Even without showcasing his offensive skills, Ben Simmons’ presence was hard to miss Wednesday in the 76ers’ training camp practice.
The All-Star point guard, in his fourth training camp, was extremely vocal while displaying leadership in the portion of the scrimmage that was visible to the media. Simmons seemed to be louder and more animated than in previous seasons.
“The familiarity, I think, with me, his teammates, and the system expedites a level of confidence borne out of [that] he knows what to do,” coach Brett Brown said.
As a result, Simmons is playing with more freedom, Brown added.
Tobias Harris said he has seen growth in Simmons’ demeanor since the veteran forward joined the Sixers in a trade from the Los Angeles Clippers in February.
“Ben is really locked in, defensively,” Harris said, “and locked in offensively, seeing everybody’s spots. So you are seeing a young guy, not for nothing, he can go out there and get his own shot when he wants.”
But Simmons has been trying to find guys in the post when they want the ball. Harris added that Simmons is also doing a good job of reading the defense.
“So he’s locked in, working really hard,” Harris said, “getting himself right for us.”
Trey Burke, a six-year veteran who arrived via free agency in July, has never had a problem scoring buckets. But the Sixers are looking for a backup point guard who can also make defensive stops.
“I’m trying to focus on the defensive end more than anything,” said Burke, who is competing with Raul Neto for a roster spot.
He has been picking up full court, playing hard and diving on the floor. Those are all the things Brown wants to see.
“He challenged me from Day 1,” Burke said of Brown. "When I decided to sign here, he challenged me on the defensive end. He said he was going to be on me all year about having that edge on defense.
“I show it at times. But he wants it to be a consistent thing.”
Burke has accepted the chance and is looking to be “that head of the snake on the defensive end."
At the conclusion of practice, the Sixers were working on end-of-game situations with four seconds on the clock.
Simmons inbounded the ball to Harris during one play. The forward took several dribbles while getting to the top of the key and buried a buzzer-beater in front of Kyle O’Quinn.
Harris was asked after practice if he was going to be the Sixers’ go-to guy if the team is down by two in the closing seconds.
“We will definitely see,” he said. "It’s something that I worked very hard on, to be able to put myself in those positions. “Obviously, we have a lot of talent on this team. So everybody wants to know who the go-to guy is. But to be honest, it’s going to be whoever has the ball.”
Harris noted the Sixers have the best center in the game in Joel Embiid. He also said they have one of the best young players in the game in Simmons. As a 6-foot-10 point guard, Simmons creates a lot of mismatches.