PHILADELPHIA — It finally happened.
The moment Philadelphia fans have been waiting for came with 8:20 to play in the first quarter of Wednesday night’s game at the Wells Fargo Center against the New York Knicks, where Simmons caught a swing pass from forward Furkan Korkmaz in the corner in front of the 76ers bench, squared up to the basket, and knocked down the shot. He then turned and calmly ran back down court, while the fans went wild.
It had been almost four years — since Nov. 30, 2015, when Simmons was a freshman at LSU playing against the College of Charleston — since he’d made a 3-pointer in a competitive game. And it was the first time this season Simmons had even attempted to take a 3-pointer after an offseason full of speculation it could become a bigger part of his game. Video of him shooting 3s in pickup games surfaced this offseason, and he later made his first triple of any kind in a Sixer uniform during a preseason game last month against the Guangzhou Long-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association.
“It’s not that I don’t need to do it,” Simmons said during the preseason, when asked if he needs to add a 3-point shot to his game. “I’m confident in saying I’m not a great shooter. I’m getting better, though.”
Besides the act of actually making a 3, the shot stood out for several other reasons, too. It was the first time in Simmons’ career that he even attempted a corner 3-pointer, as well as the first time he’d attempted one of a catch-and-shoot variety, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
It also was just the third of Simmons’ 17 3-point attempts in regular-season games (he also missed one during the playoffs) that came within the flow of regular offense, with both of the others coming last season — on Feb. 10 against the Los Angeles Lakers and Feb. 25 against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Simmons’ shooting has become such a topic of discussion thanks to the amount he has already accomplished in his time in the NBA. The No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Simmons was the 2018 Rookie of the Year (he missed his first full season with a broken foot), and then was an All-Star last season.
This past summer, the Sixers agreed to a five-year, $170 million max contract extension with Simmons to keep him paired with star center Joel Embiid for years to come.