Why Barkley called out Simmons after career-best night


With Joel Embiid on the bench Monday night against the NBA-best Jazz, Ben Simmons exploded for a huge, career-best night.

Simmons scored 19 points in the first quarter, finished with 42 points, 12 assists, 9 rebounds, and kept his shorthanded team within striking distance until the end of the game. Despite the Sixers' loss, Simmons had clearly his best night of the season to this point.

So why was Charles Barkley still criticizing Simmons the day after his explosive performance?

(Besides, you know, Chuck being Chuck.)

The former Sixers great appeared on Bill Simmons' podcast Tuesday to discuss a number of NBA topics, including the always-polarizing Simmons.

Barkley indicated he'd watched Monday night's game, but he wasn't throwing a parade for Simmons just yet:

"BARKLEY: Until he learns how to shoot, he's going to be an All-Star. He can't be a superstar until he learns how to shoot the ball. Because the one thing we're sure of, Bill, the ball always finds the guy who can't shoot in the playoffs. And he's a great defender, he's a hell of a player, but at some point he's going to have to make a shot. A big shot. And right now he's so reluctant to shoot the ball


"I think he's afraid to shoot the ball.

"SIMMONS: He wasn't afraid last night.

"BARKLEY: Well, that was just lay-ups. Like, if you keep him in that little box, he's great around the basket.


"Why isn't he that aggressive, offensively, when Joel Embiid is there? That's actually a great point you just made. Why isn't he that aggressive when Embiid's there? It would only make the team better. He's not going to get 40 points, but I wonder - that would be a great stat, how many times has he had 20 points with Embiid on the floor?"

Look, I get what Barkley is saying here, and I'm not going to say he's totally off-base.

There is definitely something to the idea that Simmons should be more aggressive when Embiid is in the lineup. (For the record, Simmons averages 20 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 7.2 assists in five games without Embiid this year, including Monday night's huge showing.)

And Simmons' limited shot variety definitely means the same concerns Sixers fans had about his game during past postseason runs still exist. Just look at his shot chart from Monday night's 42-point outing:

But I think Barkley dismissing Simmons' big game as "just lay-ups" is a real misfire. Simmons was doing exactly what Sixers fans have begged him to do: be aggressive, initiate contact in the paint in the half-court, and don't be afraid to take shots that aren't directly in your wheelhouse.

Look at this unorthodox turn-around jumper (if that's what you'd call this?) he took, and made, last night:

It's not the prettiest offense, but it's Simmons taking things into his hands and creating offense with force. He's looked like this for a half-dozen games now, and said after Monday night's loss that he's starting to figure some things out offensively.

So let's maybe give Simmons the rest of the season, as he's still figuring out his role in a new offense, and appreciate him when he's great.

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