PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia 76ers rookie Ben Simmons went blow for blow along with his mentor LeBron James on Friday evening, matching the four-time MVP with a triple-double and defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers for sole possession of the No. Three spot within the Japanese Convention.
Twenty-four hours later, Simmons sat down with ESPN for a one-on-one on the Ritz-Carlton Resort in downtown Philadelphia. Simply as on the courtroom, the 21-year-old did not maintain again when discussing the staff’s expectations, enjoying with out Joel Embiid, being a pacesetter, the Rookie of the Yr race, his relationship with James and doubtlessly enjoying alongside him, and far more.
Right here is the interview, which has been edited for size:
Chris Haynes: What you guys have been capable of do, going to the postseason, what has this expertise been like for you and your teammates?
Ben Simmons: It has been nice. It has been a studying course of for everyone. We bought some vets coming in enjoying with youthful guys, and we’ve got guys enjoying of their first yr collectively. Constructing chemistry with everyone on the ground after which choosing up some guys alongside the best way all through the season — I believe everybody’s actually gelled collectively.
There’s been all this speak the previous couple of years about The Course of. Going into this season, was this actually the expectation that you just guys can be going to the postseason, and this excessive?
As a staff, our objective was to make the playoffs. I do not suppose anyone had us successful as many video games as we have received, however this staff has gotten quite a bit higher over the season and the time we have spent collectively.
When Joel Embiid went out with that eye fracture, what was the temper across the staff?
It is simply annoying, as a result of he has had so many downs; to get all through the season and have that damage, I understand how he feels, and it is irritating. However for us as a staff, we caught collectively. It confirmed the maturity of the blokes on the staff, the best way we carried ourselves. …
For me, I wanted to be extra of a pacesetter. It is good for the staff that we’ve got had adversity, so I can step up and lead the staff just a little bit extra and get snug doing that. As soon as Joel comes again, it is gonna be quite a bit simpler.
Is that snug so that you can take a management position? Lots of people see you because the quiet one.
On the courtroom, it is a totally different factor for me. I am extra vocal, direct with what I say to guys, what we have to do, and the best way to say it. It was a very good alternative for me to steer the staff, but it surely’s one thing I’ve all the time type of achieved over time.
Markelle Fultz went by way of the same scenario to what you went by way of final yr. What recommendation have you ever been giving him?
As soon as he got here again on the ground, it was to continue to learn from each recreation, each play. Make higher selections as time goes on. I’ve seen him doing that from just a few video games in. He is gotten quite a bit higher. He is been nice. Mentally I believe it was a battle for him in the beginning of the yr, however now he is coming again and he is prepared.
No one had achieved what you have achieved in your rookie yr — over 600 assists, over 600 rebounds — apart from Oscar Robertson. Once you consider the corporate, what involves thoughts?
That I’ve an extended option to go. I’ve reached some accolades and milestones alongside the best way, however on the similar time, I’ve an extended option to go. A lot extra enchancment that I can work on, from scoring to protection, and simply the best way I play the sport.
Who’s the rookie of the yr?
Who would I decide? Me, 100 %. I believe I have been enjoying strong all yr. For those who have a look at the numbers, you will notice. Individuals who know the sport know.
What do you say to the individuals who say that that is actually your second yr?
Coming off a damaged foot is certainly not an edge. Persons are all the time going to say what they wish to say. On the finish of the day, that is my first yr within the league. For those who’re a man coming from abroad, you are still a rookie should you’re 30 years previous.
What different rookies have caught your eye this yr?
None. I wanna be the place the greats are. For me, I watch guys like KD, Bron, Curry, Westbrook, guys like that. That is the place I wanna be.
What extra do you wish to accomplish?
Championships. MVP. I wish to be the defensive participant of the yr.
Are you able to try this on the level guard place?
For certain. I’ll guard whoever I’ve to. Westbrook, Bron, whoever it’s. I like the problem.
Epic recreation going in opposition to LeBron (on Friday evening). What did he say to you after the sport?
Actually, I do not even keep in mind. It’s all love between me and him. He all the time seems out; he is been an important mentor to me. …
Watching his recreation, the best way he performs — being 6-9 and dealing with the ball and never being locked right down to a small ahead place. However being so numerous and capable of do various things on the ground. I have been watching him for a very long time now. As a participant, he is excellent, he is superb.
When you’re going up in opposition to him, what’s it like?
I all the time hear the best option to present respect to a man like that’s to play as arduous as you possibly can, and that’s the mentality I’m going into each recreation with, regardless of who I am enjoying. I wish to dominate whoever I am enjoying in opposition to and no matter staff it’s.
It takes quite a bit to earn LeBron’s respect. What do you suppose he is seen in you to ascertain the respect?
