There has just been a different vibe to Ben Simmons coming into the 2019-20 season.
No, I'm not talking about his quotes about falling back in love with the game. And no, I'm not talking about him launching and swishing a three in the Sixers' first preseason game.
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He's always been confident in his game - at least he's always expressed it. There's just a different aura around him. There's a maturity that the 23-year-old is exuding that we haven't quite seen before.
When asked after practice about why he doesn't feel like he needs to improve as a shooter in order for the Sixers to reach their goals, he gave arguably the most articulate and thoughtful response of his professional career.
It's not that I don't need to do it, it's something that I'm working towards getting better as a player, as you would do as a writer - everybody works to get better. Or him behind the camera - he wasn't the best the first day he started. And that's just my game. I'm confident that I'm not a great shooter. I'm getting better, though. But it's a game. There's five people on the court. I lack something that I'm not as great at but other areas I'm very great at. I run the floor as well as anybody. I'm physical, I can rebound the ball. As a 6-10 point guard, I can guard one through five. So that's just one thing that's coming into my game which I'm excited about. I love getting better. I love spending time in the gym and building confidence.
It's no secret that in years past Simmons hasn't always been the most forthright or talkative player on the team. He generally gave short answers and appeared like he just wanted to get the media availability over with.
He has spoken to the media more than ever during training camp and coming into the preseason. He's focused more on becoming a leader and wanting to make sure his bevy of new teammates are up to speed on the team's terminology and concepts.
While Simmons' newfound clarity came before his team's roster overhaul, bringing in players like Al Horford and Josh Richardson certainly hasn't hurt.
"I think prior to everybody getting in, everybody signing, I already felt that," Simmons said. "That's just based off me putting in that work and being in the gym every day. With the addition of the new guys, it helps. We got a great team with guys want to be here every day, guys enjoy being around each other and just want to play."
The Sixers' goals are as lofty as they come. They want to win a championship. Nobody around the team has been shy about saying it.
Certainly not this version of Ben Simmons.
"I feel like everybody is very motivated," Simmons said. "Al leaving Boston and Josh coming from Miami, the rooks coming in, Matisse [Thybulle] has been killing it. Guys just have a chip on the shoulder and I feel like guys want to be better and win a championship. And that's the level we're at. I think we have a great team."
After all the talk about his shot and his role being lessened in the playoffs, does he have a chip on his shoulder?
"Nah. Not at all."
And yeah, he can still be a little snarky when he wants to be.
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