Jonathon Simmons proved that he is worth the hype, delivering a masterful performance to power NLEX to a 124-102 victory over Blackwater in the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Simmons, a National Basketball Association veteran, was a picture of concentration despite being bothered by the possibility of flying to China in the coming days to re-join his team in the Chinese Basketball Association.
In fact, he nearly missed his first game with the Road Warriors after his previous club – the Shanxi Loongs – refused to issue his clearance, wanting him to take the next available flight to China.
Fortunately, the Road Warriors were able to secure a Letter of Clearance from the International Basketball Federation, enabling the 33-year-old American to make his PBA debut.
Inside the court, Simmons wasn’t a picture of a troubled man as he delivered a sterling performance to help the Road Warriors launch a powerful rally in the fourth quarter to seal their first victory in the season-ending conference.
Simmons had a near triple-double of 32 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists, but his impact in the stat sheets spilled all over the court with Kevin Alas, Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser, and Anthony Semerad chipping in significant numbers for the Road Warriors.
“Last night, I slept early,” NLEX coach Frankie Lim said while addressing the Simmons situation.
“I didn’t want to talk about it. I just got a text this morning that he can play. That’s about it.”
Lim said he never doubted Simmons’ willingness to suit up despite the reported “NBA value” money being dangled before him by his previous employer.
“I was pretty confident that he could play. It was a big push for us. Simmons is not a good player – he is a great player. He knows how to play. He knows how to take the shot. He knows when to pass. We’re so lucky to have him.”
Lim said he has no ill feelings toward his import, who is said to be leaving them any time soon – or after four games.
Instead, they already have a backup plan as they are already negotiating with another NBA veteran in Wayne Selden Jr. to serve as his replacement.
“He was honest with me. I really appreciate that,” Lim said.
“When he told me that he has to go to China to play, I told him to finish his contract first and, hopefully, he could give us four wins before he leaves. I can’t stop him because there’s a big money involved. You just cannot stop him.”
“There’s also a chance that he might stay longer; that’s what I was told earlier. Every now and then, it keeps on changing.”
With Simmons playing like a gem of an import, the rest of the Road Warriors – from Alas to Ganuelas Rosser all the way down to new recruit Hesed Gabo – displayed impressive form.
Alas delivered 31 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter where the Road Warriors outscored the Bossing, 40-19, to put the game out of reach.
Ganuelas Rosser contributed 21 markers on 6-of-9 shooting from the field while Semerad had 15 and Matt Nieto chipped in 12 to underscore their balanced attack.
NLEX 124 – Simmons 32, Alas 31, Ganuelas-Rosser 21, Semerad 15, Nieto 12, Gabo 5, Pascual 3, Trollano 3, Anthony 2, Miranda 0.
BLACKWATER 102 – Glover 26, Ular 14, Amer 13, Taha 13, Suerte 9, Ilagan 8, McCarthy 5, Banal 4, Casio 3, Sena 3, Escoto 2, Torralba 2, Hill 0, DiGregorio 0.
QUARTERS: 26-22, 58-56, 84-81, 124-102
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