Ben Simmons will make his Brooklyn Nets debut on Monday night in the team's preseason game against his old team, the Philadelphia 76ers. Simmons, of course, was traded from the Sixers to the Nets last season in a blockbuster deal that saw James Harden going the other way, but did not play for his new team due to mental health concerns and later a back injury.
In fact, Simmons did not play at all last season. After a disastrous end to the 2020-21 season, Simmons asked for a trade and said he would not report to training camp. Nothing materialized, and when Simmons still refused to report the Sixers withheld a portion of his salary, which started a dispute between the two sides.
Simmons eventually returned to Philadelphia but was immediately kicked out of practice and suspended for a game. He then informed the team he was not mentally ready to play. As trade talks continued with Simmons on the sidelines, his camp and the Sixers fought over how the situation was being handled.
"I think it was like, you know, I'm already dealing with a lot mentally just in life, as a lot of people do,". "But it got to a point where, after that series, I'm getting -- it's like from the people that you're supposed to have the support from, or that comfort from. And I wasn't getting that, either. So it was just a lot, it was a toll on me. And then mentally, I just -- it killed me. I was like, f---, like no energy for anything. I was in a dark place. And it took me a long time. The first thing for me was really identifying, like, OK, I gotta get right. And it's not a physical thing. It's mentally."
After his eventual trade to the Nets, the thought was that he would be ready to play after a few weeks of ramping up. Instead, he suffered a herniated disc that required an epidural and later surgery in the offseason. Now 100 percent, he'll be hoping to put the events of the past 15 months behind him. Getting on the court again, and doing so against his former team, will be good way to start.
In theory, the trio of Simmons, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving should be a terrific fit on the court. The latter will handle the scoring and shooting, while Simmons will provide the playmaking, defense and transition prowess. Of course, there serious are question marks about all three of them. But if they can remain healthy and put their tumultuous offseason behind them, they have the talent to make some real noise in the Eastern Conference.
"I can't wait, I'm so excited,". "Got a new number, new jersey. I'm just looking forward to it. I think we have a special team. I think if we get it all together, we're going to be the champions. So that's the end goal."