Good morning, Sixers fans. Now a week into the offseason, there should be no shortage of stories, especially regarding Ben Simmons. The Sixers have indicated they want to keep him, but things can change.
It should be an interesting next month leading into the NBA draft, where trade rumors should be aplenty. And don’t be surprised if Simmons is part of many of these rumors. Should he stay or go? That is the offseason question.
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Simmons outta here?
Reggie Miller enjoyed a Hall of Fame career, spending his entire 18 NBA seasons with the Indiana Pacers. Miller, 55, is also a successful basketball analyst for Turner Broadcasting. He calls them like he sees them, but might not see them the way the Philadelphia fans do when it comes to Simmons.
During the seven-game Eastern Conference playoff semifinal loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Simmons shot 15-for-45 from the foul line (.333). He averaged just 9.9 points in the series. Simmons took just three shots in the fourth quarters of the entire series.
In a conference call last week with reporters that also included fellow Turner Broadcasting analyst Kenny Smith, Miller took up the case for Simmons.
“I think Ben Simmons is getting a raw deal. I think he’s being made to be the scapegoat in Philadelphia,” Miller said. “I agree with everything Kenny has said, because the young man needs to work on his game — everything, everything about his game, he needs to work on.”
Then came the kicker.
“I personally feel he has played his last game in Philadelphia,” Miller said. “And the reason why I say that is Philly fans have long memories and if you bring him back and he goes through a stretch of two, three, four [bad] games, Philly fans are going to let you know. That is just how they are there. ... Mentally ... sometimes that is the hardest thing to prepare an athlete for as opposed to his physical skills.”
So Miller thinks Simmons won’t be able to withstand the Philadelphia fans.
“I think he personally may need a change of scenery because the Philly faithful have too long a memory and they were also going to remember him being underneath the basket having a chance to dunk and he gives the ball up,” Miller added. “And if he does anything like that next year and they don’t get rid of him, they will be hearing the boos.”
Miller was referring to the dunk opportunity in the fourth quarter of Game 7 that Simmons passed up, when he opted to pass the ball to Matisse Thybulle, who was fouled and made one of two free throws.
When this reporter suggested that Simmons has a repeated pattern of falling short in the postseason, Miller and Smith weren’t buying it. Simmons missed the playoffs last year because of knee surgery.
As the stakes have gotten higher, he has not raised his game during his three years in the postseason. Here are his first- and second-round averages:
First round vs. Miami: 18.6 ppg., 10.6 rpg., 9.0 apg.
Second round vs. Boston: 14.4 ppg., 8.2 rpg., 6.4 apg.
First round vs. Brooklyn: 17.2 ppg. 6.8 rpg., 7.6 apg.
Second round vs. Toronto: 11.6 ppg., 7.3 rpg., 4.9 apg.
First round vs. Washington: 14.8 ppg., 10.2 rpg. 9.2 apg.
Second round vs. Atlanta: 9.9 ppg., 6.3 rpg., 8.6 apg.
“Philly fans have long memories,” Miller said. “Anytime he struggles next year ... that is why I think they are going to move him because they have long memories.”
Marcus Hayes compares Ben Simmons’ rough playoff to Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who had a similar tough moment, albeit in the regular season. Hayes reasons that Ertz recovered from his miscue and feels Simmons could do the same.
Everybody assumes that Simmons presents the biggest worry to Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey. Not so fast, says Mike Sielski, who writes that it is really Joel Embiid.
David Murphy writes that ESPN mentioned the words ‘trade request’ in connection with Simmons. Here’s why that’s a Sixers concern.
Sixers assistant Sam Cassell is reported to be one of the candidates for the Washington Wizards’ head-coaching job.
Remembering Hal Greer
Saturday, June 26, was Hal Greer’s birthday. The former Sixers great died at age 81 in 2018. I’ve often felt that Greer was one of the most underrated superstars.
He played his entire 15-year career with the same franchise, beginning with the Syracuse Nationals in 1958-59 and moving to Philadelphia in 1963.
Talk about an old-school player: Greer appeared in 80 or more games nine times and 79 in another. He had that classic jump shot at the foul line, finishing his career shooting 80.1%.
Greer was named to 10 consecutive All-Star Games, from 1961 through 1970. He played on what many consider one of the top NBA teams of all-time: the 1966-67 Sixers, who won the NBA title. The starting lineup was Greer, Wali Jones, Wilt Chamberlain, Chet Walker and Luke Jackson. Eventual Hall of Famer Billy Cunningham was the sixth man.
In the six-game championship series win over the San Francisco Warriors, Greer averaged 26 points, 8 rebounds and 6.2 assists. Remember, this was before the three-point shot.
For his regular-season career, he averaged 19.0 points and scored 21,586, 42nd all-time among NBA and ABA players. He averaged 20.4 points in 92 career postseason games.
Greer was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history at the start of the 1996-97 season.
July 19: Deadline for early-entry players to withdraw from the NBA draft (5 p.m.).
July 29: NBA draft.
Aug. 2: Teams can begin negotiating with free agents (6 p.m.).
Aug. 6: Teams can begin signing free agents (12:01 p.m.).
Aug. 8-17: MGM Resorts NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
Passing the rock
Question: Simmons has never panned out with Sixers style of play with Embiid. Simmons is best at being Embiid’s backup like they wanted [Nerlens] Noel to be. On offense Ben is nothing more than [Atlanta’s Clint] Capela. A lot of dunks. Ben will not change. He has had several years to change. The Sixers misread him to the extent of $170 million. Your thoughts? — Louis Schweickhardt via email
Answer: Thanks for the question, Louis. A couple of things: The Sixers would never make a $30-million-a-year player a backup. Actually, Simmons is more than Capela offensively. Simmons can create his own shot by driving to the basket; he has just chosen not to. Capela is dependent on teammates, especially Trae Young, creating for him.
I used to be a big Simmons backer, but I am starting to think that he won’t change. Hope I am wrong because he is young enough, turning 25 next month, to still change. Until he is confident that he can make free throws, Simmons is a lost cause offensively. As I have said before, I can live with him not shooting threes or even medium-range jumpers, but can’t live with him being passive when it comes to taking it to the hoop.
He has too much size, speed and strength and can get to the basket against any top defender. Finishing is his problem, but he can put a lot of pressure on defenses if he chooses to attack. If not, then he won’t fit what the Sixers need.