Report: Sixers’ Sam Cassell a top contender for Wizards head coach job


Much of the talk in the wake of the Sixers ‘shocking second-round loss to the Hawks revolved around Ben Simmons’ poor play to end the season and his inability / reluctance to shoot basketball. In recent days, some of that anger has shifted to head coach Doc Rivers for not making the proper adjustments during Game 7, especially with the way he handled his rotations. Going to 10 players in an elimination game is still difficult to figure out.

He has also been criticized for the way he has treated his players, especially Simmons, who many say was pampered during the regular season, allowed to continue playing in his own way without being forced to make changes to his. game that would have helped his team avoid the surprisingly early exit. And, yes, changes are hard to make in season, but forcing your point guard to be more aggressive and assertive is not a fundamental change, nor to ask him to shoot more. At least that’s how it should be, but when it comes to Simmons, all bets are off.

But contrary to popular belief, the team has prioritized improving Simmons. And there were days earlier in the season where it seemed like the 24-year-old former top pick was putting everything in place, only to then have all that smell out the window when the playoffs rolled in. . Now one of the guys who had the most impact on Simmons during the regular season – and a guy who would theoretically be able to help the young guard take the next step if the Sixers chose not to. swap it – might go away as well.

According to Brian Windhorst in a recent episode of his podcast Hoop Collective, Sixers assistant coach Sam Cassell and Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. are “two of the top contenders” for the vacant Wizards job.

And Windhorst isn’t the only one linking Cassell to the squad where he made his coaching debut …

After a 15-year playing career, Cassell was an assistant to the Wizards from 2009 to 2014, until he was hired by Rivers, who was then the head coach of the Clippers. Cassell stayed in LA with Rivers until following him to Philly ahead of the 2020-21 season.

And one of his big roles with the Sixers this season was mentoring Simmons, which means the loss of Cassell could be a problem if the Sixers hope to fix what’s plaguing their young All-Star. Critics will say Cassell can leave with Simmons, as any impact the former NBA player had on his student was gone when the season hit its most critical moments. And to a certain extent, it is true. But Cassell can’t control so many things, and he’s not a trained sports psychologist, which is what Simmons needs more than anything right now.

Before the playoff collapse, however, Cassell was receiving rave reviews for his work with Simmons.

First off, Simmons himself credited Cassell with helping him with his free throw shot. That admittedly disappeared in the playoffs, but it was pretty clear to anyone watching that the issues started between Simmons’ ears, something Simmons publicly admitted during the Hawks series. But at the end of February, the Sixers point guard was going through a great shooting streak, and here’s what he had to say then about why he looked better on the line, via The Sixers Wire.

Another big thing that stood out was his success on the foul line. He went 3 for 5 on Thursday, but in his previous four games he’s shot nine, 13, 14 and six free throws and he made them 78.6%. It’s something new to his game that isn’t normally seen by him.

“I think Sam (Cassell) and I talk about it and work on it every day,” Simmons added. “I just take my time, get into a rhythm and find out if I’m missing, why I missed. I think it was big. I am confident to go to the line. I like going into the free ones and having that confidence to take them down, especially if I’m going to shoot 10 or 12 a game. […]

“I think overall we just work together,” Simmons concluded. “I can relate to him. We talk every day and we have a great relationship. It just keeps growing. He helped me a lot with my game and the management of this team. []

AFTER: The Only Person Who Can Fix Ben Simmons Is Ben Simmons | Rivers says the Sixers can get the better of Simmons. Should we believe it?

In addition to working on the set of Simmons, Cassell also played a key role in Simmons’ growth as a post player. Just two days after Simmons’ comments about his mentor, Rivers spoke about his longtime assistant’s ability to help players grow. Again, here’s more of Ky Carlin from The Sixers Wire.

“I think Sam was amazing,” Rivers said. “He did it everywhere he went. He has a great ability to communicate. He’s extremely blunt, and I think he’s one of those guys, there are guys in the league who have a way of telling you the truth and not offending you. I think Sam does a great job for that.

One offensive area that has been noticeable with Simmons has been the team that posted it more often. While Joel Embiid owns the painting and post-up spots for Philadelphia, there is a way to get Simmons published as well. Rivers wanted this from Simmons, and Cassell helped him with that as well.

“He’s really working on his postgame because it’s an area where we think about by the end of the year, even now Ben is great, but we want him to be almost unstoppable by the end. of the year, ”added Rivers. “We are working on it every day. ” []

And finally, there is the issue of turnover. It may seem like a long time ago now, but at the start of the season, Simmons was an absolute cash machine. In the first 41 games of the season (which would be a standard half-season any other year), Simmons averaged 3.4 turnovers per game and was in danger of posting another career-worst score. In the last 30 games of the regular season, however, that number has dropped to 2.3 turnovers per game. And if you look at just April and May, Simmons averaged just 1.6 turnovers per game.

When all is said and done, Simmons posted a career weak 3.0 turnovers per game.

Much of the credit for this turnaround can be attributed to “turnover whisperer” Sam Cassell.

“Sam destroys it with every turnover,” Rivers said. “Even the one today, if you saw, (Simmons) was looking at the bench because Sam literally lost his mind there. Sam is the turnover whisperer, I guess, right now, because he’s all over Ben about it. It’s important for us, especially in the home stretch.

Simmons confirmed that Cassell has indeed often expressed the importance of avoiding turnovers.

“Yeah, Sam’s been on my ass which is a good thing,” he laughed. “He’s trying to help me. I’m the leader, I often have the ball in my hands, so I have to take care of it. We’re trying to make sure teams don’t have quick breaks, and that starts with turnovers, not ball bounces. As long as I take care of the ball, reduce my turnovers, find my guys and have assists, I think I’ll be fine. ” []

There are two ways to look at it: 1) The Sixers put their best assistant on Simmons, and he worked like crazy, and Simmons regressed again when the playoffs rolled around, so losing him doesn’t matter. , or 2) Any progress made with Simmons that the team hoped to lead into the 2021 offseason and ultimately improve for next season will essentially start from square one.

Even if you think the right way to look at it is the first one, the Sixers should try to do whatever they can to keep Cassell – they have other guards to develop, including last year’s first-round pick. . But at this point, it seems like closing your eyes and hoping for the best is all that can be done, because a guy like Cassell, who has been an NBA assistant for over a decade, has long had to take a hit. main trainer. And with him now linked to the squad that gave him his start on this side of the bench, maybe now is the time.

Hopefully Rivers has a backup plan to get the most out of Simmons this offseason because they’ll need it. Unless, of course, Daryl Morey has his own plans …

AFTER: If the Sixers trade Ben Simmons, who can they get for him?

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