After being deprived of basketball updates for so long there’s been a flurry of smaller story lines recently and it’s been so fun to keep up with as we begin looking forward to b-ball’s return. Without further ado, a round up of some Sixers stuff!
1) A Shake Milton, Ben Simmons pick-and-roll could be in the near future
Recently, during his media availability, Ben Simmons talked about being fully healthy, stronger, and open to playing the screener more often during pick-and-rolls when things resume.
And yesterday, our Tom West reported that Milton had this to say on playing more with Ben:
Shake Milton on playing more with Ben Simmons when the season resumes:— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) July 7, 2020
"I feel like it’ll be easy. Ben’s a very unselfish player, he can pass the ball, he can finish, we can play pick-and-roll together, I can spot up while he creates and does his thing and just shoot the ball."
That would be fun. Shake Milton broke out when Simmons was injured. But the tandem might be able to do big things together in Orlando since the Sixers have been starved for another reliable ball-handler who can shoot and slash and run pick-n-rolls as a lead or secondary ball-handler.
You may recall, Simmons had been a total force against the Nets in round one back in April of 2019, but then he was infamously relegated to the “dunker spot” vs. the Raptors by round two.
The duo of Simmons and Jimmy Butler shared the ball at an almost identical percentage during the 2018-2019 regular season. By playoff time, Simmons’ usage rate plummeted. And specifically, it dropped against Toronto:
Once they faced a very big, very rangy, and elite defensive team like the Raptors, Brett Brown (correctly) decided that a pick-n-roll heavy offense led by Butler was his best chance to steal the series. But Butler is on the Heat now and Simmons is going to need to be much more involved this time around. Maybe Shake can help him do it.
2) Downward Furkan Dog
Furkan Korkmaz says he tried to find more hobbies (like reading and watching documentaries) during quarantine and also got into doing some yoga and meditation.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) July 7, 2020
It sounds as if Furkan Korkmaz has dabbled in meditation and yoga. That’s pretty cool and relatable. Lots of folks have tried to master new skills during pandemic living and staying mentally prepared to come off the bench cold and play the bomber role requires mastery of the mind.
It also sounds like Furk has been given some assurances from his coach that he’ll be a part of the rotation moving forwards:
Korkmaz says Brett has told him that his role won't be changing, that he needs to just keep doing what he's doing, and that he's an important piece of the team.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) July 7, 2020
3) Joel Embiid’s media appearance, first on concerns playing in Orlando
We’d been starved for Joel Embiid content over the hiatus but the big fella made up for that with a ton of intriguing quotes on Tuesday. Here’s what he had to say about balling this August in Orlando, per Kevin Kinkead of CrossingBroad:
“Yeah, I mean, I hated the idea. I felt like with everything that’s been going on, and it’s unfortunate what’s been going on in the world, obviously people look at it a different way.... all I want is to stay healthy, stay safe, keep the people around me safe. I want to be sure that I can leave for a long time and not have any sort of, I don’t know, consequences for the future.
“I’m not a big fan of the idea, but then again I’m going to do my job and won’t let the city down. I’m going to go represent my city, and that’s what I’ve always done.... I know I’m going to do the right things. I don’t ever do anything, I only play video games. I’m always home. I don’t trust those other guys to do the same, but like I said, I gotta do my job.”
Clearly Embiid doesn’t want to get sick, and with potential long-term consequences for even survivors of the virus still largely unknown, it sounds like he has an intelligent, epidemiological perspective. While he might prefer to take the cautious approach, he is simply unwilling to pass up the chance to go win a title for this town. That’s pretty brave. And even more so for sharing all of this with us.
4) Kendrick Perkins though sees things differently
But leave it to ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins to miss all of that completely. Here was some embarrassingly awful commentary by Perk on ESPN’s FirstTake, basically calling Embiid a wimp for publicly expressing concern over the pandemic that has killed over half a million people world wide in a matter of months. Can’t make this stuff up:
There isn’t a soul on this earth that fully understands the long-term effects of COVID. Joel Embiid and everyone in their right mind should be very concerned over it. Labeling that as “soft” or “incorrect” is absurd. pic.twitter.com/xgDuqP2deo— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) July 8, 2020
A mindset of “this virus is not something to be concerned about and tough people don’t voice their fears” is reckless and selfish. A reasonable and intelligent person should worry about getting sick and should worry about potentially infecting others as well. And there’s zero chance that Embiid is alone in feeling how he feels, which was all in the report Perkins might have missed from his colleague, Adrian Wojnarowski. Joel just happened to have the courage to say it on camera.
Pushing these antiquated machismo ideas at a time we as a country need more concern related to fighting this virus begins to transcend absurd and ventures into the unethical. But then again, FirstTake doesn’t always get the best ratings when they stick to insightful takes.
5) Embiid ready to dominate
It sounds like “The Process” really wants the ball when things resume. Per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps:
“I know I’m capable of carrying the team, so it’s all about me being assertive. If I feel like I’m not getting the ball, I just got to talk to them and do what I have to do.
“But at the end of the day, I should never be in a position to complain about getting the ball, just because of who I am.”
Maybe I’m a little old-fashioned and nerdy but I don’t love these types of quotes. I know it’s great for Embiid to adopt an aggressive mentality and one of dominance. But I also don’t think the championship version of the Sixers is “carried” by any one player. But I’m really quibbling here so let’s move on.
5) Joel on Ben Simmons
Per Bontemps, here’s what Embiid had to say on gearing up to ball with Simmons again soon. It’s either boring or spicy depending on your perspective:
“We’re going to need him,” Embiid said. “It’s a team game. I’m going to do my best to keep helping him and create some space for him, and we all got to do the same thing just to help each other. At the end of the day, it’s all about winning a championship, and I feel like he has the right mindset, that’s what he wants to do. I know one thing about him, he wants to win, and he’s going to do what it takes to win. So whatever we’re going to need him to do, that’s what he has to do.”
On the surface, it’s true and he’s calling Ben a winner. But it also hints at a similar more subtle tune we heard from Embiid back in January. Remember this, what the click-driving New York Post called a “subtle Ben Simmons dig?”
Per Zach Braziller from January 3rd:
“We just got to look at ourselves and see what we can do individually, we’ve got to help each other even if it means being outside of your comfort zone for the greater [good] to help the team win,” Embiid told reporters on Thursday, in the wake of a three-game losing streak that included a New Year’s Eve blowout loss to the Pacers.
“Meaning that, if you’ve got to space and shoot it, you’ve got to do it. We need everybody to buy into that and we’ll be fine, we’re going to be fine. We’re still finding our groove, we haven’t been totally healthy, the whole starting lineup. Like I said, we’ll be fine.”
So reading between the lines I’d guess that Joel still wants us to know he probably shoots more 3s than he might like in order to space the floor for Simmons and he’d probably like some “help” in return.
Perhaps furthering this theme were Embiid’s thoughts on the pairing between himself and Al Horford. Per Bontemps:
“At times [my fit with Al Horford] could be better, but then again, everybody on the court has a job, and with that type of pairing you have to have shooters around. You need to have people or guys being, like, wanting to take that shot. Especially when you got two inside presence like me and Al.”
It feels to me like Embiid’s position is and continues to be a version of look Ben, I know you’re a winner but I do tons of stuff I don’t want to do to help you out, why can’t you fire up 1 or 2 triples per game when you’re wide open in the corner in return?
But we don’t have to keep dissecting these comments, their play will do the talking soon enough.
6) In case you missed it
Our former writer Adam Aaronson penned this great account of Burnergate for RightstoRickySanchez. It’s more than worth a read.