We all knew it would come at some point, we just didn’t know when.
Ben Simmons has had countless opportunities to take a legitimate, wide-open three, but in 135 career NBA games, he hadn’t done so.
Until Sunday (see story).
Early in the third quarter of the Sixers’ 143-120 win over the Lakers (see observations), Simmons casually rose up and took a three from the right wing.
Me personally, I was getting ready to run the play and then literally I just saw the ball go over [my head] and then I was like, ‘Oh, s---!’” Joel Embiid said. “He caught me off guard. I’m in a position where I’m like, ‘OK … what just happened?’
“But I thought it was in. It was in and out. I wish it would’ve been in, but he’s been working on it. Every day we tell him, ‘You got to shoot it.’
Embiid’s reaction probably encapsulated how just about everyone who’s watched Simmons’ young career reacted.
As brilliant as Simmons has been in capturing a Rookie of the Year award and an All-Star selection, he’s received his fair share of criticism for his lack of a shot. At times it’s hurt the 6-foot-10 point guard as defenders — much like LeBron James, who basically sat in the lane Sunday — sag off of him, knowing he’s not a threat.
So why take the three now?
“I didn’t really think about it too much,” Simmons said. “I think I’m just being more aggressive, taking more open shots. Grow my game in that way. I think I’m getting there. It takes time, but I’m going to get there.”
Elton Brand has assembled something that appears to be special in acquiring Tobias Harris to join the team’s starting five. Harris’ elite shooting and scoring ability have added a unique dynamic, but Simmons has struggled in the two games since Harris’ arrival.
He turned the ball over nine times against the Nuggets Friday. On Sunday, he turned the ball over just twice and was more aggressive in looking for his shot, but finished just 3 of 13 from the field.
While the numbers didn’t bear it out vs. the Lakers, Simmons’ willingness to shoot should help this offense a great deal. As the season enters its final third, Brett Brown has spoken with Simmons about expanding his game and what it could mean for the team as a whole.
Apparently, that message was received.
A little bit like everybody. I was like, ‘OK …’” Brett Brown said when asked about his reaction to Simmons’ three attempt. “He and I spoke about this notion for a little bit in the past 24 hours. What’s going to happen in the third third of the season? How do we better help you prepare for the playoffs?
“We all have memories of the Celtics series. So somewhere in the middle we have a window of [26 games] left and I’d like to try some of this stuff prior to the All-Star break and take off with it in the final third.
Don’t expect Simmons to become a three-point specialist overnight. For the season, he’s hit just 14 of 67 shots (21 percent) from beyond 10 feet.
He can learn something from the career of one of his newest teammates.
Harris is now an elite shooter from beyond, but he certainly didn’t come into the league like that. In his first five seasons, Harris took just 2.4 threes a game and hit only 33 percent. Over his past two seasons, Harris is over 42 percent and taking over five attempts a game.
Simmons doesn’t have to reach that level, but anything close would make him as close to unguardable as you can be.
“Just to see that confidence. For him to be able to take it, that’s the first step,” Harris said. “This is coming from somebody, my first couple years in the league, I wasn’t labeled a three-point shooter. The first step is confidence and then next after that is reps and continued reps. Once he starts being able to knock that three down, he’s going to be the full package out there.”
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