NBA Rumor: Philadelphia 76ers Turmoil?

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Sixers still in communication with Ben Simmons

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Yet even if Morey, deep down, wishes he had a do-over on his January or March dealings, he has shown little inclination to rush into shedding Simmons, which is undoubtedly a nod to one of the most complex situations he has ever faced. All teams covet the biggest stars, but Morey is especially obsessive about it. He will surely tune out the naysayers who suggest Simmons can no longer be the centerpiece for the acquisition of a Bradley Beal-type superstar. Portland’s CJ McCollum has been mentioned often as a potential Sixers target in a Simmons deal; rest assured that Morey longs for Damian Lillard if he is targeting any Trail Blazer.

After the meetings, Brown told reporters during a news conference that he expected Simmons to spend “intense time” with Townsend in the offseason. Everyone around the team was excited. They felt like a breakthrough had occurred, that Simmons was ready not only to solidify his improvements at the line but also to begin carrying those changes into his shooting overall. After exit meetings, the players and coaches went their separate ways to recharge. Some time passed, and according to multiple league sources, when Townsend returned to the team’s facility, Brown pulled him aside. Change of plans, he said.

That season, Simmons’ free-throw shooting regressed once again, plunging back down to 60%, not quite as bad as his rookie-season marks but still a significant drop from his playoff rate. He also took just 25 shots outside of 16 feet after attempting 40 as a rookie. At one point during the year, Jim O’Brien, a longtime NBA coach and former Sixers assistant who was serving as a special adviser to Brown, posed a question during a coaches meeting. “Name me one area where Ben Simmons has improved,” he asked his colleagues. The room fell silent.

Monty Williams, who worked closely with Simmons while serving as an assistant to Brown for one season, hypothesized to friends that Simmons was scared of looking bad. Management under Colangelo even discussed having Simmons switch his shooting hand from left to right, which serves as his dominant hand in every other facet of his life. None of it worked. The more anyone pushed, the more Simmons pushed back, creating a self-fulfilling cycle. Simmons told multiple Sixers staffers that because he was a poor shooter, he figured the team would be better off with him trying to drive and kick. Which in theory is fine — his 3-point shot is never going to scare defenses into guarding out on the perimeter — but against the Hawks he did neither.

Was he suspended by the team? Is he actually injured? Is he about to be traded for Harden? You decide: Vincent Goodwill: The 76er’s decided that night [after Seth Curry being pulled from the 2nd half of game vs Knicks due to a covid-19 test that came back positive] we are going to stay in New York while everything gets sorted out. What I have gathered was that Ben Simmons left New York that evening. he left New York and went to Philadelphia. Gotta…you know…apparently probably hired a driver from a service…..the team clearly found out.

Vincent Goodwill: Here’s the one thing that we do know, Chris, because of the restaurant protocols and everything else that certain restaurants in places that you can’t go to. There are no restaurants in New York City that are approved [by the NBA], so if a team is staying in New York City they need to stay there. Apparently Ben Simmons said, ‘nah, I’m out’…I’m headed out, got a driver, went back to Philly. I believe the team found out. And I believe team security, as you know, team security knows these things, they’re like the CIA, you know what mean? They know what the writers are doing. This is like some serious stuff. So, they find out, Ben Simmons has to come back…and ‘magically’ he ends up on the injury report the next day, not playing’. Who knows how you want to connect the dots.

In fact, team sources say, Simmons became so disillusioned with the Sixers staff, he did much of his work outside the facility under the watchful eye of trainer Chris Johnson. That erosion of trust only further contributed to the splintered chemistry on the floor and tension among coaches and players. Outsiders repeatedly suggested Embiid and Simmons could not coexist, particularly within a lineup that provided poor spacing. Their divergent personalities led to speculation they disliked each other, yet, says one former Sixers staffer, it was more a disconnect than anything. “There just wasn’t a whole lot of communication,” the source says.

“I think Doc in Philly is a great fit,” a formerexecutive who worked with Riverstold HoopsHype. “I feel like he’ll be able to mesh extremely well with Ben and Joel. Now whether or not they are a great fit with one another in terms of skill set is another question, but I think Doc will do a great job with managing the personalities. He’s an excellent coach and a wonderful human being as well, so I think it will be a very good partnership there.”

