Sixers Notes: Wright finally finds role under Collins

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Sixers Notes: Wright finally finds role under Collins

WASHINGTON -- All season long, Doug Collins has tried to figure out what to do with his wing players. Though he has guys who can shoot well, the Sixers lack speed on the wings.

Collins thought veteran Jason Richardson was the answer, but he went out with a season-ending knee injury. Nick Young stepped up for a tiny bit, but he too went down with an injury and was slow to rejoin the rotation.

It wasn’t until Collins turned to Damien Wilkins as his starter on the wing with Dorell Wright coming off the bench that it got straightened out. No, it’s not the second coming of Joe Dumars and Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson from the champion Detroit Pistons teams in the 1980s, but the duo has solved a problem for Collins.

The key has been Wright coming off the bench. He scored 13 points in 25 minutes during Friday night’s win over the Wizards at the Verizon Center with a pair of three-pointers (see game recap). In his last 10 games, Wright has averaged nearly 13 points and has hit 22 three-pointers. Wright also has led the Sixers in scoring twice during that stretch, providing the punch off the bench the Sixers have needed.

“Dorell has been great,” Collins said. “We have had an issue all season long with our wings, how do we get it settled in? We need guys to settle into that mold a little bit and through injury it kind of found itself. J-Rich was a huge loss for us and then we tried Nick Young out there and then he got hurt. Then I moved Damien there and when Dorell thrived in that role off the bench.”

Providing scoring off the bench is not something veterans like Wright can do easily. The key to it, Collins says, is to come in ready to go, which is difficult for some players. As a starter a player can find the flow of the game, get his body warmed up and ease into things.

“The one thing you have to do is come in and get yourself into the rhythm of the game,” Collins said. “The one thing I’ve always said is that sometimes it’s harder for an older player who has been in the league for a while and maybe they have a lot of miles on them and maybe some injuries and it’s tough to warm up. When you come off that bench you have to be ready to roll.”

Wright has come into games firing.

“We’ve needed scoring from off the bench, so when I go in there I try to be aggressive as possible and look for my shot and take my shots in rhythm,” Wright said.

It’s not a completely foreign role for Wright even though he spent the last two seasons with Golden State as a starter. In six seasons with the Miami Heat, Wright started sporadically, but was never a main guy in the rotation.

However, in his first season with the Warriors, Wright led the NBA in three-pointers and three-pointers attempted. He also started all 82 games, averaged 38 minutes and was ninth in the NBA in steals with 124.

So if his shot isn’t going down, Wright says he has something he can fall back on. He even admits that he has enjoyed his new role off the bench.

“Yeah, it’s cool with me. As long as I’m out there being productive,” Wright said. “If I’m not scoring I can get rebounds and get the ball and make some plays. I’m happy with it.”

Brown out … again
Kwame Brown took his 27th straight DNP-CD on Friday night. He hasn’t appeared in a game since Feb. 20 in the Sixers’ loss at Minnesota.

Headed back to Washington, where Brown began his NBA career as the No. 1 overall pick -- with Collins as his coach -- one had to wonder if the veteran would see some action.

No such luck.

“Kwame hasn’t had a chance to play much and it’s been unfortunate,” Collins said. “When we signed Andrew Bynum, it set Kwame back. He saw that his role was going to be different. He came into training camp and he was hurt. He hurt some ribs before we got started and then started some exhibition games and hurt his calf. He was nicked up most of the year. I feel badly he hasn’t played -- I thought he was going to play more.”

Last July, Brown was signed to a one-year contract with a player option for a second season. Brown hasn’t told reporters if he planned on exercising his option, though it would be hard to imagine someone leaving $2.9 million on the table.

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).