Ben Simmons

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Simmons, Harden, Nets, Mann

The Sixers forced a Game 7 on Sunday in their second-round series against the Hawks by winning on the road Friday night. That didn’t stop Joel Embiid from complaining about the officiating, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. Without specifically naming Trae Young, Embiid claims the Hawks’ star gets favorable treatment.

“I just felt like it wasn’t called both ways, especially because of the minimal contact that they get on the point guard, and when it comes to us, we don’t get the same thing,” Embiid said. “So I just want it called both ways. If you’re going to call something like nothing on their point guard, it should be the same way and call the same thing [for] me when I get — if I get — touched.”

Young has taken an average of 9.7 free throws in the series but only five on Friday. Embiid has shot an average of 12.0 free throws per game, though just four on Friday.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Ben Simmons‘ performances in the last three games have damaged his reputation, Rich Hofmann of The Athletic opines. The Sixers’ guard has four years remaining on his five-year, $177.2MM extension but he hasn’t improved upon his weaknesses. The same knocks against Simmons from four years ago still exist, according to Hofmann, mostly notably that he remains an offensive liability against a set halfcourt defense. Simmons’ 29.8% shooting from the foul line in the series has also forced coach Doc Rivers to pull him out of the game at crucial stages.
  • James Harden promises to be a bigger threat in Game 7 on Saturday than he was the past two games, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. The Nets’ star guard scored a combined 21 points on 21.9% shooting after returning from hamstring tightness. “It’s not even about rust, it’s about being able to move,” Harden said. “As I go day-by-day, continue to get better. … I’ve got to be better on both end of the ball, which I will be in Game 7.”
  • With Kevin Durant on their side and the home-court advantage, the Nets have no excuses in Game 7, Ian O’Connor of the New York Post opines.
  • Clippers guard Terance Mann exploded onto the national scene on Friday with a career-high 39 points as his team eliminated the Jazz. Some members of the Knicks’ front office lobbied to acquire Mann in the Marcus Morris deal last year, Ian Begley of SNY tweets. The Clippers retained Mann and instead shipped Maurice Harkless, a 2020 first-round pick and 2021 second-rounder to the Knicks.

Olympic Notes: Butler, Olynyk, Birch, Bjorkgren, Jokic, Australia

Jimmy Butler will not play for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. Butler had an invite but he battled through a variety of ailments this season and had a short turnaround between seasons after Miami surprisingly reached the NBA Finals last summer.

We have more info on this year’s Olympics:

  • The Rockets’ Kelly Olynyk and Raptors’ Khem Birch are among the prominent players not listed among the 24 players Team Canada submitted to FIBA in advance of its Olympic qualifier, Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet tweets. They’re both unrestricted free agents. The Grizzlies’ Brandon Clarke is also not on the preliminary list, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. The 24-man roster can be found here.
  • Nate Bjorkgren, who was let go by the Pacers after one season as head coach, will join Nick Nurse’s Team Canada staff, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Bjorkgren was one of Nurse’s top assistants before his stint with Indiana.
  • MVP Nikola Jokic won’t play for the Serbian team at the Olympic qualifier due to an exhausting NBA campaign, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Jokic told Serbian news agency Tanjug, “Simply, the condition of my body requires a longer absence from the court for recovery.” The Denver Post story asserts Jokic won’t play in the Olympics even if his national team qualifies, while an ESPN story says it’s unclear if Jokic would participate in Tokyo.
  • The Australian national team will play exhibitions against Team USA, Nigeria and Argentina in Las Vegas before departing for Tokyo, David Aldridge of The Athletic tweets. The 19-man preliminary roster, which will be trimmed to 12, is expected to be loaded with NBA players, including Ben Simmons and Joe Ingles.

Sixers Notes: Simmons, Rivers, Morey, Curry

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers defended the way he uses Ben Simmons after the team dropped Game 5 against the Hawks Wednesday night, writes Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

Philadelphia had a massive meltdown as a 26-point lead slipped away, and Simmons played a significant role, missing key free throws down the stretch and shooting just 4-of-14 from the line for the game. After talking about the need to be more aggressive, he took just four shots from the field Wednesday, finishing with eight points and nine assists.

Simmons is a miserable 22-of-67 on foul shots during the playoffs, and Atlanta has been taking advantage by intentionally fouling him. As a result, Rivers had to sit Simmons down for several important possessions late in the fourth quarter. That takes the Sixers’ best passer and defender off the court and leaves the team with unfamiliar lineups.

