Ben Simmons conceded he is "not a great shooter", but the Philadelphia 76ers guard feels his other strengths make up for that.

Coming into this season Simmons is 0 for 17 from beyond the arc in his career, but last week he hit a three-pointer in a preseason game against Guangzhou.

"I am confident to say I am not a great shooter," Simmons told reporters.

"I am getting better, though. It is a game. It is five people on the court. I lack something that I am not that great at, but other areas I am very great at.

"I run the floor as well as anybody. Physically, I can rebound the ball at 6-10. As a point guard, I can guard 'one' through 'five'. That is one thing that is coming into my game which I am excited about. I love getting better; I love spending time in the gym and building that confidence."

But while he has struggled with his shooting previously, Simmons has been seen repeatedly making shots in practice and plans to make it a part of his game this season - at least more so than he did over his first two NBA seasons.

"It is something I have been working toward getting better as a player, as you would do as a writer. Everybody works to get better," he added.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid wants to win the NBA's MVP award and lead his team to the Eastern Conference top seed following a heartbreaking season.

The 76ers fell agonisingly short of a Conference Finals berth after succumbing to Kawhi Leonard's stunning Game 7 buzzer-beater and eventual champions the Toronto Raptors in May.

Embiid – who dealt with injury and illness throughout the playoffs – was left in tears after the game but the All-Star is setting huge goals in 2019-20, having been haunted by the loss to the Raptors.

"Last year I played the most games I've ever played, 64. This year I see myself playing over 70 games," Embiid told ESPN.

"That's going to be good for us because we're trying to get the number one seed and we're trying to win over 60 games. It's going to help me because I need that team success if I want to win be able to win MVP or Defensive Player of the Year."

"Last year I started off too high, playing 35-36 minutes a game and then I started slowing down," said Embiid, who averaged 27.5 points and 13.6 rebounds during the regular season.

"This year, we're going to start off, not slow and not a minute restriction, but we'll start off at the right number, like 30-31 minutes to start, and then as the season goes on you start ramping up.

"It's hard to balance it. I'm competitive. I want to be out there with my guys. But you can win MVP playing 70 games."

The 76ers head into the upcoming season as one of the challengers once again, despite the departures of Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick, thanks to the re-signing of Tobias Harris and arrivals of Al Horford and Josh Richardson. However, all eyes will be on 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons and his shooting.

Simmons averaged 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 7.7 assists last season to earn his first All-Star selection, but the former number one draft pick's three-point struggles and reluctance to shoot from beyond the arc were well documented.

However, after a gruelling off-season with an emphasis on his shooting woes, Simmons said: "If it's open, I'll take it.

"It just changes the dynamic of the game and the way guys have to guard you. Once I get into rhythm and feel comfortable, I think it will change a lot of things."

The Philadelphia 76ers are looking into claims Mike Scott was involved in an altercation with Philadelphia Eagles fans before Sunday's NFL match against the Washington Redskins.

The 76ers forward, who is a Redskins fan, sported a Washington jersey and hat and was participating in tailgate festivities before kick-off.

Footage of an incident alleged to have involved Scott was shared across social media, with the Sixers responding to the claims about their player. It was unclear what may have led to the apparent altercation.

"We are aware of the situation and are in the process of gathering more information," the Sixers said in a statement. "We will have no further comment at this time."

Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons will not play for Australia at this year's FIBA World Cup, though he will feature in exhibition games against the United States.

After initially making himself available for August's World Cup in China, Simmons announced on Tuesday that he will skip the tournament and instead focus on the upcoming NBA season with the 76ers.

While he is set to sit out the World Cup, Simmons will travel to Australia for a pair of games against Canada in Perth on August 16 and 17 before facing Team USA in Melbourne on August 22 and 24.

"I wanted to let everyone know that after consulting with my representation, I've made the difficult decision to forego playing in the World Cup in China this summer," Simmons – who has signed a new five-year contract with the 76ers – said in a statement via Twitter.

"I will still be heading back home to Australia to host my camps as well as train and play with the Boomers in the upcoming exhibition games.

"I'm really excited about the talent we have on the Boomers squad, especially moving close to 2020 where I will be honoured and humbled to represent my country on the world's biggest sporting stage at the Olympics in Tokyo.

