October 08, 2019
If you were expecting Ben Simmons to offer a full-throated explanation of his first made three in an NBA uniform, you have not been following his responses to questions about his shot very closely.
"Time went down and I had the ball, so I had to take a shot," Simmons said.
Ernest Hemingway, he is not. Simmons lit up when talking about his teammates after the game, from his new chemistry with Josh Richardson to the defensive exploits of rookie Matisse Thybulle, but the story remains the same with his shot. He claimed not to hear the crowd at all as they urged at him to shoot and then lauded him with a standing ovation, and insisted this is just a natural product of the work he has put in.
Look, I get it. Simmons is an All-Star at 23 years old, as he was happy to remind a reporter recently when he was questioned about the progress on his shot. Being asked questions about this topic relentlessly can't be a lot of fun, and there are plenty of other interesting stories to tell about his development. Like, ahem, the growth he has shown as a leader.
But all it takes is one look at the reactions of his teammates when the shot went down to understand this means quite a bit. Joel Embiid nearly dragged him off of the court with a big, beaming smile on his face.
"It was dope," Josh Richardson told reporters after the game. "I was wondering why the crowd was standing up and everything, and I was like what's happening? Then I looked at the situation and I looked at the clock and I was like, 'Ahhhh, okay.' So I stood in the corner and kind of [made a gesture] with my hands like, 'Just shoot it if you want it, bro,' because nobody wants to feel forced to do so."
"He shot a deep one too — it was like a couple of steps behind the line. It was great to see him make one in a game."
Unfortunately for everyone involved, Embiid fled the arena before we could get his thoughts on the matter after the game, robbing us all. So it was up to Tobias Harris, one of the few teammates to genuinely celebrate the moment, to save the day.
Having seen the work Simmons has put in to develop that part of his game, Harris was happy to see his buddy finally show everyone else what the Sixers have seen behind the scenes.
"It was awesome, to see, he's put a tremendous amount of work in on it all summer," Harris said. "It's a perfect time to display it, especially preseason, we're just getting a feel for each other and how we want to play. I thought it was great just to have him get that first three under his belt and many more to come from there."
"It was cool to have him hit one in front of everyone because we've been seeing him hit them in practice and he's been working on his shot a lot," Matisse Thybulle added. "We've watched him make rep after rep. I think it was really good just to have everyone else see the amount of work he's put in and watch it carry over to the big stage."
Not everyone else had as much fun with the moment. Brett Brown, usually the avatar of joy in moments like these, was especially curmudgeonly when asked to share his thoughts after the game.
"Really nothing. He made a shot, good. And that's kind of personally the extent of it for me," Brown said. "I think the whole thing is so overblown. I think in general it's so inflated, the attention, and that's what I think...I'm just not going to react over it and I really mean that. He made a three."
(I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate Brown on his honorary induction as a member of the fun police.)
As much as Brown and some of his teammates would like to insist this isn't a big deal, the importance of Simmons' shot is self-evident. You need to look no further than his performance in the second round over two straight playoff rounds to understand how and why this matters so much. When it has mattered most, he has been schemed out of the game on offense.
Brown and Simmons and most of the basketball universe know this. No one needs to throw a parade over a made three against a CBA opponent in the preseason, but it's okay to acknowledge this is a step in the right direction for a player who has had a hang-up over this specific part of the game. Thankfully, Brown was eventually goaded into admitting this.
"We all get why it's discussed a lot, and we understand that the stage of April, May, and June, we get it stands out," Brown said. "But I still stand by my personal opinion, that I think it's overblown, and I think it's going to grow organically just fine."
Will it take a home crowd urging him to let it go to make it happen again? Maybe, maybe not. But until the next one goes up, Harris wants everyone to be reminded just how, er, prolific his teammate is.
"We wanted him to shoot it, for sure," Harris said. "He's one of the best shooters to ever shoot the basketball, so let it fly. He's 100 percent from three, so I don't want to hear nothing."
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