The 27-year-old played in just 42 games last year as he struggled with a back injury that caused him to miss the entire 2021-2022 season, but looked like himself again in the team’s first preseason game against the USA Los Angeles Lakers on October 10th. Simmons persevered against his former team, scoring eight points with nine assists and six rebounds in 29 minutes of play.
However, head coach Jacque Vaughn noted that there are still areas of the game that Simmons needs to continue working on, as well as areas that his teammates need to adapt to when playing with the former No. 1. Simmons had eight turnovers in the 127-119 loss, but Vaughn said he was “encouraged by the patience” the Nets are showing to learn more and build as a team.
“Yeah, that’s just going to be part of it,” Vaughn said. “Because it’s not just about Ben finding space on the floor and how he creates and who he creates with. It’s also the different lineups we had out there. You will learn to play with him. It’s a unique style of play, his pace and the angles he plays with and the actions he’s used to playing with.
“We will grow together and understand these aspects. It doesn’t matter if he plays big-big pick-and-roll. We had a few turnovers because the bigs just aren’t used to playing big-big pick-and-roll. “With a guy his size who can play the basketball, we can do it. Things we will continue to work on. I just think it’s encouraging how patient our guys have to be so we can get this done.”
Simmons agreed that turnovers were a problem against the Sixers, but said he would rather make mistakes like that now than in the regular season.
“Yes, for me personally it’s okay if I go into a training session or game like this and make mistakes. I’d rather learn from my mistakes, right,” Simmons said. “I had a few turnovers at the start, misjudged the position of the defenders and tried to correct these things as the game went on.”
“I feel good, there are times when we look great, there are times when we look like we don’t know each other. And that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to figure out and understand each other.” “Decide how we want to play, where we need to be. Of course I have to take care of the ball. But I’d rather lose the ball now rather than later.”
Vaughn also felt encouraged by the catch-and-shoot three-pointers the Nets made throughout the game, as Simmons attacked the rim and drew a double-team. Remarkably, Simmons cut to the rim, caught the ball and found it Spencer Dinwiddie in the corner after a perfect pass behind the back.
The head coach added that the Nets will “continue to experiment” with Simmons, who plays both point guard and forward, and Dinwiddie playing together on the court. The Nets have staggered their minutes throughout the preseason to find what works best, and on Monday the two played together on the court a few times.
“We have to let them play together, that’s just part of it, but we also grow from them playing individually as well,” Vaughn said.
When asked if he would like to play alongside Dinwiddie, Simmons stressed: “I trust him.”
Simmons further discussed how Vaughn wants him to become more of a leader for the Nets team, and despite the loss, he was pleased that the team didn’t give up and continued to fight and “stick to the game plan.” “
“It was great,” Simmons said. “We obviously didn’t get off to a good start, but I told the boys to stay in the game, stay focused and stick to the game plan. We did our run and came back. That’s the game, just stay in the game, stay present and believe in what you’re leading, the structure you have and the coach.”