If anyone was looking for a play that summed up what has been going on with Nets guard Ben Simmons lately, all they had to do was point to a moment late in the first quarter of Monday’s loss to the Knicks.
Simmons took a pass and drove down the lane, but instead of going for the layup, he kicked it over to Nic Claxton. The play may have seemed small, however, it highlighted the ongoing issue with Simmons that he has continued to pass up on shots. It’s likely part of the reason why the centerpiece of last year’s deadline deal with the Philadelphia 76ers found himself coming off the bench for the third consecutive game.
Absolute dime pic.twitter.com/kyq0Byn9s7
— Russillo (@ryenarussillo) February 14, 2023
And that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon after a night where he had just two points on two shots from the field, along with three rebounds and two assists. He played a total of just 12:41 on Monday night and saw his minutes decline for the fourth straight game.
For the amount of money that the Nets are paying him — Simmons has two years left on the five-year, $170 million contract that he signed in 2019 with the Sixers — the circumstances aren’t ideal. His play though has made it hard for Brooklyn head coach Jacque Vaughn to give him consistent minutes
“It’s going to be some work that we have to do,” Vaughn told reporters. “Because you just take a look at what the lineups could potentially look like. You put another big next to Ben, then you got to figure out what the spacing is around him. Then if you put another playmaker next to him, then you got to figure out what Ben looks like without the basketball. Then if you go small with Ben, then you have to figure out can you rebound enough with him?
“So, the challenges are ahead of us. We’ll look them head-on. We’ll figure it out. We have the personnel to figure it out. Whether it is me mixing and matching throughout different pieces of the game, and allowing him to have a group and run with a group, that part we’ll figure out, but you see the challenges that lie ahead.”
The reality of the situation has quickly become clearer and clearer, especially with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving now both former Nets. Simmons hadn’t been stepping up, even when Irving was still there while Durant was injured, averaging just 6.0 points in seven games and shooting 45.0% from the field.
All in all, Simmons has averaged 7.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists. More notably he’s been averaging just 5.7 field goal attempts per game in a season that has been marred by injury for the guard.
That has created a situation where even Simmons isn’t sure of what his role is with the Nets anymore.
“Everything’s been changing all year so it’s hard to really understand what’s going on. But hopefully we find some rhythm and consistency,” Simmons said following morning shootaround in Brooklyn on Monday. “I think it’s a little frustrating trying to find some rhythm and consistency but that’s what it is at this point right now. Guys have been in and out due to injuries, trades, so there’s been a lot of different things that play factors into it.
“Hopefully, now we get a little bit of a stretch where we can find some rhythm and consistency.”
Simmons did say he was willing to do whatever the team needed to win. For now it seems that will be coming off the bench, but the circumstances remain far from what anyone had envisioned for Simmons’ time in Brooklyn.