Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons, Nets To Work Together On Offseason Plan

Ben Simmons and the Sixers could never get on the same page last offseason, but it sounds like things will be different with the Nets, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Simmons and his representatives will work with the team on a plan to optimize his physical and mental health in advance of training camp, a source close to Simmons tells Lewis.

“We will work together with the Nets on a summer plan,” the source said. “Everyone is confident.” 

Simmons is recovering from microdiscectomy surgery that he underwent May 4 because of a herniated L-4 disk in his lower back. He is expected to need three months of rehab before he can start playing again, and Nets officials want him to do as much of that work as possible in Brooklyn.

One encouraging sign, according to Lewis, is that Simmons has agreed to sell his mansion in South Jersey and his condo in downtown Philadelphia.

At a press conference this week, Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said Simmons is “feeling relief already” from the operation and expressed optimism that he will be back at full strength next season.

Sixers president Daryl Morey admitted that he couldn’t build a rapport with Simmons, who wasn’t willing to open up to the team’s mental health professionals, Lewis adds. No agreement has been reached yet on whether Simmons will see therapists who work for the Nets, but Marks said there will be benefits from having him at the team’s training facility and being around his teammates and coaches.

“[The question] of how do we support him through the mental performance side of things, that’s a touchy subject,” Marks said. “I don’t want to talk about someone’s mental health or mental performance. I’m going to let Ben address that at the correct time. I will say this: Whether it’s the NBA or whether, what everyone’s been going through, I look around and I’d love to [see] if there’s anyone out there who hasn’t had some type of mental fatigue over the last two years.  This has not been easy for anybody. I’m not making an excuse with anyone in the pro sports area, but we all need support. And we’re coming through it. And same for Ben.” 

Nets Notes: Simmons, Irving, Marks, Draft, Offseason

As we relayed yesterday, Nets general manager Sean Marks said at his end-of-season press conference on Wednesday that Ben Simmons is feeling better after having a microdiscectomy to relieve the pain from the herniated disc in his back, which had gotten worse over time. Brian Lewis of The New York Post has more details from Marks on how Simmons is doing post-surgery.

Ben had a tricky buildup, to be quite frank,” Marks said on Wednesday. “He got here and there was a setback obviously as he went through his ramp-up and we saw him on the court. We saw him participating in 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 games with the stay-ready group. We were hoping, just like Ben was, he was going to be out there.

It got to be too much and we had another follow-up MRI and we could see the herniation had expanded. At that point, there was really nothing but surgery that was going to fix this. … From the communications I’ve had with him multiple times since the surgery, he’s feeling relief already and feeling great. He knows that, it goes back to that five months, he has a big buildup to get ready and contribute.”

Simmons battled physical and mental health problems for several months and missed the entire 2021/22 season. Lewis asked Marks how the team plans to assist Simmons in both of those areas to see him return to action next season.

Regarding Ben post-surgery, I don’t want to speak for him but I can sense there’s a relief. There’s a new lease on life, when you’re able to take a problem and say that should be fixed and move that out of here and now it’s on to the rest,” said Marks, hesitant to discuss the touchy topic of Simmons’ mental health. Marks added that the Nets plan to have Simmons in the gym and around the team as much as possible, as we previously relayed.

Here’s more from Brooklyn:

  • Head coach Steve Nash envisions Simmons playing multiple positions, saying that he’ll act as a facilitator on offense at times and a “positionless” role at others, per Ian Begley of (Twitter link).
  • All of the drama and lack of availability from Kyrie Irving since he signed with the Nets is no one’s fault but Marks’, argues Ian O’Connor of The New York Post, who adds that the Nets GM “is the one who made this mess (and) is the one who will almost certainly fail to clean it up.” Irving has appeared in just 103 of a possible 226 games with the Nets, and the team has only won a single playoff series in his three years with the team. Trading for James Harden, who sulked his way out of Houston and then Brooklyn a year later, further eroded team chemistry and created a “culture of player appeasement,” if there was any culture at all, says O’Connor.
  • Marks said the Nets plan to keep their draft pick (via the Sixers) as long as they can find a player who can help in 2022/23, Lewis tweets. The Nets hold the No. 23 pick and have until June 1 to decide whether they want to keep it or defer it until 2023.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer explores seven key questions Brooklyn will be faced with this summer, including whether the team should keep Irving.

Nets GM Sean Marks On Irving, Simmons, Offseason, More

At his season-ending press conference on Wednesday, Nets general manager Sean Marks was noncommittal when asked about Kyrie Irving‘s future with the team, according to a report from The Athletic.

