How Ben Simmons handles the pressure of the long-awaited Nets debut

After a 486-day wait, Ben Simmons is finally going to get back to doing what he loves.

He will finally step onto the court in an NBA game, making his debut for the Nets in the season opener on Wednesday night.

“Now we are here,” Simmons said after the morning shootout at the HSS Training Center.

When he plays at Barclays Center against New Orleans, it will be the first time he has played a game that counts since June 20, 2021.

“I take it every day, day to day. For me, I can’t wait to play this game,” Simmons said. “I can’t wait to be there.”

Simmons has been out for 16 months, since his 76ers exited the second-round playoffs two seasons ago. His relationship with Philadelphia broke down following his struggles in that series against Atlanta — following a perceived lack of support from Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid — and he asked for a trade in the offseason.

Ben Simmons plays against the 76ers in a preseason game on October 3, 2022.

Citing mental health issues, Simmons missed the start of last season. And after arriving in Brooklyn – at the expense of former MVP James Harden – he suffered a herniated disc that eventually required surgery in May.

Now he can finally make his long-delayed Nets debut alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to form a new Big 3. foot is to be expected.

“Yeah, (Durant) just told me you’re supposed to feel that way, you know? If you didn’t feel it, there would be something wrong,” Simmons said. “But I feel excited. I’m ready to go. I can not wait to go there. That’s what I do. So I love doing it. And I can’t imagine doing anything else. So I’m excited.

The retooled Pelicans will be a tough first test for Brooklyn, especially with the return of Zion Williamson. Like Simmons, the burly New Orleans star missed all of last season and will provide a tough game for the first.

But managing those tough matchups is a job Simmons relishes, and one of the main reasons the Nets gave up a future Hall of Famer like Harden for him.

Second Defensive Player of the Year during his last healthy campaign, Simmons helped hold two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to 6 for 21 shots in the Nets’ preseason win at Milwaukee, then started against Karl- Anthony Towns in the win at Minnesota. Next is Williamson.

“Yeah, there aren’t a lot of guys in the league that can do that, so I take that opportunity when it comes to protecting the best players in the world,” Simmons said. “So it’s a very good job.”

Unlike Philadelphia, where fans chastised Simmons for not shooting — trying to insert a square peg into an undersized round hole — the Nets not only have Durant and Irving, but will eventually pick up Joe Harris and Seth Curry at 3 points.

Simmons’ task will be to slow opposing stars on one end, and aggressively push the ball and create clean looks for shooters on the other end. In his four healthy seasons, he assisted the league’s second-most 3-pointers. This will be the key to unlocking their offense and a responsibility he assumes.

Ben Simmons at Nets practice.
Ben Simmons at Nets practice.
NBAE via Getty Images

“If I’m not aggressive, this team won’t go,” Simmons said. “If I don’t push the ball, if I can’t find my guys, if I can’t get to the rim, those easy shots we’re getting now won’t happen. So I have to be the driving force.

New York Post

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button