ATLANTA — Ben Simmons seems unbothered by falling short of being named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Something about trying to help the 76ers win their first NBA title since 1983 is his top priority these days. He’s one of the reasons the Sixers have a 2-1 series advantage over the Atlanta Hawks in their Eastern Conference semifinals.
Last week, Utah’s Rudy Gobert was named defensive player of the year for the third time. He received 84 first-place votes and 464 total points from a panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. Simmons finished second with 15 first-place votes and 287 points.
“Congrats to Rudy,” Simmons said after finishing with 18 points, seven assists, and one steal in Friday night’s 127-111 Game 3 victory over the Hawks. “It is what it is. I’m not really concerned about individual awards. I want the championship. So that’s my goal.
“Honestly, the goal was never defensive player of the year. It was just go out there and do my job, and try to be the best defender in the league, regardless of the awards. My ultimate goal is a championship and I’ve still got to do my job at a high level.”
While Simmons said it wasn’t his goal, Sixers coach Doc Rivers publicly politicked for his multifacited player to get the award. Guarding positions one throgh five, Simmons wasn’t afraid to say that he was the league’s best defender.
Tobias Harris’ reaction
On Friday, Tobias Harris discussed being a finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award, which recognizes a player’s social-justice efforts and his upholding the NBA’s value of equality, respect, and inclusion.
The other finalists are Portland forward Carmelo Anthony, Sacramento forward Harrison Barnes, Milwaukee guard and former Sixer Jrue Holiday, and Golden State forward Juan Toscano-Anderson.
“I mean, that’s a huge honor to be selected in that group with all those guys as well,” Harris said. “For me, obviously, education and education for our youth has been a huge focal point that I like to get involved in. ...
“So education has alway been a huge focal point for me and the things that I do in terms of philanthropy and to be seleceted as finalist for that award is an amazing honor for me.”