By Josh Cohen
July 18, 2017
ORLANDO — Jonathon Simmons is proof that anything is possible and nobody should give up on their dreams.
Not too long ago, Simmons was playing in the American Basketball League (ABL) for the Sugar Land Legends. While prolific for that team, the thought that any ABL player could ultimately land a three-year NBA contract seemed outrageous.
But with incredible determination, passion and confidence, Simmons proved he belonged in the best basketball league in the world. The NBA journey started with a rather simple tryout for the San Antonio Spurs’ G League team in Austin. A successful stop there opened the eyes of Gregg Popovich and the entire Spurs front office.
Simmons made San Antonio’s roster after playing for its Summer League team in 2015 and claiming the championship game MVP. He became a solid reserve in his two seasons with the Spurs and was outstanding in the playoffs this past season. His defensive effort against James Harden, who shot just 2-of-11 from the floor and scored 10 points with Simmons as his primary defender in Game 6 of the conference semifinals, along with 10 double-digit scoring performances throughout the postseason turned him into an intriguing free agent target.
When the Spurs renounced Simmons’ rights making him an unrestricted free agent, the Magic jumped at the chance to add his defensive savviness and offensive aggressiveness to the mix.
“I’m very proud, it’s been a long road and there’s a lot of work to be done still,” Simmons said. “It was a grind and the love for the game helped me to appreciate the grind even more and to be able to have this surreal feeling right now.”
“Everybody has their own journey. I think I made the best out of the little opportunities that I had and I just kept pushing from there,” he added.
Simmons believes previously playing for a perennial championship contender will help him have an immediate impact in Orlando. He’s not content, either. He thinks the sky’s the limit for him and his new team.
“I think a lot of guys in the NBA are just happy being in the NBA and I’m not one of those guys,” he said. “I want to be able to compete at a high level against elite guys.”
The Magic have a lot of versatility on the perimeter. Simmons, Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross are all capable of playing the two or the three. Marcus Georges-Hunt, who played extremely well in summer league action, and second round draft selection Wesley Iwundu can each play multiple positions and carry different roles.
The hope is that Simmons can be relied upon to be a defensive stopper in critical moments. With his athleticism, insistence and strength, Simmons has the physical tools and mental makeup to be one of the Magic’s best defenders.
More than anything else, though, already proving he can beat insurmountable odds and jump countless hurdles on his path to NBA success is a major benefit for a team trying to take the next step in their development.
“A lot of things about Jonathon Simmons impressed us,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said. “The first element when you look at a player and you are trying to add someone to an organization is you want fighters. You want guys who are going to compete to win and make those around them better. And we see a lot of that in Jonathon.”