In this most uplifting of 76ers’ offseasons, the biggest reason for pause is not the ankle sprain suffered by top overall pick Markelle Fultz in a summer-league game Saturday in Las Vegas.
It doesn’t appear to be a big deal.
Really, it doesn’t.
Just keep that in mind, while all around you, people are losing their heads (and blaming it on Bryan Colangelo). On Monday ESPN’s Michael Wilbon became the latest talking head to jokingly suggest that this means Fultz will be out two years, and, well, hardy har to that.
So push that to the back burner, and hope it doesn’t boil over. The front-burner issue, meanwhile, is who gets to run the team. Will it be Fultz, a natural point guard, or Ben Simmons, Brett Brown’s decidedly unnatural choice to fill that position?
Simmons, a 6-10 forward with an unselfish bent, offered his opinion to reporters Monday. Per Philly.com’s Keith Pompey:
“For me, I think you can move me anywhere. But I’m a starting point guard.”
He went on to say that he and Fultz can coexist, and Fultz said the same thing back on draft night:
“Great players know how to play with each other. Really it’s just do whatever you need to do to win. It’s going to be times where maybe Ben brings up the ball or times where I’m bringing up the ball. It’s going to do whatever we need to do to win.”
Brown doesn’t seem to think it will be an issue, either. He announced late in the regular season that Simmons is going to be his point guard in ’17-18, and said on draft night that the addition of Fultz “really doesn’t” change his plan.
Curiously, he insisted on referring to Simmons as “the primary ballcarrier,” while adding that Fultz “has the ability to be a significant ballcarrier,” meaning that he used that word more in one presser than Andy Reid did in his entire tenure as Eagles head coach.
There’s no reason not to believe Brown. He’s a sharp guy, and one who is suddenly blessed with a talented roster after being forced to make do with “basketball gypsies” (his terminology) his first four years as coach. He can make this work, and you can never have too many unselfish guys.
The ultimate example of this, of course, is the Warriors. At times Stephen Curry – nominally the point guard – brings the ball up. At times Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala or even Kevin Durant do so. And I may be going out on a limb here, but it seems to work pretty well for them.
So benefit of the doubt in the case of the Sixers, to be sure. The one nagging concern involves the egos of the respective … ballcarriers. Both were top overall picks. Neither has played an NBA minute. Both will be looking to prove themselves.
Will this be a case of clashing agendas? Because if it is, the whole operation could be affected.
Suffice it to say that it will take some time to figure this whole thing out. They’re both incredibly young – Simmons is not quite 21, Fultz 19 – and coming from college teams that struggled to mesh in the only seasons they spent on campus.
The safety net is provided by a certain 7-2 man-child who has a ridiculously varied skill set and the ability to lighten the mood, should things ever get tense:
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) July 11, 2017
Don’t ever change, Jo Jo. Just don’t.