Ben Simmons takes court to the Nets in first look at the new Big 3

Ben Simmons made his long-awaited Nets debut in Monday’s season opener. They didn’t get the win, but they finally got something much better – the healthy Big 3.

After Simmons missed the whole last season due to mental health issues and a bad back, and Kyrie Irving’s stand against the COVID-19 vaccine was limited to just 29 games, the pair finally took the field with Kevin Durant.

The Nets lost 127-108 to Philadelphia, the team from which Simmons imposed a final-day deal. The 76ers’ proximity may explain the mixed reaction in the crowd to Simmons’ introduction, a few boos clearly audible.

In the end, the Nets fell to the Sixers that seated Joel Embiid and James Harden, a player sent to Philadelphia for Simmons. But the pre-season results do not count towards the standings, which was no different. All anyone will remember is that Simmons finally took the court for the Nets and started working on syncing up with his teammates.

Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons played his first game for the Nets on Monday night.
Corey Sibkin

“It’s great to take advantage of the opportunity for these players to play together and continue to develop an understanding between them; but you certainly don’t want to overdo it,” coach Steve Nash said. This is a reward.”

The Big Three of the Nets all scored close to 19 minutes in, and nothing was scored in the second half. With Brooklyn looking rustier than the wreckage of the Titanic, it was delayed by 20 in the second quarter before cutting it to three at the break. The envisioned seat played the second half, when the Sixers withdrew again.

Durant scored the team’s highest with 13 points, four rebounds and four assists in 18:42, while Irving added nine points, four assists, four boards and three steals during the same period.

Simmons, who hasn’t played since his 76ers were knocked out by the Hawks on June 20, 2021, was more than a mixed bag. He had six points, five assists for the team and four rebounds. But he finished minus 10, missed his free throw attempt and didn’t try to use 3 pointers. However, to say that such a small, small step will end in a huge leap forward is to underestimate the importance of his return to the field for the Nets.

“Ben has been great. He’s a great player,” Joe Harris said. “He was out, so folks — not because you forget about Ben Simmons, but you don’t talk about him that much. But when he plays, he is [an] All star player. He’s a versatile basketball player who can play 1-5 in the NBA today, and he can play every position, goalkeeper position, which is a luxury that not many teams have.”

Kevin Durant (left) and Ben Simmons sit on the Nets bench on Monday night.
Corey Sibkin

Simmons’ first bucket in 470 days was a quick drench of Irving’s rebound pass with 9:16 left in the first quarter. He backed that up with superb defensive play after a minute and a half, chasing fast Philadelphia guard Matisse Thiebol in a transfer to turn what looked like a wide open layup into a spin.

But curling failures in guarding the arch were still prevalent. They let 14 of Teresa Maxi’s game high with 20 points in the first quarter put them behind, 42-26.

After Irving’s spin led to De’Anthony Melton’s floating shot, the nets found themselves on a 55-35 hole with 8:13 left in the inning.

Kyrie Irving plays against the 76ers on Monday.
Corey Sibkin

The Nets’ transition and early attack ignited a crowd, and they scored 15 unanswered points. By the time Simmons found Nick Claxton (12 points from 6 for 6), he had cut the lead to 55-50.

It was a three-in deficit, and Kessler Edwards’ 3-feed Chris Chiusa gave the Nets an 82-81 lead. But it did not last long, as Philadelphia withdrew.

Edmund Sumner showed well with 12 points from the bench.

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