Ben SimmonsHis short time with the Brooklyn Nets was marred by controversy and disappointment.
Once a perennial All-Star with the 76ers, the 6-foot-10 guard was anything but with the Nets. But in the last two games something seems to have clicked with Simmons and his teammates.
After the reported “frustration” within the organization surfaced, Simmons had the best game of his Net career in Brooklyn’s 109-107 win Thursday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Simmons scored 15 points while grabbing 13 rebounds and seven assists. It was the 26-year-old’s first double-double since June 14, 2021.
“It’s very encouraging,” Nets coach Jacques Vaughan he said of Simmons’ performance after the game. “Most of the minutes he played, he responded well. He had a few combinations with Nick [Claxton], without Nic, pushing the basketball as a screener… kind of what we envisioned, doing everything for us. If we can continue to grow with him, understand him, his game, how he benefits, with whom, it’s very encouraging.”
Simmons has dealt with a number of health issues in his time as a Net, including a back injury that started while with the 76ers. He is now dealing with left knee soreness that has kept him out of five of the Nets’ first 15 games.
Vaughan noted that the difference he sees from Simmons is that he “feels good.” A knee injury kept him out of the Nets’ game against the Lakers on Sunday, but Vaughn praised Simmons for putting in the work to get back on the floor.
“I had back surgery, which is not easy to come back from,” Simmons said of trying to return to All-Star form. “I’m staying locked in. I’m staying focused and continuing to build myself, my body and my game.”
His teammate Kevin Durant dropped 35 points to lead Brooklyn in scoring, but after the game he was visibly excited, not for his own accomplishments but for Simmons’ play.
“Unbelievable. I’m just happy for him because he’s trying to get his form back, trying to figure out his rhythm,” Durant said. “Tonight I think he did a good job just talking, commanding the offense, commanding the team on the defensive end ball was incredible”.
He added: “This is the kind of game we needed to see. We expect it from him every night.”
After back-to-back games with 10-plus points, Simmons was asked if he was proud to remind the rest of the league what he can do.
The three-time All-Star smiled and said, “I’m coming. I’m getting there, it’s taking a while. I got my own back. My teammates got my back, my coaches.”
The Nets’ next game is Sunday against an opponent Ja Morad and the Memphis Grizzlies. With Kyrie Irving is expected to return, and with a revitalized Simmons, Nets fans can finally see their new Big Three on the floor in full force.