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After failing to score in double figures in any of his first nine games, Ben Simmons has scored 11, 15 and 22 points in the Nets’ last three games, including an efficient 11-for-13 from the floor in Sunday’s win against the Memphis Grizzlies. His defense has started to resemble its previous excellence, and his rebounding has some verve to it.
Even his on-court demeanor has improved. This comes two weeks after it was reported that Kevin Durant was growing frustrated with Simmon’s lack of contribution to the struggling Nets squad.
“Ben Simmons has been a source of frustration for Kevin Durant, for others on the Nets so far, because he’s been unable to stay on the floor, but prior to that, he has shown that he’s a long way away from being back to an impactful player.”
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) November 4, 2022
Simmons has taken a lot of heat over his poor play, yet, he has found recent success on the court that he’s determined to replicate. Speaking on his recent on-court uptick, he says, “I’m still trying to get a rhythm, find my pace. It’s easy to be like … before the injury, [I] was one of the best defenders [in the league], and now, I’ve got to relearn a lot of things, rebuild. It takes time, but you move through it.”
Having left Philadelphia under messy circumstances and settling a grievance he filed to recoup a portion of last season’s salary, fans have not forgotten how he played while wearing a 76ers jersey and will be more than ready to remind Simmons on sight.
Simmons returned to Philadelphia in March as a member of the Nets, but he didn’t play. According to ESPN, inside the arena, fans serenaded Simmons with boos and expletive-laced chants at every opportunity. There was extra security around the Nets’ bench, extra guards in every section. Nets teammate Patty Mills, who has known Simmons since he was a teen prodigy in their native Australia, stood protectively by his side the entire night.
“What I’ve always said to him is, ‘Let’s just remove basketball for the moment and see who the people are who are genuinely supporting you,’” Mills says. “I think that unfortunately he just didn’t have enough of that from what I saw from afar. So for that game, I just wanted to make sure he had that support. That no matter what happens, I’m there. Literally by your side.”
Simmons seems prepared for the moment.
Simmons will need the support of his teammates and a strong mental blockade to drown out the showering boos that will surely be directed at him throughout the game.
After leaving the 76ers while under intense scrutiny for his 2021 playoff performance and being called out by his then-head coach and teammate, Simmons is slowly rebuilding his reputation as an NBA All-Star. Yet, that won’t mean anything to the same city of fans who boo Santa Claus. “It’s probably the most hostile environment he’s probably ever going to be in,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn says.
The Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers meet Tuesday in NBA action at the Wells Fargo Center. The Brooklyn Nets have won 6 of their last 9 games (most without Kyrie Irving). Tip off begins at 7:30 p.m. EST on TNT.