After roughly six months of relative silence, Ben Simmons spoke to the media Tuesday afternoon at his introductory press conference in Brooklyn following the trade that sent him from the Sixers to the Nets.
“I feel pretty good physically,” Simmons told reporters. “Mentally I’m getting there, so it’s a continuous thing to stay on top. But I think I’m going in the right direction.”
Simmons said he stayed in shape by doing Pilates, playing pick-up games and lifting weights with his trainers.
The Nets acquired Simmons along with Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two future first-round picks, in exchange for James Harden and Paul Millsap hours before last Thursday’s trade deadline.
Simmons didn’t provide many details when asked what led to the deterioration of his relationship with the Sixers organization.
“It built up, a bunch of stuff, over the years where I knew I wasn’t myself, and I had to come back to that place of being myself and being happy as a person. and take care of my well-being,” Simmons explained. “It was the most important thing for me. It wasn’t about the basketball, it wasn’t about the money, anything like that. I want to be who I am and start over to play basketball at this level and be myself.
“There’s just a lot of internal stuff that happened over time, and it just got to a point where I don’t think it was good for me mentally, so that’s what it is. is … [I’m] to advance.”
As we look to the future and project how he will fit in alongside his new teammates, it’s important to remember just how much of an impact Simmons can make when he steps onto the basketball court.
Simmons was named the 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year after becoming the second player in NBA history (along with Oscar Robertson in 1960-61) to average more than eight rebounds and eight assists. in its first full season.
Simmons also excelled in the playoffs in 2018. In the first postseason series of his career, he led the Sixers past the Miami Heat and into the second round averaging 18.2 points, 10.6 rebounds , 9.0 assists and 2.4 steals (while shooting more than 70% from the free throw strip).
In his sophomore season, Simmons averaged a career-high 16.9 points (on 56.3 percent shooting) to go along with 8.8 rebounds and 7.7 cents. The only other players to average more than 16 points (while shooting more than 50% from the floor), 8.0 boards and 7.0 assists over an entire NBA season are former MVPs: Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird.
In 2019-20, Simmons authored arguably his best all-around campaign, earning a spot on the All-Defensive First Team and All-NBA Third Team after hitting a career-high 58% on the field and led the league in steals (became the first Sixer to do so since Allen Iverson in 2002-03). Simmons became the only player in NBA history to average at least 16.0 points, 8.0 assists, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and a field goal percentage above 57 %. He also led the league in defensive stray balls recovered and ranked third in deflections.
Last season, Simmons’ tally stats went down a bit due to a drop in playing time, but he still filled out the stat sheet and dominated the defensive end of the field. He was named to the All-Defense First Team for a second consecutive year and was one of only two players, along with Rudy Gobert, to be a unanimous selection. Simmons would finish second to Gobert in the Defensive Player of the Year voting. Simmons’ Sixers finished the year with the second-best defensive rating in the league, one spot ahead of Utah.
It’s also important to note that Simmons was only 24 at the end of the 2020-21 campaign. Per Basketball-Reference, he is one of seven players to have totaled at least 4,000 career points, 2,000 boards and 2,000 cents before celebrating their 25th birthday: the other six are Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Magic Johnson , Tracy McGrady, Oscar Robertson and Kobe Bryant. (Magic and the Big O are the only two to reach these milestones in fewer games.)
Yes, his tenure with the 76ers ended in terrible fashion, culminating in a brutal playoff loss to Atlanta, but let’s not forget how well Simmons played during his four years in Philadelphia.
Are there any flaws that need to be corrected? Absolutely, free throw issues being the biggest problem.
Yet, although Simmons was a mediocre shooter and fearsome free thrower for most of his career, he was always a great basketball player. The figures detailed above prove it.
Plus, it’s undeniable that Simmons had a positive impact on his team. He plays game-winning basketball, which is reflected in the success of the Sixers.
For context, consider this: In the four years before Simmons arrived in Philadelphia, from 2013-14 to 2016-17, the Sixers lost more games than any NBA team, posting a pitiful record of 75-253 (.228 winning percentage).
In the next four years with Simmons, from 2017-18 to 2020-21, the Sixers were 195-114 (.631 winning percentage), which was the third-best record in the NBA over that span.
Philly hadn’t won a playoff game in five years before Simmons’ rookie season. They won 19 postseason contests and three series during his four years.
Of course, Joel Embiid and others deserve a ton of credit too, as Simmons obviously wasn’t the only one responsible for the Sixers’ turnaround. Still, Ben’s impact at both ends of the floor was undeniably huge.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Simmons said he “doesn’t have a date yet” for when he plans to make his Nets debut, but is “starting to ramp it up” and getting closer. form of the game. He also said he hopes to be ready to play by March 10, when Brooklyn visits the City of Brotherly Love for a game against his former team.
When asked to share the field with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Simmons replied, “I think it’s going to be scary to have these guys running alongside me, multiple different guns on the ground. And I think that at the pace we want to play, it’s going to be unreal.”
And while Harden is certainly a better long-range shooter (Harden made at least five three-pointers in a game 184 times, while Simmons made a grand total of five three-pointers in his entire career), Simmons brings an all-around skill set that might ultimately fit better alongside KD and Kyrie.
On Tuesday, Simmons spoke specifically about running and picking up the pace with Brooklyn. Nets fans must be thrilled to imagine how he will immediately improve the Nets’ fast offense. Since 2017, Simmons has led the league in assists per game in transition, averaging over 2.5 per game.
Defensively, Simmons brings incredible versatility to the table. He’s one of the few players in the league who can cover fast point guards on the perimeter and powerful forwards on the block.
And playing alongside two of the greatest offensive players of this generation in Durant and Irving will allow Simmons to focus primarily on defense.
So while nearly all the fuss and controversy surrounding Simmons over the past six months has focused on his flaws, let’s not forget that the kid can play.