Ben Simmons won the battle of the young guns in Utah — again — and added insult to injury with a savage serving of trash talk.
The Aussie recorded his fifth triple-double of the season as Philadelphia cruised to a 114-97 win over the Jazz but had to contend with a whole heap of booing every time he got his hands on the ball.
The Utah faithful clearly aren’t ready to accept Simmons was a worthy winner of last season’s Rookie of the Year award ahead of Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, who came second in the race for the prestigious honour.
The Melbourne-born star finished well clear of Mitchell, receiving 481 votes to 323 and 90 first place votes to Mitchell’s 10. It was one-sided, and Simmons let everyone know about it when he suited up for the Sixers’ last outing.
“It wasn’t a f***ing race,” Simmons told The Salt Lake Tribune when asked about the Rookie of the Year battle.
“You saw the votes, right? Did you see the votes? So what’s the question?
“How do I feel about it? I don’t give a (expletive). Honestly, I don’t.
“I’m not worried about outside noise, I’m not worried about anything in terms of fans, media, you guys asking these questions. (I don’t care about other opinions) besides my teammates and my coaches, everyone in this locker room.”
The rivalry between Simmons and Mitchell to be crowned the game’s best first-year player became a hot topic as the 2017-18 season wound down and Utah’s contender wasn’t shy in adding fuel to the fire.
Simmons’ first year should technically have been in 2016-17 but a foot injury ruled him out for the entire campaign and he only made his 76ers debut last season. That led to speculation he shouldn’t have even been in the running for award — a position Mitchell encouraged at a game against Golden State last season.
Mitchell turned up to face the Warriors wearing a hoodie many interpreted as a dig at Simmons. On it was text designed to look like it was taken from the dictionary.
“Rookie (rook-ee), noun,” the jumper read. “An athlete playing his or her first season as a member of a professional sports team.”
Simmons was more concerned with the result against Utah this time around rather than rehashing old news and he played his part in helping Philly bounce back from a loss against the Celtics in its last start.
He put up 13 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists to seal the season series with Utah for a second straight season.
“I love being able to come into an arena and hear boos and chants, whatever it is, see signs and come in here and win by 20,” Simmons said afterwards. “I mean, there’s nothing better than that.”
Fellow Australian Dante Exum was also an influential figure on court. Exum returned a season-high 20 points to give the Jazz an edge for much of the second quarter.
But Simmons and Mike Muscala scored back-to-back baskets to put the Sixers on top 48-46. And they expanded the lead to 57-52 on back-to-back buckets from JJ Redick and Simmons in the final 30 seconds before halftime.
Philadelphia didn’t cool down in the second half with Joel Embiid finishing just shy of the 3000-point milestone with 23 while collecting 15 rebounds and dishing out six assists.
The Sixers continue their five-game road trip at Portland on Monday (AEDT).