76ers point guard Ben Simmons has had enough of lingering questions about last year’s Rookie of the Year race between himself and the Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell.
Actually, before Thursday’s game at Vivint Smart Home Arena, he took issue with even characterizing it that way at all.
“It wasn’t a [expletive] race,” Simmons said. “You saw the votes, right? … Did you see the votes? So what’s the question?”
For those who didn’t see the votes, of 101 ballots cast, Simmons got 90 firsts, 10 seconds and one third, while Mitchell got 11 firsts, 89 seconds, and one third. Simmons prevailed 481 points to 323.
Still, as the 2017-18 season went into the stretch run, Mitchell’s apparel company, adidas, touted his candidacy in an ad campaign that, in part, questioned Simmons’ qualifications on account of it technically being his second year in the league (he was held out the entirety of what should have been his rookie season with a foot injury).
Mitchell even wore an adidas sweatshirt at one point with a definition of “rookie” on it.
Jazz fans, naturally, latched onto the technicality in support of their player. Not yet over the perceived slight to Mitchell, they lustily booed Simmons when he was introduced Thursday.
Simmons, meanwhile, made it clear he’s not interested in hearing about such arguments, let alone being asked about them.
“How do I feel about it? I don’t give a [expletive]. Honestly, I don’t,” Simmons said. “I’m not worried about outside noise, I’m not worried about anything in terms of fans, media, you guys asking these questions; [I don’t care what anyone says] besides my teammates and my coaches, everyone in this locker room.”
He also made it clear that his annoyance was not personally directed at Mitchell, but at still getting questions about it because some people won’t let it go.
“He’s a great player, he’s a great player,” Simmons said. “He can score the ball really well, he’s getting better finding his guys. He’s learning. He’s a great player.”
Simmons then went out and played like he had something to prove, accumulating a triple-double before the third quarter was over Thursday, and finishing with 14 points (on 6-for-13 shooting, and no, he didn’t attempt a 3-pointer), 14 rebounds, and 12 assists. He also had seven turnovers.
Mitchell, meanwhile, had a relatively quiet night, with some of his production bolstered by staying in the game long after the outcome had been decided. He totaled 23 points (on 10 for 20 from the field), four rebounds, and three assists, along with four turnovers.