Sixers-Heat: 5 things you need to know

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Sixers-Heat: 5 things you need to know

The Sixers’ season opener is here and the rebuilding team will get an early look at the NBA’s elite when it hosts the defending champion Miami Heat (1-0) on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. (CSN) and here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. Let’s start the show
The Sixers didn’t get any favors from the schedule makers, as they will open up the regular season against the Heat for the second time in the past four years.

The Heat are coming to town off a 107-95 win over the Chicago Bulls on opening night. They led by as many as 25 points before holding on late in the fourth quarter. The Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh accounted for 46 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists in the victory.

The Sixers will be trying to reverse some lopsided recent history against the Heat. They have lost nine straight to Miami and 19 of the last 20 matchups, including the postseason.

2. Hey, rookies
After spending over a decade in the Spurs' organization, Brett Brown gets his first taste of NBA life as a head coach when things get underway on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Michael Carter-Williams will find out how things really work in the league against the Heat when the 11th overall pick in June’s draft plays in his first regular-season game.

MCW showed poise running Brown’s offense during the preseason, racking up 31 assists to 10 turnovers in seven games. However, his suspect shooting was very clear. Carter-Williams shot just 32.8 percent from the field and 29.6 from three-point range.

3. Trying to fill it up
Speaking of points, who exactly can the Sixers rely on to score this season?

For a team that finished tied for last in the league in points per game a season ago (93.2), things don’t figure to get any easier with a roster full of young and inexperienced players.

Evan Turner averaged 17.3 points per game during the preseason to lead the Sixers. If ever there were a time for him to have a breakout season scoring-wise, this would be it (see story).

4. How many wins?
With the season opener officially here, the Sixers are truly staring one big question right in the face: How many wins will they record this season?

Clearly, president/general manager Sam Hinkie has made moves with the future in mind, such as trading away Jrue Holiday and the likely decision to sit rookie acquisition Nerlens Noel for the entire season. The roster is filled with complementary pieces and developmental players that could figure into the team's future with a few big-name lottery picks or what the Sixers hope turn out to be viable trade options.

Still, don’t expect them to openly embrace the thought of “tanking” or to challenge the 1972-73 Sixers’ NBA-worst mark of nine wins.

“No matter how you put it, losers sit there and say ... we’re going to lose,” Turner said. “I’m not a loser.”

The Vegas over/under for Sixers wins this season is 16½.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have a 4-6 mark in their last 10 season openers.

• The Sixers had a 23-18 record last season at the Wells Fargo Center.

• While it may be easy to think that James has dominated the Sixers recently -- and he has -- Wade was just as good a season ago. In three games against the Sixers last season, Wade averaged 25.3 points and shot a ridiculous 62.5 percent from the field.

• The Heat had seven players score in double figures during their season-opening win over the Bulls.

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 3.8 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."

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).