15:14 PM ET
Last season, one of the most thoughtful moments for the Philadelphia 76’s reduced team was the position of Ben Simmons.
He started the season, just like the previous two, as a playmaker. When the six from the NBA call arrived at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, he played power forward.
But as Philadelphia prepares for a new season – with a new coach in Doc Rivers – Simmons is back in his old position.
Yes, if you want to put me in that position, Simmons said when asked if he would still play in the league this season. Oh, yeah, a mediator. Just a simple point guard. Coach wants me to play. … There are many ways to do this. There they score, come to the edge, shoot defenders, set up the kickers and just make options.
Whether I hit the ball in front, put the brick down and set up the back screen in front of [Joel Embiid], the boys will have a hard time defending, especially if we have boys taking third place.
A year ago, the difficulty in finding the right way to use Simmons was in part due to the close intervals between the six on offense. The cumbersome arrangements around Simmons and Ambiid, which were very successful at the beginning of their careers, are a thing of the past. Instead, there were groups that left little room for fieldwork due to the lack of a profound threat.
During this off-season, Sixer’s new president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey, tried to change that by trading Al Horford for Danny Green and Josh Richardson for Seth Curry. Not only has Tobias Harris brought two sharpshooters behind the scenes, but he has also pushed him into a natural attack position, where he will be a more versatile attack threat than Horford, the centre-back who played outside his own position last year.
The result must be an offensive that the six men hope to repeat what it was when Simmons and Ambiad were partners with J.J. Radick, Robert Covington and Dario Saric in the 2017-18 season – a group that beat their opponents by 20.5 points in 601 minutes combined on 100 possessions.
The distance is enormous, but it is also important to know where and when to be and to follow our instructions, says Simmons. Someone’s in a certain position and we know someone else has to cut, it makes it easier. We’re just gonna read and play together and keep playing the good games.
In the first week that the Sixers were together, it became clear that Rivers wanted to make his team faster. Although not ideal for Embiid, he is ideal for Simmons, one of the fastest players in the league, even with a height of 1.10m.
Everything points to what Rivers expects from Simmons: to endanger his enemies as often as possible, especially in the open field.
Rivers said it was just awful. Play. I’ll be right there. Ask the boys to keep an eye on you. Be aggressive. Be a facilitator. In the transition phase, we want to take the lead and pass the ball to Ben. Tell him to do something.
And although Rivers Simmons didn’t officially call him his leader, he liked to call him the same way this season: the team coordinator.
Of course, he’s our coordinator, Rivers said. If I don’t have a real joker like Chris Paul or the Rondo district, I’m rarely… I don’t think I’ve called anybody a fool all year.
But Ben is obviously our coordinator, and Ben is special, man. When he brings the ball out in the open, there are few people like him. And we want the ball to be on the pitch so it’s special.
Another thing Rivers insisted on early on was strengthening the bond between Simmons and Ambiad on the track. He said they’ll have more picnic rolls this season – something they’ve rarely done in the past – and they want to play them together.
Rivers said he had seen that some of them were beginning to develop in practice, but needed them, not Rivers or his offensive coordinator, former Sacramento Kings and Memphis grizzly Dave Yerger, in terms of calls.
One thing I think we’re really trying to do is get them to play together, the Rivers said. They had a big action today, which Dave Jorger and I laughed about a lot: You won’t stop him. But they should instinctively do more than we should always call it. And if they can, it’ll be hard to stop them.
Simmons, on the other hand, said it was a matter of establishing the chemistry between them.
I read the defense and I know when to cut, come to the edge, cut or I notice and I shoot, said Simmons. So if we just read Joe, we’ll continue to improve and develop our chemistry on the field, especially with this new team and the new players around us. I think it’s gonna be great, because everybody bought it.