NEW YORK — Ben Simmons talked Wednesday about his future. The point forward out of Louisiana State talked about Thursday’s NBA draft and he talked about the 76ers, who have the first overall pick.
And by design or by accident, Simmons, who is expected to be selected by the Sixers, said “We” a couple of times when the Sixers were mentioned.
“I think once we start playing we will come together,” Simmons said. “I had a good feeling when I was working out there. I had good vibes. So I’m looking forward to it.”
The Sixers have not announced which player they plan to pick at No. 1. However, it would be perhaps the biggest draft-day shock if Simmons did not end up in Philadelphia. According to several reports, the Sixers promised Simmons they would draft him first overall. The team would not respond to the reports even though it was posting videos from Tuesday’s private workout as if he was the savior of the franchise.
Simmons was asked Wednesday during a predraft media availability if he received a promise.
“I haven’t spoken to anybody about that,” he said. “But maybe you heard it from somebody else.”
Even though both sides won’t say publicly whether he’s a Sixer in waiting, it’s obvious that Simmons sees himself as the perfect fit.
“I can bring just a young competitor,” he said, “somebody that can push the ball in transition, a point forward style of play, being [6-foot-10] and able to handle the ball.”
The 243-pound player spoke highly of the Sixers, calling them a bunch of great people. He also used the word “great” while describing the ownership group and the Sixers’ young core of players.
“And, of course, a great coach in Brett Brown,” Simmons said. “It’s a team on the upward swing.”
Simmons, a native of Melbourne, Australia, knows Brown well. If fact, he has known the Sixers coach his entire life. Brown was an assistant coach of the Melbourne Tigers of Australia’s National Basketball League when Ben’s father, David, was the standout forward on the team.
After his workout Tuesday, Ben Simmons and Brown chatted about the past and the elder Simmons’ play.
Simmons recalled a time four years ago when he attended an Australian national team practice during Brown tenure as Boomers coach.
“I spoke to him,” Simmons said, “and the only thing he said was make sure you score the ball: ‘One day you might be in the NBA. So who knows?’”
Now he’s on the verge of having Brown as his NBA coach.
“It’s kind of strange how it’s happened like this,” Simmons said.
Other than being linked to Brown, nothing about this process seemed to faze the 19-year-old star.
He calmly and politely answered questions Wednesday from a horde of reporters at his podium. He said he has been focused on being an NBA player since he wrote that goal on a piece of paper at age 4 or 5. Simmons said he still has that piece of paper.
He said hearing his name called Thursday night will be a big relief after all the hard work.
“I’ve finally gotten to this point,” he said. “But now, you are a small fish in a big pond, back at it again. You are not playing against rookies.
“You are playing LeBron [James], Paul George, guys like that. So you go back to the bottom.”
Simmons’ journey wasn’t always a pleasant one.
Some questioned his work ethic as his lone season progressed at LSU. He was benched for academic reasons in the opening minutes of a game against Tennessee on Feb. 20.
He also failed to achieve the 2.0 grade point average needed in the fall semester to be a finalist for the Wooden Award, which goes to the nation’s top college player.
“Going to LSU was lots of up and downs,” Simmons said. “But I learned a lot from going there. I think it kind of prepared me. I needed to go through that to prepare for this next level.”
But the folks close to Simmons say his criticism in college was unwarranted. They say he’s a respectable young man, a hard worker, and will be a great teammate in the NBA. And that he’ll be the complete package.
“A lot of people questioned the dude’s jump shot,” said former Washington guard Dejounte Murray, who like Simmons is a draft prospect represented by Klutch Sports. “But he’s put in countless hours and I’ve seen improvement. All that he’s got to do is keep working hard.”
Asked whether he would be surprised if he was not a Sixer on Thursday night, Simmons responded, “Yes.”