Simmons turns heads in NBA debut despite early injury exit
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons made his NBA debut at the Utah Jazz Summer League on Monday and showed glimpses of why there are superstar expectations for the LSU product.
He also put a scare into 76ers fans when he left the game in the fourth quarter due to cramps in both calves.
The 6-foot-10, 240-pounder displayed why the 76ers will use him as a point forward at times by grabbing rebounds, pushing the ball up floor and dishing out assists in transition.
Summer league is his first taste of the NBA, but Simmons said he's not measuring himself against the rest of his class.
''I'm looking at the top guys like (LeBron James) and (Kevin Durant),'' Simmons said. ''Those are the guys I have to be facing, so I have to get ready for them.
''I respect everybody. I don't fear anyone. So when we go into every game, I'm willing to put in the work to win. That's the goal coming in here — just to win every game.''
Simmons' night ended early after attacking the basket midway through the fourth quarter. Cramps in his right calf began to bother him in the third quarter, but he stretched out on the bench and returned without issue. Simmons hit the floor in the fourth and wasn't able to get up as play continued. Two teammates helped him up during a timeout and he leaned on both to walk straight to the locker room. Simmons never returned.
''It's been about four months since I played, that's the main reason,'' Simmons said. ''More fluids. It's just an adjustment. The game's a lot harder, a lot quicker. It's just one of those things you have to stay on.
''That's the worst I've ever cramped up. I'm definitely going to stay on that.''
Simmons finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists in just under 24 minutes of play as the Celtics won 102-94. He started the game guarding and being guarded by Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. Simmons first points came off a pair of free throws in the first quarter and his first field goal was an elbow jumper with 7:19 left in the second quarter. He shot 2 for 9 from the field and made all six free-throw attempts.
''Passing, ball-handling, confidence, communication, swagger, enthusiasm, love for teammates,'' 76ers Summer League coach Billy Lange said. ''It wasn't about him. I said that yesterday, that was the first thing I noticed. He was just excited to be 19 years old and around a bunch of guys and put that logo on his chest.
''He's a basketball player. He's a really good basketball player. … Anyone that's watched enough basketball sees a skill-set there that's really exciting.''
Lange said Simmons won't play against the Spurs tomorrow, but managing minutes has been part of the plan for the entire team. He said they're taking it game-by-game and doesn't yet know the plan for Thursday's game against the Jazz.
''We might have been able to put him back in, but on July 4, we didn't need to create those fireworks,'' Lange said. ''We've got a long Summer League schedule ahead of us.''
Simmons' vision was clear throughout the night and that part of his game seems NBA-ready. He wowed the crowd with a slick bounce pass as he sprinted full-speed that ended in a Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot transition layup. That was just one of several passes in traffic that ended in points for teammates.
''It's hard to stop somebody who's 6-10 coming at you full speed,'' Simmons said. ''As long as everybody else is running with me, I think good things can happen.''