Tue. Mar 21st, 2023

Ben Simmons has began slowly because the ‘engine’ of the Brooklyn Nets. Right here’s what coach Steve Nash and famous person teammate Kevin Durant are telling the Australian about breaking his stoop.

Ben Simmons and head coach Steve Nash every have mentioned the Nets want the distinctive younger star to be the engine of the staff for them to win.

However after 16 months away from the sport, that motor appeared predictably rusty within the Nets’ opening two video games of the season.

Simmons mustered simply 4 factors and fouled out in opposition to the Pelicans on Wednesday evening in his first official sport since June 20, 2021. It’s no coincidence that the Nets misplaced by 22. He was higher in Friday evening’s slim win over the Raptors, placing up six factors, 10 rebounds and eight assists, but additionally went quiet for stretches because the Nets had been outscored by three factors in his 32 minutes.

The Nets declare the remedy for what ails Simmons is simply time.

They don’t have any selection however to hope that.

“I simply assume he’s rusty,” Nash mentioned this week. “The man hasn’t performed in over a yr. He’s nonetheless getting used to referees, defence and offence. That is course of. … He’s confirmed glimpses of the participant we all know he’s and could be. But it surely’s not straightforward. We’re right here to assist him. We’re right here to push him, coach him up and attempt to get him to a spot the place he can play on the stage he’s performed up to now.

“So long as he continues to construct his confidence, play arduous and play with power, we’re positive with him making errors as he grows into this.”

That’s a part of what’s been regarding about Simmons’ efficiency by way of the pre-season and the begin to the common season: He hasn’t performed with that power.

The Nets would take him making errors with a purpose to have him making performs. However the three-time All-Star has been far too timid — at the least on offence.

Certainly, the Nets are having to prod Simmons into offensive aggression, the identical complaints he heard in Philadelphia. Whether or not the Nets deal with Simmons higher than the 76ers did or he’s extra receptive to teaching — or, in an ideal world, each — it is going to be the important thing to his growth.

‘It’s not going to occur in a single day’

The Nets traded three-time scoring champion James Harden — one of the prolific offensive gamers of his era – to the 76ers to accumulate Simmons finally season’s commerce deadline. However Simmons — who had been sitting out in Philadelphia citing psychological well being points — arrived in Brooklyn with a nasty again.

A herniated disk pressured Simmons to overlook the remainder of final season, and finally required a microdiscectomy operation in Could. It took a summer time of restoration and rehabilitation to get Simmons able to return to an NBA court docket.

And even when he did, he hasn’t fairly returned to his outdated, uber-athletic All-Star self.

He took simply three pictures in Sport 1, just one through the first half because the Nets fell behind by 18. That ticked as much as 5 field-goal makes an attempt in Sport 2, together with first-quarter buckets on a working hook shot and a floater within the lane. (“A step up from Ben,” Nash mentioned. “From the bounce, he was extra aggressive. Received within the paint. … I feel he’s nonetheless bought a methods to go. Actually happy with him. He shook off a primary evening and I believed was rather more aggressive.”)

“It takes time,” Simmons mentioned this week. “Having again surgical procedure and being away from the sport for a yr, there’s little issues that your thoughts may inform you to go [do] one thing, however your physique’s not desirous to go do this.

“[There’s] a spotlight that I have to have day by day coming in, whether or not it’s enjoying at a tempo, [guarding] sure guys, bodily being there,” he added. “I perceive and settle for that duty for this staff. It’s not going to occur in a single day. Step by step construct in direction of that.”

With stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving within the fold — and three-point deadeyes Joe Harris and Seth Curry getting back from accidents — the Nets don’t want Simmons to empty jumpers. However they do want him to create them for others, one thing he can do in addition to any participant within the league. And he does that by attacking the rim.

He did far too little attacking within the pre-season and the opening two video games. Whether or not he makes regular progress or it occurs in matches and begins, Simmons has to get again to going downhill.

“That’s the message we’ve been giving him all alongside: Simply to have the ability to put stress on the defence, whether or not it’s throwing the ball forward, pushing in transition or attempting to interrupt the paint each likelihood he will get,” Nash mentioned. “Within the half-court as nicely. He may achieve this as a curler, creating off [dribble hand-offs] and pick-and-rolls. So there’s a number of ways in which he can get in there and create issues.

“I feel that the purpose is and I feel the imaginative and prescient is for him to be the engine of this staff on either side of the ball.”

Simmons mentioned, “If I’m not aggressive, this staff’s not going. … I’ve bought to be the motor.”

The ghosts of Philly

Criticism over Simmons wanting completely too timid on offence dates again to his time with the Sixers.

He’s at all times been a shaky free throw shooter (profession 59.7 per cent), however as his struggles deepened (33.3 per cent) within the 76ers’ Jap Convention semi-final collection in opposition to the Hawks in 2021, Simmons handed up a dunk try within the fourth quarter of Sport 7 — seemingly for worry of being despatched to the foul line. The 76ers misplaced to the Hawks, and Simmons misplaced the backing of the staff.

When 76ers coach Doc Rivers was requested after the elimination sport whether or not he felt Simmons may very well be the purpose guard for a championship staff, he answered, “I don’t know the reply to that proper now.” Simmons’ relationship with 76ers star Joel Embiid grew strained. And when he finally requested a commerce, Simmons’ relationship with town turned to pure hatred.

Ultimately, the Nets are pleased with the commerce they made. Crew proprietor Joe Tsai was prepared to chew the proverbial bullet and pay the ageing Harden a max contract if it meant having an opportunity at a title, however as soon as the previous MVP demanded a commerce, Tsai was happy with the return common supervisor Sean Marks introduced again, fronted by Simmons.

Honest or fouls

However for Simmons to make good, he can’t be hesitant. Whereas he’s been timid on offence, he began by being borderline reckless on defence.

He fouled out of the pre-season finale in Minnesota and once more within the regular-season opener in opposition to the Pelicans — in simply 23 minutes.

“I’ve bought to tone it down. I’d be a bit too bodily excessive. Possibly I’m simply excited,” Simmons mentioned earlier than committing simply two fouls in Friday’s win. “I’m additionally attempting to set a tone inside our staff and be that bodily man.”

Contemplating Simmons was acquired to be the stopper for a staff with title aspirations — to gradual stars comparable to Zion Williamson, who dominated him within the opener — the Nets can’t afford to have him take himself out of the sport.

“We advised him within the locker room: he’s a priceless piece for us and we’d like him on the market, and fouling out isn’t an choice,” Irving mentioned. “Enjoying aggressive is one thing that we wish him to do, however we additionally need to play good. And we will maintain one another accountable like that in that locker room, which I’m glad for.”

After Durant’s low season face-to-face assembly with Nash and Marks pressured the Nets right into a severe self-audit, they declare a heightened sense of accountability and duty is being fostered. With the ability to embrace Simmons whereas giving him powerful love and actual teaching — and him having the ability to settle for it — is essential to that challenge. For his half, Simmons mentioned he felt supported.

“Simply preserve encouraging him, preserve being good teammates — fairly easy,” Durant mentioned.

“He’s a veteran. We have now an extended season forward. … It’s about simply bouncing again and coming to work tomorrow and figuring it out.”

– The New York Put up

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