Remembering the beloved Jeff Millman

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Remembering the beloved Jeff Millman

Most Sixers fans never knew Jeff Millman.

He was one of those unheralded employees, behind the scenes, who did his job every day and was beloved by everyone in the organization. Tuesday morning, Millman lost his battle with cancer. He was 67 years old.

For over 50 years, Millman was a staple in the Sixers’ locker room, for many of those years as the team's longtime equipment manager. Last Wednesday, before the Sixers’ season opener, many of the club's biggest names turned out to honor Millman in a pregame ceremony which he called "overwhelming." Rarely have I seen so many of the Sixers’ stars in one place, with one purpose, to show their appreciation to a man who has meant so much to so many.

Imagine the logistics of getting Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, Billy Cunningham, Doug Collins, Bobby Jones, Darryl Dawkins and many others, including former team president Pat Croce, all together at the same time. It was a fitting tribute to a man who never wanted any attention.

Last year, when Barkley visited the Wells Fargo Center for a TNT broadcast, the first place he went when he arrived to the building was to check on Millman. The two held court in the team's laundry room, just shooting the breeze, talking about basketball and life. Millman brought Barkley a Diet Coke as he folded towels in the middle of the room. He knew the likes and dislikes of the players in the locker room. They respected him, but would poke fun at him at the appropriate time.

There were many good times in Millman’s life, and many of those moments centered around the Sixers. The team will hold a moment of silence prior to Wednesday night's game against the Washington Wizards, and on Thursday family and friends will say their final goodbye.

Fortunately, Millman saw lots of love in his final days from his second family, which will mourn his passing by wearing a black stripe on the shoulder of both their home and road jerseys for the remainder of the month.

Rest in peace, Jeff.

Expect Sixers to take cautious approach with Ben Simmons

Expect Sixers to take cautious approach with Ben Simmons

Expect the Sixers to take a cautious approach when determining Ben Simmons’ return to the court.

Simmons will undergo surgery to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot, according to a league source. No date has been set for the surgery. On Friday, Simmons rolled his ankle during the final training camp scrimmage. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Sixers believe Simmons has an acute injury that is not related to his weight, which is up to 250 pounds.

The Sixers placed a heavy emphasis on maintaining health and preventing re-injuries during camp. That focus will continue into the regular season. They implemented load management, in which they allocate the best use of a player’s designated minutes. 

The approach was applied to Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, as they entered the preseason coming off of injuries. Embiid, who is nearing his NBA debut, had been sidelined the past two years with foot injuries. Okafor underwent season-ending right knee surgery last March. Both are slated to play Oct. 4 in the preseason opener. Gerald Henderson also followed load management for rest.  

“There are more variables going on pre-practice,” Brett Brown said Friday. “Before we design our practices and figure out how we’re going to maneuver through the day, the first thing we always do is we put on a digital projector a depth chart and we have the medical staff behind us talking about the circumstances of each player and the restrictions that each player has. 

“Once you understand that world, then you go over to the practice plan and you say, ‘How do you want to spend your money?’ I don’t want to use Joel’s minutes up in a lot of small drills when I could spend it easily and more wisely playing.”

Following this plan, Embiid, Okafor and Henderson did not participate in all of the scrimmages. When they did, Brown utilized Embiid and Okafor in spurts instead of long stretches. 

“Four-minute clumps and really trying to test themselves,” Brown said. “Let’s learn a little bit before we play the Celtics. Let’s just go as hard as you possibly can, let’s see what that means.”

The mapped-out formula allows the players to gauge how they assert their energy on the court. The Celtics took a similar approach with Kevin Garnett during the 2011-12 season. Doc Rivers implemented a “5-5-5” plan in which Garnett played in three five-minute spurts. 

“You kind of know the rhythm you are going to have,” Okafor said. “I think that’ll make it easier for myself and I’m sure for Jo as well knowing that we have four minutes to go as hard as we can, to make an impact on the game, and then we have a sub.” 

The Sixers assessed the length of these segments by comparing them to real-game situations. They want the scrimmage setting to simulate the flow regular season contest. The Sixers are looking to feature an uptempo this season and ranked first in the NBA last season with a total of 1,427.4 miles run. 

“With our sports science program, we’re designing our practice on trips,” Brown said. “How many trips does a normal NBA game have before there’s a stoppage in play? You see, it’s about six, seven trips. You’ve got to go for that … We’re very calculated on how we design our practice to reflect the true pace of a game.”

While there is the eagerness of players to make a comeback as quickly as possible, following the team’s carefully constructed recovery timeline is critical to prevent the reoccurance of injuries. Embiid better understands the importance of waiting after undergoing two surgeries. 

“The main thing I learned about myself is, I could be patient,” Embiid said. “When I was first doing my rehab … the only thing I thought about was getting back on the court. I would try to get back on the court and play more than I was supposed to. After the doctor told me you had to heal well and I needed the second surgery, that’s when I told myself be patient and do whatever I can and make sure I listen to people have to say.”

The Sixers drafted Simmons to be a centerpiece of their team for the future, not just this season. It is worth being careful early on to help him be healthy down the road. 

Source: Ben Simmons will undergo surgery for foot injury

Source: Ben Simmons will undergo surgery for foot injury

UPDATED: 5:10 p.m.

Ben Simmons will need surgery and the theory that his recent weight gain caused his injury appears to be false.

According to a league source, the rookie will undergo surgery next week for a fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot, which was first reported by ESPN's Marc Stein. There is no specific date set for the surgery, according to the source. 

The Sixers believe Simmons suffered an "acute injury" not related to his adding over 30 pounds of muscle. He rolled his ankle after landing on the foot of Shawn Long, Stein reported, during the last scrimmage of training camp. 

Per Stein, Simmons’ advisors have consulted with Cleveland Clinic foot specialist Brian Donley in addition to the Sixers’ physicians. 

Simmons played at LSU at 217 pounds and was up to 238 before the draft. On media day, he said he was up to 250. A focus quickly shifted to Simmons’ weight, but Simmons reportedly actually was six pounds lighter at 244 pounds to start camp.

The news of surgery is a little disappointing. As a guest on SportsNet Central, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mark Schwartz, who is not treating Simmons, gave some insight into what a fracture to the fifth metatarsal could mean. Surgery could mean a lengthy recovery, according to Schwartz. If it is the dreaded Jones fracture, it'll be tough to know Simmons' timetable.

"The prognosis is still good, but we know that Kevin Durant had a Jones fracture and he was out for an entire season because of it not healing," Schwartz said. "But the prognosis is good, however, the question is whether it's going to require surgery or not."

Schwartz said that surgery would involve inserting a screw to repair the fracture.

With how the Sixers have handled their prospects in the past and the way they've been cautious with the likes of second-year player Jahlil Okafor, they'll likely be conservative when assessing Simmons' possible return.