Ben Simmons

Simmons, Kawhi, Murray, MPJ Returned To Action On Monday

Nets guard Ben Simmons, Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, and Nuggets stars Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. all made their preseason debuts on Monday, returning to an NBA court for the first time in 2022.

Simmons missed all of the 2021/22 season due to a holdout, mental health issues, and back problems; Leonard and Murray sat out the season while recovering from ACL tears; and Porter was shut down due to a back injury last November after playing in just nine games.

In addition to being Simmons’ first game in 470 days, it was also the first time he has suited up for his new team since being traded from Philadelphia to Brooklyn. Simmons played 19 minutes against his old team, and while the Sixers beat the Nets by 19 points, the former No. 1 overall pick said he felt “amazing” being back on the court, per Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“I’m grateful just to be able to step on that floor,” Simmons said after scoring six points and dishing five assists in 19 minutes. “Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there.”

Leonard, meanwhile, was playing for the first time since being injured in the second round of the playoffs against Utah in June of 2021. He had 11 points and four rebounds in a victory over Portland in Seattle, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. While Leonard acknowledged that he probably won’t be playing 35-plus minutes out of the gate this season, he – like Simmons – said he was more excited than nervous to get back on the court.

“It was great,” Leonard said. “Just being able to put all that hard work that I did throughout the, 14, 16 months, just able to put it to (the) test and playing against NBA talent, it was good. Just being out there with the guys and talking, I missed it. It was a great experience for me.”

As for Murray, he called his return vs. Oklahoma City – his first game in 539 days – “a lot of fun” and told reporters that he “felt like a rookie out there” (Twitter links via Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports and Mike Singer of The Denver Post). He and Porter will need more time to find their rhythm, but both players came out of their preseason debuts feeling good, Singer writes in a full story for The Denver Post (subscription required).

While Simmons, Leonard, Murray, and Porter made their long-awaited returns on Monday, Pelicans forward Zion Williamson is poised to do so on Tuesday after missing the entire 2021/22 season due to a broken foot. Kevin Durant said after the Nets’ loss on Monday that having all these stars healthy again is great news for the NBA.

“Being away for a year, you get a lot of anxiety not playing,” Durant said, per Friedell. “I know I did. Just anxious to see how I’m playing, where I’m going to play, what my role is on the team. But as a fan of the game, Kawhi being back is great for basketball, Jamal Murray being back is great for basketball, all the guys that have been out injured and being able to play again, it’s a great feeling seeing them out there.”

Sixers Notes: Harden, Rivers, Simmons, Tucker

James Harden had encouraging news for Sixers fans as the team wrapped up its training camp, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harden put up decent numbers after being acquired from the Nets in February, but he was obviously lacking the explosiveness that made him a perennial MVP candidate in Houston. Harden, who blamed a hamstring injury for slowing him down last season, responded, “It’s getting there” when asked about his current condition.

“We’re playing with a full training camp,” he said. “So there’s times and periods that you have dead legs or rough legs. But those are the times when you’ve just got to push through it, those character things like that.”

The Sixers will need a return of vintage Harden to be contenders in a rugged Eastern Conference. He welcomes the opportunity of a full preseason to learn the team’s system after having a crash course in 21 games after the trade. Harden is accomplished as both a scorer and passer, and he’s figuring out the best ways to bring both skills to the Sixers.

“But now, it’s a little bit more different,” he said. “Different because of the time (this summer) I had off to prepare and get my mind and my body right. And it’s just an opportunity with the new people that we have. And, honestly, just the communication with myself and (coach Doc Rivers) and Joel (Embiid) to know when it’s time for me to be aggressive and for Joel to be aggressive.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Rivers had little to say about Ben Simmons, who is expected to make his Nets debut tonight in a preseason game against the Sixers, Pompey states in a separate story. Simmons hasn’t played since Philadelphia was eliminated in the 2021 playoffs, and he had a bitter public battle with the organization before being traded to Brooklyn. “We’re focused on the guys that want to be a Philadelphia 76er,” Rivers said when asked about facing Simmons. “We’re not going to focus on anyone that doesn’t want to be one.”
  • Rivers plans to hold out at least three of his starters for tonight’s game, Pompey adds in another piece.
  • One of the focuses in training camp was becoming more aggressive defensively, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Joel Embiid has said he wants the Sixers to be the league’s best defensive team, and the offseason additions of P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, Montrezl Harrell and Danuel House were all made with defense in mind. “I know what it takes to get it done on a nightly basis in the league [and] playoffs,” Tucker said. “It’s tough and it comes down, a lot of times, to communication when plays break down on defense. You’ve got to make stuff happen, and it’s by communication. … You set those expectations right now in the preseason.”

