Give and Go: Surprises, victories and coaching

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Give and Go: Surprises, victories and coaching

Each week we'll ask three questions about the Sixers to our resident basketball junkies and see what they have to say.

Running the Give and Go this week are CSNPhilly.com Sixers insider Dei Lynam, CSNPhilly.com reporter John Finger and CSN anchor Amy Fadool.

Let's get started:

Which Sixer has been the biggest surprise so far?
Lynam: The biggest surprise for me has been Spencer Hawes. I expected Hawes to be solid, but he is delivering at a rate far greater than that. Hawes is averaging 17.2 points per game, more than six better than his career-best mark of 11.4 during his second season in the league. He is also shooting 57.6 percent from the field and averaging 11 rebounds per game, which ranks ninth in the NBA. Those numbers have made Hawes one of only 13 players to start the season averaging a double-double with points and rebounds.

People don’t think of Hawes as a credible starting center, but I would challenge them to say the big man’s numbers so far support that argument.

Finger: I'd like to say Evan Turner because he has finally embraced a style of offense in which he drives to the basket for short shots and chances at the foul line. Turner's scoring is no fluke. He could have been this type of scoring threat if he had been convinced to become a slasher rather than a jump shooter.

However, there has been nothing from the past to indicate that Michael Carter-Williams would be this good. His shooting statistics in college, his play in the summer league and in the exhibition games gave no glimmer that Carter-Williams was this good. In fact, Carter-Williams has done things in his first five games in the NBA that his predecessor, Jrue Holiday, never pulled off.

Fadool: I think many people are going to say Carter-Williams, and rightly so. But I’m going to say Turner. While it’s still early in the season, Turner has showed consistency in his scoring, something we haven’t seen from E.T. over the course of a season. So far, Turner has scored 26, 23, 20, 18 and 24 points, respectively, in the Sixers' first five games. If those numbers continue, I expect that Turner will get quite the payday during the offseason, especially after the Sixers declined to extend his contract.

Which win was the most impressive?
Lynam: The most impressive win for the Sixers of the three they have to start the season is definitely opening night over Miami. For starters, the 19-0 run to open the game over the defending champion Heat was unthinkable. Add in the fact that the inexperienced Sixers lost the lead and regained it in the fourth quarter before holding on to win was simply remarkable. A year ago, the Sixers were 4-47 when trailing heading into the fourth. They already have two such wins to start 2013-14.

Finger: On paper, the opening night win over the two-time defending champion Heat stands out. However, to come back from a 20-point deficit on the second night of a back-to-back against the Chicago Bulls is clearly the most impressive. Though it looked like a horrible matchup for the Sixers because of Chicago's size inside and Derrick Rose's and Luol Deng's skills on the perimeter, they wore down the Bulls in the second half. It was almost as if the Sixers pulled off a rope-a-dope against the Bulls in the way they wore them down.

Fadool: I think the obvious answer for most impressive win is the one over the Heat. It’s the two-time defending champs and included the Sixers withstanding a 45-point third quarter. It was impressive because the Sixers hung on to win, and closing out wins when leading was an issue last season. Coming back against the Bulls was good, but I was most impressed with the win over the Heat. It was flat-out fun to watch.

Biggest difference between Brown and Collins?
Lynam: The biggest difference between Brett Brown and Doug Collins is that Brown is in his first season with a fresh voice and Collins finished in his third season, one of great expectation that fell far short because of things far beyond his control. From a philosophy standpoint, the Sixers will shoot more three-pointers. Under Collins a year ago, they ranked 25th in threes attempted. This season, that number per game is up by more than four and the team ranks 14th in that category.

Finger: They are apples and oranges. Where Brown has allowed the offense to flow freely, Collins was a master at drawing up plays on the fly. Under Collins, the Sixers ran a structured offense that flowed around Holiday and the pick-and-roll. Brown's offense just is ... whatever it is. Brown also doesn't have a player over the age of 25, so the urgency from game to game isn't there.

It would be interesting to see Collins in a rebuilding situation with the young roster Brown has. If Collins could coax 34 wins out of the roster the Sixers put together last year ...

Similarly, it will be interesting to see Brown with the Sixers as they grow and how the structure of the offense and defense changes.

Fadool: Brown has a much different coaching style, and practicing style, too. He’s really focused on conditioning and I think and it’s shown in the early season. We’ll see if that continues, as the 82-game schedule wears on the players, but I think it’s working well so far. However, I think the biggest difference in coaching style between Brown and Collins can be seen in the play of Turner. E.T. was notoriously and continuously in Collins’ doghouse. I think Collins demanded a lot from Turner and in turn, the swingman wasn’t enjoying the game and letting it come to him. Alternatively, I think whatever methods Brown is using with Turner are working. He’s enjoying himself and playing his game, and it’s showing in his numbers.

