Even though the Philadelphia 76ers have kept things close with the Toronto Raptors in their second-round series, it seems as though many fans have started to turn on Ben Simmons.
Simmons has been particularly awful for the 76ers in the halfcourt offense. The fact that Simmons can’t shoot — or won’t — has irked many fans in Philadelphia and around the league.
Of course, Simmons is aware of that criticism and he apparently has a response to it. In an interview with TNT before Thursday night’s game against the Raptors, Simmons said that he felt that trying to guard Kawhi Leonard was taking away some of his focus and ability on offense.
“Sometimes I get so focused on defending Kawhi and keeping him in front that I sometimes slow down on offense and I lose a little bit of focus or intensity there.”
I think it would be easy to criticize this comment from Simmons as trying to dodge or shift blame. Instead, the way I choose to look at it is as a pretty open and honest explanation of what it’s like to try and guard a player who seems to be peaking in the playoffs.
Simmons is a second-year player after all, and he’s just 22 years old. The task of trying to guard Leonard would naturally take away the focus of just about any NBA player when it comes to the rest of their game.
I also think it’s reasonable for fans to want Simmons to be able to lock in and be the star they want. That will come with time, and if Simmons remains with the 76ers past this season, no doubt he will need to work on his ability to flip the switch on both ends of the floor no matter the opponent.