Philadelphia 76ers rookie Ben Simmons needed a year, but he is finally competing on an NBA court. The number one pick of the has recorded double-doubles in his first three games of the season, but he, and the Sixers are yet to taste victory.
The Australian has averaged 15.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists a game so far with many predicting triple-doubles coming his way as the season progresses.
Simmons took part in a recent Q&A session with the world’s media recently, where he discussed the season in its early stages, the potential he believes to be the best player in the league and growing the NBA in Australia, where NBL side Melbourne United gave the OKC Thunder a closely-fought pre-season encounter.
Q. You’ve had a bit of time since your performance to think. How special was it to have your parents watching on?
BEN SIMMONS: It was amazing just to have them there for my first game. Being out a year was frustrating but it finally came, and I’m looking forward to the next game.
Q. You’re obviously a calm guy and you have a lot of confidence and ability, but can you try to maybe put into words what it means to you to be living this dream? Is that something you’ve thought about since you were a kid, obviously, and now it’s actually started? There must be a fair few emotions bubbling away underneath there.
BEN SIMMONS: Yeah, I’m just enjoying it. I’ve been working toward this my whole life and it’s finally here, so I just want to take advantage of my time right now to be the best I can be. It’s going to take time, but I’m looking forward to the journey.
Q. I’m curious about what went through your mind last year when you had to wait technically a full year to get to this moment, and how tough was it for you to remain out, especially considering the hype created by you being drafted first?
BEN SIMMONS: Yeah, it was tough. At the time, I was frustrated. I had my moments where it was just hard for me walking in every day and knowing I wasn’t going to step on the court. But for me, I just tried to take advantage of not actually playing and just trying to learn as much as I could by watching the games, watching film and then obviously taking care of my body. I feel like I’m at the stage now where I just want to take advantage of everything that I’ve put in and all the work I’ve put in now. I just want to take advantage of it every time I step on that court.
Q. I wonder if there’s any particular player you’re looking up to coming up against, matching up against?
BEN SIMMONS: There’s a ton. There’s a ton of guys I want to play against. Just playing teams — Cavs, Warriors, OKC, Rockets, just all those teams. I just want to go up against the best and compete. That’s what I’ve been wanting my whole life, to play the best players and be one of the best players. Now that I have that opportunity, I think as long as I put in the work, the sky’s the limit.
Q. Is there anything you’ve learned during this year not playing that you can apply now that you are technically a rookie?
BEN SIMMONS: There was a ton of things. Just learning the game from the point where I could see the whole floor and not just be on the court and actually playing. It gave me an advantage coming into the season. I think that’s going to pay off a lot this upcoming season. But there’s going to be a lot of things that I learn just being on the floor, so there’s a bit of a difference there.
Q. You guys played at a really fast pace in your first game. When you guys get out in transition, what’s your attitude when you get the ball in your hands and you’re kind of running downhill?
BEN SIMMONS: I just make sure I push the ball. If they give me a gap, that’s when I usually attack or try to make my own space going down the floor. But it just depends. Usually if I get a bigger guy on me, I try to take him to the hole. I just know he can’t really catch up or keep up with me. Just picking the time that I want to attack and knowing when I should attack is definitely one of those things I look at.
Q. What was the most memorable moment of the first game yesterday?
BEN SIMMONS: Most memorable moment I think would just be stepping onto the floor. The lights going out and just seeing my teammates out there, and then the jump ball. I’ll never forget that. Playing against John Wall, Bradley Beal, guys like that, was huge.
Q. Just wondering with all the hype and comparisons with LeBron and all those great players, how are you going to keep your feet on the ground and stay grounded?
BEN SIMMONS: Honestly for me, I just play. I have a lot to prove just to myself where I can go. But I’m not worried about people trying to boost my head or anything like that. For me, I just play the game, and I want to win. I try not to let people get in my head, say certain things or believe the hype. There’s a lot of work to be put in. It’s going to take time, but I believe in myself and my teammates.
Q. As one of the international players in the NBA, is there any one international player that you look up to or admire? Who’s your favourite?
BEN SIMMONS: There’s a lot of great international guys, but there’s nobody I really look at that I try to model my game after. Giannis [Antetokounmpo] is a great player, a similar build. There’s a lot of great guys that are not from America in the States. There’s plenty of them, but for me, I try to make my own game out of what I do and how I play.
