After scoring 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Brooklyn’s 127-115 win over the Grizzlies Sunday, Ben Simmons was asked if he thinks it’s possible that it’s been a while since he left the Sixers. enough time not to be seen. with the same hostility, he returns to Philadelphia, where the Nets are due to play Tuesday night.
“In Philadelphia?” Simmons replied dryly. “Come on now. I know what will happen.”
Indeed, everyone knows what is coming. Simmons will come down, probably every time he touches the ball, in a biblical rain of boos. This is what you will hear on TV, at least. Simmons will hear much worse. This crowd will burn. I hope, for Simmons’ sake, that fire will die out at least a little as soon as the first wave of rage subsides and the crowd is immersed in the game.
However, just in case that’s not the case, Simmons is in about as good a spot as he could have hoped for, going back to the NBA roots that, in the eyes of Philadelphia fans, he ripped right out of the ground. I don’t want to speculate about what’s going on in anyone’s head, but judging by the way Simmons looks and speaks from the outside, he seems to be at ease. Confident. As for basketball, it should be. Suddenly, he starts to play, as in the former, Star “I”.
“You immediately saw the power he played with,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said after Sunday’s win. “His attack on the ring, and it was a ruthless attack on the ring. And really, just spraying the ball, the pace he created for us tonight, it’s going to be hard for people to guard us.”
Over the past two games, Simmons has 37 points, 21 rebounds and 12 assists. As, Simmons, as eluded by Vaughn, forces a faster pace whenever the opportunity presents itself, either by bouncing and walking himself or by taking the exit pass and pushing. He finds open 3-point shooters against scattered, retreating defenses. He attacks the space in front of him like a scorer, spilling over into the early offensive post-ups (he started his evening with a cute right-handed jump hook against Memphis), driving down the hill and making contact when the defense gives him the runway.
At half court, he covers and rolls hard, a real threat that requires the attention of the big players to move towards him, which in turn frees the finish line for the handler. That earned Durant the bucket against Portland on Thursday.
On the flip, when the big players ignore Simmons, who flocks to Durant, he himself has a free streak.
Simmons started at center for the Nets and lost as he tried to hold his ground against Stephen Adams, who is arguably the strongest player in the league. But it’s a composition problem. Simmons and Nick Claxton are killing intervals playing together, and with Kyrie Irving back in his starting position, the Nets chose Simmons as the starting big given the momentum he was starting to gain, believing the positives would outweigh the negatives. It worked. Brooklyn had a 19-point lead over Memphis while Simmons remained on the floor.
“It takes time,” Simmons said when asked what he’s been enjoying lately. “I’m just trying to achieve consistency. Focus on what I can do. I know what I’m capable of. I know what I’m capable of. [I’m playing well].”
Durant isn’t surprised either: “I expect that from Ben,” Durant said. “So when he plays well, I’m not going to worry about it.”
In other words, keep up the good work. Because a few games mean nothing. The Nets need this Simmons for the rest of the season and the playoffs. This is the only chance they have to fight for the title. But for now, all eyes are on Tuesday night, when one of the most anticipated NBA reunions in recent memory will air on national television (TNT, 7:30 ET). Simmons is playing well and maybe the Nets are finding their way. They would like it to be a business trip, but it won’t be business as usual.
“One thing about the Philadelphia fans, they are incredible. They are the diehard Philadelphia. I respect it in the city. It’s a sports city,” Simmons said. “I was 18 years old when I came to Philadelphia, so it’s really the only place I’ve lived as an adult. I love this city very much. People don’t know this, but a lot of my best friends are from Philadelphia. My brother still lives in Philadelphia. [basketball] situations, and whatever happens, happens, but I really love this city. I’m looking forward to going there and playing.”