76ers training camp is back in full swing, but this year things are a little different. There are a new coaching staff and a good amount of new players. However, the two main pillars, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, are still here, but the vibe seems different, the talk is different, and the energy is different.
Unfortunately for the team, due to the Horford trade not being official yet, and some players unable to start practicing due to Covid-19 protocols, they only had 13 players practicing. Doc Rivers was asked about this specifically, and if it makes things more difficult, and while Rivers acknowledge that they would want everyone there, the benefit is that players are getting more reps, and practice is more efficient. Doc points out that many guys haven’t even been able to play a pickup game since the bubble, so getting as much time on the court and as many reps, as a player can, is a positive spin he can take on missing so many players for practice.
But what about these practices? I mean we talking about practice? PRACTICE!
Doc said not only has he been happy with the practices, but says that Ben Simmons had an off the charts practice today. He went on to say, that Ben when he had the ball was aggressive as usual, but off-ball today, Ben was “amazing”. Doc specifically mentioned Ben’s cutting to the basket, and his off-ball screening, getting players open, and said that Ben was super active, again calling it “amazing”.
Rivers spoke of Ben and Joel playing more of a two-man game, and said it’s going well so far in practice. He mentioned a time where Ben and Joel ran a play, and Doc and Joerger both looked at each other and laughed, and said, “well, no one is going to stop that”. however, Rivers did go on to say that it is a work in progress and that Embiid and Simmons need to continue to work and get to a point where it comes naturally.
Ben Simmons was asked about how picking up the pace has been working in practice, and how he thinks it will translate. Ben said he has been encouraging everyone to get up and down the floor more. Simmons says he is getting the rebounds and running, and getting the ball down the floor quickly, and getting assists on the break. Ben pointed out that Joel, has been one of the best at getting down the court, and even if he isn’t getting the ball, he is getting down the court on the break, getting in position, which is making it easier for other guys to score.
Justin Anderson was also asked about practice, and the difference between his first time here and now, including differences in the stars. Anderson was quick to say that Ben Simmons is fast, always has been, but is super impressed with Joel for keeping up. Anderson followed up by saying the team is attacking practice at a high level.
I was able to ask Justin that if he thought being a veteran now, as compared to a second-year player his first time here, there was another element he could bring to the team, leadership wise, and help guide some of the younger guys? Justin said he has had some conversations with guys on the side, but said he has been deferring to Simmons and Embiid to be the vocal leaders in practice. Anderson said he wants to focus on making the team, and making the team better, and says guys like Joel and Ben have been doing a great job in that role so he will continue to allow them to embrace it. He also says Dwight Howard has been leading and vocal in practice.
Multiple times throughout the press conference the idea that Ben and Joel being vocal leaders in practice, along with Dwight Howard, came up. It seems like they are embracing a leadership role, and being vocal in practice, and the team is benefitting from it.
The team is attacking practice at a high level, Ben is thriving, Joel is running, and shooters are shooting. Speaking of, Ben was asked what he has been working on with assistant coach Sam Cassel and brought up mid-range shots, and corner threes. Cassell was a great addition to this staff and Ben”s willingness to work with him can really pay off.
The energy is there, some more players will be coming soon, they added shooting and coaching, and by all accounts, the mindset is there. Picking up the pace, attacking practices, and leading. Now it’s time to translate all this to the season.