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Ben Simmons Returns to the Court for the Nets


Nineteen minutes, 6 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in a preseason game.

You can say that it’s nothing special. But you might also say that it’s some of the necessary stat lines within the N.B.A. lately.

Ben Simmons is back.

After injury, mental health issues and disputes with management kept him off the court for greater than 450 days, Simmons suited up for the Nets on Monday night in a preseason game against his former team, the Philadelphia 76ers, on the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

“I assumed I used to be going to be nervous, but I wasn’t nervous; I used to be excited,” Simmons said after the sport. “The one way you learn is making mistakes. I had a number of on the market tonight.”

With the caveat that it was a preseason game, when defense could be lax and the pace a bit of slower, Simmons looked fairly comfortable and fluid on each ends of the ground, notably making some nice passes.

And he showed off his unusual skill set. As Coach Steve Nash put it after the 127-108 Nets loss, the 6-foot-11 Simmons plays center on defense and point guard on offense.

An Australian, Simmons was the No. 1 overall pick within the draft in 2016 after his freshman 12 months at L.S.U. After missing a full season with a foot injury, he debuted for the 76ers in 2017 and had 4 effective seasons with the team, averaging 15 to 17 points a game and seven to eight assists and playing first-rate defense. He won the Rookie of the Yr Award and made three All-Star teams in 4 seasons.

However the 2020-21 season led to disappointment, when Simmons passed up a seemingly easy dunk opportunity late in a decisive playoff loss within the Eastern Conference semifinals. Each the 76ers’ star, Joel Embiid, and their coach, Doc Rivers, expressed frustration with Simmons over the incident.

The play also seemed emblematic of Simmons’s progress. At all times excellent on defense, he never looked as if it would develop a terrific shot. In a game during which 3-pointers have change into increasingly crucial, he has taken just 34 in his profession, making only five.

Over that summer, Simmons demanded a trade. When he returned to the 76ers in October he was kicked out of form after refusing to take part in drills. He didn’t return to the court for the team that season, saying his absence was on account of mental health reasons.

In February, the 76ers finally traded him to the Nets in a deal that included James Harden going the opposite way. Soon after, though, he was diagnosed with back problems and while there was hope he could return for the playoffs, he didn’t.

Now Simmons is finally back on the court and is being counted on to be a key contributor for the Nets, who were swept by the Boston Celtics in the primary round last season.

“Ben’s playing in a completely different unit than he’s played with prior to now, different style, so it’s a giant departure for him,” Nash said. “These guys haven’t played together, so we’ve got to undergo this. It’s going to be ugly as times, but I assumed because the half wore on we began to see glimpses of the potential.”

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