From that moment onward, the 76ers pretty much put up the white flag on Game 2 of this series — and perhaps their season too — falling 128-101 to Boston in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Their energy level, particularly Embiid’s, crashed as the Celtics galloped up and down the floor. At the time of that turnover, it was a 10-point game. By the end of the third, it was up to 23 points. Maybe there are more symbolic moments available to be used to define this 76ers campaign, but that one is just as good as any. The table was set, there were good intentions, there were good people involved, and it was still a failure.

Now, they are a 6-seed down 0-2 with a $150 million payroll on the books for next season, and everyone involved knows there are probably going to be changes up and down the line. Maybe the 76ers get a win or even pull out two victories against the Celtics — though that is unlikely if Jayson Tatum keeps playing like a passed-over MVP candidate — but it will almost certainly not change the reality. It’s plain to see on the 76ers’ faces and in their body language. Like many teams before them over the decades and probably many teams to come, they are going through the motions of the end of the dreaded letdown season.

Embiid is well-aware of these comments. And recently, he mocked them and shrugged it off as he shot down the speculation regarding his on and off-court relationship with his fellow teammate, Ben Simmons, during an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “I was actually right,” Embiid claimed. “A few years ago, I predicted it. I’m sure if you go into the archives and stuff, you can see I predicted the media, with my social media and Ben, [the media] were going to try and drive us apart. At the end of the day, we know what we gotta do. I love playing with [Ben Simmons]. He’s a special talent. I think we can accomplish something special.”

Joel Embiid has heard all of the chatter about the awkward fit between he and fellow Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons on the court, and whether the two of them are capable of winning at the highest levels playing together — noises that have only grown louder as the Sixers entered the All-Star Break in fifth place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. He has a message for the doubters: just wait. “I think it’s BS,” Embiid said here Saturday morning before All-Star practice, “because when you look at the last couple years, the last two years that we’ve been playing together, it’s not a problem. This year it’s only been a problem because our offense has struggled.”

The 76ers didn’t respond to the meeting with a win, as the Bucks continued to show how they’ve separated themselves from the rest of the league, let alone the East. Philadelphia thought it would be up there with the Bucks, and perhaps would be — if it played every game at home. The 76ers haven’t defeated a team with a winning record on the road since Dec. 12 in Boston. “It’s baffling to us all,” Brand said. “We have an uphill battle. As of now, we’re going to start the playoffs on the road and we haven’t been good on the road. We need to figure this out and we have to figure it out fast but we have the group that can do it.”

That’s what happened on Sunday when the fans began booing superstar Joel Embiid for what they judged as subpar effort. Embiid then gave a hand gesture to quiet the home crowd and he appeared to yell something not too flattering as well. Back at practice on Monday, coach Brett Brown gave his thoughts and reaction to the gesture. “I’ll speak with Jo to learn what actually happened, but I think in general, it goes like this,” he prepared to say. “This city is a uniquely, aggressive city. Look at how they handle their stars from Carson Wentz to (Bryce) Harper to Joel Embiid, they’re on coaches and some of it is we just got to play better and we just got to coach better.”

OK so there is really only one way to read that, right? Problems in Sixerland. At least, that’s how Horford’s comments were perceived nationally. I asked him about it Thursday morning and he said, “No, not at all. Every year that I’ve been in the league, teams, internally, there’s always stuff that I guess goes on. What I was referring to was, I always like keeping that stuff in the group. People shouldn’t know the things that we are addressing or that we’re talking about. Sometimes the reality is people take things how they want to take them. Right now, everyone, all eyes are on us. We’re not performing to a level that we’re expected to, so people are just firing away.”

The frustration levels were clearly shown in the second half as they had their issues on both ends of the floor. Tobias Harris, who had a miserable night scoring just six points on 3-for-12 shooting and he missed all six of his attempts from deep, knows the frustration is there, but they need to stay positive. “I mean, obviously, we’re frustrated,” said Harris. “We have to stay positive and battle through. It’s just a part of the season. You have your highs and you have your lows. It’s really how you weather that storm and get through it. Obviously, we want to play better and be better. We have expectations for one another. We have to keep our head high and just be ready for the next one and go out and learn from this game and keep going.”

