It has been more than 15 months since Ben Simmons last played in an NBA game. The three-time All-Star is expected to make his long-anticipated debut when the Brooklyn Nets open preseason action Monday night.

Simmons last appeared in a disastrous Game 7 loss in the second round of the 2021 playoffs. He sat all of last season, holding out with the Philadelphia 76ers while citing mental health issues and missing time with a back injury following his trade to Brooklyn. In fitting NBA fashion, the 26-year-old’s return will be against his former team.

Head Coach Steve Nash said “barring any setbacks,” Simmons, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving would play against Philadelphia. The third-year head coach spoke highly of his time coaching Simmons thus far.

“It’s a lot of fun for me,” Nash said via Chris Milholen of Nets Daily. “I’m such a believer in his game. He’s such a dynamic, unique player, does so many things while on the basketball court. And I think he’s a great complement to our team.

“He makes his teammates better at both ends,” he continued. So just giving him the support and platform to return from the injury and then long layoff, and then allowing him to continually grow with our group. So, it’s very exciting.”

Simmons averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game in his first four NBA seasons. He will start at point guard alongside Durant and Irving with the Nets. The former first-round pick should also see time at center, something he rarely did with the Sixers. Simmons said he was “looking forward to it” when asked about the idea of playing the five earlier this week.

“I just want to go out there and impact the game in any way I can,” Simmons shared. ”Whether it’s setting a pick, passing the ball, scoring the ball, getting a stop, rebounding the ball, or getting a block. There’s so many ways you can affect a game, it’s not just scoring, it’s not just defense. But for me, I feel like I cover most of those things.”

The Aussie’s lack of an outside shot has been the biggest criticism surrounding his game thus far in his career. However, Simmons steps into a basketball situation with the Nets unlike any other he has experienced at the NBA level. Brooklyn’s lineup of isolation scorers and outside shooters makes any outside shooting from Simmons a luxury.

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“I’m not one of those people who thinks Ben has to shoot the ball,” Nash said Thursday. “I don’t. He’s a special, special player without taking any jump shots. There’s other solutions for that. There’s so many things he brings to the table and our group. [Shooting] is not what he brings to the table for us.”

“For me, Ben is an incredible playmaker,” he continued. “He plays point guard, he’s incredible in transition, he’s a good screener. Those are things that we need from Ben and that’s what he’s special at.”

Simmons’ physical and mental state have been a frequent talking point following his decision to sit out of Brooklyn’s first-round series against Boston last postseason. However, his teammates have spoken highly of his mindset and physical capabilities early in camp.

“That level of talent, and IQ, and motivation and drive, anything’s possible,” Kyrie Irving said Thursday. “He has that ‘it’ inside of him so now we just have to slowly develop him where he knows that he can just go out there and be himself. We want him to be his highest potential of himself as a player, be able to accomplish things out on the floor that he wasn’t able to do the last few years. And just have some fun being at peace around him.”

Fellow Australian Patty Mills plays an important role in the Nets’ locker room as a veteran leader. Mills said the environment in Brooklyn should be an asset to Simmons as he makes his return.

“He has a great opportunity here to prove himself and the caliber of player he is,” Mills said at Media Day. “I think he’ll only get better in this environment with the full support of the guys here and the organization.”

“What he can bring to this team is going to be through the roof,” he continued.

A total of 469 days have passed since Simmons last stepped on the hardwood in an NBA game. He is now the new piece that could put the Nets back into title contention. Monday marks the beginning of Simmons’ long-anticipated fresh start in Brooklyn.