"Ultimately, we decided it was best that I use the time in September to return to Philadelphia to acquaint myself with my new team-mates and prepare for the upcoming NBA season."

The 76ers selected Simmons with the first pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and he has played a large role in the team's resurgence as an oversized, do-it-all playmaker.

Philadelphia put together one of the most talented starting line-ups in basketball last season, featuring Simmons, Joel Embiid, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris as they finished third in the Eastern Conference before falling to the Toronto Raptors in the second round.

The 76ers lost Butler and Redick this offseason, but acquired Josh Richardson and Al Horford, giving them tremendous defensive potential.

Ben Simmons has officially agreed to a new long-term deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, the team announced on Tuesday.

The Sixers confirmed a five-year extension, starting in 2020, but did not reveal the terms of the contract - reported to be a max deal worth $170million.

Simmons, who turns 23 on Saturday, was in the last year of his rookie contract.

"Ben Simmons is an important piece of our core and he is one of the NBA's most dynamic and talented young players," general manager Elton Brand said.

"It was a priority for our organisation that we finalise a contract extension with Ben this summer. He was Rookie of the Year in his first season, an All-Star in his second and we expect him to continue grow and succeed for seasons to come.

"Ben positively impacts the game in so many ways and we look forward to continuing our championship pursuits with him as one of our leaders."

The Australian was drafted by Philadelphia with the number one overall pick in 2016 but missed his entire rookie season due to a foot injury.

Simmons finished last season averaging 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game and helped lead the Sixers to the second round of the playoffs, where they were agonisingly beaten by eventual champions the Toronto Raptors.

Ben Simmons has reportedly agreed to a max deal with the Philadelphia 76ers that will pay him $170million over five years.

Agent Rich Paul is said to have confirmed the agreement to The Athletic and ESPN on Monday. 

Simmons, 22, was in the last year of his rookie contract and was slated to make $8.1m in the 2019-20 season.

It will mark his third year in the league after he missed his entire rookie campaign due to a foot injury.

Simmons was drafted first overall by Philadelphia in 2016 and has already become a star, despite the delayed start to his professional career. He won Rookie of the Year in 2017-18 and earned All-Star honours this past season.

He finished last year averaging 16.9 points and 7.9 assists per game and helped Philadelphia to the second round of the playoffs, where they were eliminated by the Toronto Raptors in seven games.

James Ennis is confident in the Philadelphia 76ers heading into the 2019-20 NBA season.

The 29-year-old wing was a free agent and re-signed with Philadelphia on a two-year deal reportedly worth $4.1million.

Ennis said he had better offers elsewhere but chose to return because he wanted a chance to win a championship.

"It's a good team, and a good chance of winning," Ennis told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"The East is going to be wide open. We had a good chance last year. Kawhi [Leonard] is gone. He went to the [Los Angeles Clippers in the] West. So, we are going to walk to the Finals in the East."

The 76ers finished the season with a 51-31 record and advanced to the second round of the playoffs, where they fell to Leonard's Raptors.

Leonard pushed Toronto past Philadelphia when he hit a crazy bouncing buzzer-beater in the fourth quarter of Game 7. The Raptors went on to win their first championship in franchise history.

The 76ers lost wing Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat, however, they brought back Tobias Harris on a five-year, $180m contract. They also signed forward Al Horford to a four-year deal.

"[Horford] has built his reputation around hard work and a tradition of winning, which are the same qualities that have formed the foundation of the 76ers," general manager Elton Brand said in a statement.

"Al's playmaking, elite defensive talents and veteran leadership confirm why he is a crucial addition to our roster.

"We have gained a championship-level team-mate that will not only complement our current makeup but will help grow our young core as we strive for the highest level of success."

The Milwaukee Bucks led the East and registered an NBA-best 60-22 record in 2018-19. They fell to the Raptors in the conference finals.

Ennis was sent from the Houston Rockets to the 76ers before the trade deadline. He averaged 5.3 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 30.6 per cent from three-point range in 18 regular-season games with Philadelphia.

Al Horford has signed for the Philadelphia 76ers, who also officially confirmed Tobias Harris will be remaining with the franchise.

