Ben Simmons NBA comeback is proving to be a slow process but the three-time NBA All-Star has finally ticked off one box.
Having left the Philadelphia 76ers in an infamous ugly affair followed by a back injury which saw him sit out the entire 2021-22 season, Simmons is learning the game again.
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It’s why his 11-point is an achievement despite a crushing 153-121 loss to the Sacramento Kings is an important milestone to pass for the 26-year-old.
But it won’t matter to Nets fans as Brooklyn, without Kyrie Irving due to his anti-Semitism storm, have slumped to 6-9 for the season as the side re-imagines the Aussie as a back-up centre.
The performance was arguably the best of Simmons’ Nets career with his 11 points marking the first time in 520 days — since game 4 of the 2021 playoff series against the Hawks on June 14 2021 — that he’s scored double figures. He also had five rebounds, three assists and a steal in 20 minutes on the floor.
It left fans liking what they saw from the Aussie.
ESPN NBA reporter Nick Friedell tweeted: “As bad as this game is for the Nets — the only good sign is that this is the best Ben Simmons has looked. He’s been more active going to the rim and looking for a little offence.”
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Milholen added: “If you even want to take something positive from this one, this is Ben Simmons best showing of the season.
“He’s got a season-high in points, pushed the break and attacked the rim, passing has been sharp, and just a solid showing on both ends.
“That’s about it from this ugly one.”
Simmons has been lacking his explosiveness since the return to the court, also missing six matches with a knee injury.
Despite breaking the drought, Simmons was not happy with the 32-point drubbing.
“S**t, we got smacked,” Simmons said. “They were better offensively and defensively. They played as a team four quarters.
“They just played better than us. … They wanted it more. Obviously we didn’t want it.”
Asked if he personally was feeling more comfortable on the court, Simmons said: “For sure. It takes time, especially with a nerve injury. It takes 18 months for your nerves to fully heal. People don’t know that but over time, I’ll get better and better. Just keep pushing.”
How long fans will wait remains to be seen, especially with Simmons in the third year of his five-year $US177m ($A261m) deal and expected to rake in over $US35m ($A51m) this season.
And long-suffering Nets fans will be impatient to get their money’s worth while he’s on the team.
His lack of game-time was slammed by NBA great Charles Barkley, who couldn’t understand why the Nets were wasting Simmons.
“What are the Brooklyn Nets doing? They’ve only got one guy who can score in the starting unit,” Barkley said.
“Ben Simmons can only play really fast, and I don’t understand bringing him off the bench at all.
“He needs to be playing to help those guys get easy baskets … obviously his confidence is shot right now, but he can push the ball and he can help them get some easy baskets.”
However, it doesn’t mean he believes Simmons is the solution to all the Nets’ issues, particularly ahead of next Wednesday’s (Australian time) trip to Philadelphia.
“I do not feel good about that situation; he’s playing bad, they’re going to let him have it,” he said on TNT.
“I hope nothing bad happens, like a fan doing something crazy.
“He can’t even rub it in their face (by) playing good.
“He’s got to play (rather than be rested), but it’s going to be bad – Philadelphia don’t mess around.”