Ben Simmons isn’t going to be getting the benefit of the doubt from many people as he gets his legs back under him here early in the Nets season. Through three games, Simmons has fouled out twice with the latest instance coming on Monday night when the Nets fell to the Memphis Grizzlies.
It’s safe to say that the third member of Brooklyn’s Big 3 is still getting adjusted to his new team and playing for the first time after sitting out an entire season. Social media was ruthless after the game, but following a year-long absence judging Simmons’ ability three games into the year is hardly a fair metric.
“I think rust. I just don’t think he’s played a lot of basketball,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “I thought he’s just trying to get his game back, his confidence and the familiarity. It’s been 18 months basically. It’s a long period of inactivity and for anyone, who played the game that’s very difficult.”
In 28 minutes of play on Monday Simmons had just seven points and shot 2-of-5 from the field, which isn’t going to do anything to quiet those who have constantly badgered him about his shooting during his career. Simmons did have eight assists but turned over the ball on five occasions.
By now everyone has seen the stats through his first three games — 17 points and 14 fouls. During the Nets’ loss Simmons fouled out with four minutes to play and Brooklyn lost the minutes that he was on the court by 16 points.
Simmons also showed his frustration on the court after the official whistled him for his game-ending foul.
“I just saw the play,” Simmons told ESPN after the game. “It wasn’t a foul. [J.T. Orr] called it a foul, made a mistake, it is what it is … it’s really frustrating … it’s not a foul, but it was bulls—. It’s frustrating because it’s late game, fourth quarter, it’s a physical, close game. It’s the NBA. It’s not college. It’s not high school. Some people are going to get hit, some people bleed; it’s basketball.”
That’s not likely going to make Simmons many friends among the club of NBA officials and the critics will use it as another example of why Simmons’ inability to live up to the expectations laid on him early on in his career.
The Nets have remained confident that Simmons will get into a rhythm and be the player they expected (and need) him to be. Nash noted that he would like to see Simmons be a bit more aggressive with driving the ball.
Still, the Brooklyn coach reiterated that it would come for him.
“You can see him trying at times and that’s great,” Nash said. “We want to keep pushing him to try and break through and force the issue a little bit at times, even if he makes mistakes. Just so we can see him be aggressive and start to find a rhythm for doing so. He’s gonna get there. I know it’s not easy for him. It’s been a long time, new group, and a back surgery, you add it all up – we have to have some patience with him.”
Simmons is playing under a microscope and every little issue will be magnified as the season continues. Right now it’s still too early to say there should be major concerns about his ability to contribute to making the Nets a winner.
But soon enough Simmons will need to get it together to quiet the doubters and put the Nets season on the track everyone in Brooklyn expects it to be this year.