Veteran center Horford has reportedly inked a four-year deal worth $109million after declining his $30.1m player option with the Boston Celtics last month.

Horford was originally expected to return to the team on a three-year deal before negotiations fell apart.

"We're excited to welcome one of the NBA's best frontcourt players in Al Horford to Philadelphia," Sixers general manager Elton Brand said in a statement. 

"He has built his reputation around hard work and a tradition of winning, which are the same qualities that have formed the foundation of the 76ers.

"Al's playmaking, elite defensive talents and veteran leadership confirm why he is a crucial addition to our roster. 

"We have gained a championship-level team-mate that will not only complement our current make-up but will help grow our young core as we strive for the highest level of success."

In further good news for the 76ers, Harris is staying in Philadelphia. His agent and father, Torrel, told The Athletic he has signed a five-year, $180m contract.

Philadelphia acquired Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers at the trade deadline earlier this year. He averaged 18.2 points and 7.9 rebounds in 27 regular-season games with the 76ers.

Harris has bounced around the NBA and has played for five teams in eight seasons, averaging 15.4 points per game while shooting 36.4 per cent from three-point range in 546 career appearances.

"Signing Tobias and solidifying him as a foundational piece of our core for years to come was a top priority for our organisation this summer," Brand said. 

"His impact in our city extends far beyond his elite talents on the floor. He has ingrained himself in the community and established himself as a leader and driver of positive change. 

"Tobias is a fierce competitor with a tireless work ethic and embodies all of the qualities of a franchise cornerstone. I couldn't be happier to welcome Tobias and his entire family back to the 76ers and we all look forward to continuing our quest to win a championship for this city and our amazing fans.”

Can any team stop the Golden State Warriors?

The reigning champions are the favourites to claim the NBA title for a third straight year. Considering they added DeMarcus Cousins to a roster that already included four All-Stars, it is not hard to see why.

But the start of the playoffs is a time for positive thinking, not pessimism. Of the 15 others still left standing at the regular season, some have higher hopes than others.

Here, we look at the leading contenders to dethrone the Warriors, ranking them in order of who may have the best chance of success against Steve Kerr's roster.

 

1. HOUSTON ROCKETS 
 
Season record: 53-29
 
Season record against the Warriors: 3-1 

The Rockets top these rankings despite being the fourth seed in the West. However, it should not be forgotten that a year ago they pushed the Warriors to a seven-game series in the Conference Finals, with an injury to Chris Paul hampering their attempt to end Golden State's reign. 

This season they have won three of their four meetings with the reigning NBA champions, having turned around a poor start - they were 11-14 early in December - thanks mainly to James Harden, who made the step-back three-pointer an art form as he took his game to a new level.  

Coach Mike D'Antoni has Houston launching from long range at an astonishing rate - they had a record 27 attempts in a win over the Phoenix Suns this month - but their playoff hopes will revolve around Harden. They can only hope his usage level in the regular season does not catch up with the MVP candidate down the stretch. 


2. TORONTO RAPTORS 

Season record: 58-24

Season record against the Warriors: 2-0 

Toronto made drastic changes with the aim of altering their playoff fortunes. They suffered at the hands of LeBron James in recent years, including being swept a year ago by his Cleveland Cavaliers in the East semi-finals, but that is a problem they do not have to worry about in 2019 (enjoy watching on, LeBron!). 

General manager Masai Ujiri appointed a new coach – Nick Nurse – and acquired a different leading man – Kawhi Leonard – with the aim of exorcising some of the postseason ghosts that haunt the Canadian franchise and their fans. Pascal Siakam's emergence, making him the leading contender to be named the league's most improved player, should help.

Leonard has won a title previously with the San Antonio Spurs and is in a select group who can genuinely have a chance when going toe to toe with Kevin Durant. It could be one and done for Kawhi (he has a player option for next year), though, so Ujiri has pushed all his chips into the centre of the table in the hope his hand is strong enough to hit the jackpot.

 

3. MILWAUKEE BUCKS 

Record: 60-22

Record against the Warriors: 1-1 

The Bucks posted the best record in the NBA. They have Giannis Antetokounmpo, a ridiculously gifted 24-year-old (Twenty. Four. Good luck for the next decade, rest of the NBA) who is battling Harden to be crowned the league's MVP. 

