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When the Brooklyn Nets traded for Ben Simmons, the team was supposed to be more balanced. They wouldn’t have the otherworldly scoring punch they had with James Harden alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but they wouldn’t have the same glaring deficiencies on defense and the glass. Simmons’ simple presence should breathe new life into Brooklyn, getting his teammates away from lifting isolations and going for the fun stuff: ball movement, player movement, the transition game.
But, of course, none of that happened. The lasting image of Simmons from the 2021-22 season is of him sitting on a bench at Barclays Center during Game 3 of the Nets’ series against the Boston Celtics, looking like an “I think you should quit” character, wearing orange pants, orange sunglasses. And a purple-and-blue jacket in a sea of black and white.
The Dream is not Dead
However, the dream is not dead. After a cleanup, major surgery, and superstardom, Brooklyn is back, and Simmons is healthy. His game still makes a lot of sense next to Durant and Irving, and he still speaks highly of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. On a podcast with JJ Redick, he said the Nets are a “special team” and will be champions “if we get it all together.”
About this: Simmons is not a plug-and-play kind of guy. He’s a defender, big, sometimes a screener, sometimes a ball-handler – not a shooter. Defensively, he can do virtually anything, but even that can change the game for Brooklyn: Why switch so often when Nash can stick Simmons with the opposition’s best player?
Seth Curry about the Nets and Simmons
“I kind of started because I already know how to play with Ben,” Seth Curry said Monday at media day. “So some guys are going to need a little bit of adjustment, some guys are going to have to adjust, just with his spacing and his ball-handling and his plays.”
Curry also said having Simmons around “allows us to play a lot of different ways.” This is especially true of last year’s Nets, who could only play two lineups with Simmons and Joe Harris on the sideline: small guys who couldn’t defend and big guys who couldn’t space the floor. Harris is back after two ankle surgeries, and Royce O’Neal, a 3-and-D guy who arrived in a very odd trade, fills in for the Stars on both ends.
“On paper, we should be one of the most talented teams in the league,” Curry said. “And it’s our job to come in and put it together and make it a real team and make it good and see what we can do.”
Easier said than done, especially after Durant tried to force his way out of town and Irving couldn’t agree to a long-term deal. We’ll see if there are any bad vibes to overcome. Again, a win changes the mood pretty quickly, and this team has the potential to do a lot. How dire this situation is behind the scenes can’t be discerned from the Nets’ jelly on the court. If they truly believe they have an opportunity to do something special, they won’t throw it away.
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