Ben Simmons used his influence to cut back training camp two minutes early.
A year ago during the end of the final session of training camp, the 76ers rookie and the first overall pick in the 2016 draft out of LSU, suffered what would turn out to be a season-ending Jones fracture of his left foot.
Almost a year to the date, the 6-foot-10 Simmons was happy to end camp in one piece, even if he and his teammates couldn’t literally settle a score.
“The coaches wanted to go two more minutes, it was a tie game and I said ‘nope,’ just get through it,” Simmons said after Friday’s session at the Sixers practice facility in Camden.
The team is off on Saturday and even though coach Brett Brown says camp for him ends following Sunday’s inter-squad scrimmage at the Palestra, Simmons feels elated to have gotten through the practice portion in good health.
“Toward the end, I was kind of, everybody was worn out so it was good to end it,” Simmons said. “I was glad we got through it and I am excited to finally start the [preseason].”
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) September 29, 2017
It’s already been documented how Simmons has impressed his teammates this camp with his ability to run the floor, and how guarding somebody with his ball-handling skill, size and vision will be a challenge.
During this camp, Simmons also showed a versatile side to his defensive game.
When asked if there is any position on the court that he thought Simmons couldn’t guard, teammate and defensive standout Robert Covington said, “No, honestly I don’t.”
Then Covington expanded on the subject.
“As much as he has done out here Ben is very versatile,” Covington said. “He has to guard point guards, uses his body when he has to guard wings, he uses his body when he has to guard big guys, he is not afraid to get in there.”
That lack of fear after last season’s injury is key for Simmons, who feels he took a big step by getting through this week. Plus he has appreciated Brown’s faith to give Simmons the ball and run the point.
“I think I grew over the last three days,” Simmons said. “I was given the job to run the point most of the time so I think I got better every day and adjusted and learned everybody’s game a lot better.”
Simmons, 21, averaged 19.6 points, 11.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his one season at LSU. His only action with the team was during summer league action in 2016.
Sunday will be something different.
“I am just excited to get out there and actually experience it,” he said. “I haven’t really experienced a game and have been watching and my first time actually being in front of the fans and they finally get to see me play.”
Friday he got through one hurdle and now he is looking forward for many more to clear.