Sixers need group effort to fix defensive woes

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Sixers need group effort to fix defensive woes

The Sixers’ defense is broken and certainly needs fixing.

The Sixers are one of 16 NBA teams that allow at least 100 points per game. They actually give up 110.1 points per game, which is the highest in the league.

“We turn it over a lot and they run at us,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “We take quick, bad shots and they run at us. And a lot of our transition defense problems are coming from turnovers and quick, bad shots because we are so adamant at playing at a speed.

“But somewhere down the road there has to be a responsibility to play that style of play.”

The Sixers commit 17.8 turnovers per game, second-worst in the league to only the Houston Rockets.

Pushing the pace lends to committing turnovers, which has been testing the Sixers’ transition defense. Add to the fact that the Sixers do not have a defensive specialist like an Andre Iguodala and therefore their defensive success must be rooted in all five guys being in sync at all times.

“Usually, that one guy dictates a lot of things that goes on defensively,” Thaddeus Young said. “We all know ‘Dre was the guy who was going to go out and stop guys. We don’t have that one guy, so different guys have to step up each night.”

“Nobody stands out and says, ‘I am a consideration for an all-defensive team,’” Brown said. “It highlights that we need a group effort. It’s not like we have shot blockers or a perimeter stopper. Anything we do has to be done as a group and done perfectly.”

Brown could opt for his team playing a more deliberate style of basketball. That could cut down on mistakes, as well as the easy baskets being scored by the opposition.

However, that is not going to happen. Brown wants his team to play fast and score plenty of points. That hasn’t been a problem with the Sixers leading the NBA in pace (102.8 possessions per 48 minutes) and ninth in scoring (103.0 points per game).

The key is to take their minus-7.1 point differential and push that into the positive range.

“I want to persevere with this style and this way of playing,” Brown said. “Because we have seen with the group that we have and the talent base and the experience we are not going to beat those teams we have beaten playing any other way.

“I just want to coach it better. I don’t want to say now we are playing on our heels and we don’t want to run anymore because it comes with too many problems, which it does at the moment.”

Brown believes down the road his team will figure out how to blend playing an up-tempo style without being reckless.

Brown did make one tweak Sunday that he is going to stick with, at least in the short term, and that is playing rookie Hollis Thompson in the starting lineup.

“We want to sell defense, and I like his length,” Brown said of Thompson. “It is a rotation at this stage that I want to experiment with. That’s what this year is about and I see it being something we want to continue looking at.”

Ben Simmons suffers fractured bone in right foot

Ben Simmons suffers fractured bone in right foot

As the Sixers get two bigs back from injury, another goes down.

First overall pick Ben Simmons suffered a fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone of his right foot on Friday. Simmons rolled his right ankle during the team’s final training camp scrimmage at Stockton University.

Simmons underwent an X-ray and MRI on his right foot and ankle. Sixers head physician Dr. Christopher Dodson and Sixers chief medical officer and co-chief of sports medicine orthopedics at New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center Dr. Jonathan Glashow reviewed the images.

Simmons’ timetable to return is to be determined. The Sixers are considering further medical evaluation and treatment options. 

Landing the No. 1 pick and selecting Simmons was the highlight of the Sixers’ next chapter. They were supposed to be healthy this time around as they entered a new phase following a 10-72 season. 

The news of the fracture adds to years of injury-related setbacks. Nerlens Noel missed his entire rookie season rehabbing from an ACL injury. After undergoing two foot injuries in as many years, the 2014 third overall pick Joel Embiid is slated to make his NBA debut Oct. 4 against the Celtics in preseason action. Jahlil Okafor is also expected to play next Tuesday for the first time since his season-ending knee surgery in March. 

The Sixers drafted Simmons to become a focal point of their system. At 6-foot-10, 250 pounds, he is a point-forward with the potential to change the look of a lineup. During training camp Brown experimented with multiple combinations, including playing Simmons at the point, shooting guard and small forward. 

Brown called the two-three combination of Simmons and Dario Saric “6-10, do-alls” (see story)

Simmons, 20, impressed his teammates during camp. In just four days of practices, it was easy for them to see how Simmons would improve the Sixers. 

“He’s really physical,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s just a big presence. When he pushes the ball, you can feel it. He makes you want to go with him. … He’s so fast and he’s so big.” 

Said Nerlens Noel, “He just plays basketball the right way. When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."

The Sixers will be faced with filling a role they haven’t actually had yet. They had gameplans of how to utilize Simmons, but they were implemented only in training camp. The Sixers have a frontcourt logjam which will allow them to plug in other players at the power forward spot. They also can fill his experimented role on the wings with traditional shooters. But his absence will eliminate versatile lineups in which players are essentially “positionless,” a Warriors-style of play that causes mismatches of size and skills. 

Even though the Sixers have an abundance of bigs, Embiid and Okafor will be monitored for minutes at the start of the season. Throw in Simmons’ injury and this creates opportunities for other frontcourt players such as Richaun Holmes and Elton Brand. With Simmons absence, there also could be more minutes for Saric to play his natural position at power forward. 

Simmons wasn’t letting himself get too far ahead as he entered his first NBA season. He has been taking each day one at a time with an excitement of the newness of his rookie year.

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

Now it remains to be seen when Simmons will play his first game. 

Sixers Injury Update: Simmons rolls ankle, taken for precautionary imaging

Sixers Injury Update: Simmons rolls ankle, taken for precautionary imaging

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Ben Simmons rolled his right ankle during a team scrimmage on the final day of training camp. He was taken for precautionary imaging. The results have not yet been completed.

Jerryd Bayless did not scrimmage because of a sore left wrist, which the team continues to monitor. He sat out of Thursday's scrimmage for the same reason.

Jahlil Okafor participated in Friday's scrimmage in accordance to his load management. The Sixers are being cautious with players as they return from injury. Okafor underwent right knee surgery last season.