CAMDEN, N.J. — When you get to study under a father with over a decade of professional hoops experience and are blessed with a physique straight from the basketball gods, the game can come to you a bit effortlessly at times.
Perhaps even too much.
“I’ve never been on a team where I’ve had to take shots. It’s always been really easy for me to get to the rim,” Ben Simmons said during Sixers media day. “For me to get to that next level and for me to want to be great, I have to keep getting better at the little things. It’s obviously not going to be an overnight thing or a year thing where I’m at the next level, but over time with progression, I’ll get better.”
It wasn’t always easy watching Simmons’ jump shot last season. By now, you know the numbers: 0 for 11 from three-point range (all heaves, but still goes down as a goose egg), 56 percent from the free throw line and 27.8 percent on midrange jumpers.
Things reached a bit of an alarming level on the biggest stage against the Boston Celtics. During the Eastern Conference semifinals, C’s head coach Brad Stevens was content to let his players sag off of Simmons on defense and force him to take that less-than-trustworthy jumper. It resulted in the 22-year-old shooting 26.7 percent on shots between five and nine feet, 25 percent on shots between eight and 14 feet and getting blanked on shots between 15-19 feet.
That made Simmons want to dive right back into the lab and work on that glaring weakness. But instead of hiring some famed shot doctor or high-priced trainer, the Rookie of the Year kept the task of improving his shot in the family … literally.
Simmons worked with his brother Liam, a former college player at San Diego Christian and assistant coach at Nicholls State, Southwest Baptist University and Cal-Riverside.
“Comfortability with him, him knowing my game, and him just being dedicated to me and purely just me,” Simmons said on why he chose his brother for the job. “I’ve been working with him since I was a kid. He’s always had the ball in my hands where he’s been working the gym.
“There’s been multiple times where I’ve been frustrated and not really understanding why he was pushing me so hard. I think I’m at a level of age now where I really realize and understand where he’s trying to get me at. He’s somebody I really trust and I can really just talk to a certain way and him understand how I’m looking at things.”
Simmons disclosed that some of his brother’s coaching included tweaks to how he holds the ball and getting under his shot.
But no matter how much improvement he makes to his jump shooting mechanics, Simmons let Sixers fans know they can still expect the all-around phenom they got used to seeing last season.
“I want to keep getting better and keep working toward being great,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of time. I’m not going to come in and hit threes this season. That’s not what I’m gonna do, but I’m gonna get better. Obviously, I’ve been working all summer and I’m very confident on what I’ve been putting my work into.”