“Do you want to do that?” Rivers said. “The answer would be no. But, you know, when Ben makes ’em, we get to keep him in, when he doesn’t, we can’t. And that’s just the way it is.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Rivers and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey both deserve blame for some of the team’s flaws that are being exposed this series, Bodner adds. Rivers continues to give important minutes to a reserve unit that hasn’t been effective, Bodner notes, while Morey failed to find an alternative backup center to Dwight Howard, who is a bad matchup against spread offenses.
  • The Sixers, who also blew an 18-point lead in Game 4, are searching for answers on why they can’t hold on to a big advantage, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Tobias Harris believes the team loses focus once it gets in front by a comfortable margin. “The weakness right now is when we gain those leads, we kind of go away from what got us there,” Harris said. “That was playing defense, moving the basketball, getting some good looks. And that’s hurt us the last two games.”
  • Seth Curry never lost confidence in his shot, even as he struggled to find a place in the NBA, writes Alex Kennedy of Basketball News. Curry had one of the best games of his career Wednesday, posting 36 points, three rebounds, seven three-pointers and two steals in the Game 5 loss.

NBA All-Defensive Teams Announced

The NBA has officially announced the voting results for its two 2020/21 All-Defensive teams.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert, the Defensive Player of the Year for the third time in four seasons, and Sixers guard Ben Simmons were unanimous selections for the All-Defensive First Team. Both players made the First Team lists of all 100 tallied ballots, for a perfect total of 200 points. Votes are given to 100 media members.

This marks Gobert’s fifth straight appearance on the All-Defensive First Team, and the second consecutive All-Defensive First Team honor for Simmons.

Warriors forward Draymond Green garnered 176 points (including 80 First Team votes). Green was named Defensive Player of the Year in the 2016/17 season. This year’s nod is his fourth First Team honor, and his sixth total All-Defensive team.

Two Bucks players rounded out the All-Defensive First Team this season. Guard Jrue Holiday netted 157 points (65 First Team) and All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year, earned 135 total points (43 First Team). Antetokounmpo has just made his third straight All-Defensive First Team, and his fourth All-Defensive team overall. This is Holiday’s second All-Defensive First Team appearance and his third overall All-Defensive team.

[RELATED: Rudy Gobert Named Defensive Player Of The Year]

Two All-Defensive First-Teamers have unlocked contract bonuses associated with the honor. Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets that Gobert will receive a $500K bonus for the inclusion this season. Marks adds (Twitter link) that Holiday will pocket a cool $100K for making All-Defensive First Team. Holiday has other contract incentives associated with his team’s further postseason advancement.

The All-Defensive Second Team honorees are led by Heat stars Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, who each netted 111 points (37 First Team votes) apiece. Adebayo makes his second All-Defensive Second Team with the nod today. This is Butler’s fifth such honor.

Simmons’s Sixers teammates Joel Embiid and Matisse Thybulle also make the cut. It is the third All-Defensive team nod for Embiid and the first appearance for Thybulle. Clippers All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard, a former two-time Defensive Player of the Year, rounds out the All-Defensive Second Team this season.

Here are the full voting results for the All-Defensive First and Second Teams, with each player’s point total noted in parentheses:

First Team:

Second Team:

Suns guard/forward Mikal Bridges, Hawks center Clint Capela, and Pacers forward/center Myles Turner were among the highest vote-getters who missed the cut for the Second Team. You can find the full voting results right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rudy Gobert Named Defensive Player Of The Year

Jazz center Rudy Gobert has been selected as the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. This is the third DPOY honor for Gobert, who also won the award in 2018 and 2019.

During his eight NBA seasons, Gobert has established himself as one of the league’s best shot blockers. He averaged a career-best 2.7 rejections per game this season and ranked first in a number of defensive analytics stats, including defensive real plus-minus and defensive RAPTOR, by a wide margin.

“It takes team effort, mental toughness, hard work and dedication,” Gobert told Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link). “Every day you have to come in with a mindset to make your team better on that end.”

Gobert received 84 first-place votes, along with 14 for second place and two for third place for an overall total of 464 points, the NBA announced in its official press release.

The SixersBen Simmons was second with 15/67/11 and 287 points, followed by the WarriorsDraymond Green with 0/13/37 and 76 points. The other first-place vote went to Bam Adebayo of the Heat, who came in fourth.

Eight other players received at least one DPOY vote, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Clint Capela, Joel Embiid, and Jrue Holiday. Perhaps the most unexpected vote belonged to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was placed third on one ballot.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Milton, Simmons, Curry

Joel Embiid didn’t get the MVP trophy he thought he deserved, so he turned his attention back to the pursuit of an NBA title, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Shortly before the start of Tuesday’s game, Denver’s Nikola Jokic was announced as this year’s MVP, with Embiid finishing a distant second. The Sixers center responded to the news with 40 points and 13 rebounds in a Game 2 win over Atlanta.

