Simmons Strives For Success

By David Callanan | Posted: January 13th, 2005

Bobby Simmons is no stranger to hard work.

A top candidate for this season’s NBA Most Improved Player award, Simmons has seen his game emerge from humble beginnings as a seldom-used rookie reserve into a starring role as one of his team’s main offensive threats. He’s hitting for career marks in every major statistical category and has made a name for himself in the league as a player you don’t leave unattended on the perimeter.

Yet there is no mystery as to why Bobby has blossomed into the player he is today. Legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden once said that “Nothing will work unless you do” and Simmons is a prime example of such logic.

Before last season, not many fans outside of Washington D.C. and his hometown Chicago were familiar with Bobby Simmons. At Simeon High School, he was an All-City, All-Area, All-State player during his junior and senior years and his three years at DePaul University left him as the only player in the school’s history to record 1,000 points, 700 rebounds, 200 assists and 100 three-point field goals. Yet after being drafted by Seattle with the 42nd overall pick in 2001, Bobby endured two trades and the waiver wire before landing a job with the Washington Wizards. Accustomed to big minutes throughout his career, Simmons found himself in a reserve role behind the Wizards starting two guard, Michael Jordan. While his contributions were mainly limited to the practice court during his first season, Simmons embraced the opportunity to play alongside one of the NBA’s all-time greats. “It meant a lot,” recalled Simmons. “I had the chance to be mentored and learn the game at the NBA level from coaches like Doug Collins and Patrick Ewing. Plus, just watching Michael did a lot for me.”

After splitting the 2002-03 season with the Wizards and Mobile Revelers of the NBDL, Bobby landed a spot in the Clippers’ 2003 Training Camp. From the very beginning, his heart and desire impressed Head Coach Mike Dunleavy and his staff. “I like to have a guy who can come in and provide a lift on defense every night---which is what Bobby did last year,” said Dunleavy at the start of the Clippers’ 2004 Training Camp in October. “He reminds me of a young Stacey Augmon.” While his defense was earning him attention, his offensive game quietly grew as well. For the year, Simmons set career highs in points (7.8), rebounds (4.7) and minutes per game (24.6) and emerged as a late game performer for Los Angeles. In the final minute of a tight contest against New York on February 21st, Dunleavy substituted Simmons for defensive purposes and Bobby responded by hitting the game winner. "Everybody wants to get in the game, so when you get the opportunity, it's important you make plays or you sit," Bobby said after the victory. "It is as simple as that."

"Every player wants to be in the NBA and if you don't work hard, there will be someone else who can come in and fill your shoes. The thought of that puts the fuel to the fire every day."
--Bobby Simmons on what motivates him to improve

Despite this solid showing in his inaugural season as a Clipper, Simmons wasn’t about to rest on any laurels in the following offseason. “My goal last summer was to improve every aspect of my game,” said Bobby. “I did that by working out three times a day---drills in the morning for two hours, lifting weights and shooting for an hour to two hours in the afternoon and then playing for another 2 1/2 hours at least.” With such a demanding workout schedule, how did he spend his free time away from basketball? “I didn’t have a lot of time to do much else,” he added with a laugh.

That work is paying dividends now. The Clippers are off to one of their best starts in franchise history this season due in large part to the play of #21. Simmons currently ranks second on the team in rebounding (6.1 rpg) and third in scoring (16.0 ppg). His 88.2% marksmanship from the free throw line is tops among his teammates and ranks among the league leaders in the NBA. “Bobby’s been huge for us this year,” commented teammate Elton Brand. “[He’s been] hitting big shots for us and playing tough defense on the perimeter. I knew back in Training Camp that he would be a player to be reckoned with this year.”

While Simmons' offensive game has the ability to go inside and outside, he has done most of his damage this season with the mid-range jumper---especially along the baseline. “I've been getting a lot of shots in the corners this season,” said Simmons. “So I think [my favorite spot] would probably be in the corners right now. But I prefer to shoot anywhere.”

Yet despite all the attention given to his offensive improvement, Simmons hasn’t forgotten what got him to the NBA. Commented ESPN columnist and Clippers Season Ticket Holder Bill Simmons (no relation) after the Clippers/Cavs game in December, “[Bobby Simmons] couldn’t have been playing any harder. It wasn’t possible.” Each and every game, Bobby dives for loose balls, disrupts passing lanes and plays like a man out to earn his paycheck. Such tenacity has earned him love from the STAPLES Center faithful as he and his teammates continue to make their push for the post-season. “Our goal is to make the playoffs,” says Simmons. “If we collectively play together, I believe its one we can accomplish.”

There are still many more games to play before the postseason race heats up, and a great deal of work is still required from Mike Dunleavy and his squad. However, with Bobby Simmons in the lineup, the Clippers have to feel good about their chances. correspondent Eric Rivera also contribued to this article.