If the Philadelphia 76ers have made one thing clear early its that they believe in the philosophy that defense wins championships.
All of the team’s stars have spoken on the idea of being a team that focuses on defense first, with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid going as far to say that they both have their eyes on Defensive Player of the Year Honors.
Simmons took that one step further during training camp practice, sending a clear message to the rest of the NBA.
“It’s going to be difficult for teams to play against us,” Simmons said.
It’s not the first time Simmons has been stern about defense early on. He seemed to issue a challenge to his teammates early this week.
“I want to be the best defensive player on the team,” Simmons told reporters. “Hopefully everybody on my team hears that. I know we have a great defensive team.”
That won’t be easy, considering the Sixers’ starting lineup is chock full of players who can produce on the defensive end. Veteran free agent addition Al Horford made the All-Defensive second team in 2018, and Embiid has the last two seasons as well.
“A lot of great things can be accomplished with the people in this room,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.
Sixers Gushing Over Potential of Zhaire Smith, Matisse Thybulle
It’s not just the starters drawing rave reviews for the defense. The young guys are getting in on the action, too.
Second-year man Zhaire Smith and rookie Matisse Thybulle both impressed Brown with their intensity during the first day of camp.
“Those kids, I’ll tell you what, there’s a bounce, there’s an energy, they know what I know — I can’t play everybody,” Brown told reporters. “They both are coming out and put their hand up and say ‘look at me’ and they did today. That is for sure the quickest way where you’re going to get my attention is getting down and defending.
“They’ve got such a bounce that’s amplified because of their athleticism and they care,” Brown added. “You don’t have to pound it down their throat. I thought those two defensively were pretty special today.”
Al Horford Already Making an Impact With 76ers
Veteran big-man Al Horford has adjusted to his new colors since coming over as a free agent from the Celtics in the offseason and has made an early impact on the young Sixers.
“Just how cerebral he is, he really understands the game. How he finds cutters and that kind of stuff, you just got to be ready for the ball,” Thybulle said. “If you’re cutting, just be ready. That’s what I learned.”
Horford is excited for the fresh start in Philly, although he’s still getting used to the new, all-star faces around him.
“It’s more weird looking at Ben and Jo and being like, ‘I’m on there side!'” Horford said. “So it’s exciting to think about for me.”
Brown noted that it was a huge win for the Sixers to add Horford to their roster, but also because pried him away from a rival.
“To just have somebody like Al all by himself with his resume and so on coming to our program, and then you double-down,” Brown said, “and you are able to get him and the Celtics didn’t — win, win.”