“It’s disappointing because as a player, you work hard for moments like this,” Embiid said. “But then again, it’s out of my control. There’s nothing I can do about it. You just got to come out every year and just be ready and do my job. But I’m focused on the playoffs, I’m focused on winning the championship. … So I’m not worried about those awards and stuff. If and when I’m holding that (Larry O’Brien) Trophy, anything else won’t matter.”

Embiid has been dominant in the first two games against the Hawks, averaging 39.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocks per game despite dealing with a small meniscus tear in his right knee that he suffered in round one. He admits having “limited mobility,” but said he’s found ways to adjust his game to still be effective.

“No excuses,” teammate Tobias Harris said. “He understands that. This is the playoffs. The way the NBA season was, I don’t think anybody is 100%. So when he steps on the floor, he has that attitude and that mentality that it’s, ‘win.'”

There’s more on the Sixers:

  • After playing just 38 seconds in the series opener, Shake Milton became a difference maker in Game 2, notes John Schuhmann of NBA.com. The third-year guard came off the bench to score 14 points and help Philadelphia break open a close game.
  • Another low-scoring performance by Ben Simmons is reviving questions about how far the Sixers can advance in the playoffs with minimal production from their second-best player, points out Brad Botkin of CBS Sports. Simmons finished with four points and only took three shots from the field in Game 2.
  • Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic looks at how Seth Curry has been able to rise from his early days in the G League to be an important contributor on a playoff team. Curry, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Mavericks, is averaging 24.0 PPG in his last three games.

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Griffin, Simmons, Raptors

With James Harden sidelined, Bruce Brown‘s role has expanded and the Nets guard is thriving, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. Brown blanketed Khris Middleton while piling up 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and no turnovers in Brooklyn’s Game 2 blowout of the Bucks on Monday. “Bruce just comes in and plays extremely hard,” Kevin Durant said. Brown’s value is rising at an opportune time, as he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Blake Griffin, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, continued his resurgence with another strong defensive outing against Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 2, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes. The Nets big man only took four shots, making three, after his 18-point, 14-rebound performance in Game 1. “He always plays with that good energy, fire to him,” Brown said. “They counted him out at the beginning of this year, so he’s got something to prove.”
  • Sixers coach Doc Rivers has compiled a series of video clips to demonstrate to the league that Ben Simmons doesn’t get a fair shake when guarding smaller players, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “You should never be penalized for playing straight, solid, legal, physical defense,” Rivers said. Rivers has an ulterior motive to lobby for Simmons since the Sixers would prefer to have him guard the Hawks’ top scorer, Trae Young, during the conference semifinals.
  • The Raptors have enough versatile defenders to get by without a traditional center, Eric Koreen of The Athletic argues. Finding a big man with athleticism and agility should be the priority, with a free agent such as JaMychal Green, Daniel Theis, Richaun Holmes or Nerlens Noel filling that need.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Simmons, Celtics, Lowry

Joel Embiid has been listed as questionable for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The Sixers center will undergo further treatment and workouts before his status is determined for the Sunday afternoon game, Charania adds.

Embiid hasn’t played since suffering a small meniscus tear in his right knee on Monday. He is considered day to day, and his availability will depend on how the knee responds.

Embiid was limited to individual workouts during practices today and Friday, according to Ky Carlin of USA Today’s Sixers Wire. Embiid didn’t join his teammates for any live-ball activities at either session.

“The same,” coach Doc Rivers said when asked for an update on Embiid’s condition. “He did a little bit on the floor, no live, I can say that today. Just he did what he could do.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The uncertainty surrounding Embiid gives Ben Simmons a chance to cement his legacy with the Sixers, writes Marcus Hayes of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Simmons helped close out the Wizards with a triple-double in Game 5, but the Hawks should be a more difficult challenge. Hayes points out that Rivers and first-year president of basketball operations Daryl Morey inherited Simmons from the previous regime and may not hesitate to move on from him if they don’t believe he can help them win a title.
  • Celtics assistant Scott Morrison will interview for the team’s head coaching vacancy, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. The 43-year-old Morrison earned G League Coach of the Year honors in 2015 with the Maine Red Claws and has been part of Brad Stevens’ staff since 2017. Fellow Boston assistant Jerome Allen, who has also been confirmed for an interview with the Celtics, will interview for the Trail Blazers’ head coaching spot as well, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
  • The Raptors will have plenty of competition for Kyle Lowry in free agency this summer, with the Lakers, Heat, Knicks and Sixers all expected to pursue him, writes Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star. He notes that Lowry said, “Money talks, and years talk” in his postseason press conference, indicating the veteran point guard will be looking for a multiyear offer.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Simmons, Harden, Randle

