Brooklyn Boro

Simmons to ‘complement’ Durant, Irving

Versatile guard eager to join Brooklyn's superstar tandem

September 29, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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While most of this offseason was spent waiting for superstars Kevin Durant and/or Kyrie Irving to be traded out of Brooklyn, the Nets’ dynamic tandem will be here and, more importantly, have one of the NBA’s most versatile players at their disposal.

Ben Simmons, who sat out all of last season while struggling with mental health issues and a herniated disk in his back, is raring to go as the 2022-23 season approaches.

Simmons was traded here in the Feb. 10 swap that sent a disgruntled James Harden to Philadelphia.

He never logged a single minute in a Brooklyn uniform as his mental-health concerns coincided with the nagging back injury that left him out of the Nets’ playoff plans.

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Brooklyn was ousted in four games by eventual Eastern Conference champion Boston before the Nets decided not to re-sign Irving to a long-term deal and ultimately couldn’t secure a good enough trade for Durant.

Now, the trio will be together beginning Monday night in the Nets’ preseason opener vs. the 76ers here at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

And Simmons can’t wait to be a part of Brooklyn’s new Big Three at long last.

“You’re playing with some great NBA players, some of the greatest,” Simmons said.

“So, for me, it’s just playing alongside them, figuring out where they want their shots, how they move, different spots on the floor where I need to be. It’s just timing.”

According to Nets head coach Steve Nash, Simmons will be a key ingredient in Brooklyn’s re-emergence as a serious NBA title contender.

“I think they’ll have a certain element of cohesion out of the gates,” Nash said following the Nets’ second full practice at the HSS Training Center in Sunset Park.

“Because they’re all really good basketball players, but hopefully it’s something that evolves,” Nash added. “And they can continue to find ways to make each other better. I think that’s the beauty, that they actually fit really well together, but it may take time.”

Instead of just watching from the bench, Ben Simmons and Kevin Durant will be playing alongside one another this season for the Nets. AP Photo by John Minchillo

Simmons has had plenty of time to get acclimated with his new teammates, even if he hasn’t yet joined them in an actual game.

The 6-foot-11 Melbourne, Australia native can play the point, go strong at the forward spot and Nash even intimated that Simmons might be play center depending on the Nets’ rotation come the Oct. 19 regualar-season opener vs. visiting New Orleans.

“Very unique,” Nash said of Simmons Wednesday. “That’s what makes Ben great. That’s why I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot for the Brooklyn Nets.

“He’s welcome to, but that is not what makes him special and not what we need. He’s a great complement to our team, and he’s an incredible basketball player because of his versatility.”

Though he hasn’t played a game at the NBA level since June of 2021, Simmons is chomping at the bit to play again and drive the Nets to new heights from virtually any position on the floor.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’ll play wherever the team needs me to play, whatever helps. I can guard 1 to 5, play 1 to 5. I think it’s just one of those things where we have so many different talents on this team, you could put me anywhere to help get points, get stops, whatever it is.”

Wherever he winds up playing on any given night this coming season, Simmons is sure to be the one new thing in Brooklyn that might keep both Durant and Irving here for a while.

“(Simmons is) a great fit for Kevin and Ky to try and make the game a little bit easier for them,” Nash said.

“But out of the gates, they’re still three great basketball players who I think are excited to play together and will make things happen immediately. But let’s hope that there’s a constant growth as well.”

Nets head coach Steve Nash marveled at Ben Simmons’ versatility this week at the team’s practice facility in Sunset Park. AP Photo by Steven Senne

NOTHING BUT NET: Simmons has partnered with RISE, the leading national nonprofit dedicated to eliminating racism through sport, to provide underserved youth in Brooklyn with the tools to address issues of racism, prejudice and inclusivity within their communities. The eight-week leadership program tipped off on Sept. 24 at the HSS Training Center. Teens from Good Shepherd Services are participating in the first iteration of the program, which will meet each Saturday through Nov. 12. “I’m excited to partner with RISE, we have the same belief that sport has the power to unite people from all different backgrounds and drive positive change,” said Simmons. “To be able to connect with youth in Brooklyn and create opportunities for future leaders in the community is important to me.” … After hosting Philadelphia on Monday, the Nets will welcome the Miami Heat to Barclays on Thursday.

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