Mark it down: On October 8, 2019, at 8:11 p.m. ET in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, just north of I-95 and just east of FDR Park, Benjamin David Simmons, born July 20, 1996 (zodiac sign, Cancer; generation, millennial; nationality, Australian and American), made a 3-pointer. It was the first of his NBA career.
Entering Tuesday’s matchup, Simmons was 0-for-19 from behind the arc. That includes preseason, regular season, postseason, cuffing season, flu season, etc. What happened against the Guangzhou Long-Lions that night with 2.3 seconds left in the first half will be remembered in history. Hopefully, it’ll be remembered as the beginning of a new Ben Simmons. The Sixers guard is now one-for-one from deep in the 2019-20 preseason. One shot from Simmons didn’t absolve him from all questions, though it did give us a fresh perspective on some. Here are seven such questions. Or, seven times the amount of 3s he’s made as an NBA player. Whichever way you want to put it.
Will Ben Simmons ever make a 3 in a regular-season game?
Don’t discount the shot simply because it came against the Long-Lions, whom the Sixers beat 144-86. Yes, the stars aligned perfectly: He was wide open, the Sixers were up by 38 points, and the clock was expiring. What’s important is that Simmons thought the shot was necessary in the moment. Here’s what he said after the game: “Time went down and I had the ball, so I had to take a shot.”
This wording is sacred. Why? Many times last season, Simmons had the ball as time wound down. And many times last season, he was left wide open. The difference is in the final clause: I had to take a shot. Previously, Simmons had always found 3-point shooting to be optional—now he understands that it’s mandatory. (During Philly’s 2018-19 media day, Simmons said “No. I’m not going to come out and shoot 3s;” during this year’s media day, he said, “If it’s open, I’ll take it.”)
Pulling up from deep in past seasons has not been an option. You’ve seen the games: Simmons would much rather drive or pass to teammates who are willing to shoot 3s, such as Tobias Harris, the recipient of many dimes. And he was catching them, unlike Agholor. Simmons saying he “had to” take the shot is proof that he’s opened a portal to a new world, one where Ben Simmons is willing to create his own shot.
Is Ben Simmons a coward?
Will Ben Simmons be remembered as one of the best 3-point shooters in history?
Technically, Simmons has missed only 19 times from behind the arc in his entire career. If you take that entirely out of context and pin it against, say, Klay Thompson, who missed on 472 deep attempts in his first two seasons in the league, suddenly Simmons starts to look pretty good.
“We wanted him to shoot it, for sure,” Harris told reporters after the game. “He’s one of the best shooters to ever shoot the basketball, so let it fly. He’s 100 percent from 3, so I don’t want to hear nothing.”
Will Ben Simmons break his collegiate 3-point record?
The last time Simmons had success behind the perimeter was on November 30, 2015, with LSU. He made a 3-pointer against the College of Charleston, the first and last make of his collegiate career. (It was LSU’s lone highlight in an otherwise embarrassing loss to the Cougars.) Two years in, he finally looks capable of passing his college 3-point total.
How do the Sixers fare when Ben Simmons makes at least one 3-pointer a game?
Big thanks to NBA.com/Stats for helping me on the research with this one: The Sixers have never lost when Simmons makes at least one 3-pointer in a game.
Do summer workout videos actually matter?
After years of scrolling past summer workout videos, I would like to formally apologize to all the players (and their respective trainers) whose videos I did not double tap. Summer shooting videos, from this point forward, will no longer need to be taken with any grains of salt. Simmons proved they do matter, even if there’s no defender in sight. If you’re making it in a high school gym somewhere, that will absolutely translate to a real NBA game.
Is Brett Brown doing a Gregg Popovich bit?
Brown knows better than anyone just how badly Philadelphia needs Simmons to start taking and making 3s. His job increasingly depends on it. The past two postseasons, Brown’s game plan for Philly was shellacked, in part, because Simmons would not and could not shoot. After losing to the Raptors in the second round last season, his seat was as hot as it’d ever been.
Yet Brown acted like Simmons’s first career 3-pointer was a minor stepping stone. “He made a shot, good,” Brown said after the game. “And that’s kind of personally the extent of it for me. I think the whole thing is so overblown. I think in general it’s so inflated, the attention, and that’s what I think. … I’m just not going to react over it, and I really mean that. He made a 3.”
Exactly! He made a 3! What Brown lacked in enthusiasm—I personally think he’s hiding what must be a massive amount of relief—Wells Fargo Center and Philly made up for in crowd noise. I wasn’t around for Dr. J’s baseline scoop in Game 4 of the 1980 Finals, but I have to think the reaction Tuesday night was similar.
An earlier version of this piece referred to I-95 as the Delaware Expressway.