INDIANAPOLIS — Ben Simmons is healthier. And he’s better.
Considering the All-Star hadn’t played since June 2021 — plagued by back pain and nerve damage that experts have accused him of faking — it’s predictable that even after rehabilitation, rust would follow. . And while Simmons isn’t 100% into Friday’s tilt against the Pacers yet, the latest games are a tantalizing taste of what he can be when he gets there.
Kyrie Irving emphasized confidence, while coach Jacque Vaughn called it a “body piece”. Unsurprisingly, Markieff Morris was more direct.
“Healthy. Finally his legs under him. He’s been out for two years. You won’t even give him a chance. You all want to criticize him after every f-king game,” Morris said. haven’t played for two years. Obviously you wouldn’t know because neither of you played in the NBA. He has to do his body well. There’s contact every night. Playing more than 30 minutes, that’s takes time.
It took a while, the way back is not only long and winding, but physically and mentally taxing.
The level of vitriol Simmons achieved in Philadelphia is well documented, some absurdly wrong. A Sydney Morning Herald article reported that students dropped out of STEM scholarships because his name was attached to them.
Shaquille O’Neal called the Aussie a “punk movement”. Charles Barkley claimed he pretended to avoid playing in Philadelphia last season. ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith called it the “shame” and “the weakest and most pathetic excuse for a professional athlete” in history.
After a herniated L4 disc and nerve damage, Simmons underwent a microdiscectomy in May and has been in constant labor since then.
Now that the work is paying off, Simmons isn’t ready to say he was taking the receipts, but admits he couldn’t help but hear the noise outside.
“Yes and no. Obviously I see some things being said,” Simmons said. “But I know where I am so I push myself and try to get back to where I need to be to try to help. team to win.”
Simmons has been doing more lately as he gets back to peak physical shape.
“It’s really the body piece,” Vaughn said.
In the first 14 games, Simmons missed five, averaging 5.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists without a single double-digit outing. He shot 44.4% from the field and was the worst on the team at minus 4.8 per game.
But even since sitting down Nov. 13 to rest his swollen knee against the Lakers, Simmons has improved rapidly. He’s averaging 14.6 points, seven rebounds and 6.4 assists. He shot 78.6% and his plus-35 total leads the team.
“You just have to play with a lot more confidence, and that starts with internal conviction,” said Irving, who has known Simmons for years through high school mutual coach Kevin Boyle. “He has to believe in himself. … I’m proud of him. I just want him to continue to be consistent in his approach. And you can tell how much fun he is having, especially on the defensive side. It makes a big difference for us. »
Adds Simmons: “Yeah, I feel [the confidence]. I know who I am, I know what I am capable of. I know what this team needs me to do, so I will continue to work and be consistent with my body and on the pitch.
After entering this road trip with just six blocks all season, Simmons has five in the past two games. With six straight steals, it’s the most mobile he’s felt defensively.
“So far it’s been the best I’ve felt. Obviously it’s back to back as well. I think my minutes were supposed to be lower but I was trying to push myself,” Simmons said , who attempted to return to the floor at the end of the first half.
“He was telling me to put it back in the last three minutes of halftime. I said wait, but he said, ‘I feel good,'” Vaughn said. “When he tells me he feels good, he thinks he feels good and he wants to play more, which is great.”
New York Post