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons repeatedly emphasized at summer league he wanted to work on “everything” leading up to training camp.

As a point-forward who plays multiple positions, he has more than just one role to address this offseason. But what does “everything” entail? With a wide range of responsibilities on the court, Simmons is honing in on specific areas.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

Shooting
Simmons has been criticized for his reluctance to shoot. During his one season of college ball at LSU, he averaged 19.2 points off 11.7 field goal attempts per game (56 percent made). Over six summer league games (including both Utah and Las Vegas), Simmons took 22 field-goal attempts and shot 32.2 percent. He had less than 10 attempts in four of the games, and attempted 15 in the Sixers’ finale. Simmons attempted one three in summer league action.

While in Utah and Las Vegas, the Sixers encouraged Simmons to be more aggressive. At 6-foot-10, Simmons is able to get to the rim. Once there, many times he passes it off rather than finishing himself. The Sixers don’t expect Simmons to become a 30-point-per-game scorer, but he will be a key part of their offense.

“You always want him to be as good of a shooter as he can be,” Las Vegas summer league head coach Lloyd Pierce said this earlier month. “It’s not going to be his strength. His strength is going to be passing, facilitating, playmaking. That’s going to be an added bonus, whatever the percentage or the number is.”

Dribbling
Simmons averaged 5.5 assists per game during summer league (second on the team by 0.3 dimes to T.J McConnell). Conversely, he committed 3.83 turnovers.

The Sixers signed two point guards this summer, Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, and McConnell is returning from last season. Head coach Brett Brown said after the draft he does not plan to utilize Simmons as the primary one-guard right away as the 20-year-old learns the league. But early on, Simmons will have the rock in his hands plenty of times given his natural ball-handling abilities, especially when grabbing the rebound and running the fast break.

"I think it's the hardest position to play in the NBA,” Brown previously said. “I think to just give him the ball in that capacity is borderline cruel. He needs to feel NBA basketball. And maybe he evolves there." (See story)

Weight room
After college, Simmons put on 20 pounds from his training and entered the draft at 242 pounds. He stood out among the competition in summer league play with his NBA-ready stature. Simmons said he would like to get up to 246 or 247 pounds this offseason.

“Not too heavy,” he said.

With the size of a forward and the skills of a guard, the Sixers will be able to utilize Simmons to create mismatches both in the backcourt and at the hoop.

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

WAYNE, Pa. — Three steps. 

That’s all it takes before Ben Simmons is recognized walking through the streets of Philadelphia. 

This year’s No. 1 pick has been in the spotlight long before the Sixers drafted him in June, and now he's experiencing what it's like to be known as an NBA player in his new city. 

“I’ve been enjoying walking around South Street, getting some Ishkabibble's,” Simmons said Tuesday after a special appearance at the Sixers' Camp at Valley Forge Military Academy. 

At 6-foot-10, Simmons towers above most on the court, let alone on the sidewalk. Fans have been eager to welcome him to Philadelphia for a new chapter of the organization after three years of struggle. 

“Positive things,” Simmons said of the comments he receives. “I think a lot of people are excited, so I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Simmons understands the impact a professional athlete can have on young fans, and was excited to be at camp Tuesday.

Growing up in Australia, he never had the opportunity to hear from NBA players when he attended basketball camps. Now that he's in that position, the 20-year-old was glad to provide that memory to the 240 campers. 

“That would mean a lot if I was able to experience that,” Simmons said. 

Simmons demonstrated skill drills, such as passing fundamentals, interacted in a Q&A session and signed autographs for each camper. He also took individual photos for those who traveled internationally, including from Nigeria, Italy and Greece. 

“I’m just like them, but older,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to be a good role model to them.”

Simmons plans to spend most of the offseason in Philadelphia as he gets settled into the city. He still has to move into his new home, but at least he knows where to get a cheesesteak in the meantime. 

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

Two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that the Miami Heat have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent guard Dion Waiters.

The two sides came to agreement on Monday. Waiters will make $2.9 million. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. He played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs before his role was reduced in the seven-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Waiters will give the Heat another scorer off the bench (see full story).

Blazers: C.J. McCullom inked to four-year extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A person familiar with the deal confirms that guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a four-year, $106 million contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the deal hadn't been formally announced by the team. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Blazers during the regular season. He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season.

As the 10th overall pick for the Blazers in the 2013 draft, McCollum bided his time on the bench for his first two seasons. He became a starter in the backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team's starters departed in the offseason (see full story).

Michael Jordan donates $2 million to ease racial tensions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he's giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around the country.

Jordan says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that "as a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers," (see full story).