NBA

Simmons returns to 76ers practice, will play 'when he's ready'

By Sports Desk October 17, 2021

Disgruntled Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons returned to practice for the first time since ending his holdout, but it remains unclear when he might make his NBA season debut. 

Simmons demanded a trade following last season and remained absent from Philadelphia for the first two weeks of preseason work before showing up on October 11 to begin fulfilling COVID-19 protocols that would allow him to re-join the championship-chasing franchise.

The 76ers open their 2021-22 campaign at the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday but head coach Doc Rivers said he does not know whether All-Star Simmons will be available. 

"I'm going to wait and see," Rivers told reporters. "Conditioning I would say, just watching him, I thought he was in decent shape. Still not, obviously, game shape."

The 76ers will play their home opener against Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, and the Australian guard – scrutinised after the team's shock Eastern Conference semi-final loss to the Atlanta Hawks – figures to get an unfriendly welcome from the Philadelphia crowd whether he plays or not. 

Perhaps with that dynamic in mind, Rivers was asked whether he had thought about whether to give Simmons his season debut at home or on the road, but he demurred. 

"No – right now I'm just trying to get him back comfortable and integrated. I'm not even thinking about that," Rivers said. "That'll come at some point but there's no game plan there, I can tell you that. When he's ready, he'll play."

Simmons did not speak to reporters Sunday but team officials indicated he would later this week. 

The number one overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft has averaged 15.9 points, 8.1. rebounds and 7.7 assists in four seasons with Philadelphia and has been named to the All-Star Game the last three years. 

But the 25-year-old's struggles in the playoffs and a contract that will pay him $33million this season with three years and $114m remaining on his deal after that have made it difficult for the 76ers to find a trade partner. 

Getting Simmons back on the court could help in that endeavour, though it appears he may have to work to do to smooth things over with his team-mates. 

While guard Furkan Korkmaz told reporters he had missed Simmons and "personally I'm happy to see him back here on the court," forward Tobias Harris declined to get into specifics about an awkward reunion but added that it would not matter once games begin.

"The vibe was what it was," Harris said. "Was it perfect? No. But we're here to do a job, and that's to win basketball games. We put on our big boy pants and get on the floor and do what we do."

Simmons – an elite defender – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers.

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, according to Stats Perform.

Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was 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.

Related items

  • Cavaliers fire Bickerstaff as coach Cavaliers fire Bickerstaff as coach

    The Cleveland Cavaliers won their first play-off series in six years earlier this month.

    That wasn't enough, however, for J.B. Bickerstaff to keep his job as the team's coach.

    The Cavaliers decided to dismiss Bickerstaff from his position on Thursday, according to a statement made by the team.

    Since taking over for John Beilein in 2020, Bickerstaff went 170-159 in five seasons with Cleveland and led the franchise to the play-offs each of the last two years.

     

    In 2023-24, Bickerstaff helped direct Cleveland to a 48-34 record and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference play-offs.

    The Cavs then beat the Orlando Magic in the first round for the franchise's first play-off series win since the team lost to the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals. It also marked Cleveland's first trip to the conference semi-finals without LeBron James on the roster since 1992-93.

    The Cavs' season ended in the conference semis, where they lost to the NBA-best Boston Celtics in five games.

    Bickerstaff's team, however, was significantly undermanned with five-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell missing the final two games against the Celtics with a left calf strain and fellow All-Star Jarrett Allen missing the last eight play-off games due to a right rib contusion.

    "J.B. is a well-respected NBA coach and an incredible human-being," Cavaliers president of basketball operations Koby Altman said in a statement. "Over the past four years, he helped establish a culture that progressively drove players to become the best versions of themselves. Decisions like these are never easy, particularly when you look back at where this franchise rebuild started under his leadership. The NBA is a unique business that sometimes requires aggressive risk-taking to move a franchise forward and ultimately compete for championships. We owe a ton of gratitude for everything J.B. has contributed to the Cavaliers and his engagement in the Cleveland community. We wish J.B., his wife Nikki and their three children the best in their future endeavours."

  • Finch bemoans Timberwolves' failure to see out win against Mavericks Finch bemoans Timberwolves' failure to see out win against Mavericks

    Chris Finch lamented the Minnesota Timberwolves’ lack of composure in their Western Conference finals Game 1 defeat to the Dallas Mavericks.

    The Timberwolves lost 108-105 on the road on Wednesday, failing to hold onto their lead in the final four minutes.

    Minnesota sank just 11 of 18 from the free-throw line and committed five turnovers in the final frame, allowing Dallas to complete a late turnaround. 

    Asked what the biggest problem was for his side in a tight contest, Finch said: "No composure.

    "We haven't really closed quarters very well, closed halves very well over the last handful of games.

    "It cost us a game in the Denver series. It certainly had an impact on this game tonight, too. We've got to be better in clutch moments."

    Mike Conley echoed his coach’s thoughts and believes the Timberwolves can use this as a learning curve.

    "I think we haven't been tested like this where we've had to trade basket to basket, late-game free throw situations or fouling situations, stuff that we have to be better at," Conley said.

    "But we'll learn from it. I think each game we've learned a lot about ourselves, a lot we can get better at. Obviously, it's going to be a long series, regardless of what happened tonight."

    Meanwhile, Luka Doncic starred for Dallas once again, scoring 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to help them over the line to a Game 1 victory.

    The Slovenian admits that the Mavericks wanted to make a statement by winning at home.

    "We had to work really hard to get this one," said Doncic.

    "I think we're known for losing game ones, so we were trying to make a point. But it's only one and we have three more [wins] to go."

  • NBA: Mavericks finish strong in Game 1 road win over Timberwolves NBA: Mavericks finish strong in Game 1 road win over Timberwolves

    Luka Dončić scored 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and Kyrie Irving added 30 points as the Dallas Mavericks edged the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-105 on the road in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night.

    Dallas trailed 102-98 after Anthony Edwards’ 3-pointer with 3:37 remaining but scored the next eight points- five from Doncic - before the Timberwolves scored on a tip-in with 10.5 seconds to play.

    Game 2 is Friday night in Minnesota.

    Jaden McDaniels had his third straight 20-plus point game with 24 points for Minnesota and Edwards, who went scoreless in the third quarter, had 19 on 6-of-16 shooting with 11 rebounds and eight assists. Karl-Anthony Towns needed a late burst to get to 16 points and finished 6 for 20 from the field.

    The Timberwolves hit 18 3-pointers to just six for the Mavericks but were outscored 62-38 in the paint and sank just 11 of 18 from the free throw line.

    P.J. Washington hit a huge 3 during Dallas’ late deciding run and finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Irving effectively sealed the win with a pair of free throws with seven seconds left. 

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.