One cannot conduct a lengthy interview with Ben Simmons and not ask him about shooting. This is particularly true if the interviewer is one of the best shooters in NBA history. So when Simmons went on “The Old Man and The Three,” JJ Redick’s podcast, his former Philadelphia 76ers teammate lobbed him a softball about the shooting conversation overshadowing “all the awesome stuff you do.”
“I think for a while it was just — it’s so repetitive, you’re hearing it all the time from everybody,” Simmons said. “And you’re like, f—ing hell. Like, just get off my case, I do other stuff, too. I’m guarding the best players. That’s one thing, I don’t think people respect that enough, what I’m bringing to the court. ‘Cause there’s a lot of shit I’m bringing to the court. And for me, I just want to win. So people also don’t understand my goal is to purely win. I don’t go out there, 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 the game to make the right plays and the right reads to help my team win.
“But that is for sure frustrating,” Simmons continued. “But it’s also one of my weaknesses, so it’s like, 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. And that’s just a part of the game.”
This is far from the first time Simmons has discussed the big, glaring hole in his game. In 2020, he told Jackie MacMullan, then of ESPN, that he’ll shoot 3s when he’s comfortable, that he must “make it a point of emphasis” and that he could “be one of those guys shooting 30 percent right now” but would “rather be one of those guys shooting 40 percent.” That same year, he told Yaron Weitzman that standing in the dunker spot was better for Philadelphia’s offense than standing in the corner, and he was focused on “getting the best shot we can every time,” via Fox Sports.
Redick referenced ex-Philadelphia coach Brett Brown publicly calling on Simmons to shoot 3s, asking, “Did the shooting thing become bigger than it should have been and f— with you a little bit?”
“For sure,” Simmons said. “100 percent. No, for sure. And I didn’t really realize that early on in my career. And it started building up. I’m like, They’re saying I can’t, should I not? I’m f—in’ confused now. You don’t want me to shoot, but you want me to shoot? Like, I don’t know. So it did f— with me a lot. But I kind of found peace in a place where I’m just like, f— it, it’s basketball, like, I’m great at the game, I need to go out there and show people what I can do and my talent. So it did for a while, I was just like f—ed up a little.”
And then, of course, Redick asked Simmons, now a member of the Brooklyn Nets, if he would shoot 3s this coming season.
“Yeah, I need to,” Simmons said. “I need to just go out there and put some up.”
Both of them then started laughing, making it unclear whether or not Simmons was being serious. Redick said his goal should be to take five 3s a game until he’d told to stop.
“F—in 20 3s a game,” Simmons said, now clearly joking. “Kevin’s wide open — nope!”
One thing Simmons seemed sincerely excited about: The 2022-23 Nets. In describing how he anticipates they’ll play, he once again mentioned Redick, Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova and the 2017-18 Sixers.
“I think this team right now is just a great fit for what I do and what I bring to the game,” he told Redick. “I feel like it’s Philly on steroids, kind of, in terms of what we had when you were there and Marco and Ersan.”
Simmons, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since the 2021 playoffs, said that “it’s going to be sick” to get back on the court in Brooklyn.
“I can’t wait, I’m so excited,” he said. “Got a new number, new jersey. I’m just looking forward to it. I think we have a special team. I think if we get it all together, we’re going to be the champions. So that’s the end goal.”
The Nets traded for Simmons in February, and, before a back injury, he was expected to suit up last season. During the first round of the playoffs, all signs pointed to him returning for Game 4, but it didn’t happen. He had surgery on his back in May.
Simmons told Redick that he hurt his back after a workout.
“So, initially I had some soreness in my back when I was working out, then I went to, like, go hop up the stairs, run up the stairs, and my whole right side just dropped,” Simmons said. “And as soon as I went upstairs, I lay down and I could not move.”
Simmons said it was “the same thing” he experienced in Milwaukee in 2020, an incident that left him “throwing up because I was in so much pain.” It was “not a normal situation,” since he had yet to make his Nets debut and they were in the playoffs, but he wanted to play, he said.
“In practice, I know I’m not feeling right,” he said. “My muscles, my glutes (are) not working, I can’t jump, I can’t dunk. And people don’t see that stuff, but that was the reality of it. And me, I’m about to play, about to go into Game 4 or try to go into Game 4, I’m on the ground, I can’t even move. So it’s a real thing. And for me it was frustrating because you have everyone saying whatever. But I try to block that out. If I’m hurt, I’m hurt. I’m not trying to sit out.”
Rehabilitation was a “tough” process, Simmons said, but he only talked about it in the past tense. He said the coaches in Brooklyn have been “incredible” and the trainers have been “great.”
Simmons also spoke about his time with the Sixers, including the end of it.