Q. What stuff did you learn from your recovery to make yourself believe that you can use that for the rest of your life?
BEN SIMMONS: Just patience and the drive to get back to where I want to be and how I want to be. It’s just the attitude that I have to have no matter what. I believe if I have that, then obviously the sky’s the limit in terms of just health and taking care of myself.
Q. You showed us a good game last night playing as a point guard leading your team. Do you like this position, and do you think you can make a difference at this position?
BEN SIMMONS: Yeah, I feel like that’s the position I can help the team most with just because of my size and playmaking ability. It’s not just one thing I try to focus on. It’s not just scoring or rebounds or assists. I try to focus on everything and helping the team win, no matter if it’s a play that counts toward the stats or if it doesn’t. I just want to be in the best position the team needs me to win.
Q. We all saw what happened to Gordon Hayward. Another Aussie, Dante Exum, also had some unlucky injuries. Just coming from your experiences and missing the entirety of last season, what are the kind of big challenges that they face? Is it physical or more mental? And have you spoken or sent Dante a message?
BEN SIMMONS: Yeah, I just told him I’m praying for him. He’s going to get through it. He knows what it takes to get back. It sucks, but that’s what it is. Injuries happen, and it’s just how you handle it and what mindset you have going into it. It’s not easy, but he’s definitely going to get through it. He’s just going to take his time. There’s no need to rush; he’s young. I’m looking forward for him getting back to where he was because he’s an exciting player, athletic, long. He can really play. And Gordon, that just sucks to see any injuries or anybody go down like that, knowing I went down last year with a foot injury. That sucks because he’s a great player and they had a great team, and now losing a player like that obviously hurts them. But the same thing with him — he’s going to get back from that.
Q. This has obviously been day one, to a degree, in a long journey. How much improvement do you feel in yourself that there is in the years to come?
BEN SIMMONS: A ton. I try to not look down the road too much, try to focus on the present, but I’m excited for the future. I’m very excited. Just got to keep working. It’ll take time, but I believe I can be one of the best players in the league. It’s just going to take work.
Q. I want to ask you to take us into Philly’s locker room. You have a bunch of young talent, a lot of personalities. I was wondering how is the vibe in there?
BEN SIMMONS: The vibe is great. Everyone is competitive, but everyone has a great relationship and we’re like brothers. When we come in, we’re all talking. It’s a great locker room. It’s a great vibe to be in. No one is ever down. No one is holding each other back. But we’re all still holding each other accountable for mistakes. I think that’s one of the best things we have — everybody holds each other accountable.
Q. Just wondering whether you thought it would be a good idea to play NBA games on Australian soil potentially in your hometown?
BEN SIMMONS: Oh, I definitely want the NBA to go out to Australia, and definitely the team I’m on, Philadelphia, I want them to go out there and play. That would be amazing if we could do that. I think it will come. It’s going to be a great time when it happens.
Q. What advice could you give to the young basketball players of a country like Chile who dream about something that seems impossible, to reach the NBA?
BEN SIMMONS: I’d say you can never dream too big. You’ve just got to set your goals and work toward them because I can promise you not many people thought I would be the No. 1 pick when I was 13 years old in Australia. Anything is possible, and you’ve just got to work toward your goals.
Q. I wanted to ask about your thoughts on the performances of those NBL teams that played in those maiden NBA preseason games, and is that something that you’d like to be a part of in the future?
BEN SIMMONS: Whoever they put in front of us, honestly. I think it’s great that they come out here and play. Whoever they put out in front of us, that’s who I want to play. But I think it’s great that they bring out NBL teams. I think it’s great for Australian basketball and also the States. It’s a different play style, so having teams out here is fantastic.
Q. You played against John Wall in your first game and Kyrie Irving up next. There’s a lot of elite point guards in both conferences. What are the things you’re looking to take advantage of when you come up against those elite kind of guys?
BEN SIMMONS: My size and speed are the main things. But versatility, also. When you get a guard switched on to me, it’s tough to not post him up and then not get the ball in there. But at the same time, you’re playing guys who are All-Stars — Kyrie, John, and they’re great players. So I have a lot to learn from just watching them and how they play, which is great for me. But at the same time, I want to come out there with the same energy and confidence.