Ben Simmons says he is healthy and eager to get started while putting last season behind him.
In the 76ers point guard’s first news conference since suffering a season-ending knee injury during the NBA’s restart in August, Simmons expressed his excitement about playing for new coach Doc Rivers, said he is a positionless player, and added that he is ready to compete for a championship.
Simmons suffered a partial dislocation of his left kneecap in a game Aug. 5 against the Washington Wizards. On Aug. 10 he had knee surgery and without him the Sixers were swept in four games by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
“I feel good and I am ready to go,” Simmons said Friday. “I rehabbed from when I got injured to now. I have been very consistent with it, making sure I get back healthy which I am now so I am looking forward to getting back on the court.”
Rivers replaced Brett Brown, who was fired after seven seasons with the Sixers. Brown coached Simmons’ father in Australia and has had a long relationship with the family.
“It is a business, we are here to win,” Simmons said about the 76ers’ decision to fire Brown. “Whatever decisions are made to help us win I am for it.”
“Obviously I have that relationship with Brett,” Simmons said. “Brett has been a great influence in my career. Having somebody like that early on, to push me, motivate me, was great.”
That said, he is looking forward to working with Rivers, who won a championship as a coach with the Boston Celtics.
“I am excited for being able to be coached by Doc, somebody who has won a championship who has had those experiences, who has coached numerous talented players,” Simmons said. “And his history, he has played in the league too. Learning from somebody else is great, having different minds, voices out there so I am very excited to get started with that.”
During the NBA restart, Simmons was moved from point guard to power forward. As for his position now, he was a little coy.
“Yeah, I’m a player, man,” he said. “There’s no 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 with me, I’m a player. I don’t really think you can put me in a position because of my talents, what I’m able to do. But you know I think Doc would say the same thing, I go out there and make plays.”
At the end of last season Josh Richardson, who has since been traded to Dallas with a second-round pick for Seth Curry, said the players weren’t held accountable. Simmons agreed.
“One hundred percent,” he said. “I think we didn’t know when we were going to get a bucket, who was going to get us a bucket. From that, to knowing what we needed to be in at all times. You know people being held accountable for certain things, whether it’s a minor thing, it all plays a part. So he definitely was right.
“We weren’t in a position to go to that bubble and win. I think our mindset was off and accountability is a huge part of winning. Bringing Doc and all these guys in, and Doc’s team with all these coaches around, the maturity has definitely risen with the team.”
Simmons, 24, a two-time All-Star, said he is ready to win with three-time All-Star Joel Embiid, 26. There are perceptions that the two have games that don’t mix, but Simmons feels otherwise.
“I think Jo and I both realize how unique and special this moment is for guys like us to be on the same team at a young age,” Simmons said. “ … We have a new opportunity, we have new guys on the team, new leadership, and I think we can go all the way. I wouldn’t be saying that if I didn’t believe it.”
When asked about his relationship with Embiid, Simmons joked, “It’s good, I’m moving in with Jo.
“We’re only going to grow and get better with time,” Simmons said.
In his three seasons, Simmons has attempted just 20 three-point field goals. Last season he attempted 647 shots and only 37 were beyond 10 feet, according to basketball-reference.com.
“It is important to make shots, but it’s more important to win, so however the win happens, it happens.” said Simmons, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection.
Earlier this week, Rivers said he wasn’t concerned about Simmons’ long-distance shooting.
“I don’t care about Ben shooting as much as so many other people seem to care about it,” Rivers said. “I care that he’s a great player and I’m going to let him play, I’m going to give him the keys and let him be free and play. If he takes no shots, I’m fine. If he takes 10 threes, I’m fine. If he gets to the line 15 times, I’m fine.”
Besides his knee injury, Simmons missed time with a back injury. He missed 16 regular-season games and all four of the playoff games.
“I think last year was tough for everybody, especially with the injuries that didn’t help,” Simmons said.
For Simmons, it is all about looking ahead.