Sixers-Bobcats: 5 things you need to know

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Sixers-Bobcats: 5 things you need to know

The Sixers (12-25) get back at it for the first time since losing to the New York Knicks at the Wells Fargo Center last Saturday.

In that one, the Sixers were playing the second game of a back-to-back while the Knicks had a day off after beating the Miami Heat at home.

This time it’s the Sixers who are rested while the Charlotte Bobcats arrive in Philadelphia after beating the Knicks at home on Tuesday night.

So with that in mind, here are a few things to look out for in Wednesday night’s game:

1. Beware of the back-to-back
It’s no shocker that the Sixers are just 3-8 in the second game of back-to-backs. However, the Sixers also are not very good against teams playing in the second game of a back-to-back.

With Charlotte coming in after snapping the Knicks’ five-game winning streak on Tuesday night, it’s worth noting that the Sixers are 2-8 in games against teams playing the second game of a back-to-back. One of those wins was the opening night stunner against the Miami Heat. The other was the 126-125 double-overtime victory over the Magic in November.

2. MCW’s production

If there is such a thing as hitting the so-called rookie wall, Michael Carter-Williams is doing a pretty good job at heading it off.

Though he is shooting just 41.4 percent from the floor this month, Carter-Williams is 25 for 51 from the field with 65 points in his last three games. Though the point guard’s assists are down a touch since handing out 12 of them on Dec. 21, the rookie is still averaging 5.4 assists per game in his last nine.

Only one other rookie (Trey Burke of Utah) is averaging more than 3.5 assists per game this season.

3. So big
When Spencer Hawes got into foul trouble last Saturday against the Knicks, the Sixers were in big trouble. Lavoy Allen was on the bench with an injury and center Daniel Orton had been waived the day before. That opened it up for veteran big man Amar’e Stoudemire to score 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting.

But for Wednesday night’s game, the Sixers seem to have had a growth spurt. The team added center Dewayne Dedmon from the D-League on Tuesday. The 7-foot Dedmon appeared in four games for the Golden State Warriors this year and was averaging 15 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 15 games for the D-League's Santa Cruz Warriors.

The Sixers will, however, be without big men Lavoy Allen and Arnett Moultrie (see story).

4. He shoots ... and misses
Evan Turner is in a slump. After scoring 23 points in the Jan. 2 victory in Portland, Turner is shooting 17 for 47 from the field in his last four games, including a 2-for-13 performance in a loss at Cleveland. He also has gotten away from attacking the paint, which was the impetus to Turner’s high-scoring, fast start to the season.

Instead, Turner has settled for more long two-pointers and threes. On shots longer than 15-feet, Turner is shooting 76 for 210 (36.2 percent).

5. Injuries
Lavoy Allen (calf) is out.

Nerlens Noel (knee) and Jason Richardson (knee) are out indefinitely.

For Charlotte, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (broken hand) returned from a 19-game absence to log 30 minutes on Tuesday against the Knicks.

Second-year forward Jeff Taylor is out for the remainder of the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Up from 217 to 250, Ben Simmons also stronger mentally from work with LeBron

Up from 217 to 250, Ben Simmons also stronger mentally from work with LeBron

CAMDEN, N.J. — It appears Ben Simmons took the saying about having the weight of the world on your shoulders a tad literal.

The Sixers' No. 1 overall pick walked into the team's sparkling new training complex for media day sporting a much bigger frame than when his name was called on draft night.

"I'm a lot stronger. When I started getting ready for the draft I was about 217 [pounds] and now I'm around 250," Simmons said Monday.

When you're expected to be the centerpiece of an organization that managed just 10 wins a season ago, it helps to have that extra bulk to carry those expectations. 

But Simmons isn’t just being looked at as a key to help change the franchise’s fortunes. He’s also being viewed as perhaps a once-in-a-generation talent after drawing several comparisons to LeBron James, who Simmons shares an agent with in Klutch Sports Group.

So how did the incoming rookie deal with being likened to four-time MVP and three-time NBA champion James? He went to work like someone trying to achieve those same goals.

“Just being around him and learning from his habits and what he does has just helped me overall,” Simmons said of working out with James and other NBA stars during the summer. “He’ll be one of the first guys in the gym every day. It doesn’t matter what day it is. He’s one of those guys who gets the work in and enjoys the rest of his day. Just learning from him I think I can take a lot from what he’s done. ... He’s done a lot for me. He’s helped me experience things I need to learn.

“They get in the gym and work. It’s one of those things where they don’t play around. They get straight to it. Obviously in the weight room too. LeBron loves the VersaClimber and they also brought two more in here. I’m starting to learn from what these guys do, D-Wade (Dwyane Wade) also. They’re all doing the same thing, working out every day and getting ready.”

That type of work ethic will go a long way toward Simmons' earning the respect of his Sixers teammates. The group was already eager to get on the floor with him for training camp at Stockton University and get a firsthand look at the versatile forward, especially his prowess as a passer.

