Ben Simmons’ return to the court Wednesday night after 486 days of being sidelined was a disappointment. The final piece to the Nets’ Big 3 only lasted a little over three quarters in Brooklyn’s season opener against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Simmons fouled out with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter in the Nets’ 130-108 loss. He finished with a triple-single (4 pts, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) in 23 minutes of play.
In the postgame media session, teammate Kyrie Irving held Simmons accountable for his early exit — not mincing words on Simmons being a key player on the roster and expecting him to play accordingly. Both mentally and physically.
“He just gotta get reps and minutes. I think it’s as simple as that,” Irving said. “We told him in the locker room he is a valuable piece for us and we need him out there and fouling out is not an option.”
Simmons Sinks The Nets
It’s difficult to say whether keeping Simmons on the floor would have helped Brooklyn jump out of a double-digit deficit but to foul out after a long-awaited return and messy exit out of Philadelphia was a complete flop for the 26-year-old. He finished with the second-worst plus/minus on the team (-26).
Simmons said after the game that he needs to “tone it down” on the physicality after being “too excited” to return, which may or may not be a euphemism for being clueless on defense.
Pelicans star Zion Williamson had his way with Simmons when the lanky 6-foot-10 Nets player tried sizing him up. Williamson finished with 25 points (11-22 FG) and nine rebounds in the 22-point win.
“Playing aggressive is something that we want him to do, but we also want to play smart, and we can hold each other accountable in that locker room, which I’m glad for,” Kyried added. “So we talked about it.”
After an offseason of “will they / won’t they” narratives bogging down the Brooklyn Nets, fans hoped that a solid start to the new season would help quell those fires.
The team and head coach Steve Nash will have to find a way to make their uniquely different set of players mesh for a playoffs-or-bust season for Brooklyn.
Simmons has averaged 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists throughout his career.
Follow Alejandro Avila on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela