Portland Trail Blazers young guard Anfernee Simons has started off the year averaging career high numbers in points, assists, rebounds, steals, field goal percentage, and three point percentage through four games. Despite the small sample size, the increase in production stems from a changed mindset coming into this new season. Jason Quick of The Athletic talked to Damian Lillard’s longtime trainer, Phil Beckner, who has taken Simons under his wing in these last few years.
Simons kept the Blazers afloat in the first half against Memphis, a game that could have ended very differently had Simons not showed up in a big way that night.
Simons on Wednesday had 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range. It was his first half in particular that stood out, for if it wasn’t for Simons and his aggressive attacks to the basket, and his feathery 3-pointers, the Blazers would have likely entered halftime trailing by 20 and not by six, 57-51.
Heading into this season, it seemed as if a switch flipped in Simons’ mind. He became more devoted than ever to improvement.
“Usually, he would train with me here and there,” Beckner said. “And at the start of the summer he wanted to know where I was going to be. I told him either Phoenix or Portland. So I asked him where he was going to be. His answer: ‘Wherever you are at.”’Lillard said that no matter where he went to work out with Beckner this summer — Phoenix, Utah, Portland, Las Vegas — there Simons would be.
It was quite the change from the first three years of Simons’ career training with Beckner.
“At first, it was Phil trying to get it out of him,” Lillard said of the commitment to work. “And then this summer I noticed Ant following him everywhere, getting his work in. It didn’t have to be convenient for him, he was seeking it out.”
Simons’ leap this year has impressed Beckner, who couldn’t contain his excitement last night watching Simons keep the Blazers in the game against Memphis.
Beckner, meanwhile, is swelling with pride. During Simons’ first-half flurry on Wednesday, we texted.
“I’m so damn proud of him,” Beckner said. “Literally have goosebumps right now. That dude has come sooooo far.”
Read the whole article on Simons’ improvement here.