Ben Simmons took just three shots in the Brooklyn Nets' 109-80 preseason loss to the Miami Heat last week. The three-time All-Star struggled to find his rhythm for a shorthanded Nets squad in his second appearance following a 470-day layoff.
Simmons' passivity in 25 minutes of action was glaring. The former number one pick has shown little assertiveness in attacking the rim or generating contact offensively through the Nets' first two preseason games. This was expected to an extent as Simmons gets re-acclimated to NBA play. The process is more than just mental for the 26-year-old as he is coming off back surgery this offseason. Head Coach Steve Nash said the team will need to be patient and supportive of Simmons through the process.
“The number one thing is to support him and be there for him, give him belief,” Nash said. We all believe in him. We all think that he’ll make a huge impact. Just gotta give him time. We gotta be patient with him, we hope it comes quickly, but in the event that it doesn’t we just gotta work through and stay patient and give him that confidence because it’s not easy, you know I can’t reiterate that enough.”
“You have to understand he’s gone through a lot,” he continued. “This is a year and a half since he’s played and not to mention the surgery, so that is no small thing. I think not just for a basketball player but for any athlete to come off that much of a layoff from the actual games is very difficult.”
Despite this, questions surrounding Simmons' mentality will ramp up if his passive approach continues during the opening weeks of the regular season. Simmons' ability to create for others has been the constant talking point when assessing his fit in Brooklyn. Playing alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving does present less of a need for scoring. But, Nash was firm Wednesday when speaking about the mindset Simmons must bring to the court.
“Ben's gotta be aggressive,” Nash said. “That’s where playmaking comes from. If you’re not aggressive, playmaking becomes hard. If you’re trying to put pressure on the rim, that’s when playmaking becomes easy. Getting him back to that burst, that athleticism, that ability to just out-physical people, that’s a huge component of his playmaking.”
“He’s not just gonna come down and put his back to people and zip balls around the gym,” he continued. “He’s gotta break the paint and make plays, whether it’s in transition or in the halfcourt.”
Ben Simmons acknowledged the need for him to be more assertive postgame Thursday, saying there “needs to be more of a balance” between his passing and shooting and “three shots definitely is not enough”. Durant carried the offensive load against Miami, scoring 22 points on 8/12 shooting. When asked how he can help Simmons build his offensive confidence, Durant said he emphasizes an aggressive approach to Simmons, something his teammates do across the board.
“Just trust in him, pass him the ball when he’s open, tell him to be aggressive,” Durant said. “I mean, I don’t do too much. Like I said, I'm not here to be babysitting anybody. Ben knows that if he’s got a time to be aggressive, go be aggressive. Who gives a sh*t if you make it or miss it? We just like you being aggressive, and he tells me the same thing.”
“So we’re always feeding each other that type of energy and encouragement,” he continued. “From me to him to Kai (Irving) to Cam (Thomas) to Patty (Mills), we’re always talking to each other about ‘look, we need to be more aggressive to look to score the ball.’ I mean, that's the name of the game, putting the ball in the hoop. So when Ben is aggressive to get downhill and looks for everybody and then puts the ball in the rim, that’s going to be a plus for our team. But I don't have to tell him this every day. He knows what it is.”
KD on Ben Simmons looking for his own shot:
“He’s finding his rhythm again, he hasn’t played in a long time… It’s only gonna get better from here.” pic.twitter.com/U3Xfe19FNT
— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) October 7, 2022
Similar to Nash's comments, Durant acknowledged it will take time for Ben Simmons to regain his aggressive approach. The 12-time All-Star said stacking reps and gaining a firm understanding of his role will help his new teammate gain confidence more than anything.
“I think he's building his confidence,” Durant said. “He knows that we all trust him, but just getting the reps under his belt. There’s nothing like playing an NBA game. So you can work out and train and play pickup all you want, but it’s nothing like playing with a jersey on under them lights.
“So it's just about getting reps and feeling confident as each day goes by and realizing what he brings to the team,” he continued. “I think that's the underrated part about being a pro, is once you find out your role things are pretty easy for you.”