2017 NBA Playoffs, Golden State Warriors, Jonathon Simmons, Kawhi Leonard, NBA, San Antonio Spurs -

With Kawhi Leonard out, only Jonathon Simmons shows up for Spurs Simmons, who spent $150 for a D-League tryout in 2013, had a team-high 22 points in Game 2 loss to Warriors

2017 NBA Playoffs, Golden State Warriors, Jonathon Simmons, Kawhi Leonard, NBA, San Antonio Spurs -

With Kawhi Leonard out, only Jonathon Simmons shows up for Spurs Simmons, who spent $150 for a D-League tryout in 2013, had a team-high 22 points in Game 2 loss to Warriors

“That wasn’t my last pennies …,” said Jonathon Simmons, with a small chuckle, to a room full of reporters.

After the San Antonio Spurs’ 136-100 blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday night, a reporter asked Simmons about the $150 registration fee he spent to try out for San Antonio’s D-League affiliate in 2013. Simmons, who went undrafted in 2012 after playing for two junior colleges before a one-year stint at the University of Houston, was impressive in the audition and made the team. Two years later, he made his NBA debut in 2015 with the Spurs as a 26-year-old rookie. He hasn’t left the league since.

Jonathon Simmons (No. 17) of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Golden State Warriors during Game 2 of the Western Conference finals May 16 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California.

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

“You know, I just used that as a way to show my face in front of some D-League scouts and just kind of figure it out from there,” Simmons, the second-year Spurs shooting guard, continued. “It wasn’t a dream just to be in the NBA. I just did that to try to build my resume so maybe something will happen overseas, who knows? But I think it was more the love for the game [that] wanted me to stick with it, wanted me to try another option, and look what happened now. I mean, just perseverance and just the will of not wanting to give up.”

The tale of Simmons’ $150 tryout, which his former D-League coach Earl Watson called the “greatest story in basketball” in early 2016, has been told countless times. But every time Simmons has a big game, the story comes up again — still as refreshing to listen to as the first time.

In Game 2, Simmons was the only San Antonio player with a big game. Filling in for Spurs All-Star Kawhi Leonard, who sat out with a sprained left ankle, Simmons started and tallied a team-high 22 points, 17 of which he delivered in the first half, while logging just 26 minutes on the night. (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich also trusted Simmons as a starter in place of the injured Leonard for Game 6 of San Antonio’s Western Conference semifinal series against the Houston Rockets on May 11; Simmons scored 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the floor in his team’s 114-75 series-clinching win.)

“Jon was, yeah, I don’t know if the only, but one of the very few who came to play. …,” Popovich said after the Game 2 loss to the Warriors. “At both ends of the floor he was intense, and he played to win for sure.”

At a 2016-17 salary of approximately $875,000, Simmons is the fourth-lowest-paid player on San Antonio’s roster (even behind rookie Dejounte Murray). But the 27-year-old will become a restricted free agent this summer, and regardless of whether San Antonio decides to re-sign him or let him test the market, Simmons’ heart and intensity will certainly turn those pennies into millions.


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