Call it the perfect storm.
On Australian Night when the 76ers hosted the Chicago Bulls, Ben Simmons proved his mettle in a plethora of ways.
Simply put, Simmons was the best player on the court and gave the Sixers a glimpse into the future.
Simmons put together his fifth triple-double of the season with 19 points, 17 rebounds and 14 assists. The only other two players in NBA history to record at least five triple-doubles before playing their 50th career game? Try Oscar Robertson and Alvin Adams. Pretty strong company.
Only Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (14) and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (seven) have more triple-doubles this season than Simmons, a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year.
In addition, Simmons became the first rookie to register at least 19 points, 17 rebounds and 14 assists since Steve Francis in the 2000-01 season. Simmons is the first Philadelphia player to post a stat line such as this since Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain on March 19, 1968. Again, pretty lofty company.
Simmons wasn’t selected for the upcoming NBA All-Star Game. That could have given him extra motivation as well.
“I feel like he was just focused on the game, we played tough defensively especially the first quarter so there was a lot of rebounds to grab and he was extra aggressive offensively,” center Joel Embiid told reporters. “Besides Australia night, I think that he just wanted it tonight and him not making All-Star might have had something to do with it, too.”
Simmons swept 11 rebounds alone in the first quarter. He controlled the tempo by grabbing the rebound and moving quickly up the court.
“I think the pace of the game, I think because he rebounded,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said, referring to the fast pace set by Simmons’ rebounding. “I think it was before this game, we talked about free throws and I flipped it quickly to rebounding. He rebounded and instigated a lot himself. He’s able to control stuff and when he rebounds he can rebound and take off. I still think that’s the hardest thing to guard. Back in the day you’d see Charles Barkley do that. It’s hard to defend that.”
Simmons played an outstanding game against the Bulls. He’s had other solid games this season. There have also been issues with turnovers and not having confidence in his jump shot.
All rookies – even the great ones – go through an adjustment period in the marathon 82-game season. It’s not even the All-Star break yet. If Wednesday night is a glimpse, then the future is ultra-bright for Simmons and the Sixers.
It starts with rebounding.
“I think just being on the boards ... actually trying to get boards and going to the boards every time I can,” Simmons said. “ I'm usually getting those rebounds. I think I went away from it the last couple of weeks. It was one of those things, I was just doing it. It had to reminded.”
The reminder was well worth it.
In the rigorous NBA, the Sixers will now embark on a tough four-game road trip beginning with a game in San Antonio. The goal for Simmons is to be as consistent as possible. It’s not easy for a rookie. But the skills are there. The entire city of Philadelphia witnessed those skills. The future is sure exciting.