The Brooklyn Nets have been viewed by many as the team to beat in the NBA with their big three Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, but Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons doesn’t seem as concerned about them.
The Sixers claimed sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference with their victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. Simmons was asked about Philadelphia’s upcoming game against the Nets on Wednesday and if the two teams have a nascent rivalry. He downplayed it and said the 76ers are more focused on the reigning champs, Los Angeles Lakers.
“Rivalry? I mean, if they keep the same team, definitely, but it will be difficult to do that,” Simmons said. via Rich Hofmann of The Athletic. “We are going for the past champions, the Lakers. They were the ones who won the championship, so you have to respect them. Obviously, Brooklyn is very talented, but at the end of the day, there is only one ball and you have to play defense. “
Simmons prides himself on his defense and said winning the Defensive Player of the Year is a goal for him this season. The Sixers currently rank seventh in the NBA with 108.3 points allowed per game. The Lakers are second at 105.9, and Anthony Davis is the main reason for that. Brooklyn has allowed 114.4 points per game and is ranked 24th in the NBA, so Simmons has one point.
Nets are obviously capable of lighting up the scoreboard, but defense becomes more important in the postseason. Harden’s defense has been teased so mercilessly in the past that people have even made compilation videos in low light. He and his teammates would do well to use Simmons’ comments as motivation.