The first dress rehearsal is officially in the books as the Sixers defeated the Celtics 108-99 last night. There seemed to be a sense of relief in the locker room after the team had its first look in true action. They will be back on the court on Friday in a matchup against the Pacers, but for the moment lets take a look at how Doc Rivers and some of the players thought the scrimmage went:
Doc Rivers impressed with Sixers
Doc Rivers spoke before the game about how this matchup would provide the greatest look into what their level of preparation and fitness currently is as the season approaches. He seemed fairly satisfied after the game and talked specifically about the pace that they were able to establish. Rivers also said this will remain a point of emphasis and put a lot of the responsibility on Ben Simmons for raising this level.
He talked highly of Joel Embiid, saying how the team did not put a major focus on running plays for him and he still quietly added 18 points in just 17 minutes of play. Rivers also gave praise to Furkan Korkmaz and Dwight Howard for the energy beyond the stat sheets that they added.
What will soon be a theme of the night, Rivers raved about the play of Tyrese Maxey. He began by talking about how this rookie class has all come in humble and with great mindsets saying, “They want to listen.” When specifically talking about Maxey, Rivers spoke on how polished he is from a coaching perspective. Maxey’s ability to defend, communicate on both ends, and the variety of ways he can score the basketball has made him stand out early on.
Ben Simmons loves new-look Sixers offense
As most would expect, Ben Simmons was extremely excited that Doc Rivers wants to push the pace of the offense even more. Simmons said how this is the way he likes playing best and that is clearly reflective in his game. Ben joked about his legs dragging in the early minutes but felt the team found its stride a little later on. He also spoke super highly of his new coach, saying “Doc has been a great coach so far in letting guys play.” This has also been a common theme amongst the team in the time leading up to the season.
Simmons was the next man on the list to speak highly of Tyrese Maxey after his Sixers debut. Simmons talked in-depth about the amount of work Maxey puts in and how it was not a surprise to see this early success. Ben has been talked about as one of the guys who helped Maxey in his transition into the league and Simmons” stoic personality showing excitement for the 20-year-old rookie should warm the hearts of all Sixers faithful.
Tyrese Maxey shines
After an extremely exciting first performance as a Sixer, Tyrese Maxey took to the podium to handle questions as if he was already an NBA vet. Maxey mentioned Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Mike Scott as guys that have taken him under his wing and eased the transition to the NBA. Simmons and Maxey both spoke on how they discussed dictating the pace when the ball is in his hand. Maxey made it a point to keep this in mind during this scrimmage and this showed in his play.
His performance is even more impressive, considering he has had an extremely limited time to get ready with the team. Due to a positive COVID test, Maxey was forced to quarantine and did not join the team on time. While he watched all practices over zoom, Maxey was only able to be a full participant in 2 practices prior to this scrimmage. Maxey talked about his time in quarantine and said that his loss of sense of taste and smell was his only symptom. Thankfully, Tyrese made a full recovery and he still was able to lift and workout during his time away from the team.
Shake Milton pushing for a starting role
Sixers underdog Shake Milton also dazzled in the preseason opener. He has been talked about extremely highly by Doc Rivers throughout this offseason and his trust in Shake was shown in this scrimmage. Rivers continued the trend of speaking highly of Milton after the game by saying “he can be the starter or the sixth-man. He is going to be a heck of a basketball player. He really is you can just see it all over.”
Milton also spoke highly of Rivers saying, “It feels good to play for a coach like that.” Shake showed the right mindset talking about how it didn’t matter if he was starting or coming off the bench and even added that “coming off the bench definitely has its perks.” Milton also talked about how much he just wants to be a part of a team that wins and that he expects to primarily play as a ball-handler with the second unit.
Obviously there can not be too much stock put into the first preseason game or comments made afterward, but the renewed optimism surrounding this Sixers team is a great feeling. This team undoubtedly will be more fun to watch compared to last year’s team and hopefully success comes right along with this. The personalities on the roster are already starting to show face and the promising on-court results seem likely to come.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire