PHILADELPHIA – The evaluation of Knicks rookie center Jericho Sims will continue Wednesday in a big way. Knicks brass will let Sims take a retest against Philadelphia 76ers MVP candidate Joel Embiid at the Wells Fargo Center.
Embiid went wild at Madison Square Garden with 37 points in Sunday’s 125-109 victory over the Knicks. Sims fouled out just 18 minutes into the game, but he also nabbed 10 rebounds. (Starting center Mitchell Robinson also fouled out.)
The Knicks are taking a stronger look at the 7-footer coming out of the All-Star break because of their dismal record and a fear of losing Robinson to free agency.
“It was just a nice opportunity as a learning experience on how he plays,” Sims said at the morning shootaround in his first remarks of the regular season. “I tried to fight him a little too much. I’ll try to take a more tactical approach and listen to the coaches a little bit more.”
Amid his monstrous performance, Embiid went to the free throw line 27 times.
“The main thing is just don’t foul him,” Sims said. “They’re going to look to call certain things. I just got to be smart. I know he is trying to get me in foul trouble. So I have to show my hands a little bit more and make him take shots he wouldn’t want to take.”
Knicks president Leon Rose attended the morning shootaround at Wells Fargo Center – a rarity as he hasn’t traveled with the team much this season. But this really is a time for Rose to get down and dirty on what he has in this roster that’s 11 games below .500. Rose also still lives just over the Ben Franklin Bridge, in Cherry Hill, NJ, and always attended Knicks-76ers games as an agent.
Sims claims he had no idea the Knicks would experiment with him coming out of the All-Star break. He also played 18 minutes Friday against Miami, getting the nod at backup center over Nerlens Noel and veteran Taj Gibson, arguably Tom Thibodeau’s favorite player in the NBA. (Noel has battled plantar fasciitis and isn’t 100 percent, so it’ a good time.)
“I didn’t know,” said Sims, the 59th pick in the NBA Draft out of Texas. “All I knew is doing your best to stay ready and try to stay in shape. I didn’t know I’d be playing a lot more minutes than I was. I don’t know why they’re doing that. All I can say is I got to stay ready when my name is called and come produce.”
This was the first time Sims, who had a strong summer league in Las Vegas after playing four years at Texas, had for playing time other than spot duty in the G League for the Westchester Knicks.
“I didn’t worry but it’s definitely interesting that I’m now getting the opportunity,” Sims said. “Just got to take advantage of it. I think I’m getting better each game. I got to be more active – rebounding and contesting pick and roll. It is an adjustment. Mainly [not playing] is because guys have more experience than I do.”
Sims, 23, is a prototype rim-guarding, defensive center along the lines of Robinson but is even more athletic than the longest-tenured Knick. He’s not worried about getting more opportunities. He was scoreless in each game, taking one shot.
“Right now it’s showing energy, showing that you’re excited to play and showing coach I’m ready,” Sims said. “It’s a different game speed so that’s the main thing I have to work on and get used to. Obviously watching film is a big part of this. I’ve been doing a lot of that with coaches on the side.”
He’s taken advice from Robinson and “sees what he does on the court and what I can take from that.”
But veteran Derrick Rose has been in his ear, too. Earlier this season, Rose said he and Sims are kindred spirits in both being introverts.
The last time he spoke to the press during preseason, Sims continued a trend of giving extremely short answers. But he has progressed in that department too – wordier and wiser.
“I’ve talked to [Rose],” Sims said. “I’ve had a lot of conversations with him. That’s my guy.”