Justin Anderson stars against former team as Sixers destroy Mavericks

Justin Anderson stars against former team as Sixers destroy Mavericks

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Justin Anderson admitted it: this game had been on his mind for a while.

When the Mavericks decided to trade Anderson last month, he remembered head coach Rick Carlisle told him, "I'm not sure exactly where you're going to go, but I'm almost certain it'll be somewhere that we play you. You'll get a great opportunity to show what you've got against us."

The Mavericks sent Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a draft pick to the Sixers in exchange for Nerlens Noel at the Feb. 23 deadline. Anderson made it a point to look at the calendar: March 17. Less than a month away.

"I've been looking forward [to it] ever since," he said.

Anderson played like he had something to prove in the Sixers' lopsided 116-74 win Friday, their largest victory since Jan. 30, 2008 (see Instant Replay). He tied a career-high with 19 points (7 for 11 from the field, 2 for 5 from three, 3 for 3 from the line), grabbed eight rebounds and dished three assists in 26 minutes off the bench. His performance far surpassed his averages with the Mavericks this season (6.5 points, 2.9 rebounds). Anderson has scored 19 points in three of his 11 games as a Sixer. 

"Anderson played with the attitude we needed tonight. That's one thing we will miss about him," Carlisle said, adding, "I'm happy for him. I did not want to trade him, but we needed to do it to get another good player."

Noel had nine points, five rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes off the bench in his return to Philadelphia (see story).

On the other side, Anderson opened his scoring with a three-pointer. In a situation in which anxiousness could set in, he didn't look nervous against his former team.

"When you've got the confidence that your teammates give you and Coach (Brett) Brown gives you all that confidence in the world to step into your shots and do what you do, it helps out a lot," Anderson said. "I was comfortable out there. I was used to a lot of actions that they run and how they defend, so I was kind of a step ahead tonight and it felt good."

Anderson's intensity powered the Sixers to maintain their halftime lead, which they have struggled to keep in the past. He scored 12 points in the third quarter, only four less than the entire Mavs team.

"His energy, his demeanor, it just made us that much more aggressive and amped us up even more," Robert Covington said. "The plays he made were very, very amazing and they really got us going and kept us in the position we were in throughout the game."

The Sixers have lauded Anderson's athleticism and he put it on display. In the third, Anderson brought the crowd to its feet with a one-handed putback slam dunk off a Nik Stauskas missed three-pointer. He finished it off with an extra exclamation (see feature highlight).

"I felt like I was floating up there for a second because it bounced so high," Anderson said. "I was waiting for it to come down. I got lucky on the timing and I got a chance to squeeze it in there. The way I landed, my back was already kind of arched so I was excited. If anyone knows me, I'm a player that's just going to play hard. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. It's never to disrespect or show any harm. It's the reaction to an athletic play."

Anderson was glad to see the Mavs, the only team he had known in his short NBA career before being traded. He chatted up Dirk Nowitzki in between plays and exchanged friendly banter with Nicolas Brussino. Anderson even heard from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who was sitting courtside next to the team's bench.

"He told me he didn't like my haircut," Anderson said. "But, no, it was cool. There was no trash talk. … It's cool being able to play against former teammates and stuff. They were very excited to see me, so was I, so it meant a lot."

It means a lot for the Sixers to have him now.

"He brings toughness, physicality," Richaun Holmes said. "He comes prepared to play, prepared to win. That's what we need and it's great to have him as a teammate."

Examining how Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons could mesh together on court

Examining how Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons could mesh together on court

No sooner did the Sixers draft Washington point guard Markelle Fultz on Thursday night than coach Brett Brown started talking about “ballcarriers,” a rather curious way to describe NBA playmakers.

This came up because Brown long ago said he intended to use Ben Simmons, a 6-10 forward with an unselfish bent, at the point this season — an interesting experiment, not only because Simmons missed his entire rookie year with a broken foot but also because other responsibilities would have to be divvied up differently than they are on most teams.

Surely, the thinking went, Simmons would be hard-pressed to guard opposing lead guards. Surely, the Sixers would have to play a shorter, quicker guy next to him to perform that defensive task — and it would no doubt help if that guy could knock down a shot or two as well.

The 6-4 Fultz, while a defensive cipher last year for the Huskies, has those capabilities. But there’s little question that he operates best with the rock in his hands.

For the record, Brown said the addition of Fultz “really doesn’t” change his plan. He still intends to make Simmons the point guard and let the chips fall where they may.

