Ben Simmons returned to the hardwood on Monday after dealing with a nagging back injury. He played like his vintage self, looking sharp as ever.
In his first game since November 7th, which amounted to a 38-game absence, the 27-year-old flirted with a triple-double, supplying 10 points, eight rebounds, and 11 assists on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting, impressively compiling a massive +27 in just 18 minutes of action.
Most importantly, though, he and the Brooklyn Nets got the win, easily dusting off the Utah Jazz, 147-114. It was huge for the struggling Nets as they have now won back-to-back, earning their first consecutive victories in over a month. They have some climbing to do at only 19-27 on the season, going in and out of the final play-in spots in the Eastern Conference.
Nevertheless, what occurred was very, very key as it will help generate the confidence in Simmons, who has battled physical and mental issues over the past couple of seasons. He missed the entire 2021-22 campaign with such hurdles–infamously including the 2022 postseason–as well as 40 games in 2022-23, and at least 39 this season.
This was his numbers prior to Monday’s game:
First four seasons (2017-2021)
- 275 games, 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists in 33.9 minutes
Last two seasons (2022-present)
- 48 games, 6.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists in 27.0 minutes
Another key there is the drop in shots. He came from 11.6 and dragged it down to just 5.6 attempts despite only playing nine less minutes.
But, the good thing is he seems to be moving finally forward, and, by the looks of this recent performance, appears to be quite active and comfortable out on the floor. If he stays healthy and able to show-off his abilities like he did on Monday, his rhythm can only skyrocket and he should be able to prove effective and likely push the Nets upwards in the competitive East.
One other factor that’s important to note is Simmons’s pass-first style, and how it works nicely with Brooklyn’s core. The crew is made up of scorers, shooters, and other weapons that fit what he does. Leading scorers Mikal Bridges (21.7 PPG) and Cam Thomas (21.0 PPG) are two guys he can defer to, both as a scorer and outside threat, Cam Johnson and Dorian Finney are prototype ‘3 and D’ guys that are reliable on kickouts, Lonnie Walker IV is a ‘microwave’ swingman that can deliver offense anytime, and Nic Claxton is a sizable, rim-running big man that he can throw lobs and drop-offs.
We will get a better feel over the next couple of games as to how quickly Simmons can build off from such a performance. He may regress for all we know, but it’s hard to expect that when he can run the transition, make his presence felt in the paint, crash the boards, and distribute the ball in a level that he did on Monday.