It’s been a while since we heard from Ben Simmons, but the three-time All-Star chatted with JJ Redick for over an hour ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Simmons touched on a lot during his time on “The Old Man and the Three.” The conversation started with Simmons and Redick reminiscing about their time together on the 76ers and progressed to talk about the narrative surrounding his jump shot, his latest injury, and — yes — the passed-up layup against the Hawks.
You can watch the full interview below, but if you’re looking for a SparkNotes version, here are 11 things Simmons said that jumped out to me.
The most interesting things Ben Simmons said on JJ Redick’s podcast
1. Simmons feels like his basketball IQ is overlooked
“For sure, I think so. I don’t know, it’s like, it’s easy to just say like, you know, nitpick things about a player, but when you actually look at it and the amount of points I kind of generate in terms of like different ways, it’s a lot of points. And we did some amazing things in Philly but I think it is overlooked. But that’s OK.”
What you need to know: Simmons dished out a total of 2,127 between the 2017-18 and 2020-21 seasons. The only players who recorded more during that span were Nikola Jokic (2,149), James Harden (2,203), LeBron James (2,235) and Russell Westbrook (2,768).
2. Simmons gives insight into his offensive mentality
“It’s the same,” Simmons responded when asked if he’d prefer to score or get an assist. “I think it’s the same. But also, it depends how we get the bucket. I want to get easy buckets, and it’s a team game also. It’s easier to guard one guy that his only thing is to score. For me, I’m a defender also. Guarding somebody that just wants to score, it’s easier for me to focus on that than LeBron, who makes everybody better.
“So scoring and assists, it’s the same thing to me. I’m a winner, I want to win. That’s always been the goal for me.”
3. Simmons names the toughest covers in the NBA
“There’s a lot of guys that are tough in their own ways, but Giannis [Antetokounmpo]. What are we talking about? Full speed downhill, 10 steps, dunking, it’s tough. LeBron, he makes people better so I can’t always worry about him because he’s making somebody else better. Even Trae Young, the last time we played them. There were just a lot of calls that you can’t be too physical. I’m 6-10 guarding somebody who’s like, what does he weigh, 200 pounds or whatever it is.
“It’s different in every way. Some of the guys are unbelievably talented and then you have certain refs that will give guys certain calls. It’s basketball, man.”
What you need to know: Simmons has two All-Defensive First Team selections and finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2020-21. He knows a thing or two about defense.
4. Simmons admits the talk around his shooting frustrated him
“I think for a while it was just so repetitive, you’re hearing it all the time from everybody. You’re like, ‘F—ing hell, get off my case.’ Like, I do other stuff too. I’m guarding the best players. That’s one thing, I don’t think people respect that enough, like what I’m bringing to the court because there’s a lot of s— I’m bringing to the court.
“For me, I just want to win so people also don’t understand my goal is to purely win. I’m not trying to have this many points, whatever it is, my goal is to win so I’m trying to do whatever I can during a game to make the right plays and right reads to help my team win.
“But that is for sure frustrating, but it’s also one of my weaknesses, so what am I going to get mad at people for saying I’m not good at something? OK, yeah cool, I’m going to practice and get better. It is what it is.
“That’s just a part of the game. If I was a guy that sucked and people didn’t care, then people wouldn’t be mentioning my name. For me, I’m prideful of being who I am because people expect a high level of basketball from me, which I love because I’d rather be who I am than not on the f—ing court.”
5. Simmons also admits that the shooting criticism messed with him
“For sure. I didn’t really realize that early on in my career. They saying I can’t, like should I not? I’m confused now. You don’t want me to shoot but you want me to shoot? It did f— with me a lot, but I’ve kind of found peace and a play where I’m just like, ‘F— it, it’s basketball, I’m great at the game and I need to go out there and show people what I can do and my talent.’
“So it did for a while, it was just like f—ed up a little, but it is what it is. I feel like all of this stuff that’s happened in the last few years for me has kind of helped me grow and mature in a way I don’t think I would’ve if I didn’t have those experiences.”
What you need to know: Much has been made of Simmons’ jump shot. He’s a dominant paint scorer, but he hasn’t shown notable on-court progress as a shooter since entering the NBA.
6. Simmons isn’t worried about returning after missing an entire season
“No, I’ll be great. And I’m excited to play with Kev, Ky, Joe Harris, all of those guys. We just have an unbelievable team. For me, after surgery, I knew what it was going to take to get back where I needed to be, and I’ve been locked in. It’s been tough — obviously, no rehab is easy, it’s a grind, and that’s what it’s all about for me. That’s my mini-season. Every time I’ve had a situation where I’ve been hurt or whatever it is, that’s my time to lock in and focus and get to where I need to be.”
