Nets guard Ben Simmons is feeling as good as he has in years and is “excited” about the upcoming season, he tells Marc J. Spears of Andscape. A three-time All-Star from 2019-21, Simmons has missed 122 games over the last two seasons due to mental and physical issues and didn’t look his old self when he was active, but he says he “definitely” thinks he’ll be ready for opening night.
“For me to come back and dominate people will be great,” Simmons said. “I don’t intend to come back the same player I was last [season], because that’s not even close to where I am. I get excited because I’m like, ‘Damn, I would [expletive] on the player I was last year.'”
Simmons, who was traded from Philadelphia to Brooklyn during the 2021/22 season following a lengthy holdout, was unable to play for the Nets that year due to back problems. He went under the knife in May 2022 to address a herniated disc and wasn’t fully recovered from the procedure when last season began — he played in 42 games, but was shut down in the second half and didn’t see the court after February 15.
Speaking to Spears, Simmons admitted that he was playing last season when he probably shouldn’t have been and suggested he was trying to “please people” after being sidelined for all of 2021/22. The 27-year-old managed to avoid a second back surgery and underwent an extended rehab process this offseason, which he’s feeling positive about. He said he has been doing 2-on-2 work for the last couple weeks and is progressing well.
“I don’t think people realize how bad it was in terms of physically how I was feeling and what I was able to do on the floor,” he said of his back issues. “… I remember my brother came to watch me work out one day, and he was just like, ‘You’re not OK, are you?’ I was looking at him, I was like, ‘Obviously not. This is not how I should be moving.’ But I’m happy I’m in this place now. I’m grateful I didn’t do anything to have another surgery.
“… Being able to sit down now and not have to lean or slouch one way, it’s kind of crazy for me. But I feel I’m at 100% now. Right now, I’m just building back to where I’m playing. I haven’t played in a while. Just taking hits and getting my body used to that.”
Here are a few other items of interest from Spears’ interview with Simmons:
- Simmons says he “100%” wants to be part of Australia’s roster for the 2024 Olympics, assuming the Boomers qualify. “There hasn’t really been a time where I’ve been prepared and ready physically,” he said. “But next year, my goal is to be on the Olympic team.”
- Asked if he felt any desire to ask out of Brooklyn last season like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving did, Simmons dismissed the idea: “I love Brooklyn. I don’t have an issue with Brooklyn. For me, I want to get healthy. The only thing I could do was get healthy. I couldn’t complain about anything. I’m in a great city, a great organization, great owners, great coach, great GM. It’s all good people around, and they want to win and do it the right way. Also, I don’t have specific teams I want to go to. This is a job. I’m not going to ask to be put somewhere specific, I just want to play.”
- Simmons admitted that his relationship with head coach Jacque Vaughn got off to a rocky start when he was first traded to Brooklyn, but he feels as if he’s gotten closer to Vaughn, who has visited him multiple times in Miami this offseason. “We’re in a great place,” Simmons said. “I speak to him every other day. And I’m excited because I think Coach is great. Great as a person, great coach. That’s the main thing, just being a good human. He can relate to a lot of players, he’s played the game.”
- Asked about his 2023/24 position, Simmons indicated that he doesn’t expect to be used as a power forward or center. “Point guard. That’s who I am,” he told Spears, adding that he has talked to Vaughn about his role. “As much as people say, ‘Fix this, fix that.’ No, I’m a point guard. When I was playing at that [high] level, nobody was really saying anything to me.”
- Despite the way his tenure with the Sixers ended, Simmons will “always have love for Philly” and even left the door open for an eventual return to the city. “People always ask me like, ‘If you were to get traded again where you want it to be?'” he said. “I always say, ‘Just Philly. Philly is a second home to me.’ And in time, you learn and grow as people. I don’t really have anything bad to say about Philly. It was a crazy situation at the end, but it is what it is.”