Grizzlies coach David Fizdale was also eager to see Simmons, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft.
Asked beforehand how he would defend the 6-foot-10 Simmons, who plays point guard on offense, Fizdale replied, "I don't know yet. We'll see what we're dealing with. There's no disputing the talent. He's a freak talent. He's not lacking really in any areas. His unselfishness is probably one of his greatest attributes. The fact that he does it with such great size — he is really today's NBA."
After he was introduced last during the pregame festivities, Simmons put on a show in the first half primarily with his passing in a 110-89 loss at the Wells Fargo Center. Neither he nor the Sixers were as effective in the second half.
Simmons finished with six points on 2-for-8 shooting, to go along with nine assists and seven rebounds in 22 minutes. All six of those points and seven of the assists came in the first half.
Simmons accounted for the Sixers' first 14 points via two baskets and four assists at the outset. There were plenty of "oohs" and "aahs" from the Sixers faithful at what he did during that stretch.
"I think the tempo was good," Simmons said. "I've just got to get my wind back. Overall, I think I've got to work on different sets and plays and reading the defense to see what's open."
Simmons scored on a driving layup from fellow rookie Markelle Fultz the first time he touched the ball. He stole the ball two possessions later, dribbled the length of the floor and scored on a 5-footer. While he was stripped by 6-foot-7 small forward James Ennis III the next time down, Simmons found JJ Redick for a 3-pointer, located Richaun Holmes for a layup in his initial 10-minute stretch and Robert Covington for another 3-pointer.
"I love his breakaway speed, his ability to get to the rim, the pace at which he plays," Sixers coach Brett Brown said.
When he returned late in the second quarter, Simmons hit Fultz for a reverse layup and, after getting good position down low, faked his defender in the air and kicked it out to Jerryd Bayless for another 3-pointer.
"Ben brings everything," Covington said. "He is very versatile, offensively and defensively. He's a monster on both sides of the ball. He doesn't even realize how good he is just yet."
Ennis, a small forward, typically defended Simmons and Simmons matched up with Ennis at the other end. That could be what teams do on a fairly regular basis.
The 19-year-old Fultz, who went No. 1 in June's draft, endured a 2-for-13 shooting night and missed 10 in a row at one point. Memphis was without three of its best players in guards Mike Conley and Tyreke Evans, and center Marc Gasol.
There will undoubtedly be more growing pains for Fultz, as well as Simmons (0-for-3 second-half shooting), in the Sixers' rookie starting backcourt.
"We're going to continue to try to work with Ben on finishing at a higher rate," Brown said.
Brown said he doesn't view Simmons and Fultz the same because of the year Simmons spent with the team while he recovered from a fractured right foot he suffered in the final scrimmage of training camp a year ago. Fultz played his lone season of college ball at Washington last year.
"Tonight Ben, you could see, was sort of an advanced rookie in my eyes," Brown said.
Finally healthy and confident, Simmons can't wait to show the rest of the league what he can do.
Wednesday's first half was certainly an enticing appetizer of what's to come.