New York Notes: Randle, Quickley, Simmons, Curry

After a 2021/22 regression from his lone All-NBA Second Team appearance the year before, Knicks power forward Julius Randle is amenable to an increased offensive pace and fewer touches, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Bondy notes that the club’s pace ranked 30th during head coach Tom Thibodeau‘s first season in New York and 29th in 2021/22.

“It’s just the way the game is going,” Randle said of the speed adjustment. “There are so many more possessions, high-scoring games. So, it’s just the way the league is going and an adjustment that everybody has to make.”

Bondy adds that the 27-year-old shed some pounds during the offseason in service of an anticipated uptick in pace this year.

“Because of the strength of the club, we can use him in different ways,” Thibodeau said. “He doesn’t always have to have the ball. He can play off the ball [as a secondary playmaker in transition].”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Third-year Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley is hoping to raise his field goal shooting percentage in 2022/23, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. To do that, Quickley has been fleshing his mid-range game over the summer. “I think it will help my field-goal percentage a lot,” the 6’3″ guard out of Kentucky said. “Just being able to do everything when I’m on the floor is a versatility thing I like for myself.” For his career, the 23-year-old is a 39.3% shooter.
  • Nets forward Ben Simmons underwent cryotherapy sessions as he rehabilitated his surgically-repaired back during the 2022 offseason, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post (subscriber-only link). “I’ve put myself in position,” Simmons said of his development this summer. “I’ve been working on myself this past year to get back on the floor and play at a high level… I deserve to take this opportunity to get back on the court, so I’m excited to team up with these guys, these coaches.”
  • Nets shooting guard Seth Curry has yet to engage in 5-on-5 play with Brooklyn as he continues to work his way back from a May left ankle surgery, reports Nick Friedell of ESPN (Twitter link). Curry indicates that he is continuing to feel comfortable during individual workouts. Friedell adds that head coach Steve Nash remains hopeful that Curry can round into form in time to play in the team’s final preseason game next week.

Nets Notes: Mills, Warren, Claxton, Simmons

As the Nets try to move past a season of distractions and a summer filled with chaos, Patty Mills already senses a “night and day different feeling,” according to Peter Botte of The New York Post. The 14-year veteran won a title with the Spurs early in his career and understands the importance of a strong team culture.

“Look, I believe in all of that stuff,” Mills said. “I think that it’s always been a part of who I am and just enjoying being around teammates and getting to know them a lot more. Maybe that comes from my Australian background on the Australian teams, but then to see it at a professional, elite level in San Antonio kind of took that to a whole other level. But trying to get to be the last team standing or just trying to do everything possible to do that, it starts with those relationships.”

Mills was a free agent over the summer and could have moved on, but he opted to re-sign with Brooklyn for two more years. In addition to his role in shaping the culture, Mills is an accomplished shooter off the bench who can play either guard position.

“He’s a successful piece, he knows what it takes to be in an organization, he knows what it’s like to build trust and also do it at the highest level,” Kyrie Irving said. “You need a guy like Patty Mills just simply to have the locker room synergized, but he also can give you minutes and quality play and can think out there for the young guys, as well as give us some veteran leadership.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • T.J. Warren is slowly making progress as he attempts to return from foot issues that caused him to miss almost two full seasons, Botte adds. The Nets don’t expect him to start playing before November. Coach Steve Nash said Warren is “doing some shooting” and “a little bit more movement the last two weeks than he was prior.”
  • The departure of veteran big men has given Nic Claxton a chance to move into a starting role, Botte writes in a separate story. Claxton tried to learn something from each of his former All-Star teammates, a list that includes Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan and Paul Millsap. “I just took bits and pieces from everybody’s game,” Claxton said. “Especially the veterans, I listened to them, and now I’m ready to just show my own self and do my own thing. I feel a lot better, just mentally and physically. I feel a lot more confident now going into the preseason and just ready to get everything started.”
  • Ben Simmons‘ treatments for his back problems included cryotherapy sessions last season, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Cryogenic therapy exposes the body to extreme cold for a short time to relieve pain and inflammation.

