Sixers’ Ben Simmons Has a Clear Mind Ahead of 2019 Season
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) -- Getting through an entire NBA season is a tough task for a player. Eighty-two games can surely take a toll on one's body and mind. When it comes to the Philadelphia 76ers nowadays though, 82 games is not enough.
'The Process' days are over. There's no more tanking. Just 82 games would be a failure. The Sixers are a playoff team, so they've required much more than just a standard season during the last two years. This year, the situation shouldn't be any different.
Sixers players have to gear up for a deep playoff run every year from here on out. They have to be mentally and physically ready for whatever comes their way -- because if not, they are in for a long offseason. Speaking of a long offseason, the 76ers will be wrapping up theirs in just a couple of weeks as they return for the 2019-2020 effort.
Without a LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard-led team in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers have a much better chance of locking in one of the top two seeds. Their head coach, Brett Brown, however, is gunning for the first. He will need all hands on deck in order to snag it though.
Everybody needs to be in one-hundred percent. That includes the Sixers' two young franchise stars, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons. We're aware of Embiid's greatness, and know that the only thing holding him back is his physical health.
When it comes to Simmons though, he's been his own worst enemy. Despite being an All-Star, former Rookie of the Year, and one of the better defenders in the league, Simmons hasn't come close to hitting his full stride as a player yet.
He's heard the critics telling him to shoot the ball, which some of his current and former teammates believe he's only hesitant to do because he's not confident in his game. Simmons mentioned last season that he was going to work on it, but we still never saw it.
This year, Simmons didn't say much after the season concluded dramatically. And at this point, it might not have been because he just wanted to be about improving, rather than talking about improving. Instead, Simmons was just simply sick of basketball at that point. For a moment, the star guard fell out of love with the game.
"I felt like the past season I lost that enjoyment side of it," Simmons told the Associated Press on Wednesday regarding the game of basketball. That's no longer the case, though. After uprooting to L.A. for the summer in order to work on his game daily, Simmons re-built a relationship with basketball once again, and his mind is clear heading into 2019.
"I feel like this summer I fell in love with the game again. I kind of got back to who I was and having fun with the game. I felt like the past season I lost that enjoyment side of it but I feel like this summer has been huge for me. Just the work I've been putting in, I kinda fell in love with putting that work in again and I've been in the gym every day working and the results have been paying off so I'm excited for the season to start."
What caused Simmons to lose interest in the game? Well, that's the part that remains unknown at this point. Some speculate that a season full of criticism due to a lack of shooting might've put the star guard over the ledge.
Then, there's also been the assumption thrown out there that perhaps Simmons wasn't happy with the star who left town, Jimmy Butler. As we know, Butler hasn't had rave reviews about him from past teammates. Early, it seemed like the Simmons-Butler relationship was great, but eventually, their connection cooled down a bit.
All in all, Simmons has a stable supporting cast around him, which means the Sixers likely won't continue to make sudden moves throughout the season changing up the roster. He's got a brand new extension, keeping him in Philly for the long haul.
And now he's got a brand new and improved jump shot, which should set the city on fire the moment he puts it all together on the game court this season. "It's going to be an exciting year for the 76ers," Simmons said -- and indeed it should be. The Sixers are already built for success. Now if they can get the entire package from Simmons, Philly will be the team to beat in the East for sure.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for South Jersey's 97.3 ESPN. You can follow Justin on Twitter: @JGrasso_