After Ben Simmons’ slow start to Brooklyn’s pre-season, Nets head coach Steve Nash called for patience.
“I think with Ben, a lot of it is not just the understanding, it’s the reps,” Nash said earlier in the week.
“He hasn’t played for a long time. He’s coming off a back surgery. I think there’s some periods of indecision and confidence that he has to gain from playing. All of us do. We can’t take that much time off, join a new group and just figure it out, Day 1. He needs time.”
Well, on Thursday (AEDT), the Australian put together a performance that suggested he may not need as much time as previously believed.
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Yes, it was simply a pre-season game against the Milwaukee Bucks, but Simmons made a believer out of many in the NBA world as he showed flashes of the player that earned three All-Star nods in Philadelphia, before things turned sour at the Sixers.
Simmons was a menace on defence, but maybe more importantly, was aggressive with the ball in his hands, getting to the rim, and playmaking for his teammates.
After logging 28 minutes and with Brooklyn up 100-82, Simmons left the game, having tallied seven points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists, along with two steals.
In their first victory of the pre-season, the Nets finished 107-97 winners.
Playing alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Simmons displayed the qualities that got basketball fans so excited last season when the James Harden trade happened.
Of course, Simmons never made it onto the court for Brooklyn, and will only make his regular season debut for the Nets in their opener against the New Orleans Pelicans.
While Simmons played facilitator, Irving poured in 23 points, while Durant added 19.
Brooklyn is one of the great question marks heading into the new NBA season, with talent not always amounting to wins for the Nets, as seen in recent years.
But if they can get this version of Simmons, then a legitimate title challenge shouldn’t be ruled out.