Basketball / Maccabi lacks patience, but Tre Simmons may have too much
Chester Simmons has plenty of patience to sit on Maccabi Tel Aviv's bench. "If I could make money sitting on the couch, I'd do it," the 1.98m swingman told Haaretz in a recent interview. The problem for Simmons, known as Tre, is that Maccabi, which is used to getting immediate results, is losing its patience. The team this week brought in Marcus Brown, whose arrival could foreshadow the end of Simmons' brief tenure in Tel Aviv.
The problem is less Simmons' laziness than his indifferent personality. One of his teammates at Hapoel Galil Elyon during the 2006-07 season recalled how coach Oded Katash benched Simmons for nearly an entire quarter, yet the quiet American didn't open his mouth once. "A little bit of an overly nice guy" is how the former teammate described him.
"He comes on time, does the job, showers and goes," the player said. "He's sociable and funny but not competitive enough." He added that Simmons is not the kind of guy who will get up and make demands for more playing time, which you can get away with in a small club like Galil Elyon or Holon - where Simmons played last season - but not in Maccabi.
This cool demeanor should have raised alarm bells for the heads of Maccabi before they picked up Simmons, but one can't ignore the lack of hierarchy that characterized the first two months of coach Effi Birenboim's term in Tel Aviv.
Simmons' inability to impress the pros despite his shooting talent - he was, after all, first team in the Pac 10 during the 2004-2005 season with the Washington Huskies - is well documented. Percy Allen of the Seattle Times once wrote that he saw Simmons try out twice with NBA teams, impressing them with his three-point shooting and working incredibly hard yet being one of the first to be cut.
The Seattle Supersonics dropped the Washington-state native in 2005, while the Atlanta Hawks cut him during tryouts in July 2007 despite a warm recommendation from Atlanta's assistant coach Bob Bender, who had coached Simmons with the Huskies.
According to Allen, Simmons is neither a leader type nor the kind of guy who thrives on setting up his own shots. He wrote two years ago, when Simmons was playing in the summer league for Atlanta, that coach Bender likened him to a poor man's Richard Hamilton, referring to Detroit's three-time NBA all-star.
Talent isn't enough
"Simmons displayed his trademark long-distance shooting ability as well as an array of untapped skills, including deft passing, playmaking ability, ball handling and on-the-ball defense," wrote Allen after one game, but correctly predicted these skills would not secure him a seat on Atlanta's bench.
At Maccabi, it's not exactly clear which of these talents the team wants to get out of him. It has yet to design a play that sets up a shot for Simmons or puts him at the center of the play, which he finds disappointing. Is he supposed to be a member of the starting five who won't score very often, or part of an ideal rotation of 11-12 players, as Birenboim once declared as his goal?
"From the start it was clear there would be games where Tal Burstein would start and Simmons would come off the bench," explained assistant coach Ro'i Hagai before rumors leaked that the guard might be headed out the door. "Simmons will have to contribute every time off the bench, and I'm sure he will."
Simmons scored five points, including one three-pointer and two unforced turnovers in less than twenty minutes last week in a preseason game against Rishon Lezion, a sure sign of his lack of self-confidence. However, he improved against Ramat Gan, scoring 13 points and pulling down six rebounds. Perhaps the knowledge of Brown's arrival was a motivator.
Still, a player from another team said that Brown told him he did not see his job as demanding more minutes. The player added that Simmons said if Birenboim doesn't give him the PT and his career at Maccabi doesn't manage to get off the ground, everybody will suffer. "My success is in the team's interest," said Simmons.
That may be, but the question remains who is going to insist he step up his game, Maccabi or him. If he doesn't, time may run out for Simmons.