What you need to know: Simmons was sidelined his entire rookie season with a broken foot and missed all of the 2021-22 season in part due to injury.
7. Simmons discusses his fit with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving
“I think just like the talent that we have and the type of players that we have, we’re going to be able to run the floor easily. You know, we have [Nicolas] Claxton, he moves incredibly well, Kev, Patty, Ky, Joe, we just got Royce [O’Neale], another great 3-and-D guy. I’m missing people, but this team right now is a great fit for what I do and what I bring to the game.
“I feel like it’s Philly on steroids kind of, in terms of what we had when you were there, Marco [Belinelli] and Ersan [Ilyasova].
“It’s exciting knowing I’m going to play with those guys and knowing their games. I don’t have to f—ing guard Kyrie and Kevin.”
8. Simmons explains how he suffered his back injury
“I was actually going up the stairs. Initially, I had some like soreness in my back when I was working out, then I went to like hop up the stairs, run up the stairs, and my whole right side just dropped. As soon as I went upstairs, I laid down and could not move.
“In Milwaukee, I had the same thing, where I went up, twisted and as soon as it happened I knew I couldn’t even move, it shot down my leg. I was in so much pain the whole game … I was throwing up because I was in so much pain. The pain goes all the way down your leg. I couldn’t sit like this, so I couldn’t sit in a car. Everything I was doing was just f—ing painful.
“But yeah, I ran up the stairs and my whole right side just dropped.”
What you need to know: Simmons underwent back surgery near the end of the 2021-22 season to address a herniated disk. In his initial report, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski wrote that Simmons was expected to be fully recovered “well ahead” of training camp.
9. Simmons opens up about his mental health struggles
“I think it was, like, I’m already dealing with a lot mentally just in life as a lot of people do, but it got to a point where after that [Hawks] series, it’s like from the people you’re supposed to have that support from or that comfort from, I wasn’t getting that either so it was a toll on me. Then mentally, it killed me. I was like, f— , no energy for anything, like I was in a dark place.
“The first thing for me was really identifying that I got to get right. It’s not a physical thing, it’s mentally. I think that first thing of acknowledging it is a huge step for me. I need to address this, I need help in these areas. Being able to do that, that was the start of getting to where I’m at now. I’m in a great place and I feel comfortable talking about it now.
“Those were some dark days for me and especially, f—, everything’s public. That’s the crazier part.
“It’s something that everyone goes through different struggles, some bigger than others, but everyone has their own battles, and I think that was tough for me, just knowing I didn’t really have that support from teammates or whatever it was at that time.”
What you need to know: Simmons cited his mental health as the reason his participation with the 76ers was limited when he first joined the team ahead of the 2021-22 season.
10. Simmons addresses the Hawks series
“I think it was me and it was a build-up over time that I was kind of like deflecting and pushing it to the side and not addressing my mental health. It’s hard to do that when you don’t really know, like, ‘F—, why do I feel like this? Why am I feeling this way?’
“Once I was able to really address that, I was like, ‘Oh s—, I want to get myself right, I want to get to a good place mentally to be able to do my job and learn to deal with things I’m dealing with in the right ways and not going down a downward spiral.’ Because there’s a lot of people that go through it and never address it.”
What you need to know: Simmons averaged 6.3 points, 9.0 assists and 7.0 rebounds over the last three games of Philadelphia’s second-round matchup with Atlanta in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
11. Simmons gives his side of the passed-up layup
“In the moment I just spun and I’m assuming Trae’s going to come over quicker, so I’m thinking he’s going to come full-on. I see Matisse [Thybulle], you know Matisse is athletic and can get up, so I’m thinking quick pass and he’s going to flush it, not knowing how much space there was.
“It happened so quick that you just make a read. In the playoffs, you need to make the right decisions the majority of the time.
“For that moment, bro, it happened and I was just like, ‘OK, f—, now we got to go make another play.’ That’s how I’m thinking and I didn’t realize how everyone is posting like it’s that big?”
“When I look at it now, I’m like, ‘I should’ve just f—ing punched that s—,'” Simmons continued. “But it didn’t happen, and I was OK with that, I can live with that, I can live with everyone’s trying to kill me over one play. It’s as if everyone wants to watch film with me. Like, the whole arena. I can dissect everything if you guys want, but that’s not realistic.”
What you need to know: It might be the most talked about passed-up layup in NBA history.