As Marks noted, he predicted last year that the Nets would come to terms on extensions for Irving and James Harden prior to the season and neither came to pass, so he wants to avoid making that mistake again.

That’s something that we’ve been discussing and we’ll continue to debrief on and discuss throughout this offseason … we haven’t had any of those discussions yet,” Marks said. “We’re looking for guys that want to come in here and be part of something bigger than themselves, play selfless, play team basketball, and be available. That goes not only for Kyrie but everybody here.”

Irving holds a player option for $36.9MM next season, and if he opts out, he’d become an unrestricted free agent and eligible for a five-year, $247.7MM maximum-salary contract if he re-signs with Brooklyn. He’s also eligible for a four-year, $185MM extension if he picks up the option.

Irving missed most of the season due to his vaccination status and it clearly had a negative impact on the team, with Marks saying “it’s obvious” that Irving’s absence was a factor in how the season played out. Brooklyn entered the season as championship favorites but finished with just a 44-38 record and needed to win a game in the play-in tournament to advance as the No. 7 seed in the East before being swept in the first round of the playoffs by Boston.

Brooklyn has up to 10 players who could become free agents this summer, so both the players and the organization have important decisions to make.

What drives them? Do they want to be part of this? Are they motivated by something that maybe is not good for the whole team?” Marks said, per Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press. “So those are questions we’re going to have to ask ourselves and also the players that we want to bring back in here.”

Here’s more from Marks’ press conference:

  • According to The Athletic, Ben Simmons had an MRI after his back soreness returned prior to Game 4 against Boston and it revealed that his herniation had gotten worse, which necessitated the surgery. Marks said Simmons is feeling better and the team plans to have him around as much as possible. “We’re gonna be doing everything we possibly can to get him around our group. That is the key,” Marks said. “He needs to be in here, smell the gym again, around his friends, around his family and participate in this and let us help him build the culture together, build up together, build him back up because as (coach) Steve (Nash) alluded to, he is a big, big part of this.”
  • Irving said after the season ended that he planned to stay with Brooklyn, but he raised eyebrows by stating that he’d work with Kevin Durant, owner Joe Tsai, and Marks to manage the team. “When I say I’m here with Kev, I think that really entails us managing this franchise together alongside Joe and Sean,” he said.
  • However, Marks clearly wanted to put an end to that notion. He said that he is the Nets’ primary decision-maker and that he hadn’t spoken to Durant about the state of the team, the season, or about Irving’s future with the club, as Mahoney relays. “But at the end of the day, I mean more often than not, it’s myself making those decisions,” Marks said, “and it’s not me going to Kevin and saying: ‘Do you want this person? Do you want that person? Do you want that guy?’ I don’t think that’s fair to place that on Kevin. Now, is he surprised by anything? Absolutely not, because he will know ahead of time what we’re doing, what we plan on doing with, to be honest with the entire roster.”

Hawks Notes: Simmons, Gobert, Hunter, Workouts

The Hawks will be in the mix to acquire a second star if one becomes available this offseason, Chris Kirschner writes in a mailbag for The Athletic. While Atlanta won’t have the cap flexibility to pursue top free agents, Kirschner expects the team to do its homework on a handful of possible trade candidates.

Several people within the Hawks’ organization wanted to acquire Ben Simmons prior to this year’s trade deadline, according to Kirschner, who suggests Simmons could be a player worth monitoring this summer. Given the way the 25-year-old’s season played out and the fact that he’ll be returning from back surgery, his price would presumably be even lower than it was at the deadline. However, there’s no indication at this point that the Nets are looking to move on from the three-time All-Star.

Here’s more on the Hawks:

Atlantic Notes: Harden, Celtics, D. White, Simmons

In Sunday’s Game 4 win over Miami, the Sixers got to see the version of James Harden they’ve been waiting for, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Harden looked like the perennial MVP candidate he was in Houston as he scored 31 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, and made six three-pointers, his most in a single game since being acquired from the Nets in February.

Harden took control from the start, taking 18 shots and 10 three-point attempts, which marked his second-highest totals in both categories since coming to Philadelphia. He also shot 10 free throws, the most he’s had in a game since the playoffs began. With two straight wins since Joel Embiid returned, the Sixers are feeling good as they head back to Miami in a tied series.

