‘Most hostile environment he’s probably ever going to be in’: Simmons returns to Philadelphia-EnglishHindiBlogs-SportsNews

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Ten days ago, the idea of ​​Ben Simmons returning to Philadelphia and actually playing in a game was unfathomable.

The Brooklyn Nets had just played the LA Clippers and Simmons looked completely different: timid, uneasy, unsure of his role on the team. The Nets beat the Clippers 110-95, but Simmons was barely a footnote in the box score, finishing with two points in 14 ineffective minutes.

The next night against the Los Angeles Lakers, Simmons was scratched late with knee pain. Such a late scratch, he spent 10 minutes behind closed doors after the game with Nets general manager Sean Marks, the two discussing how Simmons needed to communicate better to avoid a repeat of the situation.

But Simmons has emerged from that meeting with Marks and that terrible weekend in Los Angeles playing his best basketball in years.

After failing to score in double digits in his first nine games, Simmons has scored 11, 15 and 22 points in the Nets’ last three games, including 11-for-13 from the floor in Sunday’s win against the Memphis Grizzlies. Skilled score is also included. , His defense is starting to resemble its past excellence, and his rebounding is showing some prowess. Even his behavior on the court has improved.

This is exactly the kind of progress Simmons and the Nets were hoping for this season. When he steps onto the court at the Wells Fargo Center to compete in his first game on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT), he will be brimming with pride and a flood of emotion. The team followed a poor exit that marred all previous seasons.

“I’ve always told them, ‘Take away the basketball for now and see who are the people who are really supporting you.'”

Patty Mills, Net guard talking about teammate Ben Simmons

And yet no one, not even Simmons, can tell you how he’ll react once he enters the field and faces his former teammates – and a familiar crowd eager to welcome him back. Will give

“My mind is telling me, ‘go be you,'” Simmons told ESPN. “But then my body is trying to catch up. So it feels like I’m making progress every day, every game. Just building.”

“I’m still trying to find a rhythm, find my pace. Before the injury … it’s easy to be like, [I] was one of the best defenders [in the league], And now, I have to re-learn a lot, rebuild. It takes time, but you get through it.”

Simmons continues to work with a therapist on how to cope with challenges such as Tuesday night’s game, but he has discussed his mental health extensively beyond appearances on former teammate JJ Reddick’s podcast during the preseason. Haven’t done it.

“It was nice to get it off my chest,” he says of the podcast appearance. “Because it was tough when I was dealing with it, and it still is day by day.”

Tuesday will be his biggest challenge yet.

“It’s probably the most hostile environment I’ve ever been in,” says Nets coach Jack Vaughn. “And getting over that hurdle would be monumental for getting where he is now and getting back to the form he wants to get back.”

Simmons returned to Philadelphia on March 10 as a member of the Nets, just a month after the trade that had taken him away from the franchise that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2016. But he was in street clothes that night, not in uniform. And that too was uncomfortable and intense.

Nets teammate Patty Mills says, “It was pretty rushed from the moment we left the hotel.” “We had to go the other way out of the hotel, then people were following our bus.”

Inside the arena, fans cheered Simmons with boos and abuse at every opportunity. The Nets had extra security around the bench, with extra guards in each section. Mills, who has known Simmons since he was a teen prodigy in his native Australia, stood protectively by his side throughout the night.

“I’ve always said to them, ‘Take away the basketball for the moment and see who are the people who are really supporting you,'” Mills says. “I think unfortunately he didn’t have enough from what I saw from afar. So for that game, I just wanted to make sure he had that support. No matter what happens, I’m there. Truly by your side.”

The Nets took a chance on Simmons in the trade that sent James Harden to Philadelphia because they believed — or at least hoped — he would find his way through the mental and physical issues that plagued his past two seasons. Got down from

He also believed that he had the right infrastructure in place to support him.

“He’s a focal part of our team,” says Marks. “Supporting Ben and having a real partnership with Ben … having him play at the level he’s capable of is key to the success of this team. It’s on the court, off the court, everything. Physical, emotional.” , everything. He has the ability to make a lot of people better.”

In other words, the Nets are counting on him — which isn’t always easy to do.

“There have been moments where I’ve felt sharper, faster, stronger,” Simmons says. “But it’s like a roller coaster. It’s up and down. And it’s on me. I have to stick with it, be persistent and just keep going.”

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Ben Simmons answers a question about returning to Philadelphia after being traded to the Nets last season.

Vaughn, who is 10 games into his head-coaching tenure following the Nov. 1 departure of Steve Nash, made a point of meeting with Simmons while the team was on the road last week.

“I’m really trying to learn about her and what she needs,” says Vaughn.

Had the team been at home, Vaughn says he would have invited Simmons to his home to help establish trust. But because the team was on the road, and the pressure on both of them to turn things around was so urgent, he invited her to his hotel room in Sacramento to talk before the game.

“Sometimes I think people just want to be heard,” says Vaughn. “And so for me listening to him talk about where he wants to take his game, that he believes he’s going to get it back to an all-defensive level. Hearing those words means that We’re going to work on it.” with.”

The challenge for Vaughan is to earn his player’s trust in a way that doesn’t put Simmons’ needs above those of the team. To build relationships with others without hurting their credibility.

If Simmons wants to start, as he had in 282 of his 287 career games, he will have to earn those minutes.

If Simmons wants to be in the closing lineup, he needs to show the ability to make free throws under pressure.

“I’ve told him, ‘I’ll always do what’s best for the group,'” Vaughn says. “That’s my job as a coach. I’m not trying to adjust to him to gain his trust. It’s more, I’m consistent in my approach with him every day. And so he sees That’s what continuity does.”

Vonn replaced Simmons off the bench after he returned from a knee injury, which forced the 26-year-old to dislocate his knee and undergo platelet rich plasma therapy on two separate occasions.

While he was out, the Nets found success with Nick Claxton in the starting frontcourt. So Von wanted to work instead of bringing Simmons back as the starter. But this meant moving to the second unit and playing as a backup center, something he never did in his career. It was uncomfortable and a blow to his confidence.

He fought. But the meeting with Vaughan seemed to clear the air.

“I told him I wanted to see him perform very well and for him to see what consistency does,” Vaughn says. “He’s improved at it, whether it’s shooting extra free throws, working his vitamins consistently and playing at repeatable pace.

“Vitamin’s work is your daily touch-up with your personal coach. Shots you can get in the game, themes I can give the coach to work on. Practicing those things so as to move forward in the game, [and] Take them seriously, because it’s important for your peers to see you operate in that environment.”

Since that disappointing weekend in LA and the meetings with both Marx and Vaughn, Simmons is averaging 16 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists — close to his career averages in all three categories — in 29 minutes a game as the Nets go 2-1.

Perhaps most important, however, were the free throws he made at the end of the overtime win against the Trail Blazers. Portland copied what the Atlanta Hawks did so effectively in the 2021 Eastern Conference playoff series that sent this whole situation into a spiral: intentionally fouling Simmons and daring him to make free throws.

It was a direct challenge.

Vaughn says, “I didn’t bend over and look at my coaches. I looked at him and had no sense of pulling him out.” “It’s part of the trust between him and me that we’re building.”

Simmons made three of the four.

“That was too big for him,” says Vaughn.

Tuesday night in Philadelphia will be huge, too. There’s no way of knowing if Simmons is ready for all that he’ll face. There’s also no way of knowing how he’ll react to this.

“Overall that’s all you can say,” Simmons says. “Unless you have such experience yourself.”