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Ben Simmons: ‘It’s going to be scary’ playing with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn

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Sacramento Kings v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Ben Simmons, alongside Steve Nash, and Sean Marks, was formally introduced by the team at the HSS Training Facility Tuesday morning, speaking to reporters for the first time since the trade deadline blockbuster deal — breaking his six-month silence, and the Sixers Game 7 defeat in the 2021 NBA playoffs last June.

“It’s a blessing to be in an organization like this,” Ben Simmons said Tuesday morning. “I’m looking forward to getting back on the floor and building something great here.”

Simmons didn’t put a timetable on when he’d return, being careful to be vague but also optimistic.

“I don’t have a date yet but I’m working towards getting back on the floor,” said Simmons on his ramp-up with the Nets. “No date yet but I’m starting to ramp it up.”

He also referenced his mental health issues.

“I’ve had some dark times over the last six months and I’m just happy to be in this situation with this team and organization,” Simmons said at the Nets’ practice facility, adding, “It was a bunch of things I was dealing with as a person in my personal life that I don’t really want to go into depth with.”

That said, Simmons said he believed things are about to get “very scary” in Brooklyn.

Here’s the full 15-minute press conference from YES.

The next chapter of his basketball career is a breath of fresh air; something Simmons has been waiting a long time for. Recalling the February 10th trade deadline, like many of us, he said he was waiting for the news to break with friends and family.

“I was sitting there on my laptop with the TV in front. My phone just started blowing up and it didn’t feel real for a few days honestly. Once I actually drove into the city, I was like ‘wow, I’m really here, which was very surreal because I got my family thirty minutes away’” said Simmons recalling the deadline. “I got my grandparents thirty minutes away so it’s nice to have them close by as well. I think this whole experience has been kind of surreal.”

The All-NBA selection said the move didn’t feel real until he arrived in New York City a few days later to take his physical. Simmons's father, Dave Simmons, grew up in the South Bronx played 11 seasons overseas in Australia (two things he shares with Kyrie Irving.) For the new 25-year-old Net, having some family members only a short commute away is a big bonus, he noted. And he confirmed Patty Mills’ comments of last week that he’s known Mills family since he was a child.

A couple of hours after the trade deadline passed, Simmons said he had a “great” conversation with Kevin Durant over the phone. The conversation helped add fuel to his excitement level.

“I spoke to KD a couple of hours after. He was great on the phone. He was very welcoming. He’s excited too,” Simmons said. “I’m just looking forward to getting on the floor with those guys and that talent.”

Now in Brooklyn, the Nets newest star is excited to share the hardwood with Durant and Kyrie Irving. Simmons believes with the pace the Nets like to play with, it’s going to form a “scary” product, echoing what his predecessor at the point had said in his press conference 13 months ago.

“I think it’s going to be scary having those guys alongside me,” said Simmons on the opportunity to play with Durant and Irving. “Multiple different weapons on the floor. At the pace we want to play at, it’s going to be unreal.”

The three-time All-Star had a strong ball-handling and play-making role in Philadelphia during his five seasons as a Sixer. When asked about what role he believes he’ll play in Brooklyn, Simmons echoed Nash’s comments on Saturday, explaining he can adopt an aggressive playmaking role offensively and be a lockdown defender on the other end of the floor.

“I think it’s just staying aggressive and playing to my strengths. That’s being a play-maker, making the right plays, and setting my guys up. Defensively, locking down who I need to lock down,” said Simmons on his role with Brooklyn. “I’m excited to get on the floor with these guys. Incredible team and incredible talent. I’m super excited.”

Sacramento Kings v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Simmons got his first look at his new teammates on Monday. The star was with his teammates on the floor during shootaround Monday morning and later that night, he sat on the bench and got his first peep at the pace Brooklyn thrives at. It felt normal to Simmons to be back on an NBA bench and explained how the vibe has been great since his arrival.

“For me, it felt like it should feel always. My teammates embraced me as soon as I got here,” said Simmons. “The fans were very welcoming, which was great. The energy, around the locker room and in the building, was terrific.”

Simmons is joining a Nets team flooded with shooting and plenty of gravity drawn to Durant and Irving when both are on the court together. In other words, there will be plenty of space to do accomplish one of the best attributes of his game: facilitating. Foreseeing himself on the court, he compared it to his early seasons with Philadelphia that included a surplus of sharpshooting and guys who could run the floor. He believes the best chance to win is to fully maximize all the tools on the court.

“I try to compare it to my earlier season with JJ Redick, Ersan Ilyasova, and Marco Belinelli. I think we were playing Miami in the first round and just the way we were flowing and playing, that’s the way I know how to play basketball,” Simmons said. “I’m a team player and like to see everybody scoring and contributing in any way they can. That’s the way you got to play to win. If you want to be a winner, you got to play with all the guys on the floor and use everybody’s abilities. Maximize what everyone has.”

Simmons explained while he was holding out with the Sixers, he held himself to a strict routine. Despite having no idea when he’d be traded, he worked with his personal trainers. His routine consisted of lifting, pilates, and a series of 1-on-2, 3-on-3, and 4-on-4 basketball workouts to keep his play sharp. In fact, he added that he’s been “nonstop working” on his free throws as well. The 25-year-old believes he’s in a pretty good stage physically, and mentally.

“Physically, I think over the last six months, I’ve been working. I feel pretty good. Mentally, I’m getting there. It’s an ongoing thing,” said Simmons on where he stands mentally and physically. “Staying on top of that but I think I’m heading in the right direction.”

There is a date marked on every NBA fan’s calendar hoping Simmons will wear the black and white threads. That date is March 10, when the Nets take the bus ride down 1-95 Simmons’ old stomping grounds. When Simmons was asked whether he believes he’ll be available for the highly anticipated matchup, he left it short - “I hope so.”

The Eastern Conference hasn’t seen a fierce rivalry in a long time. That has long wait has ended. While it is debatable whether the Nets and Sixers have finally forged a legit rivalry, the two teams have a long history and have had several battles over the years.

It was only three seasons ago (2019 NBA Playoffs) the two teams had a first-round series that saw all sorts of drama. From a double-ejection scuffle in Game 4 sparked by postgame presser remarks from Joel Embiid and Simmons to the series ending in a 4-1 Sixers domination, the series sparked the beginning stages of a rivalry.

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets - Game Four Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images

Fast forward to 2022, Simmons is a Net and James Harden, who forced his way out of Brooklyn after only 13 months in a Net uniform is in Philadelphia. In between, Durant and Embiid shared heated competitive moments waving each other off their respective home floors in the two games played in December.

Simmons is the only player to be a part of both sides the past four seasons. He didn’t address the idea of the rivalry being characterized as “fierce” but said the main goal is to be the best team in everyone's eyes.

“I’ve been on the other side. I’ve played Brooklyn in the first round and had them booing, Jared Dudley talking shit to me. That was a lot of fun actually. I love Jared for that. I want everybody to look at us like we’re the best team,” Simmons said with a smile. “We got to get there. It’s going to take time but I’m positive we can do that. I believe in the coaches, the organization, and the players to do that.”