CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ben Simmons’ inaugural NBA All-Star Game experience was what he expected.
The 76ers point guard had fun and was relaxed while competing among the league’s elite players in the Sunday night showcase at the Spectrum Center. And that’s not surprising for the 2018 rookie of the year.
“Just go out there and do your thing,” he said of his mindset. “For me, I always try go out there and just play the right way. That’s what I tried to show.”
Simmons, who came off the bench, finished with 10 points, seven assists, six rebounds and a steal for Team LeBron in a 178-164 victory over Team Giannis. Sixers teammate Joel Embiid had 10 points, a game-high 12 rebounds, one assist, one steal and a block for Team Giannis is his second consecutive All-Star appearance.
The teams were named for the two conferences’ top vote-getters, Giannis Antetokoumpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and LeBron James of the Lakers.
Simmons displayed solid defense in what is traditionally a defenseless exhibition game.
“I was trying to win, for sure,” Simmons said. “I had a great time, and everyone was competing at the end of the game. So that was good.”
But his competitive mindset kicked in the moment he checked into the game at the start of the second quarter. At that moment, the Australian had a feeling of “Here we go. Don’t mess up.”
Eighteen seconds into the quarter, Simmons grabbed an offensive rebound and assisted on a James Harden three-pointer. Any butterflies he had were surely gone at that point.
Simmons also competed Friday night at the Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star weekend. But as expected, the All-Star Game was the most memorable part of his few days in the Queen City.
He enjoyed playing alongside Dwyane Wade, a future Hall of Famer who will retire at season’s end. Simmons also mentioned how another future Hall of Famer, Dirk Nowitzki, hit a three-pointer on him. Nowitzki also expected to retire after the season.
“It was cool,” Simmons said. “It was an amazing experience.”
Simmons and Embiid were the first teammates Sixers named to the same All-Star Game since Allen Iverson and Dikembe Mutombo in 2002. Two of the league’s best young stars, Simmons, 22, and Embiid, 24, are expected to make this an annual thing.
“I am always happy for him,” Simmons said of Embiid’s being an All-Star. “He has been playing really well this season. He’s been playing at a high level. So it’s good to see him out, but I got the win over him.”
In addition to gaining bragging rights, Simmons learned from the veteran All-Stars. His takeaway from the weekend: The certain level of work one has to put in to be great.