SAN ANTONIO – The lone bright spot for the San Antonio Spurs in Tuesday's 136-100 Game 2 loss to Golden State was Jonathon Simmons.
The 27-year-old forward scored 22 points and was the only starter in double figures for a short-handed San Antonio squad that is now down 0-2 in the West finals headed into Game 3 Saturday in San Antonio.
Head coach Gregg Popovich was asked about Simmons after the game and had high praise for his play.
"Yeah, Jon was -- yeah. I don't know if (he was) the only, but one of the very few who came to play," Popovich said. "He came to play. Jon was great. On both ends of the floor he was intense, and he came to win, for sure.”
Simmons has had somewhat of a breakout playoffs for a team that has been forced to go deeper into its bench because of the loss of Tony Parker, and the lingering ankle injury of Kawhi Leonard.
Simmons was called upon to guard Houston all-star James Harden in the West semis, and shut down Harden with Leonard not in the lineup in Game 6, the series clincher for San Antonio.
The second-year forward has averaged 16 points in 27 minutes per game in the last five Spurs playoff games.
He only averaged six points in the regular season, but has proven he can compete at a high level
His journey to this point is one of the more interesting story lines of the NBA Playoffs.
Simmons went undrafted in the 2012 NBA Draft and then paid $150 for just a tryout in the NBA developmental league.
He worked his way up through the Spurs' D-League team in Austin after playing in the American Basketball League for the Sugar Land Legends in the Houston area.
Simmons was asked about his journey after Game 2 of the Spurs-Warriors series.
"That wasn't my last penny, but I just used that as a way to show my face in front of some big league scouts and just kind of figured it out from there. It wasn't a dream just to be in the NBA. I just did that to try to build my resume so maybe something would happen overseas," Simmons said.
"Who knows. I think it was more the love of the game. Just wanted to stick with it and try another option, and look what happened now. It's perseverance and just the will and not wanting to give up," Simmons said.
Simmons has been a bit of a revelation, but it could be short-lived for the Spurs.
He is a free agent this summer and will most likely be sought by a number of teams.
The Spurs will have to maneuver their balance sheet to keep the athletic small forward, but based on Simmons' path, it might be a gamble worth taking if San Antonio can somehow afford it.