The beginning of the 2022-2023 NBA season marks the return of marquee players including Kawhi Leonard, Jamal Murray, and Ben Simmons. The wait is finally over. On Monday night, these NBA superstars made their well-awaited debut with limited minutes in preseason action.
Ben Simmons might’ve played for a different team, the Philadelphia Sixers, the last time he suited up in a game 470 days prior, but after a season-long trade request and subsequent back injury, Simmons is back for the Brooklyn Nets. He faced off against his former squad in the first preseason game, scoring six points, grabbed four boards, dishing out five dimes and a steal in 19 minutes.
“I’m grateful just to be able to step on that floor,” Simmons said, per ESPN. “Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there.”
Out on the west coast, Kawhi Leonard made his well-awaited return after suffering a torn ACL during the 2021 NBA playoffs against the Utah Jazz. The two-time Finals MVP picked up right where he left off, scoring 11 points and collecting four rebounds with two steals against the Portland Trailblazers in only 16 minutes.
“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 test and playing against NBA talent, it was good.”
And then there’s SLAM 230 cover star Jamal Murray, who has been missing from action since he tore his ACL during the 2021 regular season. He gave optimists a lot of reasons to feel vindicated for their faith that he would return better than ever in his first game back, finishing with 10 points on 4-7 from the field in only 15 minutes.
We’ve said it before, but let it be known now that’s he back: it’s Jamal Murray’s time.
With the NBA regular season right around the corner, these three superstars are joining (or re-joining) teams with championship aspirations and contention expectations. It’s been too many days too long and the game is better with them on the court.