“We’re getting more confident as the series goes on,” Harden said. “Those first two games [were] a blur. But obviously, having Joel and having our full team, we kind of know what to expect. We know where to execute on both ends of the ball. It just makes the job a lot easier. Think about: We’re still a fairly new team. We’re damn near two months. So when we finally catch a rhythm and finally find something that works, Joel goes off for a couple games. So we’re finally settling into the series, and we’ve had some great things that have worked tonight and that we can capitalize off in Game 5.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics‘ turnaround can be traced to a January game at Washington, Bontemps observes in a separate story. Coming off a tough loss to the Trail Blazers, Boston took advantage of Jayson Tatum‘s 51-point night in a rout of the Wizards. From that point through the end of the regular season, the Celtics posted the NBA’s best record at 28-7 and led the league in both offensive and defensive rating. “After that game, we just had this mentality and mindset and this sense of urgency that we can feel that a change was starting,” Marcus Smart said. “Once that got rolling, and we got on the right track, it was just smooth sailing from there.”
  • Coach Ime Udoka believes the changes the Celtics made at the trade deadline were critical to the team’s success, Bontemps adds. They acquired Derrick White from the Spurs, filling the roles that previously belonged to Josh Richardson and Dennis Schroder. “If I could have picked the guy who would have been the perfect guy to come in and complement our group, it’s [White],” Udoka said. “He’s a better offensive player than J-Rich, and a much better defender than Dennis, so you kind of get those guys combined into one.”
  • Brian Lewis of The New York Post traces the significant events involving Nets forward Ben Simmons since he played his last game and suggests there’s increased optimism about next season in the wake of his back surgery.

Nets’ Ben Simmons Undergoes Back Surgery

MAY 5: Simmons’ procedure today was successful, the Nets announced in a press release. He’ll begin the rehabilitation process after resting for three weeks and “is expected to make a full recovery prior to the start of next season’s training camp.”

MAY 4: Nets guard/forward Ben Simmons will undergo back surgery on Thursday, the team announced (Twitter link via Marc J. Spears of Andscape).

Simmons will undergo a microdiscectomy in order to relieve the pain from his herniated disc after consulting with “multiple back specialists.” The team will provide updates on his status after the surgery.

Simmons is expected to make a full recovery in three-to-four months, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (via Twitter), who says Simmons should be ready for action prior to next season’s training camp.

Over the past few months, head coach Steve Nash had downplayed the possibility of Simmons needing back surgery, per Nick Friedell of ESPN (Twitter link). Simmons will join Dwight Howard, Michael Porter Jr. and Brook Lopez on the list of NBA players who’ve undergone a microdiscectomy,  tweets Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, who notes that Warriors coach Steve Kerr also had the procedure and wound up having additional complications and pain.

Simmons missed the entire 2021/22 season after a prolonged holdout with the Sixers following a trade request last summer. He was famously moved on the day of the trade deadline in February (along with Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and a couple of first-round picks) in exchange for James Harden.

Shortly after he was dealt to Brooklyn, Simmons began experiencing pain in his back, and it was reported that he had a herniated L-4 disc in his lower spine. He received an epidural to relieve soreness, and despite seemingly making progress in recent weeks, he ended up missing the team’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of the Celtics after suffering a setback.

In addition to the back injury, Simmons has also dealt with mental health issues for the past several months. The 25-year-old has been a highly effective (if unconventional) player when he’s been able to suit up, making the All-Star team three times in four seasons in addition to Rookie of the Year, third team All-NBA, and a couple of All-Defensive teams.

In 275 career games (33.9 minutes), all starts, Simmons holds averages of 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals while shooting 56% from the field and 59.7% from the free throw line. He’s under contract through ’24/25 and will make $112.7MM over the next three seasons.

Nets Notes: Irving, Tsai, Brown, Simmons

The Nets won’t have much leverage in negotiations with Kyrie Irving if he decides to opt out of his contract for next season and seek a five-year maximum deal worth nearly $250MM, writes Sean Deveney of Heavy. The option year was used to attract Irving in 2019 when he came to Brooklyn along with Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan to turn around a struggling franchise.

However, the results have been mixed over the the past three years, with just one playoff series win and several incidents that call into question the wisdom of a long-term deal for Irving, who played just 29 games this season because of his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Deveney expects the Nets to drop public hints that they’re unsure about giving Irving a full max contract, hoping to convince him to opt in for next season or negotiate an extension for less money. However, Deveney believes Irving’s representatives would see that as a bluff and would insist on getting maximum value.

Brooklyn officials have a pattern of allowing Irving to do whatever he wants, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said in an appearance this week on “NBA Today” (video link). He points out that the team was originally unwilling to accept Irving as a part-time player and got off to a 21-9 start without him. The trajectory of the season changed when the front office reversed that decision.