Sixers center Joel Embiid‘s status is uncertain after being diagnosed with a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee, but the team remains hopeful that he’ll be able to return sometime during the playoffs. In a session with reporters this afternoon, head coach Doc Rivers was asked if he thinks Embiid will be back on the court this postseason, tweets Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

“Yeah, I do. Or at least I’m hopeful, I think that would be a better way of putting it,” Rivers replied. “He’s going to do his treatment and we’re going to assess him day to day, and see what we can get.” When asked specifically about the second round, Rivers said, “I have no expectation, other than I hope for him to be back. I can’t give you a timeline. … I can just tell you that he’s willing to go through whatever it takes to get back on the floor. He’s a warrior.” (Twitter link).

Embiid was dominant in the first three games of Philadelphia’s first-round series with Washington, averaging 29.3 points per night as the Sixers took a 3-0 lead. He played just 11 minutes in Game 4 before leaving with knee soreness, and the Wizards were able to remain alive, setting up a potentially pivotal game tonight.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Rivers defended his other star after the Wizards took advantage of Ben Simmons‘ poor free throw shooting in the Game 4 victory, notes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Washington committed four intentional fouls on Simmons, who missed three free throws in the final two minutes. “You want me to take Ben Simmons off the floor? He’s pretty good. I’ll pass on that suggestion,” Rivers said. “He could have (made more free throws) but he didn’t. But he still does other things. I’ll take that. Listen, keep the narrative going, we’re just going to keep playing.”
  • The Nets quickly shifted their focus to a second-round series with the Bucks after finishing off the Celtics Tuesday night, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN“I’m thinking about them right now,” James Harden said at the post-game press conference. “Just the matchups and things that they do on both ends of the ball. Obviously, we know how good they are on both sides and their individual talents.”
  • The Knicks aren’t giving much attention to provocative comments from Hawks center Clint Capela, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. “Don’t care, don’t care, don’t care,” Julius Randle said. “I just heard about it and I do not care. We’re not focused on that. We’re focused on what we’ve got to do as a team.”

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Rose, Simmons, Kyrie, Tatum

The Knicks evened their first-round series at one game apiece with a win over Atlanta on Wednesday night. And, as Ian Begley of SNY.tv writes, two midseason acquisitions whom head coach Tom Thibodeau pushed to add played key roles in that victory. Derrick Rose scored a team-high 26 points in 39 minutes off the bench, while Taj Gibson was a game-best plus-23 in his 30 minutes.

Rose, who was acquired via trade, and Gibson, a free agent signing, both played for Thibodeau in Chicago and Minnesota before reuniting with him in New York. As Begley observes, they’re the veterans Thibodeau trusts the most, and the Knicks’ head coach didn’t sound surprised that giving them big minutes helped turn the tide in Game 2.

“I just wanted to change it up,” Thibodeau said of putting Rose and Gibson in the Knicks’ lineup to start the third quarter. “I thought we had to do something different and that’s why you have a bench. Those guys came in and played great.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Although Elfrid Payton technically started Wednesday’s game, it’s clear that Rose will be the point guard the Knicks rely on in this series, writes Paul Schwartz of The New York Post. Rose said he felt good after logging 39 minutes, while Payton was a minus-7 in his five minutes and didn’t play after the first quarter.
  • After receiving some criticism in Philadelphia for putting up just six points (to go along with 15 rebounds and 15 assists) in the Sixers‘ Game 1 win, Ben Simmons scored 22 points on Wednesday and addressed that negative feedback after the game. “I’m not trying to stick to anybody in Philly,” Simmons said, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. “I thought it was pretty hard to get 15 assists and 15 rebounds in the NBA in the playoffs. I thought that was pretty impressive. And we won. What y’all want? You want to win? For me, I’m here to win and I’m doing what I need to do to help my team win, whatever it is. I’m not trying to prove anybody wrong or anything like that. I’m trying to do my job to win.”
  • As the Celtics/Nets series shifts from Brooklyn to Boston, former Celtic Kyrie Irving said he expects to hear plenty of jeers from the crowd, but hopes that C’s fans “keep it strictly basketball,” per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “(Hopefully) there’s no belligerence or racism going on — subtle racism — people yelling s–t from the crowd, but even if it is, it’s part of the nature of the game and we’re just going to focus on what we can control,” Irving said.
  • During an appearance on Zolak & Bertrand on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston (audio link), Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he thinks there’s a good chance Jayson Tatum will play in Game 3 after suffering an eye injury on Tuesday. “The last I heard was that he was doing better and that Friday looks probable,” Stevens said.