Danny Green believes the Philadelphia 76ers without Ben Simmons might cause defensive issues amid uncertainty over his future with the NBA franchise.

Simmons' future in Philadelphia is up in the air after struggling in the 76ers' shock Eastern Conference semi-final exit at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA playoffs.

The three-time All-Star – an elite defender whose shooting problems were laid bare during the postseason – has been at the centre of trade rumours involving the Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers.

Portland are a team of particular interest, given reports the 76ers are eyeing their All-Star Damian Lillard.

Green, who signed a new deal to return to Philadelphia for the 2021-22 season, was asked what a Simmons-less 76ers would look like.

"That's going to be tough to say man because we don't know what we're going to get back for him," Green told Howard Beck on the Crossover podcast.

"We may get a point guard, we may get wings. That may change a lot: I might be playing with a different type of point guard, I might be playing with different types of wings, I might be coming off the bench. I don't know who we’re going to get."

Former number one draft pick Simmons had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star.

 

After four seasons in the league, there has been no improvement from the 24-year-old Simmons in one fundamental area – shooting.

An elite defender and creator, debate around Simmons centres on his offence or lack thereof, with the 76ers handicapped by his unwillingness to shoot.

Simmons' field-goal percentage has regressed, dropping from 58.0 in 2019-20 to 55.7 this season – he only managed worse in his 2017-18 rookie campaign (54.5).

He averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It is the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

Despite those liabilities, Green said losing Simmons would force some adjustments. 

"And also defensively, I probably become the primary defender," he said. "Not saying it's an issue or a problem for me, but we have one less wing defender with him.

"Now it's me and Matisse [Thybulle]. Not saying that the other guys don't play defence, but you talk about our main defenders. That was a big part of that and a big part of our defence. … Ben, you know, was DPOY [Defensive Player of the Year] for us this year. …

"We thought Ben was able to guard one through five and set the tone for us. If he's gone, that changes a lot not just offensively but defensively as well for me."

Philadelphia 76ers veteran Danny Green urged Ben Simmons to take more risks as he provided an honest assessment of the beleaguered star's woes following a disappointing end to the NBA season.

Simmons' future in Philadelphia is up in the air after struggling in the 76ers' shock Eastern Conference semi-final exit at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks.

All-Star Simmons was subjected to boos as the top-seeded 76ers crashed out of the NBA playoffs, Philadelphia fans venting their frustration after the Australian attempted just four shots for five points in the series-deciding Game 7.

Simmons – who will skip the Olympic Games to focus on his shooting – also passed on a wide-open dunk during the closing stages against the Hawks, instead passing to Matisse Thybulle – who was fouled and made just one of the two free throws.

While 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said the franchise have a plan to address Simmons' shooting problems, talk of a trade has intensified.

Green – a three-time NBA champion – discussed team-mate Simmons via his podcast 'Inside the Green Room', saying: "Off the court with his family things back home, and he doesn't necessarily discuss it with us in private, but I knew he was going through a lot.

 

"He had some things going on during the season. It might have come all at once during this time but you can tell, Ben's the type of kid, if he's not encouraged, and he's not pushed or forced to do it, he's not the type to take that risk.

"Obviously, he's a high IQ guy. You can tell, he gets a lot of assists and pushing the pace and he gets paid to do what he does, because he’s so good at it, but he doesn't step outside that box because he knows well enough 'I'm good at this. I don't need to step out. It's not like I'm encouraged to do this, or I'm kind of afraid to do this kind to do this' type of thing."

The debate around Simmons – an elite defender and creator – centres on his offense or lack thereof, with the 76ers often handicapped by his unwillingness to shoot.

Simmons' field-goal percentage has regressed, dropping from 58.0 in 2019-20 to 55.7 this season – he only managed worse in his 2017-18 rookie campaign (54.5).

The 24-year-old only averaged 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It is the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career low 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

From free-throw line, Simmons finished with a career-worst 34.2 per cent average in the playoffs, having made just 25 of 73 in the past postseason.

