Ben Simmons made his long-awaited debut for the Brooklyn Nets in Monday’s preseason game hosting the Philadelphia 76ers. Not only was it Simmons’ first game with the Nets, but it was also his first game in over a year — since his former Sixers’ infamous Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals.
Simmons finished with six points on 3-for-6 shooting, five assists, four rebounds, a steal, and two turnovers in 19 minutes of action in the first half of the Nets’ 127-108 defeat at the hands of Philadelphia.
From scoring to passing to defense, here is everything from Simmons’ first game as a Net.
If there is something new to Simmons’ scoring repertoire, it might take a bit more blending with the Nets in real-game environments for it to present itself.
But based on what we saw on Monday, there was nothing new.
Simmons had a couple of strong takes to the rim courtesy of dump-off passes from teammates. But more than a year later, virtually all of the issues from Philadelphia remained.
Simmons would apply some pressure by speeding up in the middle of the floor as if he was going to power his way to the rim, only to suddenly stop on a dime and look for teammates around him. It wasn’t as if he was just trying to be an unselfish playmaker for his fellow Nets. Rather, it was because the Sixer in his way cut off the driving lane and Simmons wasn’t comfortable with stepping into a jumper or changing hands and turning on the jets in the other direction.
There was one play in which Simmons even had Georges Niang in his way. Instead of recognizing the athletic advantages he has over Niang, Simmons shied away from attacking him, pivoted, and looked for a teammate to come retrieve the ball and initiate the action.
Simmons did attempt one fadeaway jumper and a pair of free throws:
Ben Simmons with the turnaround fadeaway: pic.twitter.com/JbKEf9dqXF
— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) October 4, 2022
The free throws at least found the rim, but the outcome was the same. Simmons’ free throw mechanics appeared to have less reliance on the guide hand than they did during his time in Philly. The left hand appeared to be doing most of the work and there appeared to be less wasted motion in it. Changing mechanics doesn’t really matter if you don’t have touch or confidence, and Simmons didn’t have either on his attempts.
Simmons looked a bit more at peace when he felt opportunities present themselves for his teammates. There were a couple of possessions in which Simmons intuitively pivoted into dribble hand-offs for Kyrie Irving or other teammates capable of curling off screens or handling the ball going downhill. He had a couple nice passes as the connective tissue spraying the ball to teammates moving around him amid chaos.
You can really see the threat he poses in transition. There were a number of plays in which Simmons got out on the run, collapsed the defense in front of him, and left the ball for Irving or Durant to attack or step into shots off the catch. With his size, speed, and athleticism, putting pressure on defenses reeling to get back in transition is problematic enough. With nuclear weapons like Durant and Irving running with him, it’s flat-out unstoppable.
It’s preseason, so you’re probably asking for too much if you’re expecting anyone to dig deep, get down in a stance, and silence an opposing assignment completely. Simmons had moments in which he pestered the weaker and less aggressive Shake Milton. But, his impact on that end of the floor was mostly instinctual. He timed reaches nearly to perfection, deflecting dribbles away from the Sixers with the ball to ignite transition play for the Nets. It was a true display in playing the role of a free safety in basketball. He floated all over the court, disturbing any Sixer in his vicinity with his size and physical prowess.