"Thank you, Atlanta, for putting the Sixers out of their misery," Skip Bayless tweeted after the Hawks beat Philadelphia to advance to the ECF. "Troubled team. One star is injured physically, the other psychologically."
Even before the series, everyone knew the Sixers would go as far as Joel Embiid's knee would carry them. But once the final buzzer of yesterday's Game 7 sounded, the stat sheet insinuated the big man, although dealing with an injury, had yet another dominant display -- the same thing can be said about the rest of his '21 postseason run. However, it's a different story with the team's other superstar, Ben Simmons.
In 35 minutes of action, the 6-11 point guard only had 5 points on 2-for-4 shooting from the floor. He finished the series averaging 9.9 points on 6.4 FGA, shooting 60% from the field and 33.3% from the free-throw line. Simmons did have a solid all-around output, but it's the lack of aggressiveness fans are holding him accountable for, and one play in particular paints the perfect picture of why.
You don't pass up a wide-open dunk unless your confidence is at an all-time low. And throughout the entire series, Simmons' was. His offensive repertoire has always been limited, and he was never a good free throw shooter. But Ben's foul-shooting woes against the Hawks made him an even bigger liability to put the ball in the basket -- hence one of the biggest WTF moments in recent postseason history. How should he deal with it, regardless if he's a Sixer next season? Gilbert Arenas has the answer.
You're 6-11; how far are they gonna back off? They gonna sit at the free-throw line? One, two, euro, you're at the rim. Gobble up that space; they're giving you a free lane if they're gonna back off. Get it and drive; what are they gonna do? Who's gonna block you?
It'll be a challenging summer for Ben. At this point, yesterday's Game 7 might've been his farewell performance as a Sixer. But he still has incredible physical tools and a great feel for the game. However, wherever he ends up playing, that won't be enough anymore. For the first time in his NBA career, people will demand improvement. And if Agent Zero was his coach, he knows exactly how he would get it out of Simmons.
Hey, listen, Ben, I'm sorry, I don't know what the fu*k you're doing out there, but you only shot three shots today. I'm gonna let you know right now; if you don't shoot 16-20 shots a game, I'm benching you. Flat out.
That might be a best-case scenario for Simmons. But the prerequisite for it is for Ben to bust his ass in the gym and improve his in-game as well as free-throw shooting. Five years into his NBA career, the 24-year-old has been able to get away without both. But after this year's playoffs, that ship has sailed. Now it's time to put in the work.
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