Friday, January 27 2023
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The Brooklyn Nets are off to a disappointing 6-9 start to the season, with their latest loss coming at the hands of the Sacramento Kings, who blew them out on national television, 153-121, Tuesday night. It was just the most recent example of what has so far been a disastrous start for Brooklyn highlighted by both on-court and off-court issues. From Kyrie Irving still serving a suspension after sharing an antisemitic film on social media and refusing to disavow antisemitism, to firing head coach Steve Nash after the rough start to the season, the Nets have had no shortage of drama surrounding their team.

And now, there’s another potential issue bubbling to the surface for Brooklyn. The has been “frustration” surrounding guard Ben Simmons availability and his level of play to start the season, according to The Athletic, as the three-time All-Star has been in and out of the lineup to deal with various issues with his knee. 

Per The Athletic:

“According to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation, the frustration surrounding Simmons had been building in recent weeks within the organization. The coaching staff and players have been concerned about his availability and level of play, with some questioning his passion for the game, those sources said. But even when he did play, Simmons’ struggles in his first nine games this season were part of the Nets frustration as well.”

Prior to last month, Simmons had not played since the 2020-21 season when he was with the Philadelphia 76ers, and he’s dealt with various injuries over his seven years in the NBA. His decision to sit out for the entirety of last season stemmed from what he said was for mental health reasons, in addition to a back injury for which he had surgery this past May. Simmons was also holding out last season in an attempt to force a trade out of Philadelphia, which ultimately worked and resulted in him landing with the Nets. 

However, in the 10 games he’s played with the Nets so far this season, his performance has been underwhelming to say the least, as he’s averaging career-lows of 5.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists. Compare that to his career averages of 15.6 points, eight rebounds and over seven assists a game, and you can see that there’s been a significant drop off in Simmons’ production. 

When you watch Simmons play you can see him turning away scoring opportunities, and not being as dynamic of a playmaker as we’ve seen from him in the past. On defense, where he’s made a name as one of the best defensive guards in the league as evidenced from his two All-Defensive selections, Simmons oftentimes isn’t guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player and has looked out of place at times on that end of the floor. He’s had several games where he’s putting up just two or four points this season, and in Brooklyn’s last four contests he’s been removed from the starting lineup altogether for a bench role.

The frustration with Simmons’ play was brought up during a players-only meeting after the Nets lost to the Indiana Pacers on Oct. 29, per The Athletic. Brooklyn lost that game 125-116, and allowed Indiana rookie Bennedict Mathurin to put up 32 points off the bench. Markieff Morris told Simmons that he has to respond when dealing with adversity on the floor, and that the Nets need him to excel in order for the team to succeed. Simmons reportedly took Morris’ words “in stride” and later confirmed that a players-only meeting occurred. 

“We had a conversation that obviously I’m not going to talk about. It was honest,” Simmons said.

In regards to Simmons’ health, the former No. 1 overall pick acknowledged the “skepticism” that exists every time he misses a game, but also noted that he can’t change anyone’s perception when he’s dealing with various injuries.

“I get (the skepticism), but I think the one thing with me is that I’m a competitor. I want to win and play. So I’m gonna do what I can to get out there,” Simmons told The Athletic. “…There’s only so much I can really do (about perception). “You can’t make people believe, you know? They weren’t there when I was on the floor and couldn’t walk (because of his back). They weren’t there when I was in the ambulance getting taken to the hospital (after a Feb. 22, 2020 game at Milwaukee). People weren’t there, so they don’t know. That was the first episode I had against Milwaukee. That was the original trigger of it…right before COVID, the start of my back issues.”

While Simmons availability will remain a storyline over the course of the season if he continues to miss a handful of games here and there, the one issue that can be fixed is his play when he’s healthy. Despite the embarrassing loss to the Kings, Simmons had his best outing in a Nets uniform, posting 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field to go along with five rebounds and three assists. In that game and throughout the season he’s shown flashes of what made him one of the promising young stars in this league with stout defensive possessions, and being a terror when he gets downhill towards the rim on offense. But that hasn’t come together consistently yet, something that the Nets severely need if this team has any chance at contending in the East.

Source: CBSSports.com

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