Spurs’ Jonathon Simmons sharpens focus for games in hometown
Jonathon Simmons has prepared for this moment for weeks, and after the Spurs advanced in the playoffs, he took action.
Following the Game 6 win over the Memphis Grizzlies last week, Simmons, who played at Smiley, turned off his phone.
“It was something I wanted to do on my own,” he said. “I’m OK with saying no and not answering my phone. I can deal with that.”
The second-year guard is doing his best to limit distractions that could arise as the Spurs-Rockets series shifts to Toyota Center for Games 3 and 4.
Ticket inquires have started, but Simmons filtered all requests through his mother, LaTonya, with specific instructions.
“I told her last week, ‘Don’t tell nobody maybe. Don’t tell nobody I don’t know (that) you’ll ask me. Flat-out no, and deal with me afterward. … Throw me under the bus as much as you can. I don’t care.’?”
Simmons is coming off a 14-point performance that helped the Spurs beat the Rockets in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinals series Wednesday night. One of the tasks for Simmons, 6-6, is to give Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green a breather from defending James Harden. But Simmons’ offense thrived Wednesday night. He finished 5-of-9 from the field.
“He executed his role,” guard Patty Mills said. “He came off the bench and brought a whole lot of energy, first on defense, and then his offensive game was able to flow off of that.”
Simmons did a fair job helping guard Harden. On a possession in the fourth quarter of Game 2, Harden attempted a 3-pointer and tried to use contact to draw a foul. Simmons did a good job getting through a Clint Capela screen and contesting the shot without much contact, resulting in a miss.
Harden finished with 13 points on 3-of-17 shooting.
“He’s one of the great players in the NBA,” Simmons said. “It’s going to be more of a team effort than just (one person). It’s a challenge for all of us.”
But the challenge will get tougher for the Spurs with the season-ending injury to guard Tony Parker, who ruptured his left quadriceps tendon Wednesday. Simmons could see more playing time, especially when the Spurs play smaller lineups.
Though Simmons confessed his excitement about heading home to play and being able to “see some family and friends,” he also understands his level of focus will need to be enhanced.
“One of the first things Pop (coach Gregg Popovich) always tell these guys is don’t read the newspaper,” said Spurs assistant coach Ime Udoka. “Don’t worry about the ticket requests. … Really focus on the playoffs.”
Asked what advice he would give Simmons about limiting distractions, Udoka said: “Turn off your phone, as he said. At this point of his career, he’s trying to establish something. He can be a big piece for us in this series.”
As Simmons departed the locker room following Game 2, the theme of his media session appeared simple: Take care of business in Houston.
As for the calls, Simmons provided a reminder.
“Nobody will hit me,” he said. “They know I (will not) answer the phone.”