Green added: "I think they need encouragement and some type of push to do that to not be scared to fail at trying something new because he's one of those guys 'I know what I'm good at and I don't need to do anything else'.

"When the things that he's doing that he's good at isn't working as well even though he played defense as well as he could for us and gave us dynamic of assists in the ball, and finding guys and pushing the pace, we did need him to attack the rim and be more aggressive.

"But he felt like he was not getting his touch right and also the free-throw line, it kind of crept on him mentally to where he wasn't able to get the rhythm you wanted. … At the same time, he still fought, he showed up, he still played, he still worked hard, he still tried to give us his best chance for us to win with doing what he does with screening, rolling, rebounding, defending, and he did to the highest capability could. Just offensively he wasn't the Ben Simmons we needed him to be at the time."

Philadelphia 76ers veteran Danny Green will miss at least the rest of the Eastern Conference semi-final series against the Atlanta Hawks with a calf injury. 

An MRI exam confirmed a right calf strain and Green will be re-evaluated in two weeks, the top-seeded 76ers said on Saturday.

Green left the court early in the first quarter of Friday's 127-111 victory over the Hawks, which gave the Sixers a 2-1 lead in the second-round series. 

The 33-year-old has started all eight playoff games for Philadelphia and is averaging 7.0 points in 24.9 minutes per game in the postseason. 

Green has played for the NBA champions the last two seasons, winning the title with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020 and the Toronto Raptors in 2019.

He spent the first eight seasons of his NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs, who he helped take the championship in 2014. 

While the timetable announced by the team leaves open a potential return should the Sixers advance, Philadelphia will have to a find a way to do so without one of their leaders in pursuit of a first champion since 1983.

"The next guy has to step up," head coach Doc Rivers said Friday. "Not sure who that is going to be yet." 

The 76ers face the Hawks in Atlanta in Game 4 on Monday.

Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers admitted Joel Embiid is playing through pain after leading his side to a 127-111 Game 3 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in their Conference semi-final series.

Embiid scored 27 points, with nine rebounds and eight assists for the 76ers who claimed a 2-1 lead in the series with a crucial road win.

The 2021 NBA MVP runner-up has been battling knee soreness for the latter part of the season and suffered a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee in Game 4 of the series against the Washington Wizards, missing Game 5.

"He's playing hard. He's giving us everything," Rivers said during his post-game video conference.

"What he's doing is incredible. He is going through a lot, I'll tell you that. It's been great to watch."

Rivers added praise for the 27-year-old Cameroonian, who defensively also had three blocks and a steal, to go with his 27 points in Game 3 against Hawks center Clint Capela.

"He was great. He was patient," Rivers said. "They were going to send two-three guys on him all night.

"I thought overall he kept his patience. We've got to do a little better job on our spacing so he can see guys better but overall I thought our movement, 10 turnovers for the game, told the story."

The Sixers lost starting forward Danny Green after only four minutes to injury and Rivers said the outlook was not positive for the 33-year-old who won NBA titles in 2019 with the Toronto Raptors and 2020 with the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I have no idea [of the extent]. It's a calf injury," Rivers said. "My doctors will tell you calf injuries aren't great."

Rivers also offered praise to Australian guard Ben Simmons for his role in nullifying Hawks guard Trae Young who scored 28 points, shooting at 52.9 per cent from the field.

"It's been big. It's exhausting when you think about what we're asking Ben to do, follow Trae around and push the ball up the floor with pace," Rivers said.

"It's tough, he's young, he has endurance, he's been good for us."

The Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers heaped further misery on the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers following a 109-101 win in the NBA on Thursday.

Defending champions the Lakers lost their fourth consecutive game in the absence of injured stars LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (calf) as the 76ers stayed hot.

Danny Green haunted his former team in Los Angeles to guide the in-form 76ers to their fourth successive victory.

Green and Dwight Howard – who tasted success with the Lakers last season before both joined the 76ers – received their championship rings pre-game at Staples Center.

