Philadelphia 76ers

Ben Simmons says he 'fell in love' with basketball again this off-season, ahead of 'exciting' year for the Philadelphia 76ers

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In his two NBA seasons, Ben Simmons has been named Rookie of the Year, an NBA All-Star and led the Philadelphia 76ers to the playoffs with back-to-back 50 win seasons.

Despite his early success, the Australian point guard revealed that his enjoyment for the game was somewhat lacking, but after a refreshing off-season of on-court work, Simmons says he has rediscovered his passion for the game.

"I feel like this summer I fell in love with the game again," Simmons told the Associated Press.

"I kind of got back to who I was and having fun with the game. I felt like the past season I lost that enjoyment side of it but I feel like this summer has been huge for me. Just the work I've been putting in, I kinda fell in love with putting that work in again and I've been in the gym every day working and the results have been paying off so I'm excited for the season to start."

While he already boasts an impressive résumé, he has not been without his fair share of critics, mainly pointed at his lack of jumpshot and reluctance to shoot three-pointers, contrary to the modern landscape of the NBA.

Although he hears the chatter, the 23-year-old is blocking out the noise and focusing on who he is as a player, rejuvinating his own confidence in his game.

''I'm ready to be who I am as a player, continue to develop, keep working,'' Simmons added. ''It's a process. It takes time. Obviously, people always want to see results straight away but that's not how things work.''

"I think sometimes you kind of get too deep into it where you listen to other people which should never be the thing you do unless they're giving you positive feedback or trying to help you get better because there's a lot of negativity out there.

"It's huge once you kind of block that out, you don't really care, you kinda go out there feeling free. You don't care if you miss a shot because everyone misses a shot so that's one of the things that I think this summer I got back to how I was as a player just playing and doing what I love at a high level."

After signing a five-year, $170 million contract extension in July, expectations are sky-high for not only him, but the 76ers, who are among the favourites from the Eastern Conference to advance to the NBA Finals.

The 76ers enter the 2019-20 season with a re-tooled roster, headlined by the additions of Al Horford and Josh Richardson, following Jimmy Butler's departure to Miami and on paper boast one of the league's most formidable starting lineups, including Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid.

"We're locked in. We're ready to play," Simmons said of the 76ers. "We've been in the gym. We've been there early. We're competing trying to get each other better from the rooks to the guys who are vets. I think it's going to be an exciting year for the 76ers."

Simmons averaged 16.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.9 assists last season and with a renewed energy for the game, the Aussie is set to be a scary sight for opponents once the new season tips off.

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