Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Nets' Ben Simmons Says Criticism of Shooting 'F--ked With Me a Lot'

Joseph Zucker

Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons was unable to tune out the constant discourse regarding his jump shot while a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Simmons said on the newest episode of The Old Man & the Three podcast that the intense focus on his shooting messed with his head.

"I didn't really realize that early on in my career because this started building up and I'm like, 'They're saying I can't. Should I not? I'm f--king confused now,'" he explained at the 24:42 mark. "... It did f--k with me a lot. But I kind of found peace in a place where I'm just like f--k it, it's basketball."

The 6'11" playmaker is a 56.0 percent shooter for his career, but more than half (54.2) of his attempts have come within three feet of the hoop, per Basketball Reference, and he's hitting 59.7 percent of his free throws.

His inability to expand his range with the Sixers became almost inexplicable before things came to a head in the 2021 playoffs. He looked totally bereft of confidence on offense, to the point where he turned down what appeared to be a wide-open dunk at a critical moment of a loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Simply telling the 26-year-old to shoot more isn't the solution because the problem clearly goes beyond that.

Simmons told ESPN's Jackie MacMullan in 2020 that he was working with a sports psychologist.

"I know it's going to come," he said of improving as a shooter. "It's a matter of me being comfortable doing it. Some of that is getting the reps in. I can take a hook shot from the elbow because I've done it so many times; I'm confident it will go in. It's second nature."

JJ Redick, who was teammates with Simmons for two seasons, said in March on Pardon My Take he thought the three-time All-Star might be better off using his right hand as his strong hand.

At this point, working around his limitations might be the best route for Simmons. The Nets can theoretically highlight his best skills while hiding his glaring flaws as well.

Brooklyn retained Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, so the team doesn't need Simmons to shoulder a heavy scoring load; he can focus instead on his playmaking. His perimeter defense is sorely needed as well, and his stock will climb significantly if he makes the Nets a top-half team defensively.

Simmons may never be a great or even good shooter, but that doesn't have to prevent him from being a valuable contributor on a contender.

   

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