Ben Simmons on Nets: ‘There’s only one ball and you’ve got to play defense, too’

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Dan Feldman
·2 min read
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When Nets forward Jared Dudley and 76ers star Ben Simmons clashed during the 2019 playoffs, Simmons mostly treated the feud as beneath him as Philadelphia earned a 4-1 series victory.

Now that Brooklyn is a behemoth, Simmons is poking back.

The 76ers and Nets, running neck and neck for first place in the Eastern Conference, are scheduled to play each other tomorrow. They could meet again in the playoffs – maybe for years to come.

Simmons:

Rivalry? I mean if they keep that same team, definitely. But it’s going to be hard to do that.

But we’re going for the past champs – the Lakers. They were the ones who won the championship. So, you’ve got to give respect to them.

Obviously, Brooklyn has a lot of talent. But at the end of the day, there’s only one ball and you’ve got to play defense, too.

Simmons isn’t wrong.

There is only one ball. So much of Kevin Durant‘s, James Harden‘s and Kyrie Irving‘s ability is concentrated in on-ball scoring. Will they be comfortable getting fewer touches once all three are healthy?

Defense matters. The Nets are short on defensive personnel. Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge aren’t the answer on that end.

Harden, Durant and Irving can all become unrestricted free agents in 2022. Harden isn’t necessarily wed to Brooklyn. Durant and Irving have chosen to leave good teams multiple times.

But – even while saying “Brooklyn has a lot of talent” – Simmons undersells the Nets’ upside.

Their offensive ceiling is incredibly high. Though there are diminishing returns on their scoring ability, Durant, Harden and Irving are so skilled. All three can shoot – creating spacing for the other two. Harden is a superb passer. Durant, at least when healthy, has a true all-around game. Irving is accustomed to playing off the ball from his time with LeBron James and already showed eagerness to defer in this situation.

Again, Simmons isn’t wrong. But when he concentrates on Brooklyn’s challenges rather than strengths, he just sounds too dismissive.

As far as elevating the defending-champion Lakers – who have a worse record than the Nets – that’s a common “they’re champions until someone beats them” mindset. Simmons also shares a bond with LeBron.

Simmons isn’t making friends in Brooklyn, though.

Ben Simmons on Nets: ‘There’s only one ball and you’ve got to play defense, too’ originally appeared on NBCSports.com