Ben Simmons might not be able to shoot basketballs into hoops with any sort of consistency, but the Sixers point guard can still make life a living hell for his opponents. Just ask the hostile Utah crowd that attended Thursday night’s Sixers-Jazz game, which spent the majority of the game booing Simmons, only for the big Australian to brick his way to a triple double in a comfortable 114-97 Philadelphia victory.
You wouldn’t think that a Utah-Philadelphia game in the dying days of December would elicit such vitriol from a crowd, but there’s an underlying tension here that dates back to last season. That’s because, for some reason, everyone is still caught up on last year’s Rookie of the Year showdown between Simmons and Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, which Simmons won handily and which Mitchell spent a whole season being salty about.
Prior to the game, Simmons was asked by a Jazz beat writer about the race for the award. To hear Simmons tell it, however, it was never “a fucking race.” From the Salt Lake Tribune:
“It wasn’t a [expletive] race,” Simmons said. “You saw the votes, right? … Did you see the votes? So what’s the question?”
The votes he’s referring to do paint a damning picture for anyone trying to still make this race a thing as we inch into 2019: Simmons ended up receiving 90 out of 101 first-place votes, while Mitchell received the other 11. That seems pretty cut-and-dry, but judging by the boos last night, Jazz fans are not ready to let this thing go.
Listen, I’m all for petty grievances between NBA players and opposing fanbases, because it’s legitimately cool to see a player silence a crowd that hates his guts. But this is so stupid. No one has ever cared so much about the damn Rookie of the Year award, what with Simmons’s comments on Thursday, Mitchell’s attempt to troll Simmons by calling him a fake rookie last season, and this one-sided animosity from the Jazz crowd.
If Utah fans want to rile up Simmons while the Sixers sweep the regular-season series between the two teams, that’s on them, but remaining salty about the fact the he handily beat their own young star in the ROY race doesn’t seem like the best way to do it. They should be spending more time teasing Simmons about his inability to make more than 40 percent of his unguarded three-pointers in warm-ups.