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • The Nets and Barclays Center suffered losses this season estimated between $50MM and $100MM, a source tells Brian Lewis of The New York Post. That led owner Joe Tsai to force out John Abbamondi, the CEO of Brooklyn Sports Entertainment, which oversees both operations, and he’s now seeking his third top executive in less than three years. Although the Nets set records for attendance, they don’t have enough other revenue to support their $174MM payroll.
  • After a strong second half and an impressive performance in the playoffs, Bruce Brown may be able to land a contract starting in the $8-10MM range, Lewis adds in a separate story. Brown will be an unrestricted free agent after accepting the team’s $4.7MM qualifying offer last summer.
  • Brooklyn may have no other choice than to keep Ben Simmons and see how he can fit into the team next season, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Teams were hesitant to make offers to the Sixers prior to the deadline, and there are even more doubts about Simmons’ condition after he failed to play at all for the Nets.

Nets Rumors: Simmons, Irving, Harris, Curry, Dragic

When Ben Simmons and agent Rich Paul met with Nets leadership – including GM Sean Marks – earlier this week, Simmons told the people in the room that he’s experiencing a “mental block,” which is creating stress that could be exacerbating his back problems, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The setback Simmons experienced prior to his anticipated Nets debut in Game 4 of the team’s first-round series vs. Boston was initially described as a physical one — he was said to be suffering from renewed back pain. But Charania’s report suggests there are still mental obstacles to clear before Simmons returns to the court.

Reporting this week from Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report and Michael Scotto of HoopsHype backs up that idea. Fischer wrote that it’s “quite clear that the mental aspect of Simmons’ return to game action is the biggest hurdle” he has to overcome, while Scotto has heard from a source close to Simmons that the 25-year-old is “going through it right now mentally.”

According to Charania, Nets officials told Simmons in this week’s meeting that the franchise is willing to do whatever is necessary to support him, and Scotto hears that the team has indeed been “supportive at every turn,” making the three-time All-Star more comfortable than he was in Philadelphia. Simmons didn’t end up making it back this season, but Scotto’s source is “very confident” he’ll return to action next season.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Echoing Jake Fischer’s reporting from earlier in the week, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer suggests a Simmons trade this offseason is unlikely because teams are warier than ever about his condition. A source from a non-playoff team that was previously interested in Simmons told O’Connor, “We’re at the point we’d want to see him play first.”
  • Within his story on the Nets, O’Connor writes that there were “crickets” earlier in the 2021/22 season when the team was reportedly willing to listen to trade inquiries on Kyrie Irving.
  • The Nets had some interest in acquiring an athletic wing defender such as Dorian Finney-Smith, Royce O’Neale, or Marcus Smart prior to this year’s trade deadline, according to Scotto, who thinks the team could explore the trade market for that type of player again this offseason. Scotto speculates that Brooklyn might dangle one of its sharpshooters – Joe Harris or Seth Curry – in those talks.
  • Goran Dragic, who turns 36 next Friday, isn’t considered retirement. The veteran point guard said this week that he’d like to play for two or three more seasons, tweets Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. Dragic will be a free agent this summer after signing a rest-of-season contract with Brooklyn in February.

Nets Notes: Nash, Simmons, Irving, Durant, Offseason

Veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein wrote on Monday that Steve Nash will likely keep the Nets‘ head coaching job despite a disappointing season, as long as he retains the confidence of star forward Kevin Durant and team owner Joe Tsai. Durant expressed his support for Nash following Monday’s loss and there’s no indication that Tsai is considering a change.

According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, if a coaching change does occur in Brooklyn, it seems more likely to happen because Nash steps away from the job, not because he’s fired. There has been speculation about the possibility in league circles, says Fischer, since the former NBA MVP has had to deal with more drama and adversity than expected since taking over the position in 2020.

However, sources tell Fischer that Nash is acting as if he plans to remain in Brooklyn going forward, and he that was the message he conveyed when speaking to reporters on Monday after the Nets’ season ended.

