The Philadelphia 76ers clubbed the Guangzhou Loong Lions by 58 points last night in the 2019 preseason opener.
But the big story on Action News is Ben Simmons, who pulled up from downtown for a three pointer that hit nothing but net, sending the Wells Fargo Center crowd into rapture. The building might have been half full, but the calls to “shooooot” right before half time drowned out anything that Flyers fans have ever yelled at Jake Voracek.
After the game, Ben Simmons did what he does, downplaying the significance of hitting a three-point shot in a professional basketball game.
Here’s the entire exchange with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey:
Pompey: Can you talk about that shot; what did you see, what did the crowd –
Simmons: Time went down and I had the ball so I had to take the shot.
Pompey: Was it because the crowd encouraged you to take it?
Simmons: I really didn’t hear anything.
Pompey: You didn’t hear anything?
Pompey: Well what did it feel like? I know it kind of sort of gets the monkey off your back.
Simmons: I mean I work every day, so to me, it shows. I’m in the gym every day putting in work, so I feel like it’s paying off.
Brett Brown also didn’t seem interested in talking about something that was rather significant in terms of Ben Simmons’ development, similarly downplaying what happened. He looked outright bored opening his press conference with a one-word answer to a China question, then I asked him what was going through his mind when he saw Simmons pull up for three:
Nothing. He made a shot. Good. And that’s kind of personally the extent of it for me.
(follow up question about the shot)
I think the whole thing is so overblown. I think in general it’s so inflated, the attention. That’s what I think. So I answer the question the way I did, and I answer the question again the same way. He’s young. We’ve got a long season. I’m just not gonna react over it and I really mean that. He made a three.
I tried again at the end of the press conference:
Crossing Broad: Why do you think the topic is overblown? You see his teammates react to it and you see the fan reaction.
Brown: I’m 58 years old I’ve been coaching for a thousand years, I completely think it’s overblown, so –
CB: I know you do, but why do you think the reaction is what it is?
Brown: Because it’s his first NBA three and it’s been like the topic of the summer. Truly, let’s call it for what it is. I just think it’s so overblown. We all get why it’s discussed a lot and we understand the stage of April, May, and June, we get that it stands out. But I still stand by my personal opinion that I think it’s overblown. And it’s going to keep growing organically just fine.
It might seem strange, but oftentimes the best quotes come from teammates when you encounter situations like this, where the coach and the player in question downplay something that is absolutely significant.
And you saw that significance in the body language of Ben’s teammates when they encouraged him to shoot the ball during that sequence. Look at Joel Embiid here, borderline annoyed (before running over to celebrate), while Tobias Harris also signals for him to shoot and Mike Scott whips up the crowd:
BEN SIMMONS HIT A 3PT. pic.twitter.com/TEpomnW9Uy
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 9, 2019
It was a big deal. It was a huge deal! Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. We’re talking about an already elite player who can be a perennial All-NBA candidate if he consistently shoots the ball and adds that skill to his game.
Mike Scott had a good quote on the shot:
Man, he works on it every day. When I went in (Tuesday) morning to shoot, he was working on transition, dribble-up threes. So he works on them. We’ve all seen the videos that came out over the summer, of him hitting those. That’s a testament to his hard work. One more to go, so I’m glad he’s confident and shooting it. He cashed out.
It’s been the talk ever since he’s been in the league and he’s been working on it each year. I always say you get confidence from reps and he’s been working on that shot every day. He’s getting confident, he shoots it at practice, and I know it feels a lot better for him to see one go in.
Tobias Harris also joked about the scene:
“He’s one of the best shooters to ever shoot the basketball. He’s 100 percent from 3, so I don’t want to hear nothing.”
I also saw from Ben:
- a fadeaway 10-footer from the baseline
- another short fade from inside the paint that didn’t count because he was whistled for traveling
Those were the only two jump shots I saw outside of the three-pointer, unless I missed one. But this was a huge step forward.
Semblance of a rotation
We saw the early workings of a Sixers rotation last night, with James Ennis and Matisse Thybulle first off the bench for Joel Embiid and Josh Richardson, making for a unit that looked like this:
After that, Trey Burke was next off the bench, coming in for Ben Simmons and running point, giving us a group of:
What about Scott? He came in with Richardson and Embiid at 2:45 in the first, presenting us a squad of:
So those were the first three groupings Brett Brown used. Nothing concrete, for sure, but should give you an idea of what he’s thinking as we kick off the preseason. Specifically, I think that Richardson/Embiid pairing stands out, the idea that Brown wanted to keep those guys linked last night.
Kyle O’Quinn came on midway through the second quarter, while Jonah Bolden, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, and Raul Neto entered in the third. Marial Shayok started the fourth and then the bench was emptied.
Brown, for what it’s worth, said post game that we’ll probably see Neto in Burke’s position moving forward, as those two go through their preseason battle for the backup point guard spot. They’ll likely take turns being the first PG off the bench this preseason.
The one guy whose stock appears to be down is Zhaire Smith, as he played a bit part role last night with Thybulle and Ennis as the first choice bench wings.
- Thybulle again looked fantastic, deflecting passes, stealing the ball, and hitting some catch and shoot threes. He looks like a really nice player, he’s just going to have to make sure his aggressiveness doesn’t get him into foul trouble. He had three by the 9:28 point in the second quarter.
- We saw some trapping and pressing and full court defense, which was interesting for a preseason game. Shows how deep and diverse the Sixers can be defensively this season.
- Some nice moments last night using Al Horford as a roll man, which is something Joel Embiid doesn’t necessarily excel at (because the Sixers have not been a PNR team).
- Scott created a cool moment when he gave an out of play ball to a little kid, had the kid pass the ball back to him, and then proceeded to inbound. He “gets” it.
- Two young women were kicked out of the interview room last night. They claimed to be “media” but did not have passes and got the boot.
- The new arena changes are interesting. Section 116 (below Shake Shack) was extended down to the floor, and the entrance to the arena bowels sealed off, as you can see here:
That entrance used to be a clusterfuck, with security, media, TV, and concessions going back and forth nonstop. We’ll see how the floor traffic looks like when the arena is full, and whether that affects you trying to get to your seats or your ability to see the action over the stream of people moving back and forth on the north side floor level.