76ers

'If it's open, I'll take it' — How things have changed with Ben Simmons' shot

'If it's open, I'll take it' — How things have changed with Ben Simmons' shot

CAMDEN, N.J. — A little less than a year ago, Ben Simmons had a simple response to the question of whether he was planning to attempt three-point shots.

“No. I’m not going to come out and shoot threes,” he said. 

There were other parts of his offensive game he hoped to improve on, Simmons said, but the three-point shot wasn’t in the picture for the 2018-19 season.

When asked Monday at the Sixers' media day his thoughts on Brett Brown encouraging him to take threes, Simmons' answer was, in typical fashion, concise. However, his attitude had changed.

“It’s just a part of the game,” Simmons said. “If it’s open, I’ll take it.”

Outside shooting is indeed just a part of basketball, but it’s one that those who follow the Sixers have been fixated on with Simmons. The 23-year-old All-Star does so many other things well, from sparking the offense with his breakneck speed and creative passing in transition to guarding just about every position on the floor.

He’s yet to make a three-point shot in the NBA, though, and his track record both with any type of jump shot and from the foul line is poor. He shot 23.8 percent from 10 feet and out last season, while his free throw percentage improved slightly, from 56 to 60 percent.

The criticism about Simmons’ biggest weakness has been widespread, and he acknowledged Monday that he’s heard it and let it affect him in the past. He said something changed this summer. 

I think I was just too worried about what people are saying and what was going on around me, outside noises. And I was able to really block them out this summer and not really focus on what people were saying. At the end of the day, I don’t really care anymore unless it’s coming from someone in my circle or somebody that’s trying to help me get better.

Simmons worked on his game in Los Angeles this summer with trainer Chris Johnson, who released several videos full of highlight-reel dunks and swished jumpers. 

“We’ve been working on everything from ball handling to touch around the rim, floaters, jumpers, threes, whatever it is,” Simmons said. “Getting a consistent rhythm. I feel comfortable.”

Tobias Harris trained some with Simmons in L.A. and was impressed with what he saw.

“He’s a gym rat," Harris said. "He was in the gym all summer up until now. ... I’ve seen a lot of growth in him, not only on the basketball floor but off the floor, too — his maturity and where his mindset is on this upcoming year."

Simmons agreed with Harris’ assessment. He’s aware of the high expectations around the Sixers and is determined to meet them. He mostly deflected questions about individual accolades — besides stating his ambition to win Defensive Player of the Year — and said his focus is on winning a championship.

“It’s actually funny, I was talking to my brother about that the other day,” he said. “I was talking to him; ‘I just think I’m locked in.’ I don’t know what’s changed, a switch or whatever it was, but I feel locked in. I feel ready. This summer’s been huge for me, just working.”

So, how will that shift in mentality manifest itself in games this season? Will things really be as straightforward as Simmons taking jumpers when he’s open, or will he ultimately prefer to take the interior shots he already knows he can convert at a decent rate in NBA games? 

While Brown has said he wants Simmons to be confident shooting jumpers, there won’t be an unconditional green light — he won’t “hunt threes" for his point guard. What does Simmons and the Sixers not actively seeking out long range shots but still shooting them when open (and with confidence) actually look like? What kind of impact would it have on the Sixers' offense?

A reporter wondered whether all the questions about Simmons’ jumper ever get tiring.

“The jump shot stuff, I don’t really care,” he said.

He might be the only one.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Ben Simmons seems like he may be teasing intent to shoot more jumpers

Ben Simmons seems like he may be teasing intent to shoot more jumpers

Ben Simmons appears comfortable with the public knowing that he’s been working on his jump shot during the NBA’s hiatus.

After the Sixers included Simmons making a three-pointer in a video package from a recent practice, the 23-year-old released a YouTube video on Wednesday that shows the workouts he did in Los Angeles with trainer Chris Johnson ahead of the league’s restart. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade make appearances. 

Simmons shoots plenty of jump shots in the video — turnarounds in the post, mid-range pull-ups, catch-and-shoot threes. Johnson has Simmons put on shooting gloves for some of the drills. 

There’s one exchange with the Pistons’ Tony Snell, at around the 5:18 mark of the video, that possibly teases Simmons’ intent to attempt more jumpers when play resumes.

Snell: You should be shooting way more. Your shot looks good.

Simmons: Orlando.

Snell: Orlando? I’ll be watching.

Simmons: I’m coming for it.

