The Brooklyn Nets have had a wild past few years, having signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, traded for James Harden, traded away James Harden, traded away Kyrie Irving, and finally traded away Kevin Durant.
As they get set for the 2023-24 season, they are finally moving past their efforts at creating a superteam and going back to a more traditional team-building model, with the talent they got in return for those stars as the focal point moving forward. Mikal Bridges is the most notable of those, along with Cam Johnson who got handsomely paid this offseason to return to Brooklyn, as they were the main prizes from the Durant trade to Phoenix. Those two along with Nic Claxton make up the presumptive Nets core at the moment, but that leaves out their highest paid player, Ben Simmons.
Simmons has only played in 42 games over the past two years after holding out from Philadelphia while waiting to be traded, then suffering a back injury that kept him out the entire year once traded to Brooklyn for Harden. This past season he appeared in 42 games, averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game before again being shut down in February. As has become a seemingly annual occurrence, Ben Simmons workout footage has popped up this summer as he gets back on the court, but most NBA observers are in a “believe it when I see it” mode with Simmons ever getting back close to the level he once reached as a three-time All-Star.
However, the only people that matter for Simmons are those in Brooklyn right now, and he can at least fall back on the support of his teammates, led by Bridges. Mikal joined Paul George on the latest Podcast P and explained why he’s a big believer in Simmons having a bounce back year, while also noting Simmons has a great relationship with his current teammates.
This is some very good leadership from Bridges to go out and publicly support Simmons, because that’s the kind of environment he needs. As Bridges notes, he wants Simmons to know they’re going to have his back and like him no matter what ups and downs he goes through on the court, clearly understanding that the battle Simmons faces in returning to form is as much mental as physical. The rest of the basketball world can be skeptical, but as long as the Nets provide that support for Simmons and show him their belief in him, he just might be able to find his rhythm and comfort on the floor again.