Michael Jordan predicted the Ben Simmons situation in 2005
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Michael Jordan predicted the Ben Simmons situation in 2005

Brett Brown got so desperate about Ben Simmons not shooting that he made a public challenge – a desperate move by a desperate coach. With his recent meltdown, stories about Simmons’ shooting problems started to come out, and with that in mind, focus on the beginning of Brown’s challenge. 

“This is what I want, and you can pass it along to his agent, his family and friends. I want a 3-point shot a game, minimum. The pull-up 2s …I’m fine with whatever is open. But I’m interested in the 3-point shot.”

Brett Brown, BR

Pass it along to his agent, family and friends.” If you’re not sure, Ben Simmons is represented by Rich Paul and Klutch Sports. The agency the NBA investigated and found no connection to LeBron James – that Klutch. Paul is known as a tough negotiator, someone who will use all shades of gray to transfer power from the team to his clients. With Ben Simmons, that didn’t turn out so well. The thing that seems to frustrate people in the 76ers organization isn’t just the shooting problems but how he went about fixing them. 

What Stephen A. reported and Jason Dumas confirmed goes back to Brett Brown’s days with the organization. Coming into the NBA, everyone knew the main area of improvement for Simmons is his shooting. Before he set foot on an NBA floor, Kevin O’Connor was preaching something that is now a serious consideration – that Simmons is shooting with the wrong hand. It’s not like the Sixers didn’t talk about it with Ben and had plans for his improvement. 

But a combination of an organization that invested so much in its top picks; picks it got through planned losing, which in result created a poor culture, and player empowerment facilitated by Klutch resulted in 3 FGs in 7 fourth quarters. Yaron Weitzman wrote about a moment I think is crucial for the meltdown we saw. 

Two days after that 2018 loss to the Celtics, the Sixers held exit meetings in their Camden, New Jersey, training facility. Each player was given a four-page document containing individualized offseason plans. For Simmons, the list of priorities included free-throw shooting, finishing at the rim, and developing a jump shot. In that order. 

After the meetings, Brown told reporters during a news conference that he expected Simmons to spend “intense time” with Townsend in the offseason. Everyone around the team was excited. They felt like a breakthrough had occurred that Simmons was ready not only to solidify his improvements at the line but also to begin carrying those changes into his shooting overall. 

After exit meetings, the players and coaches went their separate ways to recharge. Some time passed, and according to multiple league sources, when Townsend returned to the team’s facility, Brown pulled him aside. Change of plans, he said.

Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, and family had decided that he’d be better off working with one of his brothers, Liam, a former low-level Division I guard and assistant coach who now coaches at Division II Colorado Christian University. 

Yaron Weitzman, Fox Sports

“Pass it along to his agent, family and friends.” For a year and a half, Simmons was working with Brad Townsend, a shooting coach Brett Brown brought in specifically to work with Simmons. Despite improvements in his shot, Simmons decided to work with his brother instead. And then came a moment that defines today’s NBA – no one from the organization challenged Simmons. He just did what he felt like without consequence. The following year, his free throw shooting regressed to below 60%. 

Michael Jordan predicted this would happen back in 2005 when Ben Simmons was 9 years old. We all remember his famous Oprah interview for Charles Barkley showing up in bright blue sweats and the two making fun of each other. At one point, the conversation turned to comparing the lives of a superstar athlete and a rock star. MJ used that moment to make a profound point. See if this sounds familiar.

“The difference is, in our sport, you get paid off of potential – a rock star, you have to be good. Most young kids that come in now, we don’t know how good they’re gonna be, yet they got 5-year guarantees, millions of dollars, admiration of many, endorsement deals. … When corporate America came to us [MJ and Barkley], we had a game that could validate their admiration and sponsorships. Now they get that before they play one game. In essence, you’re paying the kid off of potential that he may be great. It sets a bad work ethic. When you get something so easily, you’re not gonna work as hard.” 

Michael Jordan, Oprah Show

This season was the first year of a five-year $177 million contract for Ben Simmons. The 76ers gave Simmons all that money after he iced a coach they hired just for him, a coach whose guidance showed positive results. Not only that, but Simmons didn’t even let the organization know he was going with his brother as his coach, nor felt the need to explain the rationale by the decision. Do you think something like that would fly with the Spurs or the Heat? Me neither. 

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