Once a perennial All-Star with the Philadelphia 76ers, the 6-foot-10 guard has been anything but with the Nets. But in the last couple of games something seems to have clicked with Simmons and his teammates.
After reported “frustration” within the organization surfaced, Simmons had the best game of his Nets career in Brooklyn’s 109-107 win Thursday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Simmons scored 15 points while posting 13 rebounds and seven assists. It was the 26-year-old’s first double-double since June 14, 2021.
“It’s very encouraging,” Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said of Simmons’ performance. “Most minutes he’s played, he responded well. Had a few combinations with Nic [Claxton], without Nic, pushing the basketball as a screener… kind of what we envisioned, doing everything for us. If we can continue to grow with him, understand him, his game, how he benefits, with who, it’s very encouraging.”
Simmons has dealt with a number of health issues in his time as a Net, including a back injury that began when he was with the 76ers. He’s now dealing with left knee soreness that shelved him in five of the Nets’ first 15 games.
Vaughn pointed out that the difference he sees from Simmons is that he’s “feeling good.” The knee injury kept him out of the Nets’ game against the Lakers on Sunday, but Vaughn commended Simmons for putting in the work to get right and get back on the floor.
“I had back surgery, that’s not easy to come back from,” Simmons said of trying to get back to his All-Star form. “I stay locked in. I stay focused and continue to build myself, my body and my game.”
His teammate Kevin Durant dropped 35 points to lead Brooklyn’s scoring, but after the game he was visibly excited, not for his own accomplishments but Simmons’ game.
"Incredible. I'm just happy for him because he's been trying to get his form back, trying to figure his rhythm out" Durant said." Tonight I think he did a good job just talking up, commanding the offense, commanding the team on the defensive side of the ball. He was incredible."
He added: “This is the type of game we needed to see. We expect that from him every night.”
After back-to-back games of 10-plus points, Simmons was asked after if he took pride in reminding the rest of the league of what he could do.
The three-time All-Star smirked and said, “I’m coming. I’m getting there, it’s taking a little bit of time. I got my own back. My teammates got my back, my coaches.”
The Nets' next game is Sunday against Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies. With Kyrie Irving expected to return, and a reinvigorated Simmons, Nets fans may finally see their new Big Three on the floor at full strength.