He simply is aware of the place I wish to be, and he is been the kind of man that in the event that they wish to study, then he’ll offer you that recommendation. However should you do not wish to study and put that effort in, then I do not suppose he thinks you deserve it.
You made some headlines. You got here up with the nickname “The Fresh Prince” … and he is “King James.”
A couple of individuals have been saying that round Philly, one other buddy inside sports activities has been saying that. I used to be type of on the sting about it. I wasn’t certain. After that recreation, I mentioned I will take it.
Why had been you on the fence about it earlier than?
I really feel like I wanted to earn it.
Wherever he needs to play, it is as much as him. We would not thoughts having LeBron on our staff.
Might you two play collectively?
Who is aware of. His IQ and mine mixed on the ground, it is fairly freaky.
Have you ever guys spoken about that?
Are you happy with what you will have achieved within the common season?
Slightly bit. I believe I might have performed higher, however on the similar time, I had quite a bit to study. It is my first yr within the league enjoying, and it is a totally different expertise stepping on the ground.
Had been you upset you did not get the decision for the All-Star Recreation?
Slightly bit, however on the similar time, I am a rookie. It is solely occurred just a few instances. I will have my second. Simply motivates me just a little bit extra.
Clearly there’s a number of issues happening within the NCAA. … It looks like we’re moving into that path the place guys might be allowed to come back out of highschool straight to the professionals. What’s your take?
In the event that they’re prepared. Bodily, it is a totally different recreation, totally different pace. Mentally, in fact, it is a lot totally different than faculty or highschool. It is an enormous bounce. There could be one or two guys who’re prepared. For those who had been to say that about the entire draft, the primary spherical, undoubtedly not.
I believe it comes right down to anyone can get a job as soon as they flip 18 in the actual world, so it comes right down to that particular person and the staff that chooses him.
When do you know you had been able to make the bounce?
For me, I’ve all the time performed in opposition to older individuals, once I was 16 enjoying in opposition to 21-year-old guys again residence. Popping out right here, enjoying in opposition to older seniors, I’ve all the time stepped my recreation up once I performed in opposition to guys who had been older than me. I’ve all the time felt like I would been prepared, however I would say across the finish of my senior yr in highschool.
For those who might have, would you will have gone [straight to the pros out of high school] ?
I most likely would’ve.
I keep in mind if you had been drafted, there was a debate about who’s going No. 1, who’s going No. 2. It looks like you have separated your self from the pack. Was motivating issue for you?
I wanna be the very best participant regardless of the place I am enjoying and who I am enjoying with.
What has it taken so that you can achieve success on the courtroom?
It begins off with caring for your physique. That is one of many foremost issues. Lifting weights each different day. Icing your physique, your knees, your toes, and getting within the chilly tub. A number of movie goes into it — 30-minute movie periods earlier than video games, and then you definitely’ve bought your particular person movie. The following day you may need follow, after which particular person exercise proper after that. So there’s a number of various things that go into it that folks most likely do not discover.
What shocked you in regards to the league?
I believe the quantity of video games, each different evening touring someplace. Getting in late at 2 a.m., having a recreation the following day. However it’s important to come to play each evening; nobody’s taking any breaks.
Is toll in your physique, getting used to enjoying 82 video games?
I’ve bought just a few hits, cuts and bruises. However I like what I do. I get up and I’m going to go play; that is the straightforward half for me.
Rising up, you knew you had been going to be tall. Did any coaches attempt to sway you? As a result of normally if you’re huge, they need you to be on the block.
Having a dad who performed basketball professionally again in Australia, I moved golf equipment or groups if I had a coach that was gonna throw me within the submit, simply ‘trigger he knew for my improvement I wasn’t going to be good.
You have been dominant enjoying the sport the best way you have been enjoying it. How do you evolve?
If I wish to get to that subsequent stage, I believe engaged on my outdoors recreation much more and perfecting every thing I am doing now. I am good at what I do now, however I am not good. There’s a number of issues I gotta study — attending to the rim ending, sure play calls.
The league has expanded to Three-point taking pictures. Everyone’s out Three-point taking pictures. Does that bode effectively for what you deliver to the desk and having the ability to facilitate?
Having shooters in your staff helps quite a bit. I haven’t got to be the man taking pictures, and they’re actually good at it — JJ, Marco, Ersan, Robert Covington. So for me to have an effect on the sport proper now, attending to the rim and discovering these guys to get pictures.
You shoot left-handed, you shoot right-handed. Is it a giant distinction so far as comfortability?
I really feel snug with my left.
What are you anticipating when the postseason comes round?
I will be enjoying arduous, as I normally do, all recreation. I count on it to be just like the Cavs recreation the opposite evening. If I can put up these numbers, I believe I will be wonderful.
What’s the ceiling for this staff?
We do not put a ceiling on ourselves. Nobody anticipated us to be the place we’re proper now. For us, we simply wish to preserve successful.