Ben Simmons is officially listed as questionable to play against the Cavaliers tonight but it seems likely he will be available for his first matchup against the defending Eastern Conference champions. The Sixers have been game planning for him to guard LeBron James.
"Tonight I'm going to start on J.R. (Smith)," Robert Covington said after shootaround. "We're going to throw different matchups at LeBron. We're going to start Benny on him. But we're going to see how the game goes and get a feel for how we're going to defend him."
Simmons missed Saturday's win over the Magic because of left elbow soreness. He was taking free throws after Monday's shootaround wrapped up. Simmons' teammates weren't overly concerned about the extent of his injury.
"I think he's fine tonight," JJ Redick said.
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The questionable status means a 50 percent chance of playing.
James on Simmons
Which leads us to the potential face-off between Simmons and James. The two have had a close relationship since Simmons entered the league because they are represented by the same agency. They've worked out together in the offseason but have yet to compete in a regular-season game.
Simmons has drawn comparisons to the future Hall of Famer after playing fewer than 20 games. There are similarities in their frames, ball handling skills and abilities to attack the basket. James is leaving all that on the court.
"You guys do that comparison stuff," James said at Cavs shootaround. "I think Ben is his own makeup of speed, power, quickness, ability to pass the ball but have a feel for the game. Ben is Ben. I am who I am."
James isn't making the game about their matchup, either.
"It's not about me vs. Ben," he said. "It's about the Cavs vs. the 76ers. We want to continue to play good ball. They've been playing good ball, especially at home. So it's not about me vs. him at all."
James on Embiid
One player James has seen play the Cavs before is Joel Embiid. The big man averaged 22.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists against them last season and he's only gotten better since then.
"He's good," James said. "He's very good. Very talented. Multi-dimensional, can shoot the ball from the outside, can get to the post, footwork, up-and-unders, plays with a lot of energy, and he's funny too. Very funny. Very funny guy."
James on the Eagles
James roots for the Browns and Cavs. Talent recognizes talent, though, and he's seeing it in quarterback Carson Wentz, who's led the Eagles to an NFL-best 10-1 record.
"I've got three guys that I love watching play: Tom Brady, Antonio Brown mixed with Le'Veon Bell - they're on the same team so I get an opportunity to watch the same guys at the same time - and my favorite player right now is Carson Wentz."
James went on to give his own analysis of why the quarterback has been so successful in the Eagles' 10-1 season (see story).
"I told my brother earlier in the season that I just love the way he plays the game," James continued. "The way he's able to get to his progressions throughout a three-step drop or five-step drop and then if everything breaks down, his ability to run, get outside the pocket. He can make passes or get yards with his feet. Very smart player, from the outside looking in, obviously. And they've got a really good team."