KOBE Bryant has chimed in on the newly-ignited rivalry between Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell.
The two guards are making their respective case for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, with Mitchell throwing the latest jab, wearing a hoodie that read, “Rookie: An athlete playing his or her first season as a member of a professional sports team.”
The implication, of course, is that Simmons isn’t a ‘real’ rookie, because the Australian sat out the first year in the league with a foot injury, but was still a member of an NBA team. According to the NBA’s rules, Simmons is a rookie.
Bryant said on Wednesday that Simmons, the 21-year-old Australian who’s led the Philadelphia 76ers to a 15-game winning streak, benefited from spending the entire 2016-17 season with the team while sitting out of games with a fractured right foot.
“I think that the time that he has had to watch the game has helped slow down the game for him,” Bryant, when asked about his impression of Simmons, told reporters.
LIVE stream the 2017/18 NBA Season on ESPN with the Foxtel Sports Pack. Get your free 2-week Foxtel Now trial & start watching in minutes. SIGN UP NOW >
“He has had a chance to really observe the NBA game and be around it and pick it apart so now that he’s playing I think the game is in slow motion for him which is different than most rookies.”
Bryant was not directly asked about the Rookie of the Year Award and did not mention the award in his call with reporters.
However, without prompting, the Los Angeles Lakers legend quickly pointed to the benefit Simmons received sitting out the first year.
Simmons’ response to Mitchell’s hoodie was simple. “If his argument is that I’m not a rookie, if that’s the only argument he has, I’m in pretty good shape,” Simmons said.
Bryant was full of praise for Simmons and what he has achieved for the 76ers, who will have home court advantage in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Bryant did make a criticism about Simmons’ jump-shot, saying it needed to improve.
“From a game perspective his size gives him a clear advantage, his speed,” Bryant, who was promoting his new ESPN basketball analysis show, Detail, said. “He also knows how to use it right.
“He knows his spots on the floor and knows his strengths and weaknesses and does a great job getting there.
“I think his development will come in shooting obviously.
“At some point he is going to have to shoot that ball.”