The Sixers, you may have heard, laid an egg on New Year’s Eve. In the words of head coach Brett Brown, they “stunk,” and did so badly enough to trigger a post-game rant from Josh Richardson on a lack of accountability in the locker room. Not the sort of thing you want to hear from a team allegedly fighting for a title. Thursday, the faces of Philadelphia had their chance to publicly weigh in on the accountability issue, having conducted a team meeting in the morning to talk things out in-house. For the time being, they’re putting on their best appearances.

“Everybody has the freedom to do whatever they want, we’re not entitled. I’ve been here the longest, Ben has been here, we’re not entitled. The way I get better, I like people telling me what I don’t do best, and I feel like every time if I do something wrong, these guys let me [know]. We’re humble, we want to learn, we want to get better…there’s no sense of people being afraid to speak up, everybody has the freedom, and that’s the culture that we have. There’s nothing going on.”

He did not mention him by name, he did not point the finger at anyone individually, but it is not hard to figure out who and what he is referring to when he uses specific examples in response to broader questions: REPORTER: Starting lineup has struggled offensively. What have you seen in that regard? EMBIID: We just got to look at ourselves and see what we can do individually, we’ve got to help each other even if it means being outside of your comfort zone for the greater [good] to help the team win. Meaning that, if you’ve got to space and shoot it, you’ve got to do it. We need everybody to buy into that and we’ll be fine, we’re going to be fine. We’re still finding our groove, we haven’t been totally healthy, the whole starting lineup. Like I said, we’ll be fine.

But Brown seemed like he had a few things he still wanted to get off his chest about that report from ESPN, which said Butler confronted Brown in a way that was outside the norm between a player and coach. He addressed the report again. “When you go into a team film and you say, this is what I see, what do you see? I’m the instigator … ” Brown said. “This is why I like coaching. I like that communication, the relationship. Sometimes, there’s subtle, respectful confrontation. There is in my home. I got no problems with any of it. I think where the thing pivots to ‘Oh, this isn’t typical,’ I don’t agree with that. “It’s happened many times. This is just the first time it’s public.”
3 years ago via ESPN

Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons called his team “too soft” for the second time this season after Friday night’s 123-121 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Playing without star center Joel Embiid, who missed the game with a sore ankle, the Sixers allowed Atlanta to rack up 62 points in the paint while outrebounding Philadelphia 44-30. “Definitely,” Simmons said when asked whether physicality was the Sixers’ biggest problem. “I think we were too soft.”

It’s been three days since a report surfaced that Jimmy Butler “aggressively challenged” Brett Brown and that the dialogue between the two was “disrespectful” during a film session in Portland. Brown stated his case again Saturday that the report was “overrated” and normal dialogue between NBA player and NBA coach in 2019. Butler agreed. We’ve been talking damn near every day. Trying to figure everything out and how we can make everyone work. Not just for myself but for everybody. I’m telling you it’s a player and a coach conversation. I think that if you’ve followed me long enough, you know if I was being confrontational because I don’t think I could hide it very well.

A report published on Friday said that Butler recently challenged Brown in a disrespectful way and wants to be utilized differently in the coach’s offensive scheme. Brown dismissed the report before Saturday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. “I didn’t feel like any of that crossed the line,” Brown said. “He’s vocal. He’s all in and he has opinions, but it’s instigated by me. None of this should surprise anybody. He’s got opinions. He wants to be heard. And he should be heard.”