Yet while Antetokounmpo's continued rise to superstardom has helped take the franchise from seventh to first in the Eastern Conference, the appointment of coach Mike Budenholzer has also been crucial. His version of the Bucks have averaged more points and more attempts from beyond the arc than any other team – and that includes the shot-happy Warriors. 

Milwaukee failed to clear the first hurdle in the postseason last year, losing in seven to the Boston Celtics, but have greater depth this time around. They will need other contributors too, as opposing teams will focus on finding ways to stop, or at least slow down, the explosive Antetokounmpo. 

 

4. BOSTON CELTICS 

Season record: 49-33

Season record against the Warriors: 1-1

Will the real Celtics show up in the playoffs? Boston were tipped to top the East yet finished fourth after a see-saw campaign that saw plenty of indifferent performances and far too much talk from their players in the media. 

Still, underestimate them at your peril. In Kyrie Irving they have a proven performer at this stage of a campaign, someone who helped the Cleveland Cavaliers rally from 3-1 down to beat the Warriors in 2016, plus a supporting cast that allows coach Brad Stevens to adapt to both opposing teams and a hot hand. 

Marcus Smart's injury leaves them minus a key defensive cog in the early rounds, but the combative guard should be back if Boston makes it all the way to the NBA Finals. For the Celtics, it is all about the destination, rather than the uncomfortable journey they have been on in recent months. 

 

5. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 

Season record: 51-31

Season secord against the Warriors: 1-1 

'The Process' paid off for the 76ers. They drafted Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons but raised the expectation levels this season by trading for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, giving them a strong starting five when you add in JJ Reddick. 

However, there are still concerns - particularly when it comes to facing Golden State. Simmons' shooting, or lack of – he had just six three-point attempts in the regular season, making none of them – is something the Warriors do not have to worry about, allowing them to focus elsewhere, potentially Embiid (who has injury issues to deal with at the start of the playoffs). 

The moves to add Butler and Harris have left the bench a little thin. Still, before they can contemplate about going up against the Warriors, they must work their way out of the East. 

 

6. DENVER NUGGETS 

Season record: 54-28

Season record against the Warriors: 1-3 

Denver defeated Golden State in their first meeting back in October but lost the remaining three regular season games, with the Warriors overtaking the early pacesetters to finish top of the West. 

Worryingly for the Nuggets, Nikola Jokic combined for 43 points in those three defeats. The gifted center is a focal point for Mike Malone's team, taking plenty of the playmaking responsibilities away from whichever combination of guards are out on the court alongside him. 

Yet this is uncharted territory for Jokic and his colleagues. The Nuggets excelled in the regular season, but the playoffs are different. Paul Millsap's experience will help a young roster, and they are also aided by not having to worry about the Warriors until the Conference Finals. Can they make it that far, though?

Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook was in little mood to discuss his beef with the Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid ahead of the pair being team-mates at the NBA All-Star Game.

The two men have history dating back to 2017 when Embiid waved at the Oklahoma crowd after Steven Adams had fouled out, an action that was mimicked by Westbrook when the Thunder went on to win.

In a 2018 meeting, Westbrook stared down the 76ers star and his team-mate Ben Simmons, who were on the sidelines as he dribbled out the clock for the Thunder to triumph again.

Last month, a furious Westbrook, whose side again came out on top, had to be restrained after a collision with Embiid and answered "f*** no" when asked after the game if the two were cool.

However, for one night at least the pair will have to put their differences aside when they are part of the same Team Giannis in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday.

At a media day on Saturday, Westbrook was asked if he can get along with Embiid, to which he replied: "Next question."

Embiid, on the other hand, was a bit more willing to entertain the same question.

"I don't care," Embiid said. "The whole situation with him, he's fun, who cares. I'm willing to do whatever, but when we get on the court as opponents, I don't care. 

"I don't like him. I don't like anybody else. So, we're on the same team, I'm willing to work it out."

LeBron James made his home debut at Staples Center but it did not go according to plan after the Los Angeles Lakers lost a feisty game against the Houston Rockets. 

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