When I sat down to write this week, I'll be honest, I had no idea what about. Well, actually, I had plenty of ideas, but all of them required a few minutes with players to help the stories come to life. And the Sixers hadn't had a practice or shootaround with media availability for over two weeks because of travel, scheduled days off, rest, etc.
And then I realized, I've learned some pretty neat things about the Sixers 35 games in.
And here we are. Random things I've learned about each player.
Jimmy Butler is his own person, and he loves to tell you that he does not care about what any person thinks about him. He uses all the rejection that he's had in his life as his form of motivation. He also loves to lift other people up, especially people that don't get as much attention as others. Ask him about anyone who's not in the spotlight, and he'll talk your ear off - in a good way.
Mike Muscala likes yoga and meditating and uses an app called Headspace. On game days, when he can fit it in, he likes to do yoga in the morning.
T.J. McConnell's favorite wine is a burgundy (he thanks JJ Redick for turning him on to this) and he's got a hilarious self-deprecating type of humor. He also knows how to read his teammates, and he can tell when he needs to make someone laugh on the bench to get their spirits up.
Joel Embiid chats with Sonny Hill after every home game, usually seen going over the box score. He's a very picky eater and says whatever is on his mind. His favorite phrase in timeouts is a tossup between "They can't guard me" and "Get me the [expletive] ball." Side note: I appreciate him bending down to my level in every walk-off interview.
Landry Shamet had a serious rookie moment when he forgot his passport when the team was traveling to Toronto. Don't worry, he was still able to catch a flight after the team plane left. The funniest part was he was rushing out of his house to grab Chick-fil-A for his teammates (rookie duties!) and when he realized he forgot his passport, he still dropped off the Chick-fil-A for the team plane.
Ben Simmons is quiet, but there is one type of scenario that I've seen where he lets his guard down. The first day I met him was at a coat drive he was putting on for kids in Camden, New Jersey. I'm telling you, something changes in him when kids are around. You know how Redick describes Ben as a guy who sits behind a glass wall plotting his next move? That glass wall is gone when kids are surrounding him. When he is walking through the tunnel before and after games, he can almost always be seen picking out a kid in the crowd to either give something to or to even give a handshake to.
Amir Johnson gives every single person a fist bump on the bus after the game. I mean every single person. If you've got your headphones on and aren't paying attention, you better be ready. Win or lose. Good game or bad, you can always count on the Johnson postgame fist bump.
Markelle Fultz is a really nice kid. I mean that. There is a reason that so many people are rooting for him. Like Amir, it doesn't matter who you are, if he sees you, he'll say hi and chat with you with a smile on his face.
Wilson Chandler might seem shy and quiet, but he's really easy to talk to, and when you talk to him, you forget he's a basketball player. He's also really appreciative of what he has and where he is. Being new to the Sixers' organization, he was one of the players that was most touched by the team sending Remy Ndiaye home for Christmas.
JJ Redick is really, really smart. One of his favorite podcasts is Waking Up with Sam Harris, who is a neuroscientist and philosopher. One time, I picked a random episode just to see if I'd like it too, and let's just say the episode, which was three hours in length and on the scientific study of consciousness and brain complexity, went way over my head.
Furkan Korkmaz has always dreamt of participating in the NBA slam dunk contest. He once won a dunk contest dressed in a Darth Vader costume.
Jonah Bolden is really into technology (hence the artificial intelligence breakfast presentation). He comes off as quiet, but, as Butler says, he does know how to throw a "slick remark" or two.
Demetrius Jackson is really attentive at shootarounds. Often he's on the sidelines watching as the Sixers are running their sets, but he's always attentive, trying to take it all in. He's also always wearing green Notre Dame slides, where he went to college.
Shake Milton is trying to soak up everything he can. When he's not with the Delaware Blue Coats, watch him on the sidelines with Jimmy Butler, taking in every piece of advice he can. He once had what he said was a 10-hour bus ride traveling to a game while he was with the G-League because of weather delays and a couple days later he was called back up to the Sixers.
Justin Patton grew seven inches his sophomore year of high school. Looking forward to him getting healthy because he seems like another great guy to have around the locker room.
Coach's Bonus: Brett Brown's favorite phrase is definitely "gut-feel."
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