HOUSTON –The 76ers see it as nothing more than"poor luck."
That's how Brett Brown on Monday described having top draft picks miss significant amounts of time during their rookie seasons because of injuries. The team announced Sunday that Markelle Fultz, the first overall pick in this year's draft, is out indefinitely with scapular muscle imbalance and soreness in his right shoulder.
Ben Simmons, the 2016 first overall pick, missed his entire rookie season after breaking his right foot on the final day of training camp. Jahlil Okafor, the third pick in 2015, suffered a season-ending knee injury in February of his rookie campaign. Last season was also cut short by a knee injury.
The Sixers acquired Nerlens Noel in a draft-night trade (2013) and Joel Embiid with the third pick (2014) in consecutive drafts even though they had injuries. Noel missed all of his rookie season with a knee injury. Embiid missed his first two seasons because of two foot surgeries . Then, he missed the final three months of last season with a knee injury.
The team's medical staff has been criticized over these injuries, but Brown would tell that you the criticism is unwarranted.
"We understood what we were getting into when we drafted Joel Embiid and Nerlens," he said. "We drafted them with a level of knowledge.I think the other people that have been injured, it's a complete reflection of some poor luck. It's pro sports.
"To read into it anymore or try to find some conspiracy theory is completely unfair and not accurate."
Dario Saric admitted that things are easier for him as a starter.
The Sixers power forward made his second consecutive start Monday night's 115-107 against the Rockets at the Toyota Center. He was in the lineup both games because J.J. Redick is sidelined with lower-back tightness.
But he'll tell you that things are different when he's starting. He used Saturday's game against the Mavericks as an example. Saric said he knew what kind of defense the Mavs and power forward Dirk Nowitzki would provide. Saric knew what he could expect from his teammates. And the 23-year-old was impressive under those circumstances, finishing with 12 points and a season-high four three-pointers. He followed with a season-high 14 points against the Rockets.
The only problem is that Saric was in the lineup only because of Redick's back. The Sixers want him to provide a spark off the bench.
And unfortunately for them, he hasn't been able to fulfill that role. Saric has had a tough time getting involved in his five games coming off the bench. He averaged 5.6 points and just 3 of 14 three-pointers (21.4 percent).
"I didn't find myself in a good role," he said.
"Right now, I need to grow up … and adjust to every position on the team. I have to find a way to play good from whatever role that Coach gives me."
Saric has also been seeing time as a reserve center.
Things could get scary for Sixers' opponents when Ben Simmons develops a jump shot.
Right now, the 76ers point guard gets to the rim at will. But it is thought the 6-foot-10, 240-pounder will be impossible to guard once he adds a consistent outside jumper to his game.
He knows it. So do opposing coaches, some of who are already marveling over what is not a finished product.
"Everyone knew he was going to be good, but he's way better than expected," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said after Saturday's 112-110 loss to the Sixers. "Some of the plays, just amazing stuff — the follow dunk, some of the passes.
"He's not a great shooter, but compensates well with movement, driving the ball, posting up, things like that."
Simmons finished with a career-high 23 points to go with eight assists, seven rebounds, three steals, and one blocked shot Saturday night. The 21-year-old was averaging 17.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 7.5 assists heading into Monday's game. And he's far from satisfied.
"I thought I'd be playing better, honestly," Simmons said. "I need to pick it up. It's awesome [being in the NBA]. I wouldn't want to do anything else. I love what I do. I'm just grateful to be here, just got to keep working."
Simmons wants to work on his scoring from the elbow, low block, and the lane, and finishing around the basket. He also wants to improve on his rebounding and assists, and help the Sixers win more games.
But shooting from the outside is perhaps his glaring weakness. It's clearly hurting the Sixers in closing out games. Knowing that he can't make outside shots, teams usually back away from Simmons to prevent him from penetrating to the basket. They are daring him to shoot an outside shot. In those instances, Simmons usually passes to a teammate and turns into a non-factor.
As a result, he was asked how developing a consistent outside shot would help his game.