Another day, another NBA record for Australian basketball’s rising star Ben Simmons.
The 21-year-old, having one of the best debut seasons in league history, became the first rookie to record a triple-double in the playoffs since Magic Johnson achieved the feat in 1980.
A triple-double (at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) is a sign of a player’s wide-ranging influence across a match and Simmons again played a starring role as his Philadelphia 76ers beat the Miami Heat 106-102 on Sunday (AEST).
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) April 21, 2018
Simmons, taken with the first pick in the 2016 NBA draft, finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists as the 76ers took a 3-1 lead against the Heat in the best-of-seven match series in the first round of the playoffs.
This was far from a flash in the pan showing, either, with Simmons just one rebound away from a triple-double in game one of the series against the Heat.
“I’m doing my job … I think stats that I’ve averaged all season have been up there so it’s not really anything new for the team or myself,” Simmons said.
“As long as we’re winning, I’m happy. All those accolades will come if we’re all doing the right thing.”
Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown could not hide his delight with the performance of Simmons and fellow young gun Joel Embiid, who scored 24 points.
“Those two players have the chance to be great. And they are ours,” Brown said.
“I think Ben’s composure down the stretch … I didn’t take him out … he’s one of these rare athletes that rarely do I say, ‘Oh, Ben Simmons is tired’ … he doesn’t seem to fatigue blatantly.
“I’m told he’s the first rookie since [Earvin] ‘Magic’ Johnson to post a playoff triple-double and I think there’s greatness in both of those two players.”
Blessed with Simmons, Embiid and a highly talented young roster, things look to be turning for a team which has really struggled in recent years.
Philadelphia has won just one playoff series – a first-round clash against Chicago in 2012 – since 2003 but is now one triumph away from ending that hoodoo.
The season before it drafted Simmons, it won just 10 of a possible 82 matches.
“He’s been doing it all season, that’s why he’s the rookie of the year,” Embiid said of Simmons’ latest star turn.
Tensions were high during Sunday’s match, with Simmons clashing with Miami big man James Johnson at one point.
The pair had to be separated after Johnson took exception at a blatant push from Philadelphia’s Robert Covington on the Heat’s Goran Dragic and ran in to remonstrate with the 76ers man.
Simmons, who earlier this month became just the second NBA player to reach 1200 points, 600 rebounds and 600 assists in a rookie season, was quick to get involved.
Speaking to The New Daily in October after Simmons made a stunning start to his first season in the NBA, Australia legend Shane Heal initially said the youngster reminded him of Magic Johnson.
“Magic was a six [foot] eight point guard who could do it all,” Heal said.
“Ben’s six-10 and probably quicker and more dynamic than what Magic Johnson was.
“Obviously he’s got a long way to go before you can compare him to Magic, but as far as body type and positions and things like that, his upside is enormous.
“With what he’s done already and the upside he’s got … it’s scary to think where he’s going to be when he’s 26. He’s still a kid.”
Simmons – who missed all of the 2016-17 season due to a foot injury – is taking all the praise in his stride.
And he has been buoyed by his performances, revealing his lofty ambition in January.
“I want to be the greatest to play the game,” he told NBC.
“It’s going to take a lot of work, but I believe I can get there.”