Humility, oftentimes, is the
With Danilo Gallinari on his
hip, Ben Simmons spun to his left to find Trae Young standing
between him and a game-tying layup.
By that point in the series,
Simmons had long become allergic to the rim, and everyone knows
what happened next.
He'd decided he would rather
assist Matisse Thybulle on the most important basket of the
Philadelphia 76ers' season than dunk on Trae Young’s
Simmons’ partnership with Joel
Embiid ended the moment in which the big man — truthful as it may
have been — cited and pinpointed that play
when asked when he felt things unraveled for the Sixers.
It’s been three months since the
events of June 20, and yet somehow, Simmons and the Sixers are
exactly where they were when Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center went
dark that night.
True humility, perhaps never
having been introduced to Simmons prior to that point, has become
his bosom buddy. And together, they’ll roll into the unknown with
only one certainty — there’s no more love left in the
As a class, certain
generalizations can be made about the different castes of NBA
players, and many of them will hold true.
But one’s true motivation —
that’s always difficult to ascertain.
Some players pick up the ball
merely because they’re tall. Others begin practicing post moves in
their driveway because they’ve been inspired. Many develop a
natural love for the game for other reasons, and along the long,
treacherous route from prep player to NBA star, their mettle and
resolve are tested.
And some find themselves in
their darkest hours. That’s where Simmons has resided for the past
three months. How he’ll emerge is just as good a question as to where.
Those who’ve spent a few moons
around the NBA will attest to the fact that there’s not always a
consensus top pick heading into each draft. In 2016, though, there
Drawing comparisons to Magic
Johnson and LeBron James, Simmons was lauded as the next great
point forward. His rare combination of size and speed with his
nimbleness and agility captured the imagination of everyone who had
an opportunity to see him play. And after four years in the league,
those attributes have already proven to have not been a
He probably doesn’t possess the
ability to be a 30-point-per-game scorer in the NBA, but he can
help any team deliver wins, just like he has in Philadelphia. As a
rookie, he joined forces with Embiid to help the Sixers improve
from 28-54 the year prior to 52-30.
Each year since then, the
expectations grew, eventually leaving Simmons’ own offensive
development in its dust.
Defensively, the three-time
All-Star’s defense has been better than advertised. But the same,
obviously, cannot be said for his offensive
In spite of that, one fact
remains: Even after four years Simmons is a hell of a player with
quite a bit of untapped potential. “Potential,” however, is really
just a nice way of pointing out that you haven’t done something
For many, a fresh start, a new
beginning and a chip on the shoulder can be exactly the nudge
that’s needed to turn potential energy into kinetic. And maybe,
just maybe, that’s the fate that will await Simmons in San Antonio,
Cleveland, Sacramento or whichever NBA city ends up ponying up and
offering Daryl Morey the king’s ransom he
Particularly with first overall
picks, for many years, there can be a lack of accountability and an
unwillingness to compromise their beliefs for the greater good of a
team. A player like Simmons — a consensus No. 1 prospect — has
heard so much good about himself for so long that he becomes
self-inflated. Sometimes, it takes getting knocked off one’s high
horse to burst his bubble, and Simmons just spent an entire summer
getting reacquainted with reality.
He has work to do. He knows it,
and some team in the NBA is going to benefit.
The great irony in all of it is
this: Players whose front offices believe in them often have other
players cycled in and out to fit their alpha. As head coach, we saw
Mike D’Antoni relegate two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol and turn him
into a three-point-shooting reserve big man. The minute poor Pau
got away from D’Antoni, he became an All-Star again.
We’ve seen entire teams and
rotations built around LeBron James to give him the pick-and-roll
players he needed to become successful, while the Denver Nuggets
did what they had to do to clear the logjam that existed up front
because Nikola Jokic needed space (and reps) to thrive.
The same never happened for
Simmons in Philadelphia, so one can only wonder what a team built
specifically in his mold would look like, and whether he could push
them further than he was able to with Embiid serving as the
With Danilo Gallinari left in
his wake, Simmons came upon the rim. In that situation, and in that
moment, his fateful pass was perhaps representative of something
bigger — for whatever reason, in Philadelphia, the desire just
In all walks of life, breakups
are tough. But both Simmons and the Sixers knew that their marriage
had run its course.
Life can be quite cyclical. A
rookie again, the 25-year-old Australian All-Star will find that a
new franchise is in the palm of his hand.
Perhaps this time, he’ll work as
hard as he needs to in order to ensure himself a different