BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Ben Simmons has been practicing with his Nets teammates. I know because I saw footage of it.
That’s the problem. He’s practicing, but he’s not playing. He has yet to play a game for the Brooklyn Nets since being acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers for James Harden, but he has been more than happy to cash checks from them. That’s a good job if anyone can get it.
At some point, Simmons must stop being a bystander and start being a participant. He needs to stop stealing money from his employer and start earning his money. He is going to have to start earning his keep with his Nets teammates. Just practicing with the guys isn’t enough. He has to be in the foxhole with his teammates in the heat of the battle.
The Nets could have used him against the Boston Celtics, especially in the last possession of the game when Jaylen Brown had the ball and threw the inbound pass to Marcus Smart, who did a double-fake and then hand it to Jayson Tatum, who beelined his way to the basket in making a layup. If there was a defender like Simmons on that spot, it could have been a different outcome. That sequence summed up the game right there.
Simmons could turn out to be an X-factor in this series if he wants to play.
His desire to play should be questioned by Nets management, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be playing. We keep hearing that he is going to play soon. We heard the same song weeks ago. We heard that it would take weeks for him to get going when the Nets acquired him.
It was one thing for the Nets not to subject Simmons to the 76ers fans, who wanted to treat him like a pound of flesh. Simmons requested a trade from the 76ers in the offseason because he didn’t appreciate being criticized by 76ers head coach Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid in the aftermath of Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, so he sat out until he was traded. But what’s the excuse for not playing him now?
Reports say Simmons is pain-free. So what are the Nets waiting for? Most importantly, what is he waiting for?
If he does not play in Game 3 Saturday night, when will he? It shouldn’t have gotten to that point where he played this late. He should have played weeks before the playoffs started so that he can get the rust out of the way.
Simmons needs to be pushing the issue. He hasn’t played in a year now basically. If he has pride, he would have been out there a long time ago. He has so much to prove after his 76ers career ended badly. He is known for being scared to make a layup against the Hawks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, That’s the worst reputation an NBA player can ever have.
The second worst reputation would be taking his slow time to come back. This seems to be the case with Simmons. It shouldn’t take this long to be back in basketball shape. He obviously did a terrible job of conditioning himself during his sabbatical.
It comes down to this: Does Simmons really want to play?
Only he knows the answer. His actions tell you he really doesn’t want to. If he wanted to play, he would have been ready to go two weeks ago. I don’t want to hear about the Nets telling him to take it slow. This should be on him to see to it he should be playing.
It’s hard to believe the Nets traded Harden in the first place and got Simmons off all people in return. Yes, Harden can be a pain in the butt, and he can be an iso player. But guess what? Harden makes the Nets tough to beat since teams would have to face not only him, but Irving and Durant. Shoot, he would have been a defensive presence. That’s more than Simmons can say at this point. This trade was foolish. The Nets should have waited until Mayor Eric Adams paved the way for Irving to come back without being vaccinated.
Now the Nets have to wait and see what Simmons wants to do. The Nets should let him play now, not wait any longer. Now is the right time to add a new wrinkle to this series.
No one knows what he can do. Maybe he is useless, but at this point, it’s better to see him play than see him sitting on the bench.
It’s getting tiresome to hear when he is coming back when he should have been back a long time ago.
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