At the official Philadelphia 76ers media day, Ben Simmons spoke confidently and candidly about the season ahead, giving further hope and encouragement to long-suffering Philly fans who have endured a spate of injuries to their highly touted young stars.
"I think I have been playing pretty well," stated Simmons in responding to reports of his stellar five-on-five performances at practice.
"Compared to last year, I'm a much better player. That's not even close."
Simmons will be joined by another prized number 1 NBA Draft pick in Markelle Fultz in the back court this season, stating that he had already developed a strong chemistry with the talented guard.
"No, he is a great player, a good friend," shared Simmons. "Our chemistry is getting better and better every day, on and off the court. So I think that is going to play a big role with this teams success. And you know, as long as you guys are cool off the court, on the court the gel just happens."
If those two do discover an on-court chemistry, they could develop into a potential one-two punch that may be unrivaled in the NBA. Two number 1 draft picks, straight out of college with youthful enthusiasm and an abundance of talent to burn. That has the potential to be not just good, but great.
However there have remained some questions surrounding Simmons maturity and ability to lead as a result of his one season at LSU in which the Tigers struggled to come together as a team. Yet Simmons shared that he had learned a lot about himself during his injury-enforced time away from the court, uncovering his leadership capabilities that he hopes to employ this season despite his youth.
"There's the potential to be a great leader...and I believe I can lead this team, even if I am one of the youngest guys on the team," expressed Simmons.
When the talk switched to the season ahead and the opportunity to finally make his long-anticipated debut, Simmons' excitement started to shine through.
"For me, I get excited just coming into the gym and working and getting better," said Simmons. "I know how great I can be. And its going to take a lot of work, a lot of time. And I am going to fail and succeed. But no, I am looking forward to it [the season ahead]."
Head coach Brett Brown has spoken openly that Simmons will be the starting point guard this season. It is a challenge that the rookie is looking forward to, and if he was nervous about it, he certainly did not show it. And it was also hard not to think that he took a thinly veiled swipe at his former college coach in his response.
"It feels normal to me [playing point guard]," said Simmons. "I mean he is the first coach to finally give me the opportunity. So he obviously sees something in me."
"I believe in myself, and I believe I can do it. There is not many people who can really guard me off the dribble, the full length of the court. And it is going to be a mismatch problem a lot of the time."
Simmons spoke glowingly of the great camaraderie between the young 76ers team, suggesting the players are having a great time together on and off the court.
"It's good," stated Simmons. "It is easy for us to relate, just because we are younger. You know we talk about it-- it could be anything from cars to I don't know! Hanging out and things like that. So just having that chemistry for us is great, because you start off right now, and the future can be very bright. And hopefully we keep that going for a very long time."
With such a young core of Simmons and Fultz joining Joel Embiid and rising European star Dario Saric, and if that quartet can stay healthy, they will be sure fun to watch in 2017-18. All going well, they could also be laying the foundations for a successful 76ers franchise for the next 5-10 years.