Ben Simmons had his best game since joining the Nets on Thursday in Portland, putting up a season-high 15 points and 13 rebounds to go along with seven assists in 32 minutes off the bench. He was 6-of-6 from the floor, 3-of-4 from the foul line and had a plus-13 rating in a game Brooklyn won by two points, earning praise from his superstar teammate in the process.
“Incredible,” Kevin Durant said of Simmons’ performance, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN. “I’m just happy for him because he’s been trying to get his form back, trying to figure his rhythm out. 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 tonight. So we’re going to keep building on that and hopefully we’re able to get this next one, but he controlled the game and was able to get us back into it.”
As we relayed earlier in the week, Simmons’ inconsistent availability and play so far this fall had led to some frustration within the Nets organization, but his last two games have arguably been his best of the season. Simmons, who has talked about needing some time to get back to full strength following back surgery in the spring and a nagging knee issue this season, is encouraged by the progress he’s making.
“I’m coming,” Simmons said. “I’m getting there, man. It’s taking a little bit of time, but I got my own back. My teammates got my back, my coaches.”
Here’s more on the Nets:
- Simmons probably needs to be moved back into the starting lineup in order to maximize his potential, but doing so would mean pairing him with Nic Claxton, another non-shooter, notes Brian Lewis of The New York Post (subscription required). Claxton is having a breakout year in his own right and doesn’t deserve to be demoted, so new head coach Jacque Vaughn will have to determine how best to deploy the duo. “The analytics spoke to us, and (the numbers said) the spacing just isn’t as good (when they play together) as when they’re separated,” Vaughn said. “So we have to figure out some solutions that way, because defensively if we can get Kevin and Nic and Ben on the floor at the same time, that’s a pretty big group with Royce (O’Neale) also. That’s a lot of versatility, so we’re gonna continue to work through it. We saw (Thursday) there was some success, and we’ll continue to learn about it.”
- Kyrie Irving will have some adjustments to make when he returns from his eight-game suspension on Sunday, according to Lewis. As Lewis writes, Vaughn has preached a defensive-minded, team-first dynamic since taking over for Steve Nash and Brooklyn has responded by posting a 106.3 defensive rating during Irving’s absence, the NBA’s third-best mark during that stretch. Prior to Irving’s suspension, the Nets had a league-worst 118.3 defensive rating.
- John Hollinger and Alex Schiffer of The Athletic weigh and debate various trade options for the Nets, with Hollinger ultimately concluding that the best approach for the club may be to simply play more games and “hope somebody’s trade value increases.”
Mark W. Sanchez of the New York Post (subscription required) makes a case for why the Nets shouldn’t consider blowing up their roster this season, arguing that doing so would make a bad situation worse.