Simmons Earns Third Consecutive All-Star Nod
At just 24 years old, Ben Simmons is officially a three-time All-Star.
For his head coach, Doc Rivers, there was never a doubt.
“I was really happy for Ben,” Rivers said following Tuesday’s 109-102 win over the Raptors. “I was pretty positive he would make it.”
Moments before tip-off, Simmons learned he'd be joining Rivers and teammate Joel Embiid for the Mar. 7 All-Star festivities in Atlanta. By virtue of the 76ers owning the best record in the Eastern Conference, Rivers and his staff will coach Team Durant.
Embiid, meanwhile, was voted a starter last week.
“To be a three-time All-Star… It’s a real blessing," said Simmons. "I’m very grateful to be in this position, and to be able to say I’m a three-time All-Star in the best league in the world.”
Averaging 15.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.9 assists, and 1.7 steals per game this season, Simmons continues to show growth.
Over his last seven games, he’s averaging 22.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 8.0 assists per game, headlined by his career-high 42-point, nine-rebound, 12-assist outing in Utah on Feb. 15.
Despite Simmons’ youth, Rivers revealed that while speaking with coaches around the league, he discovered a universal respect for the Aussie’s All-Star status already exists.
“Coaches look at the whole game,” Rivers said. “I was pretty confident [he’d be selected].”
After Simmons scored 28 points, nine rebounds, and five assists in the first of two games in Tampa, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse offered his perspective on Simmons:
“I really like Ben Simmons’ toughness,” Nurse said. “The guy’s big, and strong, and physical, and he is tough… I thought he was fantastic the other night.”
Simmons then posted a near-triple double (15 pts, 9 reb, 7 ast) in Tuesday's rematch, a Sixers' win.
“He’s like one of those running backs that gets in the open field, sees a guy, and goes right at him, and makes him pay for not getting out of the way sometimes. After those physical moments, he’s still finishing at the end of it. It seems to me like he’s in a really good place right now.”
Rivers values Nurse’s take.
“Nick knows what winning looks like, what champions look like, and it starts with the spirit of each player, and where they’re at inside themselves,” Rivers said. “That they enjoy what they’re doing, that they have bought into their role. And Ben has clearly bought in to what we need him to do.”
On the defensive end, Simmons has expressed the pride he’s taken in guarding elite players, and his desire to be Defensive Player of the Year. He’s leading the league in deflections (3.9 per game) and loose balls recovered per game (1.5).
Another area of growth: leadership.
Simmons expressed his intent to be a more vocal presence in the preseason, and his teammates say he’s backed it up.
“The one thing I’m most proud of would be trying to be a leader,” Simmons said. “I think I’ve been a better leader this year, through my actions, and vocally.”
Simmons and Furkan Korkmaz were both members of the Sixers' 2016 draft class, and have played each of their four NBA seasons together. Korkmaz has seen Simmons' development first-hand.
“I’m so happy for him, because I see his growth on the court, and off the court, especially,” Korkmaz said. “He’s more mature now, he knows the game more. He deserves it.”
But even immediately following the announcement, Simmons was already looking ahead at another achievement - one he’d find more satisfying.
“The main goal is to win a ring. All these accomplishments along the way - they’re great. But I just want to win a ring.”