The Philadelphia 76ers’ trip to Brooklyn meant that Nets star Ben Simmons would be on the floor for the first time with his new club while facing his old one. Simmons was in the starting lineup on Monday as the Nets opened their preseason schedule.
That meant part of the intrigue of the exhibition contest was how Simmons played against the Sixers and how the visitors from the City of Brotherly Love reacted to their former teammate. But if anyone was looking for Philly coach Doc Rivers to have been focused much on Simmons, they were sorely mistaken.
“I don’t right now. I’m just focused on us,” Rivers responded bluntly to a reporter’s question about looking back on his time coaching Simmons.
Simmons’ tenure in Philadelphia ended with plenty of drama citing mental health as the reason he missed the start of the season last year after the Sixers failed to find a trade to appease a request he had made in the summer of 2021. The Nets point guard indicated that he didn’t feel that he had gotten the support that he needed following the 76ers playoff series loss that year.
The standoff between Simmons and the 76ers lasted through training camp and into the season before he was dealt to the Nets at the deadline in a blockbuster deal that sent James Harden to Philadelphia.
Rivers admitted that it was nice to start the year without the drama that encompassed training camp last year.
“There’s always drama, you know that. But it’s nice not having to deal with this stuff and just no one wants to go through that anyway,” Rivers said. “You want your team to be locked in, together and when you have those teams it’s great. Sometimes you don’t and you have to go get that team as well.”
Simmons had been with the Nets when they faced the 76ers last season when they visited in March and he made the trip with the team, but he was not able to play in that game. Joel Embiid and Harden did not play in Monday’s preseason game which kept some of the drama around the preseason matchup to a minimum.
Nets head coach Steve Nash did not sound sold that Simmons playing against his former club in the preseason would make much of a difference to him.
“Some guys love it and some guys could care less,” Nash said. “I think we’re all affected differently by that. Maybe it could be a positive thing to get one out of the way in that respect.”