PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Videos of Ben Simmons making jumpers flooded social media over the summer and the All-Star point guard is ready to take his game to another level when the Philadelphia 76ers open camp next week.
“I feel like this summer I fell in love with the game again,” Simmons told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I kind of got back to who I was and having fun with the game. I felt like the past season I lost that enjoyment side of it but I feel like this summer has been huge for me. Just the work I’ve been putting in, I kinda fell in love with putting that work in again and I’ve been in the gym every day working and the results have been paying off so I’m excited for the season to start.
Simmons, the number one overall draft pick in 2016, has helped lead the Sixers to the second round of the NBA playoffs two straight seasons after making his debut in 2017. He was the Rookie of the Year that season and an All-Star for the first time last season. Simmons has averaged 16.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.9 assists and signed a USD170 million, five-year contract extension in July.
Philadelphia is 101-58 in regular-season games when Simmons plays. He has had 22 triple-doubles in the past two seasons, tied for third most in the league with Denver’s Nikola Jokic and trailing Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (59) and the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (26).
Simmons also has had 80 double-doubles over the past two seasons.
But the one knock against Simmons has been his reluctance to shoot long jumpers and three-pointers. He’s 0 for 18 from beyond the arc, so defences often focus on taking away his ability to drive to the basket and dare him to shoot.
He’s up for the challenge.
“I’m ready to be who I am as a player, continue to develop, keep working,” Simmons said. “It’s a process. It takes time. Obviously, people always want to see results straightaway but that’s not how things work.”
Simmons decided to focus on improving his game instead of playing for the Australian team at the FIBA World Cup earlier this month in China. He rediscovered his love for basketball during those long hours in the gym and admitted the criticism weighed on him at times.
“I think sometimes you kind of get too deep into it where you listen to other people which should never be the thing you do unless they’re giving you positive feedback or trying to help you get better because there’s a lot of negativity out there,” Simmons said, pointing to various social media platforms.
“It’s huge once you kind of block that out, you don’t really care, you kinda go out there feeling free. You don’t care if you miss a shot because everyone misses a shot so that’s one of the things that I think this summer I got back to how I was as a player just playing and doing what I love at a high level.”
Despite being a lightning rod for criticism in Philadelphia, Simmons says he enjoys playing in front of a passionate fan base.
“I love being in Philadelphia. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” he said. “I think this is the perfect place for me. I just handle (criticism) how it comes.”
Simmons heard plenty of boos after a poor performance in Philadelphia’s first-round series opener against Brooklyn in April. He had nine points, seven rebounds, and three assists and shot one for five from the free throw line in a loss. Afterward, Simmons said, “If you’re gonna boo, then stay on that side.”