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Nets still hoping to get Simmons’ best

All-Star could prove his worth in Brooklyn this season

August 9, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Ben Simmons has only appeared in 42 games, including 33 starts, since the Nets acquired him from Philadelphia in February of 2022.

Brooklyn is doubtlessly hoping for much more from the versatile playmaker this coming season, especially since Simmons appears to be on the road to a full recovery from a back injury that sidelined him since last February.

Simmons, who came to a joint decision with the Nets to sit out this month’s FIBA World Cup of Basketball in the Philippines, was deemed “100 percent healthy,” by his agent Bernie Lee last month, meaning the 6-foot-10 Melbourne, Australia native will not be limited once training camp begins.

Though Nets general manager Sean Marks shied away from orchestrating a big trade, either before or since the NBA Draft back in June at Downtown’s Barclays Center, getting a three-time All-Star like Simmons back healthy could prove to be Brooklyn’s biggest splash move.

Even if it is a year and a half after Marks shipped James Harden to the 76ers for the former top overall pick, who came along with Andre Drummond, Seth Curry and a couple of future first-round picks.

Simmons hasn’t been close to right since he got disillusioned with his situation in the City of Brotherly Love. He sat out the start of the 2021-22 season for Philadelphia with mental health issues before the Sixers dealt him here.

Then, knee and ongoing back issues sidelined Simmons for the remainder of the campaign, forcing him to watch as the Nets got swept out of the opening round of the playoffs by Boston.

The rest of the Nets could use a healthy Ben Simmons on the hardwood when they begin preparing for the upcoming campaign. AP Photo by Jason DeCrow

Last season, Simmons returned and appeared primed to fit in alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as the Nets’ twin superstars continued their pursuit of this franchise’s first-ever NBA title.

By February, however, Durant and Irving were traded and Simmons only managed to suit up three times following the blockbuster deadline deals before getting shut down for the year.

Again, he was only a spectator as the Nets fell in four quick games to his former Philadelphia teammtes at playoff time.

Simmons averaged 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists for Brooklyn last season, nearly eight points under his career scoring average and below what he accumulated his first three NBA seasons in the other categories as well.

Buoyed by his offseason rehab and deemed fit to return to form, the 27-year-old Simmons got some accolades from one of his teammates this week in Las Vegas, where Team USA was prepping for the upcoming World Cup.

“He sounds good,” Nets forward Cam Johnson, who came here in the deadline deal that sent Durant to Phoenix, told the New York Post.

“He’s in a good place. He says it’s progressing and he’s excited for the season,” Johnson added. “Looking forward to seeing what he brings to the table this year. I expect him to be, if not full form, pretty close to it.”

Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Spencer Dinwiddie and Nic Claxton could all benefit from a player of Simmons’ caliber.
Even more so if the 6-foot-10 playmaker goes back to giving NBA defenses match-up headaches as he did at the onset of his now-jaded career.

“With him on the court, it’ll make us a better team,” Johnson added.

Mikal Bridges is slated to be a starter for Team USA when they begin the FIBA World Cup of Basketball later this month in the Philippines. AP Photo by John Locher

NOTHING BUT NET: The Nets officially unveiled their 2023-24 preseason schedule last week. They will open their exhibition slate in Las Vegas on Oct. 9 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Brooklyn’s home preseason opener will be Oct. 12 at Barclays, where it will meet Israel’s Maccabi Ra’anana for an international friendly. The Nets will host the Sixers at Barclays on Oct. 16 and close out the preseason Oct. 18 in Miami. … Johnson and Bridges will both represent Brooklyn for Team USA when the World Cup opens on Aug. 26 vs. New Zealand. … The Nets signed free-agent forward Trendon Watford last week. The 6-foot-8. The 22-year-old swingman played in 62 games for Portland last season, averaging 7.4 points per contest on 56 percent shooting. He hit 39 percent of his 3-pointers.

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