PHILADELPHIA - Ben Simmons shot a 3-pointer Tuesday night.
That was a big step.
That he made it was even bigger.
The basket came in the second quarter of the 76ers 144-86 preseason win over Guangzhou Loong-Lions of China at Wells Fargo Center. Simmons was 0 for 19 in his combined NBA preseason, regular season and playoff career before Tuesday.
"I work every day," Simmons said. "To me (the basket) shows that I'm in the gym putting in work. I feel like it's paying off."
The 6-foot-10 Simmons is one of he NBA's most talented players, but his inability and unwillingness to shoot the ball from the perimeter in his first two seasons has also made him one of the league's most debated. It seems everyone connected with the NBA has an opinion on Simmons and his jump shot.
With a better perimeter game, Simmons would be even tougher to defend, especially in the postseason where NBA defense is much more focused and intense. There were times in the playoffs the past two seasons where Simmons did not have the ball in his hands because teams refused to closely guard him because of his lack of perimeter shot.
On Tuesday, he found himself open with 2.3 seconds left in the second quarter. The Lions defender gave Simmons plenty of room.
Simmons pulled up off the dribble and shot a left-handed 3-pointer rom the right wing. It went through the net and drew roars from the crowd. Simmons showed no reaction, but Sixers Joel Embiid immediately ran over and gave Simmons a hug.
"Time went down," Simmons said. "I had the ball, so I had to take a shot."
Sixers coach Brett Brown said the furor about Simmons' outside game is "overblown."
"I'm 58-years-old. I've been coaching for a 1,000 years," Brown said. "It's his first NBA three, and it's been the topic of the summer. We all get why it's discussed a lot. We understand the (playoff) stage of April, May and June. But I still stand by my personal opinion that I think it's overblow. I think it's going to end up growing organically just fine."
Still, it was easily the game's highlight.
The fans realized the situation and began to stand as the final seconds of the first half ticked off the clock.
Sixers guard Josh Richardson said he's seen Simmons sink 3-pointers in practice.
Richardson said he gave Simmons a "If you want it, take it" gesture before the shot.
"Nobody really wants to feel forced to do something," Richardson said. "He shot a deep one, too. It was a couple of steps behind the line. It was great to see him make one in a game."