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Patty Mills on Ben Simmons: ‘He’s going to be a threat’

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

Whenever Ben Simmons plays, it will be happy occasion, says fellow Australian Patty Mills.

Despite all the pessimism — and the lack of a timetable for his return, Simmons will be worth it all, says Mills who has known Simmons and his family for years.

“He’s going to be a threat either way,” Mills said after Saturday’s practice. “On ball, off ball — whether he’s handling the ball, whether he’s off the ball as a screener, I think he’s such a threat that he’s going to draw a lot of attention. So I think given his IQ and the way he can pass the ball and handle the ball, that makes us better at his bare minimum.

“So, obviously, where he’s the biggest threat is in an open-court situation with people, especially shooters around him. But, like I said, a bare-minimum Ben Simmons makes this team a whole lot better as well. Looking forward to it.”

Mills also defended Simmons against those who question his commitment. Even though his back soreness has prevented him from taking part in practice, he’s on hand and taking part in team activities.

“We were doing a lot of talking, a lot of conversations — meaning the group — a lot of film, a lot of walkthrough stuff,” said Mills. “So he’s there for all of it, he’s there for the entire practice. And then he’s doing his part with his shooting coach and physio and whatever that looks like. But as far as every team thing goes, he’s at everything.”

And it isn’t a one-way street, Mills noted. Having him on the bench gives the Nets an advantage.

“(He can) see how he can easily slide into this thing, and then see where he can fit in and find his spots and be able to make an impact on both ends of the floor,” Mills said. “So the game, game time has been really crucial, having him on the bench and just hearing his perspective.”

Simmons basketball IQ is what gives him an advantage, Mills and others have said. And Mills added that he expects that Simmons regimen now will pay off when he ultimately takes the court.

“Obviously, he’s putting in a lot of hard work not only with his rehab with his back, but also finding his ways or how he can get better in the situation that he’s in at the moment,” Mills said. “So I think that the biggest thing has been able to give him some guidance and perspective, I guess, during the game to be honest and see how he can easily slide into this thing and then see where he can fit in and find his spots.”

So when will he be back? Sean Marks said on Thursday that the Nets hope that this coming week will see Simmons get “more into the team environment and then we can really ramp-up and start him getting into game shape and so forth.” That would seem to indicate he won’t return until the end of the third week of March, say March 18 at home vs. Portland or the following week that includes games vs. Utah at Barclays Center, then a road swing to Memphis and Miami.

Simmons no doubt will be needed. With Irving still ineligible to play in New York, he’ll be sidelined for all but one of the team’s last eight games, a time when seeding could be critical.

“I would say time’s definitely not on our side. But we’re here and this is what we have, this is what we’re dealing with,” Mills said. “So it’s about making the most of the time that we do have, I’d say knowing that we got Kevin back and knowing that Benny will be back at some point and then being able to find a way to make it happen.

“I think that is the mindset. Is it going to be tough? Yeah, of course it is. But nothing worth doing is ever easy and you know we’re trying to accomplish something here that’s going to be hard to pull off. But the belief is still there, 100 percent.”