ORLANDO, Fla. -- When explaining what he anticipates to be a hectic day of travel in preparation for Friday’s BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, San Antonio Spurs guard Jonathon Simmons patted his head to bang home the point. After all, you can’t go to NBA All-Star Weekend with a busted haircut.
“Shoot, it’s All-Star,” he said. “[Think] I’m going to go looking like this? You’re crazy.”
What’s as crazy as Simmons’ upcoming travel schedule is his ascension to this position. Simmons will team with lottery picks on the U.S. squad such as Karl-Anthony Towns, last season’s unanimous NBA Rookie of the Year, as well as Devin Booker, Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell to take on the World team, which features the likes of Nikola Jokic, Kristaps Porzingis and Dante Exum.
Not bad for a dreamer who four seasons ago forked over a $150 registration fee for an NBA D-League open tryout. In fact, Simmons is the first player that made it to the NBA through a D-League open tryout selected to fill one of 20 slots for the Rising Stars Challenge.
“It puts a lot in perspective, and it lets a lot of other people know that anything is possible,” said Simmons, now in his second season with the Spurs. “I never even expected this because politics have never been on my side. You’ve got lottery picks and stuff like that. So, I had already made plans for All-Star before even knowing that I was going to be a part of this. It’s definitely a humbling experience, and it sends a message to a lot of other people.”
After the Spurs' 107-79 thumping of the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, Simmons boarded the flight with his teammates back to San Antonio. Once there, Simmons packed another bag and drove to Houston, where he caught the flight to New Orleans for NBA All-Star Weekend. During the short time in Houston, Simmons planned to get a haircut and stop at the mall for some gear to take on the trip.
But before all that, Simmons had to cancel plans to travel with a teammate to Jamaica for the All-Star break.
“Yep, cancelled that,” he said, laughing.
Simmons hasn’t yet made up his mind about how he’ll approach the Rising Stars Challenge, which tips off on Friday at 9 p.m. ET. He contributed 8 points and 5 rebounds Wednesday against Orlando. With two games remaining on the team’s annual rodeo road trip, the guard might want to conserve his energy to help the Spurs close out the tour -- which concludes with two outings in Los Angeles -- on a positive note.
“I really haven’t even thought about that,” Simmons said. “I’m just kind of looking forward to the experience. I really don’t even care if I play or not. But I don’t want to just be out there looking like trash, either though. If I’m going to be out there, I’m going to give my best foot, though, for sure.”
Simmons will also be tasked with judging the 2017 D-League dunk contest alongside D-League alums Langston Galloway and Tim Frazier of the New Orleans Pelicans as well as Tas Melas and J.E. Skeets of NBA TV’s "The Starters."
Simmons joked that he’ll be “giving 10s” for nearly every dunk.
“What is creativity nowadays when you’re talking about dunking?” Simmons asked. “Everybody’s done everything. So, I don’t know. I have no clue. I’m going to just kind of wing it.”
That's a similar approach to what Simmons did four years ago in plopping down a $150 D-League tryout fee that is now making his dreams come true and this All-Star weekend possible.