Give and Go: Surprises, victories and coaching


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 Sixers insider Dei Lynam, 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.

Sixers 'all over the place' different without Ben Simmons

Sixers 'all over the place' different without Ben Simmons

CAMDEN, N.J. — It has been over three weeks since Ben Simmons suffered an acute Jones fracture in his right foot during the final scrimmage of training camp. The Sixers had constructed schemes around the rookie point-forward and watched unconventional lineups play out at Stockton University.

Those “can’t-wait-to-see” situations have been delayed to “wait-and-see” as Simmons recovers.

“Where do you begin?” Brett Brown said after practice Sunday. “I could talk for three days on what’s different without Ben Simmons. It’s all-over-the-place different. The core values of how you want to do different things there remain the same, but the whole landscape changed.”

This week was supposed to be the debut of a new-look system featuring a player who could influence the game with his versatility and athleticism. Brown even had experimented with pairing Simmons and Dario Saric at the two and three positions. Instead, the Sixers once again will start a regular season shorthanded by injuries.

Simmons was projected to start at power forward and also handle point responsibilities. His multitasking lessened the need for the Sixers to find a standout point guard this summer. They signed veteran Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, who is returning to the NBA for his second stint.

Bayless was expected to start, with the intention of Simmons running the floor at times. Now, neither can play. Bayless has been sidelined by a ligament injury in his left wrist. The Sixers announced on Friday that Bayless will have a non-surgical rehab and will be reevaluated in two weeks.

Brown on Sunday was undecided on whether Rodriguez or second-year point guard T.J. McConnell would start at the one on opening night.

“He was going to be one of the primary ballhandlers,” Brown said of Simmons. “And with that, floor spots and spacing and how you actually set this thing up changes dramatically.”

The players also have noticed a change without Simmons in the backcourt. Joel Embiid, playing his first season after missing the past two with foot injuries, found himself struggling with his shot selection early on in the preseason. He got glimpses in camp of how Simmons could improve that.

“He’s such a big presence and he’s really important to us,” Embiid said. “He just makes plays. I’ve been rushing shots and that’s where it comes in play. Someone like him can help me get better shots because he can get me easy baskets.”

Simmons’ absence also fast-forwarded Saric’s transition in his first NBA season. The injuries to Simmons and Jahlil Okafor (right knee) have pushed Saric into the starting power forward role during the preseason. The rookie has been learning on the go in a new league.

“He has been thrown into the fire,” Brown said of Saric last week (see story).

Simmons recently went through a two-week, post-operative exam and had sutures removed. He is working on day-to-day rehab with the Sixers' staff while also spending time talking with Brown. The team is implementing a multi-faceted recovery program of education, health and shot improvement.

This includes meeting with Brown to break down his game — where it is now and where it can develop in the future. Brown wants to make sure Simmons knows the ins and outs of the system so he is best prepared to begin his rookie season once cleared to play.

“I think that part of my excitement is I get with Ben every day while we’re here and go into my office for half-an-hour and it’s like basketball-NBA 101,” Brown said.

That’s one aspect of Simmons’ injury for which Brown can prepare.

Sixers sign former Temple great Dionte Christmas

Sixers sign former Temple great Dionte Christmas

Hours before Monday's 5 p.m. NBA deadline to finalize rosters for opening night, the Sixers signed former Temple guard Dionte Christmas.

Christmas, now 30, hasn't played in an NBA regular-season game since 2013-14, when he appeared in the only 31 contests of his career with the Suns.

He was a standout at Temple, where he averaged 15.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 130 games, leading the Atlantic 10 in scoring in three consecutive seasons.

Christmas played in the NBA Summer League six years in a row after going undrafted in 2009. He was originally signed by the Sixers in September 2009 after playing with them that summer in Orlando.

Christmas has also spent seven seasons overseas, most recently with Torku Konyaspor Basket in Turkey.

The Sixers now have 20 players on their roster. They have five cuts to make by 5 p.m and likely roster casualties include Brandon Paul, James Webb III, Cat Barber and Shawn Long.