Sixers don't want leaky defense to impact offense


Sixers don't want leaky defense to impact offense

The Sixers continue to allow the most points in the NBA at an astronomical 110.9 per game.

The problem during their current four-game losing streak has been that their poor defense has impacted the other end of the court as well. The Sixers have failed to reach 100 points in three of those four defeats.

"When we have good ball movement I think it is contagious and we play better defense," Michael Carter-Williams said. "The first quarter I thought we did a great job moving the ball but, in that second quarter it got stagnant and we didn't get as many stops. We are better when we share the ball."

Carter-Williams was referring to the Sixers' 102-92 loss to the Knicks on Saturday in which they built a 28-20 lead after one quarter and then produced just 12 points in the second quarter while allowing 32.

After resting Sunday, the Sixers got back to work Monday at PCOM. Brett Brown's message to the team was pretty clear: Defense, defense and more defense.

"We have young guys who can get through it. They need to get through it and get some level of toughness," Brown said. "We need to play better defense. We can say all this stuff but we have to play better defense. It stops and starts there and it always will."

Carter-Williams is one of those young guys Brown was talking about. The leading Rookie of the Year candidate had 11 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the Sixers' loss to the Knicks. However, MCW only took six shots in the game, a far cry from the 15.5 attempts he averages a night.

"Look at how many shots Michael got, six, and two of them were not good and one was an airball," Brown said. "They want to please, they want to do the right thing and they are trying. I hope I am giving them good advice.

"I know it is a team game. I know they must share the ball, but it can’t get misconstrued. It is always born out of attack. You have to attack and feel good about yourself. You have to force the defense and then kick it."

There's a delicate balance between trusting your teammates and trying to do things on your own that young players must learn. The Sixers do in fact share the ball quite well. They average 22.9 assists per game, which ranks ninth in the NBA. However, they still have moments when they fall behind and they take turns trying to dent the deficit with one-on-one play.

Carter-Williams knows the Sixers' ability to consistently swing the ball starts with him and the point guard believes he is getting closer to making that happen.

"I think I have become a better leader out there," Carter-Williams said. "I think I am pretty consistent at the defensive end and I am just trying to figure things out on offense and adjust because defenses are starting to change, so I am working on that."

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.