San Antonio Spurs News

San Antonio Spurs: Jonathon Simmons on why he left in free agency

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SAN ANTONIO,TX - OCTOBER 10: San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich greets former player Jonathon Simmons
SAN ANTONIO,TX - OCTOBER 10: San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich greets former player Jonathon Simmons
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Orlando Magic player Jonathon Simmons explained the reason for his departure from the San Antonio Spurs.

Friday night’s game against the Orlando Magic will feature a familiar face on the opposition — Jonathon Simmons. He was a restricted free agent last summer, but the San Antonio Spurs chose to let him go elsewhere. This led to a three-year, $20 million deal with Orlando.

Simmons’ new team hasn’t made him a starter, yet, but he’s receiving more playing time than he would have in San Antonio. With a full bench, the signing of Rudy Gay and the presence of Kawhi Leonard, who knows how the third-year pro would be used.

Recently, Simmons spoke to John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com about his decision to leave the Spurs. He cited struggling in head coach Gregg Popovich’s system and being slowed down, but kept a good relationship with Pop.

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“I actually think I struggled in the Spurs system because I was like this (in and out) all of the time. Pop always wants you to slow down and learn a lot of things and that’s was great for me because I learned a lot. But now I think it’s time to release the animal inside of me.’’

“Pop understood that and I explained that to him,’’ added Simmons, referring to his desire for a bigger role on the team. “I told him that I just couldn’t play at the highest level that I wanted to there (in San Antonio). I want to become great and play against those elite guys every night myself. He tipped his hat to me and told me if I ever needed anything else from him he’d be there for me. We still have a great relationship and I’m looking forward to seeing him.’’

Simmons is getting the chance to “release the animal inside” with the Magic. Entering Friday, he’s played 23.8 minutes per game (17.8 in 2016-17) and averaged 13.3 points (6.2 in 2016-17). None of this came as a starter, as head coach Frank Vogel played him off the bench, acting as a sixth man.

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Players like Kyle Anderson, Rudy Gay and Brandon Paul have taken over Simmons’ role on the Spurs, as Pounding the Rock noted. They’ve found fits in San Antonio’s system, arguably better than Simmons ever meshed in during his two seasons. Anderson has received starting time (and produced well) with Leonard out, while Gay settled into a co-sixth man role as a stretch four. Paul only got his feet wet in the first four games, so there could be more to come.

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The Spurs will get their look at Simmons at 7:00 p.m. ET, at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL. How will he perform against his old team?

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