When a new player arrives, there’s always going to be an adjustment period.
We’re already seeing that happen in the case of Jimmy Butler, who was sensational in his home debut Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see story). Butler scored 28 points and Joel Embiid, despite foul trouble, scored 23 and still managed to get up 20 shots in the Sixers’ 113-107 win over the Jazz (see observations).
But Ben Simmons had his second straight quiet game since Butler’s arrival. The reigning Rookie of the Year certainly didn’t have a poor outing Friday (10 points, eight assists, eight rebounds) and he looked more aggressive than vs. the Magic, but from a special player like Simmons, you expect more.
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It’s been just two games and there’s still a lot to figure out, but it’s clear that Simmons will have to focus more on being a facilitator. With Butler and Embiid being high-usage players and high-volume shooters, it’s a role Simmons is willing to assume and should excel in.
[Brett Brown] wants me to run the team. We spoke about that. [He] doesn’t need me to come out here and drop 20, 30, whatever the case is. If it comes to me, it comes to me. My job is to run the team. Give the ball to the guys that are open, rebound the ball, make plays. That’s the type of player I am.
At just 22, Simmons’ court vision is elite and he'll likely be among the league’s assist leaders for his entire career. Butler watched Simmons from afar and has now gotten to see him twice up close and personal. He’s already seeing what Simmons can do for his game.
On an out-of-bounds play in the guts of the game, Simmons and Butler connected on what Brown called “the game-winning” basket. The Sixers were up two with the ball and a little over 20 seconds left.
According to both Simmons and Butler, they gave each other a look and knew they were going to get the bucket.
“I’m telling you, he sees plays before they even happen,” Butler said, “which makes my job really easy because when we’re walking out of the huddle, he’s going to say, ‘Hey, this is what’s going to happen.’ Fine with me, I’m listening to you, you’ve been in this offense way longer than I have been. He makes the right play every time and it’s great to play with a guy like that.”
There’s going to be growing pains as Simmons and Butler get used to playing with each other. It wasn’t that long ago that people were concerned about Simmons playing alongside Embiid, but the two have figured it out over the last couple seasons.
Friday night was a good step in the evolution of Butler and Simmons playing together. Now that Simmons knows exactly what’s being asked of him, it should get easier.
“I think that out of anybody that’s going to experience perhaps the biggest adjustment, it’s going to be him,” Brown said of Simmons. “There are things I can continue to do to help grow him but by and large [being a true point guard is] going to be his thing. I thought he handled it with great maturity. I think he can be incredibly unique. He’s a unicorn. He’s 6-10 and he’s different.”