PHILADELPHIA – Ben Simmons isn’t feeling the heat ahead, as he heads into his second NBA postseason.
Simmons’ Philadelphia 76ers will kick off the NBA playoffs on Saturday afternoon local time against the Brooklyn Nets.
The dawn of the playoffs will bring a welcome change for the Sixers after a tumultuous regular season that included two roster altering trades and much scuttlebutt regarding their legitimacy as NBA Championship contenders.
Speaking prior to practice on Friday afternoon, Simmons reinforced that the Sixers aim for the postseason is to win an NBA championship. Despite these loft goals, the Australian isn’t feeling the pressure.
“It’s a game and it’s our job at the same time but we are coming out here to compete,” Simmons said.
“If we go out there and don’t try hard or don’t put the work in then obviously we aren’t going to be happy. But if we go out there and play hard then that is all we can ask for.”
After an impressive regular season that saw him become the first Australian Boomer to make an NBA All-Star game, Simmons is hoping to build on a second round exit to the Boston Celtics in last year’s playoffs.
“We were able to learn a lot,” Simmons said of the Celtics series. “How to play the game. The playoffs are different. You have to take care of the ball and execute everything.”
“It is just another level [in the playoffs] and you need to be prepared, mentally and physically, and try to stay healthy.”
Jonah Bolden is suffering from left knee soreness and was a partial participant in Sixers practice on Friday afternoon. His status for Game 1 will be determined by the team’s medical staff following practice.
Joel Embiid is also suffering from left knee soreness and his status for Game 1 remains unknown.
“I have no idea,” Embiid said, when asked if he will be playing tomorrow.
“It is just about the pain. You’ve just got to keep working through it and see how I feel everyday. You never know what is going to happen.
“It’s frustrating. It’s the second time this has happened. Last year it happened. It’s extremely frustrating. You can only control what I can, and that is the work I put it in everyday. How I treat my body.”
Brett Brown is leading a franchise into the NBA playoffs as a head coach for the second time in his career. Having spent time with Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, Brown is evoking memories of his championship campaigns with the Spurs.
“Last year what stood out to me the most was that we hadn’t been there in four years. Once you are there, you reclaimed the blueprint and the roadmap we believe in. The one that let us go to five NBA Finals and win four of them.
“That seemed good enough for me. It was good enough for us in my 12 years [in San Antonio]. I was reminded of some things because you are in it in real time once again, after a four year absence. Here we are back and I feel very comfortable that the path and the plan is what it should be.”
Game 1 between Philadelphia and Brooklyn tips off 230pm local time (430am Sunday morning AEST).