NBA: Nets 'excited' to welcome Ben Simmons after his Sixers turmoil | Inquirer Sports
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NBA: Nets ‘excited’ to welcome Ben Simmons after his Sixers turmoil

/ 02:34 PM February 12, 2022
Ben Simmons

FILE PHOTO: Former Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25). Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets will welcome new acquisition Ben Simmons “with our arms wide open,” general manager Sean Marks said Friday, but it’s not clear when the former Philadelphia star will debut with his new NBA team.

“It’s probably too early to tell exactly when Ben’s going to be on the court,” Marks said in a video briefing a day after the Nets’ blockbuster trade of James Harden to the 76ers for Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond.

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“He’s currently doing his MRIs and physicals and getting signed off on that,” Marks said. “So until we’ve seen him and seen the physical shape he’s in, we’re not going to put him out on the court where it’s detrimental to one, his health, and two, the camaraderie that can be built within the team.

“We’ve got to get him a few practices first and just see where he is physically, and go from there.”

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Australian star Simmons — the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft — hasn’t played at all this season.

His future with the 76ers had come under scrutiny after the team lost a decisive game seven to Atlanta in last season’s playoffs and in October the 25-year-old Simmons reportedly told Philadelphia he was not “mentally prepared” to play.

Simmons was suspended by the Sixers at the beginning of the season and teammates, including NBA scoring leader Joel Embiid, seemed frustrated with the star.

Marks, however, said he believed the Nets — currently on a 10-game losing streak — could provide an environment in which Simmons can thrive.

“All I can tell you is that he was ecstatic about the circumstances he was walking into,” Marks said of his early post-trade conversations with Simmons. “And so are we. We’ll be here to support him from a physical standpoint, from a mental standpoint and get him engaged and get him around our group.

“I think that’s cathartic unto itself. Everyone likes their arm around each other and a hug every now and then … we’re going to go into this situation with our arms wide open.”

In return, the Nets hope to get the best from Simmons, a three-time All-Star with career averages of 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists.

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He’s also a two-time All-Defensive first-team selection who could help the Nets on both sides of the ball.

“We’re certainly excited about the pace which Ben can bring to the team, the defensive ability, the ability to guard arguably one through five positions, the elite passing ability he has, the finishing at the rim, getting into the paint and finishing, those are some things that we are excited to see, let alone get the defensive rebound and push the break and lead the break,” Marks said.

“He can also be out on the wing running the lanes. It gives (head coach Steve Nash) some other weapons to use out there and it’s going to be exciting for not only Steve and Ben but the entire group.”

‘Never easy’

Marks admitted it was “never an easy decision” to let go of Harden, a big-ticket acquisition last season who was brought in to join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in a title-chasing “Big Three.”

The trio have had little chance to play together between injuries and COVID-19 concerns. Irving, who has declined to be vaccinated, can’t play in home games because of New York pandemic restrictions.

“I just want to be clear that this is not something that you think, great, let’s just make a split decision and move on from that,” Marks said. “I give James a lot of credit for having open dialogue, open discussions with me and with the group.”

He said that while reports that Harden wanted out of Brooklyn had surfaced well before Thursday’s trade deadline, serious discussions about such a move had only begun “over the last 24, 48 hours.”

Marks said Harden was the prime mover in those talks, but was vague on the reasons.

“There’s a lot of those conversations that need to remain private,” he said. “I think it’s just a feeling, it’s a feeling when you know, look, this is not working.”

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