Although the Brooklyn Nets lost the preseason game against the Miami Heat by a score of 109 to 80, Ben Simmons only attempted three shots the whole game. The three-time All-Star had trouble finding his groove in his second game back for the Nets after a 470-day absence.
Simmons’ inactivity during the first 25 minutes of the game was striking. The former first-overall pick has been subdued in the Nets’ first two preseason games, failing to demonstrate any aggressiveness in driving to the basket or creating offensive contact. As Simmons readjusts to NBA action, this is to some degree to be expected.
The 26-year-recovery old’s isn’t only a mental challenge; he also had back surgery this summer. The squad, according to head coach Steve Nash, will need to be patient and supportive of Simmons as he works through this.
Nash emphasized the importance of “supporting him and being there for him, giving him belief.” All of us have faith in him. We’re confident he’ll have a major effect in his field. You have to be patient and give him time. It’s not easy, and I can’t stress that enough, so we have to be patient with him. We hope it comes quickly, but if it doesn’t, we’ll simply have to keep working through it and showing him confidence.
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A lot of things have happened to him, and you have to realize that,” he concluded. There’s also the fact that it’s been a year and a half since he last played and that he had surgery, so that’s a big deal. Coming off that long of a break from actual games is very challenging for any athlete, not just a basketball player, in my opinion.
Nonetheless, if Simmons maintains his passive attitude throughout the first weeks of the regular season, concerns about his psyche will grow. Simmons’s fit in Brooklyn has been discussed mostly in terms of his ability to produce for others. There is less pressure to score when you’re on the court with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. On Wednesday, however, Nash was unyielding in his assessment of the mental approach Simmons must take to the court.
Nash advised, “Ben’s gotta be aggressive.” From it, I glean the ability to make plays. Playmaking is more challenging if you aren’t aggressive. Playmaking is simplified when you apply pressure around the basket. Restoring his speed, agility, and ability to simply out-physical opponents is crucial to his playmaking.
“He’s not just going to come down and put his back to everybody and zip balls around the gym,” he continued. Both in transition and in the halfcourt, he must “break the paint” and create scoring opportunities for his team.
Ben Simmons said after Thursday’s game that he “has to be more assertive” and that “three shots absolutely is not enough” when asked about the balance he needs to strike between passing and shooting. When the Warriors played Miami, Durant scored 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting to carry the offense. Durant, when asked what he does to help Simmons with his offensive confidence, responded that he and his teammates all try to take a more aggressive stance toward him.
“So we’re always feeding each other that type of energy and encouragement,” he continued. “From me to him to Kai (Irving) to Cam (Thomas) to Patty (Mills), we’re always talking to each other about ‘look, we need to be more aggressive to look to score the ball.’ I mean, that’s the name of the game, putting the ball in the hoop. So when Ben is aggressive to get downhill and looks for everybody and then puts the ball in the rim, that’s going to be a plus for our team. But I don’t have to tell him this every day. He knows what it is.”
KD on Ben Simmons looking for his own shot:
“He’s finding his rhythm again, he hasn’t played in a long time… It’s only gonna get better from here.” pic.twitter.com/U3Xfe19FNT
— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) October 7, 2022
According to Durant, all you have to do is “believe in him, send the ball to him when he’s open, and tell him to be aggressive.” As a rule, I don’t keep myself too busy. I’m not supposed to be watching kids, after all. Ben is well aware that when the situation calls for it, he should take the initiative and be forceful. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if you make it or not. All we want is for you to be aggressive, and he tells me the same thing.
Durant, echoing the thoughts of Nash, has admitted that it will take time for Ben Simmons to restore his aggressive style. The 12-time All-Star believes that his new colleague will build confidence more than anything by simply putting in the work and learning his position.
He’s become more and more comfortable in his own skin, Durant added. Despite the fact that he is already fully trusted by everyone here, he is working on his reps to improve his performance. Playing in an NBA game is like nothing else. Playing with a jersey on under the lights is an entirely different experience from working out, training, or playing pickup games.
“So it’s just about getting reps and feeling confident as each day goes by and realizing what he brings to the team,” he continued. “I think that’s the underrated part about being a pro, is once you find out your role things are pretty easy for you.”
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