Green hit eight of 12 three-pointers – more than any Lakers player has made this season – for a game-high 28 points, while Howard was ejected at the end of the opening quarter.

Kyle Kuzma (25 points) and Dennis Schroder (20 points and 11 assists) led the slumping the Lakers, who suffered their sixth straight home defeat to the 76ers.

 

Fox has night to remember

De'Aaron Fox posted a career-high 44 points to lead the Sacramento Kings to a crushing 141-119 win against the Golden State Warriors. He was 16-of-22 from the field, to go with seven assists and three steals against the Stephen Curry-less Warriors. Tyrese Haliburton added 21 points with a career-high six three-pointers as Richaun Holmes contributed a double-double of 25 points and 11 rebounds.

Paul George's double-double (24 points and 13 rebounds) helped the Los Angeles Clippers top the San Antonio Spurs 98-85 in the absence of injured star Kawhi Leonard (foot). Ivica Zubac (10 points and 13 rebounds) and Terance Mann (10 points and 12 rebounds) also had double-doubles, while Reggie Jackson top-scored with 28 points.

The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Miami Heat 125-122 behind C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard. McCollum put up 35 points, while Lillard had 22 of his own away to the Heat. Enes Kanter also finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds as veteran Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points off the bench.

 

Westbrook struggles from the field

Russell Westbrook might have finished just shy of a triple-double (13 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists) but he was far from his best shooting. The former MVP was just three-of-15 from the field. Westbrook also missed all five of his attempts from beyond the arc, while tallying eight turnovers as the New York Knicks stormed back to trump the Washington Wizards 106-102.

 

The windmill!

There was not much to celebrate for the Warriors on Thursday. But Juan Toscano-Anderson's slam after stealing the ball provided a highlight on the road in Sacramento.

 

Thursday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 109-101 Los Angeles Lakers
Portland Trail Blazers 125-122 Miami Heat
New York Knicks 106-102 Washington Wizards
Los Angeles Clippers 98-85 San Antonio Spurs
Sacramento Kings 141-119 Golden State Warriors

 

Nets at Pistons

The Brooklyn Nets (30-15) will look to keep pace with the 76ers in the east when they visit the lowly Detroit Pistons (12-31) on Friday.

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are showing they each have the ability to be Defensive Player of the Year, according to Philadelphia 76ers team-mate Danny Green.

The Sixers were 127-112 winners against the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, with Simmons' 29th career triple-double leading the way.

The 24-year-old, who made the All-Defensive First Team in 2020, also had had a block and a steal to go with his 15 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds, of which 11 were on the defensive end.

Team-mate Embiid - twice selected to the All-Defensive Second Team - balanced his 19 points with 11 defensive rebounds, a steal and an assist, too.

Green said of the pair after Philly moved to 5-1 at the top of the East: "They can be monstrous for us defensively.

"I think they have the potential, both of them, to be Defensive Player of the Year with their size, ability, reflexes, their footwork."

Coach Doc Rivers was on the same page, too, adding: "Ben has been, in my opinion, as good as anyone in the league defensively.

"Then having Joel to back him up, that combination defensively allows you to do a lot of things that you probably wouldn't do when you have the size of those two guys."

But the Sixers' two star names were not the only players contributing on both ends of the floor against Charlotte.

Tobias Harris was particularly impressive in a dominant display that led his team in scoring with 24 points but also included nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and three blocks.

Six games into the season, Harris is averaging career highs in rebounds (8.5), assists (3.2, same as 2019-20), steals (1.5) and blocks (1.5), and Simmons has noted the improvement.

"On both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, he's been amazing," he said. "He's been an amazing factor for our team and he's going to be if we want to win a championship."

Simmons added: "We've got a good group, the chemistry's good off the floor. It makes it even better when you're winning, playing the right way, sharing the ball.

"Guys aren't worried about who's scoring the ball, as long as we're scoring and winning games.

"That's what it's all about for us. Our goal is to win a championship, and to do that, we need everybody."

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