Jonothan Simmons more than filled in last night in Houston when his Spurs faced off in Game 6 of the Western Conference semi-finals. Kawhi Leonard was out and so the 6’7” Simmons got the start in his native Houston.
A little more than two hours later, Simmons was the talk of his hometown, a lot of it angry. He finished with 18 points and seven rebounds, defended James Harden to within an inch of his life and San Antonio beat Houston by 39 points to move on to the conference finals ... and the Warriors
The Cycle tweeted out a video of Simmons life story, much of which is known, how an undrafted kid from the University of Houston paid out $150 to try out for the D-League, ultimately getting a gig with the Austin Toros, now Spurs.
Jonathon Simmons paid $150 to try out for the Spurs.— Cycle (@bycycle) May 12, 2017
Tonight, he started Game 6.
Got the W in his hometown.
Persistence is key. pic.twitter.com/oTCZN8bQlW
As the video notes the big club “didn’t me any mind.” Simmons played two years in Austin without a call-up. He believed if he could get a summer league gig, he could prove himself ...“people gonna see what I can do,” as he says in the video.
Then, there’s a cut in the video. Something gets skipped over. The next shot, Simmons is talking about that summer league gig, in Orlando. “The first game,” he notes, “I didn’t even touch the floor.”
Indeed that’s true, but what the video doesn’t note —and what has been lost to history— is that Simmons was playing not for the Spurs summer league team, but for the Nets. And it’s true, the Nets two SL coaches in Orlando, Jay Humphries and Joe Wolf, didn’t play him that first game. But short on offense, they gave Simmons a shot in the second game.
“The next game, I was the first player off the bench,” Simmons recalls. “I was able to play and show NBA teams ‘'this guy is serious.’”
Indeed. Over the next three games, wearing the black-and-white of Brooklyn, not San Antonio, Simmons averaged 12.0 points and 4.7 boards over the next three games, showing that same athleticism, shooting and defense he exhibited Thursday night in Houston. Fans noticed. They wondered if the Nets might sign him. Then the Spurs moved, as they almost always do, aggressively.
As we reported at the time...
The Nets liked Jonathon Simmons, the 6'6" swingman who played the last two years for the Austin Spurs in the D-League. He threw himself on the court, played a versatile offensive game. Problem is the Spurs liked him more and on Friday, gave him a two-year deal, with the first year guaranteed. We don't know if the Nets were offering anything close to that.
The signing didn't get much notice. The Nets signed Willie Reed off the Heat’s summer league roster. He had played for Nets D-League team. So it was very prodigal.
As Simmons says on the video, “Definitely when I got their word, it just lifted a burden off my shoulder.” He went on to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, helped Becky Hammon go undefeated while offering his praise for her efforts.
The rest is Spurs magic. Simmons played well enough in year one to get a guaranteed second year. Now, he's the man and a restricted free agent who’s going to make eight figures this summer. The Spurs can only match up to $7.7 million unless they find enough cap space. So there's hope for a reunion. After all, Sean Marks was the Spurs assistant GM when they signed Simmons and he has said he’s like to upgrade the 3.
- $150 to Try Out: Spurs Guard Jonathon Simmons’s Story of Perseverance - Scott Cacciola - New York Times