“The most exciting thing that I’ve seen was his passing ability,” Jahlil Okafor said of Simmons. “That’s going to help me out a lot. He’s selfless. Being with the summer league guys he was always about the team. I’ve always considered myself a good teammate and he’s a great one as well. I’m excited to work with him.”

“I think for anybody who likes to shoot or likes to score, whenever you can have a big man who is a really good ball handler, can make good decisions, has great vision, it’s always a great thing,” Gerald Henderson said. “If you can be aggressive on the offensive end you don’t always have to have the basketball to be able to be right there and score. You have somebody that can find you and really is thinking pass-first. I think it’ll be great, not only for us but just our offense in general.”

Considering that the Sixers finished 29th in scoring a season ago, Simmons knows they will need him to be more than just a facilitator. The team needs consistent scoring from everyone on the court. And while the LSU product’s jump shot was questioned during his lone year in college, he believes he has worked hard to silence those doubts.

“I usually try to take what they give me. Obviously I’ve been working on my shot a lot with all the coaches,” Simmons said. “I can shoot the ball. I’m not really worried about that. Coming into training camp, it’s one of the things I’ve been working on since LSU.”

Simmons made it clear several times that he is confident in his offensive game and that the Sixers’ logjam in the frontcourt will work itself out on the floor. One thing he’s not so sure about: that he’s even in this position.

Despite dreaming about being in the NBA since he was a kid in Australia and being groomed to be the No. 1 overall pick for years, Simmons said it’s still a bit of a surprise to be at this point.

“I think it’s still surreal for me,” he said. “I think it’ll finally hit me once I step on the court matched up against OKC the first game.”

Unlike 2 years ago, Dario Saric feels ready for the NBA

Unlike 2 years ago, Dario Saric feels ready for the NBA

Dario Saric wanted to come to the NBA. He just didn’t feel ready when he was drafted in 2014.

Saric spent the past two years furthering his basketball career in Europe after being selected 12th by the Magic and traded to the Sixers. Now 22, he is confident in his decision to start his NBA career in Philadelphia. 

“I grew up like a person first. After that, I grew up like a player to play against the best players in the world,” Saric said Monday at Sixers media day. “I think now I feel I’m ready. I feel I can give something to this team.”

Basketball itself wasn’t the issue — Saric has been playing professionally since the age of 15. He has competed against top European competition, won numerous accolades, and was a member of the Croatian Olympic team this summer. 

Saric knew he could play in the NBA, but there is so much more involved in it for him. Joining the Sixers meant leaving Europe, moving to a new place to play in a new league, all at the young age of 20. 

“After NBA draft, I wasn’t ready to come here,” the forward said. “Not like a basketball player, like a man. I wasn’t ready because to take a big step, to go out of the family, to go to another country. For me it was so hard. ... I decide[d] during last season I would come here, I would try to play with the best players in the world.”

From season to season, the anticipation of Saric’s arrival grew. The Sixers' front office and staff kept in frequent contact. Saric often was in communication with head coach Brett Brown, former general manager Sam Hinkie and current president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo. Assistant director of player development Chris Babcock also made trips to Istanbul to spend time with Saric.

All the while, Sixers fans eagerly awaited his decision. When he agreed to sign in July, he was taken aback by the reception. 

“I was surprised, I didn’t expect it to be something like that,” Saric said. “I know people waited for me like two years to come here. I know there’s, I can say, some kind of pressure on me.” 

With that pressure, Saric hopes to bring a winning mentality from his successes overseas. Colangelo has been impressed by the sampling he has observed of Saric during informal preseason team scrimmages. He grouped Saric with 6-foot-10 rookie Ben Simmons when discussing the Sixers’ bigs with diverse skillsets.

“What I see is a versatile player, a skilled big man that can do a number of things,” Colangelo said. “When you’re talking about 6-9, 6-10 and 6-11 players that are skilled and adept at ball handling, passing, driving, kicking out, thinking team-first — it seems both players — I think that’s a tremendous asset to have.” 

Saric understands, though, there will be a transition period as he adapts to the NBA. In the short time he has been around the Sixers, he has already noticed differences in the style of play. 

“What I can see is faster,” he said. “Everybody said the first couple of months will be like that. After that you will catch that rhythm, or that speed for your eyes and you will be faster. That’s the first thing I recognized, that I saw.”

Saric also noted the difference in format of the seasons, pointing out the tightly-packed 82-game NBA schedule. With so many adjustments, he plans to lean on his network of European players in the league, past and present. This summer, he received advice from former Sixer Toni Kukoc when he worked on the Croation National Team coaching staff. Even the smallest suggestion like stretching after practice is resonating with Saric.

“Toni, he told me for sure it will be hard for you when you come, but you must try to keep work[ing] day-by-day,” Saric said. 

For the player who once didn't feel ready for the NBA, Saric quickly has been pleased with his decision to play for the Sixers this season. 

“Everything is better than what I expect,” he said.