Simmons declares: ‘Melbourne can beat us’
AUSTRALIAN NBA star Ben Simmons has urged his Philadelphia teammates not to take Melbourne lightly in Saturday's historic pre-season clash, declaring: "They can come in and win".
You could understand if the Sixers were complacent based on their multimillion-dollar salaries alone but Simmons knows United are a serious threat.
This time last year Melbourne came within one basket of beating a star-studded Oklahoma City Thunder outfit featuring All-Stars Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George.
Simmons says United deserve respect.
"It will be a lot of fun playing against Aussies and playing a different style of basketball and Melbourne playing against an NBA level," Simmons said.
"But at the same time I know they can come in and win, so that is the one thing I'll be telling my teammates to not go easy or take it for granted who we are playing."
After picking up the Rookie of the Year award in his maiden NBA season, Simmons is determined not to let his standards slip in his sophomore year.
He says Sixers coach Brett Brown has been vital in helping him improve as a player and person.
"I text Brett frequently," he said.
"He wants to see me get better at one thing and if I get better at free-throws or whatever it is that might add six more points.
"Then you are looking at a triple-double almost, which is funny because the other stats like rebounds will probably go up.
"It is just little things that can improve my game.
"It may not need to be a three-point shot. It might be making four more three-throws, which gets me to 20 points."
Simmons' Sixers take on Melbourne United live on ESPN from 9.00am AEST on Saturday.
Five NBL teams, including United, New Zealand Breakers, Perth Wildcats, Adelaide 36ers and Sydney Kings, will play a total of seven games against NBA teams in the 2018 NBA preseason.
This marks the most games NBA teams will play against teams from an international league in a single preseason.
Melbourne will open the series against a strong Philadelphia side, featuring Australians Simmons and Jonah Bolden and former Tigers, Giants and Kings coach Brett Brown, at the Wells Fargo Center.