Nets Notes: Simmons, Nash, Minutes, Irving

Nets head coach Steve Nash appreciates returning star Ben Simmons for what he can contribute and says he doesn’t mind if the 6’10” forward never develops a jumper, per Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“Very unique. That’s what makes Ben great. That’s why I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot for the Brooklyn Nets,” Nash said. “He’s welcome to, but that is not what makes him special and not what we need. He’s a great complement to our team, and he’s an incredible basketball player because of his versatility.”

Nash is especially excited to see how Simmons meshes with Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this season, as Friedell relays.

“I think they’ll have a certain element of cohesion out of the gates,” Nash said. “Because they’re all really good basketball players, but hopefully it’s something that evolves. And they can continue to find ways to make each other better. I think that’s the beauty, that they actually fit really well together, but it may take time.”

There’s more out of Brooklyn:

  • Friedell tweets that neither Simmons nor Nash anticipate limiting the 26-year-old’s minutes to begin the 2022/23 NBA season, despite the fact that he’s coming off back surgery in the spring. Friedell notes that Nash has been happy with Simmons’ output in practice.
  • Irving has high expectations for the ceiling of his talented new teammate, Friedell writes in another ESPN story. “That level of talent, and IQ and motivation and drive — anything’s possible,” Irving said of Simmons. “He has that ‘it’ inside of him so now we just have to slowly develop him where he knows that he can just go out there and be himself. We want him to be his highest potential of himself As a player, be able to accomplish things out on the floor that he wasn’t able to do the last few years. And just have some fun being at peace around him.” Irving himself missed most of the 2021/22 season due to his reticence to get vaccinated against COVID-19 amid vaccine mandate policies for New York City employees. With those policies now relaxed, Irving and Simmons should both see plenty of run in Brooklyn.

Nets Notes: Durant, Nash, Irving, Curry, Warren, Simmons

Addressing reporters at the Nets‘ media day on Monday, Kevin Durant explained that he requested a trade this offseason because he had some “doubts” about whether the Nets were building a legitimate championship culture (Twitter link via Tania Ganguli of The New York Times).

“I wanted everybody to be held accountable for their habits as a basketball player,” Durant said, per Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post. “I think a lot of stuff was getting swept under the rug because we’re injured or this guy’s not around or just the circumstances. I thought we could have fought through that a little bit more and focused on the guys that were here a little bit more.

“When I went out with the injury, we lost 10 in a row. And I’m like, ‘We shouldn’t be losing some of these games that we lost, regardless of who’s on the floor.’ So I was more so worried about how we’re approaching every day as a basketball team. And I felt like we could have fought through a lot of the stuff that I felt that held us back.”

Durant said he wasn’t disappointed not to be dealt and that he’s committed to the Nets going forward (Twitter links via Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic and Adam Zagoria of He also admitted that he wasn’t surprised to remain a Net, since general manager Sean Marks and the team’s front office set a sky-high asking price.

“I know I’m that good, that you’re just not going to give me away,” Durant said.

In his own media session, Marks said that he feels good about where things stand with Durant, adding that if the star forward “still wanted out, he wouldn’t be here” (Twitter link via Vorkunov). He also said the Nets made a legitimate effort to trade Durant, though he admitted he was fielding outside inquiries more than he was instigating discussions.

“Yeah, absolutely we made those calls and we at least picked up the phone when teams called us,” Marks told YES Network (Twitter link via Zagoria). “I gotta be honest, I wasn’t making a whole lot of outgoing calls, I mean why would you do that?”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Steve Nash downplayed the fact that Durant reportedly called for the head coach’s job as part of his ultimatum to the Nets, likening it to a family squabble and telling reporters that he and KD got together to talk it out (Twitter link via Brian Lewis of The New York Post).
  • Kyrie Irving, who referred to Brooklyn’s summer as a “clusterf–k,” said he came close to leaving the Nets before picking up his player option, adding that he had some other options, but “not many,” Sanchez writes for The Post. Irving admitted that potential suitors had concerns about his availability and his commitment.
  • Interestingly, Irving stated that his decision to remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 cost him a lucrative long-term extension offer from the Nets during the 2021 offseason. “I gave up four years, $100-something million deciding to be unvaccinated, and that was the decision,” Irving said, per Sanchez.
  • A pair of Nets wings are still awaiting full clearance following injuries, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN (Twitter links). Seth Curry, who underwent ankle surgery in May, said today that he’s at “85-90 percent” and isn’t fully cleared to participate in camp. Meanwhile, T.J. Warren said the foot injury that cost him all of the 2021/22 season is fully healed, but he still needs to do more rehab work to get cleared by team doctors.
  • Ben Simmons is “ready to go” and will be a full participant in training camp, he said today (Twitter link via Friedell). As long as he remains healthy through the preseason, the plan is for the former No. 1 overall pick to be on the floor when the Nets’ season begins, tweets Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Simmons also said he’s willing to play center for his new team (Twitter link via Zagoria).

