Forgive us for falling right back into the same old trap but Ben Simmons is back, baby!
The 27-year-old returned from a troublesome back injury in the Brooklyn Nets’ 147-114 win over the Utah Jazz, with the Aussie putting in an incredible 18 minute cameo.
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The recovery seemed to have done Simmons a world of good as he appeared to have rediscovered some of the form that made him a three-time All-Star.
Simmons hit 10 points on five-from-five shooting as well as eight rebounds and 11 assists, as well as a steal and block as he announced his return to the NBA in style.
Even more impressive — he had zero turnovers and a +27 plus/minus.
While the Jazz aren’t setting the world on fire by any means, the team does have a better season record than the Nets but were wiped off the floor in brutal fashion.
Sure, the Nets were carried by Mikal Bridges’ 33-point tally, while Cam Thomas added 25, Lonnie Walker IV had 19 points and Simmons was one of eight players to hit double figures, but the Aussie showed enough that when fit and healthy, he can still be a force in the NBA.
X account StatMuse also added that Simmons became just the fourth player after Jimmy Butler in 2017, Nikola Jokic in 2018 and Jordan McLaughlin in 2022 to have a 10/5/10 game with no turnovers and 100 per cent shooting.
ESPN writer Tim Bontemps added now-coach Jacque Vaughn was the last player to have 11 assists and no turnovers for the Nets, a feat he achieved 20 years ago.
He was also the first Nets player to record six-plus assists in an opening quarter since 1996/97.
Speaking after the match, Simmons also praised his teammates.
In a league where no swipes appear accidental, it seemed Simmons also took a backhander to his messy time in Philadelphia.
“This is probably one of the best teams in terms of friendships that I’ve been a part of,” Simmons said.
“Guys wanna win and compete. For me to be in an environment like this is amazing.
“I get to come to work with a bunch of friends that wanna get better and compete. I’m happy.”
It’s a far cry from the situation he left in Philadelphia which had 76ers superstar Joel Embiid, going between support for Simmons to bitter swipes including the comments like “I don’t care about that guy” amid their ugly divorce.
Embiid also rubbed it in Simmons’ face when James Harden joined him in Philadelphia, but that relationship also imploded quickly.
Even though Simmons admitted he and Embiid weren’t on speaking terms after the divorce, it didn’t stop the Cameroonian reigning MVP from admitting Simmons was “the one that got away” late last year.
But it seems in Simmons’ current situation, things couldn’t be better.
Checking in with six minutes left in the first quarter with a smile on his face, Simmons immediately got rolling, dishing six assists and two rebounds, sending Brooklyn on a 14-0 run in his first five minutes — something YES Network commentator Ryan Ruocco called “five glorious minutes” — on court.
Hitting a no-look pass to Royce O’Neal under the basket early, Simmons said the whole team knew he was on.
“I told them as soon as we checked in — they know what time it is,” Simmons said.
“Certain guys know what it’s like to play with me and where their shots are gonna come from. For us it’s easy.”
Fans were quick to jump back on the Simmons bandwagon after the brilliant comeback — although time will tell if he’s actually back or it’s another false dawn.
Aussie basketball scribe Olgun Uluc tweeted: “This was Simmons’ third double-double of the season. The Australian had been sidelined with a nerve impingement in his lower back; showed flashes of the Simmons we saw in Philly, but longevity will still be the big question coming off another back injury.”
ESPN’s Kane Pitman tweeted: “5 assists and a 14-0 Brooklyn run in the first five minutes for Ben Simmons tonight. Incredible start. Simmons completely changes the trajectory of this team if he stays on the court.”
Simmons also had his teammates rapt by his comeback.
Asked if he was surprised by how effective Simmons was, Walker said: “To an extent, but not surprised at all.
“You what his name is, you know what I’m saying? It’s no disrespect. I think his ability to pass is something that elevates this team consistently.
“Everyone was running, it hit a point where I was like ‘he’s still running, as soon as he catches it, he’s still going’.
“Not fully surprised but he puts in the work, puts in the time, does his diligence day by day.”
Similarly, coach Vaughn said he believe Simmons could make a huge impact on the Nets going forward.
“He wants to play. I’ll say that to the world or whoever — he wants to play,” Vaughn said.
“He wants to play here. He has the ability to impact a team. For him to get a chance to do it tonight and with the win, it was just an impressive effort.”
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