clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ben Simmons becoming focus of fans’ anticipation despite lowered expectations

When looking at Ben Simmons’ prospects, the glass is half empty (if you’re looking at things from Philadelphia) or half full (If you’ve got a Brooklyn perspective.)

Simmons holdout and recurring back issues which ended in surgery last season have made him the subject of caveats galore: IF he’s healthy, IF he’s mentally ready, IF he truly loves the game. IF, IF, IF. Slowly, though, fans are beginning to accept that IF the answers to all those questions is a yes, the 6’11” point guard (center?) can be a game-changer. Anticipation is on the rise.

As MaxaMilliion711, the YouTube producer familiar to fans of Vince Carter, pointed out in a recent video, “Y’all Forgot How GOOD Ben Simmons Is!”

Simmons has been at HSS Training Center for weeks, rehabbing and building up his stamina. Last we heard about his situation was back on the day the Nets and Kevin Durant came to their agreement in L.A. to “move forward with our partnership.” On August 22, Shams Charania wrote:

Simmons has been cleared for three-on-three basketball activities following back surgery in May, and he is on track to be cleared for full five-on-five activities in the coming weeks, league sources say.

That of course got lost in the bigger KD news.

Since then, the only “updates” we’ve seen have been images from workouts posted on Nets social media and by photographers who’ve caught him at Liberty games at Barclays Center or Summer League games in Las Vegas. What we can see is that Simmons appears to have bulked up a bit...

Otherwise, nothing official. There’s been no videos, no interviews with Chris Carrino, no comments from his teammates on how he looks, etc. .., as if the Nets want to lower expectations. It wasn’t that way when the Nets traded for Simmons in February hoping they’d see him in March. That didn’t happen as back pain, which had bothered him since 2020, intervened, ultimately requiring post-season surgery.

The other members of the Nets new “Big Three” understand what he can bring. Durant was the more sanguine of the two about Simmons suggesting that everyone should wait and see what things would be like once he took the court.

“I look at a unique player who’s trying to carve out his own lane in the league,” said Kevin Durant after the Nets blew out the 76ers in March with Simmons on the bench. “He’s done that so far. I’m looking forward to what it look like out there on the floor when he got scorers around him like Seth, myself, Ky, Cam, Patty, Goran like I want to see how it looks. Of course, Ben is an All-Star player. So I think his work and his play will prove, will tell everything you want to know. So we’ll just wait till he starts playing.”

Irving was less skeptical when he spoke to reporters at the end of the season.

“We lost a franchise player (in Harden), and we got a franchise player back,” Kyrie Irving gushed. “But we didn’t get a chance to see [Simmons] on the floor…Ben’s good, we have Ben, we have his back. He’s going to be good for next year. But now we just turn the page and look forward to what we’re building.”

Simmons spoke about his mix with the Nets superstars at his press conference following the Harden trade.

“I think it’s going to be scary,” Simmons had said of playing alongside Durant and Irving. “Having those guys run alongside me with multiple different weapons on the floor. And I think at the pace we want to play at, it’s going to be unreal.”

Indeed, as Brian Lewis points out Sunday in a piece on whether everything will ultimately harmonize, the Nets off-season moves appear to have been based, at least in part, on what Simmons can do on the court. Sean Marks has added both solid defenders and 3-point shooters ... and why not?

[F]rom his NBA debut through 2020-21 — his last healthy season — Simmons was second in the league in 3-pointers assisted (996). That should make for a good fit with Durant, Irving, Joe Harris and Seth Curry.

...And Patty Mills, Royce O’Neale, T.J. Warren and Edmond Sumner, all either re-signed, signed or acquired in the off-season. Should be interesting as our Matt Brooks noted Monday...

In a meeting with fans shortly after the trade, Marks himself talked about what Simmons could bring.

“Just to have that versatility, and I’m going to keep harping on the versatility that he brings offensively and defensively,” said Marks. “It’s going to be a matchup nightmare for other teams.

“There’s no question that he’s already proved that he can do that, and it takes a little bit of a load off of Kevin. Maybe it puts Kevin in a different light. Maybe it puts Kyrie in a different set of circumstances where they don’t have to handle the ball all the time. They can get out there and run the wings and vice versa. Ben can run those wings and when we see how fast he is at spreading the floor, I think if we’re coming at waves against the opposition, playing at pace, that should prove good for us.”

Simmons has issues, of course, starting with his shooting, but Steve Nash told reporters after the trade that even with a 3-point shot, he can still be a dominant player.

“He is an amazing basketball player, and that’s without shooting the ball. So to me there’s not a conversation there at all. If he gets better at shooting, great,” said Nash. “But he’s an All-Star basketball player and has an incredible potential to affect games with all the other things he does. So to be honest with you, it’s not a huge concern of mine.”

Things will change at the end of the month. Simmons will be on the dais on Media Day, then he and his teammates will be asked about him daily when camp opens and reporters get back in the gym. Then, finally on October 3 (presuming he’s healthy), Simmons and the Nets will first take the court as Net vs. (wait for it) the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center. That’s three weeks away. We can wait. We’ve waited long enough.