Although Ben Simmons has been a concern for the Nets, there is no easy fix. Eventually, Simmons is only accountable for his performance, which has been well below both his expectations and what the Nets require of the former 76er as a backup for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
“I am surprised at how he has struggled,” Michael VandeGarde said.
“If he thought Philly and [Joel] Embiid was tough to deal with, imagine dealing with KD and Kyrie … and all the noise that has come with the Nets lately.
“All eyes are on him, and the Nets and many are hoping they all crash and burn.”
It will Take Time to Recover
Meanwhile, it’s still too early in Simmons’ recovery from missing all last season to declare him done, but it’s evident he’s not headed in the right direction. He has struggled with mental health concerns and has not yet recovered from the explosion he lost after back surgery. He must also learn to be aggressively offensive.
However, the Nets must also figure out how to utilise Simmons’ skill and support him, whether deploying him as a small-ball five surrounded by shooters or allowing him to live with a big who doesn’t shoot. His headspace is also a factor, in addition to their floor spacing.
“Ben and I work every day at this, trying to give him the confidence to go out there and be aggressive and try to get back to at least the feeling of joy on the court,” coach Steve Nash said.
“He’s going to have to work himself into his confidence and feel good about himself,” Irving said.
“The reality is we’re just going to keep having to try this experiment every single night until we get the right recipe.”
A Lot of Mixing Has Already Taken Place
The Nets had utilised 71 different starting lineups before going head-to-head against Indians at Barclays Center on Saturday. Meanwhile, the other teams with more combinations are the Spurs, Thunder, and Pacers. However, Nash has been trying to figure out how to persuade Simmons to perform at his best.
“A lot of it is mental,” Irving said.
“A lot of it is pushing through what you feel like you’re capable of doing coming off an injury.”
Meanwhile, Simmons has never been very good at shooting, but she is pretty athletic. However, a scout who talked with The Post observed a less dynamic player who was reluctant to shoot and anxious about being forced to the foul line. However, Simmons isn’t expected to alter, according to another scout, but he should become better as the season progresses and he shakes off the rust.
“Ben is what he is. I’d assume he’ll play better as it moves forward [but] he is reluctant to shoot and score, and after this long in the league, I don’t think that will change,” said VandeGarde.
“He could and should be an 18-point, eight assists, eight-rebound guy. … It definitely needs more time, but every game that passed [he] and the team gets crushed — and if Kyrie and KD don’t pull him along in the right way it won’t go well … and even if they do pull him along in the right way, it might not go well.
“Ben might have just said I don’t care anymore after all the scrutiny on him; many people would. At some point, he needs just to let it all go and play his brand of basketball.”
Simmons as a Playmaker
In the previous two games, Nash experimented with moving Simmons away from the ball and using him either as a playmaker in set plays with Irving and Durant or as a centre against Dallas for 24 minutes with Nic Claxton off the court.
“When we have him at that small-ball five, we’re able to switch a lot of pick-and-rolls. … We have a great chance of pushing the basketball on the offensive end and defensively just being sound,” Irving said.
“We’re trying to look at different things, free those guys up to be more definitive and decisive in their roles when they’re out there together. We’ve got to develop both,” Nash said. “But definitely, Ben at the five has got to be a part of our team going forward.”