PARIS — Ben Simmons is still a star.
At least, judging Day 2 of the Brooklyn Nets’ trip to Paris. Following their practice at Palais des Sports Marcel-Cerdan, various Nets were made available to the media. First up were Mikal Bridges and Ben Simmons, simultaneously fielding questions in separate corners of the gym.
Bridges, the 21.2 point-per-game scoring iron man who has become the undisputed face of the Brooklyn Nets — for better or for worse — took questions from a dozen or so reporters. I got more than my fair share of questions in; my fellow, mostly French journalists started to falter after a few variations of “what do you think of Paris?”
Every once in a while, I glanced over my shoulder to Ben Simmons. Or more accurately, the overflowing swarm of media that engulfed him. On Wednesday, Simmons was not the afterthought who’s appeared in just 48 games over the last two-and-a-half seasons, but the three-time All-Star who dates supermodels and designs Ferraris.
That’s the Ben Simmons who honed his most reliable skill, one that hasn't left him despite injuries and a messy trade: speaking to the media. In his first public comments since December 22, the 6’10” Aussie again discussed his return to the court — this time from a nerve impingement in his lower left back that’s left him sidelined for Brooklyn’s last 31 games — but offered little in the way of specifics.
Said Simmons: “It’s good. I’m getting there, just progressing every day. So yeah, I’ll be back soon.”
That may sound encouraging for the Nets and their fans, but how soon? Well, when asked if he had a timetable to return, Simmons simply responded, “I ain’t got no timetable.”
This follows the news that Brooklyn’s max-contract player had started on-court work in the new year. Before departing for Paris, Jacque Vaughn said Simmons now has “the ability to get on the court with multiple bodies around him,” but wouldn’t clarify if that means full-on 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 work: “We can say it’s with coaches. I’ll put it at that parameter.”
Spectators on hand Wednesday did see some light on-court work from Simmons, who shot around and jogged through game-like actions with teammates:
Benjamin s’entraîne. pic.twitter.com/WfRWZG7At2— Thomas Dufant ⭐️⭐️ (@justbeliketom) January 10, 2024
After divulging all he would about his current rehab process, Simmons moved onto the other question surrounding his trip to Paris: Would it be a prequel the 2024 Olympic Games come July?
Despite his current injury status, not to mention his recent track record, Simmons views his participation in the 2024 games as a formality: “I can’t wait. We didn't get too much time on the court last year, so this year is going to be a great opportunity to represent our country and be in Paris.”
He also named ex-Net Patty Mills his personal favorite Australian athlete, but soon lost the smile on his face when discovering the two-hour distance between Paris and Lille, where the opening rounds of this summer’s Olympic basketball tournament will be played:
Ben Simmons names Patty Mills the greatest Australian athlete and discusses his plans for the Olympics this year, when he finds out how far Lille is from Paris.— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) January 10, 2024
“Two hours?? Shit.” pic.twitter.com/VGp8u5No5J
Simmons’ first and only appearance for the senior Australian national team came in 2013, when the Boomers defeated New Zealand in the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championship. However, Boomers head coach Brian Goorjian expects Simmons to be a valuable part of his 2024 squad. In August, he said: “That door is open. If [Simmons] comes in and he’s healthy, he’ll change the team.”
Last month, the Boomers head coach visited 16 North American cities to speak with 16 Australian players in the NBA. He stopped in New York so presumably he spoke with Simmons, although neither has said anything.
As the Nets patiently wait for their point-forward to return to action, their trip to Paris offers a clean break in the schedule. After 16 games in 29 days, their January 11 contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers is their only game in 8 days, and provides Simmons a chance to make up for lost time. It also gives the Australian once-prodigy time to mull his participation in the 2024 Olympics.
And of course, the opportunity to shut down certain questions with a smile:
A reporter tries to ask Ben Simmons if Doc Rivers was the reason he wanted a trade from Philadelphia. Tries: pic.twitter.com/ICrJcm68sy— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) January 10, 2024
All in all, Wednesday’s practice in Paris featured a vintage performance from Ben Simmons. We don’t get those too often anymore.