Simmons’ perfect reply to doubters
BEN Simmons brushed aside concerns he's struggling with growing pains while adjusting to life on the floor with new recruit Jimmy Butler by filling the stats sheet with some impressive numbers against Charlotte on Sunday (AEST).
The Aussie star banked 23 points, 11 rebounds and game-high nine assists to finish just short of another triple-double in the 76ers 122-119 over-time win over the Charlotte Hornets.
While Simmons' teammate Joel Embiid threw down 33 points with 11 rebounds, it was one of his opponents that sparkled in the game.
The Hornets' Kemba Walker scored a career-high 60 for the most points in a game since March 2017 when Devin Booker scored 70.
It overtook the Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson's 52 points as the most in a game for the season as he outscored all his teammates in the match.
Simmons meanwhile banked 10 points, nine rebounds and seven assists by half-time alone as the 76ers took a 63-56 lead into the break.
Simmons totalled five assists in the first quarter - the most a Sixers player has had in an opening quarter this season.
Two of his points came from a stunning dunk after a teammate's jumper bounced off the rim with 3:30 remaining in the half, and at one stage in the third quarter the notoriously shaky free-throw shooter was five from five from the charity stripe.
Simmons' opening-half showing - which complemented All-Star centre Embiid - will be welcome ammunition for sceptics who cast doubt over the 22-year-old's ability to maintain the form that saw him crowned last season's Rookie of the Year with Butler now on his side.
The former Minnesota Timberwolves star moved to the Sixers in a blockbuster trade last week and some US commentators questioned whether Simmons could still be a leading man alongside the four-time NBA All-Star.
Simmons finished Saturday's 113-107 win over Utah with 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists - but his struggles to make an impact on the game without the ball in his hands concerned some Sixers analysts.
With Butler demanding more of the ball, there are concerns Simmons' offensive development could be blunted. He was called "lost" and at risk of "disappearing" while the Jazz fought back in the second quarter.
But the pair showed they could work together on the court as Butler came up with the game-saving play despite a relatively quiet night with 15 points, three rebounds and four assists in 37 minutes.
Coach Brett Brown admitted after the game Simmons will be the hardest-hit player from Butler's arrival.
"I think out of anybody that's going to experience the biggest adjustment it's going to be him," Brown said, according to Atlantic City Press.
"You have a high-usage guy coming in. J.J. (Redick) does his thing, and Joel does his thing. We'd all be quite naive to think there's not a little bit of a vacuum that's seemingly directed toward him (Simmons)."
The Australian admitted after the win over Utah he has found it "frustrating at times" as the team finds its natural rhythm with Butler on the floor - but is comfortable with the direction the team is heading in.
"It's been at times frustrating, just because you don't know what the team wants, or needs from you," Simmons said.
"This game I've felt a lot more comfortable, and know what coach wants from me."