Ben Simmons Felt Lack Of Support From Sixers

Ben Simmons talked candidly about his experiences with the Sixers during an appearance on JJ Redick’s podcast that was released on Thursday. Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer shares some of the highlights of the interview, including what Simmons believes was a lack of understanding from the organization about his mental state.

“I was in such a bad place where I was like, [expletive], I’m trying to get here and you guys are, like, throwing all these other things at me to where you’re not helping,” he said. “And that’s all I wanted was help. I didn’t feel like I got it from coaches, teammates — I won’t say all teammates, because there’s great guys on that team that did reach out and are still my friends — but I didn’t feel like I got that, and it was just a tough place for me.”

The podcast marks Simmons’ first public statements since asking the Sixers for a trade last summer, other than his press conference after being dealt to the Nets in February. Physical and psychological issues prevented Simmons from playing for Philadelphia again, and persistent back pain kept him from taking the court for Brooklyn after the trade.

Simmons announced a holdout before the start of last year’s training camp, but he eventually returned to the team for two practices. His relationship with the Sixers soured even further after coach Doc Rivers kicked him out of the second practice, but Simmons insists he was “trying to do the right thing” and wasn’t mentally prepared to play.

“I actually spoke to Doc before [the practice I was kicked out],” Simmons said. “I was like, ‘Doc, I’m not ready. Mentally, I’m not ready. Please, just understand that.’ I tried to let him know prior, and he was like, ‘Well, I’m going to put you in, anyway.’ I’m like, ‘All right.’ He told me to get in. I looked at him. It was like one minute into practice, like, ‘Ben, get in.’

“I’m like, first of all, no one’s doing that. You’re doing this on purpose. And that’s how I felt, too. It seems like everyone’s just trying to [mess] with me now. I’m getting fined for not lifting weights, but physically I’m one of the strongest guys on the [expletive] team. So now they’re fining me for little things. It was just a build-up. Obviously, I didn’t handle things the right way. But, also, the team didn’t, either, and the people who had that power.”

Simmons also addressed a few other controversies, including his decision to pass rather than dunk on a critical play in his last game in Philadelphia vs. Atlanta (he admits it was a mistake, but explains what he was seeing in the moment) and media reports that he had a cell phone in his pocket during his only full practice last fall (he says it was a rolled-up jersey).

He talked about the fines the Sixers levied against him in the wake of his holdout, saying his mental condition was more important than financial concerns, and said the team didn’t do enough to reach out to him before making plans to fly a contingent to Los Angeles in an effort to resolve the dispute.

Simmons also expressed optimism about a fresh start with the Nets, saying New York City is an ideal spot to wind up after all the turmoil in Philadelphia.

“I literally did not care about who was getting traded for who,” Simmons said. “In that moment, I actually broke down. I had to have a moment by myself, because I was sitting in the office. I had family around and time was going down, and then it happened. It was just a shock, because I spent six years in Philly. I have friends there. Now you’re telling me I’m going to New York. My family’s there, too. It was very emotional for me all at once. I had to just sit down and gather myself.”

Atlantic Notes: Aldridge, Holden, Burrell, Simmons, Tucker

Free agent big man LaMarcus Aldridge appears more likely to retire than to sign another contract, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix and Howard Beck said in the latest episode of The Crossover NBA Show (hat tip to NetsDaily).

Aldridge was productive in 47 games with the Nets last season, averaging 12.9 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 22.3 MPG. Aldridge went in retirement the previous season due to a heart condition but was cleared to play again by the league last fall.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s G League affiliate, have named J.R. Holden as GM and Ronnie Burrell as head coach, according to a team press release. Holden spent the past three seasons as director of pro personnel for the Brooklyn Nets. Burrell rejoins the Nets organization after spending the 2019/20 season as an assistant coach with Long Island. Burrell was as an assistant coach with the College Park Skyhawks, the Atlanta Hawks’ affiliate, last season.
  • Ben Simmons could turn into the Nets’ version of Draymond Green, Ajayi Browne of notes. Putting Simmons at the center position could provide the most spacing possible for the Nets offensively due to his play-making skills. He’s also a defensive ace, finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year votes during the 2020/21 season.
  • After losing the conference semifinals to the Heat last season, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey felt P.J. Tucker would be a great fit if he could sign the veteran forward in free agency, Morey said in a podcast with Philadelphia TV sportscaster John Clark (hat tip to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson). “Just finished playing a series [against] P.J. Tucker. P.J. was able to really impact that series in a lot of ways with his toughness, with his high-level defense, with his energy on the floor, with his offensive rebounding,” Morey said. “And (Joel Embiid) correctly said, ‘Hey, we could use a guy like that.’”

