Ben Simmonsshort time with the Brooklyn Nets was marred by debate and disappointment.
Once a perennial All-Star with the 76ers, the 6-foot-10 guard has been anything but with the Nets. But in the last few games, something seems to have clicked with Simmons and his teammates.
After reported “frustration” within the organization surfaced, Simmons had the best game of his Net career on Thursday night in Brooklyn’s 109-107 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Simmons scored 15 points while posting 13 rebounds and seven assists. It was the 26-year-old’s first double-double since June 14, 2021.
“It’s very encouraging,” Nets coaches Jacques Vaughan said of Simmons’ performance after the game. “Most of the minutes he played, he reacted well. Had a few combinations with Nick [Claxton], without Nic, pushing the basketball like a screener… pretty much what we imagined, doing everything for us. If we can continue to grow with him, understand him, his game, how he benefits, with whom, that’s very encouraging.”
Simmons has dealt with a number of health issues in his time as Net, including a back injury that started while he was with the 76ers. He now struggles with pain in his left knee that has seen him sidelined in five of the Nets’ first 15 games.
Vaughn pointed out that the difference he sees from Simmons is that he “feels good.” The knee injury kept him out of the Nets’ game against the Lakers on Sunday, but Vaughn credited Simmons for working to make amends and get back on the ground.
“I had back surgery, that’s not easy to come back from,” Simmons said as he attempted to return to his All-Star form. “I stay locked in. I stay focused and keep building myself, my body and my game.”
His teammate Kevin Durant dropped 35 points to lead Brooklyn’s scoring, but after the game he was visibly excited not for his own performance but for Simmons’ play.
“Incredible. I’m just happy for him because he’s trying to get his form back, trying to find his rhythm,” said Durant. “Tonight I think he did a good job just talking, leading the attack, leading the team on the defensive side of the ball. He was incredible.”
He added: “This is the kind of game we needed to see. We expect that from him every night.”
After back-to-back games over 10 points, Simmons was asked if he was proud to remind the rest of the league what he could do.
The three-time All-Star grinned and said, “I’m coming. I’ll get there, it’ll take some time. I have my own back. My teammates were behind me, my coaches.”
The Nets’ next game is against on Sunday Yes Moran and the Memphis Grizzlies. Of Kyrie Irving expected to return, and a revived Simmons, Nets fans can finally see their new Big Three on the floor at full strength.