Being Ben Simmons
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
Ben Simmons (Photo: Sports Illustrated)
What in the world do we do with Aussie Ben? Ben Simmons is a basketball player with some other-worldly talents.
He’s enormous for a point guard (6-10’) and has elite defensive instincts and can rebound at both ends of the court. The Melbourne-born 3 x All-Star is lethal in the open floor and can score around the rim with either hand.
But a gigantic weakness was clawed at and eventually ripped open during the most recent NBA playoffs when Atlanta began the ‘Hack-A-Ben’ and Simmons’ free throw shooting cost the 76ers. He also shied away from wide open shots, including a dunk which sent the Philly crowd - and media at large - into a frenzy.
Immediately after the Sixers were eliminated by Atlanta, Simmons’ All-Star team mate Joel Embiid openly criticised Simmons and Doc Rivers queried whether Simmons had the mental fortitude to overcome his issues. And whether he was a championship-winning point guard.
Fast forward a few months and trade rumours continue to swirl but the likelihood Simmons returns to Philadelphia looks the likeliest option.
Which brings me back to what to do with Aussie Ben?
He should’ve went to Tokyo and joined the Boomers on their bronze medal campaign. It would’ve been the protective environment he needed after it seemed all of America wanted to taint him as a failure, despite all he has achieved in only four seasons in the NBA.
NBA teams have enquired about making a move for Simmons but nothing has materialised. Philly’s asking price is reportedly very high, especially for a player many have written off.
So, what to do with Ben Simmons?
For one, he needs to be pushed. Questions have arisen about his dedication to the game. He needs people around him who are willing to tell him what’s what - and not just those who want to enjoy the limelight that comes with his super-max contract, which still has four years and $194 million remaining.
IF I am running Philly, I am moving he or Embiid. They’re a basketballing philosophical mismatch as a 1-2 punch. Embiid wants the pace of the game to be slowed so he can go to work in the half court whilst Ben loves to run and gun, grabbing the defensive rebound and igniting the fast break.
They’re chalk and cheese.
So it seems Simmons is the one who will be moved.
Rumours of a move to Golden State would be absolutely perfect. The Warriors’ culture would ensure Ben gets to work but also feels valued for what he brings. He can push the rock and Steph and Klay will be cocked and ready to drill the triple. At Curry’s age (33) he may be ready to handle the ball less and take a few easier shots, rather than needing to create everything for himself.
Acquiring Simmons without giving up Curry and Thompson will be difficult - but not impossible. Andrew Wiggins and James Wiseman hold value, as does recent No. 7 overall draft pick Jonathan Kuminga.
Don’t you just get the sense that Warriors coach Steve Kerr would be perfect for Simmons?
I’m no sports psychologist but I know a thing or two about having deficiencies and needing to overcome them. Simmons was shooting step back jumpers when he entered the NBA. He needs to regain the confidence in himself to take and make open shots. The willingness to shoot will open up everything else for him on the offensive end. Sure, he will need to prove he can make a few before defenders close the gap but it’s not something he is not capable of - he just needs to do the work and trust his form in the game.
He also needs the correct environment. Perhaps the rollercoaster nature of the Philly sports fans is a bad fit for a polarising star like Ben.
A team needs to grab him, with a real plan and a focus on what he CAN do instead of what he CAN’T - or as yet refuses to do.
Do you agree? Is he broken or is he a misunderstood superstar with more to give?