Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons managed to take on both the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets with his recent comments. When asked about a potential rivalry with the Nets, Simmons singled out the Lakers as the team the Sixers are gunning for heading into the postseason.
“Rivalry, I mean, if they keep that same team definitely, but it’s going to be hard to do that,” Simmons explained in a recent press conference. “We’re going for the past champs, the Lakers. They were the ones who won the championship, so you got to give respect to them. Obviously, Brooklyn has a lot of talent, but at the end of the day, there’s only one ball and you got to play defense, too.”
The Sixers have won both games against the Lakers this season, including a 109-101 victory on March 25. Simmons and the Sixers beat a severely short-handed Lakers team with both LeBron James and Anthony Davis sidelined. Simmons had nine points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. Philadelphia had a one-point win in January over a full-strength Lakers squad as LeBron James notched 34 points, seven assists and six rebounds in a losing effort.
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Simmons on His Relationship with James: ‘We’re Definitely Brothers’
Simmons’ comments show he clearly has respect for the Lakers but also has confidence in his team. The Sixers are neck-and-neck with the Nets for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia would likely have a homecourt advantage against Los Angeles if they met in the NBA Finals.
Simmons has a close friendship with James and the two stars share the same agent, Rich Paul, from Klutch Sports. During a May 2020 interview on Brian Seltzer’s Reel Talk, Simmons described his relationship with James as “brothers.”
“We’re definitely brothers,” Simmons noted, per Sports Illustrated. “I got a lot of respect for him, just coming through college, high school. Looking up to him and then being able to compete against somebody like that — and me progressing my game to playing [at] the same level [as LeBron] and compete with the best — it’s an amazing feeling.”
James Told Simmons His Career Has a Chance to Top His Own
James has been complimentary of Simmons throughout his career. During a November 2017 feature by Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins, James was quoted as telling Simmons that he could top his own career.
“You have an opportunity, to be better than me,” James told Simmons, per Sports Illustrated. “But you can’t skip steps. You have to do the work.”
Simmons has had a solid career but still has a ways to go before being mentioned in the same tier as James. The Sixers guard is a three-time All-Star and his accolades include both the All-NBA and All-Rookie teams. The missing piece for Simmons and the Sixers has been postseason success. The Lakers are hoping for an opportunity to defend their crown in the finals, and Simmons’ comments indicate the Sixers plan to be there as the challenger.