At 40 years old, Steve Nash still impresses Brown

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At 40 years old, Steve Nash still impresses Brown

Brett Brown has repeatedly mentioned how he’s coaching the youngest roster in the history of the NBA. He has nine players with two years or less experience in the league.

The youngsters got a taste of an elder statesman Friday night, facing the Lakers and their starting point guard Steve Nash, who celebrated his 40th birthday.

Nash is a 17-year NBA veteran. For perspective, the Sixers’ veterans -- Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes -- have 15 years experienced combined.

“He’s Steve Nash. I don’t care if he is 60, he’s still Steve Nash,” Brown said before Friday’s opening tip. “He is so special and over the years you just couldn’t guard him.”

Nash’s years of averaging 10 assists or more per game -- something he accomplished in seven of his seasons -- may be behind him, but he’s still a dangerous opponent.

“It was so incredible to me how he would sniff a pick-and-roll scheme out,” Brown said.

“I learned over the years that you couldn’t show him a steady diet of anything because he learned how to navigate his way through it.”

Friday’s game was only Nash’s second since Nov. 10. He’s been dealing with back and neck problems.

The past three seasons, father time has caught up to the Canadian point guard. Including this season, Nash has missed 94 games in the last three years. In 10 prior seasons, he missed only 38 games.

“His fitness level plus he is pridefully so intelligent,” Brown said. “I have seen him with Team Canada and his NBA days. He is just one of my personal all-time favorites.”

At 6-foot-3, Nash’s court vision has always been impressive.

“We likened him back in the day to [Wayne] Gretzky where he would get behind the goal and Steve would probe the baseline, baiting people to get sucked in,” Brown said.

“And then he would pick you apart with his three-point shooters. There is a discipline you have to have guarding him, whether it is his floaters or his left hand.”

The Lakers have Nash under contract for one more season.

“He is just so gifted in so many ways,” Brown said. “And I think his background with his dad being a soccer coach, his flexibility, his coordination, he is an interesting case study really.”

NBA Playoffs: Raptors advance past Bucks despite blowing 25-point lead

NBA Playoffs: Raptors advance past Bucks despite blowing 25-point lead

MILWAUKEE -- DeMar DeRozan scored 32 points and the Toronto Raptors squandered a 25-point lead late in the third quarter before holding on for a 92-89 victory Thursday night over the Milwaukee Bucks to take their first-round playoff series in six games.

Cory Joseph had five points in a 9-0 run in the final 2 minutes, including a 3-pointer with 1:27 left, to help stave off the pesky Bucks.

The Raptors move on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals in a series that starts Monday. They'll need to work on finishing off opponents in the second half.

Jason Terry's 3 with 3:06 left gave the Bucks an 80-78 lead, completing an unlikely comeback from the 25-point deficit with 5:16 left in the third quarter. The Raptors looked as if they were on cruise control after DeMarre Carroll's 3 gave them the 71-46 advantage.

Giannis Antetokounmpo spearheaded the second-half rally for Milwaukee. He had 34 points.

But the Bucks finished one comeback short.

The furious effort appeared to sap the energy of the young Bucks. Even Antetokounmpo, a renowned gym rat, looked tired with his hands on hips as he caught his breath during fourth-quarter breaks. He played 47 minutes.

Antetokounmpo finished 13 of 23 from the field but was 2 of 6 in the fourth.

The Raptors could finally breathe easy after DeRozan went 2 of 2 from the foul line with 3.1 seconds to play for a three-point lead. Tony Snell's inbounds pass on the ensuing possession was intercepted by DeRozan (see full recap).

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Ben Simmons

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons

Position: Point guard? Power forward? TBD

Status for 2017-18: Guaranteed — $6,168,840

Simmons in 2016-17
Ben Simmons missed the entire 2016-17 season after suffering a Jones fracture in his right foot on the final day of training camp.

He was ruled out officially in late February when a scan revealed his foot had not fully healed. Simmons was cleared to advance his training in mid-April.

This season was one of learning for Simmons. The Sixers implemented a multifaceted rehab program to improve his health, education and shot. This included studying game film with Brett Brown and working closely with shooting coach John Townsend.

Simmons also joined the Sixers to experience life on the road. During these trips, he spent time with point guard Jerryd Bayless, who is serving as a veteran go-to as Simmons learns the NBA backcourt.

Signature game
Since Simmons did not appear in a game, let's modify here. Simmons was no stranger to showing off his skills during pregame warmups, including this dunk in Indiana.

Looking ahead to 2017-18
Simmons' first step to prepare for next season is five-on-five work. The Sixers have to determine if that will include his participating in the summer league. This seems unlikely given Simmons' lack of full-contact basketball activity with his own team and the fact he was limited last summer when healthy.

The second step is learning the point guard position. The Sixers plan to start Simmons at the one next season, a role in which they believe Simmons can thrive because of his athleticism and court vision.

The Sixers will work with Simmons to continue improving his shot, specifically hitting free throws and finishing at the basket with both hands.

On Simmons
"I think that the question about whether or not Ben Simmons is a point guard or not, that will play itself out over time. But I don't think there's going to be a quick answer there. I know there's a commitment by the staff to make that happen."

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo

"What I left Stockton (training camp) being so excited about was that he is an elite, potentially, defensive player. So was his father that I coached for five years. It's in his bloodline." 

Sixers head coach Brett Brown