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NBA stars Ben Simmons, Kawhi Leonard and Jamal Murray all return to floor for first action in more than a year

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The NBA preseason is rarely relevant. Stars either hole up or play a limited number of minutes. Nobody cares about the result. And, unlike in the NFL, roster-end spots are usually determined during the off-season, with only random spots determined by pre-season play. For the most part, these games have little impact on the subsequent regular season.

But Monday was arguably the most important night in NBA preseason history. Three players, all of whom missed last season, returned to the court for their three teams. The Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, Brooklyn Nets’ Ben Simmons, and Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray played their first professional basketball games in over a year, and if that wasn’t enough, the Los Angeles Lakers also boasted . their revamped roster under new head coach Darwin Ham.

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So let’s jump in a bit and check out each of Monday’s main stories.

The Ben Simmons Experience

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We got a little bit of everything from Simmons’ Nets loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Yes, some of his ball magic was demonstrated with this magnificent coin.

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We also watched him hit two free throws and get booed in his own building.

In hindsight, the whistle should have been fairly predictable. After all, Nets fans aren’t famous for filling their arena, and Philadelphia is just a short drive away. Given the low prices for pre-season tickets, there were probably quite a few Philadelphia fans in the stands. In a more typical game, Simmons is likely to be backed by a friendlier crowd.

Overall, his performance was mixed. He’s still incredibly reluctant to score, and Philadelphia were scoring at will in a strikeout, but no one expected the old Simmons to show up on the first night of preseason. It will take time for him and his new teammates to figure out how to coexist. These teammates seem to want to do their part. Kyrie Irving showed marked reverence by allowing Simmons to play point guard early in the game. If Brooklyn plans to stick with that lineup this season, Simmons will have a lot of chances to prove himself as the Network.

Murray looks cool

Does this look like a man torn from an anterior cruciate ligament tear?

In one clip, we see Murray’s explosiveness, his ability to change direction, and his prowess as a scorer. Murray scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in 15 minutes of play, which is about all we can expect from Murray at the moment. Coach Michael Malone made it clear that he will start the season with a minute limit that will likely reach 20, and given the limited try rewards in preseason, 15 will likely be his limit for the next two weeks.

But Murray made a hell of a first impression in his first play action since April 2021. With Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr on his team, Denver won’t ask Murray to carry the load that most star guards do. If he can build on that performance, the Nuggets will be fine.

The return of Kawhi ups and downs

It’s been an uneven night for Kawhi Leonard. He started the game in style, hitting a three-pointer on the first possession.

But after that? He missed his next five field goal attempts. He botched his last two games, including a good turn that was vintage Kawhi before calling it a game 16 minutes later. It’s hard to take anything from Leonard’s preseason. He’s cautious at the best of times, and he never intended to show off all his athletic ability in a mindless game just to send a message.

We’ll find out where Leonard is in rehab when we see him play real games against real opponents. The same can be said for Portland’s Damian Lillard, who played more minutes and made more shots but showed the same rust that Leonard faces, who missed much of last season with a stomach injury.

Looking Good in Los Angeles

Things went awry in the second half once the starting line-up was ready for the evening, but head coach Darwin Ham’s debut had a lot to like. The crime was swift and disinterested. LeBron James was far from himself, missing all seven of his field goals, but Russell Westbrook made up for the shortfall with an understated but productive first half. At least he showed that he still has a lot of explosions.

More importantly, Westbrook landed just three shots on three assists. It would be foolish to rate defense and effort in a preseason game, but in one half of the game, Westbrook at least seemed more open to the idea of ​​playing a role rather than managing a team. With Kendrick Nunn making a brilliant comeback and Dennis Schroeder taking the field, the Lakers have more defenders in possession than they know what to do. If Westbrook is going to get a spot on this team, he’ll have to play the same unselfish basketball he did on Monday night.



Source: www.cbssports.com

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