The Runner Sports

The Jonathon Simmons Hangover Highlights

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but the truth is, San Antonio was already pretty fond of you, Jonathon Simmons.

I get it. Even more than you were chasing the money, you were in pursuit of that enviable predicament known as consistent playing time. It’s no secret Orlando basically hires Epcot employees to fill out a 12-man rotation these days. Maybe it’s a chance at making a franchise your own. Maybe you dreamt of number 17 Magic jerseys smothering the shelves in the swag stores at the Amway Center. Maybe the beach life and nightlife appealed to a young guy who’s worked harder than anyone to earn that NBA paycheck.

Maybe Gregg Popovich’s distaste for flash and bravado was going to be an impossible fit for the most expressively athletic Spur in recent years in the long-term. San Antonio will get over it eventually. A hangover of this magnitude isn’t indistinguishable, but it’s nothing a little Advil and Gatorade can’t help eventually.

The city of SA wishes you the best of luck, J-Simms. They want to see you turn the Orlando Magic into a watchable product, a force to be reckoned with, or at the very least, a franchise known for more than just giving away their entire confidential offseason agenda on a dry-erase board in the background of a recruit’s Instagram post.

Or perhaps instances like Eraseboardgate prove that the Orlando Magic franchise is cursed? Ever since Kenny Anderson bricked four clutch free throws in a row during the 1995 NBA Finals, Magic fans have suffered in anguish. Since then, the NBA’s other cursed franchise (Cleveland) has won a chip. Nowadays, Orlando fans have maybe one or two other teams around that might help make them feel any better about their own predicament. Even their mascot is unsettling. If not for Aaron Gordon’s slam dunk trophy, they’d be nothing besides a team that drew two lucky ping pong balls in a row 20 years ago and might as well have played table tennis with them.

Before last season began, I convinced myself that Frank Vogel’ presence would help kids like Evan Fournier, Elfrid Payton, and Aaron Gordon bloom and the Magic would in turn blossom into a pleasant Eastern Conference surprise. Instead, Fournier hung around for another year of sub-par stat lines and Elfrid Payton’s hair (which, by the way, has its own Twitter account) continued growing, even occasionally getting in the way of his free throw percentage.

Maybe Jonathon Simmons can be the change. Or at least an attempt in a new direction. Either way, he gave the Spurs all he could while wearing the silver and black, and the Spurs offered all they could give him in return. But they also signed Rudy Gay, and all signs indicate Simmons is hungry as ever to prove himself. Presumably, the Magic is that next step for him.

So as the Spurs say goodbye to Simmons and he leaves Texas for Disneyworld, here is a little look back at his best moments in a Spurs uniform.

2016 Summer League: Simmons’ Game Winning Floater Against The Warriors

One in-bounds play to win the game. 1.3 seconds on the clock. Sure, it’s ‘just Summer League.’ But if you’re a super basketball nerd who watched Summer League before Lonzo made it prime time TV, this is probably the first moment you noticed or heard of Simmons. As for the play itself, it is still unclear which was better; Kyle Anderson’s on-target lob from out-of-bounds, or Simmons’ catch-and-release floater as the backboard lit up and the final buzzer sounded. Either way, it was a sign of things to come, because the next time Simmons would see the Golden State Warriors on the basketball court, he would do this to them:

October 2016 – Simmons Goes Off Against the Warriors in Season Opener

Must be something about Simmons vs. the Warriors… the 2016-17 season began with enough Warriors hysteria to power an entire city block in Pacific Heights. The first time KD wore a Warriors jersey in a regular season game, the Spurs immediately pulled the plug, crushing them by 29 points in Oakland. Some guy named Jonathon Simmons came off the bench for the Spurs and dropped 20 spectacular points in the win, including a rather disgusting dunk on JaVale McGee to put them up by 29 as the clock wound down. Afterward, sideline commentator Reggie Miller cried out ‘Give that man the game ball now!’ The dunk was so nasty that the tape clearly shows a Golden State fan who remains standing through the entire next sequence, hands on his head in shock, disbelief, and dislike at how much he liked that dunk. His performance in this game also included a beautiful chase-down block on Steph Curry. Reggie compared it to LeBron James’ Iggy chase-down on the broadcast. It was a coming out party, much to the Bay Area fanbase’s chagrin, and Simmons ate a huge piece of his ‘Welcome To The League, Jon!’ cake right there in the middle of the court at Oracle.

Feb. 2017 – All-Star’s Rising Challenge – Simmons Holds 1st Annual Jonathon Simmons Skills Clinic 

The Simmons hype had reached a peak and plateaued again by the time the All-Star break rolled around last February. Then he went and dropped 19 points in 21 minutes at the Rising Stars Challenge. He was pulling out moves from his bag of tricks every time he handled the ball; top-of-the-key jumpers, soaring dunks, putbacks, blocks, he was doing everything. Spurs fans already knew what he was. It was time for the rest of the world to see, too.

April 2017 – Dunk On Portland’s Meyers Leonard

In what would later be dubbed the ‘Weirdest Ending To A Game Ever,’ the Spurs lost to the Portland Trail Blazers late last season in a game that didn’t really amount to much. Before essentially losing on a fumbled pass and botched play, Simmons put the Spurs up by 1 late in the game with a dunk over Meyers Leonard. Except it wasn’t just any dunk; it was the kind of dunk that is so bad it makes you scrunch up your face and exhale gibberish mouth noises of shock. To be quite honest, writing words about the dunk can’t do it justice. Go watch it right now and you’ll see what I mean.

2017 Western Conference Semi-Finals, Game 3: Buzzer Beater at the End Of  Third Quarter Against The Houston Rockets

Houston native Simmons returned home in the 2017 NBA Western Conference semi-finals and played like he had a chip on his shoulder. After the Rockets torched the nets and the Spurs in Game 1, the series was tied 1-1 and the Spurs were beginning to show some signs of life. It was starting to look like that first game might have been a fluke, or at least an outlier. Simmons nails a long three with four seconds left in the third that put the Spurs up by 6. Before Harden ever gave up in Game 6, or Manu’s stifling rejection of him in Game 5, the Spurs won Game 3 thanks in part to an efficient game by Simmons. He left an indelible mark on this series with this morale-crushing, coast-to-coast buzzer beater.

2017 Western Conference Finals: Simmons’ Kawhi Leonard Impression vs. Golden State Warriors

After the fatal Zaza closeout, Pop had no choice but to unleash J-Simms at his full potential against the eventual champs. By the end of Game 2, it became apparent that the only Spur who wasn’t going to go quietly into the night was Jonathon Simmons. Simmons started every game after Leonard’s injury, and averaged 16 points and 4 assists in the final three games of the series. He did his best Kawhi impression, and that’s just about all you can ask after your best player goes down.

 

Ah, Jonathon Simmons. We’ll miss your gum chewing, your in-game dunking, your transition athletics. And as it is with all elite breakout players unearthed from the deepest unsigned corners of the world by the Spurs, you’ll always have a home in San Antonio. And please, go use that competitive swagger and get Orlando out of its perennial slump.

Justin Heller
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Justin Heller

NBA Spurs Lead Writer at The Runner Sports
NBA guy. Manu apologist. Tim Duncan clergyman. Van Exel admirer. Embiid fan club. Players Tribune articles can never be bad. The three most important letters in the NBA are g-i-f.
Grew up all over, ended up in San Antonio, where I live currently. Come enjoy the churros with me, Chuck.
Justin Heller
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