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Nets, Sixers

After missing the entire 2021/22 season due to a trade demand holdout and a subsequent major back injury, pricey Nets star Ben Simmons has become the centerpiece of fan expectations heading into ’22/23, writes Net Income of NetsDaily.

Beyond some official workout imagery from Brooklyn’s social media team and appearances at Summer League in Las Vegas and supporting WNBA Barclays Center neighbors the New York Liberty, the 6’11” Simmons has been relatively quiet this offseason. On October 3, fans will presumably get a chance to see Simmons play his first healthy game for his new team, facing off against his old team, the Sixers, in a preseason contest.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • After an intense offseason where it looked at times like Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving would force their way out of town, Net Income of NetsDaily wonders if the team’s drama-filled summer will spill into training camp or the rapidly-approaching 2022/23 regular season. Net Income notes that “it appears” neither star has practiced with teammates at HSS Training Center during the offseason.
  • After a productive summer, the Sixers are hoping to advance beyond the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time since 2001, writes Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype in a 2022/23 season preview. Gozlan notes that the team took pains to shore up its depths. Highlights of Philadelphia’s offseason include adding two former Rockets-era teammates of All-Star point guard James Harden in veteran power forward P.J. Tucker and small forward Danuel House, trading for reserve guard De’Anthony Melton, and signing 2020 Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell and reigning G League MVP Trevelin Queen. Gozlan writes that the club could have the depth to capture the conference’s top seed this season, and that ascendant shooting guard Tyrese Maxey could emerge as an All-Star during his third NBA season. Everything of course revolves around the continued success 2022 MVP runner-up Joel Embiid, one of the best centers in the league. Gozlan notes that pick-and-rolls between Embiid and Harden could help the club help power the team’s offense.
  • In case you missed it, Rory Maher of Hoops Rumors wondered on Friday in a Community Shootaround whether the Knicks would be able to make the play-in tournament in 2023. Let us know what you think!

Eastern Notes: Simmons, Nets’ Rotation, Heat, Trade Deadline

With former All-Star guard Ben Simmons expected to return this season, John Schuhmann of examines how he may fit with the Nets. Brooklyn acquired Simmons in a deal with the Sixers featuring James Harden last season, but he didn’t play due to mental health concerns, both mental and physical.

The Nets will likely consider starting Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Kevin Durant and Nicolas Claxton. That places the 6’11” Simmons at power forward, playing between Durant and Claxton. His defensive versatility and passing could allow him to play a role similar to the one Draymond Green plays in Golden State, especially given that he’ll have some of the league’s best shooters (Irving, Curry, Durant, Joe Harris and Patty Mills) around him.

Green, however, can spread the floor. He’s not a great three-point shooter, but opposing defenses have respected him enough. On the other hand, Simmons has made just five three-pointers in his career. It’ll be important for Brooklyn to play in transition this season. The team will likely feature Simmons in the dunker’s spot and play him on the ball, though it’s also possible he plays some minutes at center.

Here are some other notes from the East:

  • Brian Lewis of the New York Post projects the Nets‘ rotation. As mentioned previously, Brooklyn has flexibility and could play Simmons at the four or five. The team also has weapons such as Mills, Harris, Royce O’Neale and T.J. Warren.
  • Heat legend Tim Hardaway defended Kyle Lowry over allegations that he weighed too much this season, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. Lowry still managed to have a respectable season, though he dealt with an injury throughout the playoffs that limited his availability and effectiveness.
  • In his latest “Ask Ira” mailbag, Ira Winderman examines whether the Heat may be active ahead of the trade deadline this year. Heat president Pat Riley is known for being open to making major changes, but Miami decided to stand pat this offseason (except for losing P.J. Tucker to Philadelphia). Since Miami has multiple undersized options at power forward, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team make a trade — even though it has plenty of talent.