The power of confidence should never be devalued in sports. Gaining it can be a long and difficult process and regaining it harder still, but once it’s back and tested, it can be stronger. Been there, done that, got past it.
Almost all of the recent spate of stories out of Miami have been about how he plans to get back to his All-Star status, even denigrating the player he was last year, his first as a Net. There’s been some talk about his health and his growing confidence in staying strong. Marc J. Spears, who wrote the most recent profile of Simmons for Andscape, told ESPN Wednesday that from what he saw in Miami that confidence about his health is fueling his belief in his return...
“This confidence and swag that he had certainly is much different than we’ve seen from him in the last two years. He told me this is the healthiest he’s been, which you know I’m sure a lot of Nets fans and NBA fans are saying that they heard this before, “Spears told Malika Andrews. “But, one thing he mentioned when we went to get a bite in Miami was, ‘hey I drove here and my back didn’t hurt. A year ago, people had to drive me. I couldn’t even sit still.’ And, so he’s like, he’s out of a lot of pain, he’s talking about being an All-Star again,”
“He said in some workouts in Miami he put the ball through his legs and dunked,” added Spears “He expects to be healthy and that he will play in the first game this season. And that All-Star caliber player, he expects that player to be back.”
Sean Marks had said much the same thing at Summer League in Las Vegas.
“I was down there two weeks ago with him and the training staff and saw the progress,” Marks told the media then. “Happy to report he’s in a great physical shape and also mentally. He’s rearing and champing at the bit to get out there,”
Later in July, Mikal Bridges talked as well about health being central to Simmons return.
“His back was messed up. Now that he’s got surgery and he’s getting back. He love the game, bro. I think he’s in a good place, f*cks with all of us like we’re close. He’s the one talking in the chat all the time and we all f*ck with him.”
Of course, all this raises the question of why Ben Simmons played last season. He spoke about in the Spears interview, seemingly blaming himself.
“I was definitely on the floor when I shouldn’t have been on the floor at the start of the season,” he said, noting that he felt pressure to play. “But I also don’t think I was in a place not to play. That played into it too, but at the end of the day, my body is my career, so I do need it to be healthy. So, I made decisions based on just trying to please the people. I don’t think that was right, personally, for me. But I’m a competitor and I do want to compete.”
In talking with Vincent Goodwill on his podcast Thursday, Good Words with Goodwill, Spears added his take.
“I think he was trying to prove everybody wrong and be miraculous when he was in a ton of pain. When you watched him, you thought he can’t even make a layup right. It just didn’t ... something wasn’t right,” said Spears. “And i do think he put himself in a bad position because he was already in a position of ‘well, how they going to disappoint us today. so, By forcing himself to go out there when he wasn’t ready and from I heard he said similar things a year ago.”
Other than that, there hasn’t been much discussion of why everyone seemingly bought into bringing him back at the start of last season.
Simmons who spoke to Spears in Miami more than a week ago wrote then that he was still only playing 2-on-2, the next-to-last step in the Nets six-month plan for him. On Thursday, Spears provided somewhat of an update, saying he’s “probably” advanced to 3-on-3 now.
“He’s probably at a point now where he’s supposed to be doing 3 on 3. He believes he will be able to be 100% by the time the season starts,” said Spears, adding, “I don’t know if he plays in first couple of preseason games, but it’s a progression.”
Simmons has arrived back in Brooklyn, presumably continuing whatever regimen the Nets have for him at HSS Training Center rather in a University of Miami gym. Spears also offered praise for Jacque Vaughn.
“One thing I think Jacque Vaughn has done a great job at is he’s been going to Miami pretty regularly to watch him work out. to watch him play, to build a rapport,” Spears gold Goodwill. “When Nash got fired, they didn’t have a rapport. They didn’t even know each other.”
- Report: Nets’ Ben Simmons has ‘All-Star’ expectations for 2023-24 NBA season amid newfound health - Erik Slater - ClutchPoints