Simmons hoses down All-Star hype
BEN Simmons has been dealing with hype and expectation since high school so NBA All-Star and rookie of the year chatter is water off a duck's back for the 20-year-old Australian superstar.
Simmons has been a revelation in his first full season after being handed the point guard role by Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown.
Former Boomers mentor Brown made him the focal point of his team alongside giant centre Joel Embiid and it has paid off with the perennial battlers sitting just one spot outside the Eastern Conference playoff spots.
Simmons averages 16.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game and his 7.5 assists rank as the sixth-best in the league with his 1.9 steals tied for fourth.
That form has subsequently seen him touted as a potential All-Star, with online voting closing next week, and a frontrunner for the rookie of the year accolade.
Should he earn selection for the annual showpiece event he would be the first rookie to do so since LA Clippers star Blake Griffin in 2011.
Earlier this week Simmons had clocked up just over 210,000 votes, placing him fourth among point guards in the East.
Simmons said he is unfazed by the talk but revelling in the responsibility at the 76ers.
"I've had pressure my whole life, from high school, so I am not too worried about it," Simmons said.
"I just go out there and try to enjoy my game. I've always been around cameras and the media.
"But I love being able to run the team. It's one of those roles where the coach has a lot of confidence in me and I think I am doing a good job so far."
The Melbourne-born Simmons said sitting on the sidelines and missing his first season through a foot injury after being drafted No. 1 overall in 2016 did little to prepare him for the rigours of the NBA.
"It helped to an extent, but playing the game is so different to watching," Simmons said.
"I've learnt a lot from playing, far more so than watching."
Brown believes Simmons has only just scratched the surface of his potential but is delighted with how's he adapted to his new responsibility, having played as a forward throughout high school and college.
"If any of us had thought about making him a point guard, forgetting 15 to 18 years of experience ... and said 'we are just going to give you the ball, you're a point guard in the NBA', ... and fast forwarded 38 games into the season and looked at what he's done, we'd have been incredibly happy," Brown said. "He has so much more growth to experience. Intellectually learning what a point guard is, that it's not just dribbling the ball up the floor. "As our point guard I see daylight, I see that being very progressive and heading in the right direction."