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Jacque Vaughn, Sean Marks say Ben Simmons has ‘no restrictions’ entering camp

The Brooklyn Nets’ lead decision-makers confirmed Simmons’ health, and said plenty more in their season-opening press conference

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The Brooklyn Nets’ 2023-24 campaign is officially here, with Jacque Vaughn and Sean Marks addressing the media at HSS Training Center on Tuesday morning to kickstart the campaign.

And they came with the answers, particularly on the only real drama that’s encircled the squad in its post-Clean Sweep Era: the health of Ben Simmons.

Thankfully, it appears we’re done (for now) with cryptic social media posts, or rumors heard through the grapevine. Simmons is capital-B Back, just take it from Jacque Vaughn: “Ben is playing 5-on-5, no restrictions, so he should be ready for training camp. Pretty simple that way, which is good for me to say. And I think that fits into exciting time for me to have this group together, no restrictions at the beginning of the year.” (Emphasis mine.)

Sean Marks added that it’s “been fun to see him play five-on-five and fun to see him put the work in the summer, so I think we’re all excited to see what translates during camp.”

And while the Nets’ lead decision-makers kept their eyes — and their mouths — on the future, Vaughn did drop an interesting nugget on his relationship with Simmons to this point:

I think [our] relationship is in such a good place right now because we’ve been able to talk through that moment of our lives where I expected him to do things that I’ve come to understand that physically he wasn’t able to do. I think at that time, you kept hearing me talk about force, and those things and how I wanted him to play. And so now, a revelation where I’ve seen the work he’s put in, where he was at, some of those things have been revealed to me, and I think that’s why our relationship is at a really good place right now.

This would seemingly confirm the murmurs that Simmons wasn’t 100% pleased with how Brooklyn handled his various ailments at times last year. It is worth noting that Simmons changed representation in March, leaving Klutch Sports to hire Bernie Lee, known for his work with disgruntled or disillusioned clientele.

Whether thanks to Lee and Simmons, Nets brass, or both parties, the relationship seems to be in a healthy spot heading in to training camp this year. Or, at least healthy enough that Vaughn recognizes Simmons’ stated preference of playing a more traditional point guard role, saying, “I would use the word ‘agreement’ more so than ‘commitment.’ The agreement is if he’s playing at a consistent and high level, then I think our pictures look exactly the same.”

At this bright and early juncture of the season, Vaughn and Marks are exclusively working in broad strokes. While Vaughn expressed a desire to switch up schemes more often this season, given that he now has a training camp to work with his players, he clarified it was too early to launch into specifics. In executing the final vision of this roster, he and his boss must come up with a rough draft first.

That logic applies to Simmons as well, particularly with Vaughn and Marks repeatedly stating they were not going to be focused on the past. Does Simmons’ head coach expect him to regain All-NBA form? What he was at the beginning of last season? Something in the middle? “There’s two things you’re going to continue to hear me say this year -- play hard and details. And so those two things, he’ll be required to do just as every other player, and I think, as training camp evolves, as we continue to see groups around him, those answers really will reveal itself when we get to competing against other teams. It will reveal itself. So kind of, to be determined.”

In other words, there is no sense in placing pointed expectations on a player that’s appeared in just 42 games over the last two seasons. Simmons’ teammates and coaches, just like the fans, are waiting to see what it looks like in regular-season action.

However, the addition of the now-healthy, 6’11” Aussie to Brooklyn’s rotation should bolster a few areas. Marks mentioned Simmons’ ability to push the ball in transition, perhaps his signature skill as a three-time All-Star, as a hopefully reliable source of offense. Vaughn mentioned he won’t be afraid to play Simmons next to a fellow lefty in Nic Claxton even though both are non-spacers on offense.

“We have to incorporate how we’re going to have Nic Claxton on the floor with [Simmons] at the same time. They both will be on the floor. I talked about turning defense to offense, so they both can provide some defensive leverage that we just didn’t have in the past. The rebounding piece also is also incorporated into that. So now that makes us a more detailed team, and so we have to be greedy with our spacing.”

Even the most well-worn pessimists can see the vision for Simmons on this Nets roster. As Brooklyn lost perimeter shooting in spades this offseason, they stocked up on length and athleticism. Half-court offense may get sluggish at times, but the Nets should feast in transition. To have such opportunities, when they’re not forcing turnovers, they must get stops and finish them off with rebounds.

Enter a 6’11”, two-time All-Defensive First Team selection whose playmaking ability is the only thing about him that’s never been questioned. Production seems there for the taking.

Yes, we have a long way to go before Ben10 contributes to the Brooklyn Nets in a meaningful way. After all, the big announcement on Tuesday morning was that Brooklyn’s highest-paid player is finally scrimmaging 5-on-5. There are reasons to temper expectations.

But that’s not what Sean Marks and Jacque Vaughn did to start off the new season. In a 27-minute press conference, Ben Simmons was by far the most popular topic of conversation, a conversation that felt optimistic for the first time in a while.

We can’t guess what will become of a healthy Simmons this season, of course. We just know that Jacque Vaughn wasn’t lying when he repeated this: “It will reveal itself.”