“I loved doing this and love these guys, love my staff, love all the departments. Really have a great working environment, really enjoyed it and want to continue doing it,” Nash said, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Ben Simmons and Joe Harris will give us a big lift and we’ll see how the rest of the roster rounds out, but we should be excited by that. Getting two of your top four guys back — two guys with size, one who’s an All-Star and one who’s one of the best shooters in the league — that gives us a big boost.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Fischer’s latest story for Bleacher Report includes a closer look at the Ben Simmons situation, with sources telling Fischer that people around Simmons had wanted him to make his Nets debut this spring to establish more of a connection with his new teammates. Nets staffers are hoping he’ll spend plenty of time this summer around the team’s practice facility, rather than “enjoying a celebrity vacation mindset,” Fischer adds.
  • According to Fischer, there has already been some speculation around the league about whether the Nets would consider trading Simmons this offseason, but that scenario appears unlikely. “Brooklyn just has to play it out a little bit. You don’t really have a choice,” a rival general manager told Bleacher Report. “I just don’t think (Simmons) has any real trade value. He hasn’t been accountable for two franchises. He hasn’t played an entire season due to a back injury. How can you do a trade with the chance he reports and then says he can’t play because of the back again?”
  • Kyrie Irving admitted on Monday that his inability to play for much of the season due to his vaccination status was a “distraction at times” for the Nets, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. “I felt like I was letting the team down at a point where I wasn’t able to play,” Irving said. “We were trying to exercise every option for me to play, but I never wanted it to just be about me.” The star point guard remains optimistic about the future in Brooklyn: “We lost a franchise player (James Harden) and we got a franchise player back (Simmons). But we didn’t get a chance to see him on the floor. There was no pressure for (Simmons) to step on the floor with us either. Ben’s good. We have Ben, we have his back. He’s going to be good for next year. But now we just turn the page and look forward to what we’re building as a franchise and really get tougher.”
  • Speaking to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, Kevin Durant admitted that he was frustrated by Irving’s vaccine-related absences this season and wished Harden’s situation had played out differently, but said his bond with Irving remains strong and he wasn’t mad at Harden. Durant also pushed back against the notion that franchise players like him and LeBron James dictate roster moves for their respective teams. “I feel like that’s a narrative that (the media created). I don’t even think LeBron does that,” Durant told Goodwill. “He might have input or know some information. But him saying, ‘This is who you should get, that’s who you should get,’ I don’t think it works like that.”
  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPN takes a look back at what went wrong for the Nets in 2021/22, explaining why the franchise must take responsibility for several of its setbacks, which weren’t just the result of bad luck.
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) and Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype preview the upcoming offseason in Brooklyn, with a focus on Kyrie Irving’s free agency, while Alex Schiffer of The Athletic lays out 10 important questions for the organization to answer this summer.
  • In case you missed it, we also passed along several Nets notes on Monday night.

Nets Notes: Irving, Brown, Simmons, Draft Picks, Durant, Nash

After the Nets got swept out of the playoffs by the Celtics on Monday night, Kyrie Irving said he plans on remaining in Brooklyn. Irving can become an unrestricted free agent if he declines his $36.9MM option. Whether he opts in or negotiates a new free agent contract, Irving doesn’t see himself playing elsewhere, Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweets.

“In terms of my extension, man, I don’t really plan on going anywhere,” he said. “So this is just added motivation for our franchise to be at the top of the league for the next few years.”

Irving made an eyebrow-raising comment that he and Kevin Durant will essentially work in tandem with owner Joe Tsai and GM Sean Marks to improve the team, Scott Cacciola of the New York Times tweets.

“When I say I’m here with Kev, I think that really entails us managing this franchise together alongside Joe and Sean,” he said.

We have more on the Nets:

  • Swingman Bruce Brown is heading toward unrestricted free agency and was noncommittal about his plans, Lewis tweets. The Nets hold his Bird rights. “The season just ended; I’m not thinking about it,” Brown said. “If there’s a chance to stay, we’ll talk about it. But we’ll see.”
  • Ben Simmons wasn’t even at the arena when the Nets’ season ended. After promising reports that he’d make his team debut on Monday, Simmons didn’t play due to “physical and mental issues.” He wasn’t in the building due to his back ailment, Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated tweets.
  • Some league executives are skeptical of Simmons’ mental health claims, according to Steve Bulpett of “To me, that’s the only untouchable excuse that they could have to get his money back (from the Sixers),” a source told Bulpett. There’s also skepticism that any head coach can get through to him. “He’s been enabled his entire life. He’s very aloof,” the source told Bulpett. “He’s a great player, but it’s all the extra stuff that no one’s held him accountable for, that’s just made it difficult.”
  • The Nets hold the Sixers’ 2022 and 2027 first-round picks and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski believes there’s a good chance they’ll move them to upgrade the roster, relays. “Ultimately, they may never use a player from those draft picks. They’re going to be trade assets,” he said.
  • Durant said coach Steve Nash remains the right man for the job, Lewis tweets. “Steve has been dealt a crazy hand the last two years, he’s been having to deal with so much stuff as a head coach for the first time, COVID, trades,” Durant said. “I’m proud of his passion for us.”