A report published on Friday said that Butler recently challenged Brown in a disrespectful way and wants to be utilized differently in the coach’s offensive scheme. Brown dismissed the report before Saturday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. “I didn’t feel like any of that crossed the line,” Brown said. “He’s vocal. He’s all in and he has opinions, but it’s instigated by me. None of this should surprise anybody. He’s got opinions. He wants to be heard. And he should be heard.”
3 years ago via ESPN

Brown has told people within the organization that he had no issues with that exchange and considered it within the confines of the relationship that he’s developed with Butler, sources said. While a source close to Butler contends that his intense, direct style can come off as combative as he’s trying to make clear his viewpoints, Butler’s sluggish assimilation into the Sixers environment is causing some concern about his long-term viability and fit with the organization, league sources said. Nevertheless, the franchise’s full focus and resources remain on making this new partnership work this season and beyond.
3 years ago via ESPN

“I mean, I wouldn’t say I don’t totally like [shooting them],” Embiid said. “I mean, it’s cool and all that. But when you look at yourself and see how dominant you can be inside … it doesn’t matter. “I can score in so many ways. [But] it’s also about just feeling comfortable. Right now, I’m not feeling comfortable being in that situation. I’m sure I’m gonna take some. I’m sure some games I’m going to take 10, some games I’m going to take 15 … you’ll see.”

Williams has been more than a coach, knowing Fultz since he was 7 years old via a relationship with the family and treating him like a son or nephew. In the lead-up to the draft, Williams served as Fultz’s representation, connecting him with sponsorships from such brands as Nike, Tissot and JBL. But as things started to derail, Fultz’s mother, Ebony, and Brothers took control of the player’s off-court life. Williams said he backed off to avoid conflict, but he believes the forced separation might have affected Fultz.

Fultz is now a professional on a four-year contract worth $33 million, but close associates said Ebony still goes to great lengths to shield him. During Fultz’s first season in Philadelphia, Ebony had cameras installed inside his New Jersey home, according to several people familiar with the setup who described the indoor surveillance as unusual. The cameras have since been removed. Multiple people said Ebony has asked some who have dealt with Fultz to sign nondisclosure agreements for reasons that are unclear to them. “There’s definitely crazy [expletive] going on with the mom and how involved she is and how overprotective she is,” said a person with a close connection to Fultz. “The best possible situation is if the mom just backs off for a period of time and gives him a chance to breathe.”

When Brett Brown surveyed the smoking wreckage of Sunday’s loss in Brooklyn, he didn’t take refuge in the just-one-of-those-nights explanation. There was something deeper that went wrong, something “unacceptable,” according to the Sixers coach. “That is not who we are,” Brown said, although the box score was actually an accurate reflection of the team’s worst tendencies. He was right that it didn’t portray the better angels of their nature, but he also knew it wasn’t so out of character that it could be dismissed as a freak loss devoid of greater meaning.

“It’s the reality of the ages of the people that we have,” Brown told the media after the game, partially excusing, at least for public consumption, what happened in Barclays Center. What he said to the team privately was much harsher. “They hear me talk way deeper than what I get into with you guys. We spoke candidly,” Brown said after practice Tuesday. “You weigh up your bullets throughout the course of the year and you use them. That was one of them. That game didn’t sit well with me.”

He denied being connected to those four accounts. The problem with Colangelo’s denials, however, is that those tweets were aligned with some of the frustrations and beliefs inside the organization. According to several sources, that’s why several players believe Colangelo is linked to the tweets even if he did not directly post from the burner accounts. “I think the damage is done,” said an NBA executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I don’t know if the players can trust him. I think he lost the trust of the players unless it’s proven definitively that it wasn’t him.”

Colangelo is in Los Angeles attending agent-run workouts for NBA draft prospects this week. A league source said Colangelo was visibly shaken in a hallway as The Ringer report broke Tuesday while he was attending a BDA Sports Management workout. Along with having two first-round draft picks (10th and 26th overall), the team is preparing to make a big splash in free agency, which begins on July 1. James is the Sixers’ most sought-after target, but they are also eyeing Oklahoma City Thunder all-star Paul George, among others, according to sources.

Bryan Colangelo: Like many of my colleagues in sports, I have used social media as a means to keep up with the news. While I have never posted anything whatsoever on social media, I have used the @Phila1234567 Twitter account referenced in this story to monitor our industry and other current events. This storyline is disturbing to me on many levels, as I am not familiar with any of the other accounts that have been brought to my attention, nor do I know who is behind them or what their motives may be in using them.
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