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April 13, 2017

Now healthy, Ben Simmons preparing to be Sixers' point guard

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The major takeaway from Thursday’s Sixers exit interviews in Camden might be that #RaiseTheCat was therapeutic for Ben Simmons.

At the team’s practice facility, Simmons spoke to the media for the first time since opening night, reflecting back on a rookie season that saw him sidelined for the entire 82 games (well, technically he was cleared for 5-on-5 before the finale in New York). When asked what helped him make it through a year during which he could have gone stir crazy, Simmons’ answer was quick.

“My pets, my animals,” he said.

When the conversation switched to on-court matters, there is still a major fascination over a 6’10” player lining up at point guard in the NBA. With Simmons almost assuredly a trickier fit than fellow core piece Joel Embiid, the Sixers missed out on a season of adjusting to their very, very tall primary ball-handler.

But that is exactly what the Sixers mean when they envision Simmons’ role: point guard.

“When I say point guard, I mean point guard,” Brett Brown said on the latest Vertical Podcast with Woj. “Who takes the ball out of bounds? Who receives the ball when the ball goes in the basket? Who brings it up the floor after a free throw? I’m not talking about Draymond, I’m not talking about LeBron, I’m talking about a point guard. And I intend on trying this.”

Brown seems to know that there will be challenges ahead with the arrangement, and for what it’s worth, Simmons does too.

“I’m with that, I definitely want to be the point guard and one of the leaders,” Simmons said. “It’s going to be tough, but I definitely want to learn it.”

Since Simmons went down in training camp, Brown has talked at length about trying to keep the top-overall pick engaged. An element of Simmons’ workload this year involved studying film with his head coach (“just different plays, summer league plays and LSU and things”).

And on his own time, Simmons paid attention to point guards when watching a ton of NBA basketball.

“It was more just watching every NBA game and seeing who was running the point and the way they ran it,” Simmons said. “It wasn’t really looking into certain players, it was more just how they run the teams. And every team is different, every point guard is different, and every point guard has their way of competing.”

Simmons said he’ll get back to work on Tuesday and work his way slowly up to 5-on-5 even if he has been cleared. There are going to be many Sixers storylines in 2017-18, but how the offense functions with Ben Simmons at the controls will be at the top of that list.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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