Kobi Simmons arrived in Chapel Hill last Tuesday ready to compete for one of the Charlotte Hornets’ two remaining regular season roster spots. Simmons is looking to secure the Hornets’ third point guard slot, and he has already garnered praise from his head coach James Borrego during Hornets training camp last week.
This is Simmons’ third training camp with his third team. The former McDonald’s All-American and five-star recruit spent his rookie season playing for the Memphis Grizzlies under a Two-Way contract and last season playing primarily for the Canton Charge – he signed a 10-Day contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers and appeared in one game for the team.
Simmons signed an Exhibit-10 contract with the Hornets last month. He gets to play for the team during the preseason but nothing is guaranteed past that. The typical reality is, E-10 guys wind up on their respective team’s G-League affiliate for the season, hoping they can eventually earn a 10-Day contract. Kobi has already experienced the G-League and 10-Day’s and is ready to prove he is well-equipped for his first full-time NBA contract.
On Friday I sat down with Kobi Simmons to discuss training camp and the opportunity he has in front of him. “I’m just going out there and competing. That’s all I can do. I love to compete, and I’m ready for this opportunity and I’m going to run with it.”
Charlotte was Kobi’s best opportunity
On Friday I asked Kobi why he chose Charlotte as his destination for training camp this season. “I saw this a great opportunity… I had offers from other teams like Houston and Utah but thought this was the best opportunity and I ran with it.”
The Hornets have started a new era centered around player development being the top priority. Coach Borrego said the Hornets are “fully committed to player development… It is the lifeblood of our organization.” Charlotte is the perfect place for a guy like Kobi Simmons – who has untapped potential – to thrive in an environment where the team is fully committed to developing his game each and every day.
The typical NBA regular season roster consists of three point guards – Charlotte currently has two. The Hornets lost their top two point guards from last season as Kemba Walker departed for Boston and Tony Parker retired. The team is now looking towards the services of newly acquired point guard Terry Rozier and second year guard Devonte’ Graham to occupy the majority of the point guard minutes. The third spot is up for grabs.
Simmons is still young at 21-years-old and has still yet to make his way up to a full-time roster in the NBA. He was highly recruited out of high school due to his potential and the 6’5″ point guard has unique skill set – if tapped into and developed correctly – that could make him a solid point guard with a legit career in this league. Charlotte is determined to develop their talent, and Kobi could fit right into that equation.
During Kobi’s rookie year, he got legitimate NBA minutes for the Grizzlies and saw improvement in each and every game. Kobi said he progressed much more his rookie year playing NBA minutes and learning instead of just sitting on the bench, and Charlotte is a team that could provide just that.
Charlotte currently has two point guards under guaranteed contracts at the moment. Coming into training camp, three players are looking to fill that third point guard spot: Kobi Simmons, Joe Chealey – who missed most of training camp and their first preseason game with a sprained right ankle- and Josh Perkins. Josh Perkins is bound to spend his rookie year in the G-League with the Greensboro Swarm. Joe Chealey spent his rookie season playing for the Swarm and averaged 16 points per game but will likely wind up in Greensboro again this season.
The third spot is Kobi Simmons’ for the taking, but there is still a chance Borrego could only take two point guards heading into the year if he would rather use the remaining spots for a forward like Caleb Martin, for example. Borrego has said nothing but good things about Kobi thus far throughout camp, so Kobi just needs to prove through preseason that he is deserving of that roster spot.
Borrego praises Kobi Simmons at training camp
I asked James Borrego Thursday in Chapel Hill at Hornets training camp how Kobi has played training camp and if he could invision him on the regular season roster. “He’s had a really good camp so far. He’s putting himself in a really strong position right now (to make the regular season roster).”
Simmons said Borrego told him heading into the game that he wanted Kobi to “play at a high pace, attack the rim, aggrivate and put pressure on the defensive end of the floor, and make plays for others.” I asked Borrego the same question and he echoed the same words and added that, “He (Kobi) has done all of those things so far. He has played really well.”
When Borrego has spoken to the media these past two weeks, he has set the standard for the culture he is setting with his team – the kind of players he wants and the style of basketball he wants his team to play. He wants two-way guys who pride themselves on both ends of the floor. The Hornets coach wants a high-paced offense, putting pressure on the defense, attacking the rim, and moving the ball around quickly. He has continually echoed that he is cementing the importance defense into this team’s culture all throughout the offseason and training camp. Borrego wants high energy guys who fly up and down the floor while putting the greatest importance on protecting the rim.
Kobi Simmons literally personifies the type of player James Borrego wants. Borrego has stated that he has brought guys in that reflect his vision and the culture he is implementing. Kobi said his unique skillset is his “quickness, and energy, high pace… Being 6’5″ I can defend multiple positions and interrupt the ball… I have great speed and athleticism, and I use that to my advantage.”
Borrego spoke on Kobi’s defensive play Friday. “He is playing with great speed and athleticism. End-to-end [he] is our fastest guy right now. He has been defending at a very high level – picking guys up three-quarters or full-court all week. He’s been really agressive so far.”
I told Simmons what coach Borrego had to say about his defense and intensity, and Simmons expressed that “you have to peep out what a team needs and what you can bring to a team. And I’m a high motor, high energy guy… That’s what I do. With my speed and my athleticism, I can get up and down the court all day.” Borrego has preached competing and playing both sides of the floor with a high motor, and that’s exactly what Kobi does. To make a team you need to determine what the team and coaches are looking for, so Kobi is utlizing his athleticism to his advantage to propel his chances on making the roster.
Simmons played 12 minutes in the Hornets’ preseason opener, racking up three points and four assists. James Borrego will likely play Simmons more down the stretch in preseason as Rozier will see a decrease in minutes. If Kobi just does the things Borrego wants him to do and plays within his role, he will have a splendid preseason and have a great shot at making this team.
Kobi Simmons has his eyes on a regular season roster spot and nothing else. He has already experienced the G-League, Two-Way Contracts, and 10-Day deals. In his third season, Kobi is ready for the opportunity to be on an NBA team’s full-time roster. The twenty-one year old is locked and loaded and ready to do whatever it takes to make the Charlotte Hornets’ regular season roster.