The Brooklyn Nets have been preaching two things about Ben Simmons. First and foremost, they say that everybody, especially the fans, needs to be patient as Simmons gets acclimated to hooping again after a season off. Second of all, they need Simmons to play aggressively.
During Brooklyn’s loss to the Bucks, 110-99, Kyrie Irving took that message to another level while defending his teammate.
he’s improvising out there 🪄 pic.twitter.com/bRoImkSLgv— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) October 22, 2022
When Irving sliced through the lane and set Simmons up for a layup deep in the paint, Simmons instead passed the ball back to Kevin Durant, who was standing behind the three-point line. On-court mics caught Irving saying, “shoot it, Ben!” Postgame, Irving elaborated on his plea for Simmons to shoot the ball at that moment.
“When I passed it to him, I felt like he had a layup at the rim,” Irving said, per ESPN. “And I looked him eye to eye, and I was like, “Shoot it, Ben!” And, of course, again, it’s just a clip. It’s a full game that we can look at and dissect, and that’s what I’ll do. This is a big-picture thing. We want Ben to be aggressive every single play, we want him to get an assist every single play, we want him to rebound, we want him to play against the best player, we want him to do all the things we know he’s capable of, but at this time he’s going to have to work himself into his own confidence and feel good about himself.”
“I’m not going to say I’m being patient or humble about it, but the reality is that we’re just going to keep having to try this experiment every single night until we get the right recipe.”
this ball movement 😍 pic.twitter.com/9cGvWCrCUM— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) October 25, 2022
The season is young, but Simmons is still trying to reestablish his rhythm after missing a year and a half of basketball while he refused to play for Philly while dealing with mental health issues. When he was traded, Simmons missed the rest of the regular season and Brooklyn’s first-round loss due to a back injury that ultimately required surgery.
So far, Simmons is averaging 5.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game on 45.0 percent shooting from the field. The three-time All-Star has fouled out of two of the four games he’s played and is averaging 3.3 turnovers during the 29.5 minutes he plays per game.
Although the Nets sit at 1-3, Irving and the rest of his teammates reiterate that Simmons and Brooklyn will have better days. Coach Steve Nash said Simmons “is a huge piece of the team” and that the Nets will have to “support him and keep working with him” as they build up his confidence and help him regain his rhythm.
“I just think like, if we’re going to come in and be honest as a team, I’m not trying to just be critical over what Ben’s done right or done wrong every single night,” Irving said. “He’s a basketball player; he’s a professional; he has the skills to be a great professional; he’s done it in the past. And he hasn’t played in two years. So you guys keep coming in here asking me, ‘What about Ben?’ ‘What about Ben?’ and it’s just he hasn’t played in two years. Give him a f—ing chance.”
backdoor delivery 📬 pic.twitter.com/RCgaWThUKi— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) October 25, 2022
Irving further defended Simmons when he said that they “stay on him” and that as Simmons continues to hoop and gets back into the groove of things, “we’re going to really have to jell as a team in order to learn how to win as a group.” He also said that no one will be asked to “go out there and be Superman.”
Simmons said he was “more comfortable” on the court after each game. Simmons was also transparent about feeling “a little hesitant” after he “got hit and tweaked” his back.
“I think each game I feel more comfortable,” Simmons said. “I think once I got hit and tweaked my back a little bit, I was a little hesitant after that, as you guys could probably see, but I definitely feel like in each game, I’m progressing a little bit in terms of my physicality and aggression.”