Or, as he put it, “We’re excited to use him as the primary ballcarrier.”

At the same time, he added, Fultz “has the ability to be a significant ballcarrier.”

“When we study what he did in college,” Brown added, “you recognize very quickly that he has the ability to play that position and be one of the main ball distributors as well.”

Which means there will be some sorting out to do when training camp begins.

Fultz didn’t seem concerned when the topic was raised. He knows Simmons a little bit since both attended high school powers — Fultz at DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md., Simmons at Montverde (Fla.) Academy. They connected a while back on social media, then exchanged numbers.

“And,” Fultz said, “I've been texting him through the college process, and just getting advice through college and just wishing him good luck.”

He expects the on-court mesh to be just as smooth.

“Great players know how to play with each other,” he said. “Really it's just do whatever you need to do to win. It's going to be times where maybe Ben brings up the ball or times where I'm bringing up the ball. It's going to do whatever we need to do to win.”

Brown, for his part, sees Fultz as a “perfect complement” not only to Simmons but also to Joel Embiid, who, unsurprisingly, has also reached out to Fultz on social media.

It is far from unprecedented for a team to employ two playmakers. Six NBA clubs featured a duo that averaged five-plus assists a game in 2016-17. That includes the Sixers, who saw both of their primary ballcarr ... er, point guards, T.J. McConnell (6.6) and Sergio Rodriguez (5.1), reach that plateau.

The best analog for the upcoming season might be Charlotte, which features a lanky forward (Nic Batum, 5.9) and high-usage point guard (Kemba Walker, 5.5). The Holy Grail is, of course, Golden State, which has turned basketball into ballet. Draymond Green (7.0) and Stephen Curry (6.6) both exceeded five assists a night, and Kevin Durant (4.8) was close.

In all, the Warriors averaged 30.4 assists — exactly one shy of the NBA record established by the 1984-85 Lakers — and 43.1 field goals. Curry and Green most often initiated their offense, but ex-Sixer Andre Iguodala, a reserve, also did so at times. (Durant was more likely to bring the ball up and do something like this.)

So that’s the ideal, the summit that every team can only hope to reach. The Sixers, still in the baby-steps phase, will inch along behind two playmakers who have yet to play an NBA minute. Embiid will certainly join them in the starting lineup, and probably Robert Covington as well, though both are coming off meniscus tears and will be monitored closely.

It remains to be seen how Dario Saric, another excellent passer, is used. Certainly, the ball would hop around if he were on the court with Fultz and Simmons, but Saric could also serve as the distributor for a potentially interesting bench mob (Jerryd Bayless, Richaun Holmes, et al.).

That’s something else to sort out in September. But Job One for Brown is figuring out how best to use his ballcarriers.

Not the worst problem to have.

Sixers expect Markelle Fultz to play in summer league

Sixers expect Markelle Fultz to play in summer league

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers expect Markelle Fultz to compete in summer league next month. The team will participate in both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, beginning on July 3 in Utah.
 
"It's anticipated that Markelle will play," president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Friday.
 
The Sixers still have to finalize things off the court before the No. 1 overall pick plays, just as they did with Ben Simmons last summer. Simmons appeared in limited games. Fultz's playing availability remains to be determined.
 
"There's other things that need to be worked out, first and foremost, in terms of protecting Markelle, contractually and otherwise," Colangelo said. "I think no different than Ben last year, we took care of our business first before he took the floor."
 
The status of the Sixers' other five draft picks for summer league is uncertain. Anzejs Pasecniks, Jonah Bolden and Mathias Lessort currently are under contract with teams overseas.
 
"The international players are all subject to agreements with their clubs," Colangelo said. "That can be a little bit tricky with respect to getting authorization or permission to do so. We're going to have those discussions and negotiations further."
 
The Sixers still are still working to see if last year's No. 26 pick, Furkan Korkmaz, will play in summer league. The Sixers would like him to participate but the schedule could overlap with international competition.

Undrafted guard Melo Trimble will play for the Sixers in summer league, according to a source. Isaiah Briscoe and James Blackmon Jr. reportedly are going to be on the summer team as well.
 
The Sixers also drafted Jawun Evans (No. 39) and Sterling Brown (No. 46). Neither attended the introductory press conference as the Sixers are reported to be trading them, according to The Vertical.
 
"There's been some movement and discussion about their draft situation and draft rights," Colangelo said. "That's subject to further discussion at a later date. We'll get back to you when dust settles on all of that."