Simmons Hopes He, Team Benefit From Off-Season Work
The event was Fanatic Fan Fest, but it might as well have been dubbed ‘Ben Simmons Love Fest.’
This past Saturday at XFINITY Live!, the 2018 Rookie of the Year was received like a rock star at the fifth annual end-of-summer party thrown by 97.5 The Fanatic, the 76ers’ flagship radio partner.
— Natalie Egenolf (@NatalieEgenolf) August 25, 2018
Throughout the afternoon, adoring chants followed Simmons wherever he went - on-stage for a raucous introduction, photo-ops with fans, or while he was on-air for an interview with Fanatic hosts Dei Lynam and Mike Missanelli.
“Coming here was really amazing,” Simmons said. “It’s an amazing event. I’m glad I’m here. It’s a really special time for Philly.”
Particularly now that the new season is fast approaching.
Simmons spent a good portion of his summer working out in Los Angeles, and recently made his way back East. The freshly-minted 22-year old point man hasn’t wasted any time getting into the gym at the Sixers’ training complex in Camden, NJ.
After more than holding his own at one of the sport's most physically and mentally demanding positions, Simmons is looking to build off the immense promise he displayed in his debut campaign.
Since the Sixers’ season ended in the second round of the playoffs, the Australian has been focused on “adding different pieces” to his game, with the goal ultimately being to help the Sixers go farther the next time around, even if that means venturing into previously uncharted territory.
“For me last season, I was trying to do what I was really good at - facilitating, getting guys involved, getting to the rim, and obviously making plays,” said Simmons.
Simmons’ numbers certainly validated his success in those areas. He finished fifth overall in the league with 8.2 assists per game, the eighth-highest rookie average in NBA history.
The 2016 no. 1 pick also proved to be a prolific, lane-attacking force. His 12.7 points in the paint per game ranked fourth behind Giannis Antetokounmpo’s average of 15.7, Anthony Davis’ 15.4, and LeBron James’ 14.4.
“I wasn’t trying to do anything during the season I wasn’t comfortable doing,” Simmons said.
All things considered, the approach served him well, and the Sixers, too.
But like his teammates, coaches, management, and fans, Simmons wants more in year two. His off-season regimen was structured accordingly, with free throw and jump shooting being key points of emphasis.
“You’ve got to start slowly,” said Simmons, who shot 56.0 percent from the foul line, and scored 80.4 percent of his points in the point (fifth-most in the NBA). “If it’s adding a free throw that gets up to 80.0 percent, that’s about five more points right there. If you add little things and keep adding over time, that’s how you become great.”
In respect to his jumper, Simmons noted on the Fanatic that there’s not only value to makes, but takes.
“If you take [jump shots], [teams] give you a little bit more respect, and you’re able to make more moves and dissect the defense,” Simmons said. “This summer, I’ve been working a lot on certain things that I’ll definitely use.”
And when it comes to deploying some of his refined skills, Simmons thinks he’ll be putting them to use on a team that, in his eyes, can be “much better” than it was last year.
“I’ve had one year of playing in the NBA, so for me personally, I know I have a lot more to give. I know where I’m at physically with my body, and I’m maturing a lot more. I’m really excited to get back on the floor.”
From the shadows of the arena where he and the Sixers orchestrated a massive turnaround amidst a memorable season, Simmons’ words sounded that much more inspiring.
We’ll soon find out just how much he and the club will reap the rewards of his summer diligence.