Ben Simmons can’t shoot a jumper. Ben Simmons can’t take harsh criticism. Ben Simmons hangs out with celebrities. Ben Simmons only scores six points in Game 1. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Enough. The casual basketball fans (read: 94WIP SportsRadio callers) refuse to respect the all-around game of one of the most dominant players in the league. The three-time All-Star point guard is a treasure, according to Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers, and a lock to win NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He of you that can dish out 15 assists and grab 15 rebounds in a playoff game, first cast a stone.
“Only in Philadelphia,” quipped Rivers. “Honestly, I have zero reaction. If you guys don’t know by now the treasure that you have by now, then shame on everyone. Because he’s been fantastic for us. He creates points every single night for us. When Ben was on the floor, we were really good. And I’m amazed that people don’t see what he does.”
The Washington Wizards held Simmons to six points on Sunday in their first-round playoff series. Ho-hum. He dished out 15 assists and secured 15 rebounds for a +18. He even attempted a three-pointer in Game 1. The 24-year-old already ranks 13th all-time in triple-doubles (32) while locking down the opposition’s best player on a nightly basis. Enough.
“I love Ben’s game,” veteran guard George Hill said. “What I can say is that he shouldn’t give two craps about what you guys say, what other people say, what the media say or what other people on the outside say. He’s got a job here and he does a great job doing it. There’s nights where he can score a lot of points and there’s nights where he’s doing other things to impact the game and help us win.”
The Sixers beat the Wizards 125-118 to take a 1-0 series lead. Tobias Harris scored a game-high 37 points, with Joel Embiid adding 30. Simmons did the dirty work.
“We’re so caught up in the amount of points he scores,” Rivers said. “If Ben had all 125 [points], would we be mad that Joel didn’t score more? Who cares who scores as long as we score. And I think Ben does a great job of doing that for us. When Ben plays, we score more points.”
The latest Sixers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Sixers newsletter here!
Wizards Defend Ben Simmons, Too
The best endorsement for how underappreciated Simmons is may have come from one of the players he’s tasked with defending. Wizards star Bradley Beal scored 33 points in Game 1 but worked for every single shot.
He went 13-of-23 from the field and 1-of-6 from three-point range as Simmons switched off between Beal and fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook. The Sixers stud defender made his presence felt at both ends of the floor.
Washington head coach Scott Brooks — a former point guard for the Sixers himself — has long been a fan of Simmons’ work. He once likened him to LeBron James while chastising those who criticized his shooting.
“For some reason, people want to criticize him, but that guy is as close to LeBron James as anybody with his strength and size and with the court vision that he has,” Brooks said in 2019, via Chase Hughes. “What’s crazy is that you hear about the one thing that he can’t do.”
Rivers Praises Maxey’s Effort in Game 1
Sixers rookie Tyrese Maxey has become a fan favorite due to his hustle. He received a standing ovation from the Philly faithful when he entered Game 1, then promptly turned on the after-burners and snaked his 6-foot-3 frame to the hoop. The speedy guard from Kentucky scored the lay-up and got fouled for an and-one. Maxey finished with three points in only six minutes.
“They were six good minutes and he’s going to keep earning more,” Rivers said. “You know every series is different but getting downhill in this series is very important and he can do that.”
Hill also chimed in on Maxey’s success and channeled “Coming to America” in his praise.
“That boy’s good,” Hill said, with a smile. “I’m super impressed with Maxey. I love the kid, I love his heart, I love what he brings to the table. He’s a sponge, he’s always trying to get better.”