We don’t need to remind Sixers fans that Simmons has yet to be a remotely regular or effective NBA jump shooter. The two-time All-Star has made the first two three-pointers of his professional career this season and is 6 for 34 overall from 10 feet and out. He'd said in September, "If it's open, I'll take it" when asked about the prospect of taking threes this season, an attitude that did not materialize in games. 

This video of him sinking shots in a non-game setting is not necessarily a sign he’ll be primed to fire at Disney World, but the fact that he’s put the footage out there for all to see is at least notable. Of course, there were also plenty of videos last summer of him draining jumpers. He’s had an excellent all-around season and is one of the league’s best defenders, but the jump shot has still been miles behind the other areas of his game. 

The Sixers have been using Simmons as a power forward in their practices at Disney World, a shift he said Tuesday he’s willing to try.

“You've just gotta work with different things,” he said. “You’ve gotta try different things out, see if they work. We’re not at a stage where we can be comfortable yet. I’m still trying to figure it out myself ... what feels comfortable, what’s right for this team and how we’re gonna win. 

“If it’s this way, then I’m all for it. I’ve been having fun in that position — whatever you guys say, the four — whatever it is. But at the end of the day, when you see me I’m on the floor, I’m making plays.

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Matisse Thybulle, Ben Simmons and Sixers provide insight into life in NBA 'bubble'

Matisse Thybulle, Ben Simmons and Sixers provide insight into life in NBA 'bubble'

Hearing the Sixers describe their early days inside the NBA’s “bubble” at Disney World, it sounds something like living inside a reality television show.

The team is isolated from the outside world and preparing to perform for the general public’s entertainment. In their downtime, many players have felt as if they’re at summer camp, not an environment created in response to a pandemic. They’re taking part in approved recreational activities while making sure to adhere to the league’s many health and safety regulations. Fishing has been an option some players have enjoyed. 

“The fishing conditions are very good, a lot of largemouth bass,” Ben Simmons said Monday in a video conference call. “I fish a lot so this is what I do every day. I work out, play some video games and fish, so that’s my day-to-day routine. But overall I think everyone is just doing something to be productive in some sort of aspect. 

“I think guys are enjoying it. Myself, personally, I’m just having a good time, getting ready for the games coming up and using the free time to just do something that I enjoy doing. So it’s been good.”

View this post on Instagram

We went fishing for some bass 🎣

A post shared by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

Joel Embiid said Monday he’s enjoying his “big TV and video games. … Just enjoying my time being on FaceTime basically 24/7 and playing video games.”

The NBA and NBPA announced Monday that two players of the 322 tested in Orlando were positive for the coronavirus, and that those players never cleared quarantine. Though many questions linger about the league’s approach, both in terms of efficacy and morality as the NBA ramps up to play in a location where COVID-19 has taken a serious toll on the healthcare system, it seems to have been successful so far in preventing a spread of the coronavirus on the Disney World campus.

Monday, ESPN reported that the Rockets' Bruno Caboclo unintentionally broke quarantine, while former Sixer Richaun Holmes tweeted that he accidentally breached the bubble to pick up a food delivery. Both players were subject to extended time in quarantine. The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Monday that multiple tips have been made to the NBA's anonymous hotline to report protocol violations. 

At least initially, Brett Brown thought his players were doing a good job of following all precautions. 

“How are the players responding? Well," Brown said Sunday. “Do I think it can be maintained? I do, as far as the discipline. We all worry about the virus, in some capacity, sneaking it. But I tell you what, full credit to the NBA for creating this environment, and credit to the players for being — albeit (in early days) — disciplined to do the things that they have asked us to do.”

Rookie Matisse Thybulle’s video series on life in the bubble has provided a look at this unusual existence for players. Thybulle is showing fans everything from testing procedures to practice banter to a masked general manager Elton Brand sinking a jumper. 

“He didn’t get clearance to put me on,” Simmons said with a smile. “I’m going to have to speak to him if he makes any money off it. But I love it, I love that he’s capturing this moment. It’s a historic moment for sports in general. I think what he’s been doing has been great.”

It’s excellent insight from Thybulle into a situation nobody has ever come close to experiencing before. His two videos thus far have totaled over 500,000 views on YouTube, so Simmons may be wise to renegotiate a royalty agreement. 

On a more serious note, Mike Scott on Monday summed up life in the bubble well. He has no complaints.

“I just know how to adapt to situations I’m in,” he said. “It’s not that bad. The hotel room is good, food is solid. It’s just basketball after that. It feels like camp, like a basketball camp. You go from your room to the court from the court to your room, see some players here and there, but for the most part, I’m not really tripping. It’s straight, it’s cool.”

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers