We all live in fear. For some people, it’s tight spaces. Other are terrified of heights. You already know what keeps Ben Simmons up at night. It’s shooting jumpers, especially from beyond the arc, where he has made all of two buckets (both coming this season) for his career. Not all point guards have mastered the art of long-range shooting, but the gun-shy Simmons seldom even attempts three-pointers.
When 76ers coach Brett Brown announced he was moving Simmons to power forward this summer, most took it as an admission of defeat. Even his own coach doesn’t think he can shoot, critics mocked. So what did Simmons do in Orlando Friday? He splashed one in all of our faces.
Certainly, one corner three in a scrimmage with no fans in attendance won’t change the narrative surrounding Simmons’ career-long shooting woes, but for the embattled 24-year-old, it’s progress. “I know it’s going to come,” said Simmons of his ongoing three-point quest. “It’s a matter of me being comfortable doing it.”
Like Derek Zoolander’s famous reluctance to unveil “Magnum,” Simmons admits he could probably shoot 30 percent on threes right now, but would rather hone that skill in practice first. Anyone can see the logic in that, though that approach doesn’t work for Brown. “I told Ben, 'If you aren't willing to shoot, then do I just bench you?’” said Brown, whose job security has been a frequent topic of discussion among Sixers fans. “This was all discussed.”
According to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, Simmons has begun seeing a sports psychologist in hopes of restoring some of his lost confidence. Simmons’ high school coach Kevin Boyle, who still communicates regularly with his star pupil, thinks tough love might be what’s needed. “If I were in charge of the Sixers, I'd tell him, 'If you don't take a pull-up jumper and a perimeter shot in each half—I don't care about your percentages—you're sitting,’” said Boyle, who refused to coddle Simmons during his time at Monteverde Academy in Florida. “He's got to get past, 'I don't want to read people saying I can't shoot.' Well, right now they're saying you won't shoot—and that's worse."
They say a watched pot never boils and Simmons may be experiencing that phenomenon on some level with so much attention being paid to his shooting stroke in spite of his many other strengths. Simmons is putting in the work to get over his mental block and maybe, after countless false starts, the two-time All-Star is finally ready to conquer his longstanding three-point phobia. Considering how successful he’s been without one all these years, adding a reliable jumper to his arsenal would make Simmons one of the most dangerous players in all of basketball … if he wasn’t already.