MIAMI — Brett Brown has no remorse. The 76ers coach is more concerned about Ben Simmons' health than his place in NBA history. That's why on occasion, with games in hand, he has taken his point guard out early despite his nearing a triple-double.
Tuesday's 128-114 victory over the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center was the latest example. Simmons had 16 points, 13 assists, and 8 rebounds when he exited for good with 3 minutes, 3 seconds remaining. He had played only 6:35 of the fourth quarter.
"I'm always reminded by assistants, and sometimes the players, like 'Oh, he's two rebounds away from a triple-double,' " Brown said. "That's not my job. My job is to coach the team.
"I wouldn't feel responsible. I couldn't sleep at night if you are trying to search for stats and something happened injury-wise."
That's why Brown is determined to take Simmons and center Joel Embiid out of games as soon as he can.
Simmons had six triple-doubles entering Thursday night's game against the Heat in Miami. One could argue that the rookie-of-the-year candidate would have at least nine if not for being taken out of games.
However, Simmons is still making history. The Australia native's six triple-doubles are the most by a rookie since Hall of Famer Magic Johnson finished with seven as a Los Angeles Laker in the 1979-80 season. Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson posted 26 as a Cincinnati Royals rookie in 1960-61.
"I don't care what the stat sheet says," Brown said of taking Simmons out. "As long as I can feel like we are going to win the game, then I feel like that's my role in all of this."
Sixers fans fixated with the league standings are not alone.
Joel Embiid said Thursday that he looks at the NBA standings "after every game, literally every day, especially the guys that are in the playoff race with us as far as seedings."
The Sixers entered Thursday's game with the Eastern Conference's sixth-best record. The Heat were two games back in seventh place. Eighth-place Milwaukee had the same record as Miami. The Sixers, however, were just a game behind the fourth-place Washington Wizards with 19 games remaining. The top eight teams advance to the playoffs.