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Ben Simmons has disappointed a lot of fans, especially Australian basketball fans, with his actions over the past year, but maybe it’s time to give him some slack.
Kevin Durant certainly thinks so, praising Simmons for planning to appear before Philadelphia fans on Friday for the Brooklyn clash.
The controversial three-time All Star has seen his ability, courage and sanity challenged left, right and center, but he’s not going to avoid the Sixers’ stoush even though he knows he’ll be the enemy #1 audience in a city that won’t show him any brotherly love.
Simmons is still sidelined by a back complaint after being traded from the 76ers to Brooklyn last month following his long run-in with the Philadelphia franchise over not being ‘mentally prepared’ to play for them following his exchange request.
He’ll sit on the sidelines with his new Nets teammates in street clothes for the heated showdown between the Eastern Conference rivals.
Philadelphia fans are known to be tough on home and visiting players, but they’ll be enraged when they see Simmons for the first time since his much-scrutinized poor performance in last year’s Game 7 playoff against Atlanta.
“He just has to sit there and take a bunch of people who are just childish and throw insults at him because he didn’t want to play basketball for them anymore,” Durant told reporters as preparation for the game got under way. intensifies.
“I mean, the guy makes $40 million a year. You could take that for a few hours, and I’m sure Ben has that approach.
Durant knows what he’s talking about – he left the Thunder to chase championships with Golden State in 2016 and was called a “cupcake” by Oklahoma City fans in reference to his sweetness when he returned as a visiting player.
There’s also the non-trivial matter of James Harden taking on Nets star Kyrie Irving for the first time since Harden was traded for Simmons. The two guards fell out just over a year after teaming up with Durant for what should have been the core of a title-challenging team.
“It was a different situation [at OKC] because I had to perform and shut people up every time I jumped,” Durant said. “But Ben doesn’t have that opportunity at the moment.
“It’s going to be noisy. I’m sure Philadelphia fans and people watching the game and the media think it’s kind of a budding rivalry. So I imagine it’s going to feel like that.
Some of the comments directed at Simmons in recent months have been pathetic — both in mainstream media and in social media troll heaven.
The underlying narrative that he uses sanity as an excuse to first avoid playing for Philadelphia and now not having to play against them is the Serpent’s Belly.
No one but Simmons and his closest confidants knows the truth. To suggest otherwise is despicable.
That’s not to say Simmons has done the right thing over the past year – his side clearly leaked information to some reporters in the United States to paint 76ers coach Doc Rivers and MVP candidate Joel Embiid in a bad light. .
And when he finally returns to the court, Simmons needs to show he can live up to the undeniable potential that was behind Philadelphia’s selection with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft.
This includes proof that he has improved his substandard free throw shooting and can actually attempt a jump shot. The reasoning that because he’s a perfectionist and that’s why he doesn’t take pictures outside is a poor excuse.
Simmons can be one of the true elite players in the NBA if he develops even an average jump shot, otherwise his ceiling will be a defensive specialist who can pass and dunk at a high level but will be a liability in times of crisis .
Having the great Patty Mills as a Brooklyn teammate can only do wonders for him. If Mills can infuse that hard-working, unapologetic Boomer DNA into Simmons, then he could dominate the NBA landscape.
There is still no deadline for Simmons’ return.
Brooklyn is 33-33 and sits eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 4-6 record in its last 10 outings. Unless they can beat Cleveland (38-27) in the Nets’ remaining 16 games, they will find themselves in the play zone, which all but eliminates their hopes of a late title climb with Durant, Simmons, Irving and the support cast cutting a strip through their rivals.
And Simmons will surely need more than a few games to get back into shape and fit into the Brooklyn lineup.
Time is running out for him and the Nets.
Matches not to be missed
Friday: Nets @ 76ers, 11:30 a.m. AEDT
Set your alarm, if you’re at work, make sure NBA League Pass is active on your second screen or hidden under the desk so the boss doesn’t catch you. Harden versus Irving, Embiid versus Durant, Philadelphia fans versus Simmons. It’s gonna be epic.
Saturday: Jazz @ Spurs, 12:30 p.m.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has the chance to become the most successful NBA coach of all time if his team manages to earn a home win over the Jazz. Pop is tied with Don Nelson on 1,335 wins after as general manager he fired coach Bob Hill during the 1996-97 season and took over.
Sunday: Bucks @ Warriors, 12:30 p.m.
Two superstars with contrasting styles go head-to-head when Giannis Antetokounmpo leads Milwauke in battle against the ups and downs of Steph Curry’s Golden State team, which could do well with a win against one of the title contenders.