has the lateral quickness to play the three, but if he can stretch the floor offensively, the four is a viable option. Floating between both big positions could help find the rookie a handful of minutes each night, and it sounds like Jonah is ready for the challenge.
Joel is close to Markelle and the two trained this summer with Drew Hanlen. Combine those two facts with Joel being so open and honest, it was only a matter of time until Jo was asked about Markelle’s summer, to which he responded emphatically positive:
Embiid on what he saw from Markelle this summer "Everybody talks about his shot. He worked a lot on his shot. Always got feedback from Drew. He was working out 3 times a day. He got much better. I don't think the whole story this year will be about his shot."— Kevin F. Love (@KevinFLove) September 21, 2018
“I don’t think the whole story this year will be about his shot.”
In other words, Joel expects Markelle to make serious waves. So much so that ‘Kelle’s theoretically improved shot won’t even be the storyline surrounding Fultz, which is quite the statement considering it is one of the most discussed developments of all of the NBA in recent memory.
Joel was asked about his reaction to Elton Brand’s promotion, and while he noted Brand’s achievements and qualifications, Jo used the opportunity to take a cheap yet charming shot at the new General Manager:
On Elton Brand becoming GM "I remember dunking on him"— Kevin F. Love (@KevinFLove) September 21, 2018
Markelle Fultz wasted no time in addressing last season’s fiasco:
"This summer was one of my hardest working summers. Everybody knows what happened last year. I'm happy with the work I put in with Drew. I'm happy where I'm at going into training camp" - Markelle Fultz— Kevin F. Love (@KevinFLove) September 21, 2018
"What happened last year was an injury, let's get that straight. When you're used to doing something the same way, and then something happens, of course you're gonna think about it" - Fultz— Kevin F. Love (@KevinFLove) September 21, 2018
Landry Shamet on what he’s focused on this summer:
Shamet on what he's worked on: "Just trying to learn as much as possible. The games really different from NBA to college. Learning the nuances of the game, things you can get away with, things you can't."— Kevin F. Love (@KevinFLove) September 21, 2018
Furkan Korkmaz on finding a role with the Sixers:
Furkan on what he has to do to carve out a role "Offensively, [my best attribute] is shooting. I want to show people what I can do."— Kevin F. Love (@KevinFLove) September 21, 2018
Mike Muscala on replacing bench contributors Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli:
Muscala on replacing Ilyasova/Belinelli contributions: "Bring energy off the bench, bring floor spacing. Be aggressive with my shooting. Defensively, Coach Brown has challenged me to work on keeping guys in front. I feel confident in my ability to protect the rim."— Kevin F. Love (@KevinFLove) September 21, 2018
TJ McConnell on what a healthy Fultz could mean for TJ’s spot in the rotation:
"Markelle gives us a really good chance to win and he's going to play. And I'll be the first one on the bench rooting for him" - McConnell— Kevin F. Love (@KevinFLove) September 21, 2018
Dario Saric on perimeter defense:
Dario on defending on the perimeter: "I've been working on that. I hope to improve because I think it's very important for our team." Talks about importance with how team likes to switch on D.— Kevin F. Love (@KevinFLove) September 21, 2018
JJ Redick on returning to the Sixers:
"I knew that I wanted to come back here. I was more than comfortable coming back here on a one year deal. For me it was to continue to build something here, continue to win. Play for Brett again" - Redick on why he returned to the Sixers— Kevin F. Love (@KevinFLove) September 21, 2018
From the Sixers press release:
Sixers medical update:— Kevin F. Love (@KevinFLove) September 21, 2018
Landry Shamet: fully cleared and available.
Shake Milton: cleared for limited contact & is progressing to full clearance without limitations.
Zhaire Smith: underwent post surgical follow-up with Dr. Martin O'Malley. O'Malley pleased with healing to date