SALT LAKE CITY — The opening game of the Utah Jazz Summer League at the Vivint Arena had some added intrigue since two of the top three picks of the recent NBA draft were playing against each other.
Ben Simmons, the No. 1 pick for Philadelphia, and Jaylen Brown, the No. 3 pick of Boston, were on opposite sides for Monday night's contest.
Simmons, who showed off his versatility with 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists, was most impressive with his passing skills as he made several spectacular dishes for assists as well as a couple that didn’t result in assists.
Philadelphia coach Billy Lange couldn’t have been happier with the first pro game by Simmons, rattling off a list of superlatives for his young player.
“Passing, ball-handling, confidence, communication, swagger, enthusiasm, love for teammates,” Lange said. “ It wasn’t about him. He just was excited to be 19 years old around a bunch of guys and to put a logo on his chest.”
Simmons also gave Lange and the Sixers’ franchise a scare when he went down midway through the fourth quarter under his team’s basket and stayed down as action went the other way and came back as he tried to slide himself off the floor. He stayed down for a couple of minutes before being helped off, never to return.
However, it wasn’t an ankle or a knee. Turns out it was just cramps in the calf of each leg.
Simmons talked to the media afterward, as he stood with towels around each leg and said he learned an important lesson.
“Drink fluids,” he said. “You got to keep your fluids up. That’s the worst I’ve ever cramped, so I’m definitely going to stay on that.”
Simmons played 24 minutes of the 40-minute game, but pointed out it was his first action in nearly four months since his college season at LSU ended, which may have caused the cramping.
Simmons will not play in Tuesday’s game against San Antonio, but not because of his cramps. That was already the Sixers’ plan for him to rest, and he’s expected to play Thursday night against Utah.
“It has nothing to do with tonight,” said Lange. “We have a long summer league schedule ahead of us between the rest of the summer league and Las Vegas."
As for Brown, he wasn’t that noticeable in his 28 minutes as he struggled with his shooting (2 for 7 from the field and 11 of 17 from the free-throw line). His one highlight came midway through the fourth quarter when he took a lob from James Young off an out-of-bounds play and dunked it home, drawing some oohs from the crowd.
WOOD SHINES: Former UNLV standout Christian Wood, who played in 17 games for the 76ers last year, was the top scorer in the opening game Monday, scoring 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting. He had a particularly good 86-second stretch in the fourth quarter when he scored eight points, sinking a 3-pointer, thundering down the lane for a dunk and then getting free for another dunk and getting fouled.
Alas, it wasn’t enough as the Sixers lost to the Celtics 102-94
CELTICS PICKS: Boston had eight picks in last month’s NBA draft and ended up trading two of them on draft night to Memphis. Five of the other six draftees were on hand for their pro debuts in the summer league game.
Brown led the way with 16 points, while Ben Bentil (No. 51 overall) had 11 points, Demetrius Jackson (No. 45) had eight, Guerschon Yabusele scored five and Abdel Nader (No. 58) chipped in three points.
Second-year players Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter led Boston with 18 and 17 points, respectively.
SUMMER NOTES: Among the familiar faces in the VIP rows behind the basket were former Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan and his longtime assistant Phil Johnson, former Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor, Boston general manager Danny Ainge and his son Austin as well as head coach Brad Stevens. Jazz assistant Alex Jensen, who coached the Jazz Summer League team last summer but is giving way to Johnnie Bryant this year, was in a more relaxed position this year, watching with his wife, Natalie, and their 10-week-old baby, Lucy. Several Jazz players were watching from the stands, including Rodney Hood, Alec Burks and Rudy Gobert.