Rivals mock Simmons with cruel sledge
WASHINGTON coach Scott Brooks recently likened Ben Simmons to LeBron James, but one glaring issue meant the Aussie was the butt of a joke in Boston - until a rival finally shook off an unwanted tag.
Simmons' unwillingness to shoot from range has been the hottest topic of his NBA career to date and even though he's drained two three-pointers this season - his first two in the league - criticism of his ability to score from outside the paint won't go away.
But it's not just basketball scribes and pundits chipping the Philadelphia star for the biggest weakness in his arsenal - other teams are using it for comedic material.
In Boston's 110-88 win over Cleveland, Celtics star Grant Williams finally got the monkey off his back by knocking down his first NBA three-pointer on his 26th attempt.
Teammates found Williams' long-running drought from beyond the arc pretty funny and fellow Boston star Jaylen Brown revealed how the Celtics teased Williams about his run of failed attempts from downtown.
"Yeah, we were calling him Ben Simmons," Brown told reporters, who cracked up laughing.
Simmons put up some impressive numbers in the 76ers' 110-104 win over Toronto on Monday, finishing just shy of a triple-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, but he shunned coach Brett Brown's three-point request.
Simmons was shy from long range even after Brown said before the game he wanted at least one three-point attempt each outing.
"This is what I want and you can pass it along to his agent, his family and friends - I want a three-point shot a game, minimum," Brown said.
"The pull-up twos … I'm fine with whatever is open. But I'm interested in the three-point shot."
Brown has been protective of Simmons since the Aussie's entry to the league and said the constant talk around the point guard's shooting was over the top, but admitted if the Sixers' star could add another string to his bow then it would only benefit the team.
"The drama of it is overblown," Brown said. "The reality is he can shoot and it's ultimately going to need to come into his game in a pronounced way from an attempt standpoint, that's not overblown.
"I think the drama surrounding it is completely overblown. When I put on my coaching hat and I'm looking at a 23-year-old young man trying to grow his game. It's completely, first, in his wheelhouse. And, secondly, he will be liberated. His world will open up. And I think, in many ways, so will ours."
Simmons does his best work in the paint and his efficiency in driving to the rim for dunks and lay-ups is matched by very few in the NBA. But he'll become an even bigger threat if opposition teams know they need to guard him in all areas of the front court.
Wizards mentor Brooks said before his team's six-point win over Philly last week that he couldn't believe there was so much negativity around Simmons when his positives far outweighed his deficiencies.
"What's crazy is that you hear about the one thing that he can't do," Brooks said.
"But if you don't have to shoot threes, why do you need to shoot threes when you get to the paint at ease? Or when you have the strength that he can rebound and pass and when you can finish with either hand?
"I mean, it's crazy.
"I've been around a lot of one-trick ponies that can only shoot and they never get criticised that they can't defend, they can't rebound, they can't pass, they can't move their feet, they don't run back.
"For some reason, people want to criticise 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."