Sixers training camp begins today in Camden. 11 a.m. practice and media availability slated for whenever it ends. A little after 1 p.m. is our guess.
Meantime, we have another Ben Simmons report! Yay!
Today it’s Sam Amick at The Athletic, who writes that Ben doesn’t want to play with Joel Embiid because of on-court, stylistic reasons:
“Yet of all the problem areas to explore, there’s none more unyielding and impossible to ignore than this: People who have intimate knowledge of how he sees this situation continue to insist that he’s done playing with Embiid. There’s nothing personal about this choice, it seems, but the 25-year-old Simmons has clearly decided that his career is better off without Embiid blocking the runways in the paint that he so badly needs to succeed.
As he sees it, sources say, the organization’s choice to build its basketball ecosystem around Embiid’s style simply isn’t conducive to the way he needs to play. So while Embiid insisted to reporters on Monday that he wants Simmons back, this much is clear: The feeling is not mutual.
“It has run its course,” the source said of their pairing.”
Alright. There’s actually a lot to unpack there, so let’s go bullets to organize it:
- The Sixers starting lineup was a monstrosity last season. Incredibly efficient and dominating with a 14.0 net rating. Simmons + Embiid + three shooters works very well. It worked with Redick/Covington/Saric and it worked with Harris/Curry/Green.
- Joel Embiid is the MVP runner-up. If Simmons can’t play with someone of that quality, then he can’t play with anybody. He’s probably not linking up with Nikola Jokic in Denver, so the only other option is to play small ball and surround Ben with four shooters, then go high-tempo and let them run and gun.
- The problem with Ben as a five, or building a team around him, is that there’s not enough rim protection when he’s anchoring. You’ll have some beautiful moments of drive-and-kick and four-out/one-in basketball, but you really do sacrifice a lot on the defensive end.
- Ben running the floor and having a wide-open paint still doesn’t guarantee playoff success. Can he initiate offense with the ball in his hands in a half-court, late-game possession? And if he does get more aggressive in a downhill way, is he making more foul shots?
Seems like Ben, if the report is true, just wants a team built around him. Built to his strengths. He wants to be “the guy.” I’d argue that most NBA stars want that, but the whole point of playing as a group is finding a balance that accommodates everybody. Each player needs their touches. Naturally, one guy rises to the top, and here it’s Joel Embiid. Ben’s a great player, but he’s not Joel, and so he’s always going to be 1B as long as Embiid is 1A. He could have helped himself by developing his offensive game, but instead seems intent on playing the way he wants to play, and so this appears to be one of the reasons why he wants out.