By Colleen Kane
8:15 PM EST, December 11, 2012
Bobby Simmons casually took a seat on the sideline of Simeon's basketball court Thursday to catch the end of practice, occasionally rising to hug and chat with players and coaches who greeted him.
The former Simeon and DePaul player and 10-year NBA veteran is a busy guy, with his mornings spent training for his next shot with an NBA team and his afternoons filled with business meetings for his many ventures.
But he tries to make time for stops like this, when he can help others, chat with friends and fans, remember where he came from as "that kid who didn't have anything growing up" in Chicago's Altgeld Gardens housing project.
"Building relationships and networking," Simmons said of one of things he's enjoyed the most from his NBA career. "Normally a lot of the fans don't get a chance to know the player. When you have the opportunity to share experiences with fans, they appreciate you a lot more."
His personality has helped him get his hands in multiple businesses, including real estate, printing and marketing companies, a South Loop clothing boutique and a Chicago members-only club. He's working on his own clothing line, an interest that was fanned by his difficulty finding fashionable clothes to fit his 6-foot-6 frame.
"You never know when the ball's going to stop bouncing, so you have to ask yourself, 'What are you interested in?'" Simmons said. "'What would you like to see yourself doing?'"
At 32, he's not yet ready to give up the game that took off for him at Simeon.
A 1998 graduate, he helped the Wolverines to three 20-plus win seasons and was a Tribune second-team All-State selection during his senior year. Simeon made the semifinals of the Chicago Public League tournament during his junior and senior seasons.
"He was one of the first guys I coached that was 6-6, could shoot the ball from the perimeter and could handle it," said Simeon coach Robert Smith, who was an assistant during Simmons' senior year. "He was a good kid, real smart, coachable."
Simmons averaged 13.6 points and 7.5 rebounds in three years at DePaul and was a second-round pick of the Seattle SuperSonics in 2001.
He's played for multiple teams, winning the NBA's Most Improved Player award in 2004-05 with the Clippers and starting 74 games with the Bucks the following season. He's played in 53 games the last three seasons, including averaging 2.9 points and 14.9 minutes in 28 games with the Clippers during their playoff push last season.
The Clippers "made the decision to go in a different direction" in the offseason, but Simmons said he's talking to a few teams he would not name. He hopes to hear their decisions after the New Year.
"I'm not quite there (at retirement) yet because of the fact that I still love to play," Simmons said. "I love the game. The game did well by me.
"It's all about finding a good fit (in the NBA) right now."
In the meantime, he lives in Chicago and trains at South Side fitness clubs. He spent some time in the D-League but said he doesn't want to take away opportunities from younger players.
His time in Chicago affords him a chance to attend practices and games at Simeon, a place he considers not just a school but "a culture."
"I was the same kid growing up like those guys, learning the game of basketball and trying to figure out the next move," Simmons said. "Being in this gym kept us together."
And his being there is all right by Smith.
"He's always around, and that's positive," Smith said. "That's good for our program for the younger guys to see here's a guy who played in the NBA and still comes around, gives back, talks to the guys and is around the kids."
Bobby Simmons file
High school: Simeon, Class of 1998.
Size: 6-6, 235.
Pro: Second-round pick Seattle (2001); spent 10 seasons in the NBA with five teams; 2004-05 NBA Most Improved Player, averaging a career-high 16.4 ppg.
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