Anfernee Simons is rushing toward superstardom. Simons took a massive jump in his scoring average last season and another this season. He’s currently sitting at 23.9 points per game while shooting 57.7 percent true shooting-wise. The Portland Trail Blazers are 11-10 through 21 games, ten of those games sans Damian Lillard. Simons has been doing a lot to fill the void.
Last night in a contest against the Los Angeles Clippers, despite Simons scoring 34 points through three quarters and Portland holding an 18-point lead in the third, Simons and the rest of the Trail Blazers couldn’t hold on for the win. Simons finished the night with 37, but the Trail Blazers have lost seven of their last nine games and went 1-3 on a recent trip.
He went 1-8 in the fourth quarter, but Clippers guard Norman Powell caught fire with 22 fourth-quarter points. Jerami Grant fouled out with 32 points with 4:32 remaining in the game, his team nursing a five point lead. Simons struggled down the stretch and his team was outscored 15-4 for the remainder of the game.
Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups thinks Simons could have performed better.
“It was tough,” Billups said. “They took away Ant with Jerami out. You have a lot of guys out there that are not really used to having the ball.”
Billups maintains that Simons should have been more aggressive and demanded the ball down the stretch, something Simons would learn in time.
“That’s something that me and Ant will talk about. That’s a part of his development,” Billups said. “Ant is 22-years -old. We know that he’s a phenomenal talent, already. But he’s still got a little growing to do. We can’t act like Ant is 32 and Dame. We can’t act like that. He still has some developing to do.”Simons reiterated some of the same points.
“Getting the ball and demanding that attention, I think that’s what I should have been doing,” Simons said. “Obviously, they were denying me the ball everywhere around the court, especially in the second half. There were moments that I didn’t realize I should go get it a couple of times. Obviously, it’s a learning experience.”
If Simons is to continue his career season and steady the ship missing its captain, he’ll have to be more aggressive. And he knows it. He’s learning it in real-time.