Sixers move into cloudy offseason after finale win

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Sixers move into cloudy offseason after finale win

BOX SCORE

INDIANAPOLIS -- Doug Collins spent what was likely his last night as coach of the 76ers sitting quietly on the bench. Aside from timeouts, Collins did not race up and down the sidelines, nor did he protest the officials’ calls.

There was no need with the Sixers rolling to a decisive 105-95 victory over the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Wednesday night (see Instant Replay). The Sixers led by as many as 26 points during the second half and saw that whittled down to just six points in the last minute of the fourth quarter.

Through it all, Collins remained calm and seated. For a coach who is often drenched with sweat after most games, the restraint was uncanny.

“I thanked them for the hard work,” Collins said. “They stayed together and once we got things squared away and guys knew where they were going to be, [we played well].”

Though multiple sources say Collins has coached his last game for the Sixers, the coach did not reveal his plans for the future after the game. The team will hold exit interviews starting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday morning and Collins is expected to address the issue of his future then.

Until then, Collins remained mum.

“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Collins said. “I’m the coach.”

The season ended as Collins’ worst as a coach in the NBA. With a 34-48 record, the Sixers were expected to challenge the Heat in the East. Instead, the big moves never worked out. Andrew Bynum never played a second, Jason Richardson got injured and the players the Sixers traded away blossomed.

Who can blame Collins for ending his coaching tenure on that note?

And though the season ended with three victories in the last four games, there was an undertone of disappointment in the Sixers’ locker room afterwards. Players seemed to understand that changes were on the way.

Lots of changes.

“Any time you get done, you prepare for it more when you’re not going to the playoffs,” said Spencer Hawes, who appeared in all 82 games this season. “It’s always tough at the end of the year. For as much as you can relax and breathe a sigh of relief, we spent the last seven or eight months with these guys and it’s a cliché, but you see these guys more than your family. Some of the guys, if not most of them, you’re never going to have that relationship again. That’s one of the parts you don’t look forward to.”

As for the coach, the players still have not been informed one way or the other if Collins will return. When asked a yes or no question if he wanted Collins to return, Evan Turner didn’t exactly give a ringing endorsement.

Turner didn’t say he did not want Collins back, but he didn’t say that he did, either.

“Last I heard, it was his decision. Whatever he wants to do that makes him happy,” Turner said. “To go through that type of year, it’s strenuous. He has a lot of options and whatever is the best decision for him. He can go back to commentating and his son is coaching Northwestern.”

So it was a bittersweet win for the Sixers. The team had some tough times, but usually played with a strong effort. For whatever reason, it just wasn’t meant to be for the Sixers this season.

“It’s tough when you’re losing, especially with the high expectations others had and we had for ourselves,” Hawes said. “We aimed high and didn’t reach it.”

Turner added: “It’s definitely disappointing. We came into the season as one of the better teams in the East. We didn’t meet our expectations.”

As the book closed on the disappointing season, Collins told his players -- one last time -- to take a look around the room because it may be the last time most of them are together.

“Before every last game I always say the same thing. Get your hands together, look around this room -- the essence of the NBA is that the room always changes,” Collins said. “Look each other in the eye and appreciate what you’ve done this season and how hard each other worked. You’ll always be teammates and bonded.”

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).