76ers

Ben Simmons on being forgotten in rookie poll: 'They'll remember'

CAMDEN, N.J. — If Ben Simmons made one thing clear Monday, it's that he's ready to play.

The Jones fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his right foot that cost him his 2016-17 season has healed. He's been playing 5-on-5 and "dominating the gym." He has no restrictions heading into the first day of camp Tuesday.

And he's eager.

"I'm ready to go," Simmons said during Sixers media day. "100 percent. Cleared to play."

Simmons' answers were matter-of-fact and the 21-year-old's confidence was evident. 

Simmons came into the league with plenty of hype — and the skill to back that swagger. He was the No. 1 overall pick after just one season at LSU. Then the injury to his foot brought the hype train to a screeching halt and would eventually keep Simmons sidelined for the entire season. 

But the year off the court wasn't a total waste. Simmons said the time away allowed him to look in the mirror and mature.

"I just had to grow," Simmons said. "That took time. Different experiences. Obviously breaking my foot I had a lot of time to myself to grow as a person and just really looked at who I wanted to be as a player and a person. I had a lot of time off, so I think I've grown on and off the floor."

One of the things Simmons said he thought long and hard about was becoming a leader. Though Simmons is the third-youngest player on the roster, he's ready to accept that challenge. 

Becoming a leader will certainly help Simmons as he transitions to playing the point guard position. The 6-foot-10 Australian has been playing forward his whole life. Now, head coach Brett Brown has put the ball in his hands.

How does it feel to run the offense?

"It feels normal to me," Simmonds said. "[Brown is] the first coach to finally give me the opportunity. He obviously sees something in me. I believe in myself and I believe I can do it. There's not many people that can guard me off the dribble the full length of the court. It's going to be a mismatch problem a lot of the time."

There goes that confidence again.

It took Simmons a season away to get to this point though. He said he's a much better player than he was at this time last year and "it's not even close." 

Not everyone is convinced of Simmons' success, however. In a recent NBA.com poll of NBA rookies, Simmons barely received any votes for things like "Who will be the Rookie of the Year?" and "Which rookie will have the best career?" In fact, this year's No. 1 pick, Markelle Fultz, was thought of more highly than Simmons.

Maybe some of the rookies forgot about Simmons since he missed all of last season.

"I think that happens," Simmons said when asked about being out of the spotlight. "From social media — the hype or whatever it is. But if you would've said this a year ago you guys would've been putting me at the top of the list. I had a whole year to get better. But I'm fine with that. 

"When I came to the States I was 15 and nobody knew who I was so I feel like I'm kind of back in that stage. I have to prove myself again, which is fine. I'm looking forward to that part."

When pressed on the question of being "forgotten" by other NBA rookies, Simmons' answered confidently:

"They'll remember."