Dwyane Wade

After nightmare in Boston, Ben Simmons ready for redemption

After nightmare in Boston, Ben Simmons ready for redemption

It was an ominous clothing choice for Ben Simmons.

The last time the Sixers’ point guard stepped inside TD Garden, he wore a camouflage hoodie. Then Simmons basically blended into the background during a heartbreaking Game 2 loss to the Boston Celtics.

That 108-103 loss last week marked the worst game of Simmons’ young career. He scored just a single point on 0 for 4 shooting to go along with seven assists, five rebounds and five turnovers in 31 minutes.

“I think it was mainly what I did to myself,” Simmons said after that defeat. “I think mentally I was thinking too much, overthinking the plays. I wasn’t just out there flowing and playing the way I play, which is free.”

After a chat with Sixers legend Allen Iverson and taking some time to refocus, Simmons was able to find that freedom back home at the Wells Fargo Center. 

Despite some back-breaking miscues in crunch time of Game 3, Simmons looked more like himself with 16 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and two blocks. The rookie sensation followed that up in the Sixers’ Game 4 victory Monday with a 19-point, 13-rebound double-double.

While Simmons would love to bottle up that production and take it back to Boston for Wednesday’s critical Game 5 (8 p.m./TNT), he knows it all starts with the team’s approach.

“We’ve got to have the same mindset going into it,” Simmons said after a 103-92 Game 4 win. “We know it’s going to be a physical game. We know what to expect with their players. I think we’ve just got to go in, focus, lock in and handle business. We’ve played this team multiple times, so we know what we’re getting from them.”

But what will the Sixers get from Simmons?

Back when the young star was training with NBA royalty in the summers such as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, he noted that the biggest thing he took away from those guys was practice habits and experiences. 

Perhaps playing with your back against the wall on the road in a win-or-go-home scenario came up during those grueling workouts. And for Sixers fans, maybe the perspective needed to get over that hump from two guys with six combined championships rubbed off a bit.

“For me, I’m not ready to go home and start my vacation. Definitely not,” Simmons said. “I texted Jo (Joel Embiid) before the game and we spoke about it. We want to be here and we believe our time is now. It’s going to take a lot, but that’s just the way our mindset is.”

Dwyane Wade praises Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Sixers

Dwyane Wade praises Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Sixers

This wasn’t Dwyane Wade’s first rodeo. 

The three-time NBA champ and former Finals MVP has played with and against the best players of the last 15 years. After his Heat team suffered a Game 5 and 4-1 series loss Tuesday night, the future Hall of Famer heaped praise upon the Sixers’ young stars, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

“They’re the future of the NBA,” Wade said. “The NBA is in great hands with Ben and Joel and those kind of individuals.”

The young Sixers delivered at home, closing out their series in five games with a 104-91 win. Simmons (14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) and Embiid (19 points, 12 boards) shined once again. 

As the Sixers look forward to an Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup with either Boston or Milwaukee, the question is simple: how far can these kids go?

“When you’ve got great individual players — no matter how old they are — they can do some special things,” Wade said. “These guys believe it. You can see it in their eyes. Embiid is not just talk. He’s not just a Twitter rat kind of person. He’s a player. He’s very good. 

“I believe in those guys. I believe they’re going to be special for awhile, but also, if they believe they can do it now, they can.”

Wade won two NBA titles with the greatest player on the planet, LeBron James. While the Sixers focus on now, there’s been a lot of talk from fans and media of King James' jumping ship and coming to Philly.

According to Wade, the Fresh Prince may be the only royalty the Sixers need.

“I don’t think he had a bad game,” Wade said of Simmons. “A young player like that, in his first playoffs — he didn’t have a bad game. You knew from the first time you saw him in summer league that he was special. If you know basketball, if you know talent, you know someone is special. 

“I think the thing that was impressive about him all year, is he just continued to get better and better and better. To the point where it’s like that guy in Cleveland — doesn’t have bad games. The imprint that [Simmons and James] put on the game is more than just scoring. [Simmons] does so much. The sky is the limit obviously for him and this organization. “

The Sixers have become a trendy pick to win the East and advance to the finals. Sure, they have youth, but Wade believes the organization has done an excellent job adding veteran players like JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to complement Simmons and Embiid.

Wade experienced success at a young age and sees no reason this Sixers team can’t do the same.

“It’s definitely possible,” Wade said of the Sixers going on a deep playoff run. “Sometimes an organization, they get lucky and draft someone special. And these guys got to draft more than one person special and you were able to build around that. 

“That’s what these guys have the ability to do. I was lucky enough in my first year to go to the second round. And then the next year go to the Eastern Conference Finals and the next year win it all. It definitely can happen right away.”

Why Dwyane Wade thinks Sixers are 'special'

Why Dwyane Wade thinks Sixers are 'special'

MIAMI — For the 13 first rounds Dwyane Wade has played in, the current Sixers-Heat matchup has made a strong impression.

“They’re good,” Wade said. “They’re special. They’re a good group. They put the right team together.”

Sitting at the podium, Wade spent a good amount of time during his press conference praising the team that has put the Heat on the brink of elimination. He’s been on the winning side often, including three championships, so he recognizes a unique team when he sees it. 

“This definitely is one of the best first-round series I’ve ever played in, first-round opponent,” Wade said.

The Sixers have gone up 3-1 on the Heat with a roster that is balanced both positionally and in experience. Seven players finished in double digits Saturday and only veteran JJ Redick had more than 20 points. Ben Simmons, with whom Wade already has a relationship (see story), recorded his first career playoff triple-double (17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists). He became the youngest player to do so since Wade’s former teammate LeBron James back in 2006. 

"I give a lot of credit to their point guard, their leader, Ben,” Wade said. “He does a great job of getting them settled, getting the ball to his guys, and keep feeding confidence to them.”

Wade described the Sixers as having “an edge.” They will use it to test the Heat Tuesday when the series returns to Philadelphia. Wade encourages his teammates to play with maturity and withstand the Sixers’ runs. The Heat split the first two games at the Wells Fargo Center. 

“They’re going to play with pace, play with speed, play physical,” Wade said. “Obviously they’re going to play with their crowd. It’s going to be a high energy type of game from them … All we’ve got to do is just worry about this one game and giving everything we have for that game. You walk out of that game, you gave everything you had, you can live with whatever result is there at the end.”

Wade, 36, has had vintage moments against the Sixers in this series. He led all players with 28 points off the bench in the Heat’s Game 2 win. On Sunday, he scored 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter alone. 

Asked about the possibility of this game against the Sixers being his last game in Miami playing for the Heat, Wade said, “I won’t answer that right now. I’ve got another game to play. I’m focused on the next game and trying to win that one.”

What he will answer is questions about his competition. 

"They’re a very good team," Wade said. "I can’t say nothing negative about them at all. So far they’ve been great opponents.”