Sixers' JJ Redick gets opportunity to display passing skills

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Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard JJ Redick has averaged just under four assists per game so far this season.

JJ Redick doesn’t want people to get things twisted.

The 76ers shooting guard, who averaged 3.9 assists this season as of Tuesday, hasn’t suddenly become a good passer. He’ll tell you that he’s always been one.

“My last three years in Orlando, I had a fairly high assists percentage compared to my time in L.A.,” Redick said. “I think that was just a byproduct of how I played in L.A., my role and how our offense was structured more than anything else.”

His primary job the last four seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers was to stretch defenses with his three-point shooting. It was nine-time NBA all-star point guard Chris Paul’s job to distribute the ball and run the offense. As a result, Redick averaged just 1.6 assists while being one of the league’s elite three-point shooters as a Clipper.

But with the Sixers, he was ranked third in assists behind point guard Ben Simmons (7.6) and backup point guard T.J. McConnell (5.3) heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Wells Fargo Center.

“I don’t necessarily think that I’ve all of a sudden become a good passer,” he said. “I’ve always felt that I’ve been a good passer. I’m taking advantage of having so many good options. So the positions I’m in are maybe a little bit different.”

The Orlando Magic traded Redick to the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 21, 2013. He averaged 4.4 assists during his 50 games with Orlando during the 2012-13 season before being traded. Redick ended up finishing with a career-best 3.8 assists that season in a combined 78 games with the Magic and Bucks.

His career average was 1.9 as of Wednesday.

Simmons in special company

By now, most know Ben Simmons does things on the basketball court that most rookies can envision only in their dreams. It appears he’s also doing things that could make 10-year veterans envious.

His averages of 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 7.6 assists before Wednesday’s game made him the league’s only player to average at least 18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 7.5 assists this season.

Wilt Chamberlain is the lone Sixer to post such averages for a full season. He did it twice. Chamberlain averaged 24.1 points, 24.2 rebounds, and 7.8 assists during the 1966-67 season. The next season, he averaged 24.3 points, 23.8 rebounds, and 8.6 assists.

Simmons has scored at least 22 points in two straight games and in three of his last four heading into Wednesday’s matchup. As a result, the point guard had a total of six 20-point performances to rank second among rookies behind Los Angeles Lakers power forward  Kyle Kuzma with seven.

Covington in elite company

A year ago, Robert Covington was one of the league’s best defenders in regards to steals per game. Right now, he’s one of the NBA’s top three-point shooters.  His 57 three-pointers were tied for second in the league with Golden State Warriors all-star Steph Curry as of Tuesday. The duo trailed Houston Rockets all-star James Harden, who had 76.

Covington attributed his success to the way he approached this summer’s training regimen.

“I really focused in on my mechanics,” the small forward said. “I couldn’t really work out the way that I wanted to this summer. I just locked in with my trainer. We just focused in on little things.”

Covington was unable to go all out this summer due to suffering a 2016-17  season-ending meniscus tear in his right knee against the Brooklyn Nets on March 28.