NEW YORK – The 76ers have Ben Simmons listed as a point guard and power forward. And coach Brett Brown said before Thursday’s game against the New York Knicks that Simmons’ career path could be one of those positions.
“Definitely one [point guard] not four [power forward],” Simmons said inside the visitor’s locker room before the Sixers took the court at Madison Square Garden.
You don’t want to play the four?
“Nah,” he said. “I don’t want to play the four. I mean I’ll play the four, but I don’t want to be predominantly in the four position. I feel like I can do a lot more from the point-guard position as you’ve seen.”
Simmons headed into Thursday’s game with averages of 16.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 1.69 steals. He went on to post 13 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in the Sixers’ 118-110 victory. It was his second straight and eighth triple-double of the season.
#Sixers PG @BenSimmons25 after being told coach Brett Brown hasn’t ruled out his having a career path at power forward. Simmons thinks he’s proven that he’s an NBA point guard. pic.twitter.com/WnxX19cSEH
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) March 16, 2018
He now has sole possession of the second-triple doubles by a rookie in NBA history after surpassing Hall Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, who had seven during the 1979-80 season as a Los Angeles Laker. Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson set the rookie record of 26 with the Cincinnati Royals during the 1960-61 campaign.
“If he tries [to move Simmons to power forward], I’ll let him know,” Simmons said with a smile. “We have such a great relationship, I can talk to him.
“So I wouldn’t be opposed to trying it. But if it doesn’t feel right, I will let him know.”
But during his pregame media availability, Brown wouldn’t rule out Simmons playing a position other than point guard.
“I think to anoint him you’re only a point guard forever is not in my mind,” the coach said. “We haven’t seen him play at an elbow a little bit.”
That’s when he added that Simmons’ career path will be a one or a four. He pointed out Simmons being 6-foot-10 and there are advantages with slower four-men trying to guard him. In those instances, Markelle Fultz could assume the primary ball-handling role.
“Right now, I try to post him a lot,” Brown said. “I think offensively when the game is slowed where he can have the most impact. But I think four-one, one-four is kind of where my mind is at, tilting more to a one.”
Simmons was a power forward during his lone season at Louisiana State University.
Brown also said before the game he would like to see Simmons attempt more shots in the fourth quarter. The point guard, who didn’t attempt one in Tuesday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, agrees with his coach.
“Sometimes I think I’m too focused on trying to find too many guys shots when I can take my own,” Simmons said. “When I’m open, I think I should look to do that more often.”
The injury blessing?
Justin Anderson thinks being sidelined most of this season was the best thing that happened to him.
“I love the game,” the Sixers reserve swingman said. “Going down with a couple of injuries, you miss it. So it put me in a position to change my routine.”
That’s why Anderson is determined to arrive at the Sixers practice facility at 8:30 a.m. for an 11 a.m. practice. The third-year veteran does cardio, shooting drills and weight lifting before the practice begins.
“Talking to a lot of veteran during this time and being out, a lot of guys were telling me what it took for them to make it 12, 13, 14 years in this league,” he said. “That’s why I think it’s the best.
“I think it’s the best thing that’s happened to me.”
Anderson returned March 6 against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center after missing eight games with a sprained right ankle. He missed 21 games earlier this season with shin splints in his left leg. The 24-year-old has also been inactive one game and had several others where he didn’t leave the bench due to the coach’s decision.
As a result, Anderson had only played in 28 of the Sixers’ 67 games. However, he was playing arguably his best basketball before spraining his ankle against the Knicks on Feb. 12 at Wells Fargo Center.
He had 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting – including make 2 of 3 three-pointers – to go with four rebounds, an assist, a steal and a blocked shot versus the Los Angeles Clippers two days earlier. He had scored 10 or more points in five of the 10 games before the injury.
“That’s a feeling that you think about,” he said. “I was playing really well. But at the same time, that’s only a glimpse of what is to come if I continue to work hard, and I continue to do the right thing and approach this thing the right way.”
That’s why he sees his time away as a blessing.
He said the mental aspect of being sidelined continues to humble him. It also continues to remind him of what he’s working for.
“It’s a situation that I’m extremely thankful for, even though one may not understand why,” Anderson said. “It took me a while to understand why. But it’s cool, because I’m putting himself in a position to set myself up hopefully for something really good.”