Aussie NBA star Ben Simmons sizzles in NBA debut for Brooklyn Nets

Ben Simmons said it was “amazing” just to be back on an NBA court after he scored his first points for the Brooklyn Nets with an emphatic dunk in a pre-season clash with his former Philadelphia 76ers as 15 months of off-court issues finally ended.

Suiting up for the first time since his dramatic exit from the 76ers, following game 7 of the 2021 Eastern Conference semi-finals, having missed all of last season with injury and mental health issues, Simmons finally took to the court with fellow stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at the Barclays Centre in New York.

Playing his first game in more than 400 days, Simmons scored his first points of the game with a strong dunk off an Irving pass and displayed all his dazzling passing skills in his 19-minute stint on court, sitting out much of the second half as coach Steve Nash used 17 players in the 127-108 loss.

But he missed both of his free-throw attempts and a few more mid-range jump shots, copping boos too before the Australian finished with six points, five assists and four rebounds against the team he left in acrimonious circumstances.

“The only way you learn is making mistakes,” Simmons said.

“I had a few out there tonight, so I can go back and look at film and know what I did wrong and how to fix that. It’s all a learning process for me still.

“I’m grateful to just step on that floor in the NBA. So yeah, a lot of fun out there.”

Simmons didn’t, however, cop any on-court treatment, with former teammate Joel Embid and James Harden sitting out the game.

He also drew praise form his new teammates, including Irving, who said there was “no rush” for Simmons to get back to his All-Star best after such a long break.

“Anytime anyone comes back it’s going to take some time,“ he said.

“I was telling him at halftime, ‘When you’re playing with some high-level players, despite what you heard, we’re going to make the game easy for you’. He’s going to love playing with us.

“For him to be out there for his first day and for us to experience it with him it’s something we can remember for the rest of the season as something we got through.

“He made some great plays, but he knows he has a ways to go before he feels like his true self. There’s no rush.”

Durant, who also had his own off-season issues, including a standoff with the Nets, said it was good for Simmons to get his return out of the way.

“You spend a year off from the game and you play organised basketball again, that’s a nerve-racking feeling,” he said.

“To wake up that morning … you’re thinking about those minutes you’re going to play, so it’s good to see him get over those nerves.”

Before the game 76ers coach Doc Rivers, who has not held back in the past with his views on Simmons, said he only “focused on the guys that want to be a Philadelphia 76er”.

“We’re not going to focus on anyone that doesn’t want to be one,” he added.

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