Aussie Simmons enjoying his first All-Star weekend
by Greg Heakes / Agence France-Presse
NBA rookie Ben Simmons had two simple objectives coming into the 2018 NBA Rising Stars Challenge game on Friday night.
“I want to win, but I want to have fun at the same time. So having fun usually comes with winning,” said the Philadelphia 76ers player.
The 21-year-old Australian is competing in the Rising Stars game which features 20 of the league’s top first or second year players.
Simmons was selected with the top pick in the 2016 entry draft by the 76ers. He is still considered a rookie because he sat out all last season with an injury.
Simmons was the NBA rookie of the month for October, November and January and is on pace to become the first rookie to average at least 16 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists for a season since Magic Johnson in 1979-80.
He is one of the frontrunners for the Rookie of the Year Award but is getting some competition from Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell.
Mitchell is averaging a team high 19.6 points per game to also lead all rookies in the league.
Simmons said Friday that he is not thinking about the race.
“I’m focused on my team making the playoffs,” he said. “So all the other accolades and awards will come in time if I do my job.”
Asked if he watches Mitchell, Simmons said, “I’m not an individual type of guy. I watch team games.”
He did say he hopes to eventually become of the top players in the league.
“Watching the guys at the top, LeBron (James), (Russell) Westbrook, Giannis (Antetokounmpo), K.D. (Kevin Durant), Steph (Curry), guys like that, they motivate me,” he said.
Simmons was born in Melbourne but grew up in Newcastle, New South Wales where his father played and coached basketball.
He has had good support from his family.
“I’m grounded. I have a big family,” he said. “I’m the youngest of six, so they keep me grounded and let me know that I’m the youngest in the household.”
He eventually hopes to move past the young stars game and play in the main all-star game on Sunday.
“It’s really rare (for a rookie to make the All-Star Game). LeBron didn’t make it, guys like that. I think the last one was Blake (Griffin).
“It’s obviously one of those things that I wanted to be in it, but it didn’t happen and we move on.” (AFP)