It may not seem like, but the last times current Brooklyn Nets star Ben Simmons saw a basketball court was during the 2021 NBA playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks while he was a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.
In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Hawks, Simmons passed up what looked like an easy layup or dunk over Hawks guard Trae Young. Instead of going for the basket, Simmons dumped the ball off to Matisse Thybulle who was fouled on the play.
Simmons has been criticized throughout his career for not being a good shooter, and sometimes people say he’s scared to shoot. Passing up the shot over Young didn’t do anything to help that reputation and the Sixers eventually dropped that game to the Hawks.
That ended up being the last game Simmons played for the Sixers as he sat out the season until he was traded, but he never got to suit up for the Nets either.
Speaking on JJ Redick’s podcast “The Old Man & the Three,” Young defended Simmons.
Young Speaks Out
Watching the replay over and over made it clear to many fans that Simmons had an open shot, but Young argued that it’s not as simple as that.
“In those moments, and you spin, it’s a quick quick moment,” he said. He may not have known that it was me.”
Decisions like this have to be made in a split-second, and Young concedes that it was a tough play that Simmons had to make.
“He sees a blue jersey right behind me that he can just drop off and maybe get a layup so, I mean, it’s a bang-bang play and it sucks for him,” he continues. “I understand that’s a tough play. He’s a good player. Like I hate how people talk about how bad of a player he is. That’s what I’m saying about recency bias. I think he’s a really good player, but I think one moment can get people turning.”
Simmons Will be Ready
It will be over a year since that infamous play by the time Simmons steps back onto a basketball court to play, but he should be ready to go and fully healthy.
With the Nets he’ll be forming another Big 3 for Brooklyn after being acquired in the James Harden trade. With the Sixers he felt the pressure of being the co-star, but now he’ll be able to shift into a smaller, but still important role. There’s no question that this team will go as far as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant can take them, but they’ll need Simmons to step up.
Coach Steve Nash mentioned the t alented point guard will be able to play many different positions for the Nets, and he might be able to help out with the size problems they experienced against the Boston Celtics.
“He’s just such a well-rounded, versatile athlete and skilled, 6-10 player that I think it would be limiting to say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to handle the ball all the time. You have to facilitate the offense all the time,’” he continued. “I think that’s what’s special about him is the varied skills he brings to the table, so yes he will facilitate and be the point guard. He will also sometimes be the center. Other times he will be the guy that’s just playing positionless basketball trying to create offense in the halfcourt.”
If he’s fully healthy to start the year and Irving is available full time, the Nets should be very dangerous.