GALLOWAY, N.J. — Ben Simmons took the ball to the basket, darted down the lane and finished with a thunderous left-handed dunk. He had the look of a younger version of a guy who he’s been compared to and who he’s been around a lot since the day he was drafted: LeBron James.
“I think just being around him and learning from his habits and what he does has just helped me,” Simmons said. “He’ll be one of the first guys in the job, he gets his work in and enjoys the rest of his day.”
People questioned Simmons’ intensity during his lone season at LSU, where he finished with averages of 19.2 points, 11.8 boards, 4.8 assists, 2.0 steals and 0.8 blocks while shooting 56.0 percent from the field
Now he seems to be dead-set on proving the doubters wrong.
So far during his young NBA career, the rookie has impressed during offseason workouts, Summer League and now early in training camp. All indications from the team is that he’s an extremely hard worker and has embraced being a leader, while his teammates have raved about playing with him.
He’s trying to put that perception in the rearview mirror and focus on his professional career moving forward.
“This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” Simmons said during Media Day.
Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown believes that Simmons “truly wants to be great.”
Simmons proved that with the work he put in this offseason, as he’s gained 33 pounds since leaving LSU, going from 217 up to 250. The extra muscle should help him handle the minutes he’s expected to see, especially if he’s handling some point-guard duties as expected.
When you’re the No. 1 overall pick, everyone has a target on you, and Simmons was long viewed as the likely top pick in this past draft — just like James was back in the 2003 draft. While saying Simmons is the LeBron is a bit of a reach, the 6’10” forward with point-guard skills thinks that being around James and his relationship with the “King” will only help him live up to the hype of being the No. 1 overall pick.
“Just learning from him I can take a lot from what he’s done,” Simmons admitted. “He’s done a lot for me.”
So far Simmons has already shown his versatility, much like LeBron, playing multiple positions, handling the point, and even playing some 2-guard while sharing the floor with Dario Saric, who said he’s never played with someone like Simmons.
“I’ve never played with someone who can control himself like that on the court,” Saric said. “It’s amazing, its amazing — everyone knows he’s the first pick and everyone expects a lot, everyone puts the pressure on him.”
For Sixers fans, if Simmons’ production and achievements on the floor even come close to the level of James in his NBA career, let’s just say the “process” will have been totally worth it.