Ben Simmons ready to ‘come back and dominate’ for Nets, opens door for future return to Philadelphia

Ben Simmons hasn’t played a lot of basketball over the past two seasons, following his exit from the 76ers and the ongoing injury issues that kept him on the sidelines. 

But after missing the last two months of the 2022-23 regular season and undergoing rehabilitation on his back, Simmons is ready to put the past behind him and return to the court 100 percent injury-free, telling Marc J. Spears of Andscape in a wide-ranging interview that he is “excited” to get back on the court for the Nets. 

MORE: Ben Simmons declares intentions to join Boomers for 2024 Paris Olympics

Ben Simmons declares it a comeback season

Simmons’ tenure with the Nets has only seen him take the floor for 42 games due to injury. The three-time All-Star told Spears that he came back too early after undergoing back surgery in May 2022.

After repeated issues with his back, Simmons was shut down after the All-Star break. Now with six months of rehab under his belt, the Aussie says this is the best his body has felt in two years, setting the stage for a comeback season with the Nets. 

“I feel I’m at 100% now. Right now, I’m just building back to where I’m playing,” he told Spears. “I haven’t played in a while. Just taking hits and getting my body used to that.”

“For me to come back and dominate people will be great,” Simmons said.

“I don’t intend to come back the same player I was last [season], because that’s not even close to where I am. I get excited because I’m like, ‘Damn, I would s— on the player I was last year.’ But I know where I was at last year, so it’s easy to say that.

“The version I’m at now, if I was playing against myself from last season, I would kill him. That’s how I feel.”

At 27, Simmons is still very much in his prime years and while some have written him off, the former All-Star believes his best days are ahead of him. 

“I’m excited because I know I can do it,” Simmons said.

“So, that’s the exciting part for me. [Last Thursday] night, I’m like, ‘Yo, let’s get back in the gym.’ I’m excited. I get to do something I love to do at a high level. Regardless of what people say, I’m a three-time All-Star, All-NBA player, [All-] Defensive Team. I’ve done things. I’m not somebody that hasn’t done anything.”

Ben Simmons is all in on Brooklyn

On paper, the Nets are a very different team from the one Simmons joined after his trade from the 76ers, featuring a new-look young core of Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson in place of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. 

While the team’s championship expectations have been tempered following the departure of their two stars, Simmons doubled down on his commitment to the franchise.  

“I love Brooklyn,” he said. “I don’t have an issue with Brooklyn. For me, I want to get healthy. The only thing I could do was get healthy. I couldn’t complain about anything. I’m in a great city, a great organization, great owners, great coach, great [general manager]. It’s all good people around, and they want to win and do it the right way.”

Where Simmons fits into the fold isn’t exactly clear, but according to his conversations with head coach Jacque Vaughn, the 6-10 playmaker expects to be running point. 

“Point guard. That’s who I am,” he emphasized to Spears.

“As much as people say, ‘Fix this, fix that.’ No, I’m a point guard. When I was playing at that [high] level, nobody was really saying anything to me.”

Ben Simmons is open to returning to 76ers

Simmons’ exit from the 76ers was not short on drama, with his protracted standoff with the franchise ultimately resulting in a trade to the Nets in February 2022.

The relationship with the fanbase had deteriorated beyond repair, but after 18 months out of town, Simmons opened the door for a potential reunion down the line with the franchise that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2016. 

“I’ll always have love for Philly,” Simmons said. “People always ask me like, ‘If you were to get traded again where you want it to be?’ I always say, ‘Just Philly. Philly is a second home to me.’ And in time, you learn and grow as people.”

Simmons acknowledged that his divorce from the 76ers could have gone better, but he only looks back at his time positively. 

“I don’t really have anything bad to say about Philly,” he said. “It was a crazy situation at the end, but it is what it is.”

Will Ben Simmons play for the Australian Boomers at the Olympics?

The Australian Boomers are currently competing at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, albeit without Simmons, who hasn’t played for the national team since his debut in 2013.

He has come close to playing for the national team in previous tournaments and after withdrawing from the 2020 Olympic squad following Philadelphia’s playoff loss to Atlanta to “focus on individual skill development,” Simmons says 2024 will be the year he pulls on the green and gold.

“Olympics? Yeah, 100%. And that’s what I want to do next year,” Simmons said. 

“I’ll let you break the news. I want to play.

“That’s the other thing. I get messages from Australian people like, ‘Yo, you should be playing right now. [Houston Rockets center] Jock Landale is playing right now.’ To me, I’m going to play when I’m ready.

“There hasn’t really been a time where I’ve been prepared and ready physically. But next year, my goal is to be on the Olympic team.” 

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Author : Benyam Kidane

Publish date : 2023-08-30 03:07:49

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