Ben Simmons wasn't fooling around. The Philadelphia 76ers' former first pick might've been hesitant to shoot from long distance for his first two seasons and then some -- but something changed during the 2019-2020 COVID-19 hiatus.
A few months ago, Simmons admitted to ESPN's Jackie MacMullan that he was hesitant to utilize his jump shot consistently because he lacked confidence in it. Assuming the season would resume at some point this summer, though, Simmons vowed to expand his game. Naturally, fans scoffed at the idea.
They've heard this kind of talk from Simmons before during previous downtimes. However, this time around, Simmons doesn't seem to be just talking the talk. Not only did he continue to tease the idea of shooting more, but he started to let it fly without hesitation during practice scrimmages against his teammates in Orlando.
As the team's first scrimmage against the Memphis Grizzlies came about on Friday afternoon, many were curious as to whether this newfound shooting confidence from Simmons was going to showcase itself or not.
And as it turns out -- it did. Just a couple minutes into the first quarter, Simmons caught the ball standing behind the three-point line in the corner. He wasn't all that open -- but felt like he had enough space away from the defender to launch a three. The shot didn't go in, but the third-year Sixer was applauded for the effort.
After the first quarter shot, Simmons didn't get another look like that until the second half. Once again, standing in the corner beyond the arc Simmons caught a pass from Tobias Harris. This time, the defender gave Simmons plenty of space to take an open shot. Without hesitation, Simmons let it fly and knocked it down.
"I'm taking what they give me," Simmons claimed after the game. "I've been working on the three-ball and shooting it, so no, I've been feeling comfortable. Still getting to the rim, still going to attack and find my guys, you saw I think I had nine assists. So, still trying to play my game and just trying to evolve and be a better player."
What everybody saw on Friday afternoon out of Simmons wasn't anything new to the Sixers. For the last couple of weeks, Simmons' head coach and teammates credited the third-year star adding range to his game. After seeing Simmons actually go out in a scrimmage against another team and flash his shot for all to see, though, Sixers head coach Brett Brown is thrilled to see Simmons' newfound confidence take place.
"I get excited," Brown said during his postgame press conference on Friday. "As I said this yesterday or two days ago -- whenever it was -- it's the paradigm shift, it's the spirit; he doesn't flinch. The sport told him, "I'm open; nobody's guarding me, shoot it." And he did. There wasn't any hesitation on what's next."
Ben Simmons and the Sixers will have the opportunity to continue competing in a game setting on Sunday with a scrimmage against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Perhaps, Simmons will find a few more looks and continue to get in